Monday, 1 July 2013

Time for kayaking

In May the summer season really started in Moldova with tropical temperatures: perfect weather for kayaking.  Fortunately there are some big rivers in Moldova, like the Nistru, where you can kayak. Usually this river is calm and the environment green. However, there are not many places where kayaking is offered. At least they are hard to find on internet.
No kayaking for French students

When a group of French students came to Horodiste during the last week of May they also planned one day of kayaking. On their request we found a cheap company in Vadul lui Voda. (15 euro p.p for a whole day, including guide)
To check out this company we went a day with team Vent d’Est and some other people for a trip of around 18 kms. The guide was a Russian speaking man with a beard and a lot of experience in kayaking. Shortly after the start we had a break as our guide needed to buy some cigarettes.  The next stop was for a picknick on shore while our guide had to buy lighter. Meanwhile we made a fire for shaslick (bbq).
Kayaking itself was relaxed, despite the need of some physical effort of the arms ofcourse. The way back, downstream was even better and much quicker. 

However, the day we were supposed to kayak with the students of France, the guided didn't have the life-jackets as promised, despite emphasizing the need of it. Unfortunately this meant a no-go for the students. Instead they had a beach day in Vadul lui Voda.

Weekend of Kayaking
Next morning however I got a call if I wanted to volunteer on a weekend trip kayaking in the North of Moldova. I said yes without even thinking of the weather forecast (which was not really promising). This trip was organized by Explore Moldova and we were with 16 people and 8 boats in total.
The trip didn’t start as planned as there were problems in transporting the kayaks: it is not always easy to organize something as you often can’t rely on agreements. However this wasn’t a reason to cancel the trip as another way of transporting the kayaks was found.
Instead of starting kayaking in the evening we camped close to Bursuc and took off next day. Fortunately also the weather was different than expected: not a single (rain) drop during the whole trip. While descending the Nistru we saw on both sides green hills, sometimes rocky, we passed bathing cows along the shore and regularly we stopped to stretch the legs and recharge energy (with a lot of energetic food). Yes, we were taken well care off.
In the evening we made it a fire and cooked a meal while enjoying the sunset . The next morning we continued peddling to Saharna. Again it was a beautiful day and at the end of the day we arrived close to the monastery.

Little hike
Cooking on shore
Kayaking with Vent d'Est

I don't have to miss kayaking as Vent d'Est bought various inflatable kayaks. Starting in the village of Busiusca (around 6 km from Horodiste) we will offer a tour to Tipova Monastery... Here some pictures of the try-out.
Frog around Buciusca

View close to Tipova Monastery

The kayaks


Monday, 24 June 2013

We made it: The Green Run

Saturday the 22nd of June was the day of the Green Run. The idea for this event was born at the beginning of the year with another volunteer, after a refreshing run through cold winter weather. "Wouldn’t it be nice to participate in a race of about 10 or 20 kilometers?" But after searching the internet we couldn’t find anything…. so ... we decided that we can organize it ourselves. We shared the idea with Leonid who wanted to join us and who and who gave shape to the event.

Ups and downs
The organization was not always smooth and several times it was almost put to a stop. First, the idea was to organize it in Horodiste, but for practical reasons the location moved to Orhei Vechi. In May, we explored a possible trail and personally I was immediately sold for the location and I regretted that I couldn’t participate myself. It is a fairly flat course with a few hills. It offers little shade, but a great view.

Location of the Green Run
In Orhei Vechi we had the cooperation of the former mayor and his wife. Together with several other women they took care of the catering of the event. Also a few young people from Trebujeni helped with the organization by building up and breaking down. We also had the cooperation of Mr. Lazari Povetska, head of the athletics departmet at the university. He came to the event with the three judges and a number of elite runners in Moldova and helped us with advice and enthusiasm.
Luckily we were not the only ones in Moldova who do like to run around in the nature and although the number of registrations came only in motion during the last week, there were almost 70 participants.

No volunteers in Moldova?
During a recording for the Moldovan television on volunteering they asked me why 'in Europe' volunteering is popular and not in Moldova. I couldn't give a real and after this event even less. This event was never possible without the help of all the volunteers: Moldovans, foreigners, the local young people and the jury.

Also, the participants both Moldovan and Foreigners, young and old...

thanks all of you, you made it!

Some pictures of the day...

Start of the 10 k
Running the 10 k
Running the 5 k
Podium 10 k (trainer Mr. Lazari, receving the price on behalf of Natalia Klipka)
Podium 500 m - boys
Finish kids run

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Europe Day 2013 Chisinau

Since 2011 they celebrate ‘European Day’ in Moldova. In contrast to other countries they celebrate it not on the 9th of May. This is because the 9th of May is Victory Day. On this day people celebrate the capitulation of Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union. However, next year the mayor of Chisinau said he will organize Europe Day on the 9th of May.

