July 02, 2018

Top 10 Things to do in Transnistria

Transnistria is one of the more unusual 'countries' in the world to travel to as it's existence is not recognised by any major country. It is well worth a visit, as it will give you a taste of a place that has not removed the traces of its Soviet history, unlike most of its neighbours.

You can easily visit in a day trip from Chisanu in Moldova, either by train (approx 5) or by Taxi (€30), although we would recommend staying a few days.

Here are our top 10 things to do in Transnistria:

1. Experience what it was like to live in the Soviet Union
It's as if the breakup of the USSR never happened. Streets still bear there original names, from Engels to Marx, Skoda's and Lada's can still be seen being driven around, and there are the statues of Soviet heroes still on their original plinths. Want snap yourself next to a bust of Gagarin or Lenin?

You can still do that in Tiraspol, the capital.

2. Walk along the battlements of an ancient Ottoman Fort
The main historical attraction in the whole of Transnistria is in the second largest city, Bendery Fortress. Built in 1538 by the invading Ottoman emperor Suleiman the Magnificent, it sites resplendent in an industrial estate.

Don't let its location put you off. Although it has been restored much of the original fort including its ramparts are intact. An added bonus is the torture chamber filled with enough devices to scare any child to obey its parents.

3. Taste some fresh Transnistrian beer at the source
While in Bendery (or as the locals call it, Bender, which would evoke sniggers from any follower of the classic British TV series, The Inbetweeners) visit the brewery. A rather wonderful old Soviet factory with its brewing team exclusively women. I asked the reason, and their head brewer told me that they were more conscientious, reliable (they turned up for work) and didn't get drunk on the job!

They make three beers, all unpasteurised and with a short life and best tasted at the brewery tap, located on Prieteniei St. The dark beer comes highly recommended, but best not on an empty stomach as it packs an alcoholic punch.

4. Taste some fresh Transnistrian spirits at source 
If beer is not your thing, head over to the KVINT distillery in Tiraspol for a tour and tasting of their spirits. They produce a variety of alcohol including cognac, vodka and calvados amongst others.

You need to book 48 hours in advance. A good variety of local snacks are provided with the tasting so this can easily pass for a pleasant, albeit alcohol heavy, lunch.

5. Go on a booze cruise on the River Dniester
The River Dniester slices right through Tiraspol. As you can tell from the previous to entries, alcohol is pretty important in Transnistrian life. And this carries through on the riverboat cruises.

We paid a few hundred roubles (about €8) for a boat trip one evening to get a different view on the capital and see the life on the riverbanks. What we didn't realise was that this gets you as much local wine, beer or vodka as you can drink. I think we were the only ones there for the view.

6. Pay your respects at the War Memorial
A Russian T-34 tank sits atop a plinth at the entrance to the war memorial in Tiraspol. In front of it lies an eternal flame and tombs and memorials to the Second World War, the Afghan War and the battle for independence, with a substantial list of all who died in the latter, including volunteers from many of the countries that made up the Soviet Union.

On Victory Day (9th May) and Republic Day (2nd September) the war memorial is thronged with locals remembering the dead, carrying photographs of family members who were lost in the wars, and laying many flowers.

7. Be dazzled by the blue domes at the Noul Neamt Monastery
An impressive Orthodox monastery built in the nineteenth century. Shut down by the Soviet authorities in 1962 it was only re-opened in 1989. Since then it has been lovingly restored and dominates once again the surrounding town with its aqua blue domes.

Located in Chitcani, only ten minutes outside Tiraspol and approximately €5 bat most by local taxi. Free to enter, the monks produce and sell wine to support the ongoing repair and maintenance of the monastery complex.

8. Get a unique souvenir of Transnistria
Tourism is not really developed in the country yet. Most goods are imported, either from Russia or Moldova, and some of the best souvenirs are either the wine or KVINT spirits easily obtainable at the ubiquitous Sheriff supermarkets.

You may be lucky and come across a Transnistria flag, with the hammer and sickle in the top corner, or more likely, plastic coins. The first, and still only, place to issue plastic coins in the world, these make a great souvenir of your time there. Not as easy to obtain in change as they once were, the supermarket is your best bet.

9. Discover the pre-revolutionary buildings in Tiraspol
As Transnistria is one of the poorest countries in Europe, there has been limited development and destruction of its heritage. Walking along the main street, the 25th of October, you will pass many buildings constructed in Tsarist times. Even if behind them loom ugly Soviet built edifices.

Head towards the theater, itself a rather beautiful building, and on the way you will pass many fine architectural designs of Russian style, particularly around the university.

10. Discover Soviet mosaic art 
There are some beautiful mosaics on buildings, particularly in Bendery, which are worth seeking out. The Palace of Culture has some traditional agricultural scenes of wine making and crop harvesting on its outside wall.

If you head down to the River Dniester, and manage to avoid the legions of skateboarders, the War Memorial there has some impressive battle scenes around it.

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  1. I love great and mighty transnistria way better than stinky modiva ah yes glorious transtria,what a paradise.