Monday, 15 April 2013

Day trip to Bender and Tiraspol

At Bender Fortress

A look through Bender Fortress

Being a year in Moldova there are certain things I definitely want to see from the country. Actually the list is still quit long: the 100 knolls (a curious natural phenomenon), criva (with the third largest gypsum cave in the world), wineries (Moldova has the largest subterranean wine cellars in the world) to name just a few things.

Country within a country
One of the things on the list is going to Tiraspol, the capital of a separate region in Moldova with its own government and currency. Its independency is not recognized by most countries and Moldova considers it as "an autonomous territorial unit with special legal status". It is often characterized as a resort for criminals and traffics of all kind (drugs, weapons, organs). Most embassies advise to be extra cautious, but in practice most tourists visit the places without major problems. Most people go there to walk along the main street, visit the monuments and to take a walk along the River. A popular souvenir from this place is a bottle of cognac from the Kvint factory.

Passing the border

Last Sunday I finally planned a visit, though planning is a big word for just going to the central bus station and look for a bus. It was easy to find as a man was shouting ‘Bender’. For 25 Lei we stepped in. We needed to complete a registration form to pass the border Moldova – Transnistria. One part stayed with the customs authorities. The other part we needed to keep until leaving the country. This done we passed the border without any problems.

Bender fortress
One us wanted to take a picture of the sign Bender as it is one of the characters in the famous cartoon ‘The Simpsons’. Unfortunately they use the Russian alphabet here: so if it would make sense anyway to take a picture of it, now it didn’t make any.

However Bender is also interested for another reason, as it is the location of an important medieval fortress. Originally it was a Roman fortified city known as Tighina and in 1408 it was mentioned as an important customs post. Under the rule of Stefan cel Mare the fortress became part of larger system of fortification together with Soroca, Hotin and Cetate Alba against the Tatars. In 1538 the fortress was conquered by the Turks and renamed as Bender (which means port in Turkish). In the 18th century the fortress has been modernized by the prince of Moldova Antioh Cantemir under supervision of the Turks.
During the Russo-Turkish wars the city fell 3 times under Russian rule. In 1918 as part of Bessarabia, the city belonged to Romania and it was also a place of heaving fightings during the war between Moldova and Transnistria (1990 – 1992).

For 50 Lei you can get a guided tour through the complex. Despite the clear signing (really, I guess we were talking too much) we first went the wrong way. Inside the fort is a museum and you get a detailed explanation of different torture instruments. After that you have the opportunity to walk along the walls, if you aren’t afraid of heights. 

Height fear

We continued our way to Tiraspol by a trolleybus. Coming into Tiraspol we passed Sheriff footbal stadium, Sheriff petrol station, Sheriff supermarket and we could also have seen various other businesses under this name.
The idea was to walk along the main street, see the Soviet monuments and go back along the Dniester River… and that’s exactly what we did. 
From the governmental palace with the famous statue of Lenin we walked down the main street, passing a war memoriam. This monument remembers the victims of the war in Afghanistan and the war with Moldova between 1990 and 1992. Tiraspol has a nice location along the Dniester River which allows for a nice walk. One day is not enough to get a real grasp of this city, but it was worth the visit.

Statue of Lenin in Tiraspol

Monday, 8 April 2013

French week extended

Last week there was the yearly French Film festival in Chisinau, organized by Alliance Francaise, and supported by the French embassy. During this event they show various ‘francophone’ movies for free. As it was full house every evening you can say it was a success. I also watched one of the movies in cinema Gaudeamus and we even got VIP places because the normal places were all taken.

This event was a reason for Vent d’Est to propose a French performance in Horodiste. In Horodiste, like many other villages in Moldova, French is the third language at school (after Romanian and Russian). In three days the teachers and children prepared a performance about French language with stories, songs and dancing under the guidance of an accordion. A representative of Alliance Francaise had some small gifts for the children to encourage them learning the French language.
I would say: chapeau for the children and teachers of the village!

Check a piece of the performance via this link:

French performance in Horodiste
Another surprise was for the librarian of the village who finally got a computer thanks to a school teacher from Belgium...

Computer for the library in Horodiste


Wednesday, 3 April 2013


Cyrniki (Сырники) derives from the word сыр, which means cheese in Russian. In Russian сыр now refers to the the yellow cheese, but originally it refers to the white cheese... and it is this white cheese which is the main ingredient for Cyrniki. My former French flat mates loved them. They prepared them themselves, we ate them in the canteen, and our Russian teacher prepared them for us. 

They are not only very tasty, but they are also very easy to prepare.
All you need to do is to mix all ingredients together...
... make small disks of them and cover them with some flour...
... fry them in butter or oil on medium fire until they are golden brown on both sides...
Serve them with whatever you like. Popular is to serve it with sour cream, fruits, honey or jam.

The ingredients:
250 gram of cottage cheese
1 egg
2 table spoons of sugar
2 table spoons of flour + flour to cover
A little bit of salt
Sunflower oil for frying

They can be eaten as breakfast, with a coffee or tea, as a dessert or whenever you want to.

The process in pictures:
The result
The ingredients
Frying the flour-dusted disks