Moldova versus Europe

The relation between Moldova and Europe is quite complicated. The current government wants to be part of the European Union. However, Moldova has also strong ties with Russia. Moreover people in Moldova also often speak about 'Europe' as if Moldova is not part of Europe. To understand the political situation better read this article of the Guardian.

For Europe Day there were organized a wide range of activities:
traditional food from various European countries
possibility to learn words from different European languages
concert in the evening with local and European artists
information point about exchange possibilities for students and professors.
European Film festival in Chisinau (19-22 May) and in Tiraspol (23-25 May)

Last but not least there was a European village in which Vent d’Est participated as well. Vent d’Est was part of the French stand and we served French crepes with home-made jam and bottles with home-made syrop.

It was an opportunity to let people taste syrop, to earn some money for the project of constructing an eco-pension. Even the president of Moldova tasted the products,


Friday, 31 May 2013

Climbing with Teenagers in Orhei Vechi

There are not many places to climb in Moldova and the few existing possibilities are hardly known, even by locals and even in Orhei Vechi, one of the most touristic places in Moldova.

Climbing site Orhei Vechi

The wall

View from the top

I had the chance to volunteer in a project organized by Outdoor Leadership Centre to familiarize local teenagers with rock climbing. Children are in general good climbers and it is a way to acquire some useful skills and abilities, like problem solving thinking, taking responsibility and it increasing strength and body awareness.

The day was organized for teenagers in Orhei Vechi.  A week before we talked to them to check if they were interested and to schedule a date. The first day, 6 enthusiastic teenagers showed up. After some hesitation in the beginning, they soon climbed the wall like they have done it their whole life. The second day, the children from the first day learned how to belay people and they belayed the other children.

While we collected equipment after climbing, the teenagers cleaned the river. To reward the children for their work Agropensiune Butuceni provided placinta, fruit juice and ice cream.

Thanks to this successful experience, the 5th of June will take place the next climbing event for local children.
Rest at agropensiune Butuceni

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Collecting and planting blackberries

Traduction en Francais ci-dessous
The elaboration of fruit is an important part of the project of Vent d’Est in Horodiste to develop the local economy. That’s why we went (already more than a month ago) to Romania to collect blackberry plants. As there are not many blackberries grown in Moldova (despite favorable ground and climate conditions), Thierry had the idea to collect blackberry plants in Romania and to replant them in Horodiste.

This way, next summer it will hopefully be possible to make blackberry syrup and jam in Horodiste.

Our host: Ioan Rascol
On the way collectig blackberry plants

 Pain Parole

To be more precise, we went to Campulung Moldovenesc in the Carpathian Mountains, in north-east Romania. We were hosted by Ioan Rascol.
Thierry, the president of Vent d’Est knows Ioan after an accidental meeting in 1999 when he cycled from France to Moldova (yes, he used to cycle as well). Thierry was looking for a place to sleep in the village when he met Ioan, who offered him a place in his house.
Thierry stayed for about three days while Ioan showed him the difficult circumstances in which many people live: children who have no clothes to wear for school, people who can't afford to go to the doctor or to repair their houses.
After this trip Thierry (at that time working for a humanitarian organization in France), organized several humanitarian convoys. Later, together with Ioan Rascol they created the association Pain Parole.

Volunteers renovating the school in Campulung Moldovenesc
Last year Ioan Rascol organized for the first time a voluntary work camp in Campulung Moldovenesc. The volunteers helped with some important renovations of the school. This summer they will again host some volunteers: to organize activities for children and to do construction work in houses of families who can't do it themselves, like elderly or single parents. Ioan Rascol also builds a tourist accommodation next to their house. As he speaks French and his wife a little English with their great hospitality they are excellent hosts. If you want to stay in Campulung Moldovenesc in a familiar atmosphere I can recommend you to contact them.
See for more information about his project the blog:
Or check facebook: Campulung Nord Pain Parole
Help from Jean-Marc
View from Rarau mountain
In collecting blackberries we got voluntary help from Jean-Marc from France. This way in two days we collected enough plants for Horodiste and we even had time to walk to the Rarau Mountain on Saturday. Ioan warned us that there would be still snow, that it will be long, that it will be cold and even that there are bears. All this didn’t discourage us to go, especially because Ioan seemed to exaggerate a little. Still, it was surprising how much snow there was on the road…

Computer + projector for the school in Horodiste

In Horodiste

On Monday we went to Horodiste to start planting and Friday afternoon it was finished. While taking good care of them we hope that next summer they will give fruit.
Beside his voluntary work, Jean-Marc had another surprise for Horodiste: a computer with a projector. This allows the school to project for example movies on a big screen.

