1627 - and the Brits were already mad for the 'barb
The image on the left (click to enlarge) is of John Speed’s Map of the Kingdome of China, published in the first English World Atlas in 1627. Google Earth it ain’t.
It has several claims to fame: it is the only map of China of this period to include the illustrated borders showing scenes of local colour – Marco Polo’s Quinzay is top-right, next to Macao, which is almost unrecognisable without hordes of well-monied mandarins scurrying to Casino Lisboa. Elsewhere, indigenous Chinese, Japanese & Burmese figures make the most of the other side borders.
However, crucially, it is the first European map to mention rhubarb. Whilst it’s tough to read, in the Tanguth region (top-centre), Speed notes:
Out of this Kingdom men will have all rhubarb to be brought unto them of Europe
Grand words indeed. It all seems somewhat incongruous for a plant which, for most people, attained fame as an affordable alternative to gooseberries in their home cooking.
Plenty to learn about rhubarb, it seems…
So, this is the current thinking as to how June, July and August might pan out. You can click on the map, move it around, zoom in/out – just go nuts.
View The Rhoute in a larger map
[By means of some veritable technical coup, I’ve ALSO managed to stick this map in the sidebar of the home page, just to the right, so you can keep tabs on my progress. There’s also an individual PAGE with this map on. You can get to that at the top of this page. It’s everywhere. Really.]
I have no doubts whatsoever that the actual route taken will be very, very different indeed. Currently, I’m not even sure which crossing I’ll take to get out of China, let alone how the logistics will work in the Caucasus – particularly since the Georgians seems to be ready to oust their president any moment, no doubt ushering in a period of mild political anarchy.
The major question which i’ll need to resolve sooner rather than later is that of Turkmenistan. For the visa invitation letter I need to declare my route through the country – where I will be visiting, how long for etc. I’m in two minds whether to cross over from Khiva to Konye Urgench, or whether to double back on myself in Uzbekistan to cross the border west of Bukhara, coming in to Chardzhou, or the wonderfully-named Turkmenabat. The country being how it is, it’s expensive to stick around (over USD 150 a day as a single traveler) so I might opt for the southern route from Bukhara. We’ll see. Maybe I can convince some of my reprobate friends to join me in Tashkent for a trip across the desert.
Current indications (and my very own Excel spreadsheet planning) suggest that I will have approximately 72 hours to travel through Eastern Europe. Far from ideal. But of course, it does mean a perfect excuse for another trip in the future…