Usually on Saturdays I sleep in and have a pretty slow, relaxed morning. But last Saturday, there was a Christmas bazaar at the capital’s convention center, and I was not about to miss that. To explain…one of the things I enjoy about the holidays is hitting the early morning sales with my mom on Black Friday and the day after Christmas. I fill up my travel coffee mug, grab a quick bite of delicious leftovers, and then we rustle through crafty knick-knacks at the stores. I love just looking through the decorative items that go on sale. So, when I heard about this Christmas bazaar happening in the capital city, I looked at it like a Moldovan Black Friday.
That Moldovan Black Friday got me up early last Saturday. I filled up my travel coffee mug (thanks mom & dad for sending that!) with instant coffee and boarded the bus into the city center. There, I met my friend Andrea, and we strolled down the street to the trolleybus stop where we waited for our ride to MoldExpo, the convention center where the bazaar was being held. I had looked up directions the night before on the only transportation website I know of in Moldova, and wrote down directions based on the map (the bus will turn left at a big park, then right…when the road starts to turn, get off at the next intersection…). I tried, but we still got off the bus way too early. Whoops! We weren’t really sure which direction to go when got off the bus, so we asked someone (he didn’t know) and then we just started walking looking for one of the streets I had written down. Then a woman driving a sedan came to an abrupt stop and yelled to us, “Excuse me, where’s MoldExpo?” Her teenage son was in the front passenger seat. I told her I didn’t know, but we were heading there too, all we needed to do was find the intersecting street I had written down. She said, “Why don’t you just come with us?” My friend and I looked at each other. “Okay!” we said, and we hopped in. (Cultural note: hitchiking is a very common practice in Moldova. Many Moldovans hitchike between villages and into the capital city because it is often easier and faster than using public transportation. That said, had it been two grown men, we probably would’ve declined the offer…). But we got to have a short conversation with the woman and explain that we were volunteers with the Peace Corps living her for two years, and she was excited that we both spoke Romanian so well. In the end, we were thankful she stopped – we were a lot farther away from the expo center than we thought!
The bazaar was great. There was a stage set up at one end, and the rest of the area was filled with booths. Many of the booths were from international embassies, and they were all serving their national foods for a small price. Other booths were being run by NGO’s in Moldova and were selling handmade crafts to help support their respective organizations. We browsed the different stations, indulged in delicious foods from around the world, and admired the hand-crafted items.
There was also some great entertainment, and I thought I’d share a clip of it below. Here is a group performing traditional Moldvan dances to traditional Moldovan music in traditional Moldovan garb: