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.)Tiraspol:
We spent the first hour and a half checking out some sites along 25th October Street, the city’s main drag.
Our 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 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. We 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.
While 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. At 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.
We 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.
Another 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).We took a break for lunch at Kumanek, a restaurant serving traditional food.
The food was decent enough but at the same time, nothing special. On 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.Our next stop was at the Memorial of Remembrance and Sorrow in Bender.The 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.)
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.
Bender 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!
Just 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.
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.
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!)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.