mukikamu

The Armchair Traveler Club

Archive for the ‘Travelers’ 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.

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

JENS BJERRE: THE LAST CANNIBALS

Posted by mukikamu on December 2, 2008

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I am back on the track of forgotten travel books with Jens Bjerre‘s Last Cannibals. It was an easy and highly enjoyable read.
To give you a taste of it, here is a few things you can learn from the book:

– how native Australians deal with birth control
– why you must never hurry
– how could soldiers drown in the Sahara
– whether there are camels in Australia
– why you should never force people living in houses on water ashore
– how girls in New Guinea solved the etiquette problem of covering their breast before white ladies
– how do cannibals eat a road
– what are the roots of tribal pyromania
– why you should never ever wake a sleeping kukukuku
– what are the rules of dating in the jungle
– which is the most idyllic tropical island of the South Seas
– who was the ‘Flying bishop’

Moreover, here are the new entries in our list of groovy names:
– Hanuabada (village built on water in New Guinea)
– Kukukuku (tribe)
– Kau-kau (potato)
– Momakova (chief of a kukukuku village)
– Jagagaga (chatty old warrior)
– Morombo (tribe)
– Tumbulun (magic flute to scare women)
– Gorogoba (river)
– Morofonu (God)

Posted in ASIA, Australia, AUSTRALIA & THE PACIFIC, Books, Papua New Guinea, travel, travelbook, Travelers | 1 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 »

BBC PODCAST WITH PAUL THEROUX

Posted by mukikamu on October 2, 2008

BBC’s travel related radio programme, Excess Baggage has a special with Paul Theroux. Listen to it online. 

Posted in Books, Travelers | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

UPDATES ABOUT THESIGER

Posted by mukikamu on August 11, 2008

I found some interesting articles on my much admired gentleman adventurer Wilfred Thesiger here and here.

Posted in AFRICA, ASIA, Books, Etiophia, India, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Travelers, Yemen | Tagged: | 1 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 »

JON KRAKAUER: INTO THE WILD

Posted by mukikamu on April 24, 2008

   

Now that the movie came out, reading Krakauer‘s book was inevitable to find out what the big deal about Christopher McCandless’ story is. Unfortunately I couldn’t find out. The whole media frenzy seemed to kill the essential about the adventure and about the personalness of his choice. I am sure our hero would clearly despise people trying to make a saint out of him. Plus, the book was a dissapointment. Maybe if I would have started the book thinking, that I was going to read a long National Geographic (in this case Outdoor) article, I wouldn’t have felt so cheated. Not that the writer is bad. Not that I hate biased biographies, on the contrary. However the only episode I liked was the passage about the author himself concurring an Alaskan mountain. The episode when the “followers” are depicting Chris’ trailer, is directly laughable. His machete. The belt that kept his trousers up. Really. Life of Brian. I feel sorry and can see the tragedy, but I admire those more who have actually done something astonishing (climbed a mountain or sailed the oceans) and survived.

 

Posted in Alaska, AMERICA, Books, North America, Travelers | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

PAUL THEROUX: HAPPY ISLES OF OCEANIA

Posted by mukikamu on December 6, 2007

Here I am, stepping into something huge again. Paul Theroux is one of the most popular travel writers of our times and I am fully aware that it will take me years to eat myself through his literature. He has several essential travel volumes to choose from and hereby I officially promise to report on The Great Railway Bazaar and The Old Patagonian Express A.S.A.P..

The volume I read this time was The Happy Isles of Oceania and to be perfectly honest, after the poetic and respectful admiration towards locals of Thesiger, the superior realism of Theroux came as a bucket of icy water to my face. While Thesiger emphasizes his travels’ substantiality and nobleness, Theroux is shamelessly critical. He calls himself a ‘natural skeptic’ but sometimes I felt he was directly rude. He is not the type to rave about his destinations and I definitely wasn’t encouraged to start planning a trip right away. After getting over this initial culture shock however, I found his book informative, drawing an up-to-date picture of the far-away and exotic islands I just dream about. It is a very personal book too, written when times were tough, which explains his bitterness of style, but I am still flabbergasted how miserably unhappy you can be in paradise. The most enjoyable passages for me were the ones where he is quietly paddling his collapsible kayak alone and his rage and anger gives way to peace in his heart. Envy filled my heart.

I really must read another book of his to get a real picture. However spoilt, ungrateful, unsatisfied and grumpy he seems, he is a brilliant observer and a great traveler.

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Posted in Australia, AUSTRALIA & THE PACIFIC, Books, Cook Islands, Easter Island, Fiji islands, Hawaii, Marquesas, New Zealand, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Tonga, Travelers, Trobriands, Vanatu, Vava'u | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

THOR HEYERDAHL: KON TIKI

Posted by mukikamu on August 6, 2007

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Is there a greater classic among adventure books than the reckless Thor Heyerdahl’s story about a 104 day long raft ride through the Pacific in 1947? It is just as crazy as it is heroic and makes your jaw drop everytime. The 6 men fighting the elements on a hand-made balsa wood vesel are at the mercy of the acient Gods of South America and the Pacific. Encounters with wonderful Verne-like creatures of the sea bring the Pacific to life. Squids and giant sharks are right under your feet, fish and octopus fly into your face daily. You just have to put your toothbrush in the water and a fish bites on it vehemently. Myths accompany the Scandinavian crew all the way, it’s an uplifting tale of a pursuit of dreams. Mandatory for armchair explorers. I am prepared to fight everyone who says it’s a children’s book.

MUSEUM WEBSITE

OUR HERO THOR HEYERDAHL

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Posted in AUSTRALIA & THE PACIFIC, Books, Easter Island, Ecuador, Marquesas, Peru, South America, Tahiti, Travelers | 3 Comments »

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 »