A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople: From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube, by Patrick Leigh Fermor
In 1933, an 18-year-old Patrick was thrown out of school and decided that he might as well go on a walking tour of Europe. He set off to walk to Constantinople.* As a much older man, he sat down with his memories and diaries to write out the story in a three-part set. This is the first volume; I have the second waiting; and the third was never finished but it was published posthumously so I will read it too.
Since I cannot think of anything much more wonderful than to walk across Europe (can you?), I was instantly hooked. And truly, I enjoyed this so much! Fermor throws the people he met, scenery, history, art, strange stories, and all sorts of things into his book--and in many cases he's talking about a world that is now gone. Most of this volume is spent in Germany, and Nazism is just getting started. It has little foothold as yet. Fermor also spends a good deal of time in Vienna and Prague, and finishes off just as he is getting into Hungary.
Fermor meets a wider variety of people than would seem possible. Thanks to his father's diplomatic connections, he's able to stay with upper-class people in castles every once in a while, and they write on to other friends to expect him. Most of the time, though, he's drinking with sailors in pubs, sleeping in hostels with vagabonds down on their luck, making friends with students his own age, or even asking respectable housewives if they'd like their portrait drawn for a couple of shillings. He has practically no money and will sleep anywhere.
Loved it. Can't wait to continue the journey.
*Been a long time gone, Constantinople, but that's what he calls it.