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Roumeli: Travels in Northern Greece

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  222 ratings  ·  29 reviews
Roumeli is not to be found on present-day maps. It is the name once given to northern Greece—stretching from the Bosporus to the Adriatic and from Macedonia to the Gulf of Corinth, a name that evokes a world where the present is inseparably bound up with the past.

Roumeli describes Patrick Leigh Fermor’s wanderings in and around this mysterious and yet very real region. He
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Published October 12th 2011 by NYRB Classics (first published 1962)
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This is book is filled with 5 star writing, and yet I can't shake the sense that the parts are greater than the whole. But perhaps that's the case with travel writing in general. I'm not all that widely read in the genre, and whenever I do read an acclaimed author and book, I tend to get frustrated. I suppose I like my foreign adventures (and descriptions) wrapped in a story -- or a history. So in other words, I suppose the fault lies with me. This particular book by Fermor is one of his Greek t ...more
Ever the master traveler, raconteur, and writer, Leigh Fermor in this book about northern Greece has again written an account guaranteed to delight those who have come to know and enjoy his companionship. Less of a continuous narrative, the book represents a series of extended explorations of topics that Leigh Fermor found fascinating as he traveled this region. With him we experience the monasteries of Meteora, his friendships and relationships with the people of Crete (how this digression fits ...more
On the plus side, Patrick Leigh Fermor is becoming one of my favorite authors. Even a little known travel book such as Roumeli: Travels in Northern Greece is so brilliant and effortless in its erudition that one hates to come to the end of chapters, of paragraphs, even of sentences. On the minus side, I'm coming to the end of Fermor's oeuvre and will have to re-read his books just to feel the same buzz.

Like Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese, Roumeli seems at first glance somewhat haphaza
Heather Roberts
finished! what fun journeys "with shepherds, through monastaries, and searching for lord byron's shoes" (extra fun!) so brilliant at making both history and the poetry of the moment instantly come alive in the same sentence. you just need to read it...

i sat on the floor of a bookstore the other night looking at land and city-scape photography books of greece matching favorite phrases, descriptions, passages i had been reading to their picture. plf's words catch northern greece so well my heart s
R. Ellis
This is my least favorite of the 4 Fermor books I've read. Fermor's digressions become distracting here, and it took me a lot longer to finish the book than with his other titles.

That being said, there are some jewels in here. I enjoyed the passages about Meteora, and those that dealt with the years of Ottoman subjugation. And there's a priceless passage about Byron's
missing slippers. The Greeks consider Byron to be their equivalent
of Washington, or maybe Lafayette. He died just before going int
A wonderful book chronicling the famous authors travels through northern Greece in the year 1966. The authors deep understanding of Greece and its 5000 year history, language and culture is impressive. Sometimes its almost too much knowledge conveyed for a reader no that much familiar with Greece. Since the book is almost 50 years old it also serves as a kind of time capsule of the times before Greece was mutilated by mass tourism and the ill effects of the recent Euro-crisis. My favourite story ...more
Fermor is an erudite guide. This collection is mostly set in Northern Greece (with side trips to Crete and after Lord Byron), among nomads, monks, soldiers and villagers. His experiences are unique and these essays are difficult. Aside from his English vocabulary, Fermor's love for linguistics makes several of the essays tough for the non-linguist to generate interest. He also is, at times, too spare with context - barely explaining himself or his context/place before throwing us into a new cont ...more
ο κανένας κανένας
As usual for Fermor books about Greece, I suspect this book might be difficult for a foreigner to fully comprehend (although i am kind of astonished that most of you seem to do!), as A Greek I can tell you that you cannot find anyone (Greek or foreigner) that has managed to grasp the essence of the modern Greek mentality better than Patrick L. Fermor. Things have changed a lot from the 50s, that the first edition of the book was written (the greek one was updated in the 70s) but surprisingly lot ...more
Nog steeds een interessante schrijver, maar dit is het 5de boek en nu is het wel genoeg. Dit boek bevat weer heel aardige verhalen over het Griekenland van - ik denk - de jaren 50, maar het hangt nu toch allemaal een beetje als los zand aan elkaar. Het mooist was nog het stuk over de Meteorakloosters en het verhaal over de zoektocht naar de schoenen van Lord Byron.
Mar 10, 2008 Tanja rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who love a Greece that was vanishing even as Fermor wrote about it
Patrick Leigh Fermor is without doubt one of my favorite writers. I just truly enjoy delving into one of his books (whether it is his account of his youthful journey on food through Europe just prior to the outbreak of the second world war, or his time working with the Greece resistance during WWII). Without fail they catapult me into a different world with which I can claim only partial acquaintance. That said, his books are not easy reads, this one especially required quite a few trips to my t ...more
Jun 30, 2011 Donna marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I'm encountering Patrick Leigh Fermor suddenly and unexpectedly on multiple fronts...simultaneously happy to be reading him for the first time but sad that I haven't been reading him for years! Without realizing who he was, I do know the story of his daring and bravery on the Isle of Crete during WWII through the movie about same starring Dirk Bogarde, Ill Met by Moonlight. Also unbeknownst to me was his long friendship and correspondence with Debo Mitford...their letters have been recently publ ...more
I can now safely place Mr. Fermor on my short list of literary heroes. His attention to detail, descriptive prose, depth of research and knowledge are incredible. Not to mention a linguistic workout. I'll be the first to admit that many of the historical references went beyond me. This is definitely not "lite" travel writing to say the least.
Roumeli is also now on my short list of to go places, though I'm sure that much has been lost since the time of this writing.
I'd already read the first two
Margo Berendsen
I picked this book up for research about Greece; I soon discovered I couldn't put it down. This is no mere travelogue. Fermor is part anthropologist, part linguist, and part poet. The way he describes the nomadic shepherds of the mountains of Greece (I did not know such people even existed!) is so well done I feel as if I'm still hearing their chants and the rhythmic stomp of their dances, still shivering from their superstitions (this is Greek mythology you probably haven't encountered before!) ...more
So far I like PLF's Northern Greece better than his Southern Greece book.

