Romania Bookshelf: Travelogues by Patrick Leigh Fermor

Written by the late English writer Patrick Leigh Fermor and widely considered two of the finest travelogues ever penned, “A Time of Gifts” and “Between the Woods and the Water” make a perfect read before, during or after a trip to Transylvania.

Having been expelled from a British boarding school, Fermor decided to walk from Holland to Istanbul, a journey that he began in 1933. Observant, curious, good-humored and energetic, he keeps a journal of his experiences, which he later transformed into these two volumes. Beyond the terrible foreboding that looms over his narratives — the Europe he tramps across is still recovering from one tragic war and is on the brink of something even worse — the young innocent has many memorable encounters.

"A Time of Gifts" by Patrick Leigh Fermor - Sergey Tinyakov/iStock/Getty Images
"Between the Woods and the Water" by Patrick Leigh Fermor - Sergey Tinyakov/iStock/Getty Images

His tale becomes particularly interesting when he reaches Transylvania, where he is awed by the beauty of the preindustrial landscapes. He also lingers as a houseguest on the estates of several Hungarian aristocrats and finds time for an extended love affair with the beautiful Princess Balasha Cantacuzène. Inseparable for four years, the pair were only parted by the outbreak of the Second World War and Fermor’s decision to return home to join up.

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