This blog is the online accompaniment to the trip from Beijing to London in the early summer of 2009, entirely overland, through the ancient trade routes of Central Asia and the Middle East.
But this time, we’re not interested in silk.
We’re all about the rhubarb.
Hard to believe, isn’t it, that our vermilion-stalked friend packed such a punch in the desert oases smack bang in the middle of the Eurasian landmass. This little piece of botanical exoticism, with such humble beginnings in the mountains of Gansu province, China, made its way through deserts, over mountain passes, across inland seas and plonked itself in major European trading spots, to be fought over by moustachioed Turkish men with pharmaceutical leanings. Then, just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, the rheum packed up shop and left to live the American dream. Finally, it finds a home in Michigan, where they say the world’s tastiest rhubarb is cultivated – although those in the Rhubarb Triangle may beg to differ.
Not that I’m going all the way to Michigan. The interesting part comes way, way before that. The route I’ll be following can be found here. Leaving Beijing in mid-May, and seeking to arrive in London in early August.
First, we have a veritable ‘stan-fest of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turmenistan, before looping through Iran, the Caucasus, Turkey and the rest of Southern Europe.
I’m giving myself about two and half months for the trip. I know. I could do with a few more, especially if I’m to avoid spending every day of the summer packed in the back seat of a knackered old Daewoo with ferociously hirsute men.
But the journey is the destination, apparently – at least that’s what they used to say, presumably when traveling was far more romantic than it is today. We’ll see what romance awaits in the decrepid railway gastinitsas that are commensurate with my budget.