“Whitman’s Brooklyn Ferry: Words and Music” CD

If you missed the reading in Lower Manhattan on July 4, you can still get the CD! It’s available now at CD Baby as a download, and within a couple of days it will be available there as a CD.

Cover of CD "Whitman's Brooklyn Ferry: Words and Music"

Cover of CD “Whitman’s Brooklyn Ferry: Words and Music”

Included are three poetry readings, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” “For You, O Democracy!” selections from “Song of the Open Road;” and 8 pieces of period music from  around 1856, when the second edition of Leaves of Grass came out with the first appearance of “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.” This is the kind of music that would have been in Whitman’s ear, some of it along lines very congenial to his  poetic ideas. Scroll to the end of this post for the full album notes. (And check out Sailaway Shirts for regular and LGBT-themed T’s.)

Event T-shirt for Odyssey's "Whitman's Brooklyn Ferry"

Event T-shirt for Odyssey’s “Whitman’s Brooklyn Ferry”

"The kiss of Walt Whitman is still on my lips." Oscar Wilde 1882

LGBT-Themed T-shirt for Whitman reading “The kiss of Walt Whitman is still on my lips.” Oscar Wilde 1882

If you’re visiting The Odyssey Club for the first time, stay a moment and browse some of our posts. We’re a group of  people interested in literary travel worldwide, travel that can be arranged by tour consultant Gary Cox from this site and his site for customized trip design, Gary’s Going My Way. Blog posts on The Odyssey Club are temporarily paused, but check out the ideas posted between March and June 2013. A trip to a great city for a poetry reading on a national holiday, followed or preceded by whatever else you want to do there — that’s exactly the kind of thing Odyssey can arrange. When enough serious interest begins to coalesce around a particular tour plan, Gary starts to get serious about dates, accommodations, travel, and customized add-ons.

So like us, and follow us, and let’s see what we can cook up together!

Here is an expanded version of the album notes for the CD Whitman’s Brooklyn Ferry: Words and Music:

Whitman’s Brooklyn Ferry – Words and Music!

This reading of Walt Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” (and two shorter poems) is produced for a reading of the poem in lower Manhattan on Independence Day, 2013, followed by an actual ferry crossing to Brooklyn’s Fulton Ferry Landing, an event sponsored by The Odyssey Club (https://theodysseyclub.wordpress.com). Some of the music Whitman enjoyed is also included here.

Ferries from Manhattan to Brooklyn are now offered by New York Water Taxi, making the run from Pier 11 (near Wall Street) to Fulton Ferry Landing, now DUMBO under the east end of Brooklyn Bridge, which was not there in Whitman’s time.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892), “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”

An innovator in poetry as well as lifestyle, Walt Whitman reinvented American verse with his self-publication of Leaves of Grass in 1855. Its 12 poems, including the signature work “Song of Myself,” used a free verse style modeled on the psalmic poetry of the Bible. The 1856 edition added the three works on this album along with quite a few more. Whitman was intent on creating a uniquely American idiom, and for this he was praised by Emerson and other transcendentalists.

 Whitman worked as a freelance journalist and teacher in the Brooklyn and Manhattan area, then moved to Washington D. C. during the Civil War years, to work as a volunteer military nurse. After the war, he stayed on as a government bureaucrat, and continued his publishing activity, adding poems to Leaves of Grass throughout his life. Struck down by illness in 1873, he moved to his brother’s place in Camden, New Jersey.

 Whitman was probably bisexual – Certainly this was so in terms of his affectional orientation, although the extent of his actual sexual experience is undocumented.

 During the mid-1850s, when the first two editions of Leaves of Grass came out, he was living and working in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and often traveled by ferry between them. The poem makes the trip into a declaration of love for America and its diverse people, a fitting manifesto for the young poet.

 Stephen Foster (1826-1864), “There’s a Good Time Coming, Boys!”

