free to go

The military parade in Tiraspol is actually pretty similar to the one in Ukraine. A few marching battalions, the minister of defense riding past the men and saluting them while standing upright in a jeep, and a bunch of speeches. But the streets of Tiraspol have a much more nostalgic feel to them. Instead of military hardware used on the frontline of an ongoing war, there’s classic Soviet equipment on display. Some people are dressed as World War Two reenactors and there are competitions held for who can disassemble and reassemble a Kalashnikov quickest.

In the evening we go back to the nearby town of Bender where our hotel is. There’s a huge street party going on with stages all along the main road where dance troupes perform. The atmosphere is very festive and it’s odd to be in such a joyous environment in a place about which I mostly read stories describing despondence and boredom.

The next morning we visit an old castle, once the home of King of Charles XII of Sweden after he lost the battle of Poltava. Next up is an old church, but soon we’ve run out of ideas on what to see in Transnistria and head back to Chișinău where we part ways.

I had to get registered in Moldova since technically I entered the country illegally through Transnistria. I hadn’t really checked all the requirements carefully, but now that I’m at the proper government office it appears I’m already too late. In hindsight I should have done it the morning after I arrived from Ukraine and now it looks like I’ll have to pay a fine. Getting caught up in bureaucratic procedures is never fun, but this seems to be a particularly drawn-out process which leads me, over the course of three days, past three government offices (all with limited opening times) and two banks before I have all the paperwork in order. Once I’m facing the final boss, a lady in her twenties, I have to spend a few minutes explaining that my passport is from the Netherlands of which Amsterdam is the capital, and that what is listed on her piece of paper, that Amsterdam is the capital of Holland, comes down to the same thing. It takes an intervention from her colleague to convince her.