Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 19th March, 2007

orheiul-vechi.jpgSunday 18 March 2007

Breakfast at the LeogranD Hotel in Chisinau is a soothing experience, thanks to a young lady harpist, who gently plays folk melodies while one eats. So much more pleasant than the awful muzack from which it is increasingly difficult to escape, anywhere in the world. I happily munch crisp cucumbers and green and red peppers that really taste like cucumbers and peppers, together with bright red tomatoes that really taste like tomatoes, unlike the bland produce that we subsist on in the so-called advanced countries.

This morning we drove out to the provincial town of Orhei for a meeting with party activists from the Moldovan Social Liberal Party, who are gearing themselves up for the local and mayoral election campaigns in about 10 weeks time. They operate in conditions unimaginable to British LibDems. Anyone who shows his or her head above the parapet by putting themselves forward as an opposition candidate can be certain of systematic intimidation from the police, the secret services and Communist Party thugs. At the national level, all the opposition party leaders are currently facing legal charges of one sort or another, almost all of them totally fabricated. When Social Liberals and others do get elected, they often find that the central government starves them of funds.

After the meeting, we did a bit of cultural sight-seeing, visiting the extraordinary monastery that is carved into the barren hillside at Orheiul Vechi. It’s an amazingly desolate place, windswept and forlorn, though deep inside the cliff there is a little church that still functions for the local community. A service was in progress when we went, mainly old ladies in headscarves and children who scampered about, while the priest incanted in front of the icon-bedecked altar and candles flickered everywhere. As usual at orthodox services — which can last for hours — people happily wandered in and out, chatted softly and stared at Clare and I — two visitors from Outer Space.

link: (text is in Romanian, but there are evocative pics)


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