‘My spirits, already high, steadily rose as I walked. I could scarcely believe I was really there; alone, that is, on the move, advancing into Europe, surrounded by all this emptiness and change, with a thousand wonders waiting.’
From A Time of Gifts
It remains one of the finest adventures: Patrick Leigh Fermor, eighteen, restless and craving adventure, hops on a steamer in the shadow of Tower Bridge and, upon arrival at Hook of Holland, sets out for Constantinople on foot. It is 1933. His journey takes him through old Europe, a continent fast falling into war and never to be the same again.
Leigh Fermor’s account of what he called ‘Shanks’ Europe’ is told – though not in full – in the books he is best remembered for, A Time of Gifts (1977) and Between The Woods And The Water (1985). Remarkably, the author wrote them decades after the events described, years which honed his prose but retained the sense of wonder at discovering new lands, languages and cultures, soon to be altered forever.
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