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Blog posts of '2016' 'March'

The Medici
It would be difficult to write a boring book about the Medici, but it takes a thoughtful writer to weave the many complex storylines of Italy’s most infamous ruling family into an accessible narrative that is both entertaining and informing. Paul Strathern has done exactly this in his latest release The Medici: Power, Money and Ambition in the Italian Renaissance. In his straightforward history, Strathern chronicles the rise of the Medici, briefly covering the earliest descendants before launching into the origins of the Medici Bank. This well-oiled banking system was extremely profitable and far-reaching, eventually obtaining the papal account and establishing branches across Europe.
An Interview with John Gimlette
Award-winning journalist John Gimlette’s exuberant travelogues have entertained and informed readers about far-flung places, from Suriname to Labrador. In his new book Elephant Complex, he turns his attention to Sri Lanka, discussing everything from its startling landscapes to traumatic recent history.
  Longitude. You’ve written about countries as diverse as Paraguay, Newfoundland and French Guiana, but your travels to Sri Lanka begin in your own backyard of Tooting, England, with the Tamil diaspora who are your neighbors.
Europe at Your Convenience
Kindly contributed by Duncan J.D. Smith, with photographs from his ‘Only In’ Guides, which celebrate the unique locations and hidden corners of Europe’s great cities.
  In 2015 I wrote and published Only in London, the 10th volume in my series of ‘Only In’ Guides. It seemed a good time to reflect on the books and the many intriguing journeys their creation had entailed. Eccentric museums, secret gardens, abandoned graveyards and idiosyncratic shops are all recurring themes. This is because they not only offer quirky history but also their off-the-beaten track location usually guarantees a sense of discovery. But there is another recurrent theme that has only recently been pointed out to me. “Most of your books contain toilets!” a friend told me – and he’s absolutely right.
Elephant Complex
The island nation of Sri Lanka is home to around 5,800 elephants. The lumbering creatures traverse the teardrop island on alimankadas, or elephant paths, their entire lives, circling back to the same well-trodden routes again and again. In his latest book Elephant Complex, journalist John Gimlette employs the metaphor to explore Sri Lankan history, which, he writes, “never feels quite circular. Rather, there are recurring series of points of arrival and departure …No one is quite back where they started, and yet the same story will begin again, perhaps somewhere else.
The Lonely City
Independent travelers understand that exploring the world alone can be an enriching experience, leading to unique encounters and new perspectives. Alone, the traveler is free to reflect on what they see and more likely to engage with the strangers around them. But while solitary travel can be enriching, it can often be lonely, wrought with feelings of discomfort and isolation. For anyone who has experienced the alienation of being alone in a new place, Olivia Laing’s new book The Lonely City will be a welcome companion.
An Interview with Stephan Hormes
Maps in the Atlas of True Names series from Kalimedia Maps fancifully restore place names on today’s map of the world to their original meanings. Each map offers an explanatory reference on the reverse and acts as an invitation to think of Earth as a strange, romantic place. Owner Stephan Hormes discusses how his maps allow the traveler to see even familiar places in a new and exotic light.
  Longitude. How and when did Kalimedia Maps begin? Hormes. Kalimedia started in 2002 as a publisher for high precision city maps including house numbers and traffic signs.
In Europe's Shadow
Like many travelers, journalist Robert Kaplan was first inspired to journey to Romania because of a book. In 1981, he served a year in the Israel Defense Forces and as his commitment drew to an end, he wondered what to do next. Serendipity intervened when he grabbed a copy of The Governments of Communist East Europe by H. Gordon Skilling off a dusty bookshelf. After absorbing the book, he decided to fly to Romania as soon as possible. “That book made me a foreign correspondent,” he reflects, “even though no one had hired me.” Kaplan credits that first trip with giving his life a direction that never altered.
Trinidad, Cuba
Kindly contributed by Michal McClure, whose photography book Cuba Awakening focuses on the close relationship between Cuba and the Soviet Union. McClure includes over 50 photographs (Henri Cartier-Bresson, Burt Glinn, Perfecto Romero, Seymour Raskin and more) that compare life in Soviet Russia with life in Fidel Castro's Cuba.
  If you are visiting Cuba, I hope you see this city with its Spanish colonial architecture and people living in a time of many years ago. Cubans love colors and with Trinidad they have created one of the most colorful towns I have seen in the world.