EUROPE’S LEAST VISITED COUNTRY
Toby stumbled across a YouTube video titled ‘Nobody visits this country… find out why’. He sent it to the STORROR group chat and we all had the exact same reaction – let’s go!
Now you might be thinking, why would we want to go to the least visited country in Europe? Obviously there are reasons no one else wants to go there! Well, we’ve always tried to make judgements for ourselves and usually our taste in locations is quite different from the average person. So we thought, what better way to challenge ourselves than head to Moldova and try to have a good time?
We had done next to no research before booking the flights but in the days leading up to our trip we googled to see what we could find out. From these searches we discovered the Republic of Moldova is a former state of the USSR, has close ties with Romania, which it borders as well as Ukraine, and its national dish is porridge.
Rather depressingly, we also discovered Moldova has been frequently exploited by corruption, embezzlement and corporate scandals. Recently, one-billion dollars was ciphered out of the economy (that’s nearly an eighth of its GDP) by corrupt businessmen and politicians. And, by many measures, Moldova is considered to be the poorest country in Europe. Seems like this place has been forgotten by the world – in fact, most of the STORRORs hadn’t even heard of it before Toby sent us the link!
Landing in Chișinău, the capital city, early impressions were unsurprising. The airport was small and people seemed classically eastern European. It was night, so we rented a car and drove straight to our Airbnb without seeing much. The accommodation was quite nice and normal, altogether much better than some we’ve stayed in elsewhere on our travels.
First morning, we woke up and drove into the centre to get coffee, and this is where the first video kicks in – Parkour in Europe’s least visited country. At some point during the day, we realised it was very obvious to locals that we were not from Moldova. We were getting a lot of looks, and strangers making conversation with us. Over coffee we put together a list of locations we wanted to visit, mostly Brutalist architecture buildings and abandoned fountains.
First up was the Chișinău Circus building, an incredible example of Soviet Modernism architecture in the centre of the city, which we thought was abandoned. The plan was to climb to the top and get a drone shot striding round the beams on the edge. Unfortunately, as soon as we climbed inside the perimeter fence, we were met by a guard dog and security men who were keen to let us know the site was still in use, despite its dilapidated appearance.
Next was the strangely shaped cable car tower – this one was definitely abandoned. The spot was interesting, but in terrible condition. Most of the walls were crumbled and the floor was covered in rubble and broken glass. Nevertheless, we had fun. We probably spent a good few hours at this spot; it looks great on camera and had some weird challenges.
We then visited an abandoned fountain outside a hotel, which was again in terrible condition. Near the fountain was a simple subway spot, where Toby busted out a huge cat-pass precision after running across six lanes of traffic.
By the end of day one, we’d burned through our list and were out of locations. The main problem is the city is tiny – none of these places were further than about 15-minutes’ drive from each other. Also, there aren’t a lot of buildings in the city, and what is there, isn’t in great condition.
The second day involved driving around trying to find more unknown spots. We visited some housing estates built in the Brutalist style, and found a little bar set up in the forest, which was fun for a couple of hours. This place happened to be near the cable car stations, so we walked further into the forest to get a good view for sunset.
Once we got up to the top of the tower, naturally, we checked out the cables, and were joking about balancing all the way along to the next. A few of us tried sitting on the cable and got quite far out relatively easily. The joke turned into an idea that we didn’t stop talking about all evening, all night, and all the next day. Would it be possible to mission the whole way on the wire from one tower to another?
From the start, Toby and Benj were super confident that they could do it. We discussed techniques and potential dangers over dinner and breakfast, and decided we would give it a go the next afternoon. It’s funny that the urbex and ‘doing scary things high up’ scene is so popular in Eastern Europe and Russia. I wonder, if the parkour spots were better would people still have to do scary missions like this in order to stay challenged?
We all gathered on the tower, and the boys prepared for the mission by wearing their backpacks on their fronts and tying up their GoPros so they wouldn’t drop them. We cracked out the cameras and began filming. Slowly they edged their way down the wire and the challenge was on!
Unexpectedly, the major difficulty was the length of the traverse. Both Toby and Benj were comfortable with the height and mental challenge, but the distance meant it was physically so much more gruelling than anyone had anticipated. We got all the shots we needed from this end, Sacha flew the drone, and then we switched stations to meet them on the second tower.
It was pretty tense for the whole hour they were on the wire, but the time flew past because we were all so invested. As they fought their way past the foliage overlapping the line, just after half way, they came back into earshot so we could check with them how it was going. By this point neither of the guys was enjoying it, and from there on it was a tough slog to the finish.
Once it was over, they both collapsed from exhaustion on the deck. We snapped some team photos and got a final drone shot standing on the very top of the tower. It was such an incredible mental challenge for Toby and Benj to go through, and although I doubt they would want to do that again, they were both so happy with what they achieved – watch the cable traverse in our second Moldova video here.
So that brought our stay in Chișinău to an end. I can’t say I would recommend it to anyone, especially not for parkour athletes. Moldova must have some great places worth visiting but we didn’t find them in our three days. Spots were bad, city was tiny, and all in all there just isn’t much there. But we had fun, it was a great experience, and now we can say we have been to the least visited country in Europe!