Monday, 21 February 2011

Train journey from Bucharest to Clacton-on-Sea, 2010

 31 July 2010.

I woke with no thoughts of leaving Bucharest or starting the holiday that Francis and Geo had thwarted yesterday. And then I spoke to Mr K who advised going to the Bierten Show via Medias and I found the train to Medias left at 9.50 which meant I had plenty of time and then I saw that I didn’t and rushed and made it with my usual minutes to spare. This sounds like my account aged 10 of my family holiday by train in the Norfolk Broads. And the diaries I started before puberty for a few days after Christmas very narrative. I woke up watched Top Cat. We had cheese on toast for breakfast. The same little boy is writing like children tell stories. The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.

The train will be an hour late because of works on the line and this too is life. I speak to Geo who went alone yesterday after telling me he wouldn’t be able to. He was too shattered by my SMS (saying if you says you will do something you should do it) to call me and invite me to come. And we agree to meet in Sighisoara.

Sighisoara ten years ago a gem of a German town out of the Brothers Grimm is no longer supportable. Some towns can absorb tourism but Sighisoara is too small to do so. Cafes in what Nancy tells me the guide book calls a charming square. I am resolutely not charmed of course. Oh joy, mediaeval music from a bar. Nancy arrives with Eugeniu and how well one knows someone from Facebook. Much better than from a dozen cocktail parties. She has a hat to protect her from the sun and seems truly happy. Eugeniu is unchanged. Geo arrived with tourists he has picked up and has settled at a table in a cafe and expects me to come to him and my coffee has just arrived. Eugeniu flatly refuses to meet to go to Geo. All parties are proud and I find this absurd but am I also guilty for noticing or caring? Nancy liked the Biertan festival. I say I think X is a phoney. “I don’t rely on anyone and I expect nothing from them.’’ A good philosophy. What is mine? X is harmless. Why does she irritate me? Because she is affected. Like Geo. And it is her false persona and we all have them but hers is intended to draw undue attention to herself by a false individuality. Physician cure thyself Paul.

Two enchanting Saxon villages towards the end of the day with fortified churches closed. A horse and cart which has survived the EU, horses with scarlet to avoid Geo tells me the evil eye. I remember reading that the evil eye is about envy and being disappointed that it did not mean P.’s psychopathic stare. But P. is consumed by envy and this is close to the root of evil in her and every case. ‘He has a daily beauty in his life which makes mine ugly’ was all the explanation Iago gave for his crimes. P. could say the same. 'The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light; but if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!'

A solitary middle-aged Saxon with the key to one of the churches refused to open it. The Romanian fields at the end of the day. I am enchanted. Make a special effort to be nice to Geo and listen to his story about how badly organised and Communist the festival was - his film was mangled when shown at the festival and the accommodation he was given after much prodding was dam even though he told them he suffered from pulmonary problems and at the far end of the village. Why did it cost an effort to sympathise? I did say: but you know things are always like that in Romania.
He suggests Viscri where the Prince of Wales has a house and this is an inspired idea. Although the little road that took us there had two (only two) potholes and this made him regret it.
Not innocent of tourism as it all was ten years ago but I should learn from my mistakes to visit it now. Some pensions though this is as serene as Biertan used to be. Also on the UNESCO list. The lane to the church with trees. Could anywhere in Greece be lovelier? Something Balkan somehow in this little Saxon town.

The Germans colonised Transylvania, Estonia, Latvia and Poland and in the end with the coming of nationalism they lost their dominions. While the Anglo-Saxons exterminated their natives the Red Indians and aborigines. A. J. P. Taylor: ''If the Germans had succeeded in exterminating their Slav neighbours, as the Anglo-Saxons in North America succeeded in exterminating the Indians, the effect would have been what it has been on the Americans: the Germans would have become advocates of brotherly love and international reconciliation.''

The long street lined with Saxon houses, some painted lilac or ochre, very poor, very serene. Like Biertan in 1999 one wants to capture the calm of the place in a jam jar and keep it like a pot pourris. Why didn’t I build a house in a place like this like Patrick Leigh Fermor did in Manas? And the place to do it would be as Andreas insists Pestera......

