on 24 July 2003
There are many books written by those who have gone to live in Spain, Italy, France etc but I have not been able to track down any about life after moving to Greece. I stumbled across the author's book whilst on my search for such a book and what a find.
The writing is perceptive, witty and most of all makes you feel that you want to get on your bike and make the journey yourself.
The author's son Harry may be the most famous member of the Enfield family but if the author continues to write such excellent travellogues I fear that may not be the case for long!
Can't wait for his next book!
on 21 May 2013
A wry humorous account of a 70 year old English gentleman on two wheels in Greece with plenty of local colourful descriptions. Things happen on a bike like no other means of travelling around and there are plenty of instances of serendipity and chance encounter which throw the people and places of Greece into a positive and happy light. Greece and the Greeks come across as generally fair, helpful, generous and enthusiastic, though I would have enjoyed a more detailed appreciation of the landscape and its beauty especially on the coast, though the author comes across as a likeable guide. And what a guide! He seems to have covered every square centimetre of the Greek topsoil on his bike...it certainly lives up to its title, it includes areas where one would think because of the terrain, cycling was impractical.
The narrative is neatly interspersed with background info, historical and literary, details about the places and functional items such as accommodation and meals. And because all of this is done exploring on a bicycle there is a real sense of enjoyment and excitement that you simply do not get from any other form of transport. The car and train journey is entirely superficial, while to my mind walking too slow, especially in the mediterranean heat, so this book is lively and interesting on every page and never drags....like a good downhill ride. An excellent bedtime book as well to be devoured in chunks.
However, Mr Enfield is primarily a pragmatic man and his book concerns itself with the practicalities of his trip first and foremost. And though the book would undoubtedly inspire some readers to follow in his tracks what you get here is a broad picture that tends to gloss over the physically challenging nature of the Greek terrain: Greece is NOT a cycling nation. The hills and twisting Pyrennean type roads in many places, unavoidable on an A to B tour such as here, require a high level of fitness and determination. So I think the author should have drawn more attention to the physical lows and potential for accident and disaster that accompany a trip like this.
I did something like this in the 1970s from Athens to Sparta down the coast from Nafplion via Astros, Leonidian and Kosma. I was about 20 and fit but believe me cycling in Greece is no pushover, though the area round Athens on the road to Sounion, and Athens to Corinth is fairly flat.
In particular, because as the roads have improved considerably, the volume of traffic mustbe quite high now and as the Greeks have one of the worst road safety records in Europe, with many hired cars and mopeds etc., I would have liked a more realistic commentary on that. Details of the rideability of any footpaths or off road tracks and whether you can get some form of insurance to cover against medical emergencies just thrown into the narrative would have been a help.
On top of that the temperatures can be a real killer; July and August, possibly even June and September would be a NO GO for anybody over fifty planning such a trip. Travelling solo adds to the danger. At one point, on a steep hill in north of the Peloponnese between Corinth and Patras, the author does succumb to mild heat stroke, but makes light of it. Ehmm!
I do realise that the book is written and edited from the point of view of entertainment, but I feel it is only proportionate to make these points in review.
However, as entertainment the book is a total success and somewhat inspirational. It is clear that Mr Enfield has a great love of Greece and the Greeks, and the dignified and affectionate portrait he gives is no bad thing after all the media disparaging of the country in the wake of the Euro crisis (a crisis mostly caused by the banks in the USA, UK, Germany and France) but I would urge anybody who who wants "to go for it" to take a long hard look at the physical challenge involved!*
Inspiring? That is why the book has set me off again after forty years and aged 60 on two wheels into beautiful Greece. Thank you Edward....now where's that first aid kit, puncture repair and map....plus the Bradt or other modern guide....
* On that point I remember losing my documents off the back of my bike on the run in to Sparta after an exhausting day riding in the mountains. In desperation I took a taxi back to the half made highway searching in the rapidly failing light to no avail: passport, currency traveller's cheques, all lost! Then a policeman caught me by the arm the next day in town - my passport etc had been handed in. There it was at the station, all intact: passport, cheques and cash! That's honesty for you! And that is the image I have of the Greek people and not the finger wagging caricature purveyed by the British media in particular the BBC. It is an image recalled by Edward Enfield's enjoyable travelogue.
on 28 May 2009
An agreeable and pleasant account of two journeys by bicycle around Greece. Edward Enfield is equally fascinated by the classical history of Greece as he is by the more modern developments. His account is humourous without ever becoming mocking or condescending. I enjoyed his travels around the Peloponnese more than his second trip although I have decided I have to visit Arta one day. What I like about his writing is that Enfield seems to present the idea of a 69 year old cycling around Greece as a perfectly normal occurence, nothing special, just a whim that anybody could do if they really wanted. He seems to inspire kindness and generosity wherever he goes. I'd like to know how many people were able to find such good deals on accomodation!!
on 18 September 2012
Thoroughly enjoyable, Reminded me of the days I spent in Greece in 1946 and again in the 1960s. Would that I was young and fit enough to follow in Edward Enfield's
on 13 January 2013
There has to be two parts to this review: the seller and the book.
