Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Road Goes On Forever

#28 -- "On Foot to the Golden Horn" by Jason Goodwin

Lately I've been dreaming of some undefined period in the future, after I quit my current job (not in the offing, I assure you) -- I'd like to, Patrick Leigh Fermor-style, take some months and walk across Europe. The imagined route varies -- sometimes it's just the Balkans, sometimes cutting through Central Europe, sometimes an ambitious trek from Greece to Norway or vice versa.

Goodwin actually did such a thing, as opposed to just muttering to his friends about how he was gonna do it someday. What's more, he did it at a particularly interesting time, strolling with his girlfriend and another friend from Poland to Istanbul as Communism was in freefall.

When it concentrates on the travel, and the people encountered along the way, "On Foot to the Golden Horn" is quite good. Unfortunately the first half or so labors under one of my pet peeves -- repeated descriptions of tensions among the travelers, particularly the third-wheel friend. It's not interesting and really adds nothing. Once the third-wheel guy breaks off and goes his own way, the book emerges from a cloud.

All in all pretty readable. I read Goodwin's history of the Ottoman Empire a few years back and wasn't too impressed, but this is much better.

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