A pension where we cannot stay but can sit outside eating very god mushroom soup, a good stuffed pepper, much tuica, execrable homemade rosé wine. Geo talks animatedly to the group of French tourists. One is a Romanian who left in 1980 who asked us many questions but when we ask her about herself and I ask in jest if she were a spy she as Geo notices quickly leaves. She is he is sure a former secret policewoman. He is I am sure paranoid and it is unlikely. Spies always say they are diplomats. Why writing this did Geo irritate me so much? – he was after all making all this possible. He is a control freak. This suggests I am one two. Jung said when someone irritates you you thereby learn much about yourself. His fussiness. His need to be in charge. His studied eccentricities. Dancing tango in the street for example which is fun, actually. And many nice things. His dislike of expensive places, his liking for low dives, his mourning the old Lipscani. I liked the sense of a party but went off before Geo to share a bedroom with him but not luckily a bed.

Geo’s alarm played for 15 minutes without pause before he awoke and we exchanged words, Mr Pooter expression.

Breakfast. A Polish architectural historian with his Austrian wife who has lived in and loved Poland since 1990. At first she met some anti-Austrian prejudice. Not now. The Poles are forgiving I thought.

I walk through the village. The fortified church. The paintings on wood C17th, angry and red. The war memorial. It is the Sunday for one of the Lutheran Masses which are held every two weeks. The pretty blonde Saxon lady spent 15 years in Germany but is happier here. Jessica Douglas-Home is her boss. I wish I had met JDH via Robert Silva in 1990.

I am trying hard not to lose my rag with Geo. Why? His jaunty walk, his hat, his smile are annoying. Finally we detonate, and part angrily. I feel the violence of this but also a great calm. However am now stuck in Viscri without transport which is good and bad.

No-one want to take me anywhere on Sunday. Enjoyed the peace of the village. I was alone with Eugen at dinner and discussed how much he likes the peace. He started his pension in 2004. A bottle of tolerable wine from the shop which cost 10 RON.


Slept 11 hours.

Ica short form Domnica lived and works 5 years in Sighisoara for five years but disliked the hurry of town life. Life here is poor. She lets out rooms. Keeps cows. Her husband makes food for pigs and sheep. Their son Cristi is 10. This is a way of life which will shortly vanish. Thomas Hardy’s England. The way Europe was from prehistoric times till after the Second World War. The Europe of the poets and painters. I have passed 12 years in Bucharest pent and shall do so no longer I vow.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

I fall into agreement for Ica’s husband (name?) to drive me to Rupea and take in Homorod. All I see of Rupea is the great castle overhanging the little town. The little town after two nights in Vicri transportless seems a different place from what it would seen passing through from a car window. It has shops and a railway station.

Homorod. Wonderful church as much castle as church. Johannes Martin (Hans) has the key. We rouse him. His is in house clothes pyjama like old amid his vegetable garden. 84 he tells us proudly. He opens the church.

Between the thick walls and the church are brambles. The walls are two feet thick and more. The Tartars and Turks never took it he says. I admire very much the paintings on wood on the stalls. Jesus dressed like a 17th C Saxon farmer broadcasting seed.
This colony surrounded by Tartar and Turkish enemies, illiterate Romanian helots with an alien religion, Hungarian and Szeckler allies.
Hans is asking about Vicri. What does Carolina do these days? The Saxons left and now only seventeen remain instead of 800 familIes. Gypsies replaced them. Saxons built the impressive school in 1900. I forgot to ask him if he had descendents.
In 1944 when the Russians came his father feared deportation but they had a good doctor who invalided him out of the army. Why die fighting for Russians? said the doctor. Hans fled to the forest alone and lived in berries like John the Baptist for five months till he judged it safe to creep back.
The Securitate and the Communists were terrible people with no culture and no souls he told me. I believed him. Their children are now capitalists and flock to Monte Carlo each summer. They preferred gypsies and Romanians to Saxons. But sto Hans said we never had any problem with Romanians. But the Hungarians drink.
I finally catch a personal train, the first in my life which takes hours to travel a few miles the best way I always knew to see Romania. And I retrace my rail journey via Augustin of Saturday. I resist the temptation to stop there for four hours. Brasov. I am tired. Lunch and the internet and looking for somewhere to stay eat the day. An email from P. is surprise. Strolling in the evening. What was once a great Saxon town now Romanian. Erika her mother having got her passport will leave tomorrow morning. What a shame and my plans to see the fortified churches of the Szekerfold are postponed. I call Akis and am invited to stay tomorrow in Cluj.

