Sturm, Twang and the Imaginary Wild West in Europe
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Cowboyland -- Italian Wild West Theme Park
OK -- Here's the link to Cowboyland, billed as the only wild west theme park in Italy. I can't wait to go, and I'll try to do so soon, if possible. It seems to be open every weekend in October.
It is located outside Voghera, and seems to be associated with the Cowboy Guest Ranch, also near Voghera, which hosts a variety of activities -- including a big rodeos -- the next in Oct. 12-13. The western scene in Italy is centered on horses and western riding. Country music (and trucks....) play only a marginal role.
There is (or was) a magazine called WesternSide that chronicled the scene (the web site is somewhat out of date) and I've attended several editions of "western games" at the ranchlike Tenuta Santa Barbara near Lake Bracciano near Rome, which included rodeo-style riding competitions as well as a variety of exhibitions, stands, etc. It's not clear from the web site if these are still going on.....
For several years I've been exploring the imaginary wild west in contemporary Europe -- observing and experiencing the many ways that Europeans embrace the mythology of the American Frontier to enhance, imbue or create their own identities. (Or, indeed, just have fun.) On this blog I will post pictures, stories and links relating to this multi-faceted subculture, from European country music to rodeos, theme parks, round-ups and saloons....
I'm an American writer, photographer, and public speaker long based in Europe. I've chronicled Jewish cultural developments and other contemporary European Jewish issues for more than 20 years and currently coordinate the web site www.jewish-heritage-europe.eu. My latest books are "National Geographic Jewish Heritage Travel: A Guide to Eastern Europe," published in 2007, and "Letters from Europe (and Elsewhere)," published in 2008.
I also am working on "Sturm, Twang and Sauerkraut Cowboys: Imaginary Wild Wests in Contemporary Europe," an exploration of the American West in the European imagination for which I won a 2006 Guggenheim Fellowship and an NEH summer stipend grant. In 2015 I was the Distinguished Visiting Chair in Jewish Studies at the College of Charleston, SC.