Galloping eastwards: the glamour of the fertile Pannonia

While still recovering from the hectic but fruitful new year trip in Czech Republic, Hungary, and Serbia, I decided it’s time for me to write something down about this interesting trip before the memory gets blurry. The followings are some of my personal trivial observation from the trip.

We went through Brno, Czech Republic, Budapest, Hungary, Novi Sad, Serbia, and finally Belgrade, Serbia in two weeks. Eastern Europe always appeared mysterious to me because of its turbulent history and unique culture. Waves and waves of steppe nomads came and settled down there, Huns, Slavs, Avars, Magyars, Turks etc. The region with the then-most incredibly heterogeneous demography now become THE most homogeneous countries in Europe (the last one being the secession of Yugoslavia). The fertile Pannonian basin and its surroundings was intricately divided among so many different borders. For example, it is one hour drive from Brno, Czech to Vienna, Austria, and to Bratislava, Slovakia. But you could barely see the trace of any former country and culture once you cross the border, even the villages are ethnically divided in a tidy manner along the border. My land lives my people.

Moravia from the peep of Brno:

You have to give credits to the Czech people, for they have, after all, retained their distinguishing Slavic language and traditions under thousand years of Germanic dominion. One could say the same thing to Slovakia and their Magyar masters, to a lesser extent. Anyway, Czech in Moravia probably tried everything they could to dissociate themselves with the Germans, but old obelisks have still been inscribed in Germans and the Mendel’s garden still stays behind the same old church. The influence of Germany of course does not stop at the stage of mere historical monuments. After the fall of iron curtain, Germany becomes the de facto suzerain of this country. Germans came and bought their industry and made everyone work for them. Germany to Czechs are like the United States to Latinos, people speak way more German than their poor Anglicky in this landlocked country of 10 million souls. It is interesting to see that a lot of people still live in the communist project apartments that were built at least 20 years ago. This is actually the common thing shared by all the countries I visited in this trip, something I, as a Chinese, would not really be unfamiliar. Brno was not touristic at all, unlike Prague. I really like the city because of this. But I guess also unlike Prague, there is a sense of depression among the people, as they do not seem to be happy with the situation, low wage, few employment opportunities, little casinos at the corner of every street. Typical Eastern Europe under the wingspan of EU. But at least people are well behaved and the food and drinks are cheap and of good quality. May their politicians be wise enough to keep the cheap Koruna instead of the shitty Euro.

Budapest, Magyarország

Budapest is a gorgeous pearl on the Danube River. It has a glorious past but a disheartening present. Though German is still a popular languages among the Magyars, more and more young people could speak some decent English, way better than their Czech neighbors. Once going out of the old town for tourists, the scenery changed totally. There are old project apartments, rusty rail lines and mindless graffiti all over. People still prefer to stay in the past as I understood. Everyone there could easily recited their 150 years of fighting against the evil Turks and victorious defend against the Mongols, even the hipster girls (to my surprise they do have a lot blondes) on the street would point out to a foreigner on the street: “We have fought 150 years against the Turks, now you said our language sounds like Turkisk?!” To them Turks never conquered Hungary, they just flashed off and went to Vienna. Whatever makes them happy out of the current shitty economic situation. Pity I didn’t stay long there, I would be more interested to get to know more about their unique language and yummy goulash.

Serbia: from Novi Sad to Belgrade

How do I start with Serbia. Hmm… It has excellent food and wonderful women. I was told not to bring up any conversations regarding the past with the locals. I did as I was told. I now regretted that I didn’t try harder. Probably I’d get a punch on the face, but it is definitely worth knowing. Either way, the country itself is even a bit less developed than Hungary. Czech -> Hungary -> Serbia. Three different levels, one looks more underdeveloped than another. You could still see a great deal of old Yugo cars driving on the dusty roads. I assume the economic situation could not be better than that of Hungary. On the road to Novi Sad from the northern border we crossed a little town. The only English billboard on the road belongs to an English learning school. The slogan of that advertisement was unforgettable: “School of English: Money is Coming”.

