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Paperback Book Details
  • 08/2020
  • 9780578705705
  • 394 pages
  • $29.95
Alan Sparks
Author
Into the Carpathians: A Journey Through the Heart and History of East Central Europe (Part 2: The Western Mountains)
The journey continues in Part 2 of Into the Carpathians. Still on the trail of wolves, we are now led into the western Carpathian Mountains and the Sudetes of Slovakia, Poland, and the Czech Republic. As we explore the misty hills, mysterious forests, and intriguing history of this fabled landscape, encounters with wolves, bears, and lynx; lumberjacks, shepherds, and recluses; poets, tyrants, and saints; sprites, spirits, and witches; and such ancient peoples as Neanderthals, Celts, and Quadi, and such imposing historical figures as Marcus Aurelius of the Roman Empire, Prince Svatopluk of Great Moravia, Stephen I of Hungary, Bolesław the Brave of Poland, and Jan Sobieski of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, give us broad insight into the natural, historical, and mythological forces that have shaped, and continue to shape, the cultures, nations, and psyches along the way. 72 fascinating color photographs also emblaze this memorable trek.
Reviews
Sparks (Dreaming of Wolves) finishes his trilogy of hiking travelogues of Eastern Europe's Carpathian mountains with amusing observations and a wealth of historical detail. Concluding the “Way of the Wolf“ journey with a team tracking various natural predators in the mountains, this final volume is light on wolf sightings but rich in challenging terrain and amusing anecdotes. The team travels through Slovakia, Poland, the Czech Republic, then back through Poland as the author alternates between the cultural history of each region, with vivid descriptions of the local topography, and funny stories about encounters with locals. The attempts made by his group to communicate with locals often comes down to hand signs, and one of his party members laments cultural imperialism's impact on the uniformity of worldwide youth culture. The team's outreach results in a pickup basketball game in the Czech Republic and a dance party in the tiny Polish tourist destination of Jedlina-Zdrój.

There are times when the historical sections ramble or interrupt the travelogue's momentum, especially when a plethora of names and dates are packed in a relatively short space. But readers will appreciate the thoroughness of Sparks’s research, and the way he tells the story of the trip will keep them turning the pages.

The lasting political instability in the region is emphasized in the chapter on Slovakia, when a local interpreter mocks the police after Sparks's car is broken into. He introduces the history of the Lemko people by way of their museum dedicated to Andy Warhol, an ethnic Lemko. The illustrations are a boon: colorful pictures of meticulously crafted wooden churches and the massive Spiš castle bring Sparks's stories to life. The photo of the Skull Chapel of Czermna is a particularly interesting, if gruesome, highlight. Sparks honors his journey and teammates with a thoughtful and historically dense, but still lighthearted, account of their time together, blazing a new trail.

Takeaway: Travelogue fans will appreciate Sparks' deep dive into both a visitor’s view of local cultures and historical research.

Great for fans of: Francis Tapon's The Hidden Europe, James Roberts' The Mountains of Romania: A Guide to Walking in the Carpathian Mountains.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: B-

Formats
Paperback Book Details
  • 08/2020
  • 9780578705705
  • 394 pages
  • $29.95

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