Budapest hot. Airless.
Missed the train caught the second. €39 return to Salzburg. Dullish journey without mountains. Gleaming factory roofs caught the sun. 

E in pyjamas revolting repellent soft has decided not to go to Mass despite ordering me to be there at 8. Because the weather is good as I had told him it would be. He had irritatingly said the BBC forecast was propaganda for tourists. Half dead and half alive. I did not want to pray alongside him but spent the Mass trying to pray rather than listen to Haydn and did neither, most of the elderly congregation were there, I decided, to do the latter and then told me other peoples prayer lives are not my business.

Berchtesgaden six bus journeys (and 6 hours in all) but I replaced one with a taxi and one with a steep 3 mile downhill walk. The taxi driver who seemed unashamed of his country’s past said Hitler was only there 4 times because he suffered from vertigo. At the summit was a tea room where Germans enjoyed the view. I remember an old lesson: when you’ve seen one mountain you’ve seen them all. Only towns are interesting. And perhaps the sea.

In Salzburg much was closed, the Nepalese student who was Connie to Basil Fawlty when I asked her if she liked Austria said it was paradise. The Sikh in the restaurant also liked it and I understand very well why. The awful room beyond the lumber room. I take a shower.

Monday, 9

Journey to Feldkirch via Innsbruck.

Wonderful Alpine scenery. The reason I remember why I made this journey. E agreed with me that mountains are not interesting but from a train they are, though literally Not Memorable. They leave no trace in the mind unlike buildings towns.

In parts a lovely Alpine Sinaia or Borsac but the parts with painted mediaeval buildings are thronged with tourists and full of souvenir shops. Who buys this stuff? Much much more touristy than Salzburg. 3 and ¾ hours enough. Some great churches. But the empty baroque of the monarchy, the family in search of or flight from an idea.

Feldkirch. Tim (or I?) got the dates wrong. A long bus journey to another place. Long walk into town and town seems unattractive until I found the market square and Reinhardt handsome authoritative and cool Alexandra’s crony and ate in his cool restaurant one of the four or five best meals of my life. Beef topped by friend onions a description that does not do it justice at all. F feels like a forgotten Alpine principality. Like Bellinzona. Suddenly Austria is redeemed.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The mad old woman who keeps the hotel told me it was 500 m to Liechtenstein and was astonished I proposed to walk it.

I wish I enjoyed the magnificent mountains. Instead I counted and recounted the numbers of countries and capitals I had visited. Lichtenstein according to Wikipedia is one of 4 doubly landlocked countries. Unlike Einstein signing the patent for toblerone which is a poem enlarging the universe this fact is deeply un life enhancing and train spotterish. But I try without success to think of another. Slovakia! Yes. Belarus no. Rwanda? Burundi?
The road asphalted suburban. 2 miles? Then the border. Empty police station with photograph of the prince. Mountains as beautiful here as anywhere else. I am doing this for my 10 year old self fascinated by miniature countries. A village called Mauren.

A woman drives me to the bus stop and then I take the bus and change at another village. The village is called Mauren. All the buildings are no older than late 70s. Like Japan. Prosperous people eat on balconies and the place is calmly disgusting. An inscription names many distinguished persons who were born there including an auditor general in the department of military justice in the 1860s. Such is the nature of fame for which men give their lives.

I reach Vaduz in the intense heat. Vaduz is entirely modern. Well spoken British tourists buy souvenir visas and I do too. This is another world from mine. Chinese or Japanese. The toy train which inevitably twines through the place. Paul Gallico. Frank Muir. A fat porcine faced man running in an ill fitting suit. Banks. A five star hotel which turns out to be a law firm. The castle hanging over the placed. How lucky the Liechtenstein family were. Others submerged by Communism or the lucky ones bled by progressive taxation in Austria.