Germans along with their language are clearly not on Serbian’s favor list. Instead, lots of young people speak very good English. In the streets of Novi Sad and Belgrade there are English signs for tourists everywhere, something I didn’t expect at all in Serbia. The two cities are pretty much alike. Both on the Danube river, on the same street you could easily recognize which building was built before the communist era, which was built by the communist, and which was built after the communist (plus some rubble from NATO bombing they deliberately keep). A little bit nondescript, but who am I to judge when China fucked up all old cities in the past 50 years? One interesting observation about the society there is that it appeared to me that there is a tendency among the people to get rid of the trembling past and embrace the  “promising future” with the West, which is quite disappointing for me. New signs and commercials are more likely to be written in Latin alphabets instead of Cyrillic; American style shopping malls were erected in the city with glamorous merchandises that lull people to buy. I was wearing a random shirt in a bar in Novi Sad and the logo was immediately spotted by the young Serbian girls around me. It was the first time I got noticed because of what I wear in the bar since I came to Europe. This somehow reminds me of Hong Kong, and the very reason I left that place… I thought Serbia could be immune to the suicidal cult of western liberalism but I was wrong. The country is leaning itself unconditionally towards the hand of the West. And the only nationalistic group turns to be the red-neck jogging pants gang on the street. This is something extremely lamenting.

But once again, who am I to judge? Those places all have wonderful people, excellent food and very cheap way of living compared to the West. If I could move there sometime, I wouldn’t really hesitate and even would learn their language. I do, however, hope their civilization could revive, emotionally though.

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4 comments

  1. “I do, however, hope their civilization could revive, emotionally though.”

    They (or should I say we? I am Romanian) don’t really have a civilization to call their (our) own.

    Orthodoxy? A crap, backwards religion not much better than Islam (in its pure form, not contaminated by progressivism). Catholicism is much better (the Czechs and Hungarians are at an advantage here).

    Our “culture” is one of corruption. Lots of it, even more than Western progressive countries, at all levels of society, from politicians to regular people. The Turkish influence had a lot to do with this, we even have loan words like „peșcheș” or „bacșiș” which mean “bribe”, and the lack of Formalism (in the Moldbuggian sense) in the Communist period made things that much worse in this regard. Presumably it is better in Hungary and Czechia, but to give you an idea, over here in Romania it’s not the person/firm that is the most competent which wins contracts and bids for public works. Rather, it’s the one best connected to the political sphere. For example, there are two IT firms which are the regular customers of the Romanian state, and they write software for 1 million Euros, the same thing that an IT student could write for 1000 Euros. Of course, the politicians allowing them to win are getting some fat reward for their “generousity”.

    Multiply this at all levels of the economy, and you will discover why were are still so poor, and why China has 740 times the amount of expressways than in 1989, while Romania has less than 3 times the amount of motorways (both countries had about 100 kms of expressways in 1989)

    The values of civilization were brought to this part of the world by the German overlords; the Czechs never had a nation of their own, while Hungary was conquered by the Muslim Turks, and not because their civilization was superior. A superior civilization is one that can defend itself against Muslims fighting in jihad, or at least one that can get its act together in the 12th hour like Spain did. Rather, Hungary was saved by the Habsburgs.

    This brings us to what you refer as “civilization”: this is, of course, the Germanic civilization.

    The once numerous German colonists in Hungary and especially parts of Transylvania are all but gone, and those in Czechia as well although their influence there lingered for a longer time. Which is why Czechia > Hungary > Romania >= Serbia (that and the IQ gradient in the Balkans, decreasing towards Asia Minor). To be fair, even the Germans have lost a lot of their greatness due to leftism, but their values of hard work and discipline still hold on. The rural parts of Germany and Austria (like the Alpine parts and skiing resorts and villages) still hold on to tradition, even the cities are orderly and clean and the law is respected much more than most other parts of the world.

    Even if we wanted to restore our former glory, that of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, there is hardly no German here left to show us how it should be done (one of the few left, the mayor of Sibiu, wins every time with 90%+, voted by majority Romanians, although I suspect that even he was corrupted somewhat by the majority culture), and the modern-day Germany refuses to put itself in its rightful place, as ruler over Europe (Deutschland über alles), insisting instead on equality with the lesser nations (for fear of turning into the 4th Reich, perhaps). The Habsurgs were the best thing that ever happened to our ancestors, they built railways, dikes, and brought civilization throughout their domain. But they also gave in to Hungarian nationalism, which allowed the nationalistic Hungarians to discriminate and bully the other nations in their half of the Empire. This is why my great-grandfather and many others opposed the Empire, instead supporting union with the Kingdom of Romania (which was also ruled by a German king – Germans were the best ever rulers of Romania too).

