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Transnistria – a country that does not really exist

A country stuck in a time warp, a time before the Soviet Union collapsed – that ‘s how most travel blogs, herald this tiny strip of land. Well, I hate to destroy this phantasy of a completely different world. Yes, it is a bit out-dated, slow-paced, but this was a relief after the SUV Jammer streets of Chisinau, Skopje, and Pristina. A country that is completely dependent on Russia, economically, financially and politically after it broke away from Moldavia 30 years ago.But also this is changing…

Parliament with giagantic Lenin Statue

Travelling to Tirastopol from Chisinau

The few foreign tourists who travel to Transnistria leave from Chisinau/Moldavia. From there a visit of Tirastopol  can be done in a day-trip, although I am so glad that I spent two nights in Tirastopol. I did not travel anywhere else in the tiny country.

The Central Bus Station in Chisinau is behind the Central Market, which you definitely cannot miss if you visit the capital of Moldavia. The whole trip takes about two hours, from town to town, included the border stop. I forgot what it cost, but it was cheap.

Central Busstation in Chjsinau, from here Busses leave for Tirastopol

I looked into trains as well, but I chose the minibus because it’s faster and runs more often, although I prefer train rides over anything. Crossing the border is super easy: our little marshrutka was the only vehicle. These are minibuses widely used in Russia and all countries ever associated with this country.

Marshrutkas, minibusses connects Chisinau and Tirastopol

I got inside the small immigration building like everybody else and got a small immigration card in English and Russian. The bus waited at the side of the road for all the passengers to finish the border control and off we went to Tirastopol, the capital of tiny Transnistria, which broke away from Moldavia, which broke away from Romania.

Immigration Building- Entering Transnistria

After passing through Immigration, the bus waits on the other Side

I often read about the concerns travelers have, when going to such places, especially women travelling on their own. I must admit, I don’t know these feelings. I leave for these destinations with a kind of excited anticipation, never afraid or worried. I do have a deep respect for what expects me, always. This attitude towards my host countries was always a great companions on my many solo trips through unknown territory.

What is Transnistria?

A small land-locked country that spreads along the River Dniester which is reflected in its very name Transnistria. It declared its independence on 2nd September 1990 and is recognized only by Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and South Osetia. It borders the Ukraine and Moldavia and is close with Russia, in every regard. The Transnistrian flag even displays a sickle and hammer, this leaves no doubts which team the republic is in. Economically things are changing, now 70% of its export is absorbed by the EU, especially Romania.


Transnistria’s flag with hammer and sickle

Travelling Eastern Europe in times of Covid

A few words on this issue: the summer of 2021 I stayed close to home, just in case severe Covid-restrictions would be suddenly enforced.

Despite living so close to the many countries which once belonged to the Soviet Union and before to the Austrian-Hungarian Monarch I hardly visited them. Summer 2021 was the time to do this , plus it allowed me to return to Austria within two days by bus, During this whole trip through six countries (Kosovo, Northern Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldavia, Transnistria I never saw a person wearing a mask on public transport, very crowded public transport I should add. Only at checkpoints, masks went up.

The only time people wore mask was at OUTDOOR markets in Chisinau and Tirastopol. The most grotesque experience I have to share here: I was not allowed to enter the outdoor market in Chisinau, because I had forgotten my mask and the guard at the barrier stayed firm. All I could do was watch the people pass around the wooden pole, and immediately taken off their masks.

In Transnistria the sanitizing liquid always came in brown bottles, the same used for beer. The later ones can be refilled in stores.

Beer is refilled in omnipresent brown plastic bottles

Getting orientated in Tirastopol

I did not know if the final bus stop was far from my hotel, so I spelt out Elektromash Hotel to the bus driver, soon he stopped and pointed in a direction. Well, pretty much everything is within walking distance, as I later found out. By sheer luck I passed a money exchange booth and holding on to a wade of Rubel bills I felt equipped to check out this town. Try to spend all your Transnistrian Rubels, except the usual souvenir, before leaving. They are of no use anywhere else.

