Home June 2009 Blue River, Black Sea by Andrew Eames-click here if you not agree with the article

Blue River, Black Sea by Andrew Eames-click here if you not agree with the article

by Ionela Flood

The description of Bucharest in this review it is offensive on my opinion . Please visit the project ReAct on http://www.reactgroup.org.uk/ in order to make your complaint.

Descrierea facuta Bucurestiului in aceasta recenzie este ofensiva dupa parerea mea.
Va rog vizitati proiectul ReAct pentru a combate aceasta atitudine de denigrare, pe adresa http://www.reactgroup.org.uk/

Va multumesc,

Thank you,

Ionela Flood

Romanca Society


DAILY TELEGRAPH Two travel books: review
Christopher Hudson assesses Blue River, Black Sea by Andrew Eames and The Empire Stops Here by Philip Parker
by Christopher Hudson
Published: 2:38PM BST 18 Jun 2009

A bicycle ride the length of the Danube is not exactly on the tourist itineraries. Europe’s greatest river is getting on for 2,000 miles long, and nice riverside promenades are few and far between. It emerges in Germany’s Black Forest, near the Swiss border, and flows through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania, where most of it empties into the Black Sea.

Another reason why writers don’t often tackle this journey is that they are walking in the shadow of one of the finest travel writers of modern times. Patrick Leigh Fermor went this way in the Thirties, his young head spinning with classics, languages, history, botany and joie de vivre, to write A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water. Andrew Eames uses him as his inspiration.

His aim is to find out how much of Leigh Fermor’s romantic mittel-Europa has survived 75 years of brutalisation, hunger and upheaval, first under Hitler’s ravages and then under the dead hand of Soviet Communism. Eames rises to the challenge. He describes the landscapes and the people he meets, but as he presses on downstream by bicycle, horse, boat and on foot, he unrolls a fascinating potted history of central Europe, starting with the reminder that if the Danube had flowed from east to west instead of vice versa, Europe would have suffered constant barbarian invasions. As it is, the repercussions from the last war continue, as with the hundreds of thousands of elderly German Swabians and Silesians who feel themselves outcasts in the towns they have lived in for the last 60 years. And Slovakia, which gained independence only in 1993, turns out not to be Slovak at all but a melting pot of largely German speakers, with Magyars, Serbs, Saxons and Swabians all taking advantage of its lack of physical borders.

Eames cycles through featureless plains, cut off from the river by rust belt industry, before junking his bike, overcome by loneliness and disheartened by the great time Leigh Fermor was having there 75 years ago. Where he does successfully follow Leigh Fermor is in lining up central European aristocrats, Hapsburgs and Hohenzollerns, to interview and sometimes cadge a bed for the night. Fewer in number now, they are all utterly anglicised, with liberal views and delightful manners, putting their children through English educations.

Eames is a good companion for a Danube journey. He speaks most of the languages, after a fashion; he knows how to read a reversed compass; and can tell his stonechat from his whinchat, his burdock from his marshmallow. Open-minded, he is as inquisitive and forthright as any good journalist. Budapest is vibrant and cosmopolitan, although its House of Terror museum with its background screams and moans is a vivid reminder of Hungary’s recent past. Romania’s capital, Bucharest, on the other hand, is “brutal, soulless, insipid” and dangerous as well. Yet the Romanian countryside is described so glowingly that I felt like leaving for there at once – not forgetting to carry a Dazzer high-frequency gun to repel dogs. The last stage, his eccentric decision to row a green plastic bathtub 23 miles through the Danube’s delta to Sulina on the Black Sea, almost kills him. But Paddy Leigh Fermor, now in his mid-nineties, would surely approve.

Roman leaders preferred river frontiers like the Danube wherever they were practicable, points out Philip Parker in The Empire Stops Here, his tour d’horizon of the Roman Empire’s frontiers, from Carlisle to Antioch, from Aswan to the Atlantic. This is a labour of love, clearly the work of long years in which Parker retraces the 10,000km of mountains, deserts, forests and grasslands, which were Rome’s frontiers at its apogee, and describes the lives of the people who defended them. He sets out to discover how much of them survive, both physically as ruins and as dividing lines between cultures.

It turns out that Roman frontiers were rarely as clear-cut as Hadrian’s Wall. With the exception of Persia, they were more like zones of influence policed by the legions. Likewise, many Roman forts in Syria and Turkey have been heavily plundered for building repairs. Some of the best preserved fortified towns are in North Africa. Lambaesis in Numidia (present-day Algeria) preserves the ground-plan of a Roman fort better than almost anywhere. Some 25 miles away, a forest of pillars in the desert marks the once prosperous Roman town of Timgad. Etched into the limestone of the forum is a legionary’s graffiti: “Hunting, bathing, gambling and laughing, now that is living.”

Blue River, Black Sea: a Journey Along the Danube into the Heart of New Europe

by Andrew Eames


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