Hell I suspect resembles Liechtenstein. Underground garages, large new houses, ugly Victorian churches, crucifixion statues, money laundering for distant dictators.
Christianne who says she was 50 the day we met is nice, young in spirit and looks around 38 or 40. Just divorced. She knows the Prince of course and after forty years has become one of his subjects. Her father was the first German officer killed in the Second World War. I am not sure how sympathetic to be.

The long bus ride home. Another bus ride very long from my old to new hotel. A very nice woman saves me from being lost. She is in Feldkirch for her health. Sent by psychiatrists. Suffers from unstable behaviour a kind of psychopathy. I ask if she has no empathy. None. No idea of right and wrong? None. Psychopaths stare, I say. 

Oh so do I. 
but she is on drugs. She is not I said to myself a psychopath. Fat, intelligent, I liked her and wanted to help her.

The mad woman told me to take the wrong bus but the psychopath put me on the right one. Feldkirch turned out to be old and have a cathedral but I missed all this and the possibilities of rest by long bus journeys dull Vaduz and anxiety about my things. A woman on the bus told me to take my wheeler which I had left at the bus stop otherwise I might have lost it and would certainly have lost two hours made much worse by merciless self laceration.

I unlike Tim am anxious. Anxious about forgetting things.

Two women with tattoos. I wondered after a moment if they were whores standing by the road looking for custom or not. Then they crossed the road and entered the church. Which still left the matter in some doubt.

The cool restaurant which very unusually for this country opens 7 days a week but today is the cafe menu and I have an unmemorable and expensive pasta and write this.

Wednesday 11

Train journey spectacular to Zurich. I envy the professor of medicine at the next seat who is going to be consulted and is clearly clever. I should be a professor.

Zurich a complete surprise as everything is if you don’t read guidebooks. (How I once prepped.) it is not Frankfurt but a charming old town straggling both sides of the lake which hear is the breadth of a river like the Thames in London. Then Berne a bigger surprise and my time was running low as I once more got on the wrong train and lost 2 hours. Once more the mistake was an easy one and I forgave myself. I used to fear making these mistakes because I feared my sadistic superego. Berne a complete surprise. And the German Switzerland reminded me much of Geneva. Switzerland is one country. And different from Austria. The cathedral closed. The long main street full of treasures.

Lake Geneva from the train window. A Pole buys me a drink in the bar and tells me about life in  Lausanne where his parents moved to in 1990. He cannot remember Communist Poland. Lausanne is fun he says because of East Europeans. Lake Geneva suddenly seen like a poem. Rain.


Breakfast with P. in Lausanne exuding insincerity mixed occasionally with momentary flashes of self-congratulatory cruelty. Carefully ensured that she showed  a glimpse of rather skinny thigh as she crossed her legs and smiled her creamiest smile, lied a lot, boasted about her income but complained that no-one picked her up which sounded true. She is terribly bored by chaste, law-abiding Switzerland. They do not have office affairs. The only prospect who invited her to dinner a 70 year-old Belgian tourist brought his daughter with him. What an evening that must have been. 

The second female psychopath in two days.

It difficult for the female psychopath when she reaches the age of 40 but she shows psychopathy is no bar to success in a multinational company. How very very bored she must be. Evil can fascinate good people but it must actually be terribly boring to be evil. Evil is a negation, the absence of something or or many things.It is a dreadful thing to grow up without a conscience I suppose. Rather like from the Catholic point of view being homosexual.

She claims untruly to have brought about the dismissal of X. But P. is not a sadist. Sadists take an interest in other people. They feel their pain. Like Bill Clinton but in a less benign way. Other people are real to them. Other people are real to P. because she wanted to and knew how to use them to help her achieve her goals. And that she said was all. Know what their drivers were. Usually money sex or status but sometimes other things. But people were also important  because they provided what she needs more than  the power which she thinks is her only goal. They provided the audience which she craves as much as any actor or any writer.  She wants to be admired, to be feared, to be desired, best to be hated and envied. They were as real as the human figures in Adolf Hitler’s eerie talentless landscapes.

