Sunday 21 June 2020

Smuggling and bear hunting in the Carpathians in the late 1830s

I mentioned a few days ago John Paget's lovely book Travels in Hungary and Transylvania, which I read at university. 

Here is a passage about Wallachian peasants smuggling salt, shawls and Turkey carpets from Bucharest to Krondstadt (Brasov) and on occasion from Roumelia or even Adrianople (Edirne), followed by an account of a drunken Austrian general in a bear hunt being pursued by a bear and calling out 'Back! rascal, back! I am a general!'

Being pursued by a bear is no joke, even if they look like they want to give you a friendly hug. From time to time they succeed in killing people, sometimes in towns. One killed someone in Sinaia a few years ago. 

For some reason the technocrat government, the one before last, decided to make hunting bears illegal. The number of peasants and tourists killed by bears will doubtless increase.

I was fascinated by Hungarian (including Transylvanian) early nineteenth century history at university and some years ago was sad to find the Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford specialises in Hungarian history, which when I was up was an incredibly obscure subject. 

I admit I feel jealous. Failure is not the only penalty for sloth. There is also the success of Sir Richard Evans. 

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