I could tell you how many steps make up the streets rising like stairways, and of the degree of the arcades' curves, and what kind of zinc scales cover the roofs; but I already know this would be the same as telling you nothing. The city does not consist of this, but of relationships between the measurements of its space and the events of its past...A description of Zaira as it is today should contain all Zaira's past. -Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Thursday, July 21, 2005


We have been watching Michael Palin's Himalaya. I've been a fan of his travel series since I lived in England while Pole to Pole was broadcast, and a friend also turned me on to Around the World in 80 Days (which is still the best of the lot).

Himalaya doesn't have the consistency of the journey of some of the other series. In the televised version he suddenly gets from one place to the next and you know you have missed something, though the advantage of the website is that you can read the full travel journal. However, I was totally enthralled, and after each episode I found myself online, either reading more details in the journal or looking up information on places and cultures I knew nothing about. There is a huge saltwater lake called Namtso at 15,000 ft. on the Tibetan Plateau? The Naxi in Yunan have a 1000 year old hieroglyphic language? Yes, I have spent a lot of time studying India (admittedly the south) but really know next to nothing about Nagaland. While the focus of the show is travel, the brief encounters with places and people did have me digging for more.

And of course there was a certain amount of envy...wouldn't that be a great trip to take (ok, not to mention with the full force of the BBC supporting you). But at the same time, it was very clear to me early on that with or without the BBC, as I woman I would not be able to recreate his journey completely. Most of the places it would not matter, but there were definitely stops where I would not have been welcomed.

Anyway, I recommend poking around and finding your own paths to pursue further. It's still a big world out there.

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