The secret sadness of the psychopath. I am not sure I buy that. Her life is crowded  by ego pleasures and as at the moment by ego pains. Lots of people live like that. She couldn’t bear to be alone of course when she ceased to exist. Many people who are considered normal are like that too. I am the one who is odd living without these things.

P. is the classic psychopath but that is an tautology because all psychopaths are classic psychopaths. They all resemble each other like happy families, just like a pickpocket resembles Adolf Hitler or Edwina Curry. But I sometimes wonder if the psychological explanation for P. omits another aspect of her makeup. Is Romania is psychopathic culture where people lie and fuck and bribe and politicians take kickbacks from heroin importers? Do Romanians have consciences? They have a fear of losing face like a psychopath, a fear of being caught but do they have sense of right and wrong? Is that psychopathic or because they are oriental? And so we move from cod psychology to the cod psychology of nations.

Two interesting quotations from Martin Israel on this subject.

The light of the demon-possessed individual with a yearning for absolute power consuming their soul is alluring and scintillating, its strength magnifying itself and deceiving its object so that its source lies unrevealed except to those of spiritual sight who can discern the emptiness of the chalice from which it emanates. This falsified light also comes primarily from God, who is the source of all life, power and light, but it is shown to be perverted by the corrupted will of the creature who has grasped at a divine status.

..some frighteningly destructive people seem to have had all the social ingredients for a happy, constructive life. They are called psychopaths, but this categorization does nothing to explain their character. It is they who are especially powerful mediums of destructive cosmic forces, and their power is related to their intelligence and their ability to communicate on a psychic level with other people.

From Lausanne to London in seven hours with time for hasty (Indian) lunch in Paris.

Friends in Covent Garden, a wine bar, a good curry. Then El Vino’s just before closing time and we are allowed in without except in ones case ties. The long running saga about their refusal to serve women must have finished much more than thirty years ago. Yes. Now two female barristers sprinkle four letter words. The wallpaper so dingy and 1860s, the whole place like a RS Surtees novel. The quintessence of England. Until it closes to be replaced by a sushi bar owned by an Israeli investor

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Edmund Spencer, “Travels in European Turkey, in 1850″

Edmund Spencer, “Travels in European Turkey, in 1850: through Bosnia, Servia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Thrace, Albania, and Epirus, with a visit to Greece and the Ionian Isles, and a homeward tour through Hungary and the Slavonian provinces of Austria on the Lower Danube”, London, Colburn and Co., 1851, vol. 2, p. 404

We would recommend the traveller, who may be desirous to make the tour of the Danube from Constantinople, to land at the little port of Kostendshe, on the Black Sea, by which he will escape a long and disagreeable voyage round by Soulina, the only navigable channel of all the outlets of the Danube. At Kostendshe he will find an agent of the Austrian Navigation Company, whose duty is to aid the traveller and attend to his wants. There are vehicles always in readiness to convey him to Tchernawoda, on the Danube, where he can amuse himself by visiting the villages of the Bulgarians in the neighbourhood till the arrival of the steam-boat.

In the time of the Romans, the Emperor Trajan entertained the idea of making a canal from this place to the Euxine, which, if completed, would shorten the distance from about three hundred miles to thirty, an enterprise that might be carried into effect at a very trifling expense, when we consider that the ground is quite level, with the Karasou lake in the centre of sufficient depth to assist the undertaking.

The late Sultan Mahmoud, who was really a man of energy, caused the ground to be measured and marked [p. 405] out, and would have carried the work into execution, had he not been prevented by the Cabinet of St. Petersburg. We presume, because it was contrary to the treaties of the navigation of the Danube, which secured to Russia the only practicable route to the Black Sea — that by Soulina; but as this treaty has expired or was said to expire in 1850, leaving the navigation of the Danube open to every nation, this much-desired work ought to be carried into execution, which would not only pay the contractors an immense profit, but considerably benefit the commerce of the Lower Danube. We fear, however, that the weak sovereigns of Austria and Turkey dread the displeasure of the Autocrat too much to carry the design of the vigorous Roman into execution.

