More about Patrick Leigh Fermor, travel writing and a lost European world.


This documentary about travel writing on BBC Four is Travellers’ Century, Episode Three: Patrick Leigh Fermor, with Benedict Allen. Previous episodes were devoted to Laurie Lee and Eric Newby.

The ostensible aim of this 2008 segment is to recall Leigh Fermor’s walk across Europe as a teen and the books he wrote about it, but there’s ample biographical information as well — and at the time of filming, Leigh Fermor was still very much alive.

If you read this week’s column, you know why I’m here.

ON THE AVENUES: From Baltic to Mediterranean, the diary of an unrepentant New Albanian Europhile.

… Hence my current serendipitous choice of reading: Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese, written by Patrick Leigh Fermor. My friend Ken loaned me two of Leigh Fermor’s travel accounts some months back, and last week my internal alarm clock serendipitously reminded me it was time to begin, Gdansk or no Gdansk.

Regular readers will recall that Greece was a prime motivation for my first trip to Europe in 1985 …

For further exploration of Leigh Fermor’s colorful life, there remains a blog devoted to him.

Patrick Leigh Fermor

He drank from a different fountain

The purpose of my blog is to bring the life and work of Paddy, and his many friends and colleagues, to the attention of a wider audience, and to create an archive of on-line material that can be used for research and enjoyment. He and his friends deserve to be recognised and remembered in a world that changed much during their lives, but would be the poorer without them.

For more on Leigh Fermor’s home in Greece on the mysterious Mani Peninsula, there’s this.

Patrick Leigh Fermor: The legendary writer and his Greek hideaway, by Stav Dimitropoulos (Adventure)

 … Leigh Fermor was the consummate wordsmith. “His favorite activity was forming phrases and cutting them into pieces, a process lasting for hours,” recalls Elpida Belogianni, Leigh Fermor’s long-standing housekeeper.

Belogianni is showing me around, six years after the author left his beloved home for the last time. I imagine him as a tall, dapper gentleman, seeking inspiration gazing at the Ionian waters, chatting with Joan over tea, mingling with socialite guests, or even dancing ‘zeibekiko’ [Greek folk dance] with local builders on the terrace.

Finally, a 2005 article in the London Review of Books goes considerably deeper into cultural attitudes about travel, with the author concluding that when reading Leigh Fermor’s accounts, first appearances can be deceptive. Note that his Roumeli also is in my possession, and I’ll tackle it next, after Mani.

Don’t forget your pith helmet, by Mary Beard

Roumeli: Travels in Northern Greece by Patrick Leigh Fermor

Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese by Patrick Leigh Fermor

Words of Mercury by Patrick Leigh Fermor, edited by Artemis Cooper

… What we are dealing with, in other words, is one aspect of the power struggle – or at least the complex negotiation – between visitor and visited.

This is clear enough in what now seems the quaintly old-fashioned advice given to travellers of a century or so ago. We find it harder to see how it works in contemporary tourism and the writing associated with it, from the cheapest guidebooks to travel literature of higher pretensions. Here, the legendary Greek hospitality – with its roots that supposedly go back to the Homeric world – provides a revealing and complicated case …