I've been putting this book off for a while. I loved the first book of the three, A Time of Gifts, so much, but it also filled me with longings for travel (in Europe, in the 30s); so I was really looking forward to this one, but also saving it for a treat. And it really was a treat. It was a lovely vacation of a book.
Fermor spends the whole book in Hungary and Romania. It's summer and he spends weeks at Hungarian manors, soaking up history, friendship, language, and fun. Sadly, at 19 he felt that this was kind of cheating on his trip's rules, and he didn't keep his journal as assiduously as he should have, but he recreates a beautiful summer with lovely and interesting people. All the while, the reader knows that within a very few years, Hungary will be conquered and all of this ruthlessly stamped out.
In Romania, Fermor tramps through endless forests, meeting all sorts of people and thinking about ancient Romans, Crusaders, and other historical figures. This is just as wonderful-sounding as Hungary, in a different way. He ends by seeing some cities by boat and then traveling down the Danube to the Iron Gates, which are these huge stone cliffs on either side of the river. All the wilderness he saw there is now drowned under a water reservoir built for Yugoslavia, though. And Bulgaria is where he'll go next.
|Romania, Iron Gates|