This is the choice: Alexandria and Cairo in Egypt, Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Athens in Greece, Baghdad in Iraq, Beijing, Hong Kong and Guangzhou in China, Berlin in Germany, Chicago, New York City, San Francisco and Washington D.C. in the United States, Damascus in Syria, Dublin in Ireland, Florence, Naples, Rome and Venice in Italy, Havana in Cuba, Istanbul in Turkey, Jerusalem in Israel, Lhasa in Tibet, London in the United Kingdom, Madrid in Spain, Mecca in Saudi Arabia, Mexico City in Mexico, Moscow and St Petersburg in Russia, Mumbai in India, Paris in France, Prague in the Czech Republic, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Samarkand in Uzbekistan, Sydney in Australia, Timbuktu in Mali, Tokyo in Japan and Vienna in Austria.

Each city section opens with a short history from Furtado before the travellers' accounts take over. Lhasa, for instance, is introduced thus: "Lhasa became the political and religious capital of Tibet in the 17th century, when the Potala Palace, winter home of the Dalai Lama, spiritual and religious leader of Tibet, was built, as well as many large monasteries. It was taken over by the Chinese Qing dynasty in 1750. A British expedition in 1904 took the city and the Chinese left thereafter. A closed city that was rarely visited by Westerners, Lhasa was retaken by the Chinese Red Army in 1950, and following a rising in 1959 the Dalai Lama went into exile in India. In recent decades, new transport links and large-scale immigration by Han Chinese has changed the character of the city, with traditional Tibetan culture sidelined as a tourist attraction."

Primed with this information, we then have four accounts of travels to the mystical city, the first dated 1811 by Thomas Manning, a scholar of China and the first Briton to visit Lhasa, where he met the seven-year-old ninth Dalai Lama, as he recorded in his journal. Secondly, Ekai Kawaguchi, a Japanese Buddhist monk, made four visits to Tibet between 1900 and 1915, where he posed as a Tibetan doctor. He was not impressed with the local conditions and his 1901 account of them was seen by the British and influenced Francis Younghusband, leader of the 1904 expedition that brought Tibet into the British sphere of influence.

Younghusband himself provides the third account, dated 1904. This British Army officer's expedition defeated the Tibetans at Gyantse that year and, against orders, advanced to Lhasa and signed a treaty that secured British influence in Tibet, at that time under Qing Chinese sovereignty. Finally, there is the 1946 account of Heinrich Harrer, an Austrian mountaineer who was interred in India during the Second World War. He escaped to Tibet, where he entered Lhasa and befriended the young Dalai Lama, staying from 1946 to 1952.

Harrer is now known for his 1952 book "Seven Years in Tibet", which was filmed twice, in 1956 and 1997. He is not the only well-known author and traveller selected by Furtado. Harriet Beecher Stowe, for instance, author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin", provides an account of London from her visit to England in 1854 for a triumphant tour of lecturing and campaigning about slavery and other social issues. Stowe complains about the great number of "gin shops" and the "drinking destruction" they encourage: "Mothers go there with babies in their arms and take what turns the mother's milk to poison. Husbands go there and spend the money that their children want for bread, and multitudes of boys and girls of the age of my own."

Danish writer Hans Christian Anderson, best known for his fairy stories, also wrote travel books, notably about Scandinavia and the Iberian Peninsula, and he turns up in Madrid in 1862. He was unimpressed: " ... in summer, they will be roasted alive by the sun ... in winter, they will receive the icicles' kiss ... And if they remain here, what have they seen of Spain? Madrid has none of the characteristics of a Spanish town ... Madrid reminds me of a camel that has fallen down in the desert: I felt as if I was sitting on its hump and though I could see far around, I was not sitting comfortably."

The great and prolific British writer Charles Dickens is found in both the New York City section, with a viewpoint from 1842, and in Rome two years later. Dickens was in America, Furtado tells us, on "a highly publicised tour unrestrained by the restrictive conventions of the Old World. He stayed in New York for three weeks, where he was highly feted. Here as elsewhere, he made a point of visiting penitentiaries, orphanages and asylums, as well as the more conventional sights". Whereas, the editor says, "His experience of Rome was much influenced by anti-clericalism and his preconceived notions of ancient grandeur".

Other commentators come from across the centuries, some that we recognise, some that we've hardly even heard of, such as great travellers of ancient times Strabo and Pausanias; those who undertook extensive journeys in the medieval world, not least Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta; courageous women such as Isabella Bird and Freya Stark; and more enterprising writers and journalists including Mark Twain and Norman Lewis. Furtado's selection includes traders, explorers, soldiers, diplomats, pilgrims and tourists; the experiences of emperors and monarchs sit alongside those of revolutionaries and artists, but also those of ordinary people who found themselves in remarkable situations, for instance the medieval Chinese abbot who was shown round the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris by the King of France himself.

The writing styles vary from the factual to the fanciful. Legendary British explorer Richard Burton could have got a bit more excitement into his story of his 1853 visit to Mecca, we think, considering he was disguised as an Afghan Muslim and was in the forbidden city as an infidel, the penalty for which would have been death.

Still, the tale is a good choice by Furtado in a generally entertaining anthology by intrepid men and women in days when travel was a true adventure.

Furtado has edited other history books including "Histories of Nations: How Their Identities Were Forged" and "1001 Days That Shaped the World". He was editor of "History Today" magazine from 1998 to 2008 and in 2009 was awarded a Doctor of Letters academic degree (known as a DLitt) by Oxford Brookes University for his contribution to the popularisation of history.


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