I've been travelling the edges of Europe and the beyond for thirty years now, so that I may learn the modes and styles of more civilized folk;but never have I found a single perceb, on a beach, a menu or any other location. I've eaten cow stomach soup, fermented herring, snake, monkey's paws, sheep's eyes and UFO's (unidentifiable fried objects) - but percebs have been strangely elusive.

Towns on the edges are my favorite - as David argues, it's the juxtaposition of the "civilized" world and the wilderness, and the pioneering spirit in between, that holds a special attraction. I find that I thrive in such an environment. Alas, such places are getting increasingly rare and I have to travel farther and farther to the east, first to Hungary, then to Romania, now to Moldavia and Siberia. Even Africa is not the same any more, with all the mobile phones around. The weirdest example of that juxtaposition was in Bukovina, a province in northern Romania - in the postal office, a couple of writers, reading aloud letters to illiterate old people, who would then dictate their answers. Next to the post office, the internet pub. In front of both, flocks of geese and a couple of charcoal burners selling their wares ... and the latest Porsche model.

One of my favorite authors, always looking for edges, in the north, the pacific and elsewhere : Jack London.

My favorite border town in the oeuvre of the other Jack :

Ahead lay the Dwan Zher and Coad: a compact town with a look of settled antiquity. The houses were built of weathered timber, with enormous high-peaked roofs and a multitude of skew gables, eccentric ridges, dormers, tall chimneys. A dozen ships rode to moorings; as many more were docked across from a row of factors' offices. At the north of town was the caravan terminus, beside a large compound surrounded by hostelries, taverns, warehouses. The compound seemed a convenient spot to set down the raft; Reith doubted if it could have held itself in the air another ten miles.
Coad was a busy town. Along the crooked streets, in and out of the ale-colored sunlight, moved men and women of many casts and colors: Yellow Islanders and Black Islanders, Horasin bark-merchants muffled in gray robes; Caucasoids such as Traz from the Aman Steppe; Dirdirmen and Dirdirmen hybrids; dwarfish Sieps from the eastern slopes of the Ojzanalai who played music in the streets; a few flat-faced white men from the far south of Kislovan. The natives, or Tans, were an affable fox-faced people, with wide polished cheekbones, pointed chins, russet or dark brown hair cut in a ledge across the ears and foreheads. Their usual garments were knee-length breeches, embroidered vest, a round black pie-plate hat. Palanquins were numerous, carried by short gnarled men with oddly long noses and stringy black hair: apparently a race to themselves; Reith saw them in no other occupation. Later he learned them to be natives of Grenie at the head of the Dwan Zher.

More than enough material for a sequel to Planet of Adventure!

The essence of a town on the edges was beautifully captured in yet another Tschai sentence, one that makes me dream about both past and future :

"Kabasas, like Coad, served as a commercial depot for extensive hinterlands and like Coad seemed to seethe with intrigue."


on the water
the reflection
of a wanderer