I used to have a neighbor who was from Moldova. He and his wife and children lived 3 houses away in the circle behind our house, and we became friendly even though I never met his Moldovan wife. After a while I noticed that he would not talk about Moldova despite my many questions. Now I know why. We lost touch after he moved.
I am currently reading a wonderful book called The Geography of Bliss. Putting the word “Geography” in a book title is a sure way to get me to read it; that’s why I also read Eric Weiner’s The Geography of Genius, an equally great book. In Bliss, he travels the world visiting countries known for their happiness. Then he decides to visit one of the world’s most depressed countries for balance. He goes to Moldova. Oh, oh. Now I know why my neighbor got his entire family including his parents out of Moldova.
I have gotten close but have not been to Moldova, which now seems like a good thing. When we went to and fell in love with the Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia (that’s Riga in the photo above), we traveled by bus; and I expected to return and take the same bus company to Belarus and Moldova. But then I read up on both destinations, and we decided we did not want to go to either unless we went with a group. Moldova sounds a lot like Bulgaria. It’s bordered by Romania and Ukraine and not too far from Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland, countries that we love to visit.
Eric Weiner titles Chapter 6 about Moldova “Happiness Is Somewhere Else”. It’s a former Soviet republic. Ruth was not happy in Russia (that’s St. Petersburg just above). On a Russian cruise ship, we were served vodka with our dinner whether we requested it or not. Oh, oh. Weiner calls Moldova, “….the world’s least happy place.” He stays in its capital Chisinau for 2 weeks except for a brief and hilarious trip to Cahul. His host is Natasha, but he actually stays with her grandmother Luba, whom he really bonds with. As soon as he is comfortable, he asks Natasha why Moldovans are so unhappy, and she tells him, “We have no money for the life.” If you want to learn a little about this country and feel like you’ve been there, read The Geography of Bliss. My favorite chapter was about Iceland.