Roşu is a small village located about five kilometers from Cahul, the largest city in Southern Moldova. Cahul, Roşu and to a lesser extent, Chişinau are not your typical touristic destination. Don’t be looking for tourist attractions in Roşu or Cahul. Except for the church and some monuments, there isn’t much to see and do. Which means you get to experience a true Moldovan experience. It is also why it’s so relaxing to spend time here. The streets are unpaved (very dusty or muddy depending on the weather), and many people still rely on wells to get water in their houses.
Do not expect English to be spoken wildly here. Or at all. There are a few people that can speak the language, but because Moldova became its own country following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, you have a better chance to communicate if you know some Russian. The official language is Romanian however both Russian and Romanian are widely spoken.
The transition from communism to democracy is slowly making some headway. Well, it did before the big scandal of the Moldovan oligarch who put over 1 billion USD in off-shore accounts by fraudulent loans. Corruption is still very much present. Not so much in ”officials” asking tourists for ”fines” of all sort, but mostly in the daily lives of people with good friends. Locals are very much aware of that, and while most of them want to eradicate corruption, it is so ingrained in the mentality that it will take more time to see change.
I first heard about Constantin on Workaway. He runs the CostelHostel in his childhood home. Like a lot of hostels in this part of the world, it is actually his house, where he has three rooms available to rent. The facilities are shared, and for a small additional fee, guests can enjoy the lovely sauna. With the essential oils poured onto the volcanic rocks and the fresh tea made from the herbs grown in his garden, it is truly a purifying and relaxing experience.
I spent a few weeks helping out when we had guests, general cleaning up and helping with the garden. Because it was spring, the garden work was mostly planting beans and veggies and collecting, cleaning and drying some of the precious herbs for teas or smoothies.
While there are a toilet and a shower inside, if you do go in the summer, I would recommend trying the outside shower. The water gets warmed by the sun during the day and gets quite comfortable.
Another feature of the CostelHostel I really enjoyed is Gotzu, the mean-looking dog. He is not the friendliest of dog. It almost feels like he’s more of a cat in a very hairy dog body. He’ll come to you on his own terms. And while I do not recommend petting him anywhere else but the head (don’t worry he’ll tell you he’s not a big fan), if you crouch down, and he feels like it, he’ll come up and snuggle with you, until he’s had enough of course!
To say that Constantin is passionate about his garden and seeds would be an understatement. It is all he thinks, talks and lives for. Which makes this the perfect place to learn about permaculture, the difference between organic and heirloom seeds or raw vegan diet. If you want to learn more, he will show you the many varieties of plants he grows in his garden. Depending on the season, you might be able to feast on fresh berries, herbs, fruits and vegetables. Growing up with his mom, he always worked in the garden, but it’s only about five years ago that he decided to turn to permaculture.
Now if you are like me, you might have heard the name, but you might be clueless to know what the difference is with ”regular” gardening. According to Wikipedia, ”permaculture is a system of agricultural and social design principles centered around simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems”. In short, observing the nature and acting the same way. Planting seeds, removing weeds and watering are still needed, but will be done in a more nature like way. For example, when removing weeds, we would leave them on the ground to decompose, next to the plants we wanted to encourage the growth. Returning the surplus to nature. There are a lot more core tenets and principles, and if you come here, Constantin will be able to provide you with hands-on lessons.
A well-deserved relaxing break
After being on the move for a few months with barely any stops, I needed to catch my breath for a short while. Feasting on great organic food (even though it included a lot of fermented veggies, which I’m not a big fan of but are an essential staple of Moldovan food), tasting some of the local homemade wines, meeting some of Constantin’s friends, all of this gave me a really good insight on the local village life. Constantly hearing roosters, geese and dogs express themselves, being surrounded by people minding their own business and their land, exchanging smiles and laughter with the ladies in the shops while trying to communicate what I wanted to buy made my short stay here very enjoyable.
I learned a lot and managed to be really present. Simply enjoying watching the plants grow every day. Observing the never-ending aerial ballet of all the birds hurrying to built their nest. Enjoying gorgeous sunsets daily. I have the feeling Chişinau will feel extremely busy when I go back!