Getting Outside At Last

posted in: Travel | 1

You’ll notice that I missed updating this blog last week. That’s because I got to spend most of my Sunday afternoon and evening out with my kid Vlad. After hitting up Andy’s Pizza, a local chain that seems to blend the better aspects of a family restaurant with the vibe of a cafe, we went into downtown Chișinău and wandered around in search of a good place where we could find some items of clothing that he needed. While there, I spotted the rather perplexing t-shirt pictured below; note the small text.

An update this weekend would have been late as well, had the original plans gone through. My friend Alex is back in Chișinău, and we were planning to go into Odessa for the weekend. Ukraine would be a new country for both of us, and Odessa sits on the shores of the Black Sea only a few hours by bus away. However, it was decided that it would be better to save the visit for warmer weather. Instead, we went out for a meal at a local Gagauzian restaurant. We ordered two three-course meals plus an extra side, then tried a little of everything. It ended up being far more food than the two of us could finish, but it was all SO GOOD. And it was all relatively cheap; the same amount of money in the U.S., including taxes and gratuity, would have bought two basic entrees at, say, the local Outback or Applebee’s.

But instead of two plates of mediocre chain fare, what we got was this: a starter plate of veggies, cold meats, and cheeses; a plate of the most ridiculously delicious stuffed grape leaves I’ve ever tasted; some kind of meat-stuffed pocket of bread the size of a dinner plate; an equally large khachipuri (pictured above; a traditional Georgian dish of warm soft bread shaped like an eye and stuffed with cheese and an egg); another equally large, vaguely pizza-like item that consisted of a thin crust topped with meat; two very different preparations of lamb; and drinks, including bottomless local wine. Everything was delicious and presumably quite authentic, and we’ll definitely be going back. Seriously, I can’t exaggerate how good it was.

A note about restaurant pricing for those who are unfamiliar with dining out in Europe: the price listed on a menu here is the final price including taxes. Also, tips are not expected, because servers here are paid a proper wage like any other worker. You can tip for exceptional service, if you want, but it’s never expected or assumed. Of course, there’s a trade-off: free tap water is not really a thing here. You’ll be paying for your drink, no matter what you request.

Speaking of affordable food, the previous weekend Alex and I went out for sushi and hookah. The giant plate of sushi they gave us (pictured below) cost less than $30, or what two meals at a mediocre chain in the U.S. might cost after taxes and gratuity are added.

Today was the most beautiful day I’ve encountered since coming to Moldova–mid-50s Fahrenheit and sunny. I took a walk in a nearby park; the trees were all naked, of course, but the sunshine was lovely, and the stroll whetted my appetite for experiencing the same park in the spring and fall. Winter is on its way out, and Moldova is supposed to be quite beautiful for the rest of the year. I’m excited to continue living life here, and even as I walked amongst the dead trees I was overcome with gratitude for this opportunity to be here. Moldova might not be some storied tourist destination like Paris or Barcelona or Hawaii or Cancun (ew), but right now I feel like the luckiest man in the world.

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