Transnistria – a break away republic formed in 1990 on a small strip of land between the Dniester river and the Ukraine, is strange. Trouble is its not that much stranger than Moldova where we were staying but its a tourist must so it had to be done.
After hearing stories of bribery and corruption at the border we decided to go the easy way and get a guide. Driving from Chisinau our driver had a penchant for Techno, at least that’s what I think it was , I lost it with music when my eldest started listening to drum and bass sometime in the 90’s. This was interspersed with traditional Moldovan folk music making for an interesting ride. Along the way we passed fields of sunflowers and maize. At the border we got out of the car and passed through a check point as you do everywhere and apart from an obvious rogues gallery on the wall all was normal. Your permit to enter is stamped on what looks like a till receipt giving you permission to stay for up to ten hours although what you would do for that long I don’t know.
The first town you come to is Bender which has an impressive war memorial.
There is also a little church which is apparently never open.
Then on to Tirasopol, the capital. The streets were very quiet as 88% of young people leave to work abroad. However the people are proud of their country and their President. Unlike the Moldovans whose ex president is in prison for stealing the country’s money.
We changed 13 US Dollars for Transnistrian roubles and had enough to buy a litre of wine in a lemonade bottle, a bottle of ten year old Kvint cognac and two coffees – bargain!
Transnistria is heavily financially supported by Russia. The the first things you notice are the Cyrillic alphabet and the Russian style statues. The other very noticeable thing was Sheriff. A huge conglomerate that employs 20% of the population, it has a football team with an impressive sports stadium, petrol stations, supermarkets and a TV station. There are rumours as to the dubious origins and working practices of the business but apparently they pay well!