Sunday, November 21, 2010

Booking it with Argonauts and Turkish Tales

We still bring a paperback or two on trips and save room in the suitcases for any that we might purchase along the way. (Eat your heart out Kindle, you're not yet invited.)
Searching for books is a highlight of our travels, but one place we didn't expect to find a fun read was in Vikos Marine Supply store in Poros, Greece.  

Ferry arrival on the island of Spetses
Julian Blatchley's Adjacent to the Argonauts, a voyage of discovery in Greece (Matador, 2010) caught our attention because we'd learned about the Argonauts when our cruise ship had stopped  in Volos, Greece, the place from where Jason and his Argonauts are said to have set out from on their ancient world adventure to find the Golden Fleece. The modern town has built a replica of the mythical Argo ship. (Click the 'things to do' link on Volos for full story

And we'd also cruised the Bosphorus to and from the Black Sea, which is thought to have been Jason's routing. But the book sale was a done deal simply because the store owner said, 'It's a good book. Julian is a friend of mine."

Actually the book has nothing to do with Jason and his crew; it's a comic travel memoir about Julian's misadventures on a sailing holiday through Greece's Saronic and Argolic islands in the late 1980's with his friends Malcolm and Rex.

Blatchley's First Law of Nautical Recreation:  "The brilliance of the manoeuver is in inverse proportion to the number of people watching it."

It's an engaging, entertaining yarn that I still suspect prompted our visits to the islands of Spetses and Hydra, as neither were on the radar screen when we had headed to Poros. We also went to Perdika, a harbor town, the motley crew had sailed to on the island of Aegina. Amid the chuckles, the book provided great insights into sailing -- it isn't as easy as it looks.

A post script:  I scribbled, on the back of a business card, a note telling Julian (who doesn't live full time in Poros) how much we'd enjoyed the book and left it at the marine supply store.  Julian emailed this week - he'd received the note.

A harbor cafe in Perdika, Aegina Island
The book we'd brought along for cruise ship reading was Turkish Reflections, A Biography of a Place by Mary Lee Settle (Simon and Schuster, 1991).  Settle's detailed writing led us through Turkey, its customs and beauty of its cities and countryside (far more than we saw on the cruise) as she wove a tale of her past life in Turkey in the early 70's with her nostalgic return in 1989.  A sample of her observations:

"Turkey is more than ruins, or armies, or great-fawn-colored spaces of central Turkey, the mountains, the wild shades of green in the northeast.  It is a cared-for plant in a window, a geranium as tall as a small tree and covered with red bloom against a white wall, the controlled tumble of a grapevine, the economics of food and shade together on a trellis above a tabled in a hidden courtyard, a pot of basil in the captain's cabin on a fishing boat."
Another book we wish we'd read before the cruise, but learned of from fellow cruisers was, Black Sea - The Birthplace of Civilisation and Barbarism by Neal Ascherson (Vintage, 2007).  This this non-fiction paperback about the culture, history and politics of the Black Sea countries their people came highly recommended.

Note: These three books can be found on our carousel on the left-hand side of the blog home page.  They are also available from  Book DepositoryPhotos are the property of Jackie Smith and can't be used without permission.


  1. I love the harbor cafe photo. Spooky clouds, but still serene feeling.

  2. The Underwater World Aquarium offers guests an opportunity to see the marine life in the Gulf of Thailand. An acrylic person on foot burrow gives a 180 degree perspective of uncommon heavenly attendant fish, sharks, stingrays and


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