Saturday, October 24, 2015

backing up and turning around

and entering into bizarro world- I am going to post about our day in Transdniestria out of order- because I am facing the editing of thousands of Romanian photos and there are only 60 or so from the day we spent in this invisible country... so I am taking the easy way out and doing it first--- LOL

Transnistria (also called Trans-Dniestr or Transdniestria) is a partially recognized state located mostly on a strip of land between the River Dniester and the eastern Moldovan border with Ukraine. Since its declaration of independence in 1990, and especially after the War of Transnistria in 1992, it has been governed as the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR, also known as Pridnestrovie), a state with limited recognition that claims territory to the east of the River Dniester, and also the city of Bender and its surrounding localities on the west bank, in the historical region of Bessarabia. The names "Transnistria" and "Pridnestrovie" both refer to the Dniester River.

Unrecognised by any United Nations member state, Transnistria is designated by the Republic of Moldova as the Transnistria autonomous territorial unit with special legal status 

After the dissolution of the USSR, tensions between the newly created Moldova and the de facto sovereign state of Pridnestrovie (which unlike the rest of Moldova did not wish to separate from the Soviet Union) escalated into a military conflict that started in March 1992 and was concluded by a ceasefire in July 1992. As part of that agreement, a three-party (Russia, Moldova, Transnistria) Joint Control Commission supervises the security arrangements in the demilitarized zone, comprising twenty localities on both sides of the river. Although the ceasefire has held, the territory's political status remains unresolved: Transnistria is an unrecognized but independent presidential republic with its own government, parliament, military, police, postal system, and currency. Its authorities have adopted a constitution, flag, national anthem, and coat of arms. However, after a 2005 agreement between Moldova and Ukraine, all Transnistrian companies that seek to export goods through the Ukrainian border must be registered with the Moldovan authorities. Most Transnistrians also have Moldovan citizenship, but many Transnistrians also have Russian and Ukrainian citizenship. The largest ethnic group is Moldovan (32.1%), who historically had a higher share of the population, up to 49.4% in 1926. (wikipedia)

So off we set one morning of the trip for our day in a place that the world refuses to acknowledge its existence... very strange- it is tied to the Soviet era Russia culturally and so that is why people visit- kind of a time machine to the past...

here is a little bit of the history surrounding it

On 31 August 1989, the Supreme Soviet of the Moldavian SSR adopted Moldovan as the only official language with Russian retained only for secondary purposes, returned Moldovan to the Latin alphabet, and declared a shared Moldovan-Romanian linguistic identity. As plans for major cultural changes in Moldova were made public, tensions rose. Ethnic minorities felt threatened by the prospects of removing Russian as the official language, which served as the medium of interethnic communication, and by the possible future reunification of Moldova and Romania. The Yedinstvo Movement, established by the Slavic population of Moldova, pressed for equal status to be given to both Russian and Moldovan. Transnistria's ethnic and linguistic composition differed significantly from most the rest of Moldova. The share of ethnic Russians and Ukrainians was especially high and an overall majority of the population, some of them ethnic Moldovans, spoke Russian as a mother tongue. Ethnic Moldovans accounted for less than 40% of Transnistria's population in 1989.  All UN member states consider Transnistria a legal part of the Republic of Moldova. Transnistria has its own central bank, which issues Transnistrian currency, the Transnistrian ruble. It is convertible at a freely floating exchange rate but only in Transnistria.  (wikipedia)

There really isn't a lot to see there- one Fortress that has been reconstructed (and contains a small museum) and a few monuments and very clean wide streets with little traffic- so not a ton of photos but you will see.  You must have a visa but since the "country" isn't really one your passport does not get stamped- only a piece of paper is issued with a time limit by which you must leave the country- roughly twelve hours! (not problem it is a little place LOL)

having accomplished the border crossing our first stop was a monument-

then we crossed the street and headed into a grocery store SHERIFF for a WC stop- very very clean bathrooms!

then off to the fortress in Bendery-

then on to some more monuments-

a Lenin statue outside parliament-

the post office-

a market with lovely produce and meat and cheese-

then a stop at a cognac makers-

on to the Soviet style Russiya hotel - where we had a fabulous lunch!

before heading back to Chisinau in Moldova and our swanky hotel there.... the next morning we were picked up by some guy who didn't answer to the name of our booked driver and who spoke no English - we got in the car with him and hoped we were bound for Odessa in Ukraine....

making our way through bulgaria

So by this point we have made our way through Sofia, Rila Mountains, Plovdiv, Kazanlak, the Shipka Pass and into Veliko Tarnovo.  Veliko Tarnovo was once a regular get away for meetings destination for Soviet political bigwigs.  It is a lovely mountain town with a number of good restaurants and apparently good skiing if you come during the winter.

