The silk in Silk Road.

unspooling the cocoons

Those are silk cocoons, spun by silk worms who have fed long and well on mulberry leaves. There is a fire beneath the caldron, and this lady is boiling them in water to make the very end of the strands loosen, all the while stirring the water so that the strand ends will adhere to the stirring stick. The ends are attached to a spindle and wound, and voila, ready to dye and weave.

Now they have gigantic automated factories to do this work, of course, but this is the way they would have done it back in Johanna’s day.

HoZ Silk and Song final.jpg

Which I will be signing at 2pm on December 2nd

at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Click here to pre-order.

Once you get in, you’ll never get out.

Teklamakan 1

The Taklamakan Desert.

Some sources claim it means “Place of No Return”, more commonly interpreted as “once you get in, you’ll never get out.”

Teklamakan 2

And you can see why.

Teklamakan 3

 

HoZ Silk and Song final

Which I will be signing at 2pm on December 2nd

at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Click here to pre-order.

It’s all about product placement on the Silk Road.

Coal and stovepipes copy

Coal and stovepipes in the Kuche market. Hey, buy one, gotta buy the other.

HoZ Silk and Song final

Which I will be signing at 2pm on December 2nd

at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Click here to pre-order.

Naginata.

That would be this

shown here with samurai for scale, whose weapon it was

A naginata could be over twelve feet in length, butt to blade tip. Other than the obvious uses — stabbing, slicing, hooking, clubbing, kneecapping charging horses, disemboweling and/or beheading their riders — the naginata user’s advantage was by how far it extended the user’s reach over an opponent armed with a sword. The naginata was also the only weapon women were allowed to use in medieval Japan. Read more here.

The naginata is the weapon of choice for Silk and Song’s samurai, Gokudo. His quick hand on the, er, shaft may have in part led to his banishment from Chipangu, and to his intersection with my plot.

HoZ Silk and Song final.jpg

Which I will be signing at 2pm on December 2nd

at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Click here to pre-order.

 

Shoe a mule or fill a cavity–your choice at the Kuche market.

Shoeing a reluctant mule

So you can get your mule shoed…

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

…and ten feet to your left see this sign…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

…so while you’re waiting on your mule you can go in and get that pesky cavity in your second lower left molar filled. I sent this photo to my dentist and he reported that that that dentist had pretty modern equipment. I regret to this day not asking our guide to ask how much it would cost to get that cavity filled.

HoZ Silk and Song final

Which I will be signing at 2pm on December 2nd

at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Click here to pre-order.

 

How they made the bread on the Silk Road.

There’s a scene in the marketplace in Kashgar where Johanna eats bread.

Think this bread.

Sharyn's China 471.jpg

It’s what’s for breakfast.

Sharyn's China 366.jpg

Provided by our trusty guide David. Or in Johanna’s case, her friend Fatima’s parents, Malala and Ahmed.

Sharyn's China 472.jpg

HoZ Silk and Song final

Which I will be signing at 2pm on December 2nd

at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Click here to pre-order.

I love markets.

Me in the spice market at Yarkent.

Markets are where you see what people are making and buying and selling. People are talking and laughing and shouting out prices and exchanging sotto voce comments with each other on how much they got for that carpet and those chairs and commiserating over the fluctuating price of a glass of pomegranate juice, and then the muzzein sounds the call from the minaret of the local mosque and the lady selling you a length of brilliant scarlet silk excuses herself and shakes out a small rug and kneels facing Mecca to say her prayers. There’s a guy making rivets from snippets of soft tin, right across the street from another guy shoeing a donkey, right next to a dentist’s office where you can stand in the doorway and watch him extract a tooth.

Markets are where you see how the people in that place in that time really live their lives. I love markets. I am a total sucker for any market anywhere, anytime, from the fish market in Fatiyeh, Turkey, to the Sunday market in Kashgar, China. One of my favorite things to do when I’m traveling is to go into the local supermarket and walk the aisles. There must have been 25 different kinds of yogurt in the supermarket in Izmir. Who knew? Now, I do.

HoZ Silk and Song final.jpg

Which I will be signing at 2pm on December 2nd

at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Click here to pre-order.