Category Archives: Extraordinary Vagabonds

World Map of Herodotus

Herodotus – The Father of History (and all Vagabonds)

Father of VagabondsQuite a title to hold  ”The Father of History” and yet, it is quite firmly in the dead cold fingers of Herodotus. Nephew of the poet Payasis and not only the father of history but of anthropology, and one can equally (but not so forcefully) argue he is the father of all travel writers and vagabonds. One should also point out that because of his sometimes fanciful tales he has also been known as the ‘father of liars’ which also seems to make him the patron saint of modern travel writers.

Born at Halicarnasus, which is modern day Bodrum, Turkey in the year 484 B.C. He was a rich kid and we can guess like modern rich kids in Bodrum, he spent plenty of time on his parent’s yacht and enjoyed the perfect summer climate there. At 20 years of age, he left, not for a gap year travel, but to explore and document as much of the known and unknown world of his time. As far as we know, he was the first to undertake such a journey with such a goal.

He first headed towards Memphis – no silly, not the home of the King of Rock and Roll (Memphis, Tennessee) but Memphis, Egypt. He visited the pyramids, watched the Nile overflow its banks, and wrote of Heliopolis and Thebes. It’s he who was really the first tourist of the world.  He described the religious rituals, the daily life, the food, and the culture of Egypt and in the process, he set the foundation of anthropology.

From Egypt he set out to Libya where he was amazed by snakes, elephants, and an animal he described as “having no head but eyes on the chest” – from this we can guess he wasn’t averse to trying out the local psychedelics.  From there to Ethiopia before leaving Africa and heading back towards Bodrum by way of Phoenicia (Lebanon), Syria, Palestine, and Arabia.

He described Arabs as the people who ‘kept any vow they might have made’ and wrote lyrically of their spices and religion in Assyria and Babylon (Iraq).  Next he went to Persia (Iran) because he wanted to document as much as possible about the wars between the Persians and the Greeks – at the time, Persia wasn’t a Muslim place and Herodotus notes that the Persians of that time didn’t like their gods to be depicted in human form either. He was enthusiastic about the Persian custom of transacting business over too much wine – something that would probably make the mullahs of Iran a bit mellower today if they adopted it.

Next, Herodotus ventured into India, the Punjab, and Afghanistan.  From there he ventured into the ancient country of Media – which today is what we call ‘the ‘stans’ of Central Asia. From Central Asia he ventured around the Caspian and Black Seas and into the Caucasian Mountains. He explored a considerable portion of what is today European Russia including stretches of the Volga, the Don, and the Danube.

Around the Black Sea and to the Bosphorus before returning back to the Aegean Sea where he explored the many Greek isles and introduced his readers (later of course) to the Amazons, Lesbians, and Cretans – three terms today which have very different meanings than in his time.

World Map of Herodotus

The World According to Herodotus

After eight long years – he returned to Halicarnassus and read his travels at the Olympic games in 456 BC. At this time he was exiled to Samos by a dictator who was obviously threatened by what he represented (an open travelers’ mind perhaps) – he returned in rebellion and the tyrant was overthrown – at which point he was again exiled to Samos.

Finally, he retired to Italy (like all good travelers should) and died in the year 406 B.C. – one can imagine that he was completely unaware of the iimpact he would have on the world, but as you can see – as I write this nearly 2,500 years later – he was one very kick ass vagabond.

Vagabond Harry Franck

Extraordinary Vagabonds: Harry Franck, Pioneer of the Vagabonds

In terms of extraordinary vagabonds, it’s hard to imagine someone who fits the bill more than Harry Franck. This literary vagabond traveled the world and wrote more than thirty books about his adventures during the early 1900′s.

Among Franck’s books are:

