I left the border town Yash of Romania pedaling slowly through the streets. From time to time I check my route from GPS. Hey! There are two border gates, one right here very close, the other at the end of nowhere. The closer one is a village named Basin, 25 or 30 kilometers away. I pedal towards the village but feeling strange as I come closer to the border. There aren’t any trucks, cars, nothing. Am I going down further west? Let me check. Nooooo, it shows right. I see the border gate, there is also a road leading to the gate…. Let’s see what will happen? The villages have lost the characteristic ambience owned to this country. But, everyone who recognizes me on the street greets me: “Turchiaaaa”. Yes, the border is just in front of me but the road turned to another direction. There is a river between the two countries. How come? Will I pass along the railway? Just wait. There is a railway on the slope, let me climb uphill. A man was coming across the way, I stopped him.
– Abi (Elderly brother in Turkish) where is the Moldovan border?
I said all these in Turkish of course. There won’t be anybody speaking English is this small village anyway. And as I was thinking so, a guy:
– I know some English. Say it in English
To find someone who can speak English in this country is like running into a polar bear in Sahara.
– Dude how can I pass to Moldova? (haha, I’m laughing while asking)
– You should return, there is a vehicle passage 65 km away.
– Are you kidding me? Why return? Here, there is a road according to GPS.
– Well, there is one but only used by soldiers along the railway. You won’t be allowed to pass. You are not the only one who made the same mistake. The motorbike and bicycle travelers come here each year in the hope to pass the border. I know, you choose this border gate while it is next to the city Yash.
– Woa dude, now you mean I have to pedal back for 65 km.
Just at that moment two police officers came and asked what happened. I handed over the special document given to me by our Bucharest ambassador Mr. Omur… They replied as: “All right, we’ll allow you to pass with a passengers train”. Goddie J The train departs at 2:00 pm, not matter I’ll wait. Meanwhile, the total distance I’ll be going to pass is only 200 meters. Dude, just across the bridge, just a short walking distance. But there is this strange rule; you can only pass this border gate within a train. I encountered a similar situation at the China-Mongolia border, but there was a highway instead. You are not allowed to pass with bicycle from China to Mongolia J
Waiting at the old station. First one of the boys from the village came next to me watching with curios eyes. He speaks in Romanian, me in Turkish. As I always say I get well with children, or does it come to me so…..
He asked about the equipment on the bicycle and I showed. He asked how I find my way, I showed him the GPS. Then, he sat next to me and waited silently. The place where we were waiting is desolated and cold, the door and windows broken. Formerly it was a train station but not used anymore. I asked the boy whether there is a store. He went out and showed me. I said: “Let’s go there.” We bought some chocolate. Buddy, there are still three hours to wait. While I was thinking how the time will pass, I was called to the room where the railway switch was done. I guess the man got sorry seeing me sitting outside in that cold. The room I entered was hot as in a sauna. What the hell is this? I did a gesture that it is too hot. He showed me the stove at the corner next to me. Dude, I had never seen such a stove before.
J The steel boiler was covered with ceramics. I just sat in a chair next to it and fell into sleep. He woke me up as the train arrived. Wow, what a good sleep was this.
I went outside and checked the train, quite nice. The conductors boarded me on the last coach. It is so crowded inside, a real tumult. Aunties bought goods from Romania returning to their homes. One shows to the other her new shoes. The other panties, another tries to stuff her new boots somewhere. What the hell is going on here? It is like being at a Bazaar. The conductors collected the passports of the passengers and gave back after 30 minutes after which the train started to move. Buddy, an interesting experience just for 200 meters. The train stopped right after passing the bridge. While I was pretending to get off soldiers boarded the train. Abooooo! Buddy, who the hell are they? Green bold eyes, yellow hairs. Is it the military uniform what differs or the woman beautiful, I couldn’t make up. Then one came after the other, all the border soldiers must be hired from a modeling agency. Wow. One has got a Asus Eee Pad Transformer with an electronic scanner so that they are able to scan the passports immediately. Well, to such a beautiful woman I smiled while bending my head to the side as if greeting her. She looked at me and ordered my passport. She casually spent a look and said:
– I’ll keep your passport you will get it at last.
