East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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The Singing Bowl

I was in need of adventure, and thanks to one of those very mysterious book promotions Amazon Italy sometimes does (why? How? Based on what? It’s a mystery) I got myself a stack of books by the Long Riders Guild, livening up my growing collection of books about the Silk Road and environs. I am going through them in the evening, when I am too tired to write and the countryside is dark, cold and unforgiving.
If I can’t travel, my mind can.

Last night I finished Alistair Carr’s slim The Singing Bowl – Journey through Inner Asia (2006), the chronicle of the author’s visit to Mongolia and the Silk Road in the early 2000s.
It is a crisp, concise story of an adventure -a travel started because the author woke up one morning “with Mongolia in his head.” An apt way to describe the lure of far-off lands, the urge that animated travelers for centuries.

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Adventure by Proxy

I’ll write down a few sparse ruminations, if you don’t mind.
This post is tagged Armchair Adventuring, and this post is at the core if that tag.

You see, I just stumbled on a piece by a guy that recently discovered the joys of white-water rafting.
You know, that sport that consists in paddling down rapids in a big inflatable dinghy.
The guy I was reading really loves that stuff.


He’s pretty sure this is his sport.
He’d spend hours watching videos of people rafting.
Yes, he’s considering it a spectator sport.
Give thanks to the inventor of the GoPro camera.

The thing got me thinking along two very different lines. Continue reading

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Russian river, four letters

9781594203671OK, full disclosure: I knew about the river Amur because of crosswords puzzles.

Russian river, four letters

Maybe, had I known it is also called Black Dragon River, I would have checked out the Amur river before.

Luckily, I was offered an ARC 1 of Dominic Ziegler’s Black Dragon River.
The tag-line A journey down the Amur River, at the borderland of empires sums up nicely the contents of this thick volume that Pengiun Books will be releasing later this year.

What’s so hot about the Amur? Continue reading

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The explorer that loved music – Henning Haslund

henning-hasslundHenning Haslund was a Danish explorer.
In the early 1920s he was part of an expedition to Central Asia led by his old military academy chum Carl Krebs.
The idea was to get there and set up a dairy farm.

What happened next is the subject of Mongolian Adventure, that Haslund published somewhere back in the first half of the 20th century; a thick, massive, highly satisfactory book that the fine guys of the Long Riders’ Guild* have reprinted a few years back.
I was given the book as a gift by a friend – and what a wonder it is! Continue reading


Finding a good bad guy

Ungern-sternberg_rThe gentleman you see portrayed here on th eright is Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg.
And the word “gentleman” is probably not the right one.

Also known as “the Mad Baron”, Ungern-Sternberg is one of the blatant proofs that history can best pulp fiction any day of the week, and without trying.
There is no Bond villain, no dime novel Yellow Peril, no fictional bad guy that can go head-to-head with the Baron in terms of madness and cruelty, and hope to win.

And all this is just fine because, you see, I’m doing the final draft of my novel, and I need to make my bad guy… worse.
The eating-babies-alive sort of worse. Continue reading

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Writing with Google Maps

Isn’t technology great.
I was doing some map research yesterday, and the trip advisor utility on Google Maps caught my eye.

So I calculated – better, I had the software calculate and draw the route from Castelnuovo Belbo, Italy, and Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia.

And the software planned my trip – mentioning passingly that it does include some roads that might be interrupted, and it will require me to cross a few national borders.
My very own, on-demand Silk Road, if you will. Continue reading