Sunday, January 17, 2016

Appropriately modest desires

On Friday we arrived in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, where will be through early afternoon Wednesday.

That first evening we ate at a restaurant that serves really traditional Moldovan food, with musicians playing in the background (a mix of traditional tunes plus Hollywood or other familiar music repackaged in a more Balkan style). We were joined by students from the local university who shared their experiences and impressions.

Yesterday we had an outing to the countryside north of the capital, Chisinau. Our first stop was at Brăneşti winery, located in a limestone area with lots of tunnels carved into the earth.

The owner meets us at the gate
The proprietor told us that in a radius of 8 km, there are 1,000 km of tunnels. Some of the limestone pulled out in the tunneling process is used as a construction material.

Gouges in the wall from the tunneling machinery
Apparently there are foreigners - such as the former Chinese ambassador to Moldova - who rent space in the tunnels to cellar their wine.

Don't lean back: that's some sort of mold on the walls (and on the chandeliers), and it'll get on your clothes:

From the winery we went to a monastery carved into a rock outcropping nestled in the bend of a river (see the location marked "Monastirea Orheiul Vechi" on this map).
The view from the icy ledge outside the monk's cell.
Noticing good-luck coins wedged into crevices in the limestone
Atop the outcrop there's a stone cross with an ornamental figure in the center. The local custom is that if you make a wish while resting your hand on that figure, your wish will come true.
The wishing cross
After visiting the monastery and the cross and the church at the top of the ridge, we negotiated our way back down the icy hillside to the village at the bottom where we had another traditional Moldovan meal, this one in an "eco" restaurant where the family grows or raises many of the ingredients themselves. It was in a fixed-up traditional house, with the staff in sheep-skin vests and a kitty up in the rafters that later came down to walk among the legs of our chairs.

The students have been great about willingness to go with whatever's thrown their way, in terms of both experiences and food, sampling unfamiliar things and even liking several of them. But we thought it might be a good idea to give them a break from the cultural novelty and go for dinner at a pizza place that had been recommended to us.

"Yes!" said one of the students. "That's what I wished for at the cross! Pizza!"

I guess if you're going to go making wishes, there's something to be said for keeping it realistic. You're less likely to be disappointed asking for comfort food than pinning your hopes on, say, winning a Grammy.

On the other hand, you have to wonder if the cross wasn't a little put out by the whole thing. "Really? Pizza? People climb this icy slope to ask me to cure their crippled limbs or to make their child healthy, and you want pizza? OK, whatever - here's your pizza."

Still, keep it practical, and you just might get your wish.

No comments:

Post a Comment