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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 am well aware of the high esteem this book is held in, and I do believe that the author was an admirable, brave man, and this volume, describing the first part of a walk he undertook to Istanbul, is a wonderful picture of life in 1933 Europe. He meets and stays with all kinds of people, and sleeps equally happily in stables and castles.
There is always a danger of disappointment when reading a book I had eagerly anticipated as much as I did this, but I sometimes felt almost sidelined by his classical education and knowledge - I frequently resorted to a dictionary - and as for the other languages, I understand German but not Latin - I desperately wanted those learned extracts translated and explained. I could just about keep up with the interesting side lines about art, which sent me off at tangents looking up artists I was unfamiliar with, but the pages of history and architecture left me skipping sections.
I made interesting discoveries - I had never heard of Mensur for example, the practice of deliberately causing what amounts to tribal scarring on the face - sometimes the book is very amusing - and I enjoyed some of the people he met up with, and the wonderfully evoked scenes... but ultimately for a travel book I prefer Laurie Lee or Gavin Young as a travel companion.