Blue's Reviews > Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe

Neither Here nor There by Bill Bryson
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's review
Jun 06, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: travelog, humor
Read from June 06 to 12, 2012 — I own a copy

I like Bryson, not only because he is a good writer, but also because he is usually similar in humor and mood to me when I travel. He sinks when everyone else happily body surfs. He is fascinated by all the things that can kill you. He wobbles and hobbles, just like me. And he likes a good view enjoyed with good food and good company in a soft, comfortable breeze. Well, that's not very American, but that's him alright.

So why didn't I like NHNT that much? There were several reasons, the main one being that Bryson, for the first time in the books I have read by him, really sounds like an American tourist. He complains a lot, but mainly he makes the mistakes that lead to his misery. He acts not like a seasoned traveler, but an amateur, monolingual, ignorant American (he is actually only monolingual...) He also lets his hatred towards the Nazis blur into a hatred of Germans and anything German in his trip, which I find to be, again, very American, and very, uhm, hypocritical?

Nevertheless, he is still fun to read and his sense of humor is in good shape. His encounter with the gypsy thief and the repercussions are hilarious. The comparisons between the time he backpacked through Europe with Katz in the 70s and this trip are interesting. His observations about the mood and life style of the different nationalities and places are spot on in many cases. His encounters with the Australians are just hilarious.

It's a pity Bryson spends far too little time in Istanbul, perhaps the only city that could have offered him the cultural and culinary wealth that could equal or even exceed Paris and Rome in his trip. But as most westerners, Bryson doesn't know what he is missing. He visits the Blue Mosque and walks the Galata Bridge, and of course the obligatory (and if you ask me completely overpriced and overhyped) Hagasofia (Ayasofya)... And that's it. What a pity, to visit Istanbul and to miss almost everything it has to offer. Also a pity that he did not make his way through some of the cities bordering Bulgaria and Greece, such as Edirne, which could have been a truly interesting experience for Bryson. But alas, not a very "European" one...

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