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Author: Elizabeth Short

The Herculean task of saving Europe’s oldest spa town

Băile Herculane, a small town of about 5,000 in western Romania, claims to be the oldest spa town in Europe. According to legend, the Roman god Hercules once stopped in the valley to bathe, lending the town its name. Today, a statue of the hero stands proudly in the centre, but his crumbling surroundings appear to be just a few years shy of becoming a ghost town.

It is after sunset, and the sound of trumpets blare through Băile Herculane station, signalling the arrival of old trains from the communist era. The platform is lined with shell-embossed lanterns, while unkempt vines drape over the seating area. An alpine scent permeates the air, and even at night, in the green glow of the lamps, the mist that hovers around the surrounding mountains is visible. No one who departs the train is under 50 and, as is common with most places where young people are few and far between, the station has retained the feeling of being from another era.

January 27, 2020 - Elizabeth Short

Welcome to Casa Jurnalistului – where Romanian reporters are rebuilding the media industry from the ground up

In an era of fake news, clickbait content, and cut-throat downsizing, it is no secret that journalism is undergoing a crisis. Although it is a global phenomenon, in Romania, the impact has been intensified by economic instability - 40 per cent of Romanians living under the breadline - and a corruption so rampant that the government is now decriminalising it. Frustrated at working in a climate where quality reporting was becoming increasingly difficult, Bucharest-based journalist Vlad Ursulean decided to take on what seemed like an impossible task - finding a sustainable alternative.

December 5, 2018 - Elizabeth Short

Activists fight for Ukraine’s disappearing Soviet mosaics

Following the implementation of Ukraine’s decommunisation law in 2015, many Soviet-era mosaics have faded from the country’s landscape. One group however, is making a stand against their disappearance, arguing that the works hold significant artistic, educational and even touristic value.

The last decade has witnessed the release of countless coffee table books dedicated to Soviet-era architecture, reflecting a growing interest, particularly in Western Europe, in buildings often typecast as “relics of a forgotten future” and “remnants of a failed utopia”, among others. Such interest has veered beyond an affection for the buildings themselves, centring on design elements such as socialist mosaics.

February 26, 2018 - Elizabeth Short

Mitigating Mayakovsky: Exploring the poet’s legacy in post-Soviet Georgia

Vladimir Mayakovksy may be known as a leading poet during the events of 1917, with his name surfacing frequently as tributes pour in commemorating the revolution’s centenary. However, scholars who direct a museum dedicated to the writer in his birthplace in Georgia, are arguing that his talent transcends the political and that the time has come to “read the unread poet”.

August 16, 2017 - Elizabeth Short

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