Tag Archives: Romania

Jewish heritage tourism in Bucharest between neglect and rediscovery

By Andrea Corsale, University of Cagliari, Italy

The Great Synagogue of Bucharest surrounded by communist apartment blocks, empty areas and new high-rise buildings. Source: Author’s own, 2016.

The Great Synagogue of Bucharest surrounded by communist apartment blocks, empty areas and new high-rise buildings. Source: Author’s own, 2016.

Multicultural and cosmopolitan places, where different national groups have made their mark on the landscape and contributed to territorial identity, offer significant opportunities for niche cultural tourism. Aspects of a complex heritage can be created, recognised, highlighted, reinterpreted and ultimately sold, diversifying the image of a tourist offering even after previous phases of neglect or destruction.

In places where minority cultural heritage has (re)surfaced in recent times, majority groups may react in terms of nationalistic confrontation or cultural dissonance (Tunbridge and Ashworth 1996). However, in many cases there is a clearly visible trend toward greater appreciation of historical minority group heritage. Besides locally specific political, social and cultural reasons, a pragmatic, growing interest in the development of niche tourism products is often one of the driving forces of this ongoing change (Krakover 2016).

One of the most remarkable and controversial examples is the growing interest in Jewish history and culture in central and eastern Europe, even in countries where Jewish communities have disappeared, or have been reduced to tiny and barely visible minorities, Jewish history and culture is increasingly recognised as a significant part of local and national history and identity (Gruber 2002). This heritage can be metaphorically viewed, and used to re-think and re-define collective histories, representations and narratives which either consciously or unconsciously support dominant or minority group images. This growing interest has produced an expanding niche within cultural tourism (Schwarzbaum 2015). However, Jewish heritage tourism in Europe presents unique features, as the sites generally represent the legacy of a minority which either disappeared (in some cases centuries ago), or is now represented by small groups of people with high median age and advanced degrees of assimilation. This implies that Jewish communities are not always able to keep a central role in decision-making related to the management and promotion of their heritage.

Both positive and negative aspects can be identified in past, ongoing and planned practices of revitalisation and commodification of Jewish heritage (Silverman 2001). Rampant commercialisation of Jewish-related sites raised significant negative reactions in parts of the Jewish community; at the same time, rehabilitation and revitalisation of Jewish heritage in many European cities has turned decaying and forgotten neighbourhoods into vibrant and cosmopolitan urban spaces (Sandri 2013).

My recent paper (Corsale 2017), published in The Geographical Journal, discusses the case of Jewish heritage in Bucharest. In this historically cosmopolitan city, the large and vibrant Jewish community has been dramatically reduced by emigration, but has left a considerable cultural legacy and still asks for involvement and participation in the management and promotion of their tangible and intangible heritage.

Jewish heritage in Bucharest suffered significant destruction over World War II and especially during the last years of Ceauşescu’s regime, when a large part of the old Jewish district was demolished and replaced with wide avenues, standardised apartment blocks and empty spaces (see the image at the beginning of the blog post). In spite of these losses, Jewish heritage remains significant, and includes lavish Moorish Revival synagogues, the last Yiddish theatre in Europe, Ashkenazic and Sephardic cemeteries and valuable buildings once designed or decorated by Jewish architects and artists. Thus, tangible heritage shows elements of both cultural and architectural flourishing, as well as neglect and destruction (see the Jewish Virtual Library). The intangible Jewish heritage of Bucharest, on the other hand, includes a rich tradition of literature, music, traditions, folklore and food which has been dramatically undermined by mass emigration.

The strategies, practices and discourses of different stakeholders linked to Jewish heritage protection, production and management need to be assessed and understood. The largely unexpressed potential of this niche within the development of tourism in Bucharest, along with early signs of economic and political exploitation by non-Jewish stakeholders, makes this case study relevant for the broader study of sustainable cultural tourism.

I have described and analysed the case of Jewish heritage in Bucharest to illustrate how the Jewish community perceives the critical elements and economic potential of its cultural heritage, and envisions its development (see The Romanian Jewish Community), and compared these perceptions and practices with those of non-Jewish stakeholders interested in this niche tourism development. Controversial and contradictory signs, ranging from ongoing heritage destruction to restoration of key buildings, reveal the underestimation of and interest in this cultural tourism niche (Romania tourism). Significant growth of this tourism niche and its structural integration into the city’s image might perhaps risk powerful stakeholders taking control and excluding both the tiny Jewish community and the small-scale specialist tourist operators. Through this case study, my paper ultimately aims to contribute to the discussion about the complexity of niche heritage tourism practices in multi-ethnic contexts.

