Travel to Transnistria in sketches
by Anton Dendemarchenko
photo by Saga Minerals
I have planned to write this story for a very long time. Today some peculiar circumstances finally did put an end to procrastination, and so here is a short journey to my homeland through windows of my drawings.
If you've heard of Transnistria or “a country that doesn't exist” - that is the exact destination. There are no proper travel guides or route-maps of the land, a guy from Canada once told me about a travel guide to Transnistria that he'd read at the Canadian embassy in Moldova. I bet it was the briefest travel guide in the world, the guideline was actually just “don’t go there”.
Fact and fiction formed a tangle of rumors with streets full of guerilla warriors carrying Kalashnikovs and cognac rivers winding through green hills and valleys. Let’s start with the facts while we sketchwalk through the streets of Tiraspol. I liked drawing since childhood, finished art school along with high school and tried to make as much time as I could for city sketching, turning my art into postcards, to this day there is a set of postcards, collection of magnets and my own map of Transnistria.
First and foremost, I tell you the name. 99% of natives have never heard the word “Transnistria” at all. At the same time, 99% percent of foreigners don’t know that there is another name of the country, the official Russian name - Pridnestrovie. F.Y.I. The capital city is Tiraspol.
Nobody ruins our Lenin monuments and nobody renames streets. Most of them are named after revolution heroes and leaders. We are on 25th October Street, that is the date of Russian revolution in 1917. By another chronology, it is 7th November. Dom Sovietov is what they call a City Hall. Lenin statue stands here too in all splendor.
The country has three national languages. There are schools and cultural stratum in every language. 25th October Street ends at the National Theatre. I’ve seen Maugham and Moliere on stage.
Gagarin Boulevard cuts the main street here. Nice place to have a cup of coffee. You may also pour some Kvint cognac in it.
Post-World War II house with a rotunda at Lenin Street and 25th October Street intersection. Resembles Odessa courtyards.
Haunted mansion nipped between high-rises on Sverdlov Street.
Besides Kvint vinery and distillery drinks, there is one more thing you have to try. It is kvas. It is non-alcoholic, it is made of bread and sugar, you will see these yellow kiosks on every other corner, and it perfectly fits for revival after tiring summer stroll. Another thing from Soviet times that we managed to keep authentic. What they sell as kvas in other countries is just a flavored water.
Lenin Street. Remnants of the past.
You can see general Suvorov who is the founder of Tiraspol on the central square and on transnistrean roubles. Only on small denominations, like one, five, ten, twenty-five roubles, that is humiliating, one might say.
Mira Street, “Mir” means “peace”.
Kotovskyi Street. Another revolution hero, known as Bessarabian Robin Hood.
Old fire station.
Buildings and apartments layout usually carry the name of their epoch, if it was a decade of Joseph Stalin reign, then the house is called stalinka, if it was Brezhnev time they call it brejnevka, there are also khrushchevkas and perestroika times houses.
The country has everything that any other country has, own government, money, institutions, army, newspapers, car registration numbers and three TV channels. I mean everything. Even passports. But the passport is only used for identification within the borders, you can go nowhere, the country and its ID are not recognized.
Thanks to peace treaty and peacekeepers, the clime is tranquil. People are polite and friendly unless genuinely surprised by the appearance of a traveler in these lands. The most popular question sounds like “Why are you here?” with “How did get this far?”
Authentic kitchen and the same pizza and fornetti with coca cola as everywhere, that's what you meet in local cafes and pubs. Only McDonalds didn’t worm its way into Transnistria.
A la Paris.
From river Dniester the name of the country descends.
The legend says that Russian tsar banished Alexander Pushkin, his exile location was Bessarabia, and he stayed in Tiraspol also, in this house. I asked the eldest lodger if he knows anything about it, he said there were journalists here in 70ies or something, asked a lot of questions about Pushkin stay in this house, he told them he hasn't met him.
MIG-19, WWII pilots memorial at Balka district, where we live now with my wife and son, and our ginger cat Orange.
Our walk is coming to an end. The point is that I am not giving it all out, better save it for your real life travel. Special sightseeing, lovely kitchen, cultural extravaganza, cats, and more, and more, and more, it's all hidden behind the word Transnistria.
I am running a free tour in Tiraspol now, here are a few words of those who survived. The propaganda is very intense, tittle-tattle is queer, so only a few travelers visit the country. The registration at the border is actually very easy, all you have to do is go out from your bus and say to the nearest custom official that you need to register. So I welcome everyone to the country that doesn’t exist, come and see, and decide if Transnistria deserves to be legitimatized. On October 14th Tiraspol celebrates its 225th anniversary, a huge holiday, don’t miss it!
If you like my art, I’d be grateful if you support my new sketch travels with some funds via PayPal or Mastercard. Send me a message on facebook/ instagram or an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and I write you my cash account information. I will send a signed postcard with my sketch to my every supporter. For every donation. It may also a birthday or wedding greeting card from the country that doesn’t exist, you may surprise your friend with, I will write their names on the postcard J Thumbs up for sharing this article with your friends and travelers!
with a hope for meeting you in nowhereland, comrades,