Greetings From Chisinau Moldova & Iasi Romania! (1-6, & 6-13 August 2017)
Hello! I decided to merge the next two spots I visited because my visit to Chisinau isn’t enough to fill one article on it’s own and in these two spots I decided to start making new videos, which I’ve put out since but will be posting again here.
I had some interesting rides going to both places. First it was heading off to Moldova on a bus. Bogdan brought me to the bus station and found the proper bus for me. The buses were more like vans than a real bus and they weren’t properly labeled either, so finding the right one is a bit of a task. Bogdan talked to a guy standing by the bus, smoking and not looking too interested in the whole affair. Afterwards Bogdan then says to me, ‘This is the bus, they’ve changed the schedule but they’ll take you, just get in’. And in 5 minutes we were off to Odesa, even though I’m sure the bus wasn’t scheduled to leave for another 20 minutes. It was smooth trip to Odesa but from there on it changed and became more interesting. I got off the ‘bus’ and headed into the restaurant in the station, the bus station was set up as a market with different stalls for souvenirs or magazines and snacks at every parking bay outside and a restaurant and different stores inside. The restaurant had wifi and I had 2 hrs to wait until my next ‘bus’ so I ordered some food and waited and tried using the slow but free internet.
When it came to leaving on the next bus I walked out looking for it, checking each and every parking bay sign. I walked around twice and nowhere did I find anything saying ‘Chisinau’ so I asked around and although none of the stall operators seemed to speak English I had a copy of the ticket and would show them it, which usually gained a vague finger point or head shake. Finally I ended back at the first small bus I rode in on so I asked the unenthusiastic drivers who were from what I could tell just leaning against the bus and chain smoking the entire time since we got into the station. The first one read my ticket and asked the second a question, then came back with a nod and a number written on some paper. Apparently they would be driving me all the way to Chisinau, and also apparently I needed to pay them for my backpack for the second leg. I’m sure it was a shakedown but it was a pretty cheap one. So I paid them and got back onto the shady short bus and we were off to the border.
Crossing a border in Eastern Europe in a little short bus with an eclectic bunch riding it was particularly an interesting experience. On the way to the border people were flagging down the bus to get a ride along the way, most of them getting off later on down the road but a few stayed. At one point I had an older man sit down next to me and try talking to me, I think in Ukrainian. I tried over and over to tell him I did not understand but that didn’t seem to deter him to continue mumbling on to me until he got off 15 minutes later. The wife of one of the drivers, who was along for the ride, thought the whole thing was funny as I looked helplessly over to her. When we got closer to the border I noticed all kinds of stalls and wagons set up selling melons. The entire trip it was nothing but fields and fields of sunflowers and then suddenly it was all melons. People were loading up on them too, packing their entire car trunk with them, I’m sure to sell to what ever town they’re going to. I think maybe that was in part why crossing the border took so long, they had to search the bus and our luggage as well as checking all our passports. It was a bit of a nerve racking experience, being asked to park over beside the border security and customs buildings and waiting for what seemed like an hour before we could leave. When we did leave it was quick, the border officer came and gave them some papers and the bus driver wasted no time getting the bus going. The thing is we still hadn’t gotten our passports back, so the bus was flying down the dirt road and I was getting a bit nervous thinking maybe they forgot. Finally the driver’s wife started handing the passports back and everything was ok, but the thought of losing it made my heart jump.
The rest of the trip was ok, I ended having a much longer walk to the hostel then I expected but no real adventures. As for my train from Chisinau to Iasi there were a few adventures but none that involved me, it was more a ride where I experienced the adventures happening around me. First was the father and son duo I watched board at one point and hop around seats during the travel. The father seemed to time his bathroom breaks perfectly when the conductors would be walking by. Finally at one point he was stopped and after a few words ended up paying the staff for what I figure are tickets that he and his son didn’t have. The son must’ve said something that clued the staff member, maybe the father was trying to get a cheaper ticket for a shorter ride than we were intending, whatever it was after the conductor walked away the father was quite upset with his son. Luckily the father decided sitting away from his son was the best solution as myself and few others were watching him very closing and ready to act if the situation needed it. It would not have ended well for him, .
