Book Review: Berlin to Bucharest – Travels in Eastern Europe

Berlin to Bucharest – Travels in Eastern Europe

Gill, Anton

Grafton Books, London, 1990

Beginning in Hamburg (en route to Rostock) and ending in Albania, the author relates details of his travels just behind the iron curtain in the final days before it fell apart in a shower of rust.  East was East and West was West, and bored young men with machine guns saw to it that it remained so while this odd Englishman bounced around rutted backroads in a rented car.

It is not a guidebook in any normal sense, in fact one tends to think that those few passages which sound like a guidebook were rather loosely based out of the pages of whichever English language guidebook he happened to have left open on his table in hopes of luring some adventurous local into conversation.  It is instead a guide to the people and perceptions he came across in what appears to be a marvelous web of friends of friends of people he has worked with or meets along the road.

The bridge at Mostar was still standing when he visited, perhaps as the final English-language author to comment on it while it still stood.  The tensions within the lands he traveled were beginning to strain the iron around them, and cracks had already begun to form.  His view, however, was not at the impending tear but on the remaining whole substance which, even after the events which the future held out for them, still forms the basis of the populations through which he traveled.

 

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