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Journey to the East东游记|Week 3 Review

Week 3 review

Feb 15-Feb 21

Waterloo marked the end of the grand imperial notion that the East was merely a 'provincia' for Western exploitation or, in darker views, a source of barbarism. The pivotal turn of the battle came with the unforeseen, yet timely, arrival of the Prussian chief commander and his forces.


In Vienna, last seen as a bastion of Europe during our event, the city's resilience often relied on nuanced strategies to uphold its self-image. Vienna's claim as the ultimate shield against Eastern pressures was forged through three near-defeats to the Ottomans in the 16th and 17th centuries, a legacy that has shaped its character for generations.


My journey took me past this 'last bastion' to cities like Bratislava, Budapest, and Belgrade, places where Eastern influences are inextricable from the cultural tapestry. Despite numerous attempts to subjugate or erase these influences, each has withstood the test of time, leaving indelible marks of a shared history.


In seeking to understand how the Ottomans — and Muslims at large — have been integrated into the regional identity, it's clear they represented not only formidable power but also a legacy of intellectual and cultural contributions that have shaped the Balkans for centuries. From the decisive Battle of Mohacs to the historic peace of Karlovci, the intermingling of Austrian, Magyar, Serbian, and Turkish influences has created a rich mosaic of cultures.


More recently, the Balkans served as the frontline between German-speaking Nazis, Serbian Partisans, and the Red Army. The Vienna Schwarzenbergplatz's Soviet War Memorial and the Battle of Batina Memorial bear witness to yet another failed 'Drang nach Osten' by German forces.


The third major manifestation of clashing universes are the traces of what came to be called the Cold War. An “Iron Curtain” cut Europe in two parts, with several countries I pass at the frontline: Slovakia, Hungary, and in a more ambivalent position Serbia. For decades these countries have been by and large defined by a war that never broke out in full, but which impact on society and culture cannot be over estimated. Most impressive on my journey through this part of Europe was a visit to the Socialist model industrial city of  Donaújváros,, formerly known as Stalin New Town. This was no longer about a facility to produce (steel, weapons); this was nothing less than a comprehensive attempt to design another society.


As I venture deeper into the territories once shaped by Ottoman, Serbian, Magyar, and Russian presences, the East sheds its veneer as a mere Western projection and begins to unveil its own rich layers of history and experience. The closer I look at specific facts and circumstances, the less meaning broad labels like 'Balkan' or 'Slavic' seem to hold. My journey south to Belgrade will soon reveal more of this complex tapestry. If I, Godspeed, will make it.


Confronted with the tons of climbs in Serbia only.


Visit to local countryside church with a new display of religious splendor.


The Batina monument.



Journey to be continued...

and to follow the Journey by





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