Transnistria: Hipster Nation

28 Dec

A guest blog by Patrick

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Our daily routine on the Mystery Trip was as follows:

  1. Wake Up
  2. Receive Detailed Instructions for How to Be Prepared for the Day from Sammi ‘I Planned This’ Travis
    1. Example: We’re going to go to a cafe for breakfast, then go on an adventure where we’ll be walking for 3-4 hours, then eat lunch, then have a couple of hours to rest, then get ready to go out for 4-6 hours
  3. Have an Amazing Day Full of Adventure and Surprises
  4. Return Home
  5. Get a Teaser of Tomorrow from Sammi ‘I Planned This’ Travis
    1. Example: Tomorrow we’re going to wake up at 7:00am sharp, eat breakfast here, and then go on a road trip for the whole day
  6. Go to Bed

 

For the most part, Team ‘I Planned This’ was about as generous as Silas Marner when it came to sharing hints about our upcoming adventures. However, one evening I was able to coax out a little more information.

Patrick: “Where we are we going tomorrow?”

Sammi: “Moldova. Well, kind of.”

Patrick: “Kind of? Are we going there or not?”

Sammi: “Well, it’s complicated.”

 

Now my interest was piqued. To the best of my knowledge, we weren’t entering into a Facebook relationship with Moldova. So how could it be complicated?

 

Sammi: “Well, it’s technically Moldova according to the U.N., but we’re actually going to be in Transnistria.”

Patrick: “Trans-what? Where is that? Is that a country?”

Sammi: “Kind of.”

 

A quick visit to Wikipedia returned the following:

“Transnistria, officially the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, is a landlocked self-proclaimed state situated in the geographical region Transnistria between Ukraine and the River Dniester, recognised only by three other non-United Nations (UN) states: Abkhazia, Republic of Artsakh and South Ossetia.[6] The region is considered by the UN to be part of Moldova. The PMR controls a narrow strip of territory to the east of the River Dniester, and also the city of Bender and its surrounding localities on the west bank, in the historical region of Bessarabia.

Unrecognised by any United Nations member state, Transnistria is designated by the Republic of Moldova as the Transnistria autonomous territorial unit with special legal status.”

 

Whoa! This is the thing about traveling with AdventureSam. She doesn’t just take you to countries you’ve never heard of; she takes you to COUNTRIES THAT DON’T ACTUALLY EXIST. She’s the ultimate hipster traveler, getting to nations before they’re on the map. Literally.

 

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Moldova: ‘It’s Complicated’ with Transnistria

We set out from Odesa the next morning in our trusty low rider, quickly disappearing into the grey, rainy countryside. We spotted a colorful oasis just off the road and pulled over in excitement. It was a graveyard.

Ukraine: Where the brightest part of your day is the graveyard!

We made it to the Moldovian Transnistrian border and discovered that we didn’t have all of the car paperwork with us. We parked the car amidst a stream of people who had come to Ukraine to buy Christmas Trees. Apparently pines are cheaper in whatstheukrainiancurrencycalledagain.

We had our passports stamped to show that we were leaving Ukraine, then walked across a river and into Transnistria. Or Moldova. Depends on who you’re asking. Transnistria had its own border patrol. We handed over our passports and were given a visa on a slip of paper that allowed us to stay in the ‘self-proclaimed state’ for 14 hours. We requested an official stamp in our passport, but they couldn’t give us one. Apparently, stamping passports is for UN-recognized countries.

We exchanged some money (yes, Transnistria has its own currency) and caught a bus to Tiraspol. We were immediately impressed with the generosity of Transnistrians, who provided Ira and Marta with all kinds of valuable suggestions for what to do in Russian. #trans(nistria)lators

 

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Getting our Lenin on. Note the Russian flag and Soviet star.

 

Transnistria is a pro-Russian state, which quickly became evident by the abundance of Russian flags, Soviet symbols, and Lenin Statues. It was like a Soviet museum: there were hammer and sickle street decorations, religious monuments canonizing Soviet leaders, and even Soviet tanks. It was SO fascinating to learn about this little slice of the world.

Does this look like a crew that would order too much food?

 

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This cheese-stuffed bread is a pie chart of how much of our overindulgent lunch we ate.

 

Following lunch we found the post office, where we splurged on Soviet postcards from the 80s. Ira and Marta remembered many of the designs from their childhood, and we Americans took an opportunity to send some messages home.

 

We spent the rest of day roaming the streets of Tiraspol. We immediately regretted taking a photo with the I ❤ Tiraspol sign, found a Christmas market where we stocked up for the Furries, saw the newest addition to the Official Transnistrian Christmas tree (a giant red Soviet star), filmed some interviews on our travels, and watched swarms of birds swirl around another statue of (you guessed it!) Lenin.

 

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Whoops.

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Ira needs to fix the tinsel on her house.

 

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“You have got to check out the new Soviet star we got for our official Christmas tree!”

 

We stumbled upon a Soviet Christmas tradition: a children’s party where kids could have their picture taken with Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) and Snegurochka (his granddaughter). It was adorable to watch the Transnistrian children, all dressed up for Christmas, smile or sob as they posed for photos. Then, we were introduced to the famed Baba Yaga, a witch-like woman who eats little children. She was equally as popular as Grandfather Frost, which made us wonder if we were still in Ukraine.

 

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This pretty much sums up Patrick’s relationship with women.

 

With all of our hearts racing after meeting Baba Yaga, we made our way back towards the bus station. Conveniently, the fancy restaurant from lunch was on the way and we still had money to spend. How do you say “We’d like five pieces of cake in Transnistrian?”


Full of cake, Christmas, and new knowledge, we ambled back to catch our bus and return to Ukraine. Still trying to wrap my head around everything we had learned, I engaged Ira one last time.

 

Patrick: “So, wait, are we in Moldova right now?”

Ira: “Technically, yes. But no.”

Patrick: “What?”

Ira: “It’s complicated.”

And so it goes.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about this complicated place, I’d recommend you check out this article: https://www.wired.com/2016/03/meet-people-transnistria-stuck-time-soviet-country-doesnt-exist/

 

As for us, we couldn’t be more grateful to have had the opportunity to explore this self-declared state. We learned so much and left overwhelmed with what we had just experienced. We departed with more questions than answers, which is definitely the beauty of visiting a nation that’s so hipster it doesn’t even exist.

 

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Goodbye, Transnistria.

One Response to “Transnistria: Hipster Nation”

  1. deekerson January 30, 2018 at 2:45 pm #

    I would really love to leave a comment, but I’m not sure what I could even write. It’s complicated.

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