Hello, I am Caroline Juler and this website is dedicated to my interests in Romania. It contains information about some of the places I’ve seen on my travels, projects which I’m interested and research that I’m carrying out there. The site is aimed both at foreign visitors and Romanians. It’s my take on a country that continues to delight and infuriate me.
In 1996 I lived in Romania for five months while researching the Blue Guide. In 2006 I wrote the National Geographic Traveler guide. My other book about Romania is a personal travel story called Searching for Sarmizegetusa.
Several of the pages are, like Romania’s infrastructure, still under construction. I’ve also lodged some images of my art work here while looking for a more permanent site.
If you want to read more, please scroll down
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My passion for this vivid, battered, agonisingly beautiful country was fired in 1993 when I went to AnnArt, a festival of performance art held in the mountains of eastern Transylvania. Tormented by a hornet’s nest of emotional and political contradictions, I had ‘crossed the divide’ which still separates western from eastern Europe in search of some kind of personal salvation. Like many other Western visitors I was drawn to a romantic image of Transylvania but only realised dimly how well beaten the path in front of me had become. In spite of many difficulties both global and personal it has been an immensely enriching experience. One theme of my travels has been to appreciate how Romanians have found their balance after a series of catastrophic changes. Romanians have abandoned communism for EU membership via bloody revolution. They’ve had to get used to the shift from a tyrannical, centrally-organised economy when everyone had a job but food and electricity were scarce to an anything-goes capitalist system where the gap between rich and poor is much wider. Cynically speaking, the one thing that hasn’t changed is corruption, and that’s hard to eradicate because it originated in a much older system, dating back to the Phanariot rulers whom the Turks forced on Romania from the early 18th century. For many people corruption is like an addiction, for some it’s a belt-and-braces, the only sure way to get things done. One of the reasons I like Romanians is because of their sense of humour. Some might call their attitude to life superficial, side-stepping the real issues, too lazy or apathetic to confront problems head-on. As Tom Gallagher and many other sages have written it all depends on your point of view: what looks like corruption to one viewer may be a legitimate survival technique to another. But it’s the blurred edges that let corruption go free. There are moments when I could wring people’s necks out of frustration but there are also times when the Romanians’ batter-proof capacity for optimism is extraordinarily comforting. I love their ability to make fun of misfortune - facând haz de necaz. Goodness knows this country of hardy peasants has had enough practice. Many of the people I’ve had the privilege to know have endured terrible outrages without losing their capacity for enjoying the present and looking ahead to a better future. Apart from the strength that gives others, to me Romania’s beauty lies in its racial complexity, its medieval landscapes, the inventiveness of its craftspeople, the rarity of its wildlife, the savour of its rural heritage and its riveting music. The list is much longer than that, and includes the fact that there is such a thing as an extended family which looks after its old people and to another end of the spectrum, its additive free home cooking and wine making. Romania’s political and administrative systems are deeply flawed but monotonous
LATEST: Visitors to mamaliga may like to know that on 14th September Michael Pearson and I are organising an informal meeting to discuss Romania’s rural affairs and more particularly the problems which are being caused by the way the Romanian authorities are applying EU rules. This is with special reference to health care, rural culture and since Romania has more small-holders than any other country of Europe, subsistence farming. Although the meeting is private, I hope to post some of its results on this site.
15th September: the meeting was a great success and we hope to have more. One result which will be shown here is the addition of more links to, for example, the ADEPT Foundation which is dedicated to preserving Romania’s small farms and biodiversity... Link not live yet but you can google it.