An Easter treat for you. Siân Phillips reads from page 277 of A Time of Gifts (paperback) as Paddy arrives at the Danube, spots Esztergom, has his passport stamped by the Czechoslovakian border guards, and lingers ‘in the middle of the bridge, meditatively poised in no man’s air.’
‘The air was full of hints and signs. There was a flicker and a swishing along the river like the breezy snip-snap of barbers’ scissors before they swoop and slice. It was the skimming and twirling of newly arrived swifts. A curve in the stream was re-arranging the landscape as I advanced, revealing some of the roofs of Esztergom and turning the Basilica to a new angle as though it were on a pivot. The rolling wooded range of the Bakony Forest had advanced north from the heart of Transdanubia, and the corresponding promontory on the northern shore – the last low foothills of the Marra mountains, whose other extremity subsides in the north eastern tip of Hungary – jutted into the water under the little town of Parkan. Reaching for each other, the two headlands coerced the rambling flood yet once more into a narrower and swifter flow and then spanned the ruffie with an iron bridge. Spidery at first, the structure grew more solid as the distance dwindled. (Twenty miles east of this bridge, the Danube reaches a most important point in its career: wheeling round the ultimate headland of the Balcony Forest and heading due south for the first time on its journey, it strings itself through Budapest like a thread through a bead and drops across the map of Europe plumb for a hundred and eighty miles, cutting Hungary clean in half. Then, reinforced by the Drava, it turns east again, invades Yugoslavia, swallows up the Sava under the battlements of Belgrade, and sweeps on imperturbably to storm the Iron Gates.)
In an hour, I had climbed the cliff-path into the main street of Parkan. A little later my passport was stamped at the frontier post at the Czechoslovakian end of the bridge. The red, white and green barrier of the frontier post at the far end marked the beginning of Hungary. I lingered in the middle of the bridge, meditatively poised in no man’s air.’
(Extract from A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor, with thanks to John Murray Publishers.)
We here at the Paddy blog would like to wish you and your family a happy and peaceful Easter. This year I would like to share with you the beautiful voice of Nektaria Karantzi, a Greek singer of traditional Byzantine and Orthodox chant. Paddy was an admirer of Byzantium and I am sure also loved the music
Fine out more about Nektaria, her concerts and more video on her Facebook page.
Don’t forget to switch on the volume!
The Sabotage Diaries
from Katherine Barnes
I first wrote about this excellent book in March. Author Katherine Barnes has now produced a video which is worth a watch, even if only to view some of the extraordinary photographs showing SOE operations in mainland Greece.
The Sabotage Diaries is the thrilling story of Allied engineer Tom Barnes, who was parachuted behind enemy lines in Greece In 1942 with eleven others to sabotage the railway line taking supplies to Rommel in North Africa. The target chosen was the Gorgopotamos bridge. Tom led the demolition party to lay the explosives while fighting raged between the Italian garrison and a combined force of Greek resistance fighters and Tom’s fellow-soldiers. A great story of courage and endurance.
Buy The Sabotage Diaries
A small tribute to remember those on both sides who fought and died in Gallipoli, a bloody campaign that started 100 years ago today.
The words of the great Mustafa Kemal Atatürk resound clearly today:
Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives … You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours … You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
The video below includes an extremely moving song by Eric Bogle and is mixed with pictures from Gallipoli with past and present Canadian troops.
A broadcast on France Culture radio featuring Paddy speaking his best French, supported by Artemis Cooper and her father John Julius Norwich. Lovely to hear Paddy speaking and also to brush up some of the old French given that we all know the context. With contributions from others. Click the picture above to visit the site and then press the play icon. The player will open in a new window and can be a little slow to load so just be patient but the quality is fine and worth the wait.
Interesting that with this and the TV interview alongside the brilliant Nicolas Bouvier, the French are running neck and neck with the BBC for airtime about Paddy. Watch Paddy here (he appears around 29 minutes.)
My thanks to Nick Galousis who highlighted this You Tube video in which Elais Athanassakis, who passed away in 2002, tells the story of the build up to the kidnap and his part in it.
Paddy describes Elias in Abducting a General as “a very bright and enterprising young student working in our town organisation” and it was he who had to commit to memory all the details of the General’s car, even down to the size of the headlight slits, so as to ensure that the correct car was chosen on the busy road. He reconnoitered the route with Paddy and had the task of observing the road to signal back when the General was approaching and whether or not he was accompanied.
The video is in Greek which is great for those of us who speak Greek 🙂
You may remember in 2012 I posted a video of Owen Martell walking “the wrong way” across Europe from Istanbul to Edinburgh. It was quite an epic journey.
This last year or so Owen walked across the United States from Seattle to New Orleans pushing and sometimes dragging his load in a trolley contraption through snow and desert, encountering some very strange Americans, and just good normal people on his way. There were times when he had some close shaves, suffering from noxious gases in oil production fields, and getting caught up in “security situations” in an America that can sometimes be hostile to the wandering traveller as it fights the war against its unseen, and perhaps imagined, enemies.
I hope that you enjoy watching Owen’s journey in his wonderful You Tube video accompanied as ever by the delightful music of the very talented folk group Darlingside.
Watch Owen’s walk across Europe here.