This travel book by Daniel Kalder is about visits to Tatarstan, Kalmykia, Mari El and Udmurtia. In case, like me, you’ve not heard of these nations, they’re republics of the Russian Federation and are nominally in Europe.
Mr Kalder describes himself as an anti-tourist and he certainly has a passion for untouristy destinations. His writing is easy to read and vivid and gives a clear picture of the towns and villages and their peoples. Unfortunately, his passion encourages him to dwell more on the emptiness, poverty and discomfort than I personally like. Cancelled ice shows and closed museums get wearing after a couple of hundred pages.
The people he met on his journeys are mostly ordinary but interesting, struggling to make their marks on the edge of Russian culture. They are not helped, judging by Mr Kalder’s descriptions, by their politicians.
I am not a fan of travel writing; I borrowed the book from the library because it was about places I’d never heard of, and it has not changed my general view of that travel books are not for me.
However, I learned a great deal from this book and am glad I read it. I recommend it to anyone who likes to expand their horizons and learn about the less visible parts of our world. Mr Kalder’s other book, Strange Telescopes, offers more of the same off-the-map stuff and I’ll certainly read it if I come across it.
Picture from Daniel Kalder’s website.