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Walking the Woods and the Water: In Patrick Leigh Fermor's footsteps from the Hook of Holland to the Golden Horn [Paperback]

Nick Hunt
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
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Book Description

20 Mar 2014
In 1933, the eighteen year old Patrick Leigh Fermor set out in a pair of hobnailed boots to chance and charm his way across Europe, like a tramp, a pilgrim or a wandering scholar . The books he later wrote about this walk, A Time of Gifts, Between the Woods and the Water, and the posthumous The Broken Road are a half-remembered, half-reimagined journey through cultures now extinct, landscapes irrevocably altered by the traumas of the twentieth century. Aged eighteen, Nick Hunt read A Time of Gifts and dreamed of following in Fermor s footsteps. In 2011 he began his own great trudge - on foot all the way to Istanbul. He walked across Europe through eight countries, following two major rivers and crossing three mountain ranges. Using Fermor s books as his only travel guide, he trekked some 2,500 miles through Holland, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. His aim? To have an old-fashioned adventure. To slow down and linger in a world where we pass by so much, so fast. To discover for himself what remained of hospitality, kindness to strangers, freedom, wildness, adventure, the mysterious, the unknown, the deeper currents of myth and story that still flow beneath Europe s surface.

Frequently Bought Together

Walking the Woods and the Water: In Patrick Leigh Fermor's footsteps from the Hook of Holland to the Golden Horn + The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos + A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople - From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube
Price For All Three: 23.37

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Nicholas Brealey (20 Mar 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857886178
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857886177
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 13.6 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 13,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Nick Hunt has written a glorious book, rich with insight and wit, about walking his way both across and into contemporary Europe. He set out as an homage to Patrick Leigh Fermor's legendary tramp across Europe in the early 1930s, but his journey became - of course - an epic adventure in its own right. A book about gifts, modernity, endurance and landscape, it represents a fine addition to the literature of the leg.' --Robert Macfarlane, author of The Wild Places and The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot

This moving and profoundly honest book sometimes brings a sense of unlimited freedom, sometimes joy, sometimes an extraordinary, dream-like dislocation: always accompanied by a dazzling sharpness of hearing and vision. I see now how that youthful walk informed so much of Paddy s style. Before setting out Hunt was going to write to Paddy. The letter was never written, and by the time he set off, Paddy was dead. How touched and fascinated he would have been to read this book. --Artemis Cooper, author of Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure and co-editor The Broken Road

'Vivid and hard-won' Giles Foden inConde Nast Traveller

'In his 2,500-mile journey, which took him through eight countries, he nearly froze to death and he had had innumerable encounters with the kindness of strangers. Hunt s narrative mixes description elegantly with reportage' --New Statesman

'Delightful, balanced and extremely well-written...an impressive and timely effort. A worthy literary tribute to the classic of British travel writing.' --Vitali Vitaliev, author of Passport to Enclavia

Although I ve read both Nick s book and Leigh Fermor s I have to say, I enjoyed Nick s much more. Nick writes more like a contemporary travel-writer where personal experience and anecdotes take priority. Nick s book is much more accessible, while also inspiring a sense of wonder in his readers at his fantastic feat of walking such a great distance with so little in the way of resources. While the style of writing may be different, the adventurous and resourceful spirit is the same, and for modern readers, Nick s book will I think be more enjoyable than Leigh Fermor s.' --The Uncommon Reader

'A most enjoyable read and a worthy tribute to the originals' --Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller

'Walking in the footsteps of Patrick Leigh Fermor from Rotterdam to Constantinople, Nick Hunt found that, 78 years later, everything and nothing has changed' --Daily Telegraph interview with author

About the Author

Nick Hunt is a freelance journalist and fiction writer, specializing in climate change, language loss, biocultural diversity, politics and travel. His articles have appeared publications including The Economist, the Guardian, New Internationalist, Resurgence, Search, Geographical, World Conservation. In 2011/12 he spent 8 months walking across Europe in the footsteps on Patrick Leigh Fermor. Visit his site at http://www.nickhuntscrutiny.com/ and follow him on Twitter @underscrutiny

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely book, engaging writing 17 April 2014
This is an entertaining book, but also a serious read.I really appreciated this opportunity to learn more about the changes that have taken place in the centre of our continent. Nick Hunt walked through the same landscape as Patrick Leigh Fermor in a culture utterly changed by the Second World War, the holocausts and ethnic cleansing, the grim totalitarianism of Communism and the kleptocracy of the market economy. The small farms have been drawn into collectives; the great houses are now ruined or converted into mental hospitals. The Danube has been dammed at the Iron Gates and elsewhere so that ancient sites Paddy explored are now deep underwater. There is a grim sense of tragedy, of people and places having endured deeply dark times. And yet, even while the culture has been impoverished and the natural world carelessly exploited, at the end Nick discovers ‘the deep continuities between our times’. While ‘suburban sprawl, motorways and hydroelectric dams may have irrevocably altered landscapes […] Europe’s wilder edge seldom felt far away’. Similarly, ‘in human terms, everything and nothing had changed’, since beyond the larger tragedies, ‘people’s lives, with their everyday quibbles and concerns, hadn’t greatly altered’, and ‘in every country of my walk I encountered kindness and generosity that Paddy would have recognized’. As the young Turkish man who buys Nick tea toward the end of his walk puts it, ‘The way we see it, you have walked all this way just to meet us’.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but in a different way 17 May 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book and the contrasts between Paddy's walk and the Author's. For example, Paddy often slept in barns, whereas Nick was able to crash in houses all across Europe because of the internet. However there were times when Nick had to wild camp. One major difference, Paddy was able to stay with the Aristocracy through a large part of Eastern Europe. Nick was able to visit houses which had survived ( usually as hospitals) or more often as ruins. Swept away by World War or political upheaval. Very poignant.By definition, as The Broken Road had not been published during Nick's walk, he did not recreate Paddy's long detour in to Transylvania. An enjoyable and interesting read.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthy successor 31 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a big fan of A Time of Gifts/Between the Woods and the Water/Broken Road, I bought this with some trepidation wondering if Hunt could live up to his predecessor's gift for narrative and descriptions, but was pleasantly surprised to find him equal to the task. He based his trip on Leigh-Fermor's pre-war walk across Europe but has added to them in this book by showing that although much has changed, there are still people who can be kind and hospitable to travellers. This is as much a journey of the spirit as of geography. PLF's books were written with the benefit of years of hindsight and lovingly edited; this is a less polished but more thoughtful account of a tough journey across 21st Century Europe, reflecting the change in attitudes and politics. I loved the descriptions of his disintegrating boots, and almost cheered when he reached his destination. This is a really good read, and I would recommend it to PLF fans - there's also a touching link (no spoilers here) which echoes across the years.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I do not have anything to add (but praise) to the preceding reviews of this powerful and mature page turner, except for the following anecdotical footnote:

