29 March 2009

ARDF in Pamber and then the Frimley
We went to feed the ducks - but they were not hungry - so Kirstie ate the bread
We then went to the playground -
It was, as ever, reliably cold
I think there must be a wormhole through to Antarctica

16 March 2009

Chisinau, Moldova

We used to have trolley buses - in Moldova the Maxi-Taxi (white van with seats) is faster and a bit more comfortable

Tea at "Andy's Pizza" - the one close to my hotel (in the building that looks like an ocean liner) also serves rather nice Moldovan food

I had a tasty soup and

a rather nice earthenware pot full of roast pork with 'other things'.

and they even signpost where you can get a...

... Balti!

Moldovan is not that difficult to read
(is really tricky to parse when heard)

Gate guardian at the airport - lovely!

Oops! - something happened to the pound sterling while I was away...

Chisinau has more foreign exchange shops per street-kilometre than any other place I have been - about one every 30 metres on the way from the station to the town centre.

Chisinau, like Birmingham has a rotunda...

Was meant to be a luxury hotel - but something went wrong with the design and is now let to migrant construction workers

Here is the Birmingham one for comparison:

an unfortunate poster of a Turkish airliner apparently grounded in a
Dutch bulbfield...

unfortunate in the light of...

being a recent photo of a Turkish airliner really grounded
in a Dutch bulbfield.

My hotel in Moldova - the Cosmos - complete but with authentic character
I wouldn't want to stay in a western chain-clone hotel anyway

I'm not sure who the bloke on the horse is - I suspect a Russian general

City view at night

same by day

The instructions for the lift are extensive
and include the correct order of entry and exit
also what to do in the case of earthquake

The lobby seems to be frozen in a dark post Soviet time warp - ladies of a certain age with improbable blonde hair-dos, short men with short hair/short black leather jacket/short black trousers/shiny Italian style shoes engaged in conversation and trade, tired kiosks and dimly lit offices... I loved it. Staff very nice and helpful, though it helps if you select Latin alternatives rather than Anglo-Saxon: "deposit baggage" is almost perfect Moldovan - "left luggage" is not.

Transfers and Tours were organised by Carmina from Voiaj International Travel Agency
If they can handle taking 250 Swiss football fans to watch a match in "a country that does not (officially) exist" - they can handle your visit. The site is in Moldovan - but easily understandable even for a monoglot-English like me.

My trip was arranged by Carl at Regent Holidays - a very good travel company indeed, and one which I can recommend wholeheartedly.

15 March 2009

A flying visit to Gagauzia

Its not an independent country - just autonomous region -
but it has the right to declare independence - so a visit is in order just in case.

Welcome to Comrat - the capital city

Its not a big place... 23,000 out of 150,000 in Gagauzia total but it
has it own brand new National University Building
(with assistance from Turkey as well as a Kemal
Atatürk memorial library)

and some monuments...

and some statues... I think the Soviet soldier is meant to be
one of the good guys - certainly looks very stern.

There is a bit of a litter problem:

Gagauzia is still part of Moldova so lots of election posters...

This lot are the lot booted out when the communists were re-elected -
Apparently the Communists are regarded as being a bit more moral
and a lot less corrupt

14 March 2009

A short visit to the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR)
(otherwise known as Transnistria, Trans-Dniester,
Transdniestria, and Pridnestrovie)

A lot of names for somewhere that does not officially exist

it was a bit cold for the beach

If you visit - visit with a guide - there are places where
you can take photos and places where you can't and if you
do and they spot you on CCTV you end up in a police station
in a cage* being interrogated by police who don't work for any
official government at all... the FCO say:

"It is very important to avoid getting into difficulty with the Transnistrian authorities"

*Yes really this did happen to an American who decided not to follow my guide's advice

There is not a lot to see and things can get a little spooky at the border and close to the
Russian 'peacekeeping' posts and I certainly don't recommend staying overnight.

Moldova play their international football matches in Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistira.
There is a brand spanking new 11,000 seater stadium and sports complex and
Audi dealership. All constructed by one of the 'big' men of the PMR - and certainly no photos allowed (nice little police car sitting by the roadside as we drove past)

View Larger Map

Its a very poor country but there are lots of banks, some expensive "full service"
hotels and even a new branch of "Andy's Pizza" - a sign of friendship between
the Moldovan and PMR presidents' sons - Andy being the offspring of
Daddy Moldova I believe

I am not quite sure what they are trying to say here,
Putin, Mehdvedev and... Che?

Commemorating the meeting of the leaders of three pseudo states...

PMR, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Each officially recognised only by "the other two, Russia and Nicaragua" -
except for PMR - where even Russia treads carefully. Nicaragua as well.

The three are members of the
"Commonwealth of Unrecognized States" along
with Nagorno-Karabakh.

on the way back to Moldova...

13 March 2009

Elections in Moldova.

Apparently the Communists are in charge -
I have read that Moldova was the first country to
democratically put the communists back in power.

Times and the Communists have changed though judging by the poster...

not everyone likes communism...

This lot (below) are the Social Democrats - but there are questions
over their attitude to corruption. I heard that the communists just sacked
the most corrupt 50% of the national police force -
a positive and brave move indeed unless you are a supporter of the
West Midlands Serious Crime Squad,
a British police department that, it is reported, took their name entirely too literally.

So things are getting better in Moldova. The Tiraspol Times ("Moldovan Police Most Corrupt") begs to differ but then I suspect that this Transnistrian newspaper has an agenda that is not based on fairness towards their geographically close but politically estranged Moldovan neighbours.

Never heard of Transnistria?

Then perhaps you know it as the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR)
a.ka. Trans-Dniester, Transdniestria, Pridnestrovie and Transnistria

Now these people make their views absolutely clear
(I assume that 'fara' means without - a quick scan of some restaurant
menus tends to back this up)

and finally those nice communists again...

Keep up-to-date with it all at Politics of Moldova - I think my vote would go to the
Peasants' Christian Democratic Party of Moldova, they only have 2% of the seats but the best name.

09 March 2009

07 March 2009

and so to Carluccios for a birthday meal - luckily the Jazz is only on a Thursday - so it was an entirely enjoyable evening...

Spinach, Artichoke and some other stuff torta

Panfried calves liver, re onion jam, new potatoes (nice a crispy skin) and more spinach

I can recommend "Bicerin"

A red kite - over Lancaster close - just under 10 years since I saw my first ever UK Kite (Plynlimon, Powys, July 1999 followed by Chilterns a year or two later)

06 March 2009

To the QEII conference centre - for a speed-carrers-talking-session
I think I got the odd convert or two

THE Rocket...

The loom in front is a Toyoda...

... With the profits they a) started making cars and b) changed the name to Toyota