jueves, 7 de abril de 2016

Moldova (II): a day in Transnistria

Market in Chisinau
After an interesting first day in Chisinau, we decided it was time to go to Transnistria. Alina, who is originally from there, had decided to come as well, so she, Javi and me met in the morning and went together to the bus station. We stopped at a market first and bought some food. I was surprised by the amount of people who sold cookies; not cookies in plastic bags, but cookies in open boxes where you could take as many as you wanted and just weigh them. The reason why I’m mentioning this insignificant detail is because the cookies were extremely good, so if you go to Chisinau, you know what to do when you’re at a market. Or well, maybe my mental obesity is getting out of control.

Isn't this brilliant?
The bus was certainly a peculiar one. It had the cheesiest combination of curtains and seat covers I have ever seen: the curtains were pink with Arabic-ish motifs and the bright yellow seat covers depicted a guy (Mexican? Brazilian?) at the beach. I can imagine an out of date designer with a palm tree shirt and sunglasses saying “I like to call this sandy harem, baby”.

Transnistria is officially part of Moldova, however it actually functions like an independent country, with its own government, currency and so on. Therefore, we had to stop at the border, get out of the bus, show our passports and get a piece of paper telling us we had to leave the country a few hours later.

Left: Russian flag colours. Right: Transnistrian flag colours
According to what I’ve heard, Transnistria wants to be Russian, and that became apparent quite soon. There were Russian soldiers on the border and we even saw a structure with one half painted with the colours of the Russian flag and the other half painted with the colours of the Transnistrian one. The Transnistrian flag has the old communist symbols, by the way.

Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria, looked relatively similar to Chisinau, if only slightly better kept. Prices were definitely higher, too. Javi told me it receives money from Russia, which makes sense. The main thing about Tiraspol was the tank (or tanks?) we saw (no, not working) and a few statues, like the one from Lenin. Yes: hammer and sickle, Lenin statues, it definitely felt a bit like being in the USSR. Except I’m being quite stupid here because I never was there, but please do allow me the stupidity.
Javi and me being silly tourists and loving Tiraspol

Our new toy

Lenin statue

Javi bought a Transnistrian flag
At some point, we went to a supermarket and then the Spiral of Doom (ok, it wasn't that bad) started. First, Javi tried to get some cash and realized his card was missing. Then I checked my wallet to get some cash for him and realized my card was missing as well. A couple of minutes later, we came to the conclusion that, even if we had arrived on different days, we had lost our cards the same way. When we took a taxi from the airport, we both needed to take some local cash; we had both already talked to the taxi driver first so we took the cash in a hurry and forgot the card there. I know, it sounds like a joke. But it wasn’t. Fortunately, we were able to block the cards before anything else happened to them. Immediately after that, we forgot our cookies, a few bananas and a bottle of water in a locker in the supermarket. It’s nothing but, after the stress from the card thing, it was quite annoying, and my inner mental fatty mourned the cookies' loss for a couple of hours.

We went to the stadium of FC Sheriff Tiraspol, the local football (yes, soccer) team. At some point, we were walking down a street and I realized something. On my right I could see the brand new stadium, along with a Sheriff hypermarket and a Sheriff gas station. All of them looked new and wealthy. On my left, the real world. The contrast was striking and very sad.
Transnistria and Russia, together to progress
Finally, we went to Bender, a town which got its share of misery in the 1992 Civil War that happened in Transnistria. I didn’t see anything particularly different there and anyway we didn’t have time, because we headed directly to the bus station. There we had what I called a soviet dog, which is a hot dog in which the sausage had been cut by half, although its length was the same. I was too hungry to care. After that, the Spiral of Doom continued: we almost lost our marshrutka (something like a minibus) and half of my hot chocolate decided to do some sightseeing in Javi’s trousers.

That was the end of the day's adventures. We went back, had dinner with Alina and bought some food for the next day. Our plan was to go to Orheiul Vechi, a historical and archaeological complex 60 km from Chisinau, as well as to some random village on the way there to have a glimpse of rural Moldova.

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