As I’ve already said (and here), I really liked reading Walking the Woods and the Water. If I may indulge myself, I’m going to do just one more post mentioning that one particular aspect I enjoyed is the insight given by the book into cultural issues – even in the 21st century – that Rick Hunt encountered along the way.
One such issue was when he was discussing with his host in Vidin her thoughts about Romania. Vidin is in Bulgaria, across the Danube from Romania, and at the time of Rick’s trip (2011) there wasn’t a bridge over the Danube at that point, only ferries. I see that the bridge which at that time was under construction was completed in 2013. Be that as it may, Rick asked his host whether she often went over to the Romanian side. Her answer, as quoted by Rick, was “To Romania? Of course not! I’ve never been there”.
When questioned further, she expressed no curiosity about Romania. “The Romanians are not like us. They are different people”. Rick goes on to state that he found this attitude on a number of times amongst Bulgarians; not hostility towards Romanians, but a “profound lack of interest”. Instead, they looked culturally and spiritually towards the Balkans, even Russia and sometimes even to Turkey.
And a day or so later, he had a discussion with the manager of a guest house, whose attitude was that Eastern Europe was basically peopled by Slavs, with the Romania and Hungarian being a “wedge” of non-Slavs.
The interesting thing is that these attitudes reflect my own experience in Serbia. On one trip, when I raised with some of S’s family members in Belgrade that we were considering a day or so in Timișoara (a city in Romania not far from the Serbian border), the reaction was along the lines of, “Why go there? That’s not an interesting place”. Yet, from what I have read, I think I’d find a lot to interest me there. If we ever return (no plans for this!), I will ask again, and perhaps follow-up by asking if they have ever been there.
Moreover, the transport links – or lack of them – between Belgrade and Timișoara reflect this attitude, too. They are virtually non-existent, yet it’s 155 kms which according to Google Maps should take less than 3 hours by car (although, there’s a border crossing and I’m not sure of the condition of the road, so this timing might be optimistic). From Rome2Rio, it seems that currently there’s no direct train or bus connection between the two cities; apparently you have to make your own way across the border (there’s a 22 km gap between the two closest towns). However, although not on Rome2Rio, from TripAdvisor it seems there is a mini-bus which runs a service but only when booked. Presumably this would be our mode of transport if we ever made the trip to the city which was the starting point of the uprising against Ceaușescu.