Holidaying in lands that don’t exist: Transnistria

Sascha Duerkop May 25, 2020
Holidaying in lands that don’t exist: Transnistria

Despite not having its own airport, Transnistria or Pridnestrovie as the locals call it, is one the easiest unrecognised places to reach for a European. You can easily fly to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, and take one of the many buses that make the three-hour drive to Tiraspol, the Transnistrian capital. Visas are on arrival.

The region is usually described as the last Soviet Republic or Soviet Disneyland, depending on who you ask. That definitely is spot on, as Tiraspol is trying hard to look and feel like the image Westerners have of the Soviet Union. The KGB still exists here under that name and parliament is still called the Supreme Soviet and has a massive Lenin statue in front of it.

The house of the Supreme Soviet – Lenin still standing in front of Transnistrias parliament in Tiraspol, by Sascha Duerkop

The Sheriff runs this town

Once you set a foot into the Soviet Republic, however, you realise that a very successful capitalist venture is as present as the Soviet memory: Sheriff! Founded by two former KGB generals, the company seemingly owns half the country. A football club, which has one of the biggest and most modern training centres in Europe and three stadiums, all petrol stations, almost all hotels and supermarkets and much more carry the large Sheriff star. The Soviet Republic of Sheriff.

Having spent only a few days in Transnistria, I didn’t get much of a chance to go into the countryside, but I had my impressions of the two main cities: Tiraspol and Bender.

Bender is famous for its castle, where Baron Munchhausen apparently rode a cannon ball, and otherwise consists mainly of an often-empty square and a long street of posh restaurants where apparently a lot of shady business is done. Flashy cars with plates from France to Tajikistan are parked along it.

Tiraspol’s retro nightlife

One of the party boats that go up and down the Dniestr River in Tiraspol during summer, by Sascha Duerkop.

Tiraspol, on the other hand, is starting to get very lively at night. There are party boats going up and down the Dniestr river all night. Should you be in town, you should definitely embark such a knocked down ship and enjoy the best of 90s pop music and the unique experience of sharing vodka and snacks with everyone on board.

Whistling the “Wind of Change”, while it croaks from the speakers, in Soviet Disneyland is quite the experience! If that isn’t enough for you, head to the basement of Hotel Russia, where the many, mostly African, players of Europe League club Sheriff Tiraspol hang out at nights.

Street Art in Tiraspol showing the Liberation of Berlin, by Sascha Duerkop

When should you visit Transnistria?

Summer is the best time to travel, as winters can get quite harsh, apparently.

Have something to tell us about this article?
Let us know
Sascha Düerkop is a German mathematician, economist, football maniac, geography nerd and traveller. He has travelled to most unrecognised countries and way beyond, organised football tournaments for not-quite-states and has over 500 football national team shirts in his wardrobe.