World Travel...The Passport To Peace Through Understanding
Three New Nations of the World
The Centurian, Traveler's Century Club (CA)
Date: August 2003
Author: GIG GWIN
A quest to visit every country takes travel explorer
to Trans-Dniester, Kosovo and Srpska
Three new countries have joined the world’s stage! Let there be joy and celebration, a raising of the flags. Let it be known far and wide of the birth of Trans-Dniester, Kosovo and Srpska. All hail the new republics with liberty, equality and fraternity, all hail independence! Well not quite, for in January of this year the Travelers Century Club, an organization dedicated to listing all valid countries of the world, announced three areas that had separated from the mother country and formed new republics, but are they truly countries?
As a faithful member of the Travelers Century Club and one who has visited all 314 countries of the world, I felt a fervent yearning to add these new sovereignties to my list. Actually, I considered starting my holy crusade in early February, but the area of the Balkans and Ukraine are prone to snow storms and deep cold periods in the winter months. The spirit was willing; the flesh was weak and therefore warmer months sounded like a good idea…you know, blooming flowers, budding trees.
My first goal was Tiraspol, Trans-Dniester a short two hour drive from the port city of Odessa, Ukraine, to the border, cross-over, take pictures and be back to Odessa for Chicken Kiev by moonlight. But not so fast, Ukraine border guards arrested me for five hours, took my money and harassed me for no apparent reason. Finally, released from house arrest and in a spring snow blizzard, to add to my plight, I dragged my body to the border. Many Russians live in Trans-Dniester and have split away from Moldova forming their own quasi-independent, almost sovereign nation. Returning to Odessa, one couldn’t ignore a city once flourishing with grand buildings, now the shell of a once proud heritage. It also must hold the record for pothole capital of the world. One pleasant parting thought, the refurbished Hotel Arcadia had grand old charm with great food and hospitality.
Kosovo was the second goal of my trip. Vienna has daily flights into the capital Pristina. First impression, new airport, good roads, rich farmland and a burgeoning economy based on UN personnel. Numerous white RV’s with large UN signs dominate the roads. Soldiers and peacekeepers are omnipresent. The modest city of Pristina is well kept and safe. The UN has done a superlative job of law and order. Kosovo you see, is part of Serbia…maybe, but it governs itself.. In a sense, it’s a country in limbo with a new order and seemingly on the right track. No landmarks for sightseers but several handsome mosques and churches and the occasional bombed out building.
Zagrib, Croatia is the gateway city to the grand sovereignty of Srpska (pronounced Serbska). I enjoyed my overnight in Zagrib. This impressive little country with a modern infrastructure comes complete with an old town highlighted by St. Stephens Cathedral. Next morning, it was a two-hour drive south to the border of Srpska. So many Serbs live in the area, that they have branched off from Bosnia to form the small public of Srpska. Here we find a totally sovereign, well almost, kind of independent nation. Rich farmland and ubiquitous tractors dominate the road to Banju Luka, its major city. Safe and bustling, the modest size town comes complete with a walled fortress, street café’s and one-way streets, which I discovered as I ineptly drove the wrong way.
As I ended my three-country journey, I reflected that London, Hawaii, Sydney and other global tourist destinations would not suffer from the loss of travelers due to these three emerging countries. Yet each has droplets of charm, so all hail the young sovereignties and we all can only wonder what future nations in the coming years will emerge to send endless travelers like myself to the off-beaten paths of the world.