Monday 7 January 2013

Back to Bucharest

Back this morning from Jerusalem, a city I love with all my heart, to Bucharest under snow, another city I love. But though exotic, Jerusalem is still in the same cultural zone as Bucharest. The essentially Arab old city of Jerusalem certainly is and modern Israel is a First World country that reminds me of Greece, though more solvent.

I met a Bosnian Serb translator, crossing from Jordan to Israel, who knows Arabs and Israelis very well. She told me, when I asked her, that the Holy Land was definitely part of the Balkans.  I think so too, as is all the Levant, especially Syria and especially the Christian Middle East. 'I recognise everything here from the Balkans', she said. 

But Romania is only half in the Balkans - Romania was only half in the Ottoman Empire and never in the Byzantine Empire. More concretely, in Romania, except the Dobrudja, Muslims were not allowed to settle. Most concretely of all, Romanians have shaorma (everywhere) but not (usually) baklava. 


Bucharest cab drivers are fascinating and form an Aeschylean chorus in my life. The one this evening (he was 62 and looked very ancient) said the Romanians are unfit for democracy because they are ethnically heterogeneous and quotes Mircea Eliade to this effect.

I tried to say that though I agreed with his conclusion I did not agree with his premise and thought heterogeneity was one of the strengths of Romanians but he quoted Eliade at me at every turn. Apparently Romanians are not sufficiently Dacian. I said Romanians are less ethnically mixed than the British.


I have not noticed any changes in the weather in my lifetime but Romanian taxi drivers are unanimous that they have. I am becoming increasingly confident that global warming is not very important but the taxi drivers make me hesitate.

1 comment:

  1. Some parts of Romania were in Byzantine Empire too, Dobrudja and south of the country.