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New Europe

Day Forty-seven: Chisinau

Today's Moldovans 
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Some of today's Moldovans.
Michael Palin - New EuropeLater, back in Chisinau, Tatiana and I end the afternoon in the Giardina Publica sitting at a café and watching a curiously wonderful throwback to the old days, a communal tea-dance to which anyone can come along with or without partners and join in. The average age of the participants is probably not far short of seventy. They're all dressed with care and some elegance in the fashions of fifty years ago, and look, by and large, to be intelligent people of means.

A live orchestra plays ballroom favourites and there must be a hundred couples swirling around, all looking quietly happy.

Tatiana admires these people and the fact that they continue to take seriously what was very much a communal, Soviet thing. I ask if there is much regret at the passing of the old Soviet Union and she nods.

'Actually, a lot. I think people miss not the regime, but they miss the jobs and pensions and, you know, cheap food and good vacations.'

'And what about you?'

She replies without a pause. 'I also miss the Soviet period. Because I was young and I had my parents and my grandparents and everything seemed to be so beautiful.' She pauses and then goes on more thoughtfully. 'Logically, of course, I'm happy that it's not here and I can speak with you today. Twenty years ago this would be a crime.'

Tatiana sips a coffee. Behind her the band strikes up again, something Latin-American. 'It's important to be realistic. You miss the sensation of something, you miss the smell or the taste, but you cannot miss something which killed and made unhappy so many generations.'

The young Moldovans who never knew the Sovietic system, as Tatiana calls it, prefer a different kind of dancing, which she promises to show me when we go out to sample the vigorous and inventive night life of Chisinau. She's promised we'll go to a club where they make drinks with hot coals and mix cocktails by pouring the ingredients straight into the customer's mouth and shaking their head around. By the time I leave, which is obviously far too early, there's been no such head-shaking action, but a woman dressed as a schoolgirl is walking along the bar slowly shedding her clothes and heading for a pole.
Today's Moldovans 
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Some of today's Moldovans.
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  • Series: New Europe
  • Chapter: Day Forty-seven: Chisinau
  • Country/sea: Moldova
  • Place: Chişinău
  • Book page no: 121

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  • Sport and Leisure
  • Day 6 
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day 7 
  • Full Circle
  • Day 4 
  • Pole to Pole