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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, a must read...........
This is the first book of two describing a 1,200 mile walk from Holland to Constantinople undertaken in 1934 when the author was 18 years old. The book was written some forty years later, events and people recalled from memory and notes in a diary.
The language of this book is pure poetry, just a delight to read. The author beautifully describes amazing...
Published on 28 Jun 2000 by Simon C McCrum

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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overhyped & overwrought
I've never been so disappointed at not enjoying a book - all the portents looked good - I had read about Leigh Fermor and was practically in love with him before starting this book. Coming from a similar family background - and like him being an insufferable teenage intellectual snob & auto-didact who spent hours reading about art & architecture & memorising poetry, I was...
Published 12 months ago by Cornwallgurl


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5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible, 25 Feb 2014
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Rich, diverse, descriptive, densely packed, delightful, saddening, uplifting, dizzying yet somehow grounding. Writers and adventures don't exist like this anymore.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A young Europeans experience just before the second World War, 16 Jan 2014
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This review is from: A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople - From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube (Paperback)
Very well written in very good English about an interesting person at a very interesting time in Europe.
The pace is a little bit slow and the descriptions are a bit too long winded at times - but these can be skipped.
I would recommend this book to students of English of all ages and as a casual read to anybody.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Wide-flowing re-creation of an epic, erudite walk in 1933, 18 Nov 2013
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This review is from: A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople - From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube (Paperback)
A marvellous flight of fancy, re-creating the seminal Rhine-Danube journey of the famous author's famous youth. It is all in the writing, and there is relatively little action or character - though Leigh Fermor does occasionally allow himself to bring to life some of the people he met. There is also a brilliant but brief vignette in a Nazi-filled beer-kellar in Munich and a touching, innocent scene with two girls in their parents' empty house. But mostly he waxes lyrical when describing Rhineland scenery or when he diverges to explain some ancient backwater of history, notably the Imperial Hapsburg or Landsknecht past.

The early parts of the book are better, in my view, because the writing is more exuberant and uncluttered, particularly the opening chapters in Holland and north Germany. The pace slows and the writing becomes more restrained (except in Vienna) as the polymath traveller enters Austria, where architectural descriptions take hold. Remarkably, and tediously, there is at least one word on almost every page which I did not know - but don't let that put you off.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A genuinely beautiful story, 4 May 2013
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T. D. Dawson "tdawson735" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople - From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube (Paperback)
First published in 1977, 'A Time of Gifts' is a near-lyrical account of Patrick Leigh Fermor's journey on foot - in 1933/34 when he was 18 - from the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube. The companion volume, Between the Woods and the Water continues his journey to the point where, at the aptly named Iron Gates, the Danube forms the boundary between Yugoslavia and Romania.

The third volume, which will complete his journey to Constantinople, was never finished but, based on an early draft and Patrick Leigh Fermor's original diary, The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos will finally be published in September 2013.

Based on those original diaries - and supplemented by knowledge he gained in the intervening years - 'A Time of Gifts' takes the reader through the Europe that existed in the years before the Second World War. His knowledge of European history - both secular and religious - comes across as being near-absolute but Patrick Leigh Fermor has no difficulty in weaving that knowledge into a compellingly beautiful story. On the journey we encounter, at one extreme, the down-and-out inhabitants of the worker's hostels and, at the other, the last vestiges of an aristocracy still living in their slowly decaying castles.

Hitler had yet to achieve absolute power and, through the eyes of the German people Leigh Fermor met, we see an almost dismissive attitude to the rising menace of Nazism and the horrors that, in a few year's time, were to be unleashed on the world.

Despite what happened in those ensuing years, I had no difficulty in recognising the Vienna I fell in love with almost 40 years ago.

But, as Artemis Cooper recounts in her book Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure Leigh Fermor was far more than simply an accomplished historian and writer. During the Second World War, as a Major in the SOE (Special Operations Executive), he kidnapped and abducted a General of the German army of occupation in Crete. Then, dressed in German uniforms and with General Heinrich Kreipe pinned down in the back of the car, he and a colleague drove through Heraklion, the German headquarters town, bluffing their way through checkpoint after checkpoint in the process. By the time they were taken off in a boat to Alexandria he and General Kreipe, having discovered a mutual love of the Latin odes of Horace, had become almost friends.

In 1944 Leigh Fermor was awarded a DSO for his part in the saga whilst, in 1957, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger released a film (Ill Met By Moonlight) based on the abduction and starring both Dirk Borgarde and Marius Goring. 'Paddy' Leigh Fermor was knighted for services to literature in 2004.

