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Update: Fri 00:40

Thursday, 06 October

There was the choice between omelette and scrambled eggs on the menu for breakfast, I chose scrambled and got fried eggs. Maybe it's just me.

I ran up the road to Odessa and stopped at the bottom of the Potemkin Steps (no prams in flight) for a photo. A chat with a couple of bikers who stopped and off to Moldova via the low-risk border at Palanca.

At the Ukrainian side I almost drove through without stopping. The sign had mentioned something about 'Green Area control' and I didn't quite understand why they were giving me a slip of paper. At the other end of the run of prefabs the second guard gave me another slip of paper and told me to turn around and go and see someone.

I followed another bloke into a hut and asked the person in the hut if I was meant to see them. They explained that they had to see to the first bloke first and I should just wait there before they gave a thick ear to the guy who followed me in telling him to wait outside until he was ready. Ah, the benefits of being foreign.

At the Moldovan side I almost drove through again only stopping to ask because it seemed a bit odd. Yes, I did have to go through formalities. These were mostly done by a bloke who wandered off with my paperwork. He then sent me into passport control where the woman said I needed to go to the bank. Why? I ask, trying to avoid being scammed. She eventually got up and showed me the bank, thrusting my paperwork into the window. OK, I have to pay. 26 Lei. I'll have to change EUR100 I suggested. The woman looked a bit miffed as I realised shortly after as the exchange rate is 16Lei to EUR1. I then took my stamped form back to the passport woman who wasn't interested and told me to go, as did everyone else I dutifully stopped or slowed down for. OK.

Moldava, here in the back end of beyond, starts pretty rural and poor though quite friendly then gets much wealthier as you head in towards the capital -- like any other country, of course. No different to rural Russia or Romania, or indeed, urban Russia or Romania.

Moldova is famous for its wines and the countryside is thick with vineyards and the place reeks of wine brewing. I was hoping I might spot a vineyard with an attached hotel so you could retire drunk from the cellar door but no such luck. In the end I came here to a place marked on the GPS (still off by tens of metres).

I headed down the main drag to Beer House -- noting that Orange are foisting their cetacean/cat/etc. totally intuitive marketing on the poor Moldovans too -- where the beer was good but the food didn't live up to the LP's ecstatic description.

Chisinau is a rare capital which offers nothing worth expending any effort to see. The presidential palace looks as though it was designed by the architect's toddler squeezing plasticine through a funny shaped hole. Otherwise, Chisinau seems just like any other city, neither good nor bad. If the local barons are flashing their cash in cars then they'll look pretty sheepish if they went to Bishkek, say.

Currently at lat/long: n47 1.853 e28 49.822

Hotel Elat, Chisinau, Moldova

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