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January 1st 2020
Published: February 25th 2020
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The previous morning, I hadn't really had a good look out of the hotel room and since it was nice and sunny, I stood on the balcony for a bit taking in the river view. It was lovely. Since there was no options for breakfast we had to do it DIY style with some fruit, coffee and ghetto pre-packaged baked goods. We left the main city of Tiraspol and headed to Bender. We stopped on the way at a Sheriff gas station that was across the road from another Sheriff gas station, no need to turn and cross the road to get petrol. The gas station was in front of Sheriff Stadium where FC Sheriff Tiraspol play. The stadium was opened in 2002 and renovated in 2011. It looked very impressive. if only I liked football enough to want to watch a match there.

We drove a little way on to the town of, I think, Parcani. Here, we stopped opposite a beautiful looking church and visited the war memorial/cemetery. It was heartbreaking to see the graves of those who had lost their lives in the 1992 conflict. Most of them were young guys in their early twenties. I think it is sadder as the gravestones here have portraits of the deceased on them, so you can put a face to the name. From here, we headed across to the Palace of Culture and had a wander around that before heading over to the Lenin statue in the park. Then we crossed the bridge into Bender, which is separated from the rest of Transnistria. The bridge was important in the 1992 war and it received some blast and splinter damage from the airstrike ordered by the Moldovan military which was meant to destroy the bridge. Despite a ceasefire being agreed, it was in Bender that the war reignited as Moldovan forces entered the city to try to establish Moldovan control of the area.

We pulled up and headed off from the bus to explore Bender. We were near a little police hut and some monuments. We walked to the Alexandr Lebed memorial. He was a Russian military officer and politician, who played a key part in ending the 1992 conflict between Transnistria and Moldova. I was rather impressed by all the medal that adorned the bust's chest. There was another monument behind it, which was rather beautiful and I think it was built to honour the war dead. We went off to explore more of Transnistria. We walked through a residential area which was interesting. We saw a really cool old school car parked in front of a fancy looking house. There was also a real mix of houses here. The street we were walking down was pretty fancy with lots of nice houses, but just a street back we could see lots of more Soviet era housing. We also came across some anti Sheriff graffiti. Did the graffiti artist just pick a random house, or did Sheriff live there? We came to 'The Great October' theme park. It looked like a mini Chernobyl. There were no people about and it looked totally run down, but it is still a fully functioning theme park. The weather was bloody freezing, it was overcast and hailing. Perfect weather to add to the Soviet grimness of the place. Even though it was really, really cold I enjoyed the walk. The Dnister River was quite picturesque. We came to a hotel that looked like it could be the AIST's sister hotel. It looked derelict, but I think it is actually functioning, much like the AIST. We came to another memorial monument. I'm not sure what/who it was for. There was another rather large Soviet looking building near the water.

We headed away from the river and further into town, passing lots of Soviet looking apartment buildings. We came to the Palace of Culture, but didn't go in. The building was beautiful with two large murals on each side of the building. We walked up through a small park with a Pavel Tkachenko Statue. He was a Commmunist activist, whose family lived in Bender. We continued to walk up the main street, aptly named Strada Lenin. We passed the City Government Building. The side of the building was riddled with bullet holes. Just around the corner from the government building, we came to the Transfiguration Cathedral. We headed inside to take a look around. It was beautifully ornate inside. From there, we headed up to Gorky Cinema. We went inside to escape from the cold for a bit. We weren't the only people there, as there were a few young people in there. It seems like a nice, if old fashioned looking place for them to hang out. Just across from the cinema is a park with a statue if Lenin. I don't think I've seen so many Lenin statue in such a short space of time. Our last stop was the Bender Train Station. There was a really cool statue of what I think was either workers or Communist icons, maybe the two are the same? It started to rain pretty heavy so we headed to the bus to drive to a restaurant for lunch.

We'd had to wait ages to have lunch since no restaurants were open until late. I did feel sorry for the restaurant that we'd chose as they probably didn't expect a rather large group of foreigners to descend upon them a few minutes after opening. The place was called La Plăcinte, it had a nice vibe about it, big windows, comfy chairs and lots of space. The menu was pretty extensive and it was hard to narrow down what to have. Eventually, I settled on two dishes; a starter of eggplant rolled stuffed with cheese and dumplings. We were quite lucky on our table as we got to order first and this was reflected with some of our dishes being the first to arrive from the kitchen. We did have to wait quite a while for the food to turn up, so I just warmed myself up by drinking lots of hot tea. My eggplant rolls were the first thing to turn up, score! This dish was absolutely amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The eggplant was grilled an filled with what I presume was sheep's cheese due to its taste and texture. The rolls were also quite oily and were very, very garlicky, perfect for my taste. After I finished that I still had to wait a while for my dumplings to arrive. I was a bit disappointed when they arrived as I expected them to be red hot, but they were just lukewarm. They were still edible however and I did quite enjoy them.

After lunch, we headed over to a small shop that was open so that we could stock up on some of Transnistria's famous spirits. KVINT is a winery and distillery that makes the famous local brandy. This little shop was filled with different kinds of brandy and other booze. It was cute in an old fashioned way. I have no idea about most types of alcohol, I am not a connoisseur. I just decided to pick the one that had been matured for the longest and hoped that it would taste good. I decided to just buy a small bottle since I would have to drink it on my travels. After the booze shop it was onto the bus for the drive to Moldova proper.

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