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57 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply wonderful
This is the sequel to 'A Time of Gifts', and continues the young Leigh-Fermor's walk through the length of 1930s Europe. Here we start from where the previous book left off, at the border into Hungary, and continue through until the Iron Gates border between Rumania and Bulgaria. I immensely enjoyed 'A Time of Gifts', and this book is the perfect companion to it. It is a...
Published on 11 Sep 2002

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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Between lost note books and a hazy memory.
Patrick Leigh Fermor is a legendary prose stylist, and his territory is the pre-war world of Central and Balkan Europe which was dredged to destruction first by the Nazis and then by the Communists.
Fermor is candid in that he says " a trunk containing much material " went missing during the Second World War and that he lost some more, when he was torpedoed during...
Published on 28 Nov 2009 by John Irons-patterson


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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written - I feel as though I'm walking through ..., 8 Oct 2014
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Beautifully written - I feel as though I'm walking through the woods with him
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19 of 29 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An aristocrat wanders around aristocratic Europe, 27 Feb 2011
I'm afraid I'm going to have to dissent from most of the reviews here. This could have been a wonderful book about a region of Europe that soon after was destroyed by war and authoritarian communism. But however great some of the descriptions of the scenery are, a serious problem soon raises its head. PLF wanders from castle to castle and meets a bunch of cosmopolitan aristocrats much like himself. Many of these people get descriptions lasting pages, and in fact these are the least interesting parts of the book, because they are about people educated and raised in very similar ways to PLF himself.

Meanwhile the descriptions of ordinary people are short and far between to say the least. A shepherd gets a one line description. A peasant girl is described not in terms of her character but as a pleasing distraction. So the people PLF meets in the castles are real people while the peasants and so on are part of the scenery. There are a few exceptions such as an interesting description of a Jewish community he encounters but the general rule is that this is a book about Eastern European aristocrats set in very nice scenery.

This is a harsh thing to say I know. I have experienced myself the problems of visiting countries where I don't speak the language, and so the only people I end up talking to are members of what you might call the international middle class. I know that's difficult for a traveller, but to not be aware of it is unforgivable. And what it means is that we only really get fleeting glimpses of the places PLF travels through as he wanders among a network of the educated elite. And sure, he sleeps in a hut from time to time, but he always has this free pass back into his own world within the foreign land. I could even go further and say that his failure to notice what the relations were between his aristocratic friends and the peasants he encountered are part of a cultivated blindness to what was actually happening in the countries he travelled through.

In conclusion, this isn't a book about central and south east Europe before the war. Which is a shame, because that really would have interested me. Nice descriptions of scenery though.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 24 Sep 2014
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Good book, not as good as his previous one but worth reading
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars inspiring, 28 Nov 2013
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A. H. Calkoen - See all my reviews
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Quite a detailed book giving enormous insight in the historical background of the places Ferrimor visits. I missed the development of characters which is inherent when you walk on foot on your own..however later on when he becomes a guest to the most colourful people , the players in the story become more real. It made me laugh that the bits in German were translated but the Latin quotes were not, presuming we all have Ferrimor's educational background. It was obvious that the book was not written by an 18 year old but by a much older Ferrimor as it is so incredibly rich in history. Impossible to take it all in but a very colourful picture of a time that must have been amazing . I read both volumes and was never bored . Not being a native English speaker I was tempted to have a dictionary at hand : many unknown words and idioms . Enriching and Inspiring.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book is in a new condition, 28 Nov 2013
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There has been much discussion about this writer in the papers recently, so I thought i would give him a go,
But disappointed by his language which I found stilted and uneasy.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wish I knew more about central European history!, 18 April 2013
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Despite getting bogged down in the detail of place names and genealogy of central Europen royal and aristocratic families, i found this book surprisingly readable. The range of people encountered from tramps and gypsies to the idle rich so soon to be swept up in war gave a fascinating insight into another world. I don't know enough about linguistics to be able to evaluate the digressions on origins and variations on words and names, but although they went on a bit too long they were interesting. It cetainly makes an English reader feel how different is our experience from that of people in cenral Europe because we are an island with clearly defind froniers and a long period of being one country. Perhaps that's why we are so bad at learning foreign languages!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars picture of a vanished world, 3 Jan 2012
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Leigh Fermor writes a witty and discursive memoir of a trip through Central Europe at the age of 18 recalled in his 60s.

Fermor was erudite and intellectually aware, and he gives the reader some memorable pen portraits of various people and places.

Fermor's main vice (to which he confesses) was a certain snobbery, and a rather bourgeois concern with aristocratic anecdotes - some of which now seem rather pointless.