What on earth! Everybody got off the train. They wanted me to follow them. Really strange, where do they bring me? We entered a building. “Wait.” Now, bulky Russian soldiers came in, the one we used to see. They let me enter a room and started to question me. “Is this your first entrance?” “Yes” “What is your intention?” “I travel through the world with my bicycle.” “How long will you stay?” “One month.” “Why for one month?” “I told you that I’m traveling with bicycle.” “Where will you stay?” “In my tent.” “Why were you given a touristic visa valid for one month?”
It seems that a touristic visa valid for one month is not custom. I’m a sportsman and travel with bicycle. It’ll take a month to cross your country. “Does your government support you?” “Yes, it does. I’ll meet our ambassador in your capital. They are informed that I have entered your country.”…. and many more questions… Buster, you wore my passport out. I passed two countries afore and stayed less than a month in both. What the hell are you looking for in my passport?
Dude, I just smiled to the lady, what if I had laughed at her? Would I be imprisoned? J Anyway, after a fire of questions they handed my passport back. Since in my previous tour I encountered into such situations as waiting for a week in no man’s land, taken into custody and experiences with secret services, I learned to remain pretty calm. Anything could happen at border crosses. But waiting tenses me up. It already darkened. Now I have to look for a suitable camp site, need to eat. Buddy, I don’t have change nor food. Let’s buy a GSM line first and look for a nearby hostel or so from the internet. At the first store I buy a GSM line, Orange advertised everywhere. I asked for a cheap hotel. Bed and breakfast costs 300 Lei (about 15 $). As it was in Bulgaria and Romania one can observe the influence of Russia immediately. Meanwhile also here, in the town Ungheni, you need change, credit cards can be used only at bank automates.
In the morning I left this border town and pedaled towards Chisinau. I have front wind, the weather is minus 5 degrees. Since I pedal at a speed between 25-30 km/h the feel like temperature drops to minus 13 to 15 degrees. A nice weather to pedal J The distance between the border and the capital is 116 km and I must say that I saw only forest. This is probably the best thing done during the communist regime. You probably know that fuel for heating was provided by the government at that time for which the citizens were ordered to plant at least 5 to 10 trees. Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova became green countries.
I stopped at a lunch counter with a signboard Kebab. I really got hungry. Pedaling through this cold weather makes me hungry. I entered inside. Electronic music is playing, what is this, a kebab restaurant or a bar? You won’t hear such a good music even at a bar hahaha. The cook prepared kebab for me accompanying the electronic music, it tasted quite good. By the way, I forgot to load credit on my Orange card. After lunch I’ll do it. I need to pedal as soon as possible. I was initially heated up due to pedaling, then had lunch now all my energy is involved in digestion process. I started to shiver.
I turned around and was about to ride my bicycle. Haaah, I was looking around for somebody to ask the way to Chisinau, just came on time. J
The girls described the way to Chisinau so thoroughly, I won’t get lost for sure. It comes out that sometimes the GPS device goes wrong
The roads leading to Chisinau are in a bad condition, the cars rush me, even some pass me a hair’s breadth on purpose. Therefore, I must say this is a dangerous road for those traveling with bicycle. At some spots there aren’t even any emergency lines. As you come close to Chisinau all of a sudden see walnut trees. Why did they plant so many of these trees at the entrance of the city? Even there are some more inside the city. A mtb rider overtook me. I stopped and we met. His name is Alexander. He accompanied me till the Turkish Embassy.
I’ll be staying at Turkish Chisinau Embassy by our ambassador Mr. Selim Kartal and his wife Mrs. Banu Kartal. Meanwhile, I’ll visit the world’s largest wine cellars 120 and 250 km in length and hold presentations at two high schools and a university, meet with Turkish businessmen and press. If I get the necessary permissions I plan to visit two rarely known Ottoman fortresses with my bicycle. I mention permission because they are situated in a completely different country.
Let’s discover Moldova…