Money Exchange Booth near my hotel

Transnistrian Rubel, only to be used in the very country

Map of Tirastopol

Staying at Elektromash Hotel

If you are in hurry, you can visit Tirastopol from Chusinau on a daytrip, but I chose to stay two nights, The Elektromash Hotel on looked exactly what I was in for. I loved the name and for the equivalent of 20€ I got a cozy room, attached bathroom and a full kitchen to use, not that I felt like cooking. The lady at the reception and I had no language in common, but she loved receiving a visitor from far away Austria. She pampered me by showing me around the hotel, bringing towels and the omnipresent bottles with sanitizer, since I travelled there during the pandemic.

Entrance to Elektromash Hotel

My room at Elektromash Hotel

Kitchen use in Elektromash Hotel comes with the room

Exploring Tirastopol

Of course, I was tempted to see all the monuments heralding the Soviet aera: tanks, House of Soviets, Lenin statues, but I ended up drifting through town. This way you cannot miss 25th October Street – the main and most representative street of Tiraspol. My excitement grew by the minute, I admired wide side-walks, adorned with flower arrangements, modern busses and a wild mix of architecture.

25th October Street

25th October Street

Excellent public bus system in Tirastopol

Sidewalks in Tirastopol

By now I was super hungry and happy to spot a very modern restaurant that displayed its yummy dishes via colorful photos. These kind of presentation I became to appreciate when travelling in eastern Russia, after I only ate salad and omelet for days, since that was all I could decipher.

Inside I ordered stuffed peppers at the counter, which a young lady carefully weighed, also so very Russian. By the time I gobbled down a large chocolate cake, a lady approached me. She had been the bus from Chisinau and had recognized me.

Restaurant – food is being weighed – a tradition omnipresent in countries ever linked to the Soviet Union

Colorful photos help to order food

I still remember walking by a sign saying Odessa on October 25th Street and I briefly thought, let’s quickly take a bus across to this port city in the Ukraine. Since childhood I had wondered what it was like. Back then my uncle entertained me with  his travel stories to the Crime and Odessa. Looking back, I regret not having done it, with the war now raging in the Ukraine, I wonder when I will be able to see Odessa myself.

Sign pointing towards ODESSA, I regnet not taking the chance and hopping across the border

River Life in Tirastopol

A little map in the hotel had shown a river meandering through Tirastopol and I was now ready for a bit of walking along. Unfortunately, I could not find it, I asked several people, who had no clue when I was slowly spelling the word R I V E R and I was getting pretty desperate.


Tirastopol, slow-paced and green


Somehow I found the river- it was heaven! I discovered the most tranquil, untouched place, where people sit on shaded benches, watch their fishing rod bob on the water and my absolute favorite became – a little ferry. I watched the two guys running it for a while -if there was no business, they would sit in a shaded place on a ferry and chat with a lady. It was so quiet that I could hear them talk from the river bank. Once a car arrived, they got the chains and cranks going.

Peaceful life on the River

Ferry across the River

Walking further upstream, loud music made me find out what was going on. I arrived at a large boat anchored on the bank, with a few people on it. I was not sure if it was a stationary thing or if it would sail off. I gave it a shot, bought myself a drink and eventually we took off. I had no clue where it was going and if it would return to Tirastopol.


I ended up having a ball! It was mainly families, who enjoyed gliding past green river banks, except one couple. They were pretty drunk and the lady kept dancing through the entire trip, add a monitor blasting/ showing absurd music videos. To top things off, a guy dropped in the chair next to me, put a plastic container of wine on the table, opened a tin of tuna and happily invited me to share all of this.

Wine offered to me by fellow pasengers on boat

I passed the tuna but tried the wine. We had no way to communicate, except a few repeated charascho and spasibo. The boat also passed a few nice beaches on the Dniester River, which can also be seen from a nice bridge spanning the river, if you don’t have time for the boat trip. And yes, eventually the boat did return to Tirastopol and I spent the evening in Victory Park popular with families.

