After a month of adventures, couchsurfing, and making many wonderful new friends my new travel companion and I left Romania and entered a whole new world.
Moldavia is currently governed by a parlimentary republic whose largest portion of parlimentary seats belong to the communist party. Chisinau, the nations capitol, seemed rather small by capitol city standards (pop. 600,000). Like in Romanian cities, most people in Chisinau live in small distinctive apartments built during the 1970’s communist period. These buildings are typified by their homogeneous design and cheap building materials. Fashioned with finesse and craft of that of a war bunker, oppressively gray and geometric concrete cells paradoxically containing colorful and interesting individuals with countless stories to tell of a world far different from the one I knew.
To my surprise even in the heart of a small dreary city such as Chisinau there was an alternative movement, albeit small, thriving amongst the youth organizing artistic projects, informational workshops on environmentally friendly lifestyles, and other collaborated events that encourage cultural and social diversity.
Though as interesting as Moldavia and it’s capitol is the primary motivation of our journey this far east was to visit the strange and confusing land of Transnistria. Russia has opened a consulate in Tirspol, Transnistria’s capitol against the will of Moldova. The governement system seems complicated. Supposedly it has a multi-party system whose president is voted in by popular vote however the current president Igor Smirnov has been in office since 1990, the date of Transnistria’s self-proclaimed independence. They have their own passports, however no country recognizes them so most Transnistrians have either Moldovan or Russian passports.
To the chagrin of Transnistria, Moldavia refuses to recognize it’s autonomy, thus at the Transnistrian Moldavian border there were two large fully operational Russian tanks. One pointed towards Moldova and the other pointed towards Transnistria with a small platoon of Russian guards armed with machine guns accompanying the tanks. Russia keeps the peace between these two countries as small squabbles have broken out in the recent past.
At the border we were given special immigration forms to fill out that we were to take to the local police station of the town we were to visit and fill out more forms if we were to stay more than 8 hours in the country. Luckily our host was extremely kind and helpful and helped us decipher and fill out all the forms as they were all in Cyrillic and we met no one else in Transnistria, save some of his family, that spoke English.
We stayed two nights in the small town of Grigoriopol. Apparently all of the major businesses, supermarkets, gas stations, etc. are owned by family members of the president. They all bore the name “Solomon” This grotesque market domination ironically reminded me of the monolithic multinational corporations in the States who have destroyed or bought out their competitors behind the closed doors of board meetings, creating a veil of false diversity with the multitude of smaller name brands and logos found in western markets.
It was quite literally like stepping through a time warp into the Soviet era.
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