To The Lake: A Balkan Journey of War and Peace, by Kapka Kassabova (Granta 2020)

Neil's picture

To The Lake is the follow up to Kassabova's earlier, well- received travel/history title Border, which looked at the area where Bulgaria, her original home, joins Greece and Turkey. In To The Lake she travels to her grandmother's place of origin, and a place where she spent childhood holidays - Lake Ohrid and Lake Prespa in the borderlands area between Albania, North Macedonia and Greece. It's a mysterious region, rarely visited by outsiders and off the international tourist trail, but deep in conflicted and tragic history. Long a trade route and spiritual centre, the area has been subject to shifting borders and allegiances. Kassabova explores all of this, and examines how geography influences politics and people. Written with a deep understanding of the language, culture and religions of the area, it's reminiscent of the work of Patrick Leigh Fermor and Colin Thubron. Outstanding.