Reading List

Before you arrive or whilst you're here,

find out more about the region's natural and human history.

The Books

Click covers for more info

Prespa: a Story for Man & Nature

Giorgos Catsadorakis - 1999

Dr. Catsadorakis has been at the forefront of conservation work in Prespa since the 1980s through his work at the Society for the Protection of Prespa, and is one of Greece’s most well-respected biologists.

 

To explain just how good this book is, in 1999 two young folk in London read it, looking for inspiration and a way out of the big city. They moved to Prespa off the back of this book and 20 years later they’re still here. 

 

    "It is not easy to assign this book to any precise category. It is not a novel. It is not a narrative. It is not a chronicle of a journey. It is not a travel guide. It is neither purely historical nor purely environmentalist, and it is not a fabrication either. Nor, indeed, does it simply describe a particular place and various events as experienced by the author through his personal involvement in them. It is, however, a book written with a fourfold purpose: to paint an all-round picture of Prespa, with enough information and technical data to make it intelligible and enjoyable for the lay reader while at the same time catering for more specialist interests; to draw attention to and highlight the extraordinary beauty and biodiversity of Prespa; to reveal the relations existing between the different elements that compromise this rich physical and cultural environment and, above all; to stimulate readers to contribute whatever they can to ensure that this marvellous piece of countryside is preserved intact for future generations."

 

Difficult to find at a reasonable price online. We can source copies and ship it to you. Email us at info@balkantracks.com 

 

 

Prespa

Giorgos Catsadorakis

#prespa

the small heart of things

Julian Hoffman

#prespa

Border:

Kapka Kassabova 

#rhodope #greece #turkey

#bulgaria

Birds Without Wings

Louis de Bernieres

#greece #turkey

Twice a Stranger: 

the mass expulsions that

forged Modern Greece

and Turkey

Bruce Clark

#greece #turkey

Modern History of the Balkans - Thanos V

A Modern History of

the Balkans

Thanos Veremis

#balkans

Salonica

City of Ghosts

Mark Mazower

#greece #balkans

Nature of Mediterranean Europe 

An Ecological History

A. T. Grove

Oliver Rackham

#greece #med #balkans

 
 

the small heart of things: being at home in a beckoning world

Julian Hoffman - 2015

One of the two young folk above, Julian has now written his own mini-masterpiece on Prespa, but through a completely different lens to Dr. Catsadorakis.

 

      'Guided by Rainer Maria Rilke’s belief that “everything beckons us to perceive it,” Hoffman explores the area around the Prespa Lakes, shared by Greece, Albania, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. From there he travels widely, believing that through awareness, curiosity, and openness we have the potential to forge abiding relationships with a range of places. The Small Heart of Things is a book about looking and listening. It incorporates travel and natural history writing, interweaving human stories with those of wild creatures as Hoffman illuminates how, when we accord places our close and patient attention, these many connections can teach us to be at home in the world.'

Winner of the American Association of Writers and Writing Programs Award for Creative Non-fiction.

Julian often joins us for a walk or meal on our Prespa and Ohrid tour. And you can find more about him and his work on his Notes From Near and Far blog.

 

 

Available online

 

 

Irreplaceable: The fight to save our wild places

Julian Hoffman - 2019

In his second book, which has received rave reviews in The Guardian and from Mark Cocker, Julian widens his focus to species and places around the world, but it's still a recommended read for its chapters on the Egyptian vulture and Balkan Lynx projects, as well as for being a splendid book - see the reviews for that, don't take our word for it!

 

   'Irreplaceable is not only a love letter to the haunting beauty of these landscapes and the wild species that call them home, including nightingales, lynxes, hornbills, redwoods and elephant seals, it is also a timely reminder of the vital connections between humans and nature, and all that we stand to lose in terms of wonder and wellbeing. 

 

Exploring treasured coral reefs and remote mountains, tropical jungle and ancient woodland, urban allotments and tallgrass prairie, Julian Hoffman traces the stories of threatened places around the globe through the voices of local communities and grassroots campaigners as well as professional ecologists and academics.'  

