“A journey with heart.”—New York Times. Acclaimed journalist Bernard Ollivier begins his epic journey on foot across the Silk Road.
Upon retirement at the age of sixty-two, and grieving his deceased wife, renowned journalist Bernard Ollivier felt a sense of profound emptiness: What do I do now? While some see retirement as a chance to cash in their chips and settle into a comfy armchair, Ollivier still longed for more. Searching for inspiration, he strapped on his gear, donned his hat, and headed out the front door to hike the Way of St. James, a 1400-mile journey from Paris to Compostela, Spain. At the end of that road, with more questions than answers, he decided to spend the next few years hiking another of history’s great routes: the Silk Road.
Out of Istanbul is Ollivier’s stunning account of the first part of that 7,200-mile journey. The longest and perhaps most mythical trade route of all time, the Silk Road is in fact a network of routes across Europe and Asia, some going back to prehistoric times. During the Middle Ages, the transcribed travelogue of one Silk Road explorer, Marco Polo, helped spread the fame of the Orient throughout Europe.
Heading east out of Istanbul, Ollivier takes readers step by step across Anatolia and Kurdistan, bound for Tehran. Along the way, we meet a colorful array of real-life characters: Selim, the philosophical woodsman; old Behçet, elated to practice English after years of self-study; Krishna, manager of the Lora Pansiyon in Polonez, a village of Polish immigrants; the hospitable Kurdish women of Dogutepe, and many more. We accompany Ollivier as he explores bazaars, mosques, and caravansaries—true vestiges of the Silk Road itself—and through these encounters and experiences, gains insight into the complex political and social issues facing modern-day Turkey.
Ollivier’s journey, far from bragging about some tremendous achievement, humbly takes the reader on a colossal adventure of human proportions, one in which walking itself, through a kind of alchemy, fosters friendships and fellowship.
“Ollivier takes us on an absorbing walking tour of the Silk Road, experiencing many of the same marvels and dangers as the ancient caravans. . . . Though having an episodic feel, Ollivier's account brims with a sojourner's passion and an insatiable hunger for new vistas and peoples.”—Kirkus
“Bernard Ollivier is a man eager to learn about the world around him, a writer who opens his readers’ eyes. As a journalist, he knows how to extract life’s real secrets from people’s memories. Truth is, in heading out onto the Silk Road, he wasn’t seeking history, but wisdom. And he finds it in the exceptional openness of nomads. This is the gift he offers to us.”—Dominique Gerbaud, president, Reporters Without Borders
“Ollivier is a traveler. He doesn’t consider himself a writer. As a result, his prose is at times better than that of professional travel writers: he writes simply, focused not on fancy phrasings, but on providing a true-to-life account of his experiences. He doesn’t travel in order to write or publish a book. He travels as do so many of Conrad’s protagonists: for self-discovery.”—Le Monde
"Though Ollivier's walk in this book comes to an end, it continues to evoke images and prod the reader’s wonderings long after it has been set aside, such is the author’s unrelenting candor and bent for description. In the end, it is not a solitary journey you read about, but one in which the reader is with him every step of the way."—Rick Antonson, author of Full Moon Over Noah’s Ark: An Odyssey to Mount Ararat and Beyond