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His wandering spirit mellowing his analytic eye, John L. Stephens is the best kind of guide. Whether describing the richness of a seraglio in Turkey or the drama of a gambling hall in Russia, the congenial and charismatic style of his narrative-with its hearty doses of humor-is warming, while the enthusiastic accounts of treks, discoveries, and friends made utterly engages. Add to this Stephens' conscientious inclusion of historical, sociopolitical, anthropological, and sometimes mythological, context, and Incidents of Travel in Greece, Turkey, Russia, and Poland becomes the next best thing to being there. American traveler, diplomat, and author JOHN LLOYD STEPHENS (1805-1852) topped off an academic youth by exploring the world, eventually distinguishing himself in such endeavors as playing a primary role in the building of the Panama Railroad, and producing the era's preeminent record of Mesoamerican culture in his work Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan.