The Far-Out Trip
North Korea, With Thrills and Frills
One of the greatest spectacles on earth is one you likely have never seen in person. North Korea's Mass Games feature roughly 100,000 performers and last several weeks. This being North Korea, the events are governmental messaging as well as entertainment. Luxury travel outfitter Cox & Kings is offering six trips to North Korea this year, two timed to coincide with expected Mass Games festivities (this year's, believed to begin in late July, have yet to be confirmed). Games or no games, visitors will tour the North Korean side of the DMZ, the Kumsusan Palace (Kim Il Sung's mausoleum) and the Mangyongdae Funfair amusement park, all of which are open to foreign tourists, provided they stick with their guides. 12-night trips begin at $4,420 (excluding airfare to Beijing, the starting point for U.S. travelers), coxandkingsusa.com—Matthew Kronsberg
Shortly after KGB agents confiscated his novel "Life and Fate" in 1961, Soviet writer Vasily Grossman received a curious assignment: to travel to Armenia and translate a war novel. The job was believed to have been cooked up by the Soviet authorities—better to keep him busy than risk his complaining about censorship to foreign journalists. While in Armenia, Mr. Grossman kept lively journals of his travels. "An Armenian Sketchbook" (New York Review Books) offers a clear-eyed, loose-limbed account of two months spent making friends, traveling to a remote village to attend a wedding and feasting on hot peppers and Cognac. Mr. Grossman's volume will resonate with anybody who loves to visit new places. "Your first minutes on the streets of an unfamiliar city are always special; what happens in later months or years can never supplant them. These minutes are filled with the visual equivalent of nuclear energy, a kind of nuclear power of attention," he wrote. $15, nybooks.com
A version of this article appeared February 9, 2013, on page D8 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: No Headline Available.