This tour coincides with not only the Transnistrian National Day celebrations, but the only Soviet-style military parade left in Europe! Officially known the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR), and often referred to as the last of the Soviet Union – Transnistria is one of the four unrecognized countries and frozen conflict zones that litter the regions of the old Soviet Empire.
The trip begins in the wonderful city of Bucharest which is serviced by a number of low cost airlines. During the day, we will tour the former model city of the godfather of Communism, Nicolae Ceaușescu, before jumping on the Soviet style train journey to Chisinau, Moldova: the least visited country in Europe. After a one day city tour and a night in a Soviet style hotel, we head for the highlight of the trip: Transnistria! We’ll explore the war torn villages of this murky, unrecognized country as well as the capital of Tiraspol, it’s 2nd biggest city of Bender and a big old-fashioned Soviet military parade!
After two nights in Tiraspol, we embark on the second part of our adventure by visiting the least visited part of the least visited country in Europe: the Republic of Gagauzia, another region of Moldova previously at war with the central authorities and home to a local Turkic people with a very pro-Russian agenda. Here we will round off the trip with a Gagauzian feast in an isolated village, washed down with local homemade wine!
Guests arrive at own leisure and transfer to our centrally located hostel near the gara de nord area of Bucharest
Meet at 6pm and head out for a group dinner at Caru Cu Bere in the old town of Bucharest.
Overnight at our hostel.
Tuesday 30th August – Bucharest
We’ll check out and store our luggage in the hotel baggage room.
We’ll meet our local Romanian guide for a day tour of Ceausescu’s Bucharest! No trip to Romania would be worth its salt unless we went and looked at everything and anything Ceausescu related, the don of Eastern Bloc extreme. We will do a local walking tour, seeing all the must-see sites from “revolutionary” times such as the enormous Palace of the Parliament, see where the Communist regime went down in flames on the bullet riddled streets around Revolutionary Square, see the churches that avoided Communist destruction by being placed on wheels and slid across the city and much more.
Free afternoon in Bucharest to explore the old town at your own leisure before meeting up back at the hotel in the evening to collect our bags and head to the train station.
We’ll board the 19.15 train to Chisinau, this is an old school Communist era 4-berth sleeper and still has the made in the DDR plates on some of the walls!
During the night, we’ll pass border control and the train will be lifted off the tracks to change wheel gauge
Overnight on sleeper train
Wednesday 31st August – Chisinau
Early morning arrival in Chisinau and transfer to our centrally located Soviet era hotel.
Check-in and catch up on some much-needed rest
City walking tour of Chisinau. We’ll visit the abandoned National Hotel, see one of the most stunning monasteries in the city which was thankfully spared destruction under Communism, see the infamous city prison which has been declared a breach of human rights amongst other things.
We’ll see the enormous World War II Memorial and climb some tanks and surface to air missiles at the Military Museum!
Visit the flea market where you can pick up some Soviet souvenirs and kitsch!
Free time in Chisinau followed by a group dinner in the evening.
Overnight at the hotel.
Thursday 1st September – Tiraspol
Breakfast in the hotel
We’ll meet our Transnistria fixers for the 2 hour ride to the breakaway republic of Transnistria. YPT will deal with all permits, border formalities and conversations with the Transnistrian KGB/MGB.
After checking into the original Soviet Intourist hotel, we’ll kick off our city tour of Tiraspol.
We’ll walk down the main street called October 25th street which has a billboard of former President Smirnoff: The warlord who turned president for almost twenty years. We’ll see the embassies of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the foreboding HQ of the infamous Sheriff organization and stop at a bookshop to pick up some Russian and Transnistrian nationalist paraphernalia, a mug with Putin or a fridge magnet of ICBMs firing across the atmosphere, why not?
We’ll then stop at the impressive House of the Soviets, built in Stalinist style with a large bust of Lenin outside.
We’ll mix with students at the Dolce Vita cafe, an inexpensive place with great buffet style food and the eatery of choice for students at nearby Tiraspol university.
We’ll then transfer to the other end of October 25th street to see the North Korean style statue of Russian General Suvorov. Surrounding it are the flags of Russia, Transnistria and the breakaway brotherhood states of Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and South Ossetia.
Have your picture taken in front of a giant crest of Transnistria featuring the hammer and sickle!
Visit Parliament, housing one of the biggest statues of Lenin outside Russia.
Visit the Eternal Flame Memorial complex dedicated to the Soviet-Afghan war, WW2 and the Transnistrian civil war. Check out the battle damaged T-34 monument to WW2, it’s permitted to climb on it and get an awesome photo.
We’ll then switch it up and board an old Soviet ferry without an engine and cross the Dniester river to see how the village people live across from Tiraspol. This is an area truly lost in the USSR!
We’ll visit a still functioning palace of culture with an enormous head of Lenin outside, pockmarked with Kalashnikov bullet holes after Moldovan troops symbolically executed him during the civil war.
