Monday, August 3, 2009
The Gold of Troy
Today Zack got a package in the mail with birthday gifts from my sister Lesley. Along with Zack’s b-day gifts there were 2 things in the package for me. The first was prosaic – a rugby shirt she had picked up for me during one of her trip to China. The second was something I had asked her for and is quite important to me. It was a book called “The Gold of Troy”. The book had belonged to my dad and had been left in my parent’s house after they passed away. “The Gold of Troy” is a book about an archeologist named Heinrich Schliemann and his quest to validate what had been written in the Homeric legends. Schliemann used Homer’s epics to find and excavate the legendary city of Troy in the late 1800’s. Up until Schliemann proved it, everyone had thought that Troy and the stories surrounding it were just legends and not based upon fact. Through his efforts, Schliemann validated much of what Homer had written and also found a marvelous hoard of treasure and gold in the ruins of Troy. I first read this book when I was a little bit older than Zack. As a kid I loved to look through the thousands of books that filled our home. Of all the books in our home this one fascinated me like no other. Though it was written for a much older audience I still picked it up and read it at the age of 12 or 13. I became captivated by it. I was entranced with what Schliemann had done and all the lands that he traveled through and visited to find the legendary Troy. This book was the first of its kind that I had ever read. I was so into it I remember coming back to it time and time again. It formed the foundation for so many of the other books that I read as a young adult. Besides giving me a foundation of books that I wanted to read, it inspired me deeply in my soul that I wanted to see the world. Not just Europe and the “safe places” – but the places that weren’t safe – the places that were exotic and out of the way. As I got older I read more and more about exotic locations. During the height of the Russian War in Afghanistan, I became interested in the writings of so many authors about the “Great Game” of the 19th century. The “Great Game” was the struggle for empire that was fought between Russia and Great Britain for domination of the Central Asia. This struggle, with the exception of the Crimean War rarely involved actual wars between the Russian and British empires. Normally spies and secret agents would use the tribes and feudal nations of Central Asia as pawns in this high-powered game. Once again – these books inspired me to want to visit these places. These were places with names like Samarkand, Bokhara, Kabul, Ghazni, Kandahar and Tashkent. Most of these places have faded from the viewpoint of the modern world. (OK – Kabul and Kandahar being obvious examples of places that have NOT faded from view. Or maybe I should say they have faded and have now come back into view.) As I got older, my desire to see these places didn’t necessarily diminish but was replaced with the reality of life. I had student loans to payoff, a career to start and a family for which I had to provide. Now that my life has utterly and completely changed, my desire to see these places is once again beginning to re-assert itself in my life. (Truth be told, I have seen a huge amount of world, including a large number of exotic places, but there is still so much for me to see! My last passport - before it expired, had just about every page entirely filled with visas and entry and exit stamps.) Our trip to France is the re-ignition of this lust for travel. I do need to take things slowly at first as Zack is only 11 years old. But we have to start somewhere. As we head into 2010 we will start to add more exotic destinations to our travel agenda – key place for 2010 being Iceland. By the time Zack is around 16 or 17 years old, we WILL journey to these lands and experience the savage beauty of these places. As I have always said, I can’t offer Zack the things that Patty would have given him had she lived, but I can provide him with adventure and an understanding of the world – and that is exactly what I intend to do! And if anyone is wondering - as we embark on our travels this week, I will be tucking that copy of “The Gold of Troy” in to my backpack and taking it with me.