SOCIAL SCIENCES

The Fault Line: Traveling the Other Europe, from Finland to Ukraine

Rizzoli. Mar. 2015. 272p. tr. from Italian by Gregory Conti. maps. ISBN 9780847845422. $27.95. TRAV
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Former war correspondent Rumiz (Italy's La Repubblica) and author of numerous travel books written in his native Italian chronicles his 2008 journey on the EU's frontier. He travels from the frozen Hyperborean lands to the Mediterranean, along much of the eastern front of World War I. As the title suggests, this frontier is shaky ground, with ethnic and political conflict, and the legacy of lost, displaced, and uprooted people. A 60-year veteran traveler, Rumiz set off, with minimal baggage, a photographer friend, and his notebooks, taking trains, buses, and cars through the historic border regions, areas where the true "Mitteleuropa" exists despite shifting map lines. The mingling of empires and peoples is found in Latvia, where Russians were caught by moving borders and hold alien passports, Jewish synagogues sit abandoned, and the Latvian identity is still expressed in singing. Kaliningrad markets offer Cossack honey and badger-fat folk remedies as well as ATMs dispensing rubles and dollars, and gangsters in stretch limos. A friend in Warsaw reminds the author that "difficulty equals story," and Rumiz finds stories all along the way.
VERDICT A glimpse of a hard journey through hard times, highly recommended for those interested in European history and little-known corners of travel.

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