About the author: Andrea Corsale is Assistant Professor of Geography at the Department of History, Cultural Heritage and Territory, University of Cagliari, Italy. He has a Ph.D. in African and Asian Studies. His research interests include international migrations, ethnic minorities, rural and cultural tourism, participation and local development, particularly in Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean Region.

books_icon Corsale, A. (2017), Jewish heritage tourism in Bucharest: reality and visions. Geogr J. doi:10.1111/geoj.12211

books_icon Gruber R E (2002) Virtually Jewish: Reinventing Jewish culture in Europe.  University of California Press

60-world2 Jewish Virtual Library http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/bucharest 

books_icon Krakover S (2016) A heritage site development model: Jewish heritage product formation in south-central Europe Journal of Heritage Tourism 12 (1) 81-101

60-world2 The Romanian Jewish Community http://www.romanianjewish.org/en/# 

60-world2 Romania tourism (n.d) Jewish heritage in Romania http://romaniatourism.com/jewish-heritage.html 

books_icon Sandri O (2013) City heritage tourism without heirs: a comparitative story of Jewish-themed tourism of Krakow and Vilnius  Cybergeo  DOI : 10.4000/cybergeo.25934

books_icon Schwarzbaum L (2015) Tracing Jewish Heritage Along the Danube The New York Times, 13 March 2015 

books_icon Silverman J (2015) Polish tourism benefits from Holocaust memories BBC news, 9 January 2001.

books_icon Tunbridge J E and Ashworth A (1996) Dissonant heritage: the management of past as a resource in conflict Wiley

Avalanche! How Trees Hold the Secrets of the Past…

Jen Dickie

Stob Ghabhar, Scotland. This image was taken from the Geograph project collection. See this photograph's page on the Geograph website for the photographer's contact details. The copyright on this image is owned by Richard Webb and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license. Last month, tragedy struck in the Scottish Highlands when an avalanche swept four climbers to their deaths. The experienced mountaineers were descending the Bidean Nam Bian peak on the southern side of Glencoe when the avalanche hit, causing them to fall 1000ft (c. 300m) before being buried under dense snow.  In a report for The Independent, Richard Osley describes how the tragedy occurred shortly after the Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) issued a warning that human-triggered avalanches were likely in the Glencoe area and the risk was rated as ‘considerable’.  The SAIS reported that on the day of the avalanche, there did not appear to be much depth of snow on the hills of Glencoe, however, there were areas of “mainly hard, unstable windslab” that overlay “a persistent softer weaker layer”; in these conditions more compact blocks of snow can separate from the surrounding snow resulting in a ‘Slab Avalanche’, this type of avalanche is responsible for the majority of avalanche-related fatalities.

As the popularity of the winter sports industry grows, there is increasing pressure on scientists to predict where and when avalanche events will occur.  Dedicated research centres such as the Swiss Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research are continually improving our understanding of avalanche formation and dynamics and therefore providing increasingly reliable warning services, however, they highlight that we are still unable to accurately predict “why, when and where an avalanche will be released”.

In an article for Area, Mircea Voiculescu and Alexandru Onaca describe how they have applied dendrogeomorphological methods to assess snow avalanches in the Sinaia ski region in the Romanian Carpathian Mountains.  By combining climatological and nivological (physical properties of the snow) analyses with information on disturbances recorded in tree growth, they argue that historical avalanche activity can be reconstructed, including the frequency, magnitude and return-period characteristics of the events.  This knowledge, they argue, can be used to make assessments of risk in areas such as the Carpathian Mountains, where the geomorphological understanding of local avalanches is limited.

As winter sports become more popular with non-expert communities, there is growing pressure to identify high risk areas and to provide appropriate warning systems that non-experts can understand.  It is clear that real-time observations and local knowledge are key to identifying avalanche risk, however, this research shows that by combining different techniques and approaches, we can increase our knowledge and understanding of hazards such as avalanches, and provide essential risk information to previously unmonitored regions such as newly established winter sports resorts.

books_icon Mircea Voiculescu and Alexandru Onaca, 2013, Snow avalanche assessment in the Sinaia ski area (Bucegi Mountains, Southern Carpathians) using the dendrogeomorphology method, Area 45 109–122 doi: 10.1111/area.12003

60-world2 Four climbers die in Glencoe avalanche, The Independent, 20th January 2013

60-world2 SportScotland Avalanche Information Service, accessed on 18th January 2013

60-world2 The WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, accessed on the 18th January 2013

Content Alert: New Articles (13th April 2012)

The following Early View articles are now available on Wiley Online Library.

Original Articles

Body capital and the geography of aging
Maurizio Antoninetti and Mario Garrett
Article first published online: 4 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01089.x

Commentary

Combining sustainable agricultural production with economic and environmental benefits
Amir Kassam and Hugh Brammer
Article first published online: 10 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2012.00465.x

Original Articles

Spatialising the refugee camp
Adam Ramadan
Article first published online: 10 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00509.x

The geographies of community-oriented unionism: scales, targets, sites and domains of union renewal in South Africa and beyond
David Jordhus-Lier
Article first published online: 10 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00504.x

Corpses, dead body politics and agency in human geography: following the corpse of Dr Petru Groza
Craig Young and Duncan Light
Article first published online: 10 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00502.x

Towards geographies of speech: proverbial utterances of home in contemporary Vietnam
Katherine Brickell
Article first published online: 10 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00503.x

The biopolitics of animal being and welfare: dog control and care in the UK and India
Krithika Srinivasan
Article first published online: 4 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00501.x

‘An instruction in good citizenship’: scouting and the historical geographies of citizenship education
Sarah Mills
Article first published online: 4 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00500.x

Boundary Crossings

Geography, film and exploration: women and amateur filmmaking in the Himalayas
Katherine Brickell and Bradley L Garrett
Article first published online: 10 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00505.x