This morning after a lackluster breakfast at our pretty nice hotel (the Grand Yantra) we headed to the fortress above town- here is a view of it from our room-

the weather was crappy this morning- raining and chilly as we set out on the road up the hill to the "fortress" -

there were some very nice views of the valley below-

we started at the point where the tower is located in the bottom of the center left of this map- near the key...

I think these horses were for posed photos with costumes etc... but because the weather was so bad there were no other people on the road to the top of the fortress hill... in the summer there are sound and light shows there - which would definitely the best way to get the story of this hill as only the foundations of the fortress remain -along with a chapel that is a rebuild of an older one with new paintings (Soviet propaganda style paintings inside)

I took no more photos and returned to the bottom of the hill while Phil took one for the team and continued on to the church with the soviet paintings- as George really doesn't get that we don't want to see a lot of churches or he gets it and he doesn't care because he intends to show us EVERYTHING Bulgaria has on offer for those coming to visit Bulgaria. And Phil even made an effort to show interest by taking some photos with his phone-

Then we headed back into town and saw the big Soviet hotel for the meetings  - and a huge statue commemorating something I don't remember at this moment LOL- and because it is such crappy weather we really just want to stay in the car but George wants to make sure we see EVERYTHING... LOL but I did find some interestingly repetitive graffiti along the way---

this guy was everywhere-

then we drove up to a small village above town called Arbanassi- where we saw an old house/fortress like dwelling for extended families when there were bad economic times and marauders came around trying to steal stuff from rich guys- OK that is an oversimplification but the house was large and pretty nice for its era of before indoor plumbing- they did have an indoor "outhouse" with a hole that dropped into the yard for when they were under siege and couldn't leave the fortified building.


we also visited a spectacular church in Arbanassi - the Secret Church of the Nativity (no photos- so these are from the Internet) - it actually was my second favorite sight after the Rila Monastery in Bulgaria...

those are some photos of the inside and here is what it looked like on the outside- you would never guess the splendors held within-

then back into town where we saw more graffiti on the way to our late lunch-

we had lunch at a very nice place in town with a name that was unintelligible to us- especially with the cyrillic alphabet in use in Bulgaria.... I started with a fabulous cream of broccoli soup and then went on to the chicken milanese - they had terrific flat bread (pretty much all over Bulgaria as well) that we would come to miss once we left Bulgaria...

The day had been rainy and it continued the entire day- so we didn't balk when we ended up a bit early- Phil went to the room to watch baseball (good enough Internet connection for that) and I read and napped before we headed out for dinner - only to find it pouring so hard we decided rather than walk to the dinner place (Ego) we would eat in the hotel - probably a bad idea and it turned out to be half bad- we had good appetizers and mediocre entrees - but at least we stayed dry! The next day we had one more sight to see on the way to Romania.  We went to the cave monastery near the border.

one of the original caves of the hermit monks-

and here is where we climbed to- the cave church (yellow box) - you can see the road we came in on in the photo below as well-  (red arrow)

photos from inside the church- of the 13th and 14th century frescoes- 

the rest of the afternoon was taken up with the transfer across the border an into Bucharest, Romania. We were safely ensconced in the Hilton Athenee Palace hotel in Bucharest by 6 PM and headed out around 8PM for dinner at a local restaurant.  We were back in the land of our familiar Latin Alphabet and a familiar romance language so we feel confident in getting around and finding things on our own.... LOL

a fab fish roe salad similar to Greek taramasalata (below) was my starter - Phil chose the griled sausage for his starter.

Phil's chicken dish, drowning in garlic under those potatoes- LOL

my wonderful entree of stuffed cabbage rolls and mamaliga (a polenta like dish)

Tomorrow morning we meet our driver/guide for the next week and go with him all through stay tuned- he was our favorite guide of the trip and we saw many wonderful things - and along the way managed a few good meals as well (LOL) -