The Black Sea is where ancient Greek civilisation had its first encounter with the babbling, alien peoples the Greeks called barbarians. In later centuries the sea marked the fault line between Islam and Christendom, communism and capitalism. The civilisations that surround it, like those of all easily navigable seas, were and are both united and divided by its waters in often surprising ways. And – importantly for travel writers – the Black Sea is, unlike the Mediterranean or the Atlantic, manageably small. No wonder that so many great works of travel writing, from Neal Ascherson’s commanding historical tour de force to Caroline Eden’s picaresque culinary travelogue (both entitled Black Sea), have been inspired by clockwise journeys around its shores.
Jens Mühling’s new contribution to this subgenre is fresh, engaging and keenly observed. A former journalist for the Moskauer Deutsche Zeitung, he is a sharp-eyed reporter whose primary interest is in human stories. He talks to fishermen and beach bums, professors, sailors and cigarette smugglers. He travels on buses,