On the eastern edge of Moldova is the breakaway region of Transnistria, which declared its independence in 1990 and fought a civil war for the next two years defending it. The only other ‘states’ that recognize its sovereignty are also breakaway regions. Still, it functions like any other country with border checks and a currency of their own. The KGB does supplement the local police force, which adds to the charm of the place.
Branko didn’t even know about it here, but after I described to him the nature of it he was sold on joining me. We had to go to the bus station, get a kebab, and then cram into a van. The 15 passenger capacity had been retrofitted to seat about 22, making it hot and tight.
We had to fill out an immigration card one we boarded, and then at the city of Bendery, got stamped into the country. There was no exit from Moldova, since as far as they are concerned weren’t leaving the country. There aren’t a lot of places where the hammer and sickle can be seen proudly flown, not that they are communists.
We arrived at their capitol of Tiraspol at dark and met the guy running the place. I was surprised to find that he was from the Dakotas but decided to settle here after a few unlikely coincidences. The lifestyle suited him, as did the incredibly low cost of living. The place was a hole, but as he rightfully pointed out, those that make it up this far are a bit more seasoned and unconcerned with appearances. I slept in the lion chair/bed.
In addition to us, there were three others and two of them decided to join us for some food. The guy running it said to have so many at this time of the year was really uncommon. Before heading out, we had some welcome shots which he promised on the website. The Kvint distillery is located in Tiraspol and makes world class, award winning vodka and cognac. What we drank was sold here for as cheap as 50 cents a gallon, though a smaller amount would fetch 40 euros over in the west. It was pretty good. This was taped to the door when we first arrived.
He walked us over to 7Friday, which he said was the nicest restaurant in town. It was nice, and them menu was really complete, but the company was lacking. The two Brits were buried in their phones and unable to offer anything to the conversation. When I see a group of people occupied with their technology, rather than talking to those in front of them, I get disappointed in humanity just a bit. I’m going to be a hardass dad about the use of technology in any such setting. Both the food and beverages failed to surpass the standards set by the company.
After dinner, the lesser two bailed while Branko and myself decided to check out the nicest club in the city. It wasn’t exactly hopping, but it was worth saying we went there. The bar was a bit slow, so the employees were all working on their tricks, which failed often.
The next morning we walked down to the only other distributor of food that we knew of. At this bakery, we beat the language barrier by pointing at a couple different things. Preferences must be different in this part of the world though, as each of our selections had the combined moisture of a cork. There was also a detective in our midst who made the observation that we were foreign, after which he asked the reasonable ‘why are you here?’ Our ‘Just traveling’ got an odd look back.
Collecting on our free city tour, Tim from the hostel showed what there was to see. Tiraspol isn’t exactly high on the tourism radar, because aside from the political oddity of the place there isn’t really all that much to see. Still, we started big by going to a Russian Orthodox church, which was distinctly different on the exterior than any I had seen thus far. Tim explained that the Russian Orthodox pope had visited here just a few days ago for the first time, indeed a very big deal for the city. He also presented the church with a new icon, which odd to me was a picture of himself.
We walked some more taking in the streets, a couple statues, and also a memorial for their civil war. We posed for some pictures with a pretty cool tank.
The one other picture from this tour with mentioning is of the parliament building. In front stands one of the largest statues of Lenin left following the fall of the Soviet Union. We stopped for some pizza on the way back to the hostel, which was actually pretty good. We started to have to rush though to catch a train back to Chisinau. We got to the station with a few minutes to spare, but we all had to exchange our rubles into lei, since it is an unrecognized currency. I was able to complete my collection there as well, by using the only Russian word I know to get a beautiful one. (Thanks Saad!).
The train itself was not comfortable, and offered only wooden benches for our bottoms to sit. Back in Moldova, we checked into the same hostel as before and chatted until sleep was immanent.
Vising this pseudo country was interesting and well worth the trip. Though in Tiraspol things didn’t seem as ‘Soviet’ as we were hoping, there absolutely was a tangible difference in both the look of the city and the people. Apparently things can get pretty crazy in some of the most remote regions, but I guess that will have to be for another day.