A book about travel, history and adventure for people that love to travel and read about it
Barnes & Noble.com
The book, Following Marco Polo’s Silk Road, is a personal account of a couple’s journey as they follow the footsteps of the legendary traveller, Marco Polo. As independent travellers, they explore the lands and the people along the mythical Silk Road. This is a graphic account about the lives of the people that they met along the way. It is written with engaging humour, some historic fact and always a sense of adventure.
Starting in Venice the birthplace of Marco Polo, the story tells of travelling through Turkey, Syrian, Jordon, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kashmir, India, Nepal and China to eventually reach Beijing.
Travel, adventure and history: Following Marco Polo’s Silk Road is a winning combination for any globe-trotter or armchair traveller.
Book Review Following Marco Polo's Silk Road
“I have not told half of what I saw.”
On Marco Polo’s deathbed he is recorded as having uttered these unforgettable words, when questioned as to whether his book, The Travels, was entirely fiction.
When author, Brian Lawrenson, and his wife, Jill, set off to follow in the epic footsteps of Marco they were very clear in their motivation and they had big boots to fill. Lawrenson recalls, “The book is about our travels not Marco Polo’s. However, we saw him as providing the inspiration for our own travels. Is he not perhaps the greatest traveller of all times? His 13th century travels are indeed epic. The fact that he could recall the vivid details of his journeys is remarkable. So, like many before us (and no doubt many after us), we chose to follow in his footsteps.”
In this new travel book from the Silk Road their recollections of a number of journeys taken over twenty years provide a slightly different perspective on travel writing. It is personal, light-hearted and perilous all at the same time. It echoes what many a traveller who might have once undertaken the Silk Road a thousand years ago might have encountered. It also reveals what one might encounter today and positively encourages others to do the same. More intriguing is that for much of their journeys they have not done them alone, using tour groups often as a means to travel around. The most intrepid of travellers would, perhaps, scorn such an adventure, calling it false, artificial and too comfortable a method of exploration. However the stories in the book reveal perhaps as much about those who travel in such groups as those whom the pair encounter in what is a pleasing and unexpected twist.
The book is partly a travelogue but also reveals, in well placed fashion, some of the history to put places and people into context. Along the way they try to uncover some of the myths of The Travels and encounter a few more of their own.
“We spent many evenings sitting round camp fires talking to locals over coffee and we made good friends with our guides and drivers in many places,” recalls lawrenson. “If we ignore the encounter with the turbaned black-beaded Taliban in the Swat Valley, Pakistan, we were always made welcome wherever we went. The one encounter that did feel slightly bizarre occurred while we were having tea with a Bedouin family that when the three mothers present found out that we didn’t have children, they all burst into tears. It was very touching that they would care that much.”
Having spent much of the last twenty years travelling whenever possible makes the book feel very considered and learned. Lawrenson’s knack of finding humour and seriousness at the right moments, are commendable. Above all though, it is the book’s aim to encourage others to learn about the Silk Road either by reading or by travel that comes through. Like the merchants of the past, disseminating information and exchanging ideas was a key part of their travels: “Through our own journeys, we tried to meet the locals on their terms and leave with a much richer view of the complicated, misunderstood lands through which we’ve travelled.”
No doubt, like Marco Polo, Lawrenson recounts only a small part of what have been twenty fascinating years of travel and discovery. But what he does recount is certainly enough to capture one’s imagination and send one off into the mythical lands in the East no matter where in the world they are. An entire chapter is also dedicated to a trip made to explore the Silk Road in Uzbekistan, somewhere where they are both keen to return.
Nick Rowan UK
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