mukikamu

The Armchair Traveler Club

Archive for the ‘EUROPE’ Category

LUDWIG KOHL-LARSEN

Posted by mukikamu on March 16, 2009

I knew nothing about  Ludwig Kohl-Larsen before finding his book about the migration of Lapps in Northern Norway among my travel books. My interest was aroused because I have seen a breathtaking documentary of Bruce Parry about the migration of the Nenets in Siberia last year  and  the way of life of these Northern tribes, along with the magical landscape stuck to my head for a long time. I seriously encourage everyone to watch the show and read the book for some not depicted details. Kohl-Larsen’s tale tells the story of the journey of Lapps and their herd of reindeers to their summer breeding fields by the North Sea. My copy was publishes in 1958, so the anthropoligist’s visit must have taken place before that time when modernism has still left these areas of the world quite untouched. LKL is said to be a pioneer of cultural anthropology and is pragmatic about the description of daily life, but deliberatly avoids dry scientific terms to enhance the readability of his travel journal. Some of his cross-cultural encounters made me smile. Imagine an ascetic German revolting over the cruelty and harshness of Lapps. A real treat.

Apart from the uplifting tale of the legendary migration, you can find some deliciously truthful facts about the circumstances (the best part I think):

– Every woman is called Berit. Well most in the story anyway.
– Among the cold, the wind, the snow, these people eat discusting meals with appetite. Some of my favourites are the “blood balls”, the intesine snacks and reindeer tounges. All served with fur. Oh, and traditionally they keep the ingredients in “reindeer stomach bags”. Don’t ask.
– Not truly surprisingly regarding their poor circumstances, the Lapps are terribly mingy and hide everything even from their own families. Stealing is not really a sin, more a warmly welcomed skill. They are increadibly shameful of this though afterwards.
– Lapps take no water with them for the journey, they just eat the snow if they are thirtsy. Or they drink coffee. A lot. With salt. Out of a plate.
– Cooties everywere, no bath, but wonderful teeth.
-”Buris, buris” means good day!
– The ear of dogs is cut back, so that they could hear their masters better.

Ludwing Kohl-Larsen most famous works however are not about the cold parts of the world but about the hot territories, like Africa. He was a great anthropologist even if his political views were somewhat reprehensible.

(Der Grosse Zug Nach Mittelnacht – Eine Wanderung mit den Lappen zum Nördlichen Eismeer)

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Some partly related shocking images.

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Posted in EUROPE, Norway, travel, travelbook, Travelers | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

ERIC NEWBY: ON THE SHORES OF THE MEDITERRANEAN

Posted by mukikamu on October 2, 2008

Eric Newby is much praised by critics for his distinctive style, tireless enthusiasm and ‘insider-like’ travel stories and it’s true that he has a special point of view. Not many people are as knowledgeable and well-travelled as he is. However, I have been struggling with his book for two years now.

First I sat down to read it from start to finish, but his writing was tiring and I gave up several times. I figured that the best way to get through his book was probably to pick up the relevant chapters before going on a vacation to get an insight on the places on the menu. This seemed to work for a while, because you’re less likely to overload and if you see that you only have a 20-40 pages to read, you are more likely to push through. Nevertheless, by the time we got back from our holiday in Greece and Turkey, I was sincerely glad to tuck the book away.
 
I can see why Newby was one of the great travel writers of our times, but I miss the sense of discovery from his accounts. He knows everything about the places he goes, but he is at times annoyingly informative, sober and well-educated for my taste. I personally miss the romanticism and mysticism from his travels. His English is very uniquely classy which is distinctive, but harder to a non-native like me to read.

I don’t give up easily though. He is only on the bookshelf until the next trip to the Mediterranean.

Posted in AFRICA, Albania, Algeria, Croatia, Egypt, EUROPE, Greece, Italy, Libanon, Macedonia, Morocco, Spain, Syria, travel, travelbook, Travelers, Turkey | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

GERALD DURRELL

Posted by mukikamu on August 11, 2008

What bliss it is to re-read one of Gerald Durrell’s books! I found the beautiful Penguin edition of the Corfu Trilogy (My family and other animals/Birds, beasts and relatives/Garden of the Gods) in the corner bookshop and there was no way to resist purchase. I took it away with me on vacation and it was just the perfect companion. My family and other animals is hillarious still and the magic of Durell’s storytelling fills you with warmth that you have much known in your childhood. Adventurous, sunny, witty, it’s a must.  If you are living in a city everyday, it’s all you need to unwind and live on a paradise island in your heart.

 

After finishing, I started Zoo in my luggage right away.

