Day 12 (1): thwarted by the Gods - again!

Chisinau Travel Blog

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Chisinau airport
People I met here and/or traveled with: Margarita (Bulgaria)

When I started planning this trip I got the idea to try and use as little air travel as possible. No particular reason, I just thought it would be cool to hop on a train instead of flying to Kyiv. Silly, perhaps, but cool.

Well, less than two weeks on the road and already I am breaking my own rules. After the ferry from Odessa had been cancelled I had started looking at alternative routes to Istanbul and booked a flight from Chişinău. Sure, I could have travelled overland, all around the Black Sea, but I had figured that would cost too much time, be too much hassle, I had opted for the easy way out and booked a flight. Hey, they are my rules, so I decide whether or not I can break them - right?

Well, it seems as if other forces are at play here.
check-in desks - "it is oh so quiet..."
A volcanic eruption in Iceland has caused great disruption to air travel in Northern Europe for several days now. (an interesting side note here, had the Polish Gazpacho tour not been cancelled due to the death of the president, then the band would not have been able to fly to Poland anyway. And I would not have been able to fly back from Poland to Istanbul!).
I had checked the status on the Internet the day before, and while some airports in Northern Romania had closed because of the ash cloud, my flight from Chişinău was still confirmed and scheduled on time.

Well, by the time I arrived at the airport that had changed too. All flights from Chişinău airport had been suspended for at least 24 hours.

I must say, I was not the slightest bit affected by this news.
this doesn't bode well
Normally I'd be really pissed off, but not so this time. I was more like ok, no flying after all. Let's see what the alternatives are. Not that there's much point in being pissed off anyway, I mean, you can't do anything about this. And besides, there were thousands of people stranded all over Europe, I didn't have to be anywhere urgently, so I was one of the least affected people.

I made that clear to the attendants at the Turkish air desk as well. The poor girls were totally unprepared to face hundreds of angry travellers, so I made it clear to them I didn't need to be booked on the next day's flight nor put in a hotel for tonight. I just wanted some kind of guarantee that I would get my money back if I cancelled.
The attendant explained she couldn't give me any money back, but that it had to go through the agency where I booked the ticket.
on to plan B then
So I used their phone to phone up my sister and asked her if she could call the booking agency for me to check with terms for cancellation and refund. (the issue with booking flights online is that it is extremely difficult to get hold of those agencies when something goes wrong))

Confirmation was received fairly quickly, so I was free to go as I pleased. The only thing was... where?

While waiting in the queue at the Turkish airlines desk I had started joking around a little with other English-speaking people. Most had a similar attitude as I had, you can't change it, so you might as well accept it. The lady behind me in line asked if I knew if there were any car rental agencies who did one-way rental. I asked her where she was trying to get to, and she said Sofia.
Our taxi (just after it had been untaxi'd in order to cross the border)
“Well,” I said, “then so do I!”

I hadn't really been planning on going to Bulgaria, but Sofia was an obvious next destination. I knew there are regular buses to Istanbul from Sofia, and besides, I have friends living in the city who have been inviting me to come visit for years. Would seem like a good idea to finally use that invitation!

I left Margarita, the Bulgarian lady I had just met, to sort out her flight cancellation with the attendants and went to the information office to see if I could get any information about buses or trains to Romania or Bulgaria.
The girl at the desk spoke pretty good English, but at first her attitude was of the evasive kind: “Sorry, I only have airport information. For buses you need to go to the bus station”
Then she realised that with all flights cancelled there wasn't a whole lot of airport information for her to give to people, so she offered to make some phone calls. A few minutes later she came back with information about trains:
“There is a train to Bucharest at 4pm tomorrow. If you like today you can travel to Warsaw...”
Hmm, yeah, Warsaw might really not be the best of ideas right now. Even if there had been an opportunity to keep the Warsaw-Istanbul return flight on Monday I would most likely not have been  able to fly anyway.

Fortunately she had better news when it came to buses, as there were several buses a day to Bucharest, and from Bucharest it would be easy enough to find onwards transportation to Sofia. The only thing was that with an expected travel time of 10 to 12 hours, this would mean we'd arrive in Bucharest in the middle of the night - not ideal.

Margarita joined me and asked if there would be a possibility to hire a taxi to Bucharest. Yeah, why not? That would be much faster than a bus, and if we could share the costs then it probably wouldn't cost more than the plane ticket had cost. “well” she said, “I was in Chişinău on a business trip, so my company will most likely pay for the taxi. If they do, then you don't need to pay anything”.
Let me rephrase: Excellent idea! Let's go!

The girl at the information desk advised us not to use any of the taxis waiting in front of the airport, but instead she would call one from an official company. She was so lovely, she was geniunely concerned with our well-being. She arranged the whole trip for us and even made sure we got into the right taxi (making sure to note down our phone numbers as well as the car registration plate and name of the driver just in case anything would go wrong).

It proved to be quite difficult to actually leave Chişinău though. Moldavians cannot travel to Romania without a visa, but fortunately many people are of Romanian descent and have special permission to travel into Romania. However, it took a while for the taxi company to find a driver with such a special passport.
Then a European approved car insurance was needed, and the company actually had one created at the spot. Quite impressive considering it was Saturday.

So around half past one we finally set off to Bucharest, from where we could hopefully catch the sleeper train to Sofia.

And thus ended my lightning quick visit to Moldova. Though I haven't seen much of this country, the two days I spent here certainly gave an impression of what this country has to offer and I must say I quite liked it.
I won't go as far as saying that Moldova is a travel destination on its own, but if you are ever in the area, travelling through Ukraine or Romania, then this little country certainly merits a visit. I'd recommend you travel by car though, so that you can stock up on the killer cheap wines (sadly though, Moldova's exclusion from the EU means you won't be able to take more than a few bottles home).
huibdos says:
Every day alcohol:
Beer, wine and today a Margarita.

Echt afzien dat reizen van jou:)
Posted on: Sep 22, 2010
Biedjee says:
whaddaya mean? She's in the taxi picture. And there's another pic of her in the next entry :-)
Posted on: Apr 22, 2010
_francine_ says:
This post is useless without a picture of Margarita ;-)
Posted on: Apr 22, 2010
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Chisinau airport
Chisinau airport
check-in desks - it is oh so quie…
check-in desks - "it is oh so qui…
this doesnt bode well
this doesn't bode well
on to plan B then
on to plan B then
Our taxi (just after it had been u…
Our taxi (just after it had been …
photo by: Biedjee