Update 3: 22nd July 2015

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The Carpathian Mountains make a broad loop through Romania between its two northernmost regions, Maramureș and Moldavia.

Carpathian stable      Carpathian farmhouse

Hay drying      Shepherd and flock

Tradition is of real importance here – traditional houses, traditional ways of farming, and most of all traditional dress. (Click any photo to enlarge.)

Village men      Village man

Friendly cow      Sheep with lamb

Village women      Village woman

Carrying on east through wheat and sunflower fields, I crossed the Prut river to Europe’s least-known country, Moldova.

Sunflowers      Geese

Moldovans look enviously towards Europe, except in two strange enclaves called Gagauzia and Transnistria.

Gagauzia sign      Gagauzia flag

Gagauzians have an Ottoman background, and speak a language similar to Turkish. The Moldovan government has cleverly allowed them to be an autonomous region within Moldova.

Gagauzia man      Transnistria stallholder

Transnistrians look to Russia, and after a short but vicious war in 1992 they angrily seized independence and have since been in a state of frozen conflict – ‘a country that doesn’t exist’.

Tiraspol city hall      Transnistria emblem

Transnistria has a government, an army, a flag, banknotes and stamps – none of which are recognised by any other country.

Transnistria banknote      Transnistria army

Mr Putin and Mr Lenin seem to pop up everywhere. This may be a clue to how Transnistrians see their future.

Election poster      Statue of Lenin

The capital Tiraspol reminded me of the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

Soviet-style poster      Plane in the park

‘I love Tiraspol’ looks fine till you see what’s behind.

'I love Tiraspol'      'I love Tiraspol'

A friend called Natasha Jueva said “We’d really prefer to be part of Russia. That way we could live as normal people again.”

Natasha Jueva      Transnistria woman

But Natasha knows her wish can’t come true without sparking off a terrible conflict with Moldova, and ultimately with NATO.

Gagauzia woman      Transnistria man

After talking to people in Odessa and Kyiv, I’ll carry on in August to eastern Ukraine, where I suspect things may be much more tense.

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