Walking the woods and the water
Have you been inspired by a piece of travel writing to try a similar endeavour of your own, but found circumstance or lack of courage has knocked you off your stride? Not so Nick Hunt, who as a teenager, read Patrick Leigh Fermor’s account of a walk across Europe. Nick has followed in Fermor’s footsteps, walking from the Hook of Holland to Istanbul, recounting his seven month journey in a book entitled ‘Walking the woods and the water’.
What pace do you set yourself? How do you keep yourself going? Who do you have as your companions? What do you learn about yourself and about walking? As Andrew Stuck tries to keep up with Nick on a walk along the popular canal towpath from Broadway Market to Islington, he asks Nick these questions and more in the latest episode of Talking Walking.
Nick read Fermor’s A Time of Guests and Between the woods and the water when he was 18 and these accounts have haunted him ever since – it was a walk he always dreamed of doing.
Nick undertook little detailed planning using the hand drawn maps in Fermor’s books as a rough guide and relying on offers of accommodation either garnered through a ‘couch surfing’ website or from those people he met on his way. His route began with a walk across the Netherlands and into Germany, up the Rhine across the hills of Barden and into Bavaria, along the Danube to Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, the Great Hungarian Plain, the Carpathian Mountains, Bulgaria, the Black sea coast, “head south keeping the sea to your left to reach Istanbul”.
Fermor undertook his journey through Europe at a very different epoch staying at aristocratic residencies along the his route. These castles, mansions and grand houses had all long disappeared, as had their residents. Nick relied on couch surfing, camping out and the generosity of passers-by.
The hardest part of his whole journey was over the Carpathian mountains in southern Romania: “A desire to get lost, to go beyond the ordinary landscape that you are used to – there was always a moment of genuine fear, although at times it felt like flirting with proper wilderness but when you sense what that might be like it is scary – but regaining civilisation was something between relief and disappointment.”
Nick is appearing at the Books and Boots Festival in Richmond in September and at Henley Literary Festival early in October.
This article first appeared on the Rethinking Cities website