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Romania Road Trip - Easter in Moldova, Part 1

Romanian Moldova, not to be confused with Moldovan (Moldavian) Moldova aka. 'Republica', as Romanians sometimes disambiguate, is located in the country's eastern region beginning with (and this is often contested) Buz─âu in the south and ending at Suceava in the north - also contested. The locals in these border counties and towns often seek to disassociate themselves from Moldova but especially from the appellation, 'Moldovan'. 
"No, no," a Suceavan will say, "I am Bucovinean".

Romanian jokes involving Moldovans generally portray their protagonists as drunk, aggressive, and somewhere at the crossroads of nit and wit. Sometimes all at once. As one story goes, two Moldovan shepherds are minding their sheep when out of the blue one hits the other with his cane, knocking him down.  The victim gets back up without saying a word and resumes the sheep minding, but after a little while he turns to the other.
"Listen," he says, "that kno…
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What Do 'Romania' Google Searches Look Like?

I had a merry old time going through Google Search Console results a few days ago, and was inspired to write this blog post.

If you don't know, Google Search Console is the Google SEO tool formerly known as 'Google Webmaster Tools'. It is used by website/domain owners to see what type of queries are helping their site show up in Google search results.  With my millions* of page views I knew I'd be in it for the long haul, so I settled in with a nice cup of tuica to analyze the search habits of visitors to this illustrious blog.

Here are some of the top searches bringing visitors to my posts:

'why romania is better than america'
'expat in romania'
'romania vs usa;
'romania vs america'
'driving in romania'

You get the idea. It's mostly topics I've written about. Since I no longer write regularly I am assuming that many of these searches come from people who want to see whether there's anything new -based on old posts - or just t…

The Good Cop

When I saw the yellow jacketed cop standing next to my car and speaking into his cellphone, I knew I'd parked where I wasn't supposed to. But it wasn't the typical Romanian not-a-spot-spot; like on a sidewalk or a crosswalk, or blocking an intersection, or just abandoned in the middle of the road.

I had parked by a restaurant on a small, cobble-stoned street with no traffic. In their infinite wisdom, City Hall had suddenly decided to get tough on parking in the area, even while the kind of traffic violations I described above routinely occur elsewhere in town without ever bothering the local police. I mean, it's fine, but let's just be a little bit more consistent about the standards we're applying.


"Don't worry," I told the cop, who'd put the phone away and was studying the car, "I'll save you the trouble and just drive off."
"Is this your car?" He looked at me like he didn't exactly hear what I'd just said, b…

The Death of the PSD

The text below was initially written as a response to an email. I was asked whether a newcomer to Romania could manage life here given the ongoing political and economic downturn.

Let's make one thing clear. What is happening in Romania now stems from decades of unchecked corruption and the mass embezzlement of state funds orchestrated by an organized crime syndicate. The PSD is by far the main culprit in the scheme, but Romania's political and bureaucratic class at large have consistently played a role.

This would be a very pessimistic post if it weren't for the fact that "the owner has noticed".

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There is a significant chance the PSD will just disappear some day. Maybe not with the next election cycle in 2020, but I'd be surprised if they continue to exist, or to field any candidates, after 2025. If it isn't a sudden defeat (a black swan event), they will die the slow death of irrelevance, as…

A Fine Horse

The snow crunches under the the sturdy Hucul's marbled hooves as fresh flakes drift all around, steady, fat, soon to cover the evidence of our mid-winter ride. I'm riding 'Cyklon', a 9 year old bay, bred for life in the mountains. He is calm and patient, but has a tendency to stop mid-stride for mouthfuls of sparse, dry leaves hanging from the shrubs and trees lining the trail.

tsk, tsk and pull on the reins to get us back underway, sympathizing with the craving for a snack. The landscape is desolate at this time of year. A  gusting wind whistles over the plateau as a white panorama stretches ahead and below us, peppered with brown and black copses of dormant trees, and dark woods in the foothills beyond. It is what sad, poignant poetry looks like. It is death. It is rest. It is a prelude to life.


We're on a 'horseback hill tour' with a group, about an hour's train ride from Cluj, in the village of Stana. The guide told us the horses don't wear shoe…

The Romanian Mafia Is The Government - Part 2

The first version of this post was published not long after I moved to Romania, when the political battles in the country resembled mafia clan wars - minus the restaurant drive-bys. (You can find it here). The same types of unscrupulous bosses laying claim to and fighting for fiefdoms while their lieutenants (ministers or deputies in parliament) run the day to day management, right down to the associates (bureaucrats) who may not be 'in' the system, per se, but who facilitate and gladly take favours when they're given.

This is not such an original analogy, if you're looking at the situation objectively, but people here don't quite see it because, even if the government is run by a criminal organization, the ordinary citizen is ignorant as to how organized crime works.

Many Romanians are are also ignorant about the way democracy works. Or, if you think about it, how business and economics work. Let's just say we're on a learning curve. But, if we're goin…

An Open Letter To Romania's Leaders

Dear Leaders,

Do you ever wonder, if only fleetingly, what your legacy will be? Will school children learn your names, will your statues stand on pedestals in parks? Will you be remembered as wise, enlightened, leaders who made Romania better?

In case you ever do wonder, the answer to these questions is, of course, 'No'. 
You will be remembered as 'The Post-Communism Communists', 'The Incompetents', 'The Corrupt', 'The New Phanariotes' - though that is a generous comparison, the Phanariotes were at least educated and, at times, capable governors, patriots even.  You, on the other hand, will have done nothing more than govern, speak, and behave like the communists you replaced in 1989, though with a touch less patriotism and a lot more incompetence.

How does it feel to know you cannot point to any one single nation-building accomplishment? No crowning achievements. No names to stand out and go down in history, except maybe with the label 'mos…