News & Opinion (updated April 30, 2013)
Ghost Dance in Berlin on Tour
Peter Wortsman completed his tour of the West Coast for his new book, Ghost Dance in Berlin, but he'll have more events on the East Coast in the future. Ghost Dance is an unlikely declaration of love by the American-born son of German-speaking Jewish refugees. Where the Wall once stood dividing East and West the city remains bisected by invisible borderlines, across which the author hops with an eye for telling detail and an ear for memorable conversations with street musicians, winos, lawyers, bankers, politicians, and others, including cameo appearances by Henry Kissinger and the shade of Marlene Dietrich.
Crossing ethnic lines to find a notorious guerrilla leader.
It was early March 1999 when Ilir, my young interpreter, and I set out from Pristina in a battered Lada cast off by some other East bloc nation to find a man known only by his nom de guerre: Gjarperi, the Snake. I needed some local help crossing Kosovo’s ever changing ethnic frontlines and Ilir came highly recommended as an interpreter and fixer.
With a sparse goatee and long, blond ponytail, he looked older than his eighteen years when we met at the bar of the Grand Hotel. War has a way of doing that to people. He introduced himself with a wry smile as a ‘Molotov cocktail: half Serb, half-Albanian’. Ignoring my habitual skepticism, I engaged him immediately.Read on...
An unprepared trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro turns into an adventure of a lifetime.
“If you ever make it home from Africa alive, I’m going to kill you myself,” said my mom. She wasn’t happy with my decision to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro without an oxygen supply.
“But Mom,” I said, “it was like an extra two hundred dollars.”
“Two hundred dollars? You opted out of air to save two hundred dollars?”
“But I didn’t even need it. Everything’s fine. You raised me to be frugal.”
“I raised you to be frugal, okay. But I didn’t raise you to be stupid.”Read on...
From the back of a camel the Sahara seemed endless; an infinite sea of low rolling dunes baked by a swirling sun that would be at home in a Van Gogh painting.
For one month I had been immersed in Berber Tuareg culture, traveling through Mali, as one of the famed blue men, on the trans-Saharan caravan routes they had operated for over 2000 years. We carried no maps, GPS, or satellite phones, navigating only by landmarks, intuition, and the inbred sense of direction that is part of nomadic DNA.
They were fierce desert warriors, straight out of central casting, lords of the desert; the bane of any bandits who crossed their path, and they had allowed me to enter their world.Read on...
I moved west to escape the East. I stayed west to inform the East.
This took place in the late 1960s, when the anti-war movement and its cultural twin were both flowering. There's that window of opportunity we all have in our early 20s when there's nothing—love, family, job, mortgage, school—to batten us down.
"Arizona," someone suggested with a nod and a wink. "Arizona." I knew nothing about the youngest of the lower 48, except that Barry Goldwater and marijuana both came from there, and I thought that any place where those two elements are both at play is worth investigating. I jumped through that window of opportunity and landed in Tucson.Read on...
"I haven't been a saint my whole life, but I have done just this one thing." —Rene Psarolis
N'oublions pas: Do not forget.
As we crossed the Champs d'Elysees, I looked past Rogier's blond curls and the rumbling beast of traffic to the triumphal arch beyond, which held hushed shadows and autumn sun inside its simple shape.
I saw Hitler cut a swath underneath.
I saw the photo of a boy, his shoulders hunched and hesitant, his dark hair parted neatly but straining to spring out, a wide nose, a shy smile tugging his lip a little up on the right side with the soft shadow of a dimple. What shouts out of the image of this boy are his eyes, two pinpoints of light in sepia, as round as eyes can be, as bold as eyes can be.Read on...
With the help of a shaman, she rediscovers what she truly wants.
Breathless, I hurry along narrow trails between Quichua family farms, past barking dogs, squawking chickens, curly-tailed piglets. My destination is a shaman who lives in this village on the outskirts of Otavalo, Ecuador. I’m going partly for book research, but mostly as a last-ditch hope he can heal me. Back in Colorado, I tried everything—Eastern and Western medicine, herbs and tinctures, weird diets. And now I’m teetering on the edge of bitter despair.
I emerge from the foliage to a vista of fifteen-thousand-foot peaks rising above emerald fields, dotted with red-tiled roofs and grazing sheep. Two of these mountains are said to be ancient Incan gods: the male, Imbabura, and his lover, Cotacachi. When she’s covered with light frost at dawn, locals claim it’s semen from a night of passion. Their offspring—smaller, baby mountains—lie scattered between them. Then there’s the ubiquitous Andean deity, Pacha Mamma, the World Mother, whose fertile body spills out in swirling folds, patchworks of velvet fields, silken pastures.Read on...
Our Friends from BootsnAll
BootsnAll has been helping Indie travelers plan their RTW trips since 1998. Plan your next multi-stop trip with their RTW planning guide, book your RTW tickets online via the Indie trip planner, or compare which type of ticket is best suited to your trip in the regularly updated RTW Ticket Report.
Ghost Dance in Berlin is an unlikely declaration of love by the American-born son of German-speaking Jewish refugees. From a temporary perch in a villa on Berlin’s biggest lake, Wortsman imagines the parallel celebratory haunting of two sets of ghosts, those of the exiled erstwhile owners, a Jewish banker and his family, and those of the Führer’s Minister of Finance and his entourage, who took over title, while in another villa across the lake another gaggle of ghosts is busy planning the Final Solution.
Where the Wall once stood dividing East and West the city remains bisected by invisible borderlines, across which the author hops with an eye for telling detail and an ear for memorable conversations with street musicians, winos, lawyers, bankers, politicians, a taxi driver, a hooker, and a Michelin star chef, with cameo appearances by Henry Kissinger and the shade of Marlene Dietrich. Read the Foreword or a sample chapter.
