6.5 Hours in Transnistria with Kids, A Country That Doesn’t Really Exist!

I Love Tiraspol?

Over the summer, the Michael W Travels family took a month- long trip to six former Soviet states.

During the trip, I had to visit the unrecognized state of Transnistria, a “country” which claimed its independence from Moldova back in 1990 (although no UN member states recognize the claim).

Transnistria keeps its “independence” due to financial and military support (peacekeepers) from Russia.

Getting to Transnistria:

We arranged in advance for a driver to take us from Odessa, Ukraine to Transnistria and then on to Chisinau, Moldova.

Our very long day included time on our own to check out various monuments in Tiraspol and time to visit the impressive Bender Fortress. For 120€, I’d consider this service a very good deal. (Taking public transportation could’ve saved us some money but I don’t think we would’ve had the time needed to wander around and see the sites.)a man standing in front of a signTiraspol:

We spent the first hour and a half checking out some sites along 25th October Street, the city’s main drag.
a statue in front of a buildingOur first stop was to check out the Lenin statue which is in front of Parliament (House of Soviets). We spent quite a bit of time here taking photos, jumping and sitting by the statue (Theo).

I decided to walk up the steps to get a better view of the building. Before I got to the top, a soldier came out and pointed for me to go away. Rather than have any trouble, I turned around and wandered back down the steps.a statue of a man on a horseA short walk away we stopped for a photo op at Surovov Square where we took photos of the monument dedicated to the founder of Tiraspol, Alexander Suvorov. a man standing in front of a tankWe spent a good amount of time the Tank Monument.

This was one of Lucas’s favorites. The tank is a Soviet T-34 (had to look it up). I thought it was pretty cool how the red Soviet star and flag with CCCP was painted on. I’d assume it’s been touched up many times.
a stone walkway with a star and a statueWhile Kim relaxed on some steps with Theo, Lucas and I wandered around, checking out the War Memorial.

In this area you’ll find the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as well as many graves with tombstones with photos of those lost in the war.a building with statues in front of it a boy standing in front of a statueAt the end of the memorial plaza is a large wall with various plaques. While I’m not sure what was written on them, Lucas and I did spend some time checking out the statues of Transnistrian freedom fighters.
a white building with columns and a statue of a man on topWe then caught a short ride to the Presidential Palace. Kim stayed in the car with the kids while I checked out this impressive Soviet building with a huge Lenin bust in front.
a man jumping in front of a statue of a planeAnother short ride away took us to a park where Lucas and I checked out the Mig-19 Monument. This was really cool to see in person and definitely worth the stop (another one of Lucas’s favorites).a sign in front of a buildingWe took a break for lunch at Kumanek, a restaurant serving traditional food.

The food was decent enough but at the same time, nothing special. a monument with a picture of soldiers and a flagOn the way to the city, Bender, we made a quick stop to check out this Soviet Sculpture-Mural. I wish I knew more about it but our driver didn’t speak much English.a tank on a pedestal in front of a fire pitOur next stop was at the Memorial of Remembrance and Sorrow in Bender.a group of people standing on a military tankThe main purpose of this quick stop was to check out the tank which was used in 1992 during the war against Moldova. (FYI- Tanks were a big hit with the boys in all the various countries during our trip.)

Just in front of the tank is an eternal flame and behind it is a structure with a bell, followed by some memorial plaques.  a stone building with a towerOur final stop in Transnistria was at Bender Fortress. 

It is pretty well preserved and a very impressive site for a country that doesn’t really exist. We first wandered around the huge open space, admiring the fortress walls.

Towards the end of our visit, Lucas and I walked on the top of the walls, getting great views of the area. Some of the spaces are pretty narrow, so you definitely need to be careful, especially if you’re visiting with kids.
a man and child pointing at a castle with Carcassonne in the background a wooden chair with metal rodsBender Fortress has a couple of small museums inside. Most impressive was the one which had various torture devices on display along with information about how they worked. I felt the pain while reading some of the descriptions!
a stone castle with a path and a brick walkwayJust before we left, Lucas and I climbed to the top of the entrance tower. (First photo of Bender Fortress above.)

We got a much better overall view of the castle, spotted military vehicles close-by and also saw that a lot of construction was being done near the grounds. I’m pretty sure that within Bender Fortress is a military base for this de facto country.

Shopping in Transnistria:a building with cars parked in front of itThe company Sheriff is huge in Transnistria with modern supermarkets, gas stations and even a football (soccer) stadium.

I went into a Sheriff supermarket before we headed off to Chisinau, Moldova. The store was really impressive with lots of good food, drink and snack options.

Besides Sheriff, we didn’t go into any other shops during our short visit.

Souvenirs:a group of coins on a tableIt would’ve been fun to get a Transnistria t-shirt but I can’t say that I looked for one. Souvenirs weren’t exactly high on our list for our visit.

However, I did hear about Transnistria minting plastic coins a couple of years back. I wanted to look for them but didn’t see having time to do so. To our luck, the guy I arranged our driver with (Andrei), mentioned the coins and offered me a set.

I was definitely interested and for $5 US how could I turn down buying these bizarre coins from an even more bizarre non- country! (I ended up buying two sets, thinking they might have some value but it turns out that they don’t sell for much at all on Ebay!)

Final Thoughts:

In the end, I found our visit to Transnistria to be a fun and bizarre one. I loved feeling like we stepped back in time to the Soviet Union due to the Lenin statues, banners and other symbols we saw all over.

The few people we interacted with were very friendly and the kids enjoyed seeing tanks and visiting a fortress. We saw almost no tourists during the whole visit (like 2 other families who were definitely not American).

Overall, I’m glad that we fit in a visit to Transnistria during our month- long trip to six former Soviet states!

If you’re considering a visit to Transnistria, I recommend the services of Andrey from transnistria-tour.com. I dealt with Andrey who you can e-mail at  transnistria.tour@yahoo.com.

6 thoughts on “6.5 Hours in Transnistria with Kids, A Country That Doesn’t Really Exist!

  1. mk- Thanks for the comment. I’ve never heard Transnistria explained in this manner before while reading into visiting. I’ll definitely look into the book you mentioned.

  2. I understand it was purely tourism for you, but just asking out of interest: if there was small strange Nazi-influences state left in the world, would you as proudly present your family in front of Hitler monuments with swastikas? Soviets and Nazis were equally horrible to all Eastern European countries…14 million people killed between them two, i suggest you read Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder!
    Transnistria is part of Moldova, that is illegally occupied since 1992 by Russian forces, their 14th Army, just like Eastern-Ukraine.
    and “former Soviet states” – countries formerly OCCUPIED and LOOTED and RAPED by Soviet Union terror regime, would be more appropriate termin.

    1. Reading a single book on the subject by an author whose moral compass is pointing at equating Nazi and Soviet regimes hardly allows you to criticize the purpose of the trip. Perhaps you should research multiple alternative points before making a statement of such magnitude.

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