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Around the World on a Motorcycle: 1928 to 1936 Hardcover – Oct 1 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Whitehorse (Oct. 1 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1884313779
  • ISBN-13: 978-1884313776
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 748 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,172,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

About the Author

Zoltan Sulkowsky was 25 years old when he left Hungary, drawn by wanderlust.  His goal was to see and learn as much as he could and to keep a journal to record his observations and adventures.  As his plan crystallized, one thought led to another and Sulkowsky and his friend Gyula Bartha found themselves on a motorcycle and full of determination to make their way around the world.

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Amazon.com: HASH(0xa9368588) out of 5 stars 8 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa939f054) out of 5 stars Around The World On A Motorcycle Nov. 30 2009
By Kenneth J. Aiken - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
"This book was not written by a scholar. Neither did I set out on my adventurous journey after thorough scientific preparations or precise planning. What I did pack in my proverbial rucksack was an intense desire to see and to learn, and a healthy helping of determination. . . . My determination, hard work, and a well-chosen vehicle, the motorcycle, carried me not only to railroad junctions and busy seaports, but also off the `ridden' path, hummed its way into the real lives of real people, into isolated villages, forest, and untried mountains. . . .`Traveling around the world no longer means what it meant a few decades ago, however, wandering around the highways and byway of the world for eight years straight remains a daring accomplishment. It would be that very few cyclists or other species of travelers would be up for such a trek, and the difficulties of the venture are underscored by the fact that nobody before us ever undertook a similar journey." - Zoltán Sulkowky, November 1937

Mounted on a 1922 Model J Harley-Davidson with an oversized sidecar, Zoltán Sulkowky and his friend Gyula Bartha spent seven years traveling through 68 countries on six continents. Along the way they met some of the notables of their time--Mussolini, General Chiang Kai-shek, Prime Minister Hamaguchi, Greta Garbo, and Charlie Chaplin--experienced the last of "colonialism," ventured to places where people had never seen a motor vehicle, and documented a slice of the world that we now call history. There are a number of "round-the-world" motorcycle-touring books, but this was the first one. Originally published in Hungary in 1937, this 2008 edition is the first time it has been translated into English and contains B&W photos from the original printing.

Obviously the world has changed during the past 70 years, but some of Sulkowky's words seem timeless. "I am entirely familiar with the mechanisms of the motorcycle, down to its nuts and bolts. I had learned the names of all the parts while still in college, I knew rpms and pistons, but I had no idea what to do then the engine shut down." He continues, "And so we consulted our book, troubleshooting systematically, part by part and line by line, and still, we found nothing out of the ordinary. Then we gave the bike a push, desperately: nothing." In the end the travelers discover that they hadn't turned the ignition key to the on position. Such confessions make them seem real and identifiable as neophytes setting out on a journey that wasn't really planned.

This epic journey was taken at the silent cusp of modern world history. These intrepid travelers left Europe just prior to The Great Depression and returned to Hungary on the eve of World War II. They witnessed the final chapter of colonialism and the last vestiges of tribal culture. They observed Jews trying to build a state in Palestine, were in India during Gandhi's activism, and rode through China when civil war first erupted between the communists and Chiang Kai-shek's nationalists. Sulkowky describes environmental ravaging through the eyes of an educated man of that era and his keen observations regarding the status of women, colonial rule, the caste system, tourist sites, prices, food, weather, and religious practices of various cultures makes this far more than just another motorcycle adventure story.

Above and beyond the author's eye-witness account of the world, the central story is about motorcycling and their adventures make modern RTW travelers' exploits look like a trip to Club Med. "Nobody traveled on wheels [in Turkey], and nobody was able to give us any directions worth following. We weren't even sure of the direction in which to get started." They plowed through desert sands, balanced on railway tracks over raging rivers, were towed by buffalo through rice paddies, built roads over mountains, and even dismantled the Harley and its sidecar to cross countless rivers in small boats. "Passing through towns [in Korea] we always stocked up on various logs and boards, which we then used to build impromptu bridges, sometimes working for hours at a single site." Maps were often useless, some languages incomprehensible, and many locals had no idea of lay beyond the immediate vicinity of their remote villages. However the journey was not all struggle and adversity. "A road ran through this primeval wilderness [in Java] To our right and to our left lay hundreds of kilometers of mysterious lush vegetation, and yet, we had the great fortune of traveling along some of the best roads we had encountered, smooth paved road of asphalt and bitumen, straight as the flight of an arrow, without the smallest bump or hindrance. . . . What extraordinary countryside and what an extraordinary road!"