He writes as if he is a lone traveler, only once talking about how his wife Joan is traveling with him.

I would like to read her book. Does he leave her completely out of the narrative out of respect? Or maybe because she is a boring vacuous companion?

I have the image of Joan silently shadowing PLF. Never offering commentary, never wanting anything, never inconveniencing the literary genius. A pale, emaciated face listless
Michael Giotis
Great window into a side of Greece that was hard to find then (1940's-1960's)and may no longer exist at all. Some of the really wild living reminded me of stories from my grandparents life in the village in Epiros. The prose wanders like the man and both are equally impressive. Sort of an exploration in three sections (or was it four?), this is not a mid-century visitors "insider's view" of Greece [See Robin Howe's lovely "Greek Cooking"]. It is the stories of a self-adopted Greek, whose corresp ...more
Sanda Arvanitaki
Roumeli is not found on present maps.The people described so vividly have long vanished.Yet,they once existed. In a way, the book is also historical.
Another tour de force by Fermer. Except this one is for fans only. If you burn to hear both sides of the argument among older greeks about whether the soul of Greece is byzantine or hellenic, if you are eager for detailed descriptions of wedding ceremonies and drunken brawls among mountain villagers who immigrated from southern roumania (probably) long ago, or if you are intrigued by descriptions of gypsy-like scamming expeditions among the gullible of the Ukraine long ago, why then, read this b ...more
Sam Schulman
One of the greatest books ever on Greece and the Greeks - and not so heartbreaking as his memoirs of his early walk through Europe. A study of a pastoral tribe in northern Greece whom he is convinced are the closest direct descendants of the ancient Hellenes, whom he visited both right before the war and in the 1950s. But it's also a great memoir an evocation of youth, and a guide to how to live one's life.
Really one of the best books ever.

Some brilliant set pieces. Always entertaining and erudite, but a tad indulgent and too digressive.
Jun 06, 2008 Tiloma rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tiloma by: jonathan selva
Not as good as the Mani for me, but still so amazing and insightful. His capacity for noticing details and describing them vividly are amazing. He is also funny, insightful,sometimes dry, sometimes witty... just a good author and a good read.

Learning about the role of the koumbaros came in hand as I read this in Greece shortly before going to a wedding where my husband was koumbaros (best man).

Rougher going in some places than others, but quite worthy in the end of the PLF canon. If you must abridge, 'The Black Departers' and 'The Kingdom of Autolycus' stand out.
Covers a much wider range of territory than _Mani_, without the continental scope of Fermor's England-to-Constantinople trilogy. Which makes it amazing, but not quite his very best.
Leigh Fermor is remarkable in every way. His command of the English language is thrilling.
From Mani to the deep south, Fermor travels north to another rugged region of Greece. Good read.
Another delightful romp through a rather strange part of Greece in the 60's!
Alan Fricker
I enjoyed sections of this book but the content on legends etc dragged for me.
Stephanie Hayes
Loved it, like all his books. Poetic and unforgettable.
Brilliant story teller and writer
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NYRB Classics: Roumeli: Travels in Northern Greece, by Patrick Leigh Fermor 1 2 Oct 30, 2013 12:21PM  
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Sir Patrick Michael Leigh Fermor DSO OBE was a British author, scholar and soldier, who played a prominent role behind the lines in the Battle of Crete during World War II. He was widely regarded as "Britain's greatest living travel writer".

At the age of 18, Leigh Fermor decided to walk the length of Europe, from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople. He set off on 8 December 1933, after Hitler ha
More about Patrick Leigh Fermor...
A Time of Gifts Between the Woods and the Water A Time to Keep Silence Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese The Broken Road: Travels from Bulgaria to Mount Athos

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