Today started as early as possible. I had no time to waste. I was heading to Odesa (Ukraina) from Chisinau (Moldava) for the 789 hitchhiking festival, a trip of only 180 kilometers. But I was up for a big challenge: crossing the borders of a country that officially doesn't even exist and that has scary stories attached to it.
I am talking about Transnistria, a region of Moldova located in the east of that country. From one day to another they declared independence and put borders around their self-declared state. I had heard many stories about the border, it would be nearly impossible to cross. As I am always up for a new challenge, this seemed like just the right mission for a hitchhiker like me.
The start of my hitchhiking day didn't give much to hope for. It was pretty hard to get a lift in Moldova, but when I finally arrived at the border my last driver explained me the procedures for crossing the border and gave me a migration card. I jumped out of the old Soviet truck and headed for the guards.
"Where do you come from" and "do you speak Russian?", were the first questions they asked me. Somehow I managed to understand them with my limited Russian. The first guard asked me to fill in both arrival and departure migration cards in order to be registered in their database.
Once done, I was told that registration is not free of charge. This was a blunt lie but didn't come unexpected. I made an attempt at negotiating. I explained I was hitching across Europe, that I was on my way for a European hitchhiking gathering.
There was no space for this type of negotiating, I discovered a second later. They started pushing me to make me pay. I refused persistently. When they noticed that it wasn't going to work for them, they sent me to a next guard: a huge guy with on his back a machine gun. A frightening situation.
He took me to a small office and standing in front of me he told me I can't cross the border. It was supposedly against the law for me to cross. He wanted money of course. I didn't let him bully me and told him they can't charge me because I didn't have any money.
The guard continued to threaten me. He wanted to send me back. But after refusing to pay and letting him know I knew my rights, the improbable finally happened. I was allowed inside the unknown country, after all, without paying a cent. They gave me a deadline though: I had less than twelve hours to get to the border on the other side, and get out of the country.
Somehow my persistence had gained the respect from the guards. One guard fixed me a ride to the capital of Transnistria, where a policeman told me that I have no chances to get a lift from there to Odesa (I had a sign to Odesa actually), and that I should go to the border first and then to Odessa (bright, wasn't it ?).
After around 30 minutes I got a lift from an old guy driving to the border. When I got there, it wasn't as awful as on the Moldovian-Transnistrian border, but both Ukrainian and Transnistrian border guards were seeking for a reason to rip me out of money.