This amazing tale was published in Hungary and so the author's frequently inclusions regarding Hungarians met during their journey are excusable. The fact that he was able to condense this story to a mere 408 pages is commendable for a diarist who dutifully kept notes, wrote articles for newspapers, and collected botanical and mineralogical specimens that were sent back to European museums. So much was left out, yet what remains offers fascinating reading. My only disappointment with this book is with the quality of the published photos, which was reduced by printing them on the same pages as the text. Image clarity would have been enhanced if they had been printed on high-quality glossy paper and placed as center pages in the book. Still, I consider this to be one of the best RTW accounts in my library and can only wonder why it took 70 years for it to be translated into English.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa939f0a8) out of 5 stars Motorcycle journey eighty years ago June 5 2009
By G. Zsamboky - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you are looking for a 21st century, "action" motorcycle adventure, don't read this book. This book is not about Ewan and Charley's pursuit of hardship on a motorcycle. Traveling around the world on a motor driven vehicle, nearly a century ago was just as different from today as it is the way we talk about adventures. When Google Earth was not in use and many places paved roads were not options - if there were passable roads to the destination at all - the notion of adventure travel has not been introduced yet. Travel to this extent was the adventure itself. Knowledge on people, culture and customs of remote lands were so little that you could make your living on making live presentations of a journey, once you survived it. Amidst sweeping pandemics, free roaming bandits and wild animals with limited resources and no satellite communication or even telephone, many globetrotters vanished on their trip, leaving no trace or even the slightest hint of their faith behind. When hardship was the norm of long-distance travel and B&W photos of distant locations were subject of the most intense curiosity, eyewitness explorers become the center of attention. Enthusiastic listeners of their presentations or readers of their publications however, were more interested in what world travelers saw and experienced than in their personal hardships. Thus, stories of that time had been focused more on describing foreign lands and less emphasis put on the many instances of excruciating struggle they went through. Eyewitnesses talked more about places they visited and less about themselves as we'd come to expect from a motorcycle adventure book today. This book is a great reading if you approach it in the correct way. It's a journey in distance and time. Traveling in the virtual saddle with these two daring globetrotters between the two World Wars not only teaches us about the then current social, political and economical landscape of their extensive trip but we can also see the roads less traveled through their classic goggles. This book is a very enjoyable reading for those who are interested in motorcycling with historical perspective presented in a casual manner.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa939f384) out of 5 stars Around the World on a Motorcycle April 24 2012
By Jerry S. Hooker - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have nearly finished reading this marvelous book describing an almost unbelievable, challenging and historical trip around the world in a very interesting time period between the Great War and WWII. I have read many great motorcycle adventure books and this is one of the best. Very well written and historically fascinating. [...] Click on Facebook link for more motorcycle information.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa939f27c) out of 5 stars Around the world on a motorcycle: 1928 to 1936 Dec 20 2009
By Pieter H. Smit - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Best Motorcycle travel book I have read, very informative and gives a good insight into history of the 1930`s as well. I will read this book more than once. I have now read the book for the third time and enjoyed it as much as the first time. These guys, true pioneers in motorcycling and travel.Still remains my best read book on motorcycle travel.I will soon be travelling my own book but it will never be as in the 1930`s.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa939f468) out of 5 stars Interesting old travelogue... Aug. 9 2010
By Adrian C. Wright - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was an intersting read. It's like reading a time capsule and returning to a simpler, and very different world. If you are thinking of getting this, then consider "One Man Caravan", which is superior to this in many ways. If you have already read that book and enjoyed it, then read this, but I suspect you won't enjoy it as much.