 

Julian often joins us for a walk or meal on our Prespa and Ohrid tour. And you can find more about him and his work on his Notes From Near and Far blog.

 

 

Available online

 

 
 

To The Lake

Kapka Kassabova - 2020

We've been eagerly awaiting this book as very little is written in English (or any language!) on Prespa and Ohrid

In a way that perfectly encapsulates our Prespa tour - weaving the diversity of nature and human culture in such small places - 'To the Lake' gives us a clear understanding of the region and the Balkans.

 

    'Lake Ohrid and Lake Prespa. Two vast lakes joined by underground rivers. Two lakes that seem to hold both the turbulent memories of the region's past, and the secret of its enduring allure. Two lakes that have played a central role in Kapka Kassabova's maternal family. As she journeys to her grandmother's place of origin, Kassabova encounters a civilisational crossroads.

 

The Lakes are set within the mountainous borderlands of North Macedonia, Albania and Greece, and crowned by the old Roman road, the via Egnatia. Once a trading and spiritual nexus of the southern Balkans, this lake region remains one of Eurasia's most culturally diverse areas. Meanwhile, with their remote rock churches, changeable currents, and large population of migratory birds, the Lakes live in their own time. By exploring on water and land the stories of poets, fishermen, and caretakers, misfits, rulers, and inheritors of war and exile, Kassabova uncovers the human history shaped by the Lakes.

Setting out to resolve her own ancestral legacy of the Lakes, Kassabova's journey unfolds to a deeper enquiry into how geography and politics imprint themselves upon families and nations.'

 

Available online. 

 

Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe

Kapka Kassabova - 2017

I was given this as a gift to take on a research trip for our Rhodope tour. As it turned out, the evenings were packed with more revelry in these remote mountains than I expected and I finished the trip only a third through the book. 

Once home I continued reading it, only to discover that the lodge in the middle of the forest, run by Thanasis and scene of the above revelry, was actually in the book. If only I'd have known. 

The book then formed the schedule for further research trips and my own holidays, exploring the villages, forests and mountains that Kassabova takes us to. It's an incredible book about an incredible place. Buy it whether you come on our Rhodope tour or not!

    'When Kapka Kassabova was a child, the border zone between Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece was rumoured to be an easier crossing point into the West than the Berlin Wall so it swarmed with soldiers, spies and fugitives. Today, this densely forested landscape is no longer heavily militarised, and Kassabova sets out on a journey to meet the people of this triple border - Bulgarians, Turks, Greeks, and the latest wave of refugees fleeing conflict further afield.

She discovers a region that has been shaped by the successive forces of history: by its own past migration crises, by communism, by two World wars, by the Ottoman Empire, and - older still - by the ancient legacy of myths and legends.

 

As Kapka Kassabova explores this enigmatic region in the company of border guards and treasure hunters, entrepreneurs and botanists, psychic healers and ritual fire-walkers, refugees and smugglers, she traces the physical and psychological borders that criss-cross its villages and mountains, and goes in search of the stories that will unlock its secrets.

 

Border is a sharply observed portrait of a little-known corner of Europe, and a fascinating meditation on the borderlines that exist between countries, between cultures, between people, and within each of us.

Winner of the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year

Winner of the 2017 Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year

Winner of the Saltire Society Non-Fiction Book of the Year 2017

Shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2017

Shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize 2017

 

Available online. 

 

 

Birds Without Wings

Louis de Bernieres

Coming after 'Captain Correlli’s Mandolin', de Bernieres stayed in Greece but moved to the tragic story of the Greek-Turkish population exchanges, the social and political effects of which are still felt today. This novel is a great bit of historical fiction, which moves between "...Eskibahçe, a small fictional village in south-western coastal Anatolia during the 1900s, and the major battlefields of World War I, with the Battle of Gallipoli taking place halfway through the novel. Narrated by various characters, it tells the tragic love story of Philothei and Ibrahim. It also chronicles the rise of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the 'Father of the Turkish Nation'. The overarching theme of the story covers the impact of religious intolerance, over-zealous nationalism, and the war that often results. The characters are unwittingly caught up in historical tides outside of their control."

