CRF: Moldova

"CRF" is not a crime show you've never heard of, it stands for "Cutting Room Floor." Below are some of our favorite pics that never made the blog. We figured we'd reminisce a little while we're home for a visit. (Back in Europe December 28th).
Some countries are notable for their food, or for their culture, or for their landscapes. Moldova isn't. But it is memorable. When people ask about the strangest places we've been on the trip, we always mention Moldova among the most bizarre.
Moldova is the poorest nation in Europe, by a long shot. It's GDP per capita is less than half that of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is the second poorest ($2,500 compared to $6,000).
This is an apartment building in Bălți, which is pronounced "belts."
A roadside cross.
The remote, ancient cave monastery at Orheiul Vechi was among the most memorable places we visited in the region. This picture was taken on the "balcony," which is a tiny ledge high up the side of a sheer cliff.
A huge stork-shaped well that we spotted on the roadway. It wasn't immediately clear how it was supposed to work, but the bucket was lowered by a chain attached to the stork's mouth.
Because there isn't much indoor plumbing in Moldova - especially outside the cities - there are lots of public wells.
Almost a quarter of the population lives and works outside of the country - usually illegally. Working age people leave in the greatest numbers. In some regions, it felt like a ghost country, with only the very elderly and the very young left behind.
Late evening on the Chișinău outskirts.
Piles of cornstalks outside a little hamlet.
Coffee and a snack taken outside a store near Milestii-Mici (the largest wine cave in the world). It seems strange that we've never mentioned this coffee, actually. Through most of the more impoverished corners of the former Soviet Union, tea is the preferred drink and coffee is relatively uncommon. But most places had a sweet, instant-coffee drink called 3v1 (actually, there are brackets in the real logo, so it appears "3[v]1"), which is a shorthand name that means "three in one," meaning coffee, milk and sugar. It's not very good, but we had scores of tiny plastic cups of the stuff over several weeks.
The name of this pastry has been completely forgotten.
Apartment building in Chișinău, the capital.
Something that's still difficult for us to believe: we actually went into the Transdniestr frozen conflict zone, which is also called Transnistria. We didn't stay for more than an afternoon, but it still ranks as one of the strangest places visited on the trip. Also, one of the most frightening.

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