 In his short life, Stephen C. Foster created a body of song that defined American popular culture. “Oh Susanna,” although it brought almost no income to Foster, became the anthem of the gold rush prospectors after ’49; “Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair,” written for Foster’s wife, has remained a romantic classic; and “Beautiful Dreamer” is among the most beautiful songs in English. Moderns may criticize the condescending racism implicit in the superficially pro-negro minstrel songs, or the smarmy sentimentalism of songs like “The Old Folks at Home,” but such criticisms do not diminish the magnitude of his accomplishment. Based in Pittsburgh, Foster teamed with Edwin Pearce Christy and his group Christy’s Minstrels to promote minstrelsy and other popular ballad types. Intellectual property law was in its infancy – Everyone but the composer made money on his songs; He died in poverty in New York’s Bowery district.

 “There’s a Good Time Coming, Boys” (1846), with lyrics by Scottish poet Charles MacKay, was among the very first songs Foster composed – He was 20, and had just dropped out of college and moved to Pittsburgh. It is rather unlike his later works – Its boundless optimism and championing of progressive causes like pacifism, child labor laws, and universal education suggest a political activism not characteristic of his career as a whole. Perhaps he was influenced in this by the song’s dedicatee, a certain Mary D. Keller of Pittsburgh, whose identity has not been established. MacKay’s lyric was also set by Henry Russell (represented on this album with other songs), and the piece was allegedly a popular anthem among immigrants coming through New York harbor, probably in Foster’s version, as Russell’s tune is not as memorable.

 Henry Tucker (1826 – 1882), “Jennie is Waiting”

Henry Tucker was a Brooklyn church musician and family man, who composed hymns, cantatas, and popular ballads. His best remembered song is the Civil War lament, “When This Cruel War Is Over.” Songs like “Jennie Is Waiting” were very popular, but in all honesty, not spiritually akin with Whitman, who was more inclined to idealize strong, working-class mothers and immigrant women. Tucker might be said to represent the background from which Whitman was departing.

 William Vincent Wallace (1812 – 1865), “It Is the Happy Summertime”

 William Vincent Wallace lived an astonishingly varied and adventurous life for a pianist and composer. Born in Ireland, in 1835 he emigrated to Australia with his wife, his sister, and his brother, all musicians, and began concertizing there. But separating from his wife, he went off on a whaling expedition, followed by a tiger-hunting expedition, and eventually ended up in Mexico City as an opera conductor. Stopping in New York on his way back to the British Isles, he was one of the founders of the New York Philharmonic Society. The year 1845 found him in London, recitalizing on the piano and composing operas that made it to Covent Garden (with his sister, a soprano, in leading roles). But in 1850, he married an American woman, moved to New York, and even acquired American citizenship. Alas, in later life he developed vision problems, and died blind and in poverty.

 Henry Russell (1812 – 1900), “Rockaway” – “I’m Afloat”

 Henry Russell was a British baritone whose family background was in London’s Jewish community – His father was the chief Rabbi of London. He was active in America from 1835 – 1841. “Rockaway” – whose lyric by Henry John Sharp was separately anthologized by Longfellow – rhapsodizes about the southwestern shore of Long Island (Rockaway is the location of JFK Airport today). Long Island was of course Whitman’s home turf – Paumanok in his poems. The song’s “Iris” refers to the mythical personification of the rainbow, so it makes perfect sense that she is chased away by “Sol” – the sun.

 Russell’s “I’m Afloat” waxes enthusiastic about life at sea, with a text by British poetess Eliza Cook. The themes of freedom and challenge to authority present in the song would have been heartily embraced by Whitman.

J. R. Thomas, “Let Us Speak of a Man as We Find Him”

 J. R. Thomas, who composed “Let Us Speak of a Man as We Find Him,” and also James Simmonds, the lyricist, were affiliated with Buckley’s Serenaders, a blackface minstrel group in New York that was the main competitor of Christy’s Minstrels, the Pittsburgh group affiliated with Foster. Although it seems incongruous to moderns, blackface entertainment was considered a “progressive” genre idealizing Negro life (cf. Uncle Tom’s Cabin), and one indication of that fact is the performance of serious ethical songs in “whiteface” by the same groups. This is such a song, and might well have been heartily approved by the likes of Walt Whitman.

