11.02.1915 saw the arrival of a babe destined to become a legend, the seeds of which were sown when as a 18 year-old, he decided to walk from The Hook of Holland to Constantinople.  Talk about a gap year project.  The story of the first stage of the journey through Holland, Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia (as it was in 1933) to the borders of Hungary was published in A Time of Gifts. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told “you must read this”.  And so, to commemorate what would have been PLF’s centenary, I have finally done so.

This is not simply the story of a hike.  It is a rite of passage into adulthood.  PLF,  an albeit privileged, highly educated and well-connected young rebel widens his horizons, expands his understanding and learns to be thankful through the generosity of strangers.  A time of gifts indeed.  Knowledge gained in the 4 decades that passed between the adventure and its publication enabled PLF to weave in historical and cultural detail that must have initially passed him by. The result is an enlightening and heartwarming travelogue that gave almost as much to this reader as to its writer.

Among the many surprises and delights that I encountered:

– a winter revisiting of Holland, Germany and Austria and some fond memories of my own. Let’s not question the sanity of starting this trip in December but I certainly felt cozy, snuggled into my fleece blanket gazing out at the white stuff lying on the ground, as PLF made his way through the winter storms

– the shock that not everyone had the time of their life in Munich (as I did)

– an eyewitness view of the ordinary German during the early years of National Socialism

– a bibliophile’s pleasure in viewing some very fine private libraries

– the addition of more destinations on my to-be-visited list

– an impromptu trip to Prague (just one day after I’d booked a flight for my 1st trip there)

– a less jaundiced view of human nature (much needed in the onslaught of current news)

I’ll treat myself to the second volume, Between The Woods and The Water, as soon as I finish #tbr20.

© Lizzy’s Literary Life (2007-2015)

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