There was a wrecked car beside the road out of Chişinău, mounted on a plinth along with a printed warning against driving too fast. I wasn't particularly worried: the bus driver stuck to the centre of the road wherever possible, and when he couldn't he picked his way around the ruts and pot-holes like a man with new shoes attempting to navigate a pavement full of puddles. The land was flat and unenclosed with white corrugated fields and black matchstick trees. There were stone houses with vines and small gardens, herds of goats by fast-running streams, wood piles and statues of Jesus on the cross, satellite dishes over doorways and communal wells by the side of the road.
We picked up and dropped off on the edge of each village. The man next to me was built like the stump of a tree, flat-nosed in jeans and a short leather jacket, carrying a bunch of flowers hastily wrapped in a Russian-language newspaper. A young couple were kissing on the seat in front, the Soviet version of Those Were The Days played over the radio.