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4.1 out of 5 stars
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HALL OF FAMEon 26 December 2005
America's post-Civil War years brought a renewed interest in the European scene. Journeys known as Grand Tours led tourists to take ship to the Continent. They fanned out across the landscape with the intent to "know Europe." Their return home resulted in a flurry of published accounts. Twain here satirizes both the tourists and their writings with delicious wit. Ever a man to play with words, his "tramp" refers to both himself and the walking tour of Europe he purports to have made. By the time you've reached the end of the account of the "walking tour" incorporating trains, carriages and barges, you realize that the longest "walk" Twain took occurred in dark hotel room while trying to find his bed. He claims to have covered 47 miles wandering around the room.
Twain was interested in everything, probing into both well-known and obscure topics. His judgments are vividly conveyed in this book, standing in marked contrast to his more reserved approach in Innocents Abroad. A delightful overview of mid-19th Century Europe, Tramp is also interlaced with entertaining asides. Twain was deeply interested in people, and various "types" are drawn from his piercing gaze, rendered with acerbic wit. Some of these are contemporary, while others are dredged from his memories of the California mines and other journeys. He also relished Nature's marvels, recounting his observations. A favourite essay is "What Stumped the Blue-jays." A nearly universal bird in North America, Twain's description of the jay's curiosity and expressive ability stands unmatched. He observes such humble creatures as ants, Alpine chamois, and the American tourist. Few escape his perception or his scathing wit. This book remains valuable for its timeless rendering of characters and the universality of its view. It can be read repeatedly for education or entertainment. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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on 7 November 2014
If you wish to experience the full range of Mark Twain's prolific story telling capabilities then this is the book for you. It recounts his trip round Europe in the 1870's (when he was in his mid thirties), but is it much more than a mere travelogue.

He does of course cover many factual elements, for example a particular town in Germany which I was able to look up on Google. The photographs show that it has not changed much since Mark Twain was there and his description still applies. Later in the book he cites a famous large painting (in a city in Italy) which again I was able to find on Google and I could follow his account of the various portions of the canvas.

Mixed in with the travelogue are stories of what has happened to him along the way, exaggerations of what may have happened to him, and downright tall stories of what is most unlikely to have happened to him. It is up to the reader to determine which is which. Added to this are acknowledged myths and legends from the current locality. It all makes for a rich and entertaining tapestry of wonderful narrative.

Mark Twain has the ability to make me laugh out loud. He describes in comical detail his excruciating experience of German Opera, his delight in hearing a piano played really badly in a hotel lounge, his infuriation at suffering from insomnia, and his fascination with the behaviour of the common ant - to name but a few instances.

Do not overlook the appendices when you reach the end of the main part of the book. His analysis there of the eccentricities of the German language is glorious and a gem in its own right.

This eBook version has some curiosities. There are the usual handful of printing errors that one might expect to have been eliminated by good proofreading. The entire text is centre justified which takes a bit of getting used to but does not materially detract from the reading experience. Some of the European accented characters show up properly but many of them are represented by incomprehensible hieroglyphics. But do not let these minor errors put you off. If you do not enjoy this book then you can conclude that you are definitely not a Mark Twain fan.
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on 18 May 2014
Published in 1880, 'A Tramp Abroad' is a mix of autobiography and fiction covering the author's travels in Southern Germany, the Swiss Alps and Italy.

The title sets the tone for the book in that "tramp" - in either sense of the word - is a deliberate misnomer, as Mr Twain/Clemens rarely travels by foot, taking advantage of the transport available at the time - trains, rafts, carriages, steamers, mules - and the services of that all-important courier.

This is a very long book and one that I found extremely mixed in its entertainment value. When it's good it's very very good, but when it's bad it's just dull. Although I read it diligently all the way through, I would advise skipping whole sections or chapters if they don't take your fancy in the first couple of pages. For example, I found the chapter 'Harris climbs Mountains for me' - a skit on travel writing of the time, where foreign words are hurled indiscriminately into the narrative - a clever idea at the start, but it dragged on and on, labouring the point ad infinitum.

