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on 23 November 2010
Patrick Leigh Fermor is the greatest living Englishman; admittedly the competition isn't very stiff at the moment. This book is of course brilliant. It is full of 'flowery language' and by page 50 you will have given up everything else in life to get on with it. The only thing it lacks is a sustained PLF flight of fancy like the Last Emperor of Byzantium riff or world-spanning cock-crow from 'Mani', or certain passages from the On Foot to Constantinople books; otherwise it is every bit as good as them.

Among other treats he gatecrashes a wedding of the elusive and mysterious Sarakatsans; visits the Boliarides of the Kravara, a tribe of cunning and far-travelling mendicants, learns their unique cant and hears tales of their glory days conning the credulous the length of Eastern Europe; penetrates the clifftop monasteries of Thessaly; propounds his theory of the Romois-Hellene split in the Greek national psyche; reminisces of his time on Crete during the war; and tells the story of the remarkable Lady Wentworth and Byron's lost shoes. He magically evokes the charm of the people and the beauty of the landscape, and his own charm and brilliance, his infectious enthusiasm and insatiable curiosity, shine out constantly, and you learn something new and wonderful on every page.

If you're already a Leigh Fermor addict you don't really care about this review, and only poverty, coma, or being trapped down a mineshaft have prevented you buying this book already. If you aren't, all you need to know is that he's the best travel writer of the past hundred years, and quite arguably the best writer in any field living.
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on 24 November 2010
Paddy Leigh Fermor is one of the most rewarding and enlightening travel authors ever. I must admit, I sit reading his books with a dictionary beside me, but half the time you can work out the meanings with a bit of thought and it all adds to the tremendous feeling of enrichment. Roumeli is a must for anyone travelling in Greece who wants to look beneath the modern superficialities. If you enjoy Thesiger, you'll love this.
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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 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 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 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 10 December 2010
I have much enjoyed Patrick Leigh Fermor's books on his walk from the Hook of Holland to Amsterdam and am still awaiting the final leg.

This book, however, was hard work. I have a fair knowledge of Greek and Greece but found many of the references so obscure as to be meaningless. There are, particularly later in the book, however, some memorable tales and it is worth sticking at it to read them.

I also found the transliteration into Roman characters from Greek most unhelpful - Greek with translations would have been much better.
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on 3 December 2013
" Roumeli: Travels in Northern Greece" where most of us do not manage to get to. Described in his unique way I feel I have actually been there. He describes the people he meets with his usual enthusiasm, the conversations in detail and the food and dress of everybody.

His energy leaps from the book - what a joy to read from a cold northern country!

Trish NIblock
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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 9 September 2013
This is not his best book in my humble opinion, nor do I really appreciate his rapid changes from describing the wild terrain of Greece to sudden long harangues on Greek Mythology, though many students of Greece probably would. Very educational howsomever. J
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