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Roumeli: Travels in Northern Greece

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  407 ratings  ·  41 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
Paperback, 280 pages
Published June 6th 2006 by NYRB Classics (first published 1962)
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4.13  · 
Rating details
 ·  407 ratings  ·  41 reviews

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Apr 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel-classics
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
Feb 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: readathon-2018
Πρόκειται για μια συλλογή από περιηγητικά κείμενα με τις εμπειρίες του συγγραφέα από τις περιπλανήσεις του στη Βόρεια και Δυτική Ελλάδα (με μια μικρή παρεκτροπή για την Κρήτη) τη δεκαετια του 50. Συμμετέχει σε ένα Σαρακατσάνικο γάμο, φιλοξενείται από μοναχούς στα Μετέωρα, αναζητά τις παντόφλες του Λόρδου Βύρωνα στο Μεσολλόγγι, επισκέπτεται τα φτωχά και άγονα χωριά των Κραβάρων στην ορεινή Ναυπακτία κ.α. Οι περιγραφές του είναι ζωντανές και έχουν τεράστιο ανθρωπολογικό (και όχι τουριστικό) ενδιαφ ...more
Sairam Krishnan
May 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My first Patrick Fermor was interrupted by several important life-decisions, and therefore had to be read in demarcated chunks, and over more time that I wanted it to be ingested in.

And yet, it was so so good.

I do not profess to know much about Greece and its history, and I came to the book to see the linguistic style and narrative flourish I had heard so much about. And I wasn't disappointed at all. The descriptions and tales just blew my mind, and I couldn't have enough.

I'm filing this away
Jan 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'll read anything Patrick Leigh Fermor has written. In fact, I'm busy right now chasing down Three Letters from the Andes, a minor work by the master that is not always easy to find. Roumeli has passages of vintage Fermor -- travel writing that exceeds just about anything ever written in that genre -- and that brings to life these moments and places in rural Greece that are gone in two senses -- geographically swallowed up by the encroachments of the Western industrial world, and temporally gon ...more
Patrick Cook
May 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I distinctly remember being disappointed by this book the first time I read it. It was nothing like as good as 'A Time of Gifts' of 'Between the Woods and the Water'. Having re-read it, nearly a decade later, and actually in Greece (indeed mostly on Mount Athos), I still stand by the latter part of the judgement — it really isn't as good as the two books of his uncompleted trilogy. His excesses are not reined in here, as they are there, by careful and conscientiousness editing. This would not be ...more
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Even though he's too much of a philhellene (philrhomaioi?) for my taste I found his writing style and eye for detail exquisite.

The various chapters can be read independently and I highly recommend the chapter on the multiple identities of Greeks (hellene vs. rhomaioi) to understand Greeks of today. I would love to visit Meteora and reread his chapter on it before and after.
Alan Parker
Oct 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Another beautfully written book by Patrick Leigh Fermor. It gave me a yearning to go and discover what is left of the lost world of Northern Greece that he describes, far from the tourists beaten tracks.
Aug 19, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Dec 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those seeking the soul of Greece
Shelves: heroes, strand
I think that the subject got too big for Fermor here: he was trying to write a book about the Roumeli (loosely defined as the region from the Bosphorus to the Adriatic, between Macedonia and the Gulf of Corinth), in the space of only 250 pages. The result is very episodic, if entirely fascinating: one wants to read so much more.
Sep 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
May 13, 2011 marked it as to-read
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
Jul 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Margo Berendsen
Jul 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 03, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Michael Giotis
Jul 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
I have been thinking about this book for days. Some sections, (are they chapters?) stand out. The first, The Black Departers, was so impressive I reread it immediately. The Monasteries in the Air was as enthralling. But for long periods after it all became a touch dense, hard work and even tedious. Sounds of the Greek World ended the book nicely but it was too late.

Thinking about it now I had read 4 PLF books in a row and had been enthralled. Maybe this was one too many? Maybe I will reread it
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
Aug 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
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
Jun 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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).

Al Maki
Jan 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: places
Fermor resided in Greece and knew it and its language(s) well. This book is a series of travels in the fifties and sixties on foot, in a caique, by bus, on horseback in the mountains of the north. The people he talks to - shepherds, bus drivers, retired beggars, monks - have interesting stories to tell. The writing is, as usual with him, wonderful. As always with him, loafing, drinking, eating and smoking figure large.
Sam Schulman
Nov 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.

Sep 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Love love love Patrick Leigh Fermor. Read his book on the Mani while there and now This one in prep for a trip to Northern Greece, Albania and Macedonia. The title says it all. The concept of the Byzantine Empire as the formative idea of the modern Greek begins here. This is a foundational book for any Westerner wanting to understand Greece.
Aug 13, 2014 rated it liked it
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.
Nov 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Στην περιγραφή για τις μυστικές πηγές και τα τα νερά μέσα στο δάσος, έπεσα σε ένα περίεργο τρανς φαντασίας και πραγματικότητας. Λίγες φορές μου το έχει προκαλέσει αυτό ένα κείμενο. Είναι η σελίδα στην οποία επιστρέφω κάθε 2-3 μέρες.
Jun 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Some brilliant set pieces. Always entertaining and erudite, but a tad indulgent and too digressive.
Jul 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wordy--as usual for PLF--but for Greece fans these books are a must as historical documents and enthusiastic insights.
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NYRB Classics: Roumeli: Travels in Northern Greece, by Patrick Leigh Fermor 1 3 Oct 30, 2013 12:21PM  
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Sir Patrick Michael Leigh Fermor, OBE, DSO was a British author 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".