Leave the Lipstick, Take the Iguana is the 9th book in the best-selling Travelers' Tales humor series, which began with There's No Toilet Paper on the Road Less Traveled and blossomed into a classic "underwear" women's humor series, including Sand in My Bra and The Thong Also Rises. This laugh-out-loud collection will resonate with experienced travelers and novices alike and includes hilarious misadventures with packing, border crossings, travel fashion, language faux pas, weird food encounters, and romantic overtures abroad. Read Marcy Gordon's Introduction or a sample chapter.
The Best Travel Writing, Volume 9 is the latest book in the annual Travelers’ Tales series launched in 2004 to celebrate the world’s best travel writing—from Nobel Prize winners to emerging new writers. These 27 stories cover the globe, from finding peace with a father's spirit in Mexico to getting caught off guard by a mad dog in Bhutan to crossing the Sahara in a convoy. The points of view and perspectives are global, and themes encompass high adventure, spiritual growth, romance, hilarity and misadventure, service to humanity, and encounters with exotic cuisine. Read the Introduction by Tim Cahill and a sample chapter, "The Offer that Refused Me" by Marcia DeSanctis.
The Best Women's Travel Writing, Volume 8
Since the publication of A Woman's World in 1995, Travelers' Tales has been publishing award-winning books by and for women. We continue this tradition with The Best Women's Travel Writing, Volume 8, the latest collection in our annual series guaranteed to inspire women to take their first trip—or to continue exploring the world with wit, soul, and verve, as so many adventurous women do each and every day.
This best-selling, award-winning series presents the finest accounts of women who have traveled to the ends of the earth to discover new places, peoples—and themselves. The common threads connecting the stories are a woman's perspective and lively storytelling to make the reader laugh, cry, wish she were there, or be glad she wasn't. The points of view and perspectives are global and the themes eclectic, including stories that encompass spiritual growth, hilarity and misadventure, high adventure, romance, solo journeys, stories of service to humanity, family travel, and encounters with exotic cuisine. Read Lavinia Spalding's Introduction or a sample chapter.
“Makes me want to pack my bag and follow Van Allen’s alluring suggestions for traveling in Italy. Her knowledge reveals an intimacy with the country and a honed sense of adventure. Andiamo!”
—Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun
Imagine creating your Italian dream vacation with a fun-loving savvy traveler girlfriend whispering in your ear. Go along with writer Susan Van Allen on a femme-friendly ride up and down the boot, to explore this extraordinarily enchanting country where Venus (Vixen Goddess of Love and Beauty) and The Madonna (Nurturing Mother of Compassion) reign side-by-side. With humor, passion, and practical details, this uniquely anecdotal guidebook will enrich your Italian days. Read the Introduction, and also this superb review.
“A most diverting and picaresque tale, one that reads like a sentimental journey of a hundred years ago.”
—the late Norman Cousins
In the early 1960s, a young, self-taught musician set out to travel the world with no money, equipped only with his guitar, his voice, and his belief in the goodness of people. Along the way, blown by the winds of fortune, guided by instinct, he played for kings and paupers, soldiers and servants, artists and terrorists. His name is Moro Buddy Bohn, and his unlikely and powerful story will uplift you and inspire you to live the life you want.
His audiences have included Queen Elizabeth II of England, King Frederick IX of Denmark, Pablo Picasso, Rita Hayworth, Patty Duke, Lee Marvin, Howard Hughes, King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit of Thailand, and he was the first musician to entertain U.S. troops in Vietnam. Read the Preface or a sample chapter.
“This book is very sick. Highly recommended.”
—J. Maarten Troost, author of The Sex Lives of Cannibals
Travelers' Tales/Solas House proudly presents its first work of fiction, Gary Buslik's wacky satire on power-mongers of all stripes. In this rollicking story, Iranian president Akhmed teams up with the leaders of Venezuela and Cuba and their American intelligence agents to smuggle radioactive matzo balls into Miami Beach. But intelligence being as slippery a concept to these nincompoops as chicken fat on linoleum, when each member of the gang decides to ladle out his own personal nuke soup, holy terror Akhmed is left steaming. Will his plan to destroy America float like a fly or sink like a lead dumpling?
Star-crossed lovers, conniving academics, and blustery social climbers collide with ravenous termites, international do-badders, and multi-level marketing in a plot as fast-paced and hilarious as a runaway mountain bus. Radioactivity has never been so much fun.
“Lavinia Spalding has given travelers a witty, profound, and accessible exploration of the hows and whys of keeping a journal. Novices and veterans alike will find inspiration and fresh ideas on every page, along with practical suggestions to bring out the best writer in anyone.” —Anthony Weller, author of Days and Nights on the Grand Trunk Road
Writing Away: A Creative Guide to Awakening the Journal-Writing Traveler, inspires budding memoirists and jetsetting scribes alike. But Writing Away doesn’t stop there—author Lavinia Spalding spins the romantic tradition of keeping a travelogue into a modern, witty adventure in awareness, introducing the traditional handwritten journal as a profoundly valuable tool for self-discovery, artistic expression, and spiritual growth. Read the Introduction.
Cruise Confidential: a hit below the waterline
“Part Love Boat, part Mutiny on the Bounty, Cruise Confidential does for cruising what Animal House did for higher education.” —J. Maarten Troost, author of The Sex Lives of Cannibals
Cruise Confidential is a delightfully funny, wild, and romantic adventure that reveals what it's really like working on a cruise ship. Brian David Bruns worked for a year in the ships' restaurants and his account will astonish you as you are assaulted with circumstances ranging from the absurd to the bizarre. Did you know that waiters are required to steal cutlery and even food from each other for their own guests? Can you imagine what the crew thinks of the passengers? And sex, don't forget the sex. Read Chapter 1 here.