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4.4 out of 5 stars
32
Roumeli: Travels in Northern Greece
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VINE VOICEon 31 December 2013
When I read (and reviewed) Patrick Leigh Fermor's companion volume 'Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese' I found myself disappointed with the way in which, for many, many pages, we were taken on a journey far beyond Greece, the Peloponnese and Byzantium as he recounted - in great and erudite detail - the ancient history of the entire region and the role played by the Gods of classical mythology. In those pages the mountainous regions of Mani and its inhabitants simply ceased to exist.

'Roumeli', as I'd hoped, is very different and is a beautifully written and fluent description of the people (frequently near nomadic) he meets on his journey. In these pages Paddy draws a fascinating and skilful pen picture of the history, customs and languages - to say nothing of their genuine and open friendship - of the inhabitants. He also takes us to the war-torn mountains of Crete and, with equal fluency, describes the months he spent as an SOE officer living with the guerrillas and fighting the Nazi invaders.

Chapter 5 of the book is a delightful and amusing tale of an evening spent - after an excellent meal with an acquaintance he'd met on the journey - in a lamp-lit taverna with a group of near-ancient locals as they describe the begging skills and contortions that, over the years, had become almost a way of life in that part of Greece. At the end of the chapter Uncle Elias leaves them `with a wide and flattering wave of the hand and vanishes into the dark'. It's pure Paddy.

Then comes Chapter 6 (my Kindle tells me I've read 87% of the book) enigmatically entitled 'Sounds of the Greek World'. Although it's beautifully written it seemed (to me) to have little relevance to his travels through that part of Greece. For example, I found it puzzling to learn that 'Mystra is a swoop of kestrels amongst cypress trees, a near platonic syllogism under provincial purple.' And, a few pages later, that 'Crete is the rhyming of couplets to the three-stringed lyra, the bang of gunfire, the roar along canyons of a landslide loosed by the leap of an ibex' and (perhaps more easily understood) that `Kalamata is a piling of crates and a pattering of olives'.

Associating place names (MYSTRA - a Peloponnese city and fortification dating back to the Middle ages; CRETE - once the center of the Minoan civilization (c. 2700-1420 BC) and the largest and most populous of the Greek islands; KALAMATA - the second most populous city of the Peloponnese peninsula) with sounds is an intriguing idea but...

Yes, you'll definitely enjoy the first five chapters; they're Leigh Fermor at his very best.

But you might find that skipping that final Chapter 6 (plus the two highly erudite appendices entitled `Derivations of Sarakatsan' and `Glossary of Boliaric Vocabulary') to be an excellent suggestion.
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on 6 March 2015
Having read Mr Fermor's three books in which he recounts his travels through eastern Europe as far as Constantinople in the 30's, I was delighted to find Roumeli. My family and I have done a bit of travelling in this area in the last few years, and it brought back a lot of fond memories. His attention to detail - although frustratingly long at times - made for a very interesting read.

Be aware that unless you are a literary genius, you will probably come across the odd word that you've never heard before - at least I did, particularly in the older books. It made me feel quite ignorant, and I wished I had a Kindle version or a dictionary to hand. I mean this positively...words that convey the correct shade of meaning are sadly lacking from my vocabulary and have been neglected in my - and my children's education.
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on 3 May 2013
A common feature of PLF's writing is an experimental approach to style which can chop and change with the wind ! This said, the overall effect is never less than quite remarkable even if it actually entails a diminished readership ! He can be abstruse, arch and sometimes actually archaic by 21st century standards, but his prose is never less than superb. He is perhaps occasionally overwrought with the morphosis of words within languages and dialects, but his involvement is pleasantly mischievous as much as scholarly, and he always avoids becoming a pedant. I do not feel it is necessary for me to go through the contents of this book as the reviewer AJ-99 has already done this very skillfully and I would advise anyone reading this to turn to his copy. In conclusion I would simply suggest that anyone with an academic and/or poetic frame of mind will probably get the most out of reading this book, but others will find it quite rewarding if they are passionate about Greece.
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on 6 October 2016
Leigh-Fermor is incredible, his style is incomparable. Every description is based on his very-very keen eye and ear, an amazing ability of observation and humanity, as well as his ability to capture every single little thing and place this information in a larger context. He also betrays a very broad culture that enables him to cast a well-informed, cosmopolitan evaluation on everything. It also takes somebody well- versed in history and literature to appreciate fully his comments and depth of his knowledge. All his travel books are awesome!
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on 11 September 2015
Good for fans of Patrick Leigh Fermour or for fans of Greece. Have to get past the opening chapter when PLF seemingly goes on about one of his pet subjects - the Sarakatsans. Otherwise varied and interesting, if a bit random at times. Print of this publication very clear.
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on 18 August 2015
Leigh Fermor always wwrites well and I treasure his books of his exploits as an eighteen year old (A Time of Girts and Between the Woods and the Water),
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on 5 December 2015
Good travel writing
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on 17 September 2013
Beautifully written and provides a wonderful insight into post war Greece, Highly recommended, I always rated Paul Theroux as my favourite travel writer however PLM now has that accolade.
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on 13 August 2013
Ordered this as a replacement for my much-loved and well-travelled eighties copy; this one has a stunning illustration on its cover, too! Fascinating account of a Greece which barely exists any more from a writer of style and erudition.
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on 6 January 2016
Fermor at his best
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