The Roma and the Jews–Travel

Visiting the Roma is a tricky business. There are Roma in almost all big cities in Eastern Europe, but established Roma encampments–especially those that are home to a large number of Roma who live in poverty–have little in the way of traditional tourist infrastructure. The best bet for connecting with the Roma and sharing their culture seems to be to visit a long-standing Roma village like Zece Prăjini, home to the gypsy brass band Fanfare Ciocărlia, where, if you’re lucky, you’ll stumble upon a performance like this.

Over the last two decades “Heritage Travel” has become increasingly popular for people of Jewish descent. Jews who have done a good deal of research into their family history may travel to a particular region or even pinpoint a specific village where their ancestors used to live, visiting to connect in a more complete way with their Eastern European past. Others will take time out of their Eastern European adventures to tour synagogues, explore formerly Jewish parts of town or to even visit Jewish cemeteries. There are many.Â

More information:
A forum thread on visiting the Roma | A blog about Jewish heritage travel (includes a comprehensive list of Jewish heritage travel links–scroll down and look on the right side of the page) | A comprehensive list of Jewish cultural festivals in Eastern Europe | The main character in Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated travels to Ukraine to reconnect with his Jewish roots | How do peoples with a history of forced wandering relate to the idea of travel? Do nomads and those in exile, considering their experiences in the diaspora, say “travel broadens the mind?”

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