Tuesday, September 11th 2007

So with our time extremely limited, we hurried off down Lenin Street into town. We passed Kirov Park, and soon reached Ulitsa 25 Oktober, the main street. No-one seemed too bothered by the sight of two obvious tourists taking photos of everything they could see. We didn't really have long enough to do very much at all, but we did manage to buy some postcards, which I hadn't expected to be able to do. I posted four later from Chişinău; only one ever arrived. We popped into a shop to buy some water and snacks. The ladies behind the counter thought we were very entertaining and made sure we bought locally-produced mineral water and a couple of freshly-baked cheesy doughy snacks.

All too soon it was time to go back to the bus station for the bus to Chişinău. We spoke to Yulia again to thank her for her help. She told me her sister was working in London, and gave me her telephone number and a message to pass on. I promised I would and then said goodbye, sad to be leaving so soon when I was just starting to really like Transdnistria. I couldn't believe how different it was to what I'd heard, and developed a great deal of sympathy for the local view that there is a huge disinformation project going on to discredit the little republic. The Lonely Planet guide could not have been more wrong and I found it hard to believe the author had actually been there.

The bus to Chişinău left at 6.30pm. As we swept out of Tiraspol, we passed the stadium where it looked like a football game was in progress. I'd have loved to go and see an FC Tiraspol home game, but it wasn't to be. A few blocks on from there I saw three black people standing on a street corner. I imagined that a besieged Russian enclave like this would not be the easiest place to be from a visible ethnic minority, and I wondered who they were, whether permanent residents or temporary migrants.

Our second border crossing was pretty similar to the first. One border guard took the piece of paper we'd been given on entry, then waved the bus on. A few minutes later at another roadblock, a second guard demanded the bit of paper, and looked furious when we said we didn't have it any more. He beckoned us off the bus, took us to a small building, and shouted at us in Russian for a while. Carlos and I both knew perfectly well that a bribe was all he was after, and made only a cursory effort to look like we cared. He carried on shouting, with words like "politsiya" and "problema" appearing frequently. Eventually he said "Twenty dollar - no problem". He'd already made us empty our pockets and seen that I had 35 dollars with me, so I thought it would be difficult to bargain. I paid him 20 dollars and he seemed pretty happy with that.

Back on the bus, a friendly man smiled at us and asked "five dollars?", pointing at the guard. We said yes, and he laughed. We'd doubtless held the bus up by being foreign but the passengers didn't seem to mind too much. At five to seven, a few minutes before our three hours were up, we entered Moldova.

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