Not wanting to deal with another lengthy gauge change on the train, I decided to go this time by minibus. I had to get myself to the station, far away by jumping on one of the many shuttle vans that circulate through the city streets. There aren’t really stations where they park, but like Albania there are places where they tend to accumulate. Once I saw 180 in a window, I flagged him down and climbed aboard. While waiting at the station, I was able to mend some minor wear on my shoes and Skype home to ol’ madre. See, good as new.
The ride tools me northwest from Chisinau, exposing me to a lot more of the countryside before it got too dark to matter. The ride was supposed to take 5 hours, but it seemed like we were running way ahead of schedule. Then we stopped for some snacks, and again for duty free, and then the borders themselves took ages. Checks at borders going into the EU are a bit more stringent.
Finally I arrived at my destination, and then started walking towards the home of my hosts. After a lengthy hiatus I was couch surfing again, if I could find just the place. It was dark, and finding the right apartment block proved menacing. Of course, the rain had to start falling as well. A kind stranger called one of them to fetch a pathetic feeling me. After a much needed shower, we were able to chat a bit before bed. They had never hosted before, but were all very kind. They asked if I wanted any of their homemade food and wine. (Obviously…)
The next morning I tackled the city by setting out to see what all there was. Iasi isn’t really a tourist city, but there were a couple of things worth checking out. I walked through some gypsy district on my way to a park where their national poet would sit under a particular tree. I sat nearby and channeled the creative energies of Mihai Eminscu myself, which explains why the tale of my trip to Moldova read so beautifully. I’m sure you noticed.
I did some more walking around the park and then continued on towards the Botanical Garden, which was similar, but a bit more diverse, larger, and wasn’t free. It was a large green space and definitely a good one for a few kilometers of strolling.
I refused to pay to the tram to do something my legs can do for free, so for the next hour I walked through a university and back towards the town.
Before I left this place, I knew that I needed to exchange my leftover Moldovan lei, as doing it elsewhere might be a challenge. I went to a couple banks and exchange booths, but was surprised to find that they wouldn’t take it. I was starting to panic a bit, since 50 euros worth of toilet paper would not be good. Everywhere I went, they would look at me like I was trying to exchange North Korean won, but this country was is geographically only 5 km from the border!
After having been all over the city, I ran to the bus station and just started asking people. In the end I did find a guy and let him get away with a 7% take, but my desperation was a bit obvious. I don’t know if the euphoria I felt was from accomplishing a seemingly hopeless task, or from all of the running. There were a few nice things that I saw along the way.
After I said my goodbyes and gathered my things, I returned to the train station to get going to the next place. This city was a bit off the radar, but my hosts were good and it was nice to just spend a day walking around and falling under budget.