In last week’s post I shared with you highlights from my amazing recent vacation to Romania, Moldova and Bulgaria. Well friends, I saved the best for last or at least the most unique.
Raise your hand if you have ever heard of the Transnistria or Trans-Dniester. Anyone? I had never heard of it until I was preparing for my trip to Moldova. So this is 1 of only 4 breakaway territories stuck in post-Soviet “frozen conflict” zones. It is officially defined as Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR) also known as Pridnestyrovie. While this territory has their own military, currency, and government; it is not recognized as a country by the United Nations.
We travelled from Moldova with a private guide who was very comfortable with the procedures of entering this territory. We approached the passport control and my fellow American traveller got his passport approved in seconds. However my passport seemed to cause some problems as they appeared to be having a hard time translating my name into Cyrillic. Thankfully our private guide spoke Russian and could translate their questions as they wanted to know my father’s full name and city of birth. Given it is not a recognized country there is no passport stamp but an immigration card that you must return when you leave the territory. Finally after 10-15 minutes we were in. Well not so fast actually. Next came the full car inspection to ensure we were not transporting anything illegal. While the inspection lasted only a few minutes our guide was brought into the office for paperwork and allegedly required insurance fees. So after nearly an hour at the border and additional alleged taxes we were off to see Trans-Dniester.
Interesting facts about Trans-Dniester:
- Population is about 30% Russian, 30% Moldovan, and 30% Ukranian
- Only electric tram in the world which crosses 2 cities Bender & Tiraspol
- Only territory to display hammer and sickle which is a traditional communist symbol on their flag
- This territory was previously part of Moldavian ASSR from 1924 – 1940 which was an autonomous republic of the Ukraine
- The Transnistrian ruble coins are made of plastic and huge collectors item on eBay
Hands down the strangest place I have ever been and I have been around many blocks in many countries. We spent a few hours touring around the city of Bender and eventually on to the capital Tiraspol. We were grateful to have the wisdom of our private guide Chip from hellobucovina.com who travelled with us for several days. He was able to provide guidance on the importance of not taking any photographs of military, police or major infrastructure.
The capital is Tiraspol with a population of 150,000 yet we saw only a few people on the streets that day. You could clearly see all of the CCTV cameras that were recording your every move which might explain why all of the locals walked briskly looking down at the ground. It was a completely surreal experience. It seemed as though we had been transported into a movie set and I was waiting for the director to shout out “Hey you in the white shirt…yes you…can you move a little to the left please?”. It instantly reminded me of the The Truman Show movie where the character portrayed by Jim Carrey had his whole life staged. Imagine it for a moment.
On exiting the country, sorry got that wrong….territory, there was some additional trouble with my passport. My passport is due to expire in December 2017 and I had additional pages inserted a few years ago; yet regardless it is pretty full with immigration stamps along with several visas for India and Brazil. This apparently raised some concerns at the border control. Once again my guide with his Russian translation came to the rescue to explain that I was not a secret agent spy but simply one girl who travels.
Seek your adventure!