Litercurious Book Review

TitleWalking To Samarkand: The Great Silk Road
from Persia to Central Asia
AuthorBernard Ollivier, (Translator Dan Golembeski)
PublisherSkyhorse (April 14, 2020)
FormatKindle, Hardcover
ISBN # 10/131510746897 / 978-1510746893

Life’s caravan is hastening on its way;
Brood not on troubles of the coming day,
But fill the wine-cup, ere sweet night be gone,
And snatch a pleasant moment, while you may.

Quatrains of Omar Khayyam (tr. Whinfield, 1883). Vol. 1, Quatrain 137


Bernard Ollivier is a French Author who has become the inspiration for a generation. Once he retired he decided that rather than embrace leisurely afternoons in one locations he preferred the adventure of travel primarily by self perambulation. 7,456 miles later we have the benefit of his experiences, his reflections, and his opinions gleaned on his journeys, in a range exquisitely written travelogues.


All of those with an adventurous heart.


With the aid of Dan Golembeski, the translator of Walking To Samarkand, Ollivier has managed to cram his personal account into a seemingly impossible 312 pages.

Ollivier whisks us away with him from Bazaar to Bukhara across oceanic desert through multiple borders, and caravansaries (old world Bed and Breakfast, B&B’s). Our journey transports us to the magnificence of Samarkand in all its rare beauty. Along the way he introduces us to a host of characters including; the Robber-Cop, the pilgrims on the road to Mash-had, the Turkmens of Tehran and a myriad of other fascinating strangers.

We accompany Ollivier though our minds eye. We see and fell through his senses. We experience the sounds, the sights and the sensations through his exquisite descriptions. We feel as the heat rises and the competing demands of balancing hydration against the weight of carrying the priceless water press heavily on his mind. There is even a fleeting chance of a romantic liaison.

After Ollivier’s enormous effort the city of bright water and colorful people is finally in sight, and what a sight she is. For a millennia, Samarkand was the apple in many a tyrant’s eye. From the Khanates of Burkkara and Kniva to the Achaemenid Kings they all shared a thirst for her water resources. Samarkand is the very definition of an oasis in the desert. She has stood on the Great Silk Road from the beginning. Today however, Samarkand stands on the Great Cotton Road. White Gold, as cotton is referred to, has replaced the spices and other valuables. The road has had many names in the past; including the Golden Road during the time of the Achaemenid Kings. Who knows what it will called in the future. What we can say is that whatever the road is called, Samarkand will almost certainly remain a jewel of the desert.


It was a joy, a pleasure and an honor to have accompanied Bernard Ollivier on his journey, all be it vicariously though the pages of his manuscript. The phrase that ‘travel broadens the mindholds true. Ollivier includes a plethora of information about the culture, the language, and the people of the region. I am amazed he managed to consolidate all of his observations so succinctly. I can still sense the bustling Grand Bazaar, the heat of the day, and the sight of the once great Bibi-Khanym Mosque (now a UNESCO site).

If you have one adventurous bone in your body then you will love this journal. I heartily recommend Walking To Samarkand.

Rating: 4 out of 5.


I would like to thank Bernard Ollivier, NetGalley, and Skyhorse for affording me the opportunity to review Walking To Samarkand.

I would like to make a special acknowledgment to Dan Golembeski for the exceptional job of translating Walking To Samarkand.

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