All together it was a very ‘fruitful’ week!

Collecte et plantation de mûriers

La transformation de fruit est une part importante du projet de Vent d'Est à Horodiste pour développer l'économie locale. C'est pourquoi nous sommes allés (il y a déjà plus d'un mois) en Roumanie collecter des plants de mûriers. Comme il n'y a pas beaucoup de mûres cultivées en Moldavie (malgré un terrain et des conditions climatiques favorables), Thierry a eu l'idée de collecter des plants de mûriers en Roumanie et les replanter à Horodiste.
De cette façon, l'été suivant non avons bon espoir de ramasser les mûres et de les transformer en sirop et de les mettre en bouteilles à la fabrique d’Horodiste.
Pain Parole
Pour être plus précis, nous sommes allés à Campulung Moldovenesc dans les Carpates, dans le nord-est la Roumanie. Ioan Rascol nous a accueillis.
Thierry, le président de Vent d'Est a rencontré par hasard  Ioan en 1999 où il a fait du vélo de la France jusqu’en Moldavie (oui, il a eu l'habitude de faire du vélo lui aussi). Thierry cherchait un endroit pour dormir quand il a rencontré Ioan, qui lui a offert un endroit chez lui.
Thierry est resté pendant trois jours durant lesquels Ioan lui a montré les circonstances difficiles dans lesquelles beaucoup de personnes vivent : les enfants qui n'ont aucun vêtement pour faire de l'usage pour l'école, les gens qui n’ont pas les moyens d'aller chez le médecin ou de réparer leurs maisons.
Après que ce voyage Thierry (travaillant à l’époque pour une organisation humanitaire en France), a organisé plusieurs convois humanitaires. Plus tard, ensemble avec Ioan Rascol ils ont créé l’association Pain Parole.
L'année dernière Ioan Rascol organisé pour la première fois un chantier de solidarité dans Campulung Moldovenesc. Les volontaires ont participé aux rénovations importantes de l'école. Cet été ils accueilleront de nouveau quelques volontaires pour : organiser des activités pour des enfants et faire la rénovation et des petits travaux de bricolage dans les maisons des familles qui ne peuvent pas le faire eux-mêmes, comme des personnes âgées ou des parents isolés.
Ioan Rascol construit aussi un gîte touristique à côté de leur maison. Comme il parle le français et sa femme un petit peu anglais avec leur grande hospitalité ils sont des hôtes excellents. Si vous voulez rester dans Campulung Moldovenesc dans une atmosphère familiale je peux vous recommander de les contacter.
Voir pour plus d'informations de son projet le blog:
Ou vérifier facebook: Campulung Nord Pain Parole

Pour la collecte des mûriers, nous avons eu l’aide d’un volontaire français, Jean-Marc. En deux jours nous avions rassemblé assez de plants pour Horodiste. Nous avons même eu le temps de marcher à Rarau Mountainon samedi. Ioan nous a avertis qu'il y aurait toujours la neige, que ce serait long, qu’il ferait froid et qu'il y avait même des ours. Tout ceci ne nous a pas découragés pour aller, particulièrement parce qu'Ioan a semblé exagérer un peu. Cependant, il était surprenant de voir combien il y avait de neige sur la route …
A Horodiste
Lundi nous sommes allés à Horodiste et nous avons commencé à planter et vendredi après-midi c’était fini. En prenant bien soin d'eux nous espérons que l'été suivant ils donneront des fruits.
En plus de son bénévolat, Jean-Marc avait une autre surprise pour Horodiste : un ordinateur avec un projecteur. Ceci permet à l'école de projeter par exemple des films sur un grand écran.
Avec tout cela c'étaient une semaine 'très fruitée'!

Monday, 13 May 2013

Hristos a înviat

Traduction en Francais ci dessous

Adevarat a inviat
(Jesus resurrected– Indeed resurrected)

That’s how people in Moldova usually greet each other during the Easter period which lasts for 40 days, from Easter until Ascension Day.
Easter is an important celebration in Moldova; it is considered to be more important than Christmas. It is surrounded by many traditions and rituals, like coloring eggs and preparing different types of food. The weekend after Easter there is another public holiday 'Easter of the Gentle'. On Sunday and Monday people visit the graves and they bring food and drinks to the cemetery and people exchange gifts with each other.