A Vagabond Journey Around the World (1910, The Century Company)
Four Months Afoot in Spain (1911, Century Company)
Tramping Through Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras (1916, The Century Company)
Trailing Cortez Through Mexico
Vagabonding Down the Andes (1917, The Century Company)
Vagabonding Through Changing Germany (1920, Harper)
Roaming Through the West Indies (1920, The Century Company)
Working North from Patagonia (1921, The Century Company)
Wandering in Northern China (1923, The Century Company)
Marco Polo Junior(1929, The Century Company)
Zone Policeman 88 (Panama Canal)
South America:
Prince of the Vagabonds: Harry Franck
Glimpses of Japan and Formosa (1924, The Century Company)
Roving Through Southern China (1925, The Century Company)
All About Going Abroad (1927, Brentano’s Inc.)
East of Siam (1926, The Century Company)
The Fringe of the Moslem World (1928, The Century Company)
I Discover Greece (1929, The Century Company)
A Scandinavian Summer (1930, The Century Company)
Foot-Loose in the British Isles (1932, The Century Company)
Trailing Cortez Through Mexico (1935,Frederick A. Stokes Publishing)
A Vagabond in Sovietland (1935, Frederick A. Stokes Publishing)
Roaming in Hawaii(1937, Frederick A. Stokes Publishing)
Sky Roaming Above Two Continents (1938, Frederick A. Stokes Publishing)
The Lure of Alaska (1939, Frederick A. Stokes Publishing, later printings by JB Lippincott Co.)
Rediscovering South America (1943, JB Lippincott Co.)

As you can see by his titles, this guy got around and was most certainly a pioneer of the modern vagabond spirit. What makes him special is that he was at that point when mass travel was just becoming an option for getting from place to place. As you can see from the picture above, Franck was a backpacker in an age when there really weren’t any backpackers. Certainly he had to make his own gear and figure out things that would make most modern backpackers quiver with nervousness.
Vagabond Harry Franck Franck’s first journey was after his freshman year of college when he decided to see Europe with just $3.18. Not a lot of money even in the 1900′s. He did it. The next year, on a bet, he managed to work his way not only across the Atlantic but around the world with no money at all to start and then published Vagabond Journey Around the World in 1910.

Harry Franck’s willingness to travel with no money, his keen eye for the details of his journey and the societies he recorded (some of which soon disappeared) make him a welcome addition to our list of Extraordinary Vagabonds.

Tarzan of Manisa

Extraordinary Vagobond – Tarzan of Manisa

One of the things I never expected to find out was that Tarzan was real…and that he was an Iraqi who lived in the Turkish town of Manisa.

One of the things that made me decide this was a great place to live was that when I got here, I looked around and everywhere I saw Tarzan.
Tarzan of Manisa
I grew up reading the Edgar Rice Burroughs books of my grandfather and most of them were Tarzan (though a few were about John Carter on Mars). As such, I have a lifelong connection with the fictional Lord of the Apes.

Seriously, the last thing I expected to find in Turkey were statues, restaurants, stores, and memorials to Tarzan! But to my surprise, they are here in plenty.
Tarzan and Cheetah
The Manisa Football Club celebrates their goals with the Tarzan cry. Seriously, the Johnny Weismuller jungle scream can be heard from my apartment when they make a goal.
Tarzan of Manisa Fountain
So, what the fuck is Tarzan doing in Manisa? I did a little bit of research to find out why there are so many Tarzan businesses and why the statues of Tarzan all look like some bearded hippie.

Tarzan of Manisa

Tarzan of Manisa was actually named Ahmeddin Carlak. He was born in Samarra, Iraq in 1899 and he fought in the Turkish War of Independence and then moved to Manisa during the Republic period.

He was a different kind of guy and saw planting and growing plants as something holy. He became the assistant gardener for Manisa and spent his life keeping the city green.

Whether from shell shock or holy devotion, he never wore anything but rubber slippers and black shorts just like some Hawaiian surfer.In fact, the old pictures of Tarzan remind of Duke Kahanamoku.

Duke Kahanamoku, Tarzan

I'm certain Tarzan would have surfed if he lived in Hawaii

I’m told that winters in Manisa are damn cold but that he never wore more than shorts and rubbah slippahs. Every day at noon he would fire the Manisa municipal cannon.

He took it as his duty to offer flowers to any young woman visiting Manisa and it is said that he wandered the beautiful Sypil Mountain and lived in a tent there. He would spend his salary on candy to give to children and then give the rest to the poor of Manisa. He was treated as a prince of the city and would attend cinema for free since he never had any money as a result of giving all his salary to the poor.
Tarzan of Manisa
He was the first environmentalist in Turkey and was a key figure in the reforestation of Sypil and the Manisa National Forest. Some people say that Manisa National Forest was made the first national park because of the efforts of Tarzan.

Tarzan of Manisa

Is it just me or is that a head Tarzan is holding?

He died May 31, 1963 and since then the city has erected numerous monuments, statues, and kebap shops in his honor.
Tarzan of Manisa
Sadly, the statue in Fatih park, seems to have had it’s arm broken off by vandals. I hope that it will be repaired soon.