Posted in AFRICA, Books, Cameroon, EUROPE, Greece | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

MICHAEL PALIN: NEW EUROPE

Posted by mukikamu on June 3, 2008

A book accompanying the TV series always fails to offer a sense of discovery, yet, for devoted followers like me, in Palin’s case, is a blissful sin of marketing. We all lit up when a hard copy of New Europe with Palin’s portrait on the cover landed as a present in our living room. Especially, as this time, he travels through my home region, Central and Eastern Europe.

 

I have always believed that Michael Palin must be one of the nicest people on Earth. He comes in second to David Attenborough in terms of personal heroes because he stays humble and light-hearted even in less comfortable situations. I grew up watching him show me the world, which clearly isn’t as rosy as in his documentaries, yet I am generally grateful he resists being diminutive. I have read all his books, I have seen all his travel programmes. I am definitely what you call a fan.

 

 

This historic admiration puts me in an awkward situation when trying to review his new book, because I could certainly criticize him for many things. The question is whether I want to. Someone who has given, and continues to give you joy should never be criticized. Still, I feel blind fanatism on the long run would lead to untruthful consequences, so it is with a heavy heart when I say the series have seem to have become a routine and Palin’s crew rushes through these European countries. For me, they lacked interesting, not-stereotype-like material and fail to break through the “grey” image of post-communist countries. I admit, the sights here are not always as exotic and as spectacular as elsewhere. The thrill lies more in the history of the region, but looking to the past, showing signs of the bloodshed these nations strive to put behind, is an easy way to get away with the show. I know it’s hard to go around the past, but naturally it hurts my sense of PR when the potential and interestingness of Central and Eastern Europe stays in the background.

Maybe I just have more hands-on experience with this part of the world, maybe I was over-enthusiastic. I don’t know. To top it all, being a native, I am oversensitive of course. I know I am. But you should never wait for an outsider to tell you new things about you homeland either.

 

Despite all the above, I am not the type who has a heart to take an idol to pieces. I certainly wish Michael Palin would have enjoyed his trip more, but surprisingly, he is no less likeable in my eyes. Do you happen to know when he is setting off again? 

 

 

Posted in Albania, Books, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, EUROPE, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Travelers, Turkey, Ukraine | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

DANIEL KEHLMANN: MEASURING THE WORLD

Posted by mukikamu on March 18, 2008

The reason why Daniel Kehlmann‘s novel is listed on MUKIKAMU is because it is all about exploration. In every sense. It underlies the very essential of this blog, namely that you can travel and make discoveries even if you don’t leave your room. Naturally, the book is about so much more. Refreshing in every idea it presents, the characters (famous scientists Gauss and Humboldt) are charmingly passionate geniuses and the plots are really very funny. Humboldt travels to the New World to diligently measure everything and Gauss explores the wonders of the world in his mind. There are many surprises in store. The author manages to bring the otherwise blurry and dull science world of the middle-ages to life and hints the German spirit with Latin American atmosphere. The more I think about it, the more the whole build-up of the book strikes me. The execution of the ending is structurally and literally thrilling as well as thought-provoking. A delightfully enjoyable read. No wonder this is the book that tops best seller lists in Germany.

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Posted in Books, Germany, South America | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

ORHAN PAMUK: ISTANBUL

Posted by mukikamu on February 18, 2008

Orhan Pamuk‘s book about Istanbul is an odd book on this blog, for it is not about a travel experience, but about a personal journey and the spirit of the city where Pamuk lived all his life. I must admit, I lived in Turkey for three years when I was a child, so the book brought back familiar sceneries and was thought-provoking in a peculiar way. This personal attachment made it impossible to read as a curious traveler and I clinged to those details of everyday life that brought back my own memories. I was entertained by the realisation of how exotic Istanbul sometimes seems, yet how very same lives teenagers of the ’60s led all over the world. The book also revived my own experiences about the part of Turkish soul that can not hide the hurtful disappointment caused by the fall of a majestic empire, but which is trying to cope with republicanism and westernization. Even, the obsession with fire-watching shows how the Turkish nation accepts its destiny of having to constantly rebuild from scratch. They feel weary, but -as I sometimes feel the book lacks to mention – still push forward. (If Pamuk would be acquainted with Hungarian mentality he would cheer up. Any Hungarian facing their difficulties and the ‘weltschmerz’ of a beaten history, would instantly fall into self-pity. We would declare things hopeless, before we would ever consider trying to do anything about it.) Pamuk writes extensively about various travel writers who visited Istanbul in the past and shaped the city’s image, as well as of his much admired, fellow Istanbul-based writers. The volume is therefore a uniquely mutant book that mixes personal memories with essays about the history and literary heritage of the city. 

