Days 21 and 22 – Cricova Winery

Friday

Yet another sunny day in Chișinău. In fact, in the time I’ve been here there has only been 1 heavy rain shower amidst unbroken sunshine.

Today was the first day of the bus driver’s holiday, so we had 6 young people in attendance, compared to our usual 25. We began the day watching some educational videos about Great Britain and Moldova, they were both in Russian so I didn’t understand much. Although the video about Stonehenge was accompanied by music played on bagpipes…

We then began our work on daily routines, with a particular focus on self-care routines in the morning as some of the group have difficulty with maintaining their personal hygiene. This was a challenging session for me, as it was something I was keen to work on but was much harder to do without good language skills compared to the more practical tasks I had been leading. Fortunately my supervisor was able to lead the discussion while I assembled the poster of the agreed routine. Throughout the task I was beating myself up a little as my intention had been that each person would create a morning routine poster, unique to their own habits, that they could take home as a reminder. I’d thought my idea had either been lost in translation or ignored by my supervisor but it became apparent that Monday’s activity will be me repeating the task but on an individual level. This scenario highlighted a definite difference in my UK and Moldovan placement experience. A lot of the time I have to ‘go with the flow’ a lot more, as I do not have the luxury of understanding all the conversation between staff members and clients in order to know what’s happening!

At lunch time the staff team were very concerned that I eat a good lunch, as I was going to visit a winery and partake in some wine tasting in the afternoon. They had a typical Moldovan meal for me with Borsch, Stuffed Peppers and lots of bread. It was all most tasty.

I left placement early to go on the aforementioned trip. On my way I visited the post office to post some cards home. They cost only 22p per airmail stamp. Quite amazing given the current UK internal mail prices. I’ll be interested to find out how long they take to arrive in Marea Brittanie!

Then, to the winery! Cricova winery is one of Moldova’s most famous and located just outside of Chișinău. It’s known as the underground wine city as it consists of a maze of roads and rooms 60-80m underground. The underground world allows the wine to be stored in perfect conditions for its maturation. The temperature is about 14 degrees Celsius and humidity 98%. I wished I’d brought my one and only long sleeve hooded top with me as it was a big temperature gradient to enter the tunnels from the 32degrees outside. We were shown around the winery from our mini train (connecting golf cart style trains). In particular the process of creating the sparkling wine, for which they use the same traditional method as in Champagne, was very interesting. We had a tour of the wine tasting suite. This comprised a number of themed rooms, all 60m underground but with features like a real wood burning fire, or windows that appeared to have daylight. We finished the tour in the underwater themed room (an interesting theme for a landlocked country). Here we tasted a white, rosé, red and sparkling white wine. They each had a unique and distinct aroma. The rosé smelt of black current and other forest fruits. My favourite was the sparkling wine, of which I was given a second glass. Noroc!

Cricova was fascinating and so different to any other experience in Chișinău so far. I suspect the reason for this was simply money. Every other tourist type attraction I’ve seen so far has been wonderful, but the challenge of low visitor numbers and very tight budgets has been evident in poor quality lighting or run down interiors of the attractions. Even the monastery that I visited on Wednesday, although beautifully maintained and cherished, used basic items for its construction. There is clearly money in wine, as the quality of the furnishings and vast areas of marble demonstrated. It was beautiful, but ever so slightly incongruous with what I’ve seen of the country. As we hurtled around the dark tunnels on our wine train I also had a mental image of scenes from Harry Potter, and also, perhaps more disturbingly, the tourists visiting the Volturi in The Twilight Saga books (for the uninitiated the tourists are ushered around a beautiful, marbled, Italian building before becoming the next meal for the Volturi vampires). It was brilliant! I also loved how each tunnel was named after a Cricova wine. I can’t remember the names of those unique to Cricova, but we certainly travelled along Strada Cabernet and Strada Sauvignon.

Saturday

It’s only 3.30pm here so perhaps a little early for my Saturday entry, but never mind! This morning the other volunteers and I visited the ‘National Museum of Etnography and Natural History’ in Chișinău. Although, I’d somehow missed the ‘and natural history’ part of the description before arriving and so my inner geologist was incredibly surprised and pleased to get to view Moldova’s extensive collection of rocks and fossils! There were some awesome exhibits of trilobites and ammonites discovered, as well as corals and brachiopods from hotter and wetter times. I particularly enjoyed being able to see the soil types from various parts of the country and the richness of the soil, that allows for extensive agriculture here, was evident. We also saw exhibits of national clothing and important figures in Moldovan cultural history.

I’m planning to have a mostly relaxing weekend as I’m feeling pretty tired now, although will be attending a concert by the National Youth Orchestra tomorrow. It’s hard to believe that I’m about to start my last week here. I feel very sad about leaving this placement as there’s so much more work I could help with, although I am looking forward to getting back to having my own space and not being a guest any more!

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