High Albania – Edith Durham

High Albania - Edith Durham
High Albania – Edith Durham

Edith Durham  (1863 – 1944) was an English artist, anthropologist/ethnologist and writer who travelled and worked in Albania between 1900 and 1914. One of those intrepid Victorian/Edwardian female explorers, High Albania is her account of her travels in Northern Albania in 1908, the time of the Young Turks and the end of the Ottoman Empire.

Lots of late nights, early mornings, conversations with Albanians and Franciscans, blood feuds, besa and firing of pistols.

A perfect read before, during and after our week walking in the Accursed Mountains.

Abebooks.co.uk: High Albania – Edith Durham

Goodreads review: High Albania – Edith Durham

The White Spider – Heinrich Harrer

The White Spider - Heinrich Harrer
The White Spider – Heinrich Harrer

A slow start – impenetrable style – but the going got easier as this account of attempts to climb the North Face of the Eiger progressed year by year.

Heinrich Harrer, of Seven Years In Tibet fame, was in the group of climbers who made the first successful ascent, in 1938.

Recalling my Urus ascent during 2015’s Cordillera Blanca Traverse, these words on page 83 resonated:

“Those hours between night and day are always a keen challenge to one’s courage. One’s body goes mechanically through the correct movements essential to gaining height; but the spirit is not yet awake nor full of the joy of climbing, the heart is shrouded in a cloak of doubt and diffidence….

They have to reconcile themselves with their own shortcomings and with constraining feelings; they have to subject themselves to the willpower already geared to the enterprise in hand. And so the first hour, the hour of the grey, shapeless, colourless dusk before dawn, is an hour of silence.”

First light, Urus ascent, Cordillera Blanca Traverse, Peru 2015
First light, Urus ascent, Cordillera Blanca Traverse, Peru 2015

Publisher page: The White Spider – Heinrich Harrer (translated by Hugh Merrick)

The Three-Arched Bridge – Ismail Kadare

The Three-Arched Bridge - Ismail Kadare
The Three-Arched Bridge – Ismail Kadare

Legends, history and changes from 14th century Arberia, wrought around the construction of a bridge to span the wicked waters of the Ujana, the Ujana e Keqe.

Pre trip reading, I enjoyed this far more than Ismail Kadare’s The Accident, memories of which were still rather putting me off embarking on this short novella.

The story draws on the legend of a woman being immured in the walls of Rozafa Castle in Shkodër, which is on our itinerary so I’m glad I managed to read The Three-Arched Bridge before we head off to Tirana and thence north into The Accursed Mountains.

Publisher’s page: The Three-Arched Bridge – Ismail Kadare (Translated from the Albanian by John Hodgson)

A Venetian Reckoning – Donna Leon

A Venetian Reckoning - Donna Leon
A Venetian Reckoning – Donna Leon

An early encounter with Guido Brunetti. Carlo Trevisan, a leading Venetian lawyer, is found murdered on a train on its return to Venice.

Things get uncomfortable at home when Brunetti learns that his teenage daughter Chiara was at school with Trevisan’s daughter, and asks her to help him find out more about the family – much to Paola’s anger.

A Venetian Reckoning – Donna Leon

Tibet, Tibet – Patrick French

Tibet, Tibet - Patrick French
Tibet, Tibet – Patrick French

Supremely readable analysis of Tibet’s history and place in the modern world, covering its relationships with China and the rest of the world (past and present – including the British invasion under Younghusband), and Patrick French‘s own exploration of the country and encounters with the people and the politics of Tibet in 1999.

On his return, he resigned his position as director of the Free Tibet Campaign.

Publisher’s webpage: Tibet, Tibet: A Personal History of a Lost Land – Patrick French