The Traveling Minstrel Journals

“Three Travel Questions: Where are you from? Where are you coming in from? Where are you going?”

– from Flights, Olga Tokarczuk

© 2019 MDR

Uzbekistan Journal: Uzbekistan Beyond Book Pages | Goodnight, Khiva | Khiva | Summer Solstice in Khiva | The Colors of Bukhara | Bukhara | Samarkand Mornings and Minarets | Samarkand: Ulugh Beg | Samarkand: Tamerlane | Samarkand: Shah-i-Zinda | Samarkand | Literary Tashkent

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Literary Postcards

© 2022 MDR
Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Abdulla Qodiriy (April 10, 1894 – October 4, 1938), author of the first Uzbek novel, translator of Russian literature into the Uzbek language, and nonfictional protagonist of Hamid Ismailov’s The Devil’s Dance.

Qodiriy was arrested for an article he published and was later executed.

In The Devil’s Dance, Ismailov explores the idea of the rumored last novel of Qodiriy that the NKVD destroyed after his arrest.

Ismailov is persona non grata in his own homeland and his books remain banned in Uzbekistan.

 © 2018 MDR
Vienna, Austria
The Austrian National Library (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek) turned 650 years old that year. Established as the Imperial Library by the Habsburgs in the year 1368, it is the largest library in Austria, boasting over 12 million items in its collection.
© 2016 MDR
Istanbul, Turkey
Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence. The museum created in tandem with the novel, and which won the European Museum of the Year award in 2014. 
© 2016 MDR
Ephesus, Turkey
The Library of Celsus was the third largest library in its time, after Alexandria and Pergamum. Four caryatids grace the facade of the library: Ennoia for Thought, Sophia for Wisdom, Episteme for Knowledge or Understanding, and Apeth for Excellence. My camera focused on Apeth because it was the most well-preserved among the four. Apeth is usually associated with bravery, but it also portrays beings who engage their full potential, from strength to wit, to succeed in their endeavors. Women in the ancient world had few rights, but the virtues were represented by women.

© 2019 MDR
Tangier, Morocco
Ibn Battuta of the 1300s, whose tomb I stumbled upon while getting lost in the Tangier medina, was also a judge. But he is famously known as Ibn Battuta, traveler and writer. As one scholar insists, he is not the Marco Polo of the East, Marco Polo is the Ibn Battuta of the West. While both their travel tales are meant to be taken with a grain of salt, Ibn Battuta, lesser known, traveled more extensively. Ibn Battuta, traveler and writer. Marco Polo, traveler and writer. Jan Morris, traveler and writer. Gertrude Bell, traveler and writer. Ibn Jubayr, traveler and writer. These fascinating figures I have met through book pages, these travelers and writers!
They know of a timeless and wondrous world where it is synonymous:
traveler and writer.
© 2019 MDR
Alexandria, Egypt
This was an extremely lonely plane ride, but flying over this galaxy on land distracted me from my despondency and I remember having goosebumps as I gazed outside the airplane window. “This must be a special place,” I thought to myself. I was about to check the flight route map on my screen when the captain announced that we were flying over Alexandria!

In this day and age, a library and a museum have distinct functions and are differentiated by the items that they safeguard. But what we know as the Library of Alexandria was a musaeum or mouseion (predecessors of the word museum) — a space supposedly inhabited by the muses.

What a beautiful thought: To tend the mind as musaeum, a place where the muses reside. What do we keep in the museums of our mind?

© 2018 MDR Vienna, Austria
Sigmund Freud’s residence turned museum.
No id no entry. 😉

© 2018 MDR
Vienna, Austria
Cafe Hawelka is mentioned twice in the second volume of the graphic novel Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi. The artist Adolf Frankl used to reside in the same building, and Cafe Hawelka was one of the establishments that gave rise to the culture of “kafeehausliterature” — coffee house literature.
© 2018 MDR
Vienna, Austria
Goethe. His was the first statue I encountered in Vienna when I expected it to be a composer’s.
© 2018 MDR
Budapest, Hungary

“As he spoke Lidia could see the schoolgirl Isa discussing the future with her father. She saw her as her father described her, as a pint-sized redeemer spreading out her school atlas and examining the map of Budapest because she wanted to see a major city, a really big city, and trying to work out where in City Park the statue of the historian Anonymous might stand. Iza loved the look of that hooded faceless figure. She saw it once when she was a young woman visiting Budapest…” Magda Szabó, Iza’s Ballad
© 2018 MDR
Rotunda Library, Singapore National Gallery
A library of art books and art history.
© 2018 MDR
Library at Esplanade, Singapore
A library dedicated to the performing arts! 2,308 square meters of music scores,
books on music and musicians, music history, and recordings!
© 2018 MDR
Library at Orchard, Singapore
For literature and books on design!

Cecile Licad’s mother once relayed to us how she created a learning environment for her daughter: She saw to it that the piano was ready, as well as the chair and the books, so that all the little child had to do was play the piano. It must have been effective. She produced a Cecile Licad.

Singapore reminds me of such a mother. The first ad I noticed on the MRT upon arriving was that of the National Library Board’s “National Reading Movement” with the hashtag #ReadingNationSG. Singapore inspires her citizens to read by providing beautiful and strategically-located public libraries all over the city-state, making reading materials as accessible as hawker stalls. The Rotunda Library at the National Gallery is a great resource for books on visual arts, the Library@Orchard lures the literature and design lovers, the Library@Esplanade — Oh! I don’t even know where to begin about this one! One impressive library dedicated to the performing arts!

Because of this encouraged culture of reading, the most wonderful bookstores are also flourishing here! And what a joy to see these establishments teeming with young people! It has truly become a reading nation! As a tourist, this is what I want to emphasize about Singapore — not another picture of the Merlion, not Marina Bay Sands, not the Singapore flyer, not Universal Studios; because this reading culture is probably the best thing about Singapore. Well… that, and the food. The reading and the eating culture!

© 2018 MDR
Library at Orchard, Singapore
“That’s the thing about books.
They let you travel without moving your feet.” — Jhumpa Lahiri
© 2018 MDR
Yangon, Myanmar (formerly Rangoon, Burma)
George Orwell was born in India and his mother was born in Burma where he spent life-changing years that influenced his writings greatly. This is at The Strand, a colonial-era building that has roofed Orwell who wrote a famous novel about my birth year, and Kipling who wrote lines like “the female of the species is more deadly than the male.” And there I was wondering, could it be true for book-butterflies, too?
© 2016 MDR
Tacloban City, Philippines
People’s Center and Library — one of the most beautiful libraries in the Philippines, which a friend and her merry band of “book-keepers” tried to redeem after 40 years of oblivion, termites, and Typhoon Haiyan when it became a shelter and precious pages were used as makeshift toilet paper.
© 2012 MDR
Florence, Italy. Dante Alighieri’s birthplace.
© 2012 MDR
Rome, Italy
Goethe Monument at Villa Borghese and a random sighting of antique editions of his works at a flea market.
© 2010 Tonet Gorgonio – Hicks
La Belle Aurore Bookshop, Cebu City, Philippines
One of my most memorable performances as a pianist.