0EU MapTravel Books

Read­ing is one of the great joys of being on hol­i­day, but since most of my art­icles are about trav­el­ling around Europe, I’d like to use this art­icle to recom­mend some European travel books specifically.

Patrick Leigh Fermor

Regarded by many as the greatest travel writer of all time, Patrick Leigh Fer­mor wrote about travels all over the world from the 1930’s through­out the 20th cen­tury.  His mas­ter­piece (On Foot to Con­stantinople from the Hook of Hol­land) is the 3‑book col­lec­tion describ­ing his walk from The Hook of Hol­land to Con­stantinople in the inter-war years.  If you are Trav­el­ling Europe and are inter­ested in the people, the his­tory, and how it has changed since the early 20th cen­tury then look no further.

Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson is a well known and hugely suc­cess­ful travel writer who writes humor­ously about every­where he vis­its.  A great and access­ible place to start for any traveller.

Paul Theroux

Paul Ther­oux is one of the most suc­cess­ful travel writers of recent times.  Whilst his travels are usu­ally glob­al, rather than merely con­tin­ent­al, the stor­ies, people and places are all inspir­ing for any trip no mat­ter where you are going.

Paul Ther­oux — The pil­lars of Her­cules: A grand tour of the Mediterranean

To my sur­prise I enjoyed this book the least of this list.  I was hop­ing for either a rose tin­ted view, or some humor­ous cri­ti­cism in the style of Bryson.  I found this book just a little too cyn­ic­al and neg­at­ive.  Ther­oux almost feels jaded at times in the early parts of the jour­ney, giv­ing an espe­cially hard time to Spain.  As the book goes on it con­tains more good stor­ies and has a great­er focus on people which bright­ens the feel.  Recom­men­ded, once you know what to expect.

Robert Byron

Robert Byron is best known for his book The Road to Oxi­ana.  One of his earli­er and less refined works is Europe in the look­ing-glass which describes his jour­ney with friends from Ger­many to Athens via Italy in a Rolls Royce in the sum­mer of 1925.  Whilst Byron can come across as rather arrog­ant at times, the writ­ing is none the less of a high cal­ibre and the stor­ies inter­est­ing and amusing.


Nick Hunt — Walking the Woods and the Water

Nick Hunt’s book is inten­ded as a repeat of the fam­ous jour­ney made by Patrick Leigh Fer­mor I have men­tioned above.  It is a won­der­fully writ­ten illus­tra­tion of how Europe has changed (or not) in the 80 years since Paddy walked to Constantinople.

Nick Thorpe — The Danube: A Journey Upriver from the Black Sea to the Black Forest

Nick Thorpe has writ­ten a great book with a large focus on the his­tory and the people around the river Danube.  His walk up (rather than down!) the Danube takes in large parts of the former Otto­man and Habs­burg empires.

Geert Mak — In Europe: Travels through the 20th century

Recently trans­lated from Dutch this is the closest in style that I’ve found to Leigh Fer­mor.  It is fas­cin­at­ing to read from the per­spect­ive of a non-Eng­lish cul­ture, and notice the sim­il­ar­it­ies and dif­fer­ences.  Note that this is more of a his­tory of the 20th cen­tury told from the per­spect­ive of places, rather than strictly a ‘travel book’.  Highly recommended.

Francis Tapon — The hidden Europe: What Eastern Europeans can teach us

A detailed study of the coun­tries of east­ern Europe from Fin­land to Greece and Ger­many to Rus­sia.  Tapon evid­ently spent con­sid­er­able time amass­ing the know­ledge and exper­i­ence in this book.  He is also a great advoc­ate for couch surf­ing, so if that’s part of your plan this will make very good reading.

Andrew Eames — Blue river, Black sea

A mod­ern jour­ney along the Danube.  A sol­id travel book with some good stor­ies, I just wished for more of the child­like won­der found in some oth­er books, not­ably Leigh Fer­mor.  This strikes a more believ­able bal­ance of joy and hard­ship but I prefer the rose tin­ted approach.  Still highly recom­men­ded for any­one plan­ning a sim­il­ar trip.

William Dalrymple — From the Holy Mountain: A journey in the shadow of Byzantium

More a book about the his­tory of the East­ern Medi­ter­ranean and the Byzantine/Eastern Ortho­dox empire.  Pos­sibly not the first book to read in this list but a great exten­sion if you enjoy the his­tor­ic­al enthu­si­asm of Leigh Fermor.

William Blacker — Along the enchanted way: A story of love and life in Romania

Wil­li­am Black­er trav­elled to Romania after the fall of com­mun­ism and lived (and loved) in isol­ated com­munit­ies that had changed little since pre-indus­tri­al times.  I found this a fas­cin­at­ing and grip­ping tale of a near-van­ished culture.

I hope you find this selec­tion enjoy­able, please let me know what you think below. I’d also wel­come oth­er suggestions.

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