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TraveLit--A blog about travel literature. 

     Even with the best of maps and instruments, we can never fully chart our journeys.

Review: Hiking to Siberia

Hiking to Siberia: Curious Tales of Travel and Travelers

By Lawrence Millman. sunnyoutside, 2012, 126 pp.


Lawrence Millman is a refreshingly old-fashioned adventurer.  In his travels he generally heads out to little-known, hard-to-reach, hard-to navigate places that require stamina and endurance: as he notes, "travel" and "travail" are etymologically related.  Curiosity drives his journeys.  "I'm trying to discover the few remaining places that have not lost their marrow," he says.


Hiking to Siberia is a slender book, but its 22 brief essays cover a great expanse of territory, from Svalbard to Micronesia, from Nova Scotia to the Lesser Antilles.  As I observed in my review of his book Last Places: A Journey in the North, Millman loves stories—and he is an excellent storyteller, sufficiently talented to make a good story even out of failing to find the story he was looking for.  He never does solve the enigma of Lillian Alling, the subject of the title essay, a woman who in 1927 left New York City to hike to Siberia and may or may not have made it.  No matter.  She piques our interest as she piqued his.


Two other characters of interest Millman profiles in these stories are Jules Verne,  ("The Incidental Traveler"), who devoted his writings to exotic travels, but did not, it turns out, travel very far; and Christiane Ritter ("A Woman in the Polar Night"), who joined her husband in Svalbard Read More 

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Review: The Stone Boudoir

The Stone Boudoir: Travels through the Hidden Villages of Sicily

By Theresa Maggio.  Perseus, 2002, 246 pp.


"Something thrums in the stones of Sicilian hill towns, and I have become obsessed with them," writes Theresa Maggio in her colorful and very personal guide through this distinctive part of Italy. 


Maggio's paternal grandparents were Sicilian, emigrating early in the twentieth century from the town of Santa Margherita, which was destroyed in the earthquake of 1965.  Although her grandmother refused to return to the village, claiming "There's nothing there," Maggio decided to see Sicily for herself, visiting while in college, and again, later, with her father, as well as on various vacations.  Watching "The Star Maker," by the Sicilian director Giuseppe Tornatore—who also made the Academy Award-winning movie "Nuovo Cinema Paradiso"—she was captivated by Sicily's stone villages, and in 1992, she finally had the time and money to explore them. 


Blending description, history, anecdotes, and her own experiences, Maggio takes us from town to town, focusing both on place and on people.  It is a leisurely journey, its style well-suited to these quiet villages.  Despite the book's subtitle, they are not really "hidden"—travelers know that little remains truly hidden these days.  Arriving in Castiglione, Maggio thinks she has found a "lost village," only to discover, hanging on a restaurant wall, autographed photographs of Harvey Keitel, who spent a month in the town while making a film.  Still, the towns she visits are hardly tourist attractions: they are small, insular, inhabited largely by older people, and still tied to older customs.  And each has its own character. Read More 

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