 George Root (1820 – 1895), “Reaper on the Plain”

 George Frederick Root was a music educator with roots in a farming community in western Massachusetts, a background clearly reflected in his admiration for the “reaper on the plain.” Informally trained in Europe, he worked all over New England, and composed many popular songs with his lifelong associate Fanny Crosby.

 Walt Whitman’s “For You, O Democracy”

This short poem recalls some of the themes of “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” but adds an erotic hint. Outside Whitman’s work these political and sexual themes would be contradictory – Their combination here makes the lyric quintessential Whitman.

 Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road” (selections)

 Whitman did not actually travel much. Here he invites us to accompany him on an American walkabout of the mind and spirit. We include sections 1, 5, 9, 14, and 15.

Stephen Foster’s “Beautiful Dreamer”

 “Beautiful Dreamer,” probably Foster’s last song, was published posthumously in 1864, although it may have been written as much as 2 years earlier. Like “There’s a Good Time Coming, Boys,” perhaps his first song, it is strikingly different from the rest of his work.


Weekly blog for June 1: Isherwood’s Berlin

Christopher Isherwood and W. H. Auden in 1938

Christopher Isherwood and W. H. Auden in 1938

In Berlin, one can take an Isherwood tour of the gay district, where Christopher Isherwood lived when he was dreaming up the stories that the movie Cabaret is based on. Berlin also has a museum dedicated to gay victims of the Nazi holocaust, which is also relevant to the film, the stories, and the people Isherwood’s characters were based on. 

Christopher Isherwood Lived Here

Christopher Isherwood Lived Here

Weekly blog for May 25: Following the Argonauts on the Black Sea

Jason brings back the Golden Fleece

Jason brings back the Golden Fleece

Here’s what a Black Sea cruise, themed on the Argonauts, might look like.

Prospectus: A 10-Day Black Sea Cruise Themed on Jason and the Argonauts

(Tour would begin and end in Constanta, Romania, staying in the Black Sea and avoiding the big city of Istanbul, which didn’t exist at the time anyway. It would also make it simpler than starting in Jason’s home town on the Aegean Sea. One country less, no straits. Those things could be added, of course, but at a cost, both in price and in complexity.) 

Vessel: a passenger ship with hotel space for up to 30 travelers, and complete food service facilities, equipped for seagoing travel on the Black Sea. 

A crew of 4 (Posing as members of Argo crew: Jason, Atalanta the runner and the crew’s only female, Heracles the strongman demigod, and Orpheus the demigod singer — all with tour director functions, one of them as chief):

A male actor, costumed as Jason, to give readings from Argonautica, by Appolonius of Rhodes.

A female runner, as athletic/social director, costumed as Atalanta: sports, games.

A male bodybuilder, as athletic/social director, costumed as Heracles: sports, posing.

A male singer/guitarist, costumed as Orpheus, for Greek and international music.

Day 1: Arrival. Supper on board.

Day 2: Tomis, the ancient Greek settlement at Constanta. Archaeological Museum, gravestones, ruins below.

Stroll to Casino, visiting ruins at leisure.

Terrace lunch on Casino grounds.

Return to ship, and cruise to Mangalia.

Mangalia. Archaeological Museum and ruins of ancient Greek Callatis.

Supper on board, as sun sets over Mangalia/Callatis.

Evening performances by crew.

Sail for Varna.

Day 3: Morning: Varna Archaeological Museum.

Lunch in Varna.

Afternoon: Necropolis site (Scythian, 4000 BC).

Supper on board, followed with performances by crew. Sail for Turkey. 

Day 4: Igneada, Turkey (near “Salmydessus”, home of Argonautica’s Phineus).

Morning optional birdwatching in local bird sanctuary, or beach.

