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To the End of the Rhine Paperback – 1 Mar 1989
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As featured in the Channel 4 series, Levin describes his travels from the source of the Rhine in the Alps to the Hook of Holland and explores its history, art and cuisine. His other travel books are "Enthusiasms", "Conducted Tour", and "Hannibal's Footsteps".
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Bernard Levin rose slowly to become a highly respected and well known journalist in the quality British press and later Channel 4 television (in its salad days under Jeremy Isaacs) gave him the travelogue format which suited him down to the ground - unlike his previous tv appearences on the BBC in topical chat shows alongside highly opinionated and loathesome "guests" which were beneath his subtle and cultured personality. He cut a decidedly gawkish awkward figure and he sometimes utilised this to good effect - he was reported to be great in company and especially at a good dinner. Urbane, cultured and charming - he was interested in and got on well with a wide range of people - qualities which shine in this book and his local encounters. There are a few photos, and telly viewers would see straight away, he is light and spritely and a good walker. Like a cyclist, the hiker is able to transmit the pure animalistic pleasure of travel and exploration into the written word.
Perhaps the most important geo-political feature of the Continent, the Rhine is given full measure. Northern European by intellect, Southern European by temperament, Levin seems more comfortable in the wood panelled, shuttered window, Black Forest or Bavarian kitsch of the upper reaches. He likes old things and instinctively draws back from modern architecture, the Germanic drive to industrial efficiency on a mega scale. I took major exception to his comments in Amsterdam, when condemning the new opera house (it isn't bad at all - and what would he say about its latest replacement!) he drags into his disparaging rant, the brutalist Queen Elizabeth Hall on London's Southbank, which has been recently fully refurbished and boasts one of the finest chamber/recital acoustics in the world with a thrilling ice cold 1960s grand foyer! That was unforgiveable. Particularly when London (still) lacks a decent modern "peoples" opera house or first class concert hall. Amsterdam has both.