I have now for years been a (non-kosher) member of the PLF "borderline sect", as Nick Hunt, wisely taking his distances with it, aptly calls it, even though Artemis Coopers' recent biography courageously did reveal some less engaging aspects of the heros' personality. As such I had planned to repeat PLFs' itinerary in 2014, with a view to comparing past and present (I had even taken a number of scouting trips in Hungary and Romania, taking pictures often so depressing -the ravages of Communism and more precisely Communists, toujours et encore- that I preferred not to send them to "Paddy" in his old age).
Nick Hunt beat me to it, with knobs on: his account says it all, with subtlety, English charm, an acute sense of observation, and a deceptively understated historians' knack for not only describing, but also for explaining.
Mr. Hunts' writing is spare - but emphatically not without humour or poetry - and always gripping. He takes his distances with PLF, and having embarked upon his travels without preconceptions, delivers an entirely independent - and brillant- work of travel literature, where reality is often, to use one of his favorite words, more incongruous than fiction, and where among the gloom of motorways, suburban sprawl and post-communist non-societies, the kindness of strangers and the beauty of the wild shine as they also did - and the loop is looped - for Patrick Leigh Fermor. Thank you, Nick Hunt (now I have to find something else to do)!!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new travel classic 3 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For a writer to follow the pre-war footsteps of the legendary ‘PLF’ is brave at the best, foolhardy and vainglorious at the worst. Some may see it as a brazen literary stunt, others as a hagiographic pilgrimage in honour of an eccentric English travel writer. To his great credit, Nick Hunt has avoided all such epithets by adopting a ‘compare and contrast’ approach that bridges the 80 year interval with perspicacity and wit, although at times he struggles as he finds himself ‘viewing Paddy’s journey from the far side of a gulf, an alienating change so huge I couldn’t make out its dimensions’. One example is the spectre of the concentration camp at Mauthausen where an ‘unimaginable inhumanity lay between Paddy’s walk and mine’; another ‘the gutted and derelict country houses [home to Paddy on many occasions], the visible symbols of vast social upheavals’. At Sunny Beach on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, he bemoans that ‘the remnants of the past served only to emphasise the crassness of what had replaced it’.
From the beginning, Hunt applies a sensitive dexterity to his selections of PLF’s writings and avoids being swamped by the waves of glistening prose. In this respect, his journey equates to a voyage as he navigates surely and skilfully through the eddies and reefs of 20th century European history, often confronting unpleasant realities such as the increase in autobahns from 70 miles in 1933 to 7,000 miles today and the hideous Wasserkraftwerken barricading the great Danube. How easy to run aground on the colourful charts bequeathed by PLF and to leave the reader shipwrecked in a sea of forensicity.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Recommended to PLF fans but failed to grip.
As a fan of PLF I was drawn to the concept of someone replicating his walk and enjoyed reading about the changes after 80 years. Read more
Published 2 days ago by a_reader_ writes
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly brilliant!
Like Paddy, Nick serves instead of a picnic - a smorgasbord. He welcomes you to share his tattered blanket and serves local hooch in chipped mugs. Read more
Published 11 days ago by J Gibson
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy successor.
Beautifully written, this book provides an excellent update to PLF's epic walk. To make a very long walk readable as a tale is a real challenge which the author has achieved very... Read more
Published 25 days ago by John
4.0 out of 5 stars Woods and Water
An interesting comparison with Patrick Leigh Fermor's works. I think Paddy had the better journey although Nick Hunt did more actual walking.
Published 1 month ago by R. Wasling
5.0 out of 5 stars A difficult undertaking superbly realised.
Ignore the bad reviews, which miss the point entirely. This is not a Paddy Leigh Fermor tribute act, but a separate journey that uses his books as an inspiration and starting... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Andrew Bostock
4.0 out of 5 stars wonderful book
This is a beautifully written account by Nick Hunt concerning his recent long walking trip across Europe in the steps of Patrick Leigh Fermor (1930s). Read more
Published 2 months ago by chest consultant
5.0 out of 5 stars Made me want to travel again
Nick Hunt writes in a funny style, while providing tons of information about his whereabouts. Reading his stories really feels like walking with him and being part of his great... Read more
Published 2 months ago by remco kwint
2.0 out of 5 stars A pub crawl through Europe
I read a positive review in the Spectator magazine which prompted me to buy this book. I can see that others think highly of it but after reading almost two thirds decided that I... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Nobby
1.0 out of 5 stars More of a fool's errand.
A re-enactment of Patrick Leigh Fermor's famous walk decades later could have been triumph; but this book isn't it. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Michael Base
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