Lunch: Lamb feast, as served to blind seer Phineus by Argonauts after driving off flying harpies who were starving him on orders from Zeus.

Afternoon: Cruise to Bosphorus.

Sail past the “Symplegades” (the ‘Cyanean or Crashing Rocks’ of the Rumelifeneri and the Anadolufeneri). Presentation by the crew, depicting passage through rocks as counseled by Phineus.

Supper on board. Games. Continued sailing.

Day 5: Anchor near site of Thynian Island, consecrated to Apollo by Argonauts.

Sunrise: Champagne breakfast with goat meat skewers and goat cheese (as eaten by Argonauts in honor of the sun god at this location).

Day cruise. Games. Presentations. Performances. Lunch on board.

Late afternoon arrival at Samsun. Supper off ship in Samsun.

Day 6: Samsun. Tekkeköy Caves (pre-Bronze-Age) in morning.

Lunch in town.

Afternoon: Archaeological Museum and Bronze Age sites in Bafra.

Supper on board, followed with presentations by crew.

Sail for Georgia/Colchis.

Day 7: Batumi, Georgia.

Medea Statue in Batumi, Georgia (Colchis)

Medea Statue in Batumi, Georgia (Colchis)

Morning: Botanical Gardens with lunch.

Afternoon: Beach or free time in town.

Evening: Performace of Euripides’ Medea (commissioned at local theatre, with supper before in nearby restaurant).

Day 8: Day trip by motor coach to Vani, Georgia. (Kingdom of Aeetes location?)

Visits to Archaeological Museum and Archaeological site in Vani.

Georgian lunch in Vani.

Bull jumping exhibition, arranged in local venue with Georgian athletes.

Supper with entertainment by Georgian sabre dancers.

Day 9: Return to Constanta.

Either an all day sail, or night sailing with day on beach at Sinop (south coast) or Yalta (north coast).

Day 10: Arrival back in Constanta, and departure.






Weekly blog 18 May — Vienna

“Wien, Wien, nur Du allein sollst stets die Stadt meiner Träume sein!” – Vienna, you alone will always be the city of my dreams! (Song by Rudolf Sieczynski) 

St. Stephen's, Vienna

St. Stephen’s, Vienna

Dreams, yes, but not literary ones, unless one is well-versed in “Wienerisch” – the local dialect. Vienna’s greatest literary figures have used a language that defies translation despite its brilliance, indeed, one might say because of its brilliance. Viennese theatre and journalism use the local dialect with such flair that the only way to appreciate the great local literary works is to learn the local language.

Johann Nestroy was a brilliant playwright, actor, singer, and theatre manager, deeply venerated by the Viennese but almost unknown outside the German-speaking world. Early in his career he worked at the Theater an der Wien (“The Theatre on the [nonexistent] Vienna River”) founded by Mozart’s erstwhile buddy and librettist Emanuel Schikaneder, then an operetta and comedy venue, now an innovative opera company specializing in Baroque and contemporary works. Later in his career, he succeeded Ferdinand Raimund as manager, resident playwright, and actor/singer at the Volkstheater, now an operetta venue, but then equally amenable to satirical comedy. Finally, he favored comic acting over singing, and his satire was topical and quite piquant. Word play was a specialty, which of course contributes to translation difficulties. His greatest advocate outside the German-speaking world was the American playwright Thornton Wilder, who based a play “The Merchant of Yonkers” on Nestroy’s “Einen Jux will er sich machen”, (‘He’s making a fool of himself’), unsuccessful until revised as “The Matchmaker”, which of course became “Hello, Dolly!”. The same play was also later adapted as a non-musical by Tom Stoppard.

