What are the most mysterious countries?

There’s a country at the edge of Europe that feels like time stopped in the 80s. Literally. People from Transnistria, a breakaway region of Moldova that declared independence in 1991 but that no one else recognizes, cannot cope with the fact that the Soviet Union ceased to exist 25 years ago.

They try as hard as possible to live Soviet-style: their flag still includes the hammer and sickle, their secret services are called KGB, their official language is Russian, there are Lenin monuments everywhere, and their currency is the ruble. Its people want to be either independent or part of Russia, whose army is heavily present in the territory.

Transnistria is known for its large black market, organized criminality and drug smuggling, but the main reason why people are discouraged from visiting is the rampant police corruption. Officers see the very few tourists (10,000 people visited Moldova in 2015 – I can’t even imagine more than one thousand bothering to travel to Transnistria) as easy targets, so they find whatever reason to steal money from them (for example, they could try to fine you if you cross the road outside of a zebra crossing). Also, being a phantom country, your embassy won’t be able to defend you here. Still, walking in the streets is a completely safe and calm experience.

Apart from the safety concerns, the average tourist would see no use in visiting this region, as there are virtually no attractions. Tiraspol (the capital) is your average provincial city from the Soviet era, with concrete buildings and large avenues. The rest of the region features two major (and just as uneventful) settlements, Bender and Rîbnița, and a lot of bare countryside. There are almost no places where to eat or stay, anyway.

If you really want to visit Transnistria, you can board on the train from Chișinău to Odessa and stop in Tiraspol. There, the local police will issue you a 10-hour visa that will allow you to spend the day visiting this lost and forgotten angle of the Soviet Union.