There's no way to sweeten this. Chisinau is not the most visually exciting city. The 1940s weren't kind to the city. The damage done by a devastating earthquake in 1940 was finished off by the Nazis and Soviets as they turned Bessarabia into their private battleground.
You also find yourself continually having to remind yourself that Chisinau was a part of the Soviet Union. It feels resolutely European in a way that cities like Kyiv and Minsk don't. Still, the buildings do a good job of acting as a mental trigger. There's a lot of Stalinist and Khrushchyovka architecture around Chisinau.
But the parks are amazing and full of life. Electric toy cars are rented by families so their children can spend five minutes driving them around. Mothers sit in the shade rocking their babies to sleep. Everyone, and I mean everyone, appears to be eating an ice cream.
Away from the parks there was some interest. But no one is ever going to claim that Chisinau is a beautiful city.
The following day I headed to Tiraspol, the capital city of the breakaway republic of Transnistria.
Getting there was an experience in itself. Moldova's public transport is served by marshrutkas, minibuses that operate as shared taxis on a fixed route. Timetables exist but are more of a rough guide. Instead, the driver will do everything to delay leaving until his bus is full. Which is fine until you realise that they also pick up passengers en-route. So within five minutes, what started off as merely full now resembles a Guinness World Record attempt on the number of people you can fit inside a Mini.
This being Moldova, there is an added twist. The busses are not exactly in their prime. My Volkswagen marshrutka had started its life twenty years ago in Germany and had done 350 thousand kilometres since. And this was one of the more modern ones.
The central bus station, Piata Centrala, was a chaotic hive of decrepit buses and minibuses. Finding the right one was a bit of a lottery. Looking at the state of some of the options, it was a lottery with a lot of booby prizes.
The first stop was the Tourist Office where I was left in no doubt as to culture of Tiraspol. The first two things the assistant marked on my free map of the city were "Big Lenin" and "Little Lenin".
As I left, she asked me where I was from.
"This is even better, I think."
I should've realised that being Scottish would go down well in a de facto country that resolutely refuses to acknowledge that is actually part of another country.
Tiraspol immediately felt different to Chisinau. It was certainly quieter. Eerily so. The Soviet iconography was hard to miss. And, of course, not only did the language change but the alphabet, too. Instead of the Romanian alphabet, everything was in Cyrillic. The Cold War baby in me still finds that thrillingly subversive.
Walking around, camera in hand, I turned into a bit of a curiosity. More than one local stopped me just so that they could welcome me to the city. I chose to continue stressing that I was Scottish. Well, sometimes you just have to play to your audience.
The city is filled with an interesting juxtaposition of atheist Soviet symbolism and religious architecture. Often side by side. The benefit Tiraspol has over Chisinau is there is a greater sense of space, allowing these buildings and monuments room to breathe and be photographed.
The rest of the city is the usual eastern European mix of ugly housing blocks with pretty neo-classical public buildings. The Transnistrian "McDonalds" was an interesting curiosity.
Orheiul Vechi is a complex of religious sites in a beautiful setting around a bend on the Reut River. There's not much there but what is there is pretty. The church is in a cave and I spent a happy twenty minutes just sitting admiring the view as the kids selling souvenirs took a break and played in the river. The fact that I was sitting in the only bit of shade for miles around was entirely coincidental.