In the morning lecture, Dr. Lorman discussed the romantic notion of the Danube as both a highway and a boundary between countries in Western and Eastern Europe. Throughout its history, the river was mostly unnavigable, especially with formidable natural obstacles such as the Iron Gates in Romania.
But from the 18th century onwards, Danubians have attempted to regulate and channel the river, gradually bringing its wild waters under control. It was surprising to learn that the Chain Bridge in Budapest, completed in 1849, was the first bridge to be built over the river east of Vienna. It was also interesting to hear about the river’s cosmopolitan associations, unlike some of the other, supposedly “national” rivers, which have their sources in their respective countries of origin. In our tutorial we learned more about the difficulties of navigating the Danube, and thought about how the natural geography of the Danube Basin has influenced the development of European history.
In language class our teacher, Jelena, treated us to even more delicacies! She cooked us homemade burek, a filled pastry made with layers of thin, flaky filo dough. The burek was filled with egg, but it can also be filled with cheese, and even meat. Sometimes it is twirled round in a circle,to form a snail-shell like pattern. The same thin dough is used to make baclava, a sweet pastry, and another food which is popular throughout former territories of the Ottoman Empire. To wash Jelena’s delicious home cooking down, we were also treated to some Turkish coffee, which was sweet and aromatic to taste, and also very strong!
In our project session we discussed metaphors of the Danube and attempted to consolidate what we had built upon in earlier sessions. We thought about the ways in which the Danube simultaneously bridges, divides, and thus both mixes and isolates the peoples who have both benefited and suffered from its flows. We also thought about how we could engage our audiences with our different projects, and reflected on how the first week of the school has shaped our impressions of the Danubian region. With much filming, writing, and preparation ahead of us for next week’s events, It looks like we’ll have a weekend with lots to do!