I am not the only one who takes the opportunity to visit some of the places mentioned by Paddy in his books when travelling. Here is a nice note I received recently from Ed Ricketts …
Just writing to say that, in Budapest last weekend with some spare time before a conference, and having just learned of Paddy’s passing, I felt it appropriate to make a brief trip out to Esztergom – the town on a bend in the Danube where, on the bridge, A Time of Gifts ends and Between the Woods and the Water commences.
After a winding 90-minute train ride down a single-track line, I emerged at the end of the line, Esztergom, and into a sleepy provincial eastern European town (the fact that it was Sunday lunchtime probably the defining reason for this). After a good 30 minute walk into the town centre, past a very pleasant main square with some almost northern Italian architecture, you suddenly see the mammoth marble basilica overlooking the town on a hill. This is the seat of the Hungarian Catholic Church, and an important place of pilgrimage. Around the basilica are grouped some nice old cobbled streets and religious buildings, while the Danube flows calmly by.
I scrambled up a back way to the basilica, then climbed up onto the cupola which provides an incredible view of the Danube bend and nearby hills (see the attached photos). All the while, I tried to imagine a young and inquisitive countryman with a knapsack doing a similar thing in 1934. What I left until last was walking over the bridge (destroyed in 1944, so it’s sadly not the same structure Paddy tramped over) which now links Slovakia and Hungary. Reading the two books had a considerable effect on me, so this was quite an exciting moment. After a brief meditative pause in the middle, and a few minutes’ ambling on the Slovakian side, I returned over the bridge into Esztergom having toasted Paddy with a small cigar en route.
So a very pleasing day trip overall, with just one slight regret – that I didn’t have the two books with me at the time!