Transnistria, self-appointed country with the capital in Tiraspol was my next direction after a visit to the Nogorno Karabakh. The perspective of seeing another so-called self-appointed country has been fascinating me for a long time. On the Internet you can find a lot of information about this place and, above all, warnings due to the unclear status of this area and possible threats to the tourist. The reason of my visit there wasn’t the desire to raise the adrenaline, but to see with my own eyes how it’s there.
Transnistria, actually, the Transnistrian Moldovan Republic hasn’t been recognised on the international arena, even by Russia, which officially supports it financially and military. Transnistrian Republic occupies only about 10 % of the territory of Moldova and borders with Ukraine. The Capital – Tiraspol is less than 80 km from Chisinau – the capital of Moldova, but visit to this place guarantees a real time travel.
Crossing the border itself is a specific tourist attraction. Border, which is recognised only by the Transnistria, is marked by a flag with a sickle and a hammer – currently the only flag in the world with this symbol. A little further there are tanks marked with the Russian flag. There’s a border crossing, but there are no Moldovan customs because officially it’s still a territory belonging to Moldova.
What’s going on here? Welcome to the alternative reality of the Transnistrian Moldovan Republic…
Transnistria announced its independence from Moldova in 1990. This was a reaction to Moldova’s plans for the connection with Romania. The Independence of the newly created state has been automatically recognised by other self-appointed states: Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Currently, only in Transniestra you can find their embassies. You can see them in Tiraspol at 25 October street, 76.
Other countries have refused to recognize a new country, including Russia, which so far has been supporting Transnistria. There are many political reasons, just take look at the location of Transnistria on the map, which is between Ukraine and Moldova which aspires to join European Union.
But for Russian aid, Transnistria wouldn’t have had any chance to survive, completely cut off from foreign capital. Russian aid turned out to be essential in 1992 when Moldova decided to regain the lost lands. Moldovian offensive was then held by general Lebied. His famous words “if you do not stop the war, tomorrow I will eat breakfast in Tiraspol, dinner in Chisinau, and supper in Bucharest” was a sufficient argument to sign a peace treaty on the next day and to maintain the status of Transnistria to this day.
Officially, however, Transnistria is still considered as autonomous territory of Moldova. In practice, it has its own government and president, currency – Transnistrian ruble and state services.
To this day, Russian military is located here, which is especially visible at the border where you can see Russian tanks. On state offices next to Transnistrian flag, there’s also a Russian flag. International consequences are obvious, Russian help is not selfless. Strategic location of Transnistria between Moldova and Ukraine gives a good position to put pressure. In addition, Transnistria is taking bigger and bigger debts from Russia, but as it doesn’t officially exist, so the debt goes to the account of Moldova…
How do people live in this country?
Tourism is certainly not a branch of the economy here. The unclear international status of this place isn’t conducive to influx of foreign visitors. You won’t see shops of popular brands or famous chain restaurants, there’s no foreign capital.
On the streets you can see only one characteristic logo of the local tycoon – Sheriff. Sheriff seems to be the owner of this country, because almost everything in Transnistria belongs to him. The logo of the company – a characteristic star can be seen at every step; from petrol stations, car salons and shops, and ending with a football club.
It seems that people living here have two options of employment – in a state apparatus or a Sheriff. However, the most popular seems to be emigration, and you know where?…. to Poland!
What to see
Tiraspol – the Capital of Transnistria is a completely different reality. The typical socialist architecture resembles a bit of Minsk. Wide empty streets and propaganda billboards create a characteristic atmosphere of this place.
The main artery of the city is October 25 street, where the most important government buildings and “tourist attractions” are located.
Ja lublju Tiraspol
Near the above mentioned embassy of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, you can take a photo with ” I love Tiraspol” mock-up.
Alexandr Suvorov monument
At the central point of the city is a Alexander Suvorov’s monument – a Russian general, who founded Tiraspol in 1792
Eternal fire to the victims of the war of Transnistria
An important point of local tours is a monument commemorating the victims of the war of Transnistria, World War II and the war in Afghanistan. Next to the monument there’s a tiny orthodox church and a T-34 tank.
Lenin from a postcard
The most characteristic point of Tiraspol is the building of the authorities of the republic. What’s important, it is forbidden to take photos of the building itself, while you can freely take photos of the monument with the building in the background, isn’t it ridiculous? 😉
Just behind the statue of Alexander Suvorov is the Green Bazaar – the main shopping center in Tiraspol. From the outside, it looks quite modern for this type of place, but inside there’s a typical homely atmosphere.
In addition to local honeys, cheeses, vegetables and fruit you can try the perfect bread acid – kvas.
Church of the Nativity
This is the largest sacral building in Tiraspol.
This is the main meeting point of the Tiraspol residents. At the central point there’s a fighter plane monument.
Where Marx meets Lenin
The symbolic point of Tiraspol is the intersection of Marx and Lenin streets. In contrast, nearby you can see the Eiffel Tower.
Where to eat
A little absurd is an inconspicuous cafe called Free Cafe. Don’t let the pink color of the restaurant fool you, inside it is a true stronghold of communism!
Aside from the decor, which consists of busts and paintings of Lenin, Stalin and Marx, a discotheque ball, artificial flowers and handwoven napkins, the real atmosphere of this place is created by the boss along with the “bartender”, both remembering Stalin’s times 😉
We’re going inside to drink something… in poor menu are only few drinks.
Is there any local beer?
Beer?! Well we have, Moldovan… and will you eat something?
No only beer please… and for a friend an orange juice
Orange niet, cherry only…
Won’t you eat? Come on, we have tasty food.
Thank you, can we pay in euro?
Euro?! Niet, I don’t know it. Rubel or dollar “
While the cafe is worth visiting to enjoy the local atmosphere, I recommend to eat in the nearby restaurant Kumanek, which serves local delicacies.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of lard, as a matter of fact I don’t even like it, but I’ll admit that lard in Kumanek was a discovery for me!
There’re many regional dishes in the menu, also popular in Ukraine like: borscht or vareniki, and for good digestion it’s best to drink excellent horseradish vodka.