"So happy and grateful, I might explode into a million pieces." A few birthdays ago we were sitting along the Bosphorus, hookah in hand, beloved ones present, weather perfect and this phrase fell out of my mouth. Ever since it is the phrase for me to express endless gratitude and bliss, it is the phrase to sum up our time with friends in Moldova.
Here a photo journal of our trip with brief captions about where we are in the images. You may recognize Glen and Sasha from our Zambia Perspectives trip in 2021.
Merry Christmas from Purcari and etc vineyards. Christmas day, thanks to Bob and Angela, we set off early to visit Purcari vineyard for a tour, tasting, and lunch. Bumping through the rich agricultural land outside Moldova's capital of Chisinau, we rocked up at Purcari to be wowed by the vineyard, the wine making, and for sure the wine itself. Lunch was stellar too and it was all over so quickly, we had time to go to another vineyard! At sunset we pulled into etc, unannounced and continued the party.
Chewy, the fluffy bit in Anita's arms above, was eager to get out by the time we got home on the 25th. Thanks to him, we enjoyed a long walk around Chisinau, all dressed up for the holidays. Bustling with people of every age, Chisinau had on her best lights for all to frolic. Note, Anita, the youngest blond holding fluffy bit Chewy in the photos, daughter of Glen and Sasha, this was our first meeting with her in person. Well, sort of, as I met her when she was born in Istanbul, in 2004! Every minute with this young soul reminded me why I so love and respect her zany parents.
Having taken a break at home for a day shopping, eating, walking - we got on the road and went north to visit two monasteries. Tipova, the first panel, has a rather modern church, however the monastery and its cliffside cells have been around since the VI century. Hiking around the cells, set on the shores of the Dniester river, was stunning. Energetically this place was a breath of fresh air in every way. A walk in the local village gave us another perspective again.
From Tipova we went to Trebujeni, site of the Old Orhei monastery which dates back to the IV century. Here we had a much anticipated lunch of local foods before trekking up to the prayer space under the church. Through a nondescript doorway we descended a set of stairs in almost total darkness to emerge in a cave church where one monk was reciting prayers and another was reading scripture by candlelight. After we lit our own candles in homage, we stepped out the back door right into the full moon. Magic. On a cliffside in what felt like a meteor crater we marvelled at the full moon, in a collective breath of joy. Later, we danced.
Приднестровье - Transnistria. The last Soviet stronghold. A country that 'does not' exist. Of course, we had to visit. Once we 'crossed the border' we went straight to Bendery Fortress. It was our first step in the time machine. Our final and most delicious step, "снова в СССР - Back in the USSR". Decor and menu had us in total nostalgia bliss. We are already planning our return just to eat there again.
Beyond exotic and tasty adventures, the intensity of friendship all while doing nothing was a daily bliss. Time shared with intelligent, questioning, respectful, hilarious, courageous, genuine friends was a tonic for heart and soul.
31 December Sasha and I took a long walk with Chewy. Entering the Orthodox church at the center of the city park, I was lucky to catch a bit of the service and song. Next Sasha and I ducked under a tree in agreement that nature is church too.
Spoils of our visit to Transnistria, black caviar. Bottom right above you see our breakfast when we arrived on 24 December, and the rest, above and below these words, our delights as we celebrated the last day of 2023. From caviar tasting to partying in the main square complete with live music from Carla's Dream and Satoshi (Sasha's favorite) we saw out the new year with gusto.
Wishing you and yours a 2024 full of gratitude, joy, peace, and power.
Thank you friends for welcoming 2024 together playfully, full of laughter, kindness, and love.