Transnistrian Adventure

‘I need this [the insurance policy] printed.’

‘We don’t have it. In Romania, they only send it to us online.’

‘Then, you will need to go back.’

‘You don’t have a printer here, right?’ [I ask]


‘Ok, then.’

[silence is golden, it is the most powerful of all negotiation tools around]

‘Is this brandy from Moldova?’


[the border control officers made a ‘yuck’ face]

‘So, what are you doing in Transnistria?’


‘And you’re staying for only one night?’

‘Yes, in Tiraspol.’

‘What do you have here?’

‘Kayaking gear.’

[I show him everything, he sees that I’m not bluffing]

‘Where do you wish to kayak?’

‘On the Dniester, maybe tomorrow morning when we visit Tighina Fortress’ Marcel adds.

We are very relaxed, we never stop smiling. Our car has broken down again on the bad roads across the Prut River [but not even this had saddened us].

‘If it is not meant for us to enter [even though I thought a border crossing within a single country was absurd], we will not.’

And then I see one of the border control officers holding a bottle of the brandy that he was yucking over. I am witty enough to say—

‘Aaah, I bought that for my father…’


The trip is on

He leaves the bottle and agrees to let us enter. We need only pay the vignette (MDL 100) and are free to go. We have discussed in English so far, let’s see if we manage to get to our hotel because the Internet on our SIM stopped working. I had the hotel's location pinned on a map, so we make it there. (I giggle when I see the tank hidden behind some ballots of hay when we are close to entering the capital.)


Tiraspol state of mind

It stands on the bank of the Dniester River, it has been refurbished, and it is very classy and spotless. On the other hand, I do not know how they are manipulating the people in Transnistria, but they are behind ‘Moldova’ when considering the quality of life. Tiraspol is very dusty, transportation means are old, and we feel like going some years back.

The people at the hotel are very nice but a bit cold. I do not feel that I am interacting with Russians – I have been to Russia three times and felt at home. Tiraspol’s downtown architecture did remind me of Kaliningrad, though.

Downtown Tiraspol

‘And we’re practically on Romanian territory’ we giggled again. This is what our nation does – makes fun of the nasty aspects. From this perspective, it is even more shocking that I do not feel at home where I should be.

We only came to see, understand, and listen to all perspectives.

Only one of the receptionists spoke English, but he promised to enquire about a car mechanic.

We happened to have some Euros, so we managed to pay for the hotel room, exchange the remaining amount, and go have dinner at Back in the USSR. There aren't many options for vegetarians and the service is a bit cold, but their Medovik was the dessert that made me ask for a second portion and sigh when I found out it had finished.

@Back in the USSR, dining; Tiraspol


Why fight?

The next day, we received a call when we were late for a preordered breakfast (we chose shakshouka first tasted in Israel and syrniki last tasted in Altai). We served it in an airy and empty room, with soothing morning music. It felt like living in a dream. :-) Delicious!

The morning was especially bright, so we lingered on the terrace, observing people.

I kept hearing some hymns…

As we left our hotel, kindly thanking the staff for writing in Romanian the name of the street where the car mechanic was located [we appreciate that they didn’t forget], we passed by a huge statue of Lenin, which I failed to photograph, plus many flags of Communist countries, as I managed to see. And the same hymn!

We lost our way to our recommended mechanic, but we found another one. As he was very busy, other people tried to help us. A guy took us to another car service after taking a look at our car. Meanwhile, I had a look around. 'There must be a market nearby because I see many people carrying eggs and vegetables' I said to myself.

Finally, there’s Andrei, speaking Romanian! He tried hard for a couple of hours. I sat on one of the kayaks in the yard. When it started raining, I headed to the park across the street.

At first, things seemed normal. After a few minutes, I noticed that children were practising army manoeuvres on the sports field of their school. The hymns were from there! It was horrific; children were walking in the park with their parents witnessing the show. I tried filming the turtles in the pond and directing my camera to the army training instead.

When it all seemed too much, I went back to Marcel. Andrei had removed the damper and spared us of the noise for the hundreds of km left to Braşov. We thanked him and gave him the bottle of brandy that the border officer wanted to confiscate.


Turks, Swedes, but never Romanians

Off we were to Tighina, nowadays called by its Turkish name, which means ‘port’. It has been rebuilt, but its permanent exhibition has no connection to the purpose for which this fortress was built. Many of these fortresses that were connected and erected in key points are no longer within Moldova’s traditional borders.

'Wouldn't it be nice to see the Romanian flag here again?'

It is the case of Tighina Fortress (admission fee, ПМР 50, 19.04.2023) – and only 2 lines are listed about Stephen the Great, who is said to have visited it at one point. Nothing else. After all, we are talking about HIStory – and every person writes his or her story.

Puzzled at Tighina Fortress

We decided not to become angry but to spend our Transnistrian rubles at the souvenir store and then ride into Tighina. The storm had hit us and we were unable to kayak. The army present at the exit points from Tiraspol could not be seen around Tighina. But it felt again dusty and forgotten. A kind lady helped us buy products from the store where she was working as a seller even though we could not understand each other. This was how we left.

I was relieved to be speaking Romanian again; I also felt the heavy energy lifting.


We went, we saw. Did we understand?  

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