Welcome to the Red Disneyland

Guest entry by Malte

Saturday we students arrive at the excavation house at 7:45, punctual as always, in order to load the van and quickly go to the trenches. As a reward, Stas allows us to already pack up for the day at 12:00 so that we can drive to Transitria while the rest of the group tries to protect themselves from the sun by being as covered with dirt as possible. Unfortunately, Jonas still has his hands full in Stolniceni with drawing his trip to Chișinău. That’s why there are only photos from the renegade „Workers‘ and Farmers‘ State,“ an independent, self-declared state which has never been recognized internationally since the cease fire of 1990. After driving three and a half hours, we make it to the border and drive to the chekpoint, passing two tanks with covered cannons and bored-looking, smoking soldiers.

There, a border control woman asks Lennart to go to the cashier’s office in broken English: crossing the border with the car should cost $25 and we should pay an additional $10 crossing fee. When Lennart tells the next border controller that he can speak Russian, the worker angrily fills out the form and enters some kind of data into the computer with practiced bureaucratic swiftness. After slightly more than an hour, we are allowed to enter.

Unfortunately, we are too late for the parade – today is „Republic Day“ in Transnistria and so there is food and games.

We quickly look for a hostel so that we can enjoy the rest of the festival and see some of the capital, Tiraspol. You only get a visa for a maximum of 24 hours. We ask several youths on the street where to find the cheapest hostel. They respond „Aist,“ really the cheapest. There, we take the most inexpensive rooms – of course we don’t need warm water. Backpacks are flung on the beds, passports and the papers for the car placed under the rug and the night table. Then, finally, we go to the inner city, to the statue of Lenin, to the monument of the Transnistria conflict, naturally complete with tanks. Of course the parade street is decorated true to the „Workers‘ and Farmers‘ State“ with the colors of Transnistria (red and green) and Russia. The coat of arms hangs over the streets and a Transnistrian superstar is up on stage with the military orchestra, surrounded by a lot of police, members of the military and Andy’s Pizza and other stores/stands where we can squander our money.

Fireworks in, who could have guessed, red and green crown everything. Welcome to the Red Disneyland.

After cold showers we leave early the next morning. We explore a little bit more of the city and use up our last Rubels. Before we drive in the direction of the border, we make a quick side trip to Bendery Fortress, an old Ottoman fortress that is now used as a military base.

At the border there is a small panic, David cannot find his visa. A short search later in our always neat and tidy van, and we can also hand over this paperwork. In fact, contrary to expectations, we are allowed to drive over the border after only several minutes and without having to pay any money (we did not actually have any to give). We drive overnight back to our tranquil Stolniceni where Jonas is waiting.

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