At 'Easter of the Gentle' I went to the cemetery in Chisinau with my bosses and colleagues from Vent d’Est. As many people go to the cemetery these days, the municipality organized special buses. The cemetery in Chisinau is very big and during ‘Easter of the Gentle’ it is full with people. On the cemetery there are tables and banks for people to sit and eat and drink something in commemoration of the deceased person. 
A very traditional thing to prepare during Easter is Cozonac, a kind of 'brioche'. It is eaten during the whole Easter period and they usually take it to the cemetery. The tradition is to sprinkle the bread with holy water which is possible at Easter night.
Together with my colleagues from Vent d'Est and volunteers from France we also prepared Cozonac the Saturday before Easter and at 3 AM we went to the church to let it be sprinkled with holy water.

Colouring eggs
Coloration des oeufs

The result
Le résultat
Preparing Cozonac is a lot of work, but the result was that good that I would like to share the recipe. This is how we prepared it:

For the dough
75 gram yeast
teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
Tepid water (to dissolve the yeast)
10 eggs yokes
1 kilo of sugar
Nut meg
Vanilla pod
Juice and grated zest of 2 lemons
Juice and grated zest of 1 orange
Raisins (soaked in water for a while)
3 kilo of flour
400 gram of butter
1 liter of tepid milk
For the topping
Egg white of 10 eggs
Sugar (around 150 gram)

the dough
- Dissolve the yeast in some tiped water
- Add salt, sugar

- Mix 10 egg yokes with 1 kilo of sugar, nut meg, orange and lemon grate and vanila until it is smooth
- Add the yeast mixture to the egg yokes mixture and mix
- Add some of the flower, milk and melted butter and mix
- Add more of the flower, milk and melted butter and mix again
- Continue this process until all the milk and flour is mixed
- Knead it well until the dough until is starts forming bubbles. Depending on the texture add more milk or flour
- Cover the dough and put it on a warm place to rise until it has doubled in size.
- After the dough has risen put the dough in different shapes. See the picture above for inspiration.
- Preheat the oven at around: 170 degrees and put it in the oven for about 45/ 60 minutes (depending on the size of bread you make), until it is done and gold brown.

The topping
- Mix ten egg whites until it is light and smooth and add 1 kilo of sugar and put on the bread when it comes out of the oven
- Decorate with coloured sugar sprinkles

Many hands
Hristos a înviat

Adevarat a  înviat

(Jésus ressuscité, en effet ressuscité)

C'est comme ça que les gens en Moldavie saluent habituellement au cours de la période qui suit Pâques, qui dure 40 jours, de Pâques à l'Ascension. Pâques est une fête importante en Moldavie, elle est considérée comme plus importante que Noël. Elle est entourée par de nombreux rituels et traditions, comme la coloration des oeufs et la préparation de différents types d'aliments. Le week-end après «Pâques de la douceur" Pâques est célébrée. Le dimanche et le lundi de personnes visitent les tombes et ils apportent de la nourriture et des boissons au cimetière et au peuple cadeau d'échange avec l'autre.
Je suis allé au cimetière de Chisinau avec mes patrons et collègues de Vent d'Est. C'était un jour ensoleillé et chaud. Comme beaucoup de gens vont au cimetière à cette période, la municipalité a organisé des bus spéciaux. Le cimetière de Chisinau est très grand et au cours de «Pâques de la douceur», il est plein de gens. Sur le cimetière il ya des tables et des bancs pour les gens puissent s'asseoir, manger et boire quelque chose en souvenir de la personne décédée.

Une chose typique pour se préparer à Pâques est le Cozonac, une sorte de brioche. Avec mes collègues du Vent d'Est et les bénévoles de France nous l'avons préparé le samedi avant Pâques. Nous avons aussi préparé des oeufs colorés et à 3h du matin, nous sommes allés à l'église pour le laisser être aspergé d'eau bénite.

Préparation Cozonac ya beaucoup de travail, mais le résultat était bien donc je voudrais partager la recette. C'est ainsi que nous l'avons préparé:

Pour la pâte
75 grammes de levure
1 cuillère à café de sucre
1 cuillère à café de sel
Eau tiède (pour dissoudre la levure)
10 jaune d’œufs
1 kg de sucre
Noix de muscade
Gousse de vanille
Jus et le zeste râpé de 2 citrons
Jus et le zeste râpé de 1 orange
Raisins secs (trempés dans l'eau tiède pendant un certain temps)
3 kg de farine
400 g de beurre
1 litre de lait tiède

