A slight problem in Moldova was that none of the cash machines seemed to accept foreign cards. Luckily I’d taken some cash with me, and I had enough to cover a few days in the country. When I tried to change my notes at a bureau de change near where I was staying, I ran into problems caused by not having crisp new banknotes. I’ve always heard that this can sometimes be a problem but had never experienced it until now. Luckily the owner of the bureau was very friendly and spoke excellent English. “I’m really sorry”, he said, “but the central bank charges us 15 per cent of the face value to change damaged notes”. The only note I had that would pass muster was a 50 dollar bill, so I was definitely going to have plenty of lei left by the end of my stay.
I chatted to the currency man for a few minutes. He asked me what I was doing in Moldova, and seemed very surprised that I was just on holiday. I asked him if he could recommend any places I should go and he said he really couldn’t think of any. When I pushed him he said that maybe I should go to a place called Mileştii Mici. “You might like it”, he said. “But then again you might not”. He strongly recommended Moldovan wine, though, and on hearing that I don’t drink he equally strongly recommended Moldovan fruit juice.
One thing I liked about Moldova was having learnt Spanish in Central and South America I could understand many written things in Romanian. I began to believe that I could probably understand some spoken Moldovan as well, but I was proven very wrong when I tried to buy stamps for my postcards from Tiraspol at Chişinău’s main post office. My first attempt to say “Four stamps for the United Kingdom” ended up with me buying two airmail envelopes instead. I tried again and got the right thing the second time, but only by showing my four postcards and pointing at the top right corner.