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Journey to Kars: A Modern Traveller in the Ottoman Lands (Travel Library) [Paperback]

Philip Glazebrook
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

31 Oct 1985 Travel Library
For Victorian travellers a trip to Turkey was a leap into the dark of Islam. Fascinated by their accounts of the far-flung, down-at-heel Ottoman Empire, novelist and traveller Philip Glazebrook followed in their footsteps. His destination was Kars, the city within view of Mount Ararat where the Ark was stranded. Through the old Serbian and Greek provinces and islands, through the ruined cities of Asia Minor, to Kars and then back to Trebizond, Istanbul and the Balkan capitals - this book recounts his adventures.

Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (31 Oct 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140095330
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140095333
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 13 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 683,968 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A real travelogue 21 Oct 2005
Philip Glazebrook wanders across south-east Europe to Anatolia, musing from time to time in hotel rooms as he looks back over recent days in his trek to Kars in eastern Turkey. Covering Turkey by bus and boat (across the Black Sea) and the rest of Europe by train, he mingles with - but apart from - his fellow passengers, observing their expressions and behaviour much as his nineteenth-century counterpart might.
Gradually, the book offers up slices of earlier travel-writers' thoughts, though it feels as if the homework was probably done after he arrived back in England. The most perceptive insight into his earlier counterparts' style of writing comes when he quotes from two authors recounting the same event, often with a very different gloss.
There are some romantic imaginations gone wild, such as his imagination that he sees Ararat (because he wanted to have done), and his views on hotels are clearly coloured by his mood, with benign tolerance for the Pera Palas's grumpy ways in Istanbul sitting in contrast with his loathing of the attitude he met in Urgup.
This is a book for travelogue-sharers, not for lovers of art and culture. Apart from minor mistakes here and there, it is disappointing that he dwells on the mosaics in the entrance to the Kariye Camii, world-famous for its Byzantine frescoes, which he ignores. His haste to be back in Trabzon to catch a ferry prevents him travelling on from Kars to the fabulous Armenian city of Ani a short taxi-ride away.
For those who write their own travelogues, the meandering mind of Philip Glazebrook as he contemplates the nature of travel and home must have echoes and this book is a pleasant read for an insight into other musings after making similar tours of the region oneself.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Idiosyncratic 23 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Glazebrook spends a couple of weeks travelling in Turkey and Eastern Europe and writing about his experiences. His purpose is to gain some insights into the motivation of Victorian travellers who enjoyed their adventures outside Christian - implied civilised - Europe. This is so that he can write a novel based on the adventures of such a traveller or travellers. The novel glimpsed throughout this account eventually became Captain Vinegar's Commission, a picaresque Victorian tragic-comedy, and its sequel, The Gate at the end of the World.

These twin themes of the knowledge displayed of Victorian travel writers and the genesis of his own novels are fascinating in themselves, but even more interesting is what Glazebrook reveals of himself. He was writing in the 1980s, not the 1880s, yet his attitudes and much of what he describes would be more germane to that period. Whether this is what he really experienced or is narrative artifice may be left for the reader to decide, but I have my suspicions. Why does he not reveal the name of the mysterious ruined Greek city where he spent the night under canvas in fear of bandits and wild beasts? Could it be that to name Aphrodisias is to break the spell, as it is an easily visited tourist destination?

Nevertheless this is a really good read, both serious and amusing, revelatory of Turkey, communist eastern Europe and, not least, of the author himself.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars by far the best armchair travel book about Turkey 26 Dec 2006
By traveler - Published on
I'm an American who lived in Turkey for years, and I speak Turkish. I've read most if not all of the contemporary travel accounts. Philip Glazebrook gets it right.

Don't worry that this book was written in the 80's. Yes, Turkey has changed since then. Turkey, especially Istanbul, is always changing. Blink, and Istanbul will have changed -- in some ways, but not others. Not the spirit. And that elusive, enduring spirit is what Glazebrook has captured here.

It's true that the tourist areas are more touristy now than they were 20 years ago, but where is that NOT the case? Istanbul is a vibrant, enormous city, and tourists barely touch the surface of it. Taksim, Sultanahmet and Kumkapi are not all there is to Istanbul! The cobbled alleys are still there. The chance to lose yourself in another world, away from tourism, is still there -- just as Glazebrook describes. That said, Istanbul is extremely cosmopolitan, and I think this was also true in the 80's. It depends where you go, that's all. Glazebrook takes the trouble to explore, and if you do that you will find not only the cosmopolitan, European side of Istanbul (not all of which is overrun yet with tourism, by the way!), but also the more evocative intimations of the mysterious past.

Glazebrook describes, for example, a visit to an ancient city (near Pamukkale and Denizli) which wasn't yet on the tourist map at the time of his visit. He refrains from telling the name of the site, although to anyone familiar with Turkey it is easy enough to identify. That ancient city now IS set up for tourism, but it is still a beautiful, remote, incredible place to visit. I was there in the winter, and there were only a scattered handful of other tourists -- maybe 4 or 5 in the whole site. Is this so different from Glazebrook's experience? Well, yes, and no. The site now has a museum, which it did not at the time he visited. But more to the point, there are other ancient sites still relatively undiscovered. The experience Glazebrook describes, arriving on a minibus into the middle of nowhere, discovering a ruin as if you were the first explorer to find that place -- that experience is still to be had in Turkey. You just have to go looking.

What Glazebrook writes is honest, and I RECOGNIZE Turkey the way he describes it. He catches the half-and-half quality of the country, the haunting sense of the ever-present past, of the familiar mixed with the mysterious. The feeling of being very far, in a place very exotic, and yet at the same time known, welcome, and welcoming. That is Turkey, for me.

Marry Lee Settle doesn't capture the feeling of Turkey at all. Her writing is cloyingly sweet. Reading her "Turkish Reflections," I see Settle's own reflection more clearly than the land and the people who are supposedly her subject. I have reason to strongly suspect she made up most of her chapter on Selcuk and Ephesus, whole cloth.

Whatever you do, do NOT buy Jeremy Seal's bitter, mean-spirited, mud-slinging, "Fez of the Heart." He's got a thinly disguised, anti-Turkish political agenda, and to that end he has mis-translated, quoted out of context, mis-quoted, and otherwise outright LIED to make his points. If you don't know the Turkish language and a lot about Turkish culture and history, you'd be well advised to avoid his book altogether. You'll never be able to sort out the (few) facts from the malicious fictions.

But Glazebrook ... ahhh! Glazebrook understands Turkey! He has a feeling for his subject, he sees Turkey with clear eyes. He describes vividly, without projecting his own ego.

If you want something up-to-the-minute for hotel info, or restaurant suggestions, Journey to Kars is not the book for you. (Neither is Settle, or Seal.) But if you want to know what Turkey FEELS like, if you want to know something of the Turkish spirit, then short of going there yourself there is no place better to turn than this lovely little book by Philip Glazebrook.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Clash of Civilzations 1 Jun 2007
By Alaturka - Published on
I was repulsed by the tone and demeanor of this author in this book.

He travels through one of the historically most significant part of the World, where there is so much history and culture, so much that has been kept for millions of World travelers to see and enjoy but all he can focus on is the little people of a developing country. His disdain of the Third World and Turks and Muslims in general made this a very unpleasant read.

He avoids contact with educated professionals and limits his interactions to the simple folk who make him feel so much more superior.

True, the time of his travel was a politically and economically chaotic period of the country but he should have been able seperate this from the larger historical perspective this travel book supposedly aimed for.
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