We’ll then visit a stunning and completely self sufficient monastery complex that has to be seen to be believed. We know many of the priests there and sometimes they allow us to sample their incredible homemade wine, however, this is subject to whether the one priest with the key is available on the day.
We pay a visit to a local store which hasn’t changed since the USSR and still uses an abacus to calculate the total. Here we’ll stock up on $3 Kvint Cognac (One of the best Cognacs in the Soviet era), $1 Vodka and local smoked cheese.
We then head to a stunning viewpoint and Soviet obelisk that was one of the most brutal battlefields during WW2. In the Russian speaking world, it’s respect to the dead to raise a shot of Cognac or Vodka in their honour and we’ll do just that!
Return to Tiraspol and head for dinner at 7Fridays, a Tiraspol institution!
Afterwards we can head to one of the country’s few nightclubs and try our hand at Russian karaoke!
Overnight in Tiraspol
Friday 2nd September – Tiraspol
We start early and grab coffee and breakfast to go from the nearby Sheriff supermarket before heading to the centre of the city to grab a good spot to see the parade.
On display will be the might of the Russian and Transnistrian military on parade in true Soviet style. The general of the Transnistrian army will first greet his units and will receive Russian war cries in response. Afterwards, the troops will march past in formation and you will see everybody from the special forces and presidential protection squads to the secret police and eloquently dressed female soldiers.
There will be no western journalists here, so remember to bring your camera! We will also witness the speeches of the Transnistrian President and Russian Diplomats from Moscow.
After the parade, we will give you free time and an assigned meetup point so you can enjoy the local festivities at your own pace. There will be live music, dancing, Cossacks holding BBQ’s and local street food markets.
When we meet up after free time, we will head to the second biggest city in Transnistria, the war torn frontier town of Bender, to catch their independence day celebrations.
We’ll return to Transnistria and enjoy dinner with free time to see the fireworks or board the party boat that sails up and down the Dniester river, Russian hardbass and bring your own Vodka as standard!
Fireworks display in the evening, there is the option to go to a local bar or disco to continue the party well into the night.
Overnight in Tiraspol.
Saturday 3rd September – Comrat
We’ll pack our bags in the van and head to breakfast at a wonderful Ukrainian restaurant in Tiraspol. If you have a hangover from the previous night’s festivities, be prepared, as they’re known for handing out complimentary shots of pepper flavoured vodka!
We then leave Transnistria, stopping at the final Sheriff store on the border to exchange our Transnistrian rubles and buy some souvenir Kvint cognac before we re enter Moldova and head South to Comrat, the capital city of the Gagauzian Republic, who as opposed to Transnistria, made peace with the central authorities after a brief civil war in the 1990’s.
Gagauzia is populated by the Gagauz people, they’re Turkic Christians who have remained here since the conquests of the Ottoman empire. They speak their own distinct language and have a very unique culture. This is the only place in the world to see a Lenin statue opposite a statue of Ataturk!
After the 3 hour journey on dirt roads, we will stop for photos at the welcome to Gagauzia sign before we arrive in Comrat and transfer to our Hotel for the night.
We will stop at the abandoned Comrat airport, still littered with a number of abandoned Soviet era planes.
We’ll explore downtown Comrat, seeing the stunning cathedral, a huge statue of Lenin, the Afghanistan war memorial and the national museum of Gagauzia.
We’ll then head to a trip highlight as we drive through the Gagauzian countryside to an isolated village where we will meet Stopan and his family. Formerly a director of a collective farm during the Soviet era, Stopan has been a friend of YPT for a number of years and organizes a formidable Gagauzian feast on his family farm for our groups. Gagauzia is the most famous wine region in Moldova and Stopan has a lot of it!
End the evening in a farmhouse partying Gagauzia style! Expect the locals to join in as YPT groups are the only foreigners to ever visit this isolated village.
For those who wish to return to the hotel early, we will have a team of local drivers waiting at the farm to transfer people.
Overnight in Comrat hotel
Sunday 4th September – Chisinau
Free morning to relax or explore before we head back to Chisinau via the one and a half hour bus ride.
After lunch in Chisinau, we board the 16.55 train back to Bucharest, again with our own cabins, and with pre bought dinner and drinks on board, accompanied by a good amount of quality Moldovan wine!
Overnight on the train.
Monday 5th September – Bucharest
06:30 arrival in Bucharest and end of tour.
For those with late flights we can arrange a place for you to leave your bags and an interesting communist tour of Bucharest.
End of tour with YPT able to arrange transportation, accommodation and tours to your next adventure!
•International air tickets
•Single supplement (not available on train, €150)
•Visa if needed (YPT can provide support)
•Any personal expenses & services not included in the above
•External costs as mentioned in itinerary
We have expert guides ready to help answer any questions you may have.