Thursday, 23 February 2006


Well, my new made friends around the globe already checked this weblog of mine and wondered when there would be a post about our adventures and experiences in that country far, far away of western civilization! :-)

Here it is and I hope you will enjoy it. So I had a seminar about the EU and integration in Moldova last week. As I didn t know much about Moldova, it would be a nice experience for me, and I was really looking forward to the trip. Of course, it is a small country in Eastern Europe, former communistic, but that was probably all I knew about it. Although I have been in Georgia, Russia and Mongolia, I didn't know if I could expect something the same. The first thing Moldova reminded me of, was indeed Georgia, but also Albania. The size, the problems, the possible integration in the EU and the mentality were much alike. Though Albania is much more ahead than Moldova, especially the capital in regard to being modern.

Our group of young liberals flew from Amsterdam to Milan (with onboard a small fight with the crew of a radio-station). From Milan to Bucharest, where we had some hours to do some sightseeing, like the former palace of the dictator Ceaucescu. In the middle of the night the Danish participants arrived and we took a small bus to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. The border procedures were of course extensive and thorough. But we all managed to get a visa and we entered the country where we would have a great week.

The hotel was of the type that I had seen before in Russia, Slovakia and other former communist countries: lots of wood, very old fashioned and with some malfunctions. It was nice and cozy though, so no complaints there. The total group for the week would consist of 10 Dutch, 10 Danes, 10 Ukrainians and 10 Moldavians (although I counted max 6...). We were to discuss different topics, do some research on a topic chosen, to write an essay about it and to make a presentation about the essay.

Besides all the academic stuff, we had some excursions to city hall and parliament (where most of the Moldavians hadn't even been before). We had talks with journalists, members of parliament, locals and experts in different fields. We also had a trip to the Transniester region, a region that separated itself of Moldova after the fall of the USSR. The region is occupied by Russian troops, who act as "peacekeeping troops", but not recognized by the international community. At the same time it does have its own money, parliament, president, number plates etc. The problems for Moldova are that the major (heavy) industries are located in Transniester, it has a long border with Ukraine and smuggling is common among the population. Therefore Moldova would like to regain control over the region, but is afraid of repercussions from Russia. The EU is also lacking interest in the region to help resolve the situation. The region itself is a strange mixture. The capital I found rather clean and more modern than the capital of Moldova (might be because of the money the make with smuggling and the heavy industry). On the other hand was the countryside rather poor and were the roads terrible.

Good things about Moldova: the people (I met a lot of interesting people there and made a lot of new friends), the sights (beautiful old buildings, which do need some paint though), the mentality (that is in combination with the people, but worth a separate mentioning, as everyone was so friendly, helpful and lively), everything is very cheap (used taxis a lot, went to dinner several times, and bought cognac for my parents; it's a pity I don't smoke or drink myself ;-)). Special was also the last day where I got up very early to say the Ukrainian delegation goodbye at the beautiful train station and had a nice city tour, walked along the lake, had dinner in a very nice restaurant and went singing loud back to the hotel. Just felt great, like the sun was shining, like I was in heaven or in love. Ever experienced that feeling?

Bad things about Moldova: the weather (it was rather cold, but ok, that can be expected in such a eastern country), being very cheap (as I now really have to get used to the prices here and shouldn't spend too much (1 coffee and 2 juices in Bucharest were already 9€ again! :( ), and above all the people (I miss them too much, so really want to go back :-)).

I would like to thank everyone for making it a wonderful experience and a superb trip. I hope to get back there soon again (might be even next month and immediately go on for the elections in Ukraine). You are all, also invited to drop by anytime in Holland or wherever I will be at that moment in the world. See you guys! :-)

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