The guy driving me to Chișinău doesn’t actually need to go there. He was just on his way home in Transnistria when he picked me up but he has in daughter in the Netherlands and is super hospitable so he offers to go on a detour. Though he works in Moldova he tells me he prefers living in Transnistria since he’s of Russian and Ukrainian decent. He even offers to let me stay at his place for a few days and show me around the country, but I’m meeting people in Chișinău tomorrow.
Before we head back into Transnistria we rent a car and go on a quick tour through Moldova. Luckily the country’s not that big. We visit a giant abandoned Soviet bunker. Built in the eighties it was meant as a backup Warsaw Pact command center, but the Soviet Union collapsed before it could be used. We have to bribe a bored security guard before we’re let in. He tells us where we can enter the buildings, and that we can go two floors down, but warns us off using the rickety ladders to go down further.
Next we visit Gagauzia, a region in the south of the country which also has a separatist past, but is now an autonomous region of Moldova. We head to the region’s capital, Comrat, but apart from the local museum we don’t feel much difference from the rest of the country, though that’s probably just because we’re only there for about two hours. We also visit two of Moldova’s biggest tourist draws: a winery and a cave monastery.
Together with some friends I visited the separatist republic of Transnistria nearly a decade ago. Negotiating our way past the Transnistrain border guards was no mean feat and we ended up having to bribe them to the price of €7.50 per person. But several years ago the central government decided having a reputation for corrupt border guards didn’t help the separatist republic’s international credibility and nowadays the border crossing is about as uneventful as such things can be.