what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Some good guides for the visitor to Romania

At the beginning of last month I did a roundup of blogs on/from Romania which are available in English. I omitted, however, one very significant one. It may not frequently post – but is always worth reading since it comes from Caroline Juler, the author of the excellent Blue Guide to Romania  – for my money far and away the best guide to the country.
Juler’s post of 30 August gave very useful background on how the EU farm policy affects the country
Romania has millions of small-holdings which are not considered commercially viable but which support the people who run them.  Calling them subsistence farmers implies that they are unable to support themselves in any way, which isn't necessarily the case.  A lot of 'subsistence' farms produce food for the families who work on them, and in Romania the coldly bureaucratic notion of a subsistence farm is so alien to the character of a small, working family farm that it's laughable.  Romanians use the term gospodarie, which means home, hearth, the centre of the family, a spiritual haven, a place where people grow real food rather than the processed muck that global corporations want everyone to buy, they embody self-reliance and self-sufficiency, and encompass hundreds of years of tradition and history...  If the world had more gospodarii, we might have less starvation.

Yesterday’s post raised some delicate issues about how foreigners experience modern Romanians and Bulgarians. I know this leads into some ridiculous generalisations – country folk are different from urban; young people from old; Transylvanians from those in the plains; etc etc. But those visiting other countries like to get a handle on these things – and will then proceed to make up their own minds on the basis of the places and people they find themselves with.
Alan Ogden’s books I have not, sadly, yet read. But several good books don’t figure on this list -
- The Pallas Guide to Romania edited by John Villiers is more of a cultural and historical treatment of the country as a whole than a travel guide. As with all Pallas Guides, it has superb old black and white graphics and photos – and rates in my collection of “beautiful books”. Cheap copies were easily found in Bucharest’s second-hand bookshops earlier in the year.
- Historian Lucian Boia’s Romania  can actually be downloaded in full from that link. It’s a very nicely written history – the only one which is easily available (Keith Hitchins is more detailed but covers only 1866-1947 and is older)
Tom Gallagher has written extensively and vigorously about the country’s post-communist politics. Details of his two books on the subject are in the link – and his Theft of aNation can be googled here       
Mountains of Romania is a lovely guide for the hill-walker

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