‘Twisted Travels: Rambles In Central Europe’ By Jessica Zafra [Book Review]

twisted travels by jessica zafra

I’m not a huge fan of traveling, not because I don’t like discovering new places but because it usually makes me anxious. Airports freak me out. Boat rides make me reevaluate my life choices as if preparing me for inevitable doom. And although I enjoy bus rides, they also scare me sometimes.

However, I’ve been stuck at home for months now because of the pandemic, and I’m suddenly beginning to crave adventures. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about beaches. I terribly miss Baguio, too. At the same time, I can’t help but feel bad about our few travel plans that have already been canceled (we were supposed to go to Romblon and Bacolod), as well some travel goals my partner and I set last year (we wanted to go to Taiwan).

There’s no way these plans are pushing through anytime soon. But, at least there are travel shows we can watch online. Or, we can simply read books about travel. Like Jessica Zafra’s “Twisted Travels: Rambles In Central Europe.” 

Before I talk about this book, I’d like to say first that I love Zafra. Whenever someone asks me who my influences are when it comes to writing, I always include her in the list. I first heard of her in my first year in college. She was one of the authors who inspired me to pursue creative writing instead of journalism. I studied some of her pieces as a creative writing student, too. So, I guess it’s safe to say that I’ll read whatever she publishes.

But what makes me fall in love with her more is the fact that her work always proves that it’s worth my time. At the end of every book, I’m always able to confirm that I’m not just reading it because it’s by Zafra but because it is a good book.

With “Twisted Travels: Rambles In Central Europe,” things are the same. After all, it’s not just a book about travel. It does not simply enumerate the names of people, places, dishes, and experiences the way others do. Instead, it is a mindful account of a person’s journey and as such, it does not only focus on the great things.

Although it talks about beauty, it has tales of mishaps as well, like when the author’s luggage got lost and she had to endure a night with limited clothes. She also shares how her bag was stolen while aboard a train and how it was found later on, with her laptop and other things already gone.

I think its honesty just proves how complex travel can be. It’s not all about rainbows and butterflies, anyway. And, even in beautiful places in Central Europe, a lot of things can still go wrong. Sure, it’s rich when it comes to culture and it offers a lot of experiences. In fact, I get a feeling that simply being there is already a great chance to experience beauty.

But it’s more than that, especially if we’re also considering the places’ history, which Zafra also talks a lot about in this book. She even meditates on the past and how insights from such events can be used when making sense of what’s currently happening in this crazy world.

I especially am fascinated with the pieces focusing on Poland. Before reading this book, I wasn’t really familiar with that part of Europe. But it has helped me get to know more about this country–how it suffered, how it rose from the ruins, how beautiful it’s turned out to be, how it remains so despite its conflicted past, and how it does not forget about what happened in history.

When I get rich, I want to go to Poland. I want to explore Central Europe. I hope to win against my anxiety, so I can give it a shot because I think it’s going to be worth it. Besides, if I can get Stendhal Syndrome just by reading this book, what more if I visit the very same places Zafra has written about?

Leave a Reply