A whimsical, winding journey by canoe and foot through the layers of Anatolia’s history.
A British travel writer who focuses on Turkey, Seal (Nicholas: The Epic Journey from Saint to Santa Claus, 2005, etc.) casts himself as a wandering scholar in the tradition of his earlier European compatriots William Leake, Richard Pococke and Francis Arundell. However, Seal attempted what they did not: a solo waterway trip down the 500-kilometer Menderes River (aka Meander), running from the fertile plateau of Anatolia’s interior to the tourist meccas of the Aegean. The river’s name, thanks to the earliest allusions by historian Herodotus, geographer Strabo and others, propelled it on a fanciful etymological odyssey that endures to this day. On his journey, Seal was harshly confronted by the befouled and eroded effects of industrialization, as many parts of the winding river have been used extensively for hydroelectricity and irrigation. Beginning at the river’s source at Dinar and ending near the great classical port city of Miletus, Seal traces age-old migrations of peoples through Asia Minor—including the Hittite, Phrygian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Turk—all who transformed the land in their fashion. While delving into the murky historical depths and recent tensions between the country's secular and Islamist elements, Seal was keen to befriend the locals on whom he largely relied for food and shelter as he made his way by a collapsible canoe or, when there was not sufficient water for navigation, by foot. The portraits of these simple farming people are fond and charming, but the lack of maps renders this more of a literary exercise than usable travelogue.
Enlightening tour through Anatolia, rich in history and visceral detail.