The second adventure I watched unfold happened as we crossed into Romania and were close to the Iasi train station. The train staff were very tight for checking proper documentation, each one that passed by asked to see passport and proper paperwork if needed and once we crossed into Romania a customs guard came on board to check the papers himself and also check luggage. The first conductor to come by me asked for my passport, saw the cover with the Canadian crest and ‘Canadian Passport’ printed on it, looked at me and said “Canadian? Good” and walked off without ever looking at it. The next two to come by checked everyone else and just looked at me and nodded. When the customs guard came by after opening and checking everyone’s bag in great detail he just looked at mine, saw the Canadian patches, “Those are yours, Canadian? OK, very good.” and walked off without even checking anything. Meanwhile he caught someone for having 3 cigarette packs too many and was forced to get rid of them. A conductor helped him out by buying them off him, I’m sure at a discounted rate too but the only other option was throwing them away or paying a fine. We got into the Iasi train station without anymore adventures with my host Mihai was waiting for me, he brought me to his place to drop off my gear and get settled in and ready for my time in Iasi.
And with that my adventures getting from one place to the next were over but made for interesting transit stories to share with you. In both cases I made it to where I was staying safe and sound, settled in and was ready to explore and train in a new city.
Walking Around Chisinau
Chisinau isn’t very big, there are things to go do and see outside the downtown core but not a lot, my time there was limited and I didn’t quite learn the bus system so I didn’t go out on an adventure to any of them. I did walk around the city area close to me and take some pictures of the park and some interesting buildings.
I also played around with trying a new video idea. I filmed as I walked around Chisinau and stopped off at a few points to talk about the sights. My idea is to give a more in depth look at where I’m visiting and although I haven’t been able to do this at all the places I’ve been to, or manage to edit all the footage I have taken yet, I do have a collection of videos of sight seeing different parts of the world, which is pretty cool. So even know I’ve posted this video when I first made it months ago here it is again. To watch the video or if you want to see my other videos you can head over to the Panda’s Odyssey YouTube Channel and see it there.
And as always you and can over to see my Flickr Account where I have more photos from this and all my other visits.
Bercut Fight Club
The only BJJ club that I was able to contact and that anyone in the Globetrotters community talked about in Chisinau was the Bercut Fight Club. Looking back on how I got around, or the lack of, when I stayed in Chisinau it would be interesting figuring out how to visit other clubs, which are more outside of town. The gym is right by the hostel I was staying at so I could just walk there for class and Bercut has a big sign with directions to make it up to the gym in the top floor of the old building, making things really easy. I was getting over some stomach issues from Ukraine so I had to skip some classes and with the schedule I could only make it to one class. Once I got to the top of the old and heavily graffiti-ed staircase I was met with the front desk to the gym where I nice woman showed me where to get changed and where class would be taken place. Bercut has a main room where I gather the other classes like MMA or different exercise classes are held and a room on the side with a matted floor and a weights section where the BJJ classes are held.
I was a bit early so threw on the gi and started to stretch out on the mats while more people started to show up. There was a good amount of people by the class started and the mat space was pretty hot, for me at least, so I had to take a few water breaks and with just getting over my stomach issues I had to sit out a few rolls and just watch the class. Overall the club members and the class was fun and inviting but not a lot of talk, I had a conversation with one guy who told me that not a lot of the people there didn’t speak much English so I would have a hard time conversing with anyone. It was still a good time working some guard passing chains and rolling with the few roll I rolled with. I wish I was in better condition to show up to more classes and get to really meet the club, it was a weekend class and from what I was told it was a more casual setup with not as many people as during the week.
I left a bit disappointed in only being able to attend one class and only able to do so much and I felt like I really didn’t get to see Moldova. That just gives me a reason to come back to see more and visit Bercut again and maybe make it out to other clubs as well. I left too early, both in the time spent and time of day, it was still dark when I woke up and the staff were still sleeping when I left to catch a taxi to the train station. Until next time Chisinau!
