A Novel Approach: Panama Canal, Russia and Ukraine, Kashgar

Panama Canal

On reading the current series on Panama by Randy Keck, my wife, Jean, and I are reminded of our trip there 10 years ago. As we recall, it was arranged as a more or less private tour through Panama Jones.

The thing that the company owner, Winston Rice, said up front and emphasized was that, prior to going, one should read “The Path Between the Seas” by David McCullough (latest edition, 2004, Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0743262131 — 698 pp., $35 hardback; inquire paperback).

We both did so and have encouraged many of our friends contemplating the trip to do the same. It makes the time spent much more meaningful.

In addition, we might add that one should do the transit of the canal in a small ship. It makes the magnitude of the locks even more awesome.

Coeur d'Alene, ID

Russia and Ukraine

I took a 26-day trip to the Ukraine and Russia in July-August ’06, and the book that enhanced the whole experience was “Russka” by Edward Rutherfurd (2005, Ballentine Books. ISBN 0345479351), who also wrote “Sarum.”

It’s long, almost 1,000 pages, but it provides a very entertaining story about a fictional family throughout the centuries along with accurate historical facts. By the end of the trip my companions felt they had learned so much, as I was constantly reading bits and pieces.

For example, when we toured the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg and the State Gallery in Moscow, we knew to look for the most famous of the icon painters, Rublev. The tsars also came alive as we toured the various palaces. I started it ahead of time and it took me through the entire trip to finish.

Walnut Creek, CA

Words on Kashgar

En route to Central Asia via London’s Heathrow Airport years ago, I picked up Lady Macartney’s “An English Lady in Chinese Turkestan” (1985, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195838793 — used copies only). In this charming little book, first published in 1931, Lady Macartney tells us about her 17 years as the wife of the first British Consul in Kashgar, China.

Upon arrival in Kashgar, I was thrilled to locate what was previously the Consulate, to see the inside of the Consulate compound and to enjoy her descriptions of many things Chinese. Everyone who reads this book will be inspired to visit Kashgar.