what you get here

This is not a blog which opinionates on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers to muse about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

The Bucegi mountains - the range I see from the front balcony of my mountain house - are almost 120 kms from Bucharest and cannot normally be seen from the capital but some extraordinary weather conditions allowed this pic to be taken from the top of the Intercontinental Hotel in late Feb 2020

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Border-crossing at the Danube

Two tasks have occupied me these past few days. One of my daughters had come across some letters between her mother’s parents and it had led her to wonder about aspects of my own parents and family. I duly pulled out the pages I had written about some of this way back in 1995 and set to work…….over the weekend I had about 30 pages…

At the same time, my thoughts had been running with an idea for a project in the lower reaches of the River Danube - which I have been crossing every few months these past 8 years…at Russe in the east

Later this week I am scheduled to cross it for the first time in Bulgaria's north-west corner - thanks to the new EC-funded bridge at Vidin - also near the border with Serbia….And to stay overnight at the refurbished mansion – Port Cetate – now a cultural centre owned by one of Romania’s best known personalities, poet Mircea Dinescu whose satirical sketches I remember watching on Romanian television in the 1990s…
I had sent the centre the latest draft of my new book Bulgarian Realists – updated edition – as well as the E-book Mapping Romania - notes on an unfinished journey - and wondered whether they might not be one of the partners for a future bid for (cross-border) EC Structural Funds with a focus on art, culture and wine…

Alternating between Bulgaria and Romania has made me think a lot about cultural differences. 
Despite sharing the Danube as a border, the citizens of the two countries have (apart from the summer trips to the Bulgarian part of the Black Sea) little contact and know very little about each other. 
It probably hasn’t helped that the Dobrogea area at the Black Sea has changed hands several times in the past few centuries – nor that the Bulgarian alphabet is Cyrillic and the Romanians so proudly Latin  
Indeed it would not be exaggerating to suggest that relations are characterised by a “state of studied indifference”. This is confirmed by the common perception that the two nations turn their back on one another at the Danube ….

On Sunday I invited an old friend who is one of its most experienced consultants in cross-border work to my flat here in Sofia, replete with art and library, in order to brainstorm about a possible project. With a wine from the Rila Monastery - in his case a Mavrud; in mine a Chardonnay.

I’m glad to say that he too he was enthusiastic….Of course there have been previous projects such as TourNet – Promotion of cross-border networking for development of a common Bulgarian-Romanian tourist product (EC 2012 - see linked Photo library of the Danube Region); Impact Analysis of People-to-People project in Danube area (2013) an interesting pot-pourri of projects (covering, amonst other topics, dental treatment, chess, singing); and Rafting holidays
These are just some of the projects using EU and other funding to develop cultural trails in this part of the Danube but they seem to have had limited timescales or ambition. Supply-driven approaches always fail – as do good ideas which don’t take root for not trying to generate local understanding and commitment.

Cultural Routes in the Middle and Lower Danube Region - the Roman Emperors Route and the Danube Wine Route, for example, is a German/Serbian project for the development and marketing of transnational and cross-border routes in Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Croatia, launched in 2012 by the Danube Competence Center (DCC) and supported by the German consultancy GTZ.
The project runs another year and has issued a brochure and handbook - Managing visitor on thematic cultural routes

I have a deep interest in and knowledge of Bulgarian and Romanian painting (and wine) – as well as 20 years’ experience as a consultant in capacity building – and am trying to work out how I can give something to what I see as nothing less than a spirit of reconciliation which is needed between the two countries. A lot of consultancy companies have jumped into the vacuum but what is needed is something much deeper

The trick will be to find a powerful over-reaching theme…. 


  1. Ron, as a literary connoisseur, I thought you might be interested in my new, exciting socialist novel 2017 that is now available. Its full of intrigue, sex, violence, and fast paced action. Just redy for a good Christmas read.

  2. Hi Boffy - indeed I would love to get a copy but only the kindle version seems to be available - and have so far not been inclined to get a kindle......