Walking Around Iasi
After Mihai picked me up at the train station and gave me time to settle in at his place he showed me around the city a we met up with some friends of his for some drinks. During the week though Mihai was busy with work online so after showing me around I was on own for exploring and seeing sights, here’s some of the my shots of Iasi.
I also put together a video, this time more in depth, of walking around the city of Iasi. It was my second video so there was still a lot of learning and trying new things. I feel like I’ve come a long way with my recent filming, once I have time to edit it all and publish it I will of course post it here. To watch this video and others you can head to the Panda’s Odyssey YouTube Channel to see more of my videos.
As always you and can over to see my Flickr Account where I have more photos from this and all my other visits.
Staying With Mihai
I saw Mihai on the BJJ Globetrotters matsurfing map and contacted through e-mail about coming and visiting. We began talking and arranged me coming to visit, with Mihai promising to take of me and show me his home town. I knew nothing of Iasi before talking to him and didn’t know what to expect but I’m glad I made the trip to explore another small town away from all the tourist hot spots. Mihai has a nice apartment up high in a building that gives a great view of the town and it’s perfectly in the middle of and walking distance to the downtown area and where the club is farther away from the inner town area. I can say without a doubt Mihai lived up his word and looked after me, making sure I had everything I needed. I had to do some shopping, involving picking up new running shoes to replace the old pair I had been wearing since I started this journey back in Canada. Mihai made sure I always knew where I was going and how to get back, going as far as to instruct me how to tell the taxi drivers to get to his place and what the price should be in case they try to over charge me.
The few times Mihai and I ventured out together he would tell me all about the town and history of the area, how schooling is in Romania, the long process that the country went though after the fall of the Soviet Union, and the coming of modern malls and brand name stores. The story how and why the Romanian people love Adidas is particularly interesting. I wish we could have had time to talk on camera and do an interview and get half of what he told me about Romania and his club in an interview to share with you, but I guess instead you will have to go and visit him yourself to hear these great stories. Thank you Mihai for such a good time hosting and feeding me, I’m sure we will meet again one day.
Absoluto BJJ Iasi
There is only one BJJ club in Iasi and Mihai runs it, Absoluto BJJ Iasi, which is an affiliate from the Absoluto BJJ HQ in Bucharest. Mihai has brought together a good group of guys that train regularly with him, they all were welcoming to me and although I didn’t get a chance to talk with most of them, they all seemed like good people. Mihai is a purple belt and he studies a lot of online videos to come up with material for class, when I was there they were preparing for a big competition so putting together their game strategy and the importance of take downs was the focus. I had fun drilling and rolling with the guys, Mihai and I would make sure to get in a roll each class and afterwards on the way back to his place I would ask him about some of the students that I rolled with. They all came from different backgrounds, some older with other martial arts experience, some younger in school and really fit and keen to learn. Mihai knew each and every one through and through and it was interesting hearing his take on their techniques and where each was on their training for the next belt.
While I was visiting I picked a GoPro to start shooting my next new idea for videos: training videos. I’ve only been able to make a few on these and I want to get back to making more as it shows the fun I’m having drilling and rolling with everyone. I set up the camera in the corner shot some classes and then edited the footage and added music to make this video of us training together. Check it out over at the Panda’s Odyssey YouTube Channel and watch it, and all my other videos, over there.
After a good visit learning about a place I’d never hard of before and making new friends I was off to my next destination: Bucharest! Thanks again Mihai for the good times and looking after me.
Until next time,
see you on the mats!
WAYS TO SUPPORT PANDA’S ODYSSEY!
Sign up to the Panda’s Odyssey Patreon Account.
Buy Panda’s Odyssey Patches at The Gi Hive.
Buy a shirt at Panda’s Jiu-Jitsu Store.
Follow me and other traveling Jiu-Jitsueros at the BJJ Globetrotters blog section.
Subscribe to my YouTube Channel.
Check out my full photo albums for each article at my Flickr account.
Add me and follow along on most social media @pandasodyssey