An engaging book still worth reading.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 16 July 2014
EXCELLENT READ
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ...and between the migration of the storks, Mitteleuropa, 1934..., 26 May 2014
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
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In that year Patrick Leigh Fermor decided there was a better way to obtain an education than attend Oxford. At the age of 19, in the middle of the winter, he decided to walk from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople (Istanbul). Although he made valiant efforts to maintain a diary of his walk, it was only half a century later that he decided to describe his journey in book form. In doing so, he imposed the phenomenal erudition that he obtained in the intervening five decades on his youthful self (and admits it from time to time - for example he bemoans the fact that when he walked through Aachen he did not know it had also been called Aix-la-Chapelle). It included a thorough knowledge of history of the places he traveled through, as well as the flora and fauna of the area. The first volume of his walk is entitled A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople - From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube which I read and reviewed a few months ago. This volume commences where the last one left off; he is standing on a bridge over the Danube, about to enter Hungry, with the town of Esztergom on the Hungarian shore, and the storks are flying overhead, migrating north. It is Easter week.

Mitteleuropa can be an amorphous concept. I had always thought that Germany and Austria were an essential part. Fermor did not. He felt that Mitteleuropa commenced on that aforementioned bridge, where he entered Hungry, and stretch to the eastern side of the Carpathian Mountains in Rumania, which is precisely the area covered in this book. My knowledge of the area Fermor traversed was scant to non-existent. Since I had just read Edward Rice's excellent biography Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton: A Biography, Fermor drew me in early in this volume, with another example of those unlikely threads of history. It was Thomas Arundell , who was a great favorite of Elizabeth I (despite being Catholic) who stormed Esztergom in 1595, against Suleiman the Magnificent, and carried the enemy banner with his own hand. For this deed, Rudolf II made Arundell a Count of the Holy Roman Empire. And it was his descendent, by many generations, Isabel Arundell, who married Burton, who would use Thomas's title, in conformance to Austrian custom, when her husband was stationed in Trieste as the Ambassador, and she was running the local Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. As Fermor dryly concludes: "It is a pity she burnt his papers."

I felt Fermor did an excellent job relating how the area he crossed had become such a "hodge-podge" of interwoven nationalities (regrettably, many hating each other). Wave after wave of tribes came out of Central Asia to conquer, and intermarry. Also, the Turks pushed up from the south, doing much the same, conquering and holding Budapest for a couple of centuries until 1686. I had never heard of the "Cumans," whose presence was denoted by the names of villages in Hungry, but Fermor assures that they briefly ruled from the Danube to the Oxus (northern Afghanistan). The conflict that was most immediate was between the Hungarians (Maygars) and the Romanians. He described the border between the two countries as the "most hated in Europe," and it had recently came into existence as a result of the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire following its defeat in World War I.

Fermor traveled this area quite differently than the area of Germany and Austria in the first book, when he traveled "rough." He managed to make some connections, and seemed to float from country estate to country estate, hosted in style. The owners all seemed to have libraries, with books in French and English. Consider Count Jeno, who Fermor describes as a polymath, and as a lepidopterist, would routinely receive samples from China and Japan. His library had a wooden ladder for the high shelves. And he lived in an isolated chateau, much as pictured on the cover. (I felt this was the one shortcoming of the book: Fermor can describe the flora and fauna with the most fascinating detail, but makes no comment on the economic or social structures whereby a very few lived in relative bucolic splendor while the rest grubbed as (often) illiterate peasants.) Overall, Fermor says that the landscape is pre-Industrial Revolution, that is, of more than 100 years ago in Western Europe. The entire area would be largely destroyed in the Second World War.

He relates numerous "flakes" from his travel memory, that I believe it was possible to still vividly recall five decades later. He hiked across the Carpathians on his own, camping in the wild (without bear spray, for sure). He felt a discarded antler in the forest's floor (and would later carry it with him) when he looked up and saw the real thing, before the deer bounded off. And there were the frissons, potential (and realized) of sexual possibilities. A group of Romanian shepherdesses, knowing they share not one word in common, motion with their ring finger, essentially asking him if he is married. He ends this volume on an island in the Danube, just beyond the "Iron Gates," (where the Danube cuts through the Carpathian - Balkan range), and the small population of Turks, left over from the high water mark of the Ottoman Empire, and rather inbred, are speaking an archaic version of Turkish that would have been the equivalent of Chaucerian English. And the storks fly overhead, heading south, to Africa.

The third and final volume, which was still unfinished at the time of his death, at 96, The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos is a must. 5-stars, plus for this volume.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars interesting, 24 July 2013
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I enjoyed reading this book through all the different countries and experiences he had history a bit confusing for me!
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Between the Woods and the Water
Between the Woods and the Water by Patrick Leigh Fermor (Paperback - 14 Jan 1988)
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