Some Bits Of Travel Advice

It is very easy to find travel advice.  It gushes in currents, like the waters of a melting glacier, carrying all before it.  I have no desire here to provide an exhaustive laundry-list of action items; my goal is only to toss out a few thoughts on the subject that have come to me in recent days.  I recently read the following travel recommendations which appear in Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson.  They are taken from a letter he wrote to one Mr. Perkins in 1782, when Johnson was 73 years old:

Continue reading

The Travels Of Sir Thomas Roe

One of the most successful diplomats of his era, Thomas Roe (1581–1644) got an early start on success in life.  In his era it helped to be a part of the nobility.  He was born in Essex, the son of Sir Robert Rowe, and was educated at Oxford; his genteel manners and refined ways soon gained him access to the court of Elizabeth I.  A knighthood followed in 1604, and with this came increased opportunities for advancement and commercial success.

Continue reading

Ibn Fadlan’s Unique Travels In Central Asia And Rus

The name of Ibn Fadlan (أحمد بن فضلان بن العباس بن راشد) has received some notoriety in recent years, primarily due to fictionalized accounts of his travels in print and film.  Enthusiasts of travel literature who have taken the time to read his work will find, however, that his actual travels have little to do with these sensationalized tales.  His book is of great value to modern ethnographers; for it remains the only first-hand account we have of the customs and habits of Viking communities in Russia during the medieval period.

Continue reading

George Forster Travels Overland From Bengal To England

Little is known of the early life of British explorer George Forster.  His travel memoirs, published in 1808 after his death, were edited by persons who apparently never considered that such information would be of interest to readers.  We can thus only rely on what we find in scattered letters and journals.  He was probably born around 1750 and at some point joined the East India Company as a young man; he would eventually be posted to Madras to work as a writer.  Around 1782 he was granted leave to return to England; and for some reason–perhaps it was just a taste for adventure–he decided to make the return trip by land through Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Russia.

Continue reading

Captain George Francis Lyon’s Explorations In Africa

There is a certain type of Englishman who is not content with confinement in any one locale.  He seeks new vistas, new challenges, and the chance to test his mettle against geography, climate, and the decrees of Fortune.  We have chronicled a number of such men in these pages.  To this list we must add the name of British naval officer George Francis Lyon (1795–1832), who enjoys perhaps the unique distinction of being known for exploratory achievement in two very different climatic conditions:  the polar regions of the Arctic and the desert expanses of northern Africa.

Continue reading

The Olympieion

A short distance south-east of the Acropolis are the remains of a colossal temple called the Olympieion, or the Temple of Olympian Zeus.  It was begun around 520 B.C. with the expressed purpose of being the largest and most impressive such structure in the Greek-speaking world, but it fell victim to political fortunes.  Work on the temple was abandoned around 510 B.C. when one of its advocates, Hippias, was removed from power and expelled from Athens.

Continue reading

Kerameikos: The Spirits Of The Dead

Today I visted a site called Kerameikos in Athens.  It was a cemetery for many centuries, and contains numerous examples of funerary art.  The site was only rediscovered in 1861 during road construction in the neighborhood.  On the site is also located the famous Dipylon Gate, which was the main entrance into Athens during ancient times when the city was surrounded by walls.  The gate itself is said to have been the largest gateway in the ancient world, covering around 1800 square meters.  Constructed around 478 B.C., it had four large covered towers and a courtyard that also served as an official meeting place and a location for commercial activity.  I was excited to see the remains of the Gate, as I had read references to it in classical texts.

Continue reading