Victory Park

None of this was in any of the travelblogs I had read prior to my trip and after a whole day in Tirastopol I still had not seen what most people come for.

Looking hard for Soviet times

It is not hard to find all these sights, they are pretty close to each other.

The super high statue of Lenin in front of the Parliament, a Soviet tank opposite a small Orthodox Church. Right next to it a memorial reminds of the many Russian soldiers who died in World War II, these memorials you find in all Russian cities, and every time I pass one it saddens me immensely. The Soviet Union lost about 25 millions of its people in World War II, a number that is simply incomprehensible.

Parliament in Tirastopol with gigantic Lenin statue

Soviet tank, opposite small Orthodox Church

House of Soviets with fierce looking Lenin bust

Another wall displayed the name of people who died in the fighting that followed Transnistria breaking away from Moldavia, from 1990-1992.

Memorial reminding of those killed in the fighting followingTransnistira’s break-away from Moldavia

Other must-sees

Another must-see is Cathrine Park at the bank of Dniester River, with a huge sculpture of – guess who? – Catherine the Great. Nearby was also free Wifi. A miniature display of early Tirastopol gives an ida of how it all started and from small pond you have a great view of the most impressive church in Tiraspol, the Christmas Cathedral/Nativity Cathedral.

Cathrine Park-Statue of Katharina the Great

Christmas Cathedral/Nativity Cathedral

Christmas Cathedral / Nativity Cathedral in the background

Across the wide boulevard is the Monument of General Alexander Suvorov, the founder of Tiraspol. I forgot what the many flags surrounding the square stand for.

Do not miss the open-air market, the things sold range from beautiful flowers, vegetable, pet-fish and berries, lots of berries. 

Outdoor market in Tirastopol

Outdoor market in Tirastopol

Outdoor market in Tirastopol

Outdoor market in Tirastopol

Outdoor market in Tirastopol

Sheriff has it all

A quite remarkable story is that of Sheriff, a company created by former KGB agents, who claim the name is based on their former jobs, as policemen.

They own more or less every branch of business: from local shops and supermarkets to petrol stations, local media, building companies, casinos and are involved in the banking sector.

They even have their own football club, the newly built stadium cost 200 Millionen US-Dollar, and naturally has an integarated luxury hotel. Sheriff employs 16.000 people in a country of less than 500.000 inhabitants, which makes it the largest tax- payer in the country, 50 percent of the country’s budget.

Sheriff Imperium -omnipresent in Transnistria- 200 US Million Dollar stadium

On my last day I contacted a guide to take me to some old, abandoned factories from Soviet times. This little adventure never happened, since I did not have enough cash on me and the next ATM to accept my card was in Moldavia. They offered to take across, using a small border crossing. The price and the commotion made me decide against it, I hope this was not a mistake.

Bendery Fortress

Going back to Chisinau I spotted Bendery Fortress in the distance, an impressive 16th-century structure built in the Ottoman style. It is very close to the Moldavian border I managed to make a blurred photo through the window of the bus. I honestly regret not getting off the bus, but it was getting late afternoon and I was not sure if I could catch another bus to Chisinau before it got dark.

Bendery Fortress in the distance, an impressive 16th-century structure built in the Ottoman style.

Bendery Fortress in the distance, an impressive 16th-century structure built in the Ottoman style.


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2 Responses to Transnistria – a country that does not really exist

  1. Craig Lyons 20. March 2023 at 9:39 #

    Tirastopol looks lovely. l I enjoy reading your posts of the places you travel that are off the beaten path.

    When I travel i like to see the “famous sights”, but the checking out everyday life is what really intrigues me.

    Keep having Fun.

    • Heidi Sequenz 30. March 2023 at 0:06 #

      thank you for your interest in my travelling. I am off to Lebanon and Syria tomorrow.

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