Last Updated on November 7, 2023 by Ellen
It was a great start to our ‘Romanian goodbye’.
We were reunited with our scuba/snorkel masks (one with prescription lens) at the last moment.
Long story short: our dive masks were left behind in Chennai, India in January, 2023. We didn’t notice for a couple months. Then in May, the landlord discovered a cleaning lady had found them. But we had already departed India.
International shipping seemed an easy solution – but we had no stable address as we bounced around UAE, Serbia, Romania. Finally, mid-July, we settled in for a month in Bucharest.
I advanced the Indian landlord about $45 via Gpay/Wise to send the masks. There was some delay. The tracking difficult. As our Bucharest time wound down the package was still in transit.
Finally, on our last weekend in Romania, the parcel was received at the Bucharest/EU customs facility. But Google reviews showed lots of complaints about weeks of waiting for processing and unhelpful staff. A next-day delivery — impossible!
Disheartened, on Monday morning I went to the place in-person and put on my ‘poor, old, confused, helpless vagabond act’. It worked! After explaining my situation, and before I even offered a monetary tip to expedite things, a kindly female clerk agreed to find my package and move it to the front of the line for processing. I was told to return the next morning to collect it.
The next day, right before we went to the train station to leave the country, I returned to the postal/customs office and scooped up the box. It had been opened, inspected, and 65 leu ($15) in duties/fees assessed. The dive masks are now back in our possession; ready for the Black, Red, and Mediterranean Seas and beyond.
Hours later our good vibes continued as we enjoyed perhaps the best train trip we have ever taken. It was a basic, no-frills ride south from Bucharest, Romania to Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria — about 5 hours including the border checks. Romania and Bulgaria ARE EU states – but NOT yet Schengen zone members The current Schengen list is on the European Commission website.
Everything was perfect! The temperature was about degrees 80F. Sunny brilliant blue sky with small puffy clouds forever. The train, communist era, the windows open, going 35 to 40 mph – less than half-full of other travelers. We hung out the breezy windows for hours, awed by the rolling Romanian plains of corn, wheat, and sunflowers, occasional solar panel farms, and medieval villages.
So fresh and relaxing! Completely different from our many Indian train experiences with packed cars, sealed in A/C due to insane heat and dust, people sprawled barefoot, eating, belching, farting, screaming in Hindi on cell phones, etc. Ahhhhh India!
The border crossing to Ruse, Bulgaria at the Danube river was easy. On each side, immigration personnel boarded the train, collected passports, then returned and redistributed. In Ruse, more train cars were attached for the continuing route southwest to Sofia.
Onward in Bulgaria; again glorious conditions and views of fields and farms, rolling forested hills and mountains rising on the distance. (Confusion about the Veliko stop led us to get off at the nearby Gorna Orjahovitsa station and take a mini-bus the final 10 kilometers.)
Veliko Tarnovo – a city dating to 3,000 BC and the capital of the Bulgarian kingdom from 1185 to 1393 — WOW! A gorgeous ancient place tastefully preserved and updated with all modernities. Loads of history and cafes. Very scenic, pleasant, and walkable. Check out the pics above. Highly recommend.
In VT, on the steep Yatra River valley, we scored a rustic room with gorgeous views ($23 per night on Booking dot com); our three-day visit spent wandering and photographing the archaic alleyways, monuments, and ruins. Amazing!
It reminded me of other cool places we’ve visited around the world where old human settlements cling to steep hillsides. Call it quaint or picturesque or romantic; places like Devaprayag, India, Cinque Terre in Italy, Chefchaouen, Morocco, and San Pedro La Laguna in Guatemala – where people have constructed and survived in mountainside communities for centuries are always photogenic and unforgettable.
As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails & more beer.
Life is NOW!