If you love Romania, this is a travel story for you: Searching for Sarmizegetusa by Caroline Juler.
“To many travellers,” writes Jessica Douglas-Home in the foreword to this book, “Romania has exerted the most powerful fascination. They have found that this country more than any other has illuminated their inner beliefs with the intensity of a magnifying glass. So it has been for Caroline Juler…”
Searching for Sarmizegetusa is more than a travel book: it is both a homage from the heart to a country that the writer knows and loves, a lament for the inestimable natural, cultural and historical riches that globalization and ‘progress’ are steadily destroying. Yet it is also a song of hope and a summons to challenge the irresponsibility of human greed. Famous as a prehistoric Carpathian citadel, for Caroline Juler, Sarmizegetusa is also a symbol of Romania’s spirited rejection of corruption and bad governance in the 21st century.
In the late 1990s, she became involved with the struggle to save the historic site of Roşia Montana from open pit mining. She has written for the popular radio programme, From Our Own Correspondent, and is currently researching a book about Romanian shepherds’ epic journeys to the Caucasus and beyond.
Reviewed by Kimberlee J Benart for Readers’ Favorite (d.d. 11 December 2017)
Searching for Sarmizegetusa: Journeys to the Heart of Rural Romania by Caroline Juler is the author’s personal account of her travels and experiences in Romania, but it’s also much more. An author and art historian, Juler found herself deeply attracted to the culture, the history, and the people of Romania, especially the undeveloped areas where simple village life still followed age-old patterns, and natural beauty wasn’t yet spoiled by industrialization. Juler also became very concerned at the possible destruction of nature and history through proposed mining operations in an archaeologically-rich zone. An Afterword provides an update to some of the issues with which she wrestled. Simple illustrations and maps are sprinkled throughout to add to the reader’s understanding.
Caroline Juler describes Searching for Sarmizegetusa as “a pilgrimage, a fictional journey and a collection of true ones.” In my opinion, that’s an understatement. I found Juler’s blending of ancient and modern history, with her vignette-like accounts of her adventures, and the philosophical debate on environmental and cultural preservation, fascinating. Her writing style is precise, intellectually satisfying, highly descriptive, and utterly enjoyable. Doses of humor are sprinkled here and there, and the simple illustrations are charming. This is no dry or dusty travelogue. It’s a delightful, amusing, and very warm-hearted conversation with a friend who has just returned from a long journey and has so much to share, including a sincere concern for preserving what is best of the past in the face of a modern future. If Juler takes you to the heart of Romania, it’s through her own heart.