Frescoes inside the rotunda, Karl's Church, Vienna

Frescoes inside the rotunda, Karl’s Church, Vienna

The other truly great light of Viennese literature was the satirical essayist Karl Kraus, whose journal “The Torch” was very much a personal vehicle, targeting current politics and journalism during the first third of the 20th century. Topical and cranky, its pages took almost obsessive delight in the peculiarities of the German language, attributing all kinds of grand meanings to seemingly minor stylistic details. Of course this made its diatribes into hot topics of the day, but also contributed to their quick decline, and once again to great difficulties of translation. Still, the cafe culture of the interwar years in Vienna, where Kraus was also a performer (of songs, dramatic readings, poetry recitations, and lectures) are unthinkable without Karl Kraus.

Come to Vienna for opera and operetta, for the palaces, even for the art. But unless you study ‘Wienerisch’ first, its literature will very likely remain a mystery.





Weekly Blog for 4 May: Looking for Zhivago and Lara in “Yuriatin”


Boris Pasternak and (famed children's author) Korney Chukovsky at the first Congress of Soviet Writers, 1934

Boris Pasternak and (famed children’s author) Korney Chukovsky at the first Congress of Soviet Writers, 1934

Given the boom in new Dr. Zhivago dramatizations in the past decade or so, one begins to think  of travelling to the sources of the work. Although it is very much rooted in the atmosphere of Russia — to quote Pushkin, “here is the Russian spirit, here it smells of Russia” (Ruslan and Lyudmila) — still, specific locations are either fictionalized or generalized, so that there are few particular sites to visit. But several spots are of tremendous atmospheric value for an understanding of the work.

One of them is Perm’, the prototype of the fictional town of “Yuriatin” (which could be rendered as “Yury’s Town”), where the love of Yury Zhivago and Lara was said to have been played out.

Aerial view of Perm', prototype for Pasternak's "Yuriatin"

Aerial view of Perm’, prototype for Pasternak’s “Yuriatin”

Nestled in the western foothills of the Urals, Perm’ might be considered on the very edge of Europe. Still, Sergei Diagilev graduated from gymnasium (high school) there, and the town honors him with a museum. This was the provincial backwater from which Chekhov’s three sisters yearned to go to Moscow. And Pasternak himself spent some time there in 1916. It’s not such a backwater any more, but rather the 13th most populous city in the Russian Federation, and home to a fine spate of innovative theatres. In fact,  it was in Perm’ in 2007 that one of the recent musical stage adaptations of Doctor Zhivago was mounted, in 2007, with a score by Aleksandr Zhurbin (Perm’ Academic Theater). The other musical version, by Lucy Simon, Michael Weller, and Michael Korie, premiered in La Jolla in 2006, and was moved to Sydney in 2011. Two television series have recently tackled the novel, a British one in 2002, and a Russian one in 2006.

Pasternak's Dacha in Peredelkino, the Home Museum of Pasternak

Pasternak’s Dacha in Peredelkino, the Home Museum of Pasternak

A trip to Perm’ would provide a great place to read Pasternak in an atmosphere redolent of the novel itself. Of course we’d stop in Moscow on the way, and pay our respects at the dacha museum in nearby Peredelkino. Pasternak’s birthday, February 10, would be a good date to think about. The grave would be piled high with freshly cut flowers placed by admirers — we could add to the pile. And Perm’ would be all snowy and atmospheric then.

Weekly Blog for 27 April, A Boccaccio Week in Firenze (Florence)


Odyssey has a dream of experiencing Boccaccio in one of the beautiful gardens near Florence, reminiscent of the one where his gracious band of not overmodest storytellers fled to take refuge from the plague.

On the following morning, . . . the ladies, with certain of their waiting-women, and the three young men, with as many of their serving-men, departing Florence, set out upon their way; nor had they gone more than two short miles from the city, when they came to the place fore-appointed of them, which was situated on a little hill,  somewhat withdrawn on every side from the highway and full of various shrubs and plants, all green of leafage and pleasant to behold. On the summit of this hill was a palace, with a goodly and great courtyard in its midst and galleries and salons and bedchambers, each in itself most fair and adorned and notable with jocund paintings, with lawns and grassplots round about and wonder-goodly gardens and wells of very cold water and cellars full of wines of price, things more apt unto curious drinkers than unto sober and modest ladies. The new comers, to their no little pleasure, found the place all swept and the beds made in the chambers and every thing full of such flowers as might be had at that season and strewn with rushes.

