We took a van from the airport of Chisinau to Tiraspol, and after installing ourselves in a Soviet-style hotel, took a local bus to the west. While almost all of Transnistria is on the eastern bank of the Dniester river (giving it its very name), Bender is one of the few places on the west bank. Immediately after crossing the bridge, we get off and walk. We pass the monument of an armoured vehicle, with flags, ignore the signs that the road is closed, and walk straight to the entrance of Tighina Fortress. There is a deep moat around the outer perimeter of the fortress. We get some information at the booth, and then walk into Alexander Nevsky Park. Named after the famous Russian prince, our destination of the day, Tighina Fortress, lies at its northern limit. We see the towers rising at the end.
But first, we walk the wide, straight lane, with information boards on both sides. They tell us the history of the fortress. First built in the 14th century of wood and earth by Stephen the Great, the fortress was conquered by the Ottomans in the mid-16th century by sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. He had the fortress fortified by making it a stone construction. The fortress was renamed Bender, which means river, or port, in Turkish. The current city still carried almost precisely that name: Bendery. More than a fortress, it became a military stronghold. It was besieged by Moldovans as early as the end of the 16th century, but the attempts failed. At the end of the three wars between Russia and Turkey, the former took control of Tighina. Instead of sultans, it was now under control of the tsars. It was still being used as military barracks, but gradually lost importance.
It was only after Moldova gained independence in 1991 and Transnistria subsequently declared independence, that Bendery regained some of its former importance. Tighina fortress was restored, and reopened in 2008. Several towers with red-coloured roofs rise above us as we approach the fortress. It has a sturdy, circular bastion on the southwest side. We walk through the two entrance gates ti find ourselves in the large courtyard of Tighina. We climb the stairs, have a peek in the remaining towers which have good views over the Dniestr river. It forms a natural defence on the eastern side of the fortress. We walk the upper wall as much as possible, but it has not been restored completely. On the northern side, we find several rooms in another bastion with torture instruments, reminding us of the cruel punishments of the Middle Ages. A stage is being assembled in the courtyard for a performance that we will not see. We walk outside the east side of Tighina fortress, and see a white slab of marble with Arabic calligraphy - undoubtedly a memory of the Ottoman period of the fortification, even though it looks very new. When we walk back through Alexander Nevsky Park, the sun is casting a warm light over the fortress with its turbulent history. It is time to take the bus back to Tiraspol.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Tighina Fortress (Moldova). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Tighina Fortress. Read more about this site.