Last Sunday I went to Iasi (pronounced Yash), Romania. I officially went to sort out my temporary residency permit. However, unofficially the trip turned out to be a great way to combat cabin fever (it’s been cold and misty in Chisinau for the past few weeks, so I’ve been spending a lot of time in my apartment), as well as see more of Eastern Europe.
There are multiple buses that go to Iasi each day, traveling through the Moldovan countryside to get there. The bus I took left at 6:30am, and reached Iasi at 10:30am. After a smooth journey there, I arrived at the central bus station. I panicked a little in the parking lot because I had no idea how to get to the city center. (Why did I not anticipate this?? Note to self: print out a map before going to a new city!!) But I decided to hop on the most crowded trolley (I figured that at least a few of those people had to be going somewhere interesting), and luckily I found the heart of the city, or at least the tourist-y bits!
As I arrived in the center I quickly realized that, as it was a Sunday, some of the museums that I had originally planned to visit were closed, and many of the churches were in session. However, this meant that I could slip into the back of the services and listen to the choirs, as well as see some of the breathtaking interior architecture.
After walking around for a couple of hours, I went to sit down for lunch. I found a food court in a mall with an amazing view of the palace. It was truly beautiful. Plus the clear blue skies made the palace look like something out of a fairytale.
After eating lunch I picked up a chocolate filled pretzel, and continued with my self-guided walking tour of the city. I saw church after church, and by this time I also got to shamelessly watch all of the people streaming out of the services. From my observations it seemed pretty evident that Iasi is more economically developed than Chisinau. However, even within Iasi I saw striking disparities in wealth, particularly between the grandeur of the main churches and the poverty of those begging outside.
When I finished my chocolate pretzel and decided that I had seen as much of the center as I could in one day, I took the trolley to its end, and explored the more industrial boundaries of Iasi.
And then I took the bus back to Chisinau! All in all, I consider it to have been a successful day. I got to see some of the Moldovan countryside, and of course go to Romania! I even managed to complete the necessary paperwork for my permit and successfully navigate customs (although to be fair, all this consisted of was getting on and off a bus a couple of times to show my passport to border patrol officers who all spoke English). But still, it was my first solo trip to a new country. And now I’m eagerly planning future adventures! The other places on my “Spring 2014 bucket list” include Bucharest, Budapest, Brasov, Odessa, and Istanbul. Hopefully I can make it to them all before July!