The Villa Gamberaia is such a locale, built in the 17th century, but “in the Tuscan style”, which seems to mean preserving some of the architectural and landscape features of the early Renaissance, Boccaccio’s era. Gamberaia serves primarily as a high-end park, listed as a tourist attraction in its own right, also offering meeting and banquet facilities, and it includes limited capacity guest houses as well. These are hardly budget lodgings, but if we win the lottery, why not enjoy the best? There are also commercial hotels in the area with the same sort of facilities and views, also rather pricey. And some more affordable.
Florence from the Villa Gamberaia

Florence from the Villa Gamberaia

Odyssey’s band of devotees of Italy’s first prose fiction writer could book such a facility for a week, and enjoy daily readings, reenactments, discussions, and other hoop-la, just as though we were a gaggle of Renaissance aristocrats, sitting out a difficult time to the accompaniment of risqué stories, told with languid grace by our comme il faut companions. The event could have something of the air of Henry Eliot’s Chaucer walk to Canterbury earlier this month (April 2013).
"The Decameron" by pre-Raphaelite painter John William Waterhouse

“The Decameron” by pre-Raphaelite painter John William Waterhouse

In Odyssey’s version, participants would also have the option of gadding about Florence in their free time, for of course there’s far more than Boccaccio memorabilia going on there. We won’t begin to list the possibilities – The list would grow unwieldy much too quickly, so you’re on your own. As usual, Gary’s Going My Way could make travel arrangements, and could book for additional time after, or before, the Boccaccio week in the same or other lodgings.
Boccaccio is not the only early literary figure linked with the “city of Flowers” (Firenze, or Florence). It is traditional to speak of a trio of them — “three fountains” or “three crowns”, as they say. Boccaccio was an admirer and biographer of Dante Alighieri, who died when he was 8, so they never met. Dante spent his early years in Florence, and his later life in political exile, living in several different cities to the north, from Verona to Ferrarra. Petrarch was a more precise contemporary of Boccaccio’s, and they were good friends by all reports, but the great fountainhead of Italian lyric poetry came to Florence only occasionally, and spent his last years at Arqua, now called Arqua Petrarca, near Padua. Of course day trips devoted to Dante and Petrach could be taken to these northern cities, or they could be visited later. If there were public demand, Odyssey could include a Dante day and a Petrarch day in a Boccaccio week.
Of course Odyssey is not usually about visits to birthplaces, studios, or museums, as we assume that travelers can easily visit those attractions on their own. We are about recreating the experience of the literary work itself. But for those who are interested, here are a few places of interest in Florence and nearby cities for those interested in the “three fountains” of early Renaissance literature in Italy, Boccaccio, Dante, and Petrarch.
Casa del Boccaccio (lit. “House of the Big Mouth”, no kidding, really!), in Certaldo, about a half-an-hour’s drive to the southwest. Well reviewed.
Casa di Dante (“House of Dante”, in town) — very poor reviews.
Arqua Petrarca, 2 hours north — This award-winning town, officially acknowledged one of the most beautiful in Italy, preserves a medieval atmosphere, and revels in its link with Petrarca. Worth a day’s add-on after the Boccaccio week ends.

Weekly Blog for 20 April, Follow Darwin’s Beagle to South America


Following Darwin’s Beagle

 A trip, or series of trips, to the locations Charles Darwin visited on the Beagle in the 1830s would take you near some famed pleasure spots, but with a different focus. You’d be looking at the rain forests, beach cliffs, and pampas that helped the curious Englishman put together a paradigm-changing view of our origins. These locations provide world-class vistas on their own, and if you visit the beaches too, no one will hold it against you.

The Odyssey Club thinks the ideal trip would be a cruise starting in Plymouth, England, where Darwin did (in December 1831), on the Beagle, if one can find a cruise line to offer it.


