Sunday, February 03, 2008

RTW in books: With Mark Twain through the Mediterranean

Can-cans, Cats and Cities of Ash (Great Journeys S.)

Mark Twain is really a hero of novelists and travel writers, and it's been a while since I've read any of his writing. A friend lent me this neat little extract from The Innocents Abroad, published in the Penguin Great Journeys series as Can-cans, Cats and Cities of Ash.

Travelling by ship, Twain and his companions explore the Azores, Morocco, France, Italy and Greece in these extracts. As well as being witty, Twain managed to get up to quite some adventures, like sneaking ashore in a small boat at Athens, in the dark of night, when they couldn't get clearance to land legally.

I was also taken with his description of the climb and descent of Mt Vesuvius near Pompeii. Going up was hard, coming down was easy:
The descent of the mountain was a labor of only four minutes. Instead of stalking down the rugged path we ascended, we chose one which was bedded knee-deep in loose ashes, and ploughed our way with prodigious strides that would almost have shamed the performance of him of the seven-league boots.
... which sounds remarkably like my own experience of coming down Mt Fuji in Japan. Twain could have been walking beside me.

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