This self-proclaimed republic tucked away far into Eastern Europe, is not traveled frequently. Nonetheless, Transnistria makes for an intriguing desination that might even surprise you. Officially, the name of this state is the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic. The name refers to the Dniestr river that nowadays separates Moldova and Transistria. The state, located between Moldova and Ukraine, declared itself independent in 1990. Formerly, it was part of the Republic of Moldova. After the heavy War of Transnistria in 1992, the Transnistrian people got their desired independence. Even though the proud people of Transnistria fought a war over their independence, only few countries acknowledge it. Not a single NATO member acknowledges the autonomy of Transnistria. Although the state is unrecognized by many countries and unknown by many travelers, it is truly independent. It has its own anthem, national flag, currency, police force, constitution and a coat of arms.
Not many travelers would devote an entire trip to Transnistria; in most cases it is part of an extended itinerary through Eastern Europe. It is ideal to combine a visit to Transnistria with Moldova, Ukraine and Romania. Visiting one of the country's neighbours is inevitable, as most likely you will enter from Moldova or otherwise Ukraine. Entering Transnistria is not as hard as it might seem at first sight. Fly to Chisinau, the Moldovan capital, directly from London Luton. Alternatively, from other cities with a change in Vienna or Bucharest. Trains and buses leave from Bucharest frequently, buses at least five times a day from Autogara Filaret. The train is overnight and might continue all the way to Moscow. From Odessa, enter by bus. There is a railway line but the connection might be disrupted for the moment.
Entering from Ukraine, staying in Transnistria and continuing to Moldova could get you questioned at the border. As Moldova still sees Transnistria as a part of its territory, a Transnistrian entry stamp is not seen as valid entry into Moldova. It depends on the situation and official how things work out. In the worst case, a bribe might be extracted. On the good side, Transnistria has a hotline for corruption with phone numbers listed at each border post. Have yourself a Moldovan sim card, as just appearing to make a call could save hassle. The other way around, from Moldova through Transnistria to Ukraine, is most likely without trouble. Buses are available from Chisinau bus station. At the border, you will receive a separate paper with an entry stamp. The stamp is not put in the passport itself, to prevent issues in other countries; Transnistria is unrecognized by most. Do not lose the paper however; it is your only prove of entering the country legally. It will also be necessary to have it when registering with the police.
Upon arrival in the capital Tiraspol, I arrived at an old Soviet hotel near the center. There was choice of rooms with or without hot water, I chose one without due to a significant difference in price. The measure they take to provide rooms without hot water, is simply take the hot water tap off. The room was run down but fitted the atmosphere perfectly. The next morning, I headed to the Immigration office to register myself for my three-day stay. All was fine and I got some extra stamps on the paper and was allowed to stay in Transnistria. It was time to head out and explore, how exciting! Even though there are few tourists in Transnistria, people don't seem to notice you walking around. They are certainly interested if you strike up a conversation. Do not expect stares or people questioning you. I read stories about police trying to extract bribes but none of this happened to me personally. Do not try jaywalking, this is considered an offence, as in many countries. The police is quite present so might await you after this minor offence. I felt absolutely safe in Transnistria, the streets are noticeably clean and well lit at night. Even though a breakaway territory sounds unsafe - the region is currently stable and people just go about their daily lives. Always read up on the latest developments, if any.
The center of Tiraspol has a typical Soviet street plan, with wide boulevards, vast squares and large market halls. Tiraspol is not a big city and it is easily be explored by public transport. As many cities in Eastern Europe, Tiraspol has an excellent network of trolleybuses. The network even reaches the second city, Bender, boasting an impressive fortress. On the way from Tiraspol to Bender, on your right you pass the Sheriff stadium. It's owned by the country's large company Sheriff, that owns petrol stations, supermarkets, a TV channel, a spirits factory and the football club FC Tiraspol Sheriff. Bus tickets are quite inexpensive and allow you to visit every corner of the country. The landscape is flat and farming is still done in traditional ways. Besides, in a suburb of Bender you find an abandoned theme park with an old ferris wheel. I was walking around the park and taking pictures of the ferris wheel. The park has a guard, just as many other places in the country. The guard showed interest in what I was doing there. He asked me if I wanted to make a spin in the rusty wheel. First I was reluctant, as it had not been used for years. However, my excitement got the best of me and I decided to get in. The giant structure started moving with the strangest noises you could imagine. I just hoped I would make it out again without the wheel falling apart. A very interesting experience and it just shows that the people in Transnistria are very friendly. I highly recommend visiting if you happen to travel this corner of Europe. It made a lasting impression on me. In the album below you are my pictures of the mini state. The first pictures show the ferris wheel and furthermore you can enjoy the rest of my impressions. If you have any questions about visiting Transnistria, do not hesitate to contact me!