Thursday, October 27, 2011

Moldova: Around Chisinau, the Capital

Moldova: The Central Market

Homemade Sunflower Oil


More Grains

Large Grapes

Moldova: More Homemade Wine!

My stay in Moldova has been an absolute thrill and delight.
The wine in this plastic jug might just be the best I had all week!
I spent most of my time sampling homemade wine from my wonderful hosts in the village of Giurgiulesti. Almost every family I met makes their own wine and takes great pride in doing so -- they also love to share it.

On my last evening in the village, I was invited to my colleague Monika's house.
I savored every sip.

The wine this particular night might just be the best I tasted all week -- although, I can't be sure. It was absolutely superb though. It was a rich dark red color -- after about 30 days in the wine barrel.

Each family has its own wine cellar -- with a wooden barrel with a tap. Need wine? Just walk downstairs with a plastic jug and fill 'er up. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Moldova: Cold

The cold has descended on the village of Giurgiulesti in southern Moldova; however, the heat has just barely come on at the house where I am staying. The radiators are lukewarm, but at least they knock off the chill.  For some reason, my hosts decided the best solution last evening was to give me two plastic bottles filled with hot water rather than to turn on the gas furnace. If the furnace is anything like the one I had in Tajikistan, it's complicated and a bit of the dangerous side.

As for those two bottles: "for the feet," my host said.
"For the feet!"
Thankfully, I had packed thermal clothing and a good knit cap.  They helped tremendously.

This morning, my host proudly announced that he would turn the heat on today and sure enough, at lunch time, the place was slightly warmer than cold.

Moldova: Shepherd

I was walking along the river Prut at Giurgiulesti village and came across Okasani tending her sheep in the high grass along the river bank.

The village sits at the confluence of the Prut and Danube Rivers.  The rivers provide Moldova with its only access to the sea -- in this case the Black Sea -- Moldova is otherwise land-locked.

The River Prut -- that's Romania on the left side of the river.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Moldova: A village funeral

A funeral procession for an elderly woman in Giurgiulesti
Within hours of arriving in the southern-most village in Moldova, called Giurgiulesti, I saw a funeral procession along the main street, the only paved street in the village.

The funeral was for an elderly lady and it included her family and friends as well as the priest -- walking along the edge of the busy street -- carrying her open casket -- on their way to the village cemetery. At the very back of the procession, a woman carried a metal bucket full of wine -- that she gave to people along the procession route as they made their way to the graveyard.
The open casket is carried by loved ones.

 I visited the cemetery earlier in the day and was told by my colleague that each Monday after Easter -- the entire village gathers at the cemetery to honor their dead relatives -- there are even picnic tables set up among the gravestones -- where the families bring a feast of food to celebrate the life of their loved ones.
Picnic tables are set up at many family tombstones for the after-Easter feast.

Some families also have feasts at the cemetery on the anniversary of their loved ones' death.  Wine is very important in this ceremony as well -- with the family sharing wine together and pouring wine on the grave.

Moldova: Great Homemade Wine and Many Toasts!

Constantine starts with Moldovian Cognac
 Constantine brought out a two liter plastic bottle filled with wine and placed it under the table.  It was brought out after all the glasses on the table had been filled with Moldovan cognac.  “It’s the best Moldovan cognac,” he assured me, “the best.” It was the same brand that I had had the night before at my home-stay in the village of Giurgiulesti – the southern-most point in Moldova – and also the confluence of the Prut and Danube Rivers.  

 If you stand on the hillside along the village you can easily look over into Ukraine to the left and Romania off to the right. Tudor, my home-stay host, said “this is one of only seven places in the world where there is such a triangle. It immediately reminded me of the similar geographical border at Thailand-Burma and Cambodia.
After a couple of toasts with the Moldovan cognac, Constantine, who had thrown a party with his wife, reached for the plastic bottle of wine under the table and began pouring it into glasses – slightly bigger than shot glasses.  The wine had a rich dark red color and I expected it would be quite sweet.
It was not.
It had a rich flavor and Constantine proudly announced it was from his own grapes – and it was from this year’s crop.  
Grapes and Wine!
In between the toasts, we had quite a feast – minced meat, chicken, mashed potatoes, cabbage, potato salad – heavy on the eggs and imitation crab meat (delicious by the way), grapes from his vineyard and all sorts of Ukrainian chocolates.
I lost count after five or six toasts with the red homemade wine – and as I got up from the table and walked to the car – Constantine tapped me on the shoulder and said –  ‘wait, wait, I will be right back.”
He returned shortly with the still half-filled plastic bottle of home-made wine (the second plastic bottle of home-made wine) and said we must finish it.  Just when I thought I could drink no more – he first poured one glass, then half a glass and then another full glass of wine.  Wow. Between myself, Constantine and Tudor, we finished it off, but I’m not sure how we did it.  It had been a long time since I had drunk so much wine, but the thing is – Moldovan wine is so good – it is hard to stop.
The next morning…..
I’m impressed with the home-made wine. There is no hangover!