Thoughts on “Up, Down and Across the River; The Danube through Travellers’ Eyes”

Istok ljubi Zapad [East kisses West]

Author: Alex Heaton

Where exactly does east end and west start? On a spherical planet everywhere is east of somewhere else just as it is also west. Only when we imagine a smaller area such as a continent is it easier to have an east side and a west side, but even then there is no longitudinal border that marks east from west. Is the dividing line in Europe then Vienna from where travellers from traditionally western European countries have said Europe becomes more “barbaric”? Or is this simply because few translated texts exist for the opposite point of view of eastern travellers heading west? Perhaps this idea of east and west is then the remnants of competing Empires. Two different cultures from the Ottoman Empire in the east and the Habsburg in the west, each considering themselves more “civilised”. Then this is an interesting point on different views on what being “civilised” actually is. Surely it is arbitrary as different cultures have different ideals and perspectives; therefore will have a different view on “good culture”. In a region such as the Danube where several ethnicities, languages and historical influences mix it becomes easier to see why a simple east/west divide is so difficult to define.

Here is a song by an old Yugoslav band “Plavi Orkestar” [Blue Orchestra] on East kissing West. Plavi Orkestar was a rock band from Bosnia, founded in Sarajevo  – a country which, though not on the Danube, is the place where East kissed  West.

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