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Eastern Europe Halfway Around the World 2005

      Inexplicably, Moldova charges $60 for a tourist visa unless you go during their two week wine festival. It is the stupidest thing for a poor developing country to charge money for visas--and then not require visas when most people are going. In the case of Moldova, the poorest country in Europe, more tourism means a boost to the economy and people starting businesses. Moldova has a scary amount of people that have left the country to try and make money in Western Europe. It is remarkably quiet. The separatist republic of Transdniester Republic is eerily so.
      It was my first time to Moldova. I wasn't allowed to hitchhike across the border so a policeman flagged down a car and either ordered or persuaded the driver into letting me go with him. I paid another $5 to be taken all the way to Chisinau. After that, I stopped hitchhiking for a while.
On the front of a train

Chisinau train station
same same

      Speaking of people starting businesses, an enterprising woman opened up a hostel in an extra apartment she had on the outskirts of Chisinau (Russian name: Kishniev). Since there was no other cheap accommodation, she was the only show in town, the capitol of the country! I think she charged 8 or 10 dollars a night, which is significant income for a Moldovan. Plus, she was organizing trips out to the countryside.
      It's good for travelers to stay in awful housing blocks like this to appreciate how local life is.
      The black and orange phone in the photo at the very top is from this "hostel".

      A bad thing about being on the outskirts of town where no other foreigners are is that I drew the attention of the police, who stopped me on the street. These two idiots decided to try and make my life miserable. I was taken to a local police station where I was questioned for a long time. I made the most of it, taking photos, but I wasn't allowed to take one of the tiny cell, which was nothing more than a doorless closet covered with bars, about 1 meter by 2 meters.

Russian washing machine

Mosaic in the post office       Soviet-era statue

      This is a funny thing, a vending machine for a carbonated drink where you use the same glasses that everyone else does. Collective hygiene at its best.      

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