Last weekend (the one before this), we went to the beach.
Yes, I hear you. Moldova is a landlocked country. Believe me, we are acutely aware of this. No, we had decided months ago to spend one weekend in our old hunting grounds in Mamaia, Romania. That's where we used to go when we lived in Bucharest, oh those many years ago.
That particular weekend was dictated by the fact that we wanted Alan and his old friend Georgie to meet. They were best buddies in Yerevan and even though they haven't seen each other for four years, they still talked about each other, so we Moms conspired to bring them together for a very special playdate.
We spent twelve friggin' hours driving to Mamaia. No, that's not normal. Someone of Doug's acquaintance suggested taking the route south through Gagauziya, crossing at Galati and then driving through Dobrugea to Mamaia. I had no problems with the latter part but the Gagauziya thing? Not a great idea. In retrospect, it was wonderful to see this part of the country and I delighted in reading the quasi-Turkish signs and explaining to my family what they meant.
But first we spent a needless hour getting lost while trying to find the road south. The navigator is notoriously unreliable in Moldova, and mapreading skills are unevenly distributed in this family. Halfway to Transnistria, we realized our mistake, turned around and finally figured out where to go. Suddenly we found ourselves on a wonderful, smooth, empty Autobahn-style road and you just know this story cannot have a good ending. That road abruptly ends after a little while, much too soon, and then you are left to go over increasingly REALLY BAD roads. We had everything from cobblestones to dirt to square concrete blocks that were not seamlessly fitted together. Not to mention missing pieces of road right where you don't seem them. Steep inclines no road should have, with the respective sheer drops on the other side. The boys called them "rollercoaster" roads. You know that I've driven some bad roads on this planet, so when I say it was bad, it was very bad.
The landscape was nice, though. Did you know that thousands years ago the Black Sea was much bigger? Those dunes in southern Gagauziya (I just love that word) are actually beaches. Only, the water isn't there anymore, it's now 50 km further to the east.
However, the border crossing at Guirguilesti/Reni took three (3) hours. It was unbelievably slow. I have no idea what took so long because it was not that they frisked the cars or grilled the people. They were just slow. Very. Slow.
So instead of being at the beach at 3 pm as we had planned, we stood in the non-moving line for the next three hours. The kids, I have to say, were great. They even tolerated the proselytizing attempt of some Baptist ministers with good humor.
At six we were in Galati and stopped at the McDonald's. Then we crossed the Danube on a tiny car ferry and finally got to Mamaia a mere three hours later. We went straight to the beach, in the dark. And again the next day. And the day after that. We went to the AquaMagic waterpark where Doug spun in the toilet bowl, we rode the Telegondola, we met Georgie and his family and Alan spent Saturday afternoon with his friend. I'm so bummed I didn't make a photo of them! Meanwhile, I got the best massage of my life. Boy, it hurt! It was very painful but afterwards, I felt wonderful and for the first time in maybe years, my neck didn't give me any trouble for days. Unless I touched the sore muscles, but that's a small price to pay. Saturday evening we went to the beach again, and then one more time on Sunday before we needed to go back. We had the most wonderful time and the kids were just besides themselves. They had so much fun and now they are talking constantly about when we can go back.
I pleaded with Doug but his work didn't allow for another day off, so we had to go back on Sunday. We took a different route and were much quicker.