The first stop would be Cape Verde, southwest of the Canary Islands. They were going to stop in Tenerife, on the Canaries, but a quarantine stopped them, so they moved on to the Portugese-speaking, but culturally African, Cape Verde. There Darwin saw cuttle-fish that changed color in response to environmental cues, a sign of adaptability that must have gone into his thinking cap. He also noted strata of sea shells above the water line, which set him to thinking of the possibility that land masses are lifted and lowered over long periods of time, in line with Lyell’s already-existing theory of slow evolution and a very ancient earth. In addition to nature tours on Cape Verde, one could visit pirate forts, slave-trade remnants (slavery disgusted Darwin), and lively local markets. 

On the way to Brazil, one’s vessel might pass the St. Paul Archipelago (or Sts. Peter and Paul), then just a pile of rocks, now a pile of rocks with a scientific station. No point stopping; the Beagle spent very little time there. Likewise the island of Fernando de Naronha, now a resort with justly famous beaches. The Beagle anchored there for only a couple of hours, so a wave from your deck will suffice.

The young scientist’s first rain forest was north of Salvador, Brazil, not far from the Amazonian rain forest system. Salvador itself is a UNESCO world heritage site, worth a visit in its own right, known for Portugese architecture and Afro-Brazilian culture. An eco-tourism enterprise there could take you into the same rain forest Darwin first saw, or you could wait until later for the rain forest experience.


Rio de Janiero has the “Floresta da Tijuca” park, which may not be as primitive as the more northern rain forests near Salvador, but it’s much more visitor friendly and will give magnificent forest vistas of varying types.Floresta_da_Tijuca_06





Rio also has the gardens of Roberto Burle Marx, a prominent landscape designer worldwide, from this base in Rio – a bit more manicured, you say, but evidence of the tremendous ecological variety that knocked the socks off young Charles Darwin. He trekked in this area as well, and stayed for several weeks in a cottage in Botafogo Bay, under Corcovado Mountain (still without its famous statue of Jesus). 

Charles Darwin slept here (maybe)

Charles Darwin slept here (maybe)





Darwin was bored by Montivideo, Uruguay, but later went trekking into the pampas from nearby, smaller Maldonado, with a band of gauchos who became good chums. They seemed as fascinated with him as he was with them, and he took terrific pleasure in sampling their easygoing macho life. 


It was in Punta Alta, Argentina where Darwin’s interest in fossils grew apace, and he noted more sea shell strata that were high and dry. Today one can visit the town’s Charles Darwin Municipal Natural Science Museum. From Punta Alta, Darwin made several overland treks, backtracking to Buenos Aires (also worth a visit, of course), and venturing inland. He was glad to be off the Beagle, where he fought an endless battle with seasickness, usually losing.




The Beagle stayed off the Argentinian coast into the Summer of 1834, visiting the Falklands a few times, doubling back to Buenos Aires, collecting specimens in the interior of Patagonia, and making several forays into the islands of Tierra del Fuego, where the captain wanted to establish a Christian mission.

Once they finally rounded the bend into the Pacific, they visited Chiloe Island, which now offers Chiloe National Park, abundant wildlife preserves, and a spate of eco-tourism enterprises. They also witnessed the effects of an earthquake near Valdivia, which laid waste the City of Concepcion. The aftermath of the earthquake was another geology lesson for the young English scientist – He was putting everything together.

In the Valparaiso-Santiago area, Darwin trekked inland 3 times, visiting the reknowned baths at Cachapoal, and Portillo Pass, with views of the Argentina stretching east.

 800px-Buildings_at_the_Charles_Darwin_Research_Station_Galapagos_photo_by_Alvaro_Sevilla_DesignOf course Galapagos is the jewel of the trip, for us as for Darwin. Oodles of tour operators offer Darwin-savvy excursions, and the Charles Darwin Research Station is a must.

800px-Marine-Iguana-EspanolaDarwin’s legacy is richly linked with sites on the South American continent. Let’s visit them!