Edith and I: On the Trail of an Edwardian Traveller in Kosovo
Two Kosovo journeys a century apart. In 1900, Europe’s last wilderness was explored by a most unlikely champion, a stout, stubborn Englishwoman who travelled in her tam o’shanter across the Accursed Mountains into Kosovo. Edith Durham was dubbed ‘Queen of the Highlanders’ by the Albanians who honoured her for her anthropological writing, her humanitarian aid and her tireless lobbying for their cause.
One hundred years later, Elizabeth Gowing came to Kosovo and also fell in love with the country. Dividing her time between there and London, she thought that no-one would understand her identity crisis; but as Elizabeth unravels Edith’s story through archives and museum collections in Britain and retraces Edith’s steps in Kosovo she learns from her what she should do with her life.
Tracing the revelations in old diaries, jolting along Kosovan roads in a ‘motokultivator’, learning from Edith the secrets of the harem, and from monks the treasures of Unesco World Heritage Site monasteries, Elizabeth travels on Edith’s trail and ends up finding not only an Edwardian heroine but also a guide to her own very twenty-first century dilemma.
Elizabeth’s first book, ‘Travels in Blood and Honey; becoming a beekeeper in Kosovo’ (Signal Books, 2011) was described by The Times as ‘a sheer delight; a beguiling, bittersweet story of a lively love affair with a traditional world … in transition to new nationhood’, and by The Lady as ‘a bold, unique stride across genres… with a sense of humour and Famous Five enthusiasm’