Read and enjoy. 'A Time of Gifts' is a genuinely beautiful story.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful journey, 12 Mar 2013
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This review is from: A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople - From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube (Paperback)
I purchased this book as it had been chosen by my Book Club. Very evocative and interesting. We all wondered if such a walk would be possible now staying in such a variety of places and making friends with complete strangers.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Classic tale, 18 Feb 2013
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This review is from: A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople - From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube (Paperback)
Every young traveler should read this book - I bought it for my son. Buy it then pass it on for someone else to read! Speedily delivered.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Book club, 31 Jan 2013
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This review is from: A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople - From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube (Paperback)
Bought this book to read as part of our book club and really enjoyed the journey. Other members of the club also enjoyed the read
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Time of Personal Crysalization, 27 Jan 2013
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This review is from: A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople - From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube (Paperback)
This is the first installment of an epic journey undertaken by a very young man who by December 1933 was finding himself at the end of his tether. Expelled from his public school for dalliance with a grocer's daughter, not sure (having passed School Cert. at a London crammers) he wanted the experience of Sandhurst and a military career, he conceived the mad plan of walking across Europe to Constantinople on a shoestring. Basically it was to be up the Rhine and down the Danube.

A word about the title which is a little obscure for a travelogue, however unusual and distinguished. It is taken from a line of poetry by Louis MacNeice and in my understanding honours the people who were so kind and generous to him along the way. One must remember he was not yet nineteen when he first set out and his youth, good looks and sense of humour charmed very nearly all he met and he certainly displayed a supreme ability to get along with just about anybody.

"Si jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait".... Sixteenth century Henri Estienne who first coined this oft-repeated phrase was nicely side-stepped by PLF. Here is an odyssey seen through the eyes of a most intelligent and curious teenager, full of enthusiasm and courage, written up by a man of vast experience half a lifetime later ! No wonder the result is like no other, so amazingly different and distinguished !

The book varies from the colloquial to dense thickets of Byzantine prose that sends most conscientious readers scrabbling for their dictionaries. His lyrical descriptions of the monastery at Melk are a case in point, but there are many other passages that with less talented writers would be labelled "purple prose" but with PLF generally manage to be quite sublime. In Germany he had at least one brush with a young Nazi supporter but as far as history is concerned the strength of the book is in describing a way of life that was to disappear with the Second World War. His precociousness and erudition, his real interest in languages, migration and demographic change led to introductions to the educated and the titled who then effectively passed him on from "schloss to schloss" ! When a four-poster in a crenellated dwelling was not available, in Germany and Austria at least he was often able to be put up by the village mayor in a local hostelry, something that was more or less a traditional privilege in those days for wandering scholars.

There are plenty of adventurous moments that every reader can empathize with... like losing his passport in Munich together with all his belongings. They disappeared from a youth hostel to which he could not return for the night as a result of passing out drunk at the beer festival. But PLF always manages to get out of every scrape with flying colours !

Here and there the old man writing up the story may have gilded the lily just a little, or been parsimonious with the exact truth concerning his amorous escapades, but there is something in his writing, the way he can level with the reader, that convinces that every essential in the long-running saga is absolutely true. The second installment is called "Between the Woods and the Water" and was published as recently as 1986. It finished with the 'implacable words' "To Be Concluded". The third installment - not alas to be written up by Paddy himself - is believed to be still in gestation !

Perhaps Amazon will allow me to conclude with a little plug for "Google Earth". My already huge enjoyment of this book was greatly leveraged by being able to follow PLF on the map with very precise detail. The photographs of historic buildings he saw and visited (when not destroyed by the war) are there in their thousands and are sometimes complemented by street views or 360 Dioramas which will actually place you in the middle of the picture.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Walking across pre-war Europe, 18 Dec 2012
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I'm still reading this at the moment and enjoying it immensely. I am nowhere near as widely read as PLF so some parts are a bit over my head (specific artists/paintings and mainland European literature) and I use the dictionary regularly. A grasp of other languages would be helpful as there are quotations in German and Latin. I'm thinking of looking them up but haven't done so yet. A great idea would be to have a map available to track his progress. It's amazing to discover how much things have changed in our world in less than 100 years.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Time of Gifts, 3 July 2012
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This review is from: A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople - From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube (Paperback)
Excellent travel book with a real sense of adventure. A journey through Europe during the 30s showing a very balanced view of humanity.
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