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Listen to Excess Baggage for

06 October 2007


Jan Pieńkowski, illustrator of children’s books such as Meg and Mog recounts his travels from Samarkand to Marrakesh in search of inspiration for his pictures for the retelling of the 1001Nights.

Romania became a member of the European Union on the first of January 2007.  Many of its citizens have begun to travel west, seeking work or taking advantage of increased freedom and prosperity, while other Europeans have been setting off in the opposite direction to discover a landscape unaffected by modern farming methods, of picturesque villages and abundant wildlife.

John McCarthy talks to country singer and doctor Hank Wangford, a regular visitor to the country, and Danut Marin, a guide to little known beauties of the Transylvanian mountains to discuss a way of life that has disappeared from much of the rest of the continent.

Presented by John McCarthy

Castle Bran in Transylvania, Romania (Commonly known as Dracula’s castle)

Photo: Castle Bran in Transylvania, Romania (Commonly known as Dracula’s castle) was the home of 15th century prince Vlad the Impaler, who inspired Bram Stokers Dracula.

This week’s guests:

Jan Pieńkowski is a illustrator and author of children’s books.  He was born in Warsaw and came to England in 1946.  Jan illustrated his first book at the age of eight as a present for his father.

To research his latest book a new collection of classic tales entitled The Thousand Nights and One Night, Jan visited many of the sources and settings for stories such as Aladdin, Ali Baba and Sinbad the sailor.

Jan travelled from Samarkand to Marrakesh, the width of what could be called the Arab world, and went to other places including Beirut, Oman, Luxor, Isfahan, Rajasthan, Turkey and Damascus.  He found a world of colourful clothes and equally colourful characters; Jan always carries a very small sketch book as an aide memoir, drawing whatever is in front of him, whether places or people.

The Thousand Nights and One Night
Publisher: Puffin Books
ISBN-10: 0141382880
ISBN-13: 978-0141382883

Hank Wangford is a country and western musician and songwriter.  In the seventies Hank also worked as a doctor in a drug recovery tent at music festival; his encounter with Gram Parsons let him to country music.  Hanks also writes travel articles for some main stream newspapers.  He has travelled extensively and written on Romania, Georgia, Argentina, Uruguay, Coney Island, St Vincent and the Grenadines and many more destinations.

Hank is a regular visitor to Romania as he continues to work in sexual healthcare and contraception in Transylvania where he has had a project for women since 1991 and has helped set up two clinics and is currently founding a third.

Danut Marin was born in Stântu Gheorghe, near Braşov in Transylvania.  After attending a wildlife guiding course, Danut has worked for a variety of companies as a guide in the Piatra Craiului area and later in the Danube Delta.  He is joint 2007 winner of the Paul Morrison Guide awards run by Wanderlust magazine.

From 2003 until now Danut has been involved in the Rowan Romania Foundation which designs cultural and social programmes for the benefit of those in the long stay psychiatric hospital and the gypsy communities in Zarnesti.

Danut leads trips for the Carpathian Conservation, Culture and Wildlife.  Most of Dan’s guests are interested in the traditional side of Romanian life and walking with a guide offers them a unique insight into the culture that might be missed with just a guide book or driving around.

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John McCarthy John McCarthy is a widely travelled journalist and presenter with a particular interest in the Middle East.
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