Made a journey today from Chisinau to Zarnesti. Moldova to Romania. Outside to inside the EU.
Woke up in the plushest hotel in Europe’s poorest country, the Prezidente hotel, where they play loud slamming techno in the restaurant 24 hours per day. Picked up my white BMW pimp wagon from the airport. This is where it got fun….
I was unable to download the Moldovan map on my Satnav app so I had to try and exit the country using voice guidance only – no road found where I drove. In the middle of Chisinau I took a wrong turn and panicked slightly, doing a uturn and going back the way I came, to some honking. Then a siren.
The cop pulled me over and asked me in decent English what I’d done wrong. I didn’t really know. He pointed out I was going down a public transport only road and there was a no entry sign.
My default defence to authority is to get terribly English and hope he recognises me as a good egg. So I got more and more Terry-Thomas as he says “I need to make you papers and you need to go to the bank”.
Getting exasperated, he sits me down in his car and I finally understand what he wants. A bribe. Oh, I exclaim and get my purse out, just as the other cup wanders over. The chap rolls his eyes at my naivety and tells me to put it in the door. As I expected to be leaving Moldova I had hardly any money anyway.
Another couple of hours of driving in circles gets me to the border. First time I’ve crossed a land border into the EU and it seems easy until the woman at the gate tells me to turn around and go through the customs checks.
First guy can’t speak English so I hand him my phone with Google Translate on it. The message he types translates as “is it your intention to make contact with collaborators?”. I shake my head.
Next guy informs me I need special insurance to drive in the EU. All is not lost, I Can get it from the booths at the start of the check point. So, I pick the first one and say ‘carte verde’. The man wants cash which I don’t have so reluctantly he takes my card. He has no clue how to use the machine apart from following two pages of instructions one word at a time. It doesn’t work.
Someone else points out there is a bank across the road and it actually works. I have cash, i have my green Insurance card. Customs was a breeze after that. Then another queue for immigration into the EU.
My overall impression was that everyone was trying their hardest to be helpful and friendly, and also that my visceral hatred of the principal of border control is not diminished. It should not take two hours to get from one bit of land to another identical bit of land.
The rest of the trip was long and pleasant enough. The scenery was a photographers paradise apart from not having time to take advantage – alternating flat plains and mountains.
My lunch stop was at a random cafe in a small town where I got chatting to a local guy who lived in London, working as a lorry driver. I shared sunflower seed with his family and gave them the rest of my biscuits in Return.
Got in to the guesthouse at 21:15, 11 hours after I started. Let’s see what tomorrow brings!