We were expecting to wander around Chisinau today, the capital of Moldova. While an old city, founded in 1436, it is very modern, having been completely flattened in 1940-1941 with the invasion of the Red Army (28th June 1940), who were then defeated after a long siege by the Nazis (17th July 1941), with a major earthquake hitting in-between (10th November 1940). Khrushchev, after the war, used Chisinau as a trial run for large Soviet-style residential sky scrappers to quickly built a large number of houses for all the displaced people, so it has a very dense (5000/km2) and large (600 000) population considered the country. The city is also very wealthy and expensive, with corruption concentrating the little wealth of the country into the city.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to see much of the city, except the main street in passing as we hurtled from embassy to foreign affairs consulate and back, after the local guide decided that Lydia’s 48 hour transit visa was a two day visa and was therefore due to expire at midnight. The people at the embassy agreed, and said she would become an illegal immigrant at midnight and would not be allowed to leave the country after that (this possibly has something to do with the tension between Moldova and Australia, about 10 years ago the Moldovans sent an underwater hockey team to play in Australia. The team didn't even know how to swim and lost 30-0 to Columbia. Then they hoped out of the pool and filed as refugees, Moldova doesn't seem to have forgiven Australia for accepting them). It shouldn’t have been a problem as there are hourly buses from Chisinau to Odesa, our next stop in the Ukraine. Unfortunately, almost all the buses pass through Transnistria, a break-away republic of Moldova which declared independence in 1990 and achieved functional independence after a war with Russia’s backing in 1992. No countries, however, recognise Transnistria as a sovereign state, especially not Moldova which claims the territory as its own (even through it can’t enter it). They therefore let anyone into Transnistria, but don't give an exit stamp at the disputed border. Transnistria, which believes it is still in the USSR, happily lets anyone into its territory, unfortunately they can’t give a Moldovan exit stamp at the border, which means non-Moldovans and non-Ukrainians can’t go from Moldova to Transnistria to Ukraine, as the Ukraine will only accept in people with a Moldovan exit stamp in their passport (unless they have a Moldovan or Ukrainian passport, which don’t need to be stamped). The only bus leaving to Odesa that didn’t pass through Transnistria was leaving in 30 minutes, so we had to rush to the hotel, through our clothes in a bag and get a taxi to rush us to the bus depot as we fled the country. We arrived two minutes before the bus was due to leave, and then spent the next six hours sweating in the sauna of the bus as we crossed the Moldovan countryside and legally left the country with a few hours to spare.