Using Patrick Leigh Fermor's books as his only travel guide, Nick Hunt trekked some 2,500 miles on an old-fashioned adventure that has become a modern classic.
In 1933, the eighteen year old Patrick Leigh Fermor set out in a pair of hobnailed boots to chance and charm his way across Europe, like a tramp, a pilgrim or a wandering scholar. The books he later wrote about this walk, A Time of Gifts, Between the Woods and the Water, and the posthumous The Broken Road are a half-remembered, half-reimagined journey through cultures now extinct, landscapes irrevocably altered by the traumas of the twentieth century. Aged eighteen, Nick Hunt read A Time of Gifts and dreamed of following in Fermor's footsteps.
In 2011 he began his own great trudge - on foot all the way to Istanbul. He walked across Europe through eight countries, following two major rivers and crossing three mountain ranges. Using Fermor's books as his only travel guide, he trekked some 2,500 miles through Holland, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. His aim? To have an old-fashioned adventure. To slow down and linger in a world where we pass by so much, so fast. To discover for himself what remained of hospitality, kindness to strangers, freedom, wildness, adventure, the mysterious, the unknown, the deeper currents of myth and story that still flow beneath Europe's surface.
Nick Hunt has written a glorious book, rich with insight and wit, about walking his way both across and into contemporary Europe. He set out as an homage to Patrick Leigh Fermor's legendary tramp across Europe in the early 1930s, but his journey became - of course - an epic adventure in its own right. A book about gifts, modernity, endurance and landscape, it represents a fine addition to the literature of the leg. - Robert Macfarlane, author of The Wild Places and The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot
With Walking the Woods and the Water, Mr. Hunt has created an illuminating addition to what the travel writer Robert Macfarlane calls 'the literature of the leg'. The shepherds and the fishermen are long gone, but Mr. Hunt controls his nostalgia and avoids mimicking Leigh Fermor's flamboyant style. Still, his inspiration rubs off, like the skin on Mr. Hunt's feet. - Wall Street Journal
This moving and profoundly honest book sometimes brings a sense of unlimited freedom, sometimes joy, sometimes an extraordinary, dream-like dislocation: always accompanied by a dazzling sharpness of hearing and vision. I see now how that youthful walk informed so much of Paddy's style. Before setting out Hunt was going to write to Paddy. The letter was never written, and by the time he set off, Paddy was dead. How touched and fascinated he would have been to read this book. - Artemis Cooper, author