Taking The Road

Whether the purpose is study, pilgrimage, or entertainment, traveling assumes a great thirst for knowledge and self-knowledge. Ioan Slavici believed that "rambling builds one's character." No mean feat, I'd say: were it for this alone, it would still justify an interest in the subject."The vice of travels: letters," Gerard de Nerval said once. But what would we do today without the remarkable attestations? Would we be able to reconstruct unexpected itineraries once trodden by talented Romanian travelers? Could we still savor their amazing power of reliving the moment when the "discoveries" were made? The thousands of pages resulted from the journeys of so many Romanian intellectuals are a precious heritage; yet this prolific and seductive literature is hard to sort out and classify. Reports, wanderings, notes, letters, diaries turned into documents, the tourist-author producing a remarkable specialized literature. Experienced amateur travelers ourselves, we took upon ourselves the fascinating, but potentially thankless job of looking into journeys, old and new, and selecting a few that may spark the interest of a foreign eye.Setting out for various reasons – social, financial, health, political, religious, or scientific – , the Romanian traveler proved surprisingly adaptable in time, and was permanently accompanied by a keen power of observation in most cases. How much is there purpose or necessity, and how much pleasure in a journey? Personally, I believe that the two planes mingle, whether the traveler agrees or not. Fate hasn't always allowed Romanians to travel for pure pleasure, but when traveling long distances out of necessity, they did not withhold their contemplation, analysis, interest, surprise, curiosity… At the same time, the times, the people, the places are recorded pertinently. And sometimes the Romanian traveler becomes a character himself.All in all, the project was a serious challenge. Olahus, Cantemir, Costin, Neculce, Filimon, Racovita, Burada, Dragusanu, Russo, Cipariu, Odobescu, Ghica, Hasdeu, Iorga, Calinescu, Ralea, Sadoveanu, Pann, Bacalbasa are only a few names of voyagers familiar to every Romanian.What is a journey worth in a man's life – seen by many authors as an unpredictable journey itself? To what extent does it elate – or disillusion? Enough, I would say, as to determine one to experience it. In the meantime, we share the delights of a few Romanian travelers.

by Aurora Fabritius