When Freya Stark travelled along the western coast of Turkey in 1952 she met only one other tourist. Today, this region is the most popular and well-travelled in the country, but to travel with Stark - whose aim was to 'create a guide-book in time' - is to experience Turkey in a richer and more inspiring way than any modern guide or history can provide. In the ruins and vanished cities of Ionia lay the record of human history - of what, Stark believed, made us what we are today. Her longing to know more, to unearth the living from the wreckage of the past and to discover the ingredients that shaped the ancient world drove her forward. With Herodotus as her travelling companion, she began her quest in Smyrna and traced a route through the ancient cities of Asia Minor, which were haunted by echoes of Odysseus and Alexander the Great and by the poets and philosophers, musicians and mathematicians who flourished in this world. Wandering beyond the boundaries of travel, Stark entered into the soul of ancient Ionia, examining the ever-present tension between East and West and the elements of religion, society and commerce that forged the culture of a civilisation.
A journey through the ancient world that resonates in the modern, Freya Stark's "Ionia" is travel writing at its most elegant and history at its most dynamic - a powerful and beautifully-rendered classic of twentieth-century literature.
Freya Stark (1893-1993), 'the poet of travel', was the doyenne of Middle East travel writers and one of the most courageous and adventurous female travellers in history. She travelled extensively through Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq and Southern Arabia, where she became the first western woman to travel through the Hadhramaut. Usually solo, she ventured to places few Europeans had ever been. Her travels earned her the title of Dame and huge public acclaim and her many, now classic, books include 'Travels in the Near East', 'A Winter in Arabia', 'The Southern Gates of Arabia', 'Alexander's Path', 'Dust in the Lion's Paw', 'East is West' and 'Valleys of the Assassins'. 'She has written the best travel books of her generation and her name will survive as an artist in prose.' - The Observer