01 April 2009

Monk in a Cave...Like Jack in a Box but Different

With Chisinau currently undergoing mild chaos as student protesters swarm parliament in anger over the Communist party's majority win of parliament seats...it seems like a decent time to back blog about my trip to Chisinau. In February I had the opportunity to go to Moldova for work. I have never been to Moldova and, other than cold weather, had no idea what to expect. And yes, it was cold. Moldova is just about the poorest country in Europe with the average person's salary varying between $100-250/month. Corruption is pretty common and wide-spread from spurious government activities to doctors and teachers accepting "gifts" for services to supplement their poor salaries. Quite surprisingly, despite being such a poor country, it is not an inexpensive one! Restaurants were little to no cheaper than a standard restaurant in DC is. Shopping was also pretty high-end.

Chisinau itself (despite the price) was a pretty little city. Well, you could tell that it was probably quite pretty in the spring and summer anyway...

Random Orthodox church along the "main drag" of Stefan cel Mare.

Parliament/Presidential Palace which is currently being sieged by protesters

Bell tower for church below

Main Orthodox Cathedral in Chisinau

I was also able, for the first work trip ever, able to get out of the capital and see a little country side. Some of my colleagues took me to a town called Orhei to see Moldova's second most popular tourist attraction; a cave church and the monk who dwells in it:

Bell tower that sits on top of the cave

There was a small ledge in the cliff like a 'porch' if you will. This was a window looking out of the cave (I was standing on the ledge).

Inside the monestary

The monk, who spoke a little English so coupled with my little Russian, was really interesting. He was older, probably in his 60s and had been living there for 4 years already. I cannot imagine it; it was cold, drippy, and smelled overwhelmingly musty and moldy. He apparently used to work at a power plant and after he lost his job and his wife died he, basically having nothing better to do, decided to become a monk.

The area around the monestary was quite nice as well.