In the 17th century, travellers moving down the Danube toward its delta were warned against travelling further by many of those living along its banks. Townspeople frequently claimed to be living at the easternmost point of civilisation, those living further downstream being “semi-barbaric”. A common view of the Danubian area in that time was it existing as a gradient between the civilised, rational Western Europeans and the strange inhabitants of Asia, a view that pervades through a great deal of travel writing. Though this idea is thankfully held by few today, the attitude persists. This was one of the topics found in this Friday’s lecture aimed to highlight the Danube as viewed by travel writers before the 20th century. It was given by Wendy Bracewell, a professor of South-East European history. The lecture made for interesting discussion in the tutorial afterwards, with topics of debate including the need to shake our western-centric view of civility and the difficulty in gaining an in-depth view of a culture when travelling.
We also had the opportunity to hear from Edina Csányi, who had arrived from Luxembourg to discuss her work with the European Investment Bank on cross-border project management. Her insight on this was valuable and a lot of the advice was transferable to other enterprises we may begin. Of particular interest to me was the discussion of how to overcome cultural differences to maintain a positive and productive working environment. In the afternoon, another Yiddish lesson covered the cultural importance of the shtetl, small towns supporting relatively large Jewish populations. Some group members carried out an interview to be uploaded soon, while the rest of the team prepared for the documentary filming to be carried out in Golder’s Green tomorrow.