Pour le glaçage
Le blanc d'œuf de 10 oeufs
Sucre (environ 150 grammes)


la pâte
- Dissoudre la levure dans un peu d'eau tiède
- Ajouter le sel, le sucre
- Mélanger 10 jaunes d'œufs avec 1 kilo de sucre, la noix de muscade râpé, le zeste de l’orange et des citrons. Râper la gousse de vanille. Mélanger  jusqu'à ce que cela soit lisse.
- Ajouter le mélange de levure  à la préparation prédente et mélanger
-Ajouter un peu de farine, de lait et de beurre fondu. Pétrir avec les mains
-Ajouter plus de farine, de lait et de beurre fondu et mélanger à nouveau
-Continuer ce processus jusqu'à ce que le lait et la farine soient mélangés
-Pétrir bien jusqu'à ce que la pâte jusqu'à ce que soit commence formation de bulles. En fonction de la texture Ajouter plus de lait ou de la farine
-Couvrir la pâte et la placer sur un endroit chaud pour qu’elle gonfle jusqu'à ce qu'elle ait doublé de volume.
- Après que la pâte ait gonflé, mettre la pâte dans différents moules. Voir l'image ci-dessus pour l'inspiration.
- Préchauffer le four à environ 170 degrés et enfourner pendant environ 45/60 minutes (selon la taille du pain que vous faites), jusqu'à ce qu'il soit bien doré.

Le glaçage
- Fouetter dix blancs d'œufs jusqu'à ce qu'ils soiten légesr et lisses et ajouter le sucre
- Mettre sur le pain quand il sort du four
- Décorer avec du vermicelle coloré

Monday, 15 April 2013

Day trip to Bender and Tiraspol

At Bender Fortress

A look through Bender Fortress

Being a year in Moldova there are certain things I definitely want to see from the country. Actually the list is still quit long: the 100 knolls (a curious natural phenomenon), criva (with the third largest gypsum cave in the world), wineries (Moldova has the largest subterranean wine cellars in the world) to name just a few things.

Country within a country
One of the things on the list is going to Tiraspol, the capital of a separate region in Moldova with its own government and currency. Its independency is not recognized by most countries and Moldova considers it as "an autonomous territorial unit with special legal status". It is often characterized as a resort for criminals and traffics of all kind (drugs, weapons, organs). Most embassies advise to be extra cautious, but in practice most tourists visit the places without major problems. Most people go there to walk along the main street, visit the monuments and to take a walk along the River. A popular souvenir from this place is a bottle of cognac from the Kvint factory.

Passing the border

Last Sunday I finally planned a visit, though planning is a big word for just going to the central bus station and look for a bus. It was easy to find as a man was shouting ‘Bender’. For 25 Lei we stepped in. We needed to complete a registration form to pass the border Moldova – Transnistria. One part stayed with the customs authorities. The other part we needed to keep until leaving the country. This done we passed the border without any problems.

Bender fortress
One us wanted to take a picture of the sign Bender as it is one of the characters in the famous cartoon ‘The Simpsons’. Unfortunately they use the Russian alphabet here: so if it would make sense anyway to take a picture of it, now it didn’t make any.

However Bender is also interested for another reason, as it is the location of an important medieval fortress. Originally it was a Roman fortified city known as Tighina and in 1408 it was mentioned as an important customs post. Under the rule of Stefan cel Mare the fortress became part of larger system of fortification together with Soroca, Hotin and Cetate Alba against the Tatars. In 1538 the fortress was conquered by the Turks and renamed as Bender (which means port in Turkish). In the 18th century the fortress has been modernized by the prince of Moldova Antioh Cantemir under supervision of the Turks.
During the Russo-Turkish wars the city fell 3 times under Russian rule. In 1918 as part of Bessarabia, the city belonged to Romania and it was also a place of heaving fightings during the war between Moldova and Transnistria (1990 – 1992).

For 50 Lei you can get a guided tour through the complex. Despite the clear signing (really, I guess we were talking too much) we first went the wrong way. Inside the fort is a museum and you get a detailed explanation of different torture instruments. After that you have the opportunity to walk along the walls, if you aren’t afraid of heights. 

Height fear

We continued our way to Tiraspol by a trolleybus. Coming into Tiraspol we passed Sheriff footbal stadium, Sheriff petrol station, Sheriff supermarket and we could also have seen various other businesses under this name.
The idea was to walk along the main street, see the Soviet monuments and go back along the Dniester River… and that’s exactly what we did. 
From the governmental palace with the famous statue of Lenin we walked down the main street, passing a war memoriam. This monument remembers the victims of the war in Afghanistan and the war with Moldova between 1990 and 1992. Tiraspol has a nice location along the Dniester River which allows for a nice walk. One day is not enough to get a real grasp of this city, but it was worth the visit.

Statue of Lenin in Tiraspol