Transdniestr is a self declared republic and one of the world’s last surviving bastions of communism. With support from the Russians, in the early 1990s it broke away from Moldova. It has it’s own police force, army, border guards (more on that shorty), and currency; yet, no other countries recognize their status as an independent nation. It is a unforgettable and surreal atmosphere. Until recently, the border could be dangerous, corrupt, or both. If you are staying more than 24hrs, you have to register with the police.
Three factors combine to explain my love of Transdniestr in the 22hrs that we stayed:
1. Food: a top 5 meal for Roger at restaurant Kumanek on Scerdlova Street, noted in TripAdvisor, and the business card below says it all. Kumanek was a lovely atmosphere, good prices, enormous variety, and food that is tasty beyond belief. There is more meat than you can shake a cleaver at, including a pork fat and garlic spread. To top it off, Roger had a local Tiraspol cognac made by the historic Kvint distillery next to our hotel, and a cuban cigar. We visited their sister restaurant, Kumanets in Odessa, Ukraine, which is a gorgeous city. While we recommend their food highly as well, the atmosphere was a little too kitsch.
2. Fashion: Transdniestr is the mecca of child fashion. I was chronically unfashionable as a child, and emotional scars run deep. My advice: see it on the streets of Tiraspol and buy it before it hits “Janie and Jack” in San Francisco.
3. Our uniqueness while there: we discovered our special snowflake status while crossing, in a mini bus, the border from Transdniestr to Ukraine. Roger’s demigod travel beard did not calm their nerves. Through a fellow bus traveler translating, the border guard exclaimed that he had never seen Americans at this particular border and rarely in Transdniestr at all. In Moldova and Ukraine yes; but, not Transdniestr. Our translator concurred with our rare species distinction. It was touch and go for 10min as the border guard could not comprehend why we would visit in the first place. The turning point was Katie pointing out her swim goggles in her bag as clear evidence that we were tourists. Not quite in the clear and keen to assist, our volunteer translator explained at one point that all would be well as he also had experience traveling and had “traveled” to many places by watching the Discovery Channel.
The rest of the mini bus passengers thought the whole situation was hysterical and there was much cackling interspersed with “ah Americans” at each turn of events. We were happy to provide such excellent amusement.
These three factors are such powerful draws that Roger is compelled (and swears that he will) write the White House to become the first locally posted American ambassador to Transdniestr. He offers his skilled services for a reasonable compensation, including a castle residence and all meals provided in the restaurant Kumanek. He looks forward to a generous offer letter and assuming his duties.