Taking a rest, Soviet style



Vadul lui Voda, Moldova

On Saturday, June 19th, a friend of mine here in Chisinau, Natalie, had to defend her thesis for law school.  Following her defense – where she earned a perfect 10 – she gathered friends to go to Vadil lui Voda, a small beach town on the bank of the Dniestr River about 20 minutes outside of Chisinau.  I had the privilege of being among these four friends.

To all of my American friends: let me try to describe Vadil lui Voda to you.  There is a small beach about a quarter of a mile long.  During Soviet times, this beach was actually created by bringing sand in to the town.  Thus, a Soviet vacation spot was borne.

There is a small path that goes along this beach, with small cafes, restaurants and clubs, in addition to small stands of people selling food and things.  We’ll call this the boardwalk.  Then there were hundreds of people on the beach today, as the weather was perfect – 80 degrees and sunny.  There was a futbol tournament going on on one part of the beach, then people laying out and getting tan on other parts of the beach.  There were a few crowds of people knocking around volleyballs.  And all sorts of people were running and diving into the water, or splashing around with very young children.  In the water, there were jet skis and motor boats tugging people laying in tubes or riding on skis, and a ferry loaded with people blasting the hit from the summer of 2008, “Low.”  On the beach, the teenagers that were in town celebrating finishing high school laughed, hooked up, and teased one another (does this ring a bell?).  And there were small groups of people my age drinking beer and just hanging out.  We of course were among this latter crowd.

Then, behind the riverfront shopping area, there is a winding maze of a neighborhood with beachhouses that wouldn’t seem out of place in Ocean City, New Jersey.  There were even some of the typical beach houses that you see with support beams on the ground level, where a car can be parked, and then a staircase going up to the actual house.  Some of these houses were miraculously maintained; others were decrepit and seemed to impress just because of the fact that they were still standing.

So one of Natalie’s friends called somebody that they knew, and at 7 PM we were able to procure a three-bed house for the night there in Vadil lui Voda for 350 Moldovan Lei, or about 6 dollars per person.  It was just a single room with three beds and a fold-out chair, then a small kitchen area with a cupboard and a small fridge and a bathroom.  It had all wooden siding which was painted dark blue and stood somewhere in between the miraculous and decrepit.  But for the five of us, all we needed was a decent place to pass out after imbuing beer and homemade wine.

And imbue we did.  In fact, prior to actually going there, we stocked our Mercedes van up with all kinds of fruits and vegetables and meats to prepare on the grill in a picnic area right by the house that we got.  We prepared mushroom and tomato and cucumber salads, grilled fish, shashlik (chicken), and other appetizers such as eggplant and mushrooms stuffed with cheese.  So we spent several hours Saturday evening and Sunday morning in this picnic area, preparing and eating a large feast while a party next to ours provided proper music for the occasion, which included traditional Romanian music as well as top 40 hits like Justin Timberlake and some tracks from Eurovision.

This was all going on by the coast of the Dniestr River, which means that about 200 feet away, on the other side of the river, was Transdniestria and Tiraspol.  I had a brief lesson from Natalie’s friends and from Natalie on the history of the Transdniestrian conflict, and I’m going to make sincere efforts to continue learning about this disputed territory.  But I’ll write about that on another occasion.  For now, rest up my dear friends and enjoy the beauty of the summertime, whether you’re at a beachhouse in Ocean City, or taking a trip to the beach in California, Vancouver, Yorktown, or Vadil lui Voda.

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