Continuing the epic foot journey across Europe begun in A Time of Gifts, Patrick Leigh Fermor writes about walking from Hungary to the Balkans.
The journey that Patrick Leigh Fermor set out on in 1933—to cross Europe on foot with an emergency allowance of one pound a day—proved so rich in experiences that when much later he sat down to describe them, they overflowed into more than one volume. Undertaken as the storms of war gathered, and providing a background for the events that were beginning to unfold in Central Europe, Leigh Fermor’s still-unfinished account of his journey has established itself as a modern classic. Between the Woods and the Water, the second volume of a projected three, has garnered as many prizes as its celebrated predecessor, A Time of Gifts.
The opening of the book finds Leigh Fermor crossing the Danube—at the very moment where his first volume left off. A detour to the luminous splendors of Prague is followed by a trip downriver to Budapest, passage on horseback across the Great Hungarian Plain, and a crossing of the Romanian border into Transylvania. Remote castles, mountain villages, monasteries and towering ranges that are the haunt of bears, wolves, eagles, gypsies, and a variety of sects are all savored in the approach to the Iron Gates, the division between the Carpathian mountains and the Balkans, where, for now, the story ends.
About the Author
Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011) was an intrepid traveler, a heroic soldier, and a writer with a unique prose style. After his stormy schooldays, followed by the walk across Europe to Constantinople that begins in A Time of Gifts (1977) and continues through Between the Woods and the Water (1986), he lived and traveled in the Balkans and the Greek Archipelago. His books Mani (1958) and Roumeli (1966) attest to his deep interest in languages and remote places. In the Second World War he joined the Irish Guards, became a liaison ofﬁcer in Albania, and fought in Greece and Crete. He was awarded the DSO and OBE. He lived partly in Greece—in the house he designed with his wife, Joan, in an olive grove in the Mani—and partly in Worcestershire. He was knighted in 2004 for his services to literature and to British–Greek relations.
Jan Morris was born in 1926, is Anglo-Welsh, and lives in Wales. She has written some forty books, including the Pax Britannica trilogy about the British Empire; studies of Wales, Spain, Venice, Oxford, Manhattan, Sydney, Hong Kong, and Trieste; six volumes of collected travel essays; two memoirs; two capricious biographies; and a couple of novels—but she defines her entire oeuvre as “disguised autobiography.” She is an honorary D.Litt. of the University of Wales and a Commander of the British Empire. Her memoir Conundrum is available as a New York Review Book Classic.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book isn't nearly as good as time of gifts. The digressions seem more like, well, digressions. Perhaps it is the nature of his voyaging: instead of walking alone, he spends much of the time castle-hopping with aristocrats. Yet it fails to provide that nostalgic, Brideshead Revisited, sense of loss. Fermer's vocabulary is still stunning, but his narrative drags. An afterword getting him to Constantinople would have been nice, too, since he clearly gave up the ghost before doing volume three.