As a contrast, a chapter such as that in which the narrator attempts the ascent of the Riffleberg in evening dress with half a mile of men and mules tied together, or that in which he attempts to descend a mountain via glacier are brilliant - absurd and hilarious. The essay 'The Awful German Language' in the Appendix is also not to be missed - this is a classic with such marvellous observations as 'In Germany a young lady has no sex, while a turnip has.'

A small point on the Kindle version - unfortunately the pictures don't work that well - most of these need to be zoomed in-on to appreciate them, which disturbs the flow of reading.

Although the book feels a little 'stuck together' as a work, I would recommend it to anyone travelling to Germany or the Alps - so much of the observation on the Germans remains true nearly 150 years later, and it's definitely one that you'll dip into again from time to time.
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on 15 March 2016
After 'Innocents Abroad', this was Mark Twain's second foreign travel book. Both books have 'laugh out loud' moments, and dull passages. The art of 'skipping' bits is particularly useful when reading Mark Twain! To be fair, he was writing in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and his descriptions of European scenery would have been necessary to readers without access to visual media. We might find them boring today, even though they are brilliantly written! I must confess I often used Google Maps and Wiki to check out places he had mentioned! Sometimes just to verify his information, as the book is full of deliberate misinformation and hoaxes! We always have to remember that he is trying to entertain! He can be very serious, but trying to establish if the 'serious' passages are just 'send-ups' is part of the fun in reading Mark Twain! For example, his 'rant' on European and American food, with that extremely long list of American ingredients. Is he serious here? I found it helped to always keep in mind the fact that the book was written in 1879. On a personal note, I have also stayed in Interlaken, and that big hotel is still there, and I can just imagine the dull evenings spent there listening to terrible pianists! Now you can go to the top of the Jungfrau by train! No need to go by telescope! He would have loved that!
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on 11 May 2014
I have mixed feelings about this one.Sometimes it made me laugh out loud and certain paragraphs are absolute gold - like the one about trying to leave a room without waking up a sleeping friend or climbing a tiny mountain in few days even though it should take few hours max. Unfortunately in between those really funny stories the author takes on a challenge to make you suicidal. The worst parts are those dreadful legends he has to torture us with every so often. Just thinking about them makes me feel a bit down. Also the entire description of university duel clubs was so painfully boring it made me want to abandon the book. But then on the other hand whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger and the good bits are like I said phenomenal. And I was shortly rewarded with a chapter on the french duel which was fantastic. The only inconsistent thing is that towards the end author's attitiude changes and he becomes quite a stereotypical American he despises - that's when he has quite a lenghty rant about how you can't eat a decent meal in Europe. It didn't match the personality we got to know in the book and seemed a bit hillbilly, but I guess it was supposed to be funny.
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on 15 April 2011
Without a doubt, this is the funniest book ive ever read and ive read quite a few over my years.Twain's account of a French duel took me half an hour to read,I had to stop reading after every sentence I read,I was laughing so much.A modern day reader may wonder how such a dated occurance can still hold any humour,if you want to know how,download this book and discover what timeless humour means.I also loved his retelling of a day in the woods when a raven disturbed his peaceful reverie by hurling insults at him as only ravens can.Though alone,this incident caused him far more embarrassment than if his feathered bully had been human.Somehow,you can identify with even the most impossible stories such as taking hours to find a sock in the dark in his German bedroom.His nature discription also reveal a heart of a poet as well as an unequalled humourist.This is going to be a book I will dip into time and time again.especially when i'm in need of cheering up,just recalling some of these stories can lift any blues.A real tonic.
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on 6 January 2014
An excellent amusing book, where the "tramp" refers to a walk, not a homeless person. I'm not sure if Mark Twain was being deliberate in his choice of words. Recommended to me by a German friend, it made a great read, particularly as the first section is set in the beautiful Baden-Wurttemburg region.
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on 19 April 2015
Very poor quality printing of a classic. I sent it back as unreadable.
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on 28 August 2014
I was hoping for some of Mark Twain's humour in this book, but it turned out to be a straighforward Europena tourism diary. Interesting for its historical account of some odd ways of life in a vanished Europe before the industrial era changed things completely.
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on 27 November 2012
What's with the formatting? The text is centred throughout, so it's a little like reading a menu! Also it is not possible to skip directly to different chapters. However despite these shortcomings it's still a pretty good read.
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