Oh, and I forgot to mention; Istanbul is a book of a Nobel prize winner. Not that it makes any difference, but there are some who care for marketing.

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Posted in ASIA, Books, EUROPE, Turkey | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

GRAHAM GREENE: TRAVELS WITH MY AUNT

Posted by mukikamu on December 20, 2007

I re-read Travels With My Aunt. Such a crazy piece, really it is. It reminded me of the books that started me on armchair traveling long long years ago. Hemingway‘s The Sun Also Rises and Twain’s Roughin’ It also promote idle vagabonding and mention no obstacles whatsoever. I was naturally instantly hooked on the high-life, luxurious hotels and country motoring. Seas of champagne.

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Greene is one of my favourite writers anyway.  He is so basic, it feels awkward to give an introduction. He has written many travel related books (Journey without maps, Lawless road, etc…) and most of his novels are also set in faraway lands. If you care for readable novels with a touch of wanderlust any of his books is a treat. I have read Our Man in Havana, The Honorary Consul, The Quiet American, The End of the Affair, The Human Factor and The Heart of the Matter before, but as far as I am concerned, all can be re-read anytime. Greene’s novels and short stories truly take you around the world. From Saigon to Havana. 

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Posted in Argentina, Books, England, France, Italy, Paraguay, Turkey | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

UPDATE

Posted by mukikamu on October 30, 2007

The reason behind the slow update of the blog is that I have been reading some not-travel-related novels as well as less eligible Hungarian travel books. I thought the latter were less interesting for most of my fellow AIRMCHAIR TRAVELER CLUB members, however, I was wrong. I stumbled upon some rare jewels and it would be a shame not to give a short appetizer and an update of what I’ve been up to.

  • Jappán is a LOL funny depiction of a trip a popular Hungarian comedian (Sándor Badár) and his karate freak buddy had made to Japan in the 80’s. They traveled through the U.S.S.R. and encountered many hilarious adventures while trying to find their way without money and any of the necessary languages skills. The book is basically a simple scripted conversation where the heroes of the stories revive memories. Nothing fancy or organized, no useful tips, just heart-warming storytelling. I rarely write this, but you just can’t put it down. Very readable, highly enjoyable. Lovely. 

  • Tamás Régi is a Hungarian anthropology student in love with Africa. His book about his travels (Among the nomad tribes of East Africa) was a revelation because he managed to reestablish my trust towards modern travel writers. I found his volume very interesting and honest. I pray that he would get enough funding for another publication. 

  • Salmon fishing in the Yemen of Paul Torday is completely non-fiction and offers light entertainment. Quarter of it is set in the Yemen, but I haven’t checked on the locations. 

  • Ian McEwan’s Atonement was a beach read for Crete and didn’t deceive. An epic love story with thought-provoking ending. I must admit it was a pre-study for the film version that still hasn’t come out here.  

 I also have a real treat coming up soon, so watch these spaces!

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Posted in AFRICA, ASIA, England, EUROPE, France, HUNGARIAN TRAVELERS, Japan, Kenya, Russia, Yemen | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

WHEELS WITHIN WHEELS

Posted by mukikamu on May 13, 2007

It’s not long ago that I mentioned that it would be interesting to know more about Dervla Murphy. Well, I hope all my wishes come through so quicklly. I got plenty of exciting travel volumes for my birthday and finished Wheels Within Wheels already. This autobiography from my admired Miss Murphy claryfies most issues about her life and about her motives for escape. Her tough childhood and stubborn personality all come through marvellously readibly in her book and I found it hard to put down. Her sincere voice knows no self deception which is a treat to readers fed up with self-centered travellers. I had an esteem for her since her first book, still my reserve towards her wildness evaporated only now. The book gives a curious view of rural and Dublin Irish society of the XXth century as well as is an exquisite literal experience of the travel of a personality. Her first bike trips to the Continent are also mentioned, but the book is more an insight to her life. I liked it a lot.

See previous post about her here. >>

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Posted in Books, EUROPE, Ireland, Spain, Travelers | Leave a Comment »

HERBERT ERNEST BATES

Posted by mukikamu on March 3, 2007

It’s undeniable that I have a weakness for colonial novels. I can’t help it. I am always swept away. The classic volumes of the great trio, Greene, Maugham and Bates are on my most sacred shelves. The latter is an absolute favourite with his delicate stories. His books’ slow athmosphere bring the wind of the tropics into the room. The Burman novels (Purple Plain and The Jacaranda Tree) make the monsoon sweep through your home. Airmchair travel at its best.

Read The Darling Buds of May for a taste of some English countyside.

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Posted in ASIA, Books, Burma, England, France | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »