I could live in Chisinau. Barely 10 days ago, I knew zilch about the capital city of this land-locked nation whose borders shifted many a times as dictated by the political whims of neighbouring powers. I had to wiki the proper spelling its name and figure out its adjective form (Moldavian? Moldovan? It’s the latter though spellcheck begs to differ). I was exhausted from Portugal and a weekend between trips was not enough to download the Portuguese sensations and upload fresh data about Moldova and its wine industry. As I left for the airport, I could barely commit to memory the name of the Moldovan currency (lei).
I could live in Chisinau, I discovered on Day 5. The first four days consisted of being shaken on roads, stuffed with placinta and sniffing+sipping+spitting lotsa reds, whites and rosés. On Day 5, on the morning of the departure day, it was free from press trip duties. Left on my own for the first time outside the hotel, apprehension gradually eased enough for me to pull out my camera. Not wanting to be conspicuous, I wandered without a map and soon gravitated towards to what must-be a focal point for Friday’s routines – food shopping. It’s not that I have a knack for honing in on outdoor markets; central Chisinau is compact and one would cross-path with the sizable bazaar eventually.
I could live in Chisinau because of this market. Barcelona’s Boqueria, which up to then was the best I’ve seen, is for tourists (not that there’s anything derogatory about being a tourist). Chisinau’s is far superior not only in size. It covers all the sections (meat, cheese, preserves and pickles, fruits, veggies, grains, bread, household items, snack corners, etc) that you could find in a Seibu food department store – but not glossed up. It feels grassroot, down-to-earth – like markets used to be before we started buying individually wrapped lettuce. I wanted to shoot the yesteryear vibes but I didn’t want to attract attention or wrath with my way too intrusive-looking camera. So the visuals must be committed to memory till another day when I return with a local and a less look-at-me camera. Surely a criterion for the World’s Most Liveable Cities should include easy access to soulful food markets like Chisinau’s. Would the juries of the World’s Most Liveable Cities 2011 care to stray away from the cosy (but bland) “developed” cities to check out what a good food market and a solid local wine culture can do for the quality of life? It’s not all about the metro, banks and Zara. I could live in Chisinau.