 

The north of Greece is still populated by the descendants of these Pontic Greek and Minor Asia refugees, who we meet in our Prespa tour, to hear their family histories from the people themselves.

 

 

Twice a Stranger: 

The mass expulsions that forged Modern Greece and Turkey

Bruce Clark

A historical account, which de Bernieres and Mazower (see below) used as reference for their books.

 

“In 1923, after a long war over the future of the Ottoman world, nearly two million citizens of Turkey and Greece were moved across the Aegean – expelled because they belonged to the ‘wrong’ religion. Bruce Clark’s fascinating account of these turbulent events draws on new research in Greece and Turkey, and interviews with surviving refugees who lived through those years, allowing the victims of this large scale ethnic cleanings to speak for themselves for the first time.

 

Wikipedia has a summary of the population exchanges - read here.

 

 

A Modern History of the Balkans

Thanos Veremis

Don't be fooled into thinking this is an academic textbook. Yes, it won't read like the de Bernieres, Hoffman and Kassabova books above, but it adds meat and chronology to all that they discuss.

       “Overall, Veremis's work is a solid introduction to modern Balkan history, and gives the reader ample insight into the processes which have shaped the history of this European region, while also providing incisive questions about its future. This book would be a valuable primer for the interested lay-person, and a sound starting point for the undergraduate student of the Balkans.” –  Journal of Contemporary History

        'The history of the Balkans has been a distillation of the great and terrible themes of 20th century history-the rise of nationalism, communism, fascism, genocide, identity and war. Written by one of the leading historians of the region, this is a new interpretation of that history, focusing on the uses and legacies of nationalism in the Balkan region.

 

In particular, Professor Veremis analyses the influence of the West-from the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the rise and collapse of Yugoslavia. Throughout the state-building process of Greece, Serbia, Rumania, Bulgaria and later, Albania, the West provided legal, administrative and political prototypes to areas bedevilled by competing irredentist claims. At a time when Slovenia, Rumania, Bulgaria and Croatia have become full members of the EU, yet some orphans of the Communist past are facing domestic difficulties, A Modern History of the Balkans seeks to provide an important historical context to the current problems of nationalism and identity in the Balkans.'

Available online

 

 

Salonica - City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews

Mark Mazower

Maybe we're biased because it's a city we know so well, but this should be the template for writing about the history of a place in a way that everyone can dive into.

 

        'The history of a bewilderingly exotic city, rarely written about: five hundred years of clashing cultures and peoples, from the glories of Suleiman the Magnificent to its nadir under Nazi occupation. Salonica (Thessaloniki) is the point where the wonders and horrors of the Orient and Europe have met over the centuries. Written with a Pepysian sense of the texture of daily life in the city through the ages, and with breathtakingly detailed historical research, Salonica evokes the sights, smells, habits, songs and responses of a unique city and its inhabitants.

 

The history of Salonica is one of forgotten alternatives and wrong choices, of identities assumed and discarded. For centuries Jews, Christians and Muslims have succeeded each other in ascendancy, each people intent on erasing the presence of their predecessors, and the result is a city of extraordinarily rich cultural traditions and memories of extreme violence and genocide, one that sits on the overlapping hinterlands of both Europe and the East.

 

Mark Mazower has written a work of astonishing depth and originality about this remarkable city. Magnificently researched and beautifully written, it is more than a book about a place; it studies in detail the way in which three great faiths and peoples have inhabited the same territory, and how smooth transitions and adaptations have been interwoven with violent endings and new beginnings.'

 

BALKAN TRACKS

CONTACT

info@balkantracks.com

0044 (0)7506 381757

 

 

Unit 8A, Red Lane Mill, Sunny Bank Mills, Farsley, LS28 5UJ

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