OK, I have to start out by saying that this is not your “traditional BJJ travel blog” (if there is such a thing) but a BJJ travel blog it is, nonetheless! If I were to create my own category, this would be, “A BJJ Travel Blog With a Lot of Background Stories.” So, keeping that in mind, this blog will read more like 33% memoir, 33% present day (as it relates to the story) and 33% or less of me actually traveling.
If you just stick with me, I promise this will make sense as you read. At the same time, I’m under no illusion that there will be hundreds or even dozens of people reading this so I’m really mostly doing this for myself (haha). Oh yeah, I should probably mention that this is a blog with a fixed lifetime, set to end after my trip.
A couple weeks ago, I purchased round-trip tickets to Bucharest, Romania. My wife and I lived in this city for almost four years, but I’m actually not going to be spending very much time there if I can help it. I’ll be meeting up with my former student, Alexandru “Sandu” Birlea, and attending a BJJ summer camp in Sozopol, Bulgaria. This camp is put on by Tudor Mihaita and Absoluto BJJ, who are based in Bucharest, but this is also not the main highlight of the trip for me. What I’m really looking forward to is getting back on the mats with the Moldovans again.
I last left Moldova in October 2014, after helping some friends to set up an “Eco-Village” in a small town about a half hour from the capital. I last saw Sandu a few days before I left as he set out into town for a night out. Back then I thought that I would be able to return a little sooner than I’m currently anticipating, but that’s just not how life went. All of this is in the past of course, so I’m super excited to be returning!
So, as a rough plan, I’ll be getting into Bucharest sometime hopefully in the afternoon of the 9th. I have no idea how I’m going to make it from Otopeni airport, down to Sozopol as of yet, but this is not something that you really have to plan for this far in advance when you are traveling in Eastern Europe. This has been my experience thus far, anyway, and I’m banking on there not being any major changes over the past 4 years.
I’ll be in Bulgaria for the duration of the camp (4 days) and then we’ll be in Moldova for a good five days at least. This is by far not long enough to do much of anything in Moldova. I won’t even be scratching the surface of getting the full Moldova experience, but this is how it has to be, at least this time around.
Lastly, I may have a couple more days in Bucharest, prior to my flight, so I’m hoping to maybe see a couple people before I have to get back on the plane and go home. Bucharest is a great city to hang out and party in, so long as you don’t mind cigarette smoke. My tolerance for hard partying and choking down second-hand smoke has deteriorated over the years, but I’m still curious to see what’s changed since I left.
That’s my trip in a nutshell!
So why Moldova? (BTW, where’s Moldova?) Who’s this guy Sandu and what’s so great about him? Stay tuned for some more background stories, coming soon!
*Note: the featured image is (C) Christian Graugart from his trip to Moldova in 2011.*