After Odessa I headed on a relatively short train journey (only a few hours, compared to the others which were 12/13 hours) to the unrecognised breakaway republic of
Transnistria (its official Anglicised name is Pridnestrovskaia Moldavskaia Respublica/PMR). As the train pulled up to Tiraspol (the capital) station we were quickly ushered off the train, it didn't take long to realise my group were the only people getting off.
(Taken and developed using Instagram as I decided whacking out my 5dII would probably be a bad idea)
We were greeted by 'Tim', an American expat who claims to run the only hostel in Transnistria. He helped us through border control, which was easier said than done when one member of our party had drunk a bit too much and kept asking out the rather attractive border guard. We then headed to the hostel and settled in for the night.
The next day we went on a tour of the city centre, starting with a walk through the main park Pobedi Park which contans a fun fair with some very similar elements to the Pripyat fun fair next to the Chernobyl power plant, including this very familiar looking ferris wheel.
I was expecting Transnistria to be a timewarped Soviet throwback, much the same as the DPRK is, I was very much mistaken. Transnistria is a surprisingly modern 'country', it has had a 4g network longer than the UK, and has free Wi-Fi in almost every, bar and restaurant.
Quite randomly Gareth (director of
Young Pioneer Tours, the group that took me to the DPRK and here) and some others got stopped by a local journalist who realised they were speaking English and wanted to write an article, purely about the fact that people wanted to visit, which was pretty cool.
There are many building sites in Tiraspol as new projects are being constructed around the city.
Like most markets, Tiraspol's had some products of questionable authenticity, including this beautiful hat. by B&G, ABCDEFGHIJKL.
Workers tend to a garden near a statue of Alexander Suvorov on October 25th Street in the city centre.
On Wednesday we travelled to Transnistria's second city, Bendery. During the civil war with Maldova in 1991-92 Bendery was on the front line as it possesed a key bridge to Tiraspol, so was heavily damaged. Today all that remains of this is the main governement building in the centre of the city, which remains potholed with machine gun holes as a reminder to the war.
A gift shop in the main Russian Orthodox church in Bendery selling necklaces, drawings, and other bits and bobs.
It's probably fair to say you've had enough when even the TV is telling you to stop. Tiraspol Tim our expat guide, after enjoying a bit too much vodka.
Women painting the base of a tree in Bendery in the early evening.
A stray dog waits outside a supermarket hoping for generous people to give him some food.
This innocuous looking building is home to the only two embassies in Transnistria, those of Abkhazia and South-Ossetia, two other independent former Soviet, and until recently, unrecognised states. South Ossetia and Abkhazia were unrecognised like Transnistria until the 2008 war involving Georgia and Russia, which led to the recognition of both of them by a small number of countries, including Russia.
On Thursday we headed by bus to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, which should have been a simple two hour bus journey. It wasn't. If you ever visit Transnistria make sure you register in Tiraspol, otherwise when you try to leave, you will likely get squeezed for a bribe, thankfully we had our trusty leader Gareth to sort us out.