    Sometimes I think how much prosperous would my family be if Hitler had won the war, instead of having to suffer the terrible consequences of the progressive Franklin Roosevelt selling us out to the Russian communists (which totally destroyed the morality and values of the people and from which we might never recover as a nation, probably unless we will again be under the strong hand of a principled, smart man – preferably a German man)

    1. “Orthodoxy? A crap, backwards religion not much better than Islam (in its pure form, not contaminated by progressivism). Catholicism is much better (the Czechs and Hungarians are at an advantage here).”

      No, it’s not crap. Catholic is way more corrupted than Orthodox. At least I haven’t heard of any pedo priest from the Orthodox church. Not to forget the catholic fanaticism in the middle age which waged waves of destructive crusaders that messed the Orthodox church greatly. Catholicism is dead in eastern Europe. The most irreligious country in the world is Czech Republic, and Hungary is not far behind. In contrast, the affiliation with Orthodox survived after Muslim and communist rules and actually thrived in recent years as a strong identity tie for the EE people. You can’t say A:Catholicism is better and B:Czech and Hungary are better because they “believe”in the pope in Vatican.

      “Our “culture” is one of corruption. Lots of it, even more than Western progressive countries, at all levels of society, from politicians to regular people. … while Romania has less than 3 times the amount of motorways (both countries had about 100 kms of expressways in 1989)”

      Corruption is the problem everywhere. You see Western Europe nowadays is in much better shape. But the corruption back in the days of industrialization was no less severe than that of Romania right now. Funny you brought up China as a counter-example. Let me tell you something, the corruption and the patronage are much much worse than you think in China. Actually I think this is something Eastern Europe shares in common with China. EE are most likely fucked by its shitty policy and economy after the fall of iron curtain. I know Romanians had worse dictator back in the days. But at least I know for Czech, the country was much better in shape back in the days for the people (social order and living condition).

      “This brings us to what you refer as “civilization”: this is, of course, the Germanic civilization.”

      I think Germans are awesome too. But it doesn’t mean that Germans didn’t mess up the whole Eastern Europe after the fall of iron curtain. Take Czech Republic for example, after WWI they had the chance to establish their country and soon become one of the fastest growing economy in the world. They had a great industry of literally everything. This persisted during the communist era. I got friends there whose grandfather used to travel around the world to help other countries to design oil rig system. The ironic thing happened after the fall of iron curtain, when German capitals swarmed into Czech and bought everything they wanted, including Skoda e.g., and forced local factories to close down as the stupid open policy of Czech politicians made no efforts to protect their own industry. The situation now: Czech is the whorehouse for the Germans, and also the compulsory customers of German products. Not to mention how Germany screwed up Serbia. Eastern Europe did have great history in the past. The kingdom of Hungary was pretty awesome, it stood 150 years alone against the Turks (not to mention its glory in the Medieval Europe). The Hapsburg, they would fall in the hands of Turks too if the Polish didn’t come to rescue them in time. I am not looking down upon the Germans, I would just like to remind you that Eastern Europe had its time, too.

      The reason I like to see a stronger Eastern Europe is because I dislike the prevalence of leftism in the Western Europe. I hope there’s some hope at least laying in their eastern neighbors, where nationalism and social conservatism still hold considerable grounds. But I am afraid I might be too optimistic in the end. As I observed in the trip, together with other trips I made in this region (I went to Czech three times, Croatia one time aside from this trip), Eastern Europe is becoming a piece of fat meat for the West, Germany in particular, which supplies cheap labor and whores to the west, while stupidly being stuffed with all sorts of products from the west. No offence to Romanians (you guys must have lots of influence from the Slavs, except for the language), I think Slavs are just as smart as Germans. The IQ difference is not that critical after all.

      “Sometimes I think how much prosperous would my family be if Hitler had won the war, instead of having to suffer the terrible consequences of the progressive Franklin Roosevelt selling us out to the Russian communists ”

      well, then soon after you were sold to the Germans again, unconditionally. Germans see EE nowadays the way America sees Latin America.

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