Transnistria where is that? I have to admit it wasn’t a place I had heard of until I told my flatmate about my upcoming trip to Moldova, “You should go to Transnistria,” “What, where?” on further investigation I discovered it is a self-declared breakaway Republic which borders Moldova and Ukraine (but technically still Moldova) and considers itself to be Russian communist republic and even has its own Transnistrian roubles currency, President and police force amongst other things. But it’s supposed to be dangerous for tourists who are officially not welcome in the republic and I have read horror stories of foreigners being harassed at the border crossing with being pulled off buses put in huts with heavy bodyguards and asked to fill in massive amounts of paperwork and pay big fines for attempting to enter.
So when I rocked up to my hostel in Chisinau in Moldova and saw they were running a day trip to Transnistria the next day I thought hell yeah and signed up.
There were about twelve of us heading out, we caught a maxi taxi (a minibus) and headed for the border, we were all feeling a little anxious as we pulled up to a hut on the side of the road which was the immigration building and headed inside to what was a pretty busy area, we were given immigration forms on the bus to fill in and so lined up at a window to be processed. One of the workers at the hostel escorted us and fortunately spoke Russian and was able to answer the immigration officials questions on our behalf, scenes got quite a bit heated inside after a while as we were taking so long and the locals wanted to be processed and gone, after a bit of yelling and heated exchanges with our poor hostel guide we were all finally processed and hopped back on the minibus to an annoyed look from our driver and other passengers who had been waiting for us.
On to Tiraspol, the capital, we headed and were dropped off at the bus stop which conveniently had a foreign exchange hut and little old lady inside in which we could exchange our euros for Transnistrian roubles. It was a hot dry day in the sunshine we headed on foot to 25 Oktober Street which has all the ‘sightseeing’ including a Russian tank, a few statues of Lenin and a war memorial. We stopped outside the Presidential Palace to take photos only to quickly walk off when a guard appeared at the front of the building and gave us a stern ‘no photos’ look.
Well with the sightseeing mostly done we headed off to a quite decent restaurant for lunch where we shared Russian style entrees and pizza for the main course.
Our last stop before we headed home was to stop at Kvint. Who knew Transnistria makes cognac which I bought a bottle for a bargain price of 6 euros. I can’t tell you if it tastes nice as I have yet to crack the bottle but it did cost me $50 in taxes to import it back to Australia, perhaps it will be a bottle I won’t open for a while.
If ever you feel like going to a place where people don’t smile too much, harass you for taking too long in queues, take forever to serve you lunch or make it easy to leave the country – go to Transnistria!
Travelled to Transnistria: 15 August 2012