Transnistria’s Wild Independence Day Celebrations

The most prominent detail I’d heard about Transnistria was the police’s apparent penchant for bribes. And here I was being pulled over by the police within the first five minutes of being in the country.

I handed over my driver’s licence. The middle aged policeman studied it closely. “Andrea”, he said with a thick Russian accent. “Come.”

He lead me away from my four travel companions and into the front seat of the police car. He showed me a book of road signs and pointed to the one I disobeyed. “Andrea”, he said, smirking. “Protocol.”

Of course I knew what that meant. He wanted me to pay a ‘fine’ right there and then. I did my best to play dumb and shrugged my shoulders.

His colleague poked his head through the car window, “You have cash?” I shook my head, “I just arrived in Transnistria. No cash.”

He pulled a face and rolled his eyes. “Get out.”

For a few seconds I thought I might have gotten away with a minor traffic offence bribe free. But as I looked up, Yomadic was being escorted towards me. He was forced into the seat I had just vacated. I was told to leave.

Two minutes later we were all back in our cars. The deal was done. The bribe was paid. We continued on our way to Tiraspol to celebrate the independence of a country that isn’t really a country.

2nd September – Independence Day in Transnistria

I was expecting to see soviet tanks roaring down the streets and nationalist flags flying on every corner. But I later discovered that since the change of government Transnistria’s Independence Day parade is fairly low key. The soldiers marched, the band played and before I knew it the parade was over. I would have been disappointed if it wasn’t for what followed throughout the rest of the day.

Soldiers in Tiraspol in the Independence Day Parade 2013

With the parade over, the locals took to the streets dressed up in their finest. Some went all out wearing traditional outfits while others got their belly dancing gear on.

Traditional Dress in the Transnistria Parade

Belly Dancing in the Street in Tiraspol

Others stuck to more day to day wear like tracksuits and short skirts.

Posing in Tiraspol

Just a normal day in Transnistria

Without a doubt the highlight of the day was coming across hundreds of wannabe brides dressed and ready to find a man. They were paraded up and down the main street with hopes of finding Mr Right in the crowd. They were beautiful girls but I’m not sure being dressed in a wedding dress makes for a great first impression.

Russian Brides in Tiraspol Transnistria

Things to Do in Tiraspol

Once the 2nd September Independence Day celebrations were over the city returned to normal. The streets were quiet and we could wander in peace. Tiraspol is a small city and there aren’t many sights but there are some cool soviet era monuments you won’t see elsewhere in Europe.

Visiting Transnistria on Independence Day

Lenin makes an appearance every now and then as well as the occasional tank and MiG fighter jet.

Lenin Monument in front of Transnistria's Parliament

Playing on a Russian Tank in Tiraspol

Russian MiG Jet Fighter in Transnistria

Heroes are worshipped with grand statues and the gold domes of orthodox cathedrals can be spotted along the skyline.

Tiraspol Loves Their Heroes

Russian Orthodox Church in Tiraspol

Much of the architecture is in soviet style and the country still shares very close ties with Russia as well as a few other breakaway territories similar to Transnistria.

Soviet Style Architecture in Transnistria

The House of Soviets and the popular Pobeda Park are hard to miss as you walk around the main streets.

House of Soviets in Tiraspol Transnistria

Pobeda Park in Tiraspol - Not particularly safe at night

How to Visit Transnistria

Even though Transnistria is an unrecognised breakaway republic it’s a very easy place to visit, either from Chisinau in Moldova or from Odessa in Ukraine. Visas are issued on arrival and there’s nothing special about the border crossing except for the military’s presence. Next week I’ll be publishing a full guide on visiting Transnistria and what you can expect when entering the country, how to get around and where to stay. If you have any specific questions leave a comment and I’ll address it in my next post.

About Andrea

Andrea Anastasakis is the founder and author of road trip blog Rear View Mirror. She is currently driving her Fiat 500 around Europe. Follow her travel adventures on Instagram.


Comments

  1. Great post that starts with a classic Russian Police story 🙂
    Love the photos, Andrea! Always wanted to attend one of the Brides’ Parades 🙂

  2. Lovely photos and I think sometimes is better to pay a little bribe and continue with your journey than being stuck with policemen all day.

    • Exactly, paying the bribe saved us time and the hassle of having to pay a fine. Plus is was kinda fun. But upon leaving the country we had to pay another bribe which wasn’t quite as enjoyable.

  3. 😉

  4. I’ve been wanting to visit here for a long time! Can’t wait to either. Great photos – especially love the ones of the brides.

    • I wasn’t sure what to expect but it turned out to be a fun place to visit. I’d definitely go again if you’re interested in having a travel companion. Just don’t stay at the Tiraspol Hostel. That place was a nightmare.

  5. Erik Schober says:

    Very interesting with great pictures. We were two days before you in Tiraspol, but we had to continue to Odesa so we unfortuantly missed the parade. Next year….

    By the way: bribes should be inextisting today and we were never forced to pay anything. Well, we had a “special price” (cheaper than the official rate) on the train to Odesa without tickets, but that´s nothing specific for Transnistria. Are you sure you should not have payed the customs for your car? Officially it costs 0,18% from the car value plus 5 Euro tollage (for using Transnistrian roads). This might have caused the problems leaving the country.

    • No, I paid the road toll (5 euros) and the customs tax (8 euros) when entering the country. All the car documents were in order. The problem was we didn’t register with the police when we arrived in Tiraspol which is required for visitors staying more than 24 hours in the country. The reason we didn’t do that is because the owner of the Tiraspol Hostel advised us against it saying it can cause more problems with the police. It was a huge mistake listening to him and some others staying at the hostel were turned back at the border and had to go and register. It was our mistake and the way I see it we paid an ‘unofficial fine’ rather than a bribe as we definitely broke the law.

      • Erik Schober says:

        Indeed, it´s a very bad idea not not to register at OVIR… everywhere in CIS-Countries. Thanks for your answer, I was a bit confused about bribes. By the way: it takes about 5 minutes to register and it´s free.