The seller is great - the book is in perfect condition and arrived promptly: no problems there.
As to the book: well... It's fine as far as it goes. It covers an area of Greece that we know very well and love, and it evoked some lovely memories, however Edward Enfield is not a very sociable traveller and seems to want to avoid contact with people as far as possible. Travel and travel books for me are about getting under the skin of the place and understanding how it works, so I think he missed some opportunities.
Also, and this is a big negative for me, he doesn't like Patrick Leigh Fermor's writing, which I love. This bit is obviously VERY subjective and perhaps I'm just an intellectual snob, but it did detract from my enjoyment of the book. I bought it because one of my best mates recommended it - and I enjoyed it subject to these caveats, but I'll probably stick with PLF (and Colin Thubron, Robert Byron, William Dalrymple et al) in the future.
on 16 August 2014
Really enjoyed this, which I read while I was in the Peloponnese, so had a feel for the countryside. Edward Enfield has a nice turn of phrase and has very amusing anecdotes and ancient historical references which are easy to read and informative. Highly recommend this, and I'm not a cyclist!
on 6 June 2016
Mr Enfield writes with style and verve, but the flaw in this book is that he doesn't appear to actually like people very much, a quality you would have thought was rather important given that his entire journey involved chance encounters with a large number of persons, and on the cooperation of some very patient and kind Greeks whom he constantly describes with a condescending tone.
One wonders whether Mr Enfield is consciously aware of his hypocrisy in avoiding, and loathing, tourists despite being one himself, or whether he is just trying to create an image of an intolerant, irritated and impatient fellow merely as a literary conceit. Either way you begin to wonder why he even bothered to start the journey at all. He also takes up many pages sidetracking the actual cycling with increasingly obsessive and obsequious discussions about Byron, a subject perhaps better served by books written for that purpose. But there are good passages relating to Greece's political and military history that fit well with the journeys he undertakes.
There are some occasionally fine passages about the challenge of cycling around, or directly up, vast mountains or along coastal routes, and some entertaining descriptions of food, drink, accommodation and various characters met on the way, but unfortunately Enfield's conservative chauvinism and over-laboured misanthropy become tediously predictable to read. Underlying all of this is what seems to be a kind of snobbery and superiority unbecoming of a stranger in a country known for the welcoming nature of its people. Endless and patronising put downs of taxi drivers, landladies or fellow tourists, most of whom seemed to have demonstrated little more than a kind curiosity towards him, and in many cases, extreme generosity, become frankly a backfiring attempt to be amusing, or perhaps Mr Enfield really does intensely dislike almost everyone, and partlcularly those not precisely on his wavelength.
In contrast he expresses unabashed admiration in the case of a beautiful nun and a young, slim waitress, for whom suddenly the snobbery disappears and is replaced by a slightly toe curling, fawning admiration, which at least made a change from the default irascisibilty and reactionary position he cultivates in the rest of the book. Perhaps the misanthropy reserved for everyone else is indeed no more than a tongue-in-cheek literary device. Either way the irritation he has towards almost everyone in his path does not endear him to this reader.
Still, this book is an entertaining read on the whole. A pity that it relies so much on a rather defensive, abrupt and condescending tone as its methodology of engagement.
on 1 July 2012
again a joy to read.a simple tale told in a simple way.i think he has flair for writing about being overseas.some people would disagree perhaps they should stick to the classics like lliad! etc.etc.i enjoyed every page on holiday and will read it again just like any book classical or not.
on 7 September 2009
If you are thinking of travelling around Greece or Greek Islands this book is well worth a read before you begin. Mr Enfield travels around on his bicylce and tells us of his encounters along the way. Very funny and informative with maps at the front so that you can visualise his progress. This man at the time of travelling round greece was 70 years old, so it may inspire you to follow in his bicyle steps and follow suit. He would be interested if it does inspire anyone to do it. You can find him on the web, he is Harry Enfield's dad. He was inspired by the likes of Byron who travelled round Greece when he was in his early 20's, though not by bike, most of his journey was done on horseback.
on 27 February 2014
If you like Greece and/or cycling you will certainly enjoy this book. I found his dry, phlegmatic sense of humour hilarious and had me laughing out loud on many occasions. Very educating too, even for me being Greek, I learned a lot of new things. Last but not least, hugely inspiring; I am now itching to organise one of those tours for myself