In the mean time the poor mariner is obliged to adopt the long and tortuous route, the Soulina channel, which, owning to the accumulation of sand at the bar, can only receive vessels of a hundred and fifty tons burden; and we have still greater cause to regret, the non-completion of this work, when we remember the number of lives that are lost every year by malaria and fever during this voyage, rendered so long and tiresome, by endeavouring to avoid the sand-banks, as the mariner is almost certain to carry home with him the seeds of a disease, which it is said never leaves him.

Such a canal as we have alluded to, if constructed of sufficient depth for large merchant vessels, would materially facilitate navigation; for after passing the Delta of the Danube, the river deepens considerably till we arrive at Kladesitza, in Servia; here the navigation [p. 406] of the Danube is again interrupted by a ridge of rocks running across the river, called the Demirkapa (iron gate), and notwithstanding all Count Sz’echenyi, that excellent Hungarian, had done to deepen the bed of the river, the passage is still dangerous. This was proved a few years since by the loss of a vessel, its crew and passengers. The boat, on arriving in the midst of the rapids struck against a rock, became unmanageable and turning round with the most frightful rapidity, was instantly submerged in a whirlpool sufficient to engulf a man-of-war. The only panssenger that escaped was na Osmanli, who, being doubtful fo the ability of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of the Danube to ensure the safety of the vessel, landed with the intention of pursuing his journey on the banks of hte river till the danger was past. But the laughter and ridicule of his fellow passengers induced him ot alter his determination, and as he was in the act of stepping on board, a ring containing an amulet slipped from his finger, this was decisive — he would not tempt Kismet, and thus to the loss of a ring he owed his life.

Like that between Kostendshe and Tchernawoda, this break in the navigation of the Danube might easily be avoided by cutting a canal on the Servian side of the river at Kladesitza, which would then open an uninterrupted communication from the Black Sea into the heart of Germany, and shorten the route between Constantinople and Vienna, to a five days’ voyage at the utmost. It would appear, from the appearance of the marsh, that a canal had actually existed here, at some time or other, perhaps the work of the Romans, [p. 407] and which on their expulsion from the country, and the barbarism that followed, fell into disuse, and in process of time became filled up.

Can anything afford a more decisive proof than this, of the want of energy and enterprize in the inhabitants of these provinces; and of the indolent supineness of their rulers. We may ridicule the apathy and inertness of the Turks, yet here we see the noblest river in Europe running a course of eighteen hundred miles from its source to the Black Sea, traversing a succession of the most fertile countries, and uniting by the most natural, direct, and least expensive route the commerce of Central Europe with the vast countries of the East, still remaining in a state of nature. Every successive flood carries away with it the soil, and not unfrequently even the villages on its banks, and form accumulations, which impede navigation, together with vast marshes and stagnant lakes, from which arise exhalations, the most prejudicial to the health of man.

A few hundred thousand Anglo-Saxon colonists, if they found these countries a desert, would have done more in fifty years for the navigation of this noble river, and the salubrity of its banks, than all its Czars, Kaisers and Padishahs, Krals and Ko:nigs, Herzogs, Hospodars, Beys, and noble Princes, have effected in centuries. It is true they perfectly understand the parade, the marching, drilling and stuffing of soldiers (we do not mean internally), the ‘eclat and magnificence of courtly etiquette, the maintenance of an army of spies and court favourites, nor are any more sensitive [p. 408] to an invasion of their own royal will, or more prompt in cutting the throats of their own subjects, and those of their neighbours, about some crochet of precedency, or an acre of disputed territory. To support htese undertakings money is ever forthcomming; but for the execution of any great work of public utility, the advancement of industry and commerce, there is not a farthing to be found in the exchequer. Can we then wonder at the discontent of a people, ground down by taxation to support all this theatrical display, and finery of the State; or at Socialism, Republicanism, Deutsch-catholicism, Panslavism, Panteutonism, and all the other isms, which have already shaken Europe to its centre ?

Tradition saves, traditionalism kills

I love the past but hate conventionality or narrow mindedness. I am sometimes a reactionary but not really a conservative because I don't much like the status quo. Despite all my attempts I can't help being very broad minded.