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Bun Venit la Timișoara

A historic church framed by a cloudy sky and a streetlamp
Saint George Cathedral, Timișoara, Romania

It has come to my attention that some people might find Corie and me a little crazy.

Before our flight from Tbilisi, Georgia to Cluj, Romania, we met a fascinating retired American woman at the airport and got into a nice hourlong conversation before our plane left for Istanbul.

Her eyes widened when she asked us a clarifying question: “You mean you’re moving to Romania, and you haven’t even been there before?”

As Corie quickly pointed out, this wasn’t our first foray into jumping into the international pool without first checking the depth. Two years ago today, Corie and I were saying our goodbyes to friends and family in the States, three days away from moving to Tbilisi sight unseen.

I should note, a number of our family and friends posed the same question two years ago that the retired American woman asked us in the airport.

In some ways, the move to Romania was like our move to Georgia: a great deal of time planning what we were going to take and what we were going to leave behind, followed by a frantic 48-hour reevaluating when we realized entire caravans on the Silk Road traveled with less stuff than we were attempting to fly with.

It might sound strange to hear that Corie and I had several conversations about whether to pack things like measuring cups or hangers. It's a holdover from our first few months in Tbilisi when we realized those little things aren’t always easy to find in some countries as one would imagine. 

Measuring cups and hangers stayed behind, our favorite coffee mugs came with us.

By now, some of you might be wondering about the cats. They too came with us and are adjusting quite well to the new apartment.

In other ways, our move to Romania was a little easier. We’ve done this before and were better prepared for the language barrier and the occasional uncertain feeling of navigating a new place.

That didn’t mean our journey was uneventful. When we landed in Cluj, we still hadn’t heard from the driver we hired, and prepaid, to take us on the four-hour drive to Timișoara.

We soon found out we were early.

Really early. Really, really early. 

We had reserved the driver for May 20, not March 20.

Faced with the possibility of spending three months in the Cluj airport waiting for our driver to meet us at the designated time, we had to think fast.

At this point, I should backtrack for a moment to tell you the flight from Tbilisi to Istanbul leaves at 5 a.m. Knowing it takes about an hour to go from our Tbilisi apartment to the airport and factoring in the extra time needed for traveling with two cats and a mountain of luggage, we left the apartment at 1:30 a.m. In short, we didn’t sleep before the flight. This fact explains why thinking fast in the Cluj airport wasn’t our secret superpower.

Fortunately, we quickly realized that the friendliness of Romanians we had heard about before our move is the honest truth. The company found us a new driver who had nothing better to do that day than take two flaky Americans, their cats, and Mount Samsonite to Timișoara.

While I’m a long way from fluency in Romanian, I did understand enough to know the driver was telling his many friends on various phone calls that he was “taking a couple interesting Americans to Timișoara.”

Since we hadn’t engaged in any conversation about the existentialist philosophy of Jean Paul Sartre or Corie’s academic field of medieval Spanish apocalyptic manuscripts, I had to assume he meant “interesting,” in the same usage of “That sure is an interesting spinach and olive gelatin salad you made, Aunt Betty…” But since he saved us a 90-day wait in the airport, I didn’t mind being compared with inedible potluck fare.

As I mentioned in a similar newsletter two years ago, there is a world of difference between being an expat and vacationing in a new country.

When one travels short-term to a place, there’s no need to figure out where to get groceries, how to get cell phone service and a host of other day-to-day issues that would concern an expat. 

The trade-off, of course, is when those things are done, there’s vast opportunity to dive deep into a new country’s culture.

Corie and I did have a chance yesterday to walk around the neighborhoods surrounding our apartment and the city center so I could supply some images for this week’s newsletter. After all, no one wants to see photos of Corie and me lost in Ikea or at the grocery store, elated at the selection of measuring cups and hangers.

Timișoara is a beautiful city, one I’m excited to explore and take in. From our encounters with the people we’ve met in our first four days, I also know Romania will leave a lasting impression on us for the rest of our lives.

Yes, Corie and I might be a little crazy, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

image of an art deco building with strands of lights criss crossing in front
Timișoara, Romania

1 comment

1 Comment

Mar 25

Great story! Reminds me of my leaving Durango, MX for a short drive to Mazatlan. Well, right outside of Durango, at a toll booth, my cable de los cambios broke down. With my MX insurance, I phoned for a tow truck. Six hours later he showed up. Meanwhile, the toll booth guys were trying to help, they drove me to the nearby OXXO, I bought them some junk stuff for the niceties. So on the way to Mazatlan, the tow truck driver and I enjoyed some of the most beautiful terrain in MX. His truck was a loud, roaring thing - but me and my dog took it all in stride, as we stopped off occasionally to breath some of…

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