The Soviet Union may be gone, but there is one place where you can still experience it. It is an unrecognised country, a mere 60km from Chisinau, with the name of Transnistria. It seems the only place in Europe that did not get the memo about the Berlin wall coming down. This small strip of land east of Nistru River, sandwiched between Moldova and Ukraine, remained pro-Russia even after the 1991 fall of the USSR. The breakaway state proudly celebrates its Soviet heritage – statues of Lenin line the streets, while the Transnistrian flag is the only flag in the world to still feature the hammer and sickle emblem. The region has been free from conflict since the 1992 ceasefire, despite the ageing soviet tanks aimed towards Moldova the border crossings. As you have realized, during this one-day adventure, you will explore Transnistria – the last outpost of the Soviet Union.
After passing a checkpoint manned by a team of uniformed soldiers, we visit Tighina, the first destination of this day. Here, we will survey the local Military Museum, which represents a rare collection of Soviet militaria, displayed within three consecutive carriages of a decommissioned Soviet steam train. The train is located next to the town’s rail station, itself no longer in use.
Following the soviet museum, we will dig deeper into the history of the place and visit Tighina Fortress. This is the old medieval fort of Tighina, which was first built in the 15th centuries by the princes of Moldova. Occupied by the Ottomans in a campaign lead by the Sultan Soliman the Magnificent, the fort was strengthened in 1541 and became the center of an Ottoman raya. Later, the fortress saw keen fighting between Turkish and Russian forces before falling to Tsarist Russia permanently in the early 19th century. Until just a few years ago this was a functioning Russian army base and off limits to the public. Now the base is just south of the fortress, so you can freely wander inside.
In the afternoon, we will take you to Kumanek, a traditional Ukrainian restaurant. You will try here “borsch with pampushki” served with garlic, cream and of course, a glass of local Ukrainian vodka. For the main dish, you might have some dumplings filled with potato, served with a mushroom or chicken sauce.
With the stomach happy, we continue our trip with Tiraspol, the largest city in Transnistria. Although the city was previously inhabited, it was officially founded in October 1792 by Alexander Suvorov, the famous Russian military hero. Time seems to have stood still here since the USSR period. The straight wide streets, rows of brick 5-stores housing project back in 60s. Notable places to visit include the Vladimir Lenin monument and the tanks left over from WWII. Most of the sites can be seen by walking down the main street, called October 25th Street in honour of the 1917 Great October Socialist Revolution. By the end of the tour, we will enter a local post office to grab some non-recognized postcards as souvenirs from the last remnant of the USSR.
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