Dreaming of travelling to Europe? This selection of books will have you book your ticket in no time.
Journey Into Cyprus - Colin Thubron
This is an account of a 600-mile trek on foot around Cyprus in the last year of the island`s peace. The author intertwines myth, history and personal anecdote with descriptions of characters, places, architecture and landscape and traces the island's survival through centuries of invasion.
Adventure Coordinators review: Colin Thubron is one of my favourite travel authors and this book put Cyprus firmly on my wishlist. Thubron is a wordsmith and through his poetic descriptions evoked the atmosphere of a place. Take this description of his entering the ruins of Bellapaix Monastery:
"For a moment we were walking in a banked fragrance of flowers where the abbey overhung the hillside, and looking down a hundred feet on swallows crying faintly in the blue. Then all scent and colour had sobered to a cloister where grass and trees echoed old stone. In the centre of the courtyard four cypresses rose with a pencilled melancholy, and the mountain, close beyond, seemed to be pouring into its silence."
The book is full of such wonderful passages. 9 out of 10
As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning - Laurie Lee
Abandoning the Cotswolds village that raised him, the young Laurie Lee walks to London. There he makes a living labouring and playing the violin. But, deciding to travel further afield and knowing only the Spanish phrase for 'Will you please give me a glass of water?', he heads for Spain. With just a blanket to sleep under and his trusty violin, he spends a year crossing Spain, from Vigo in the north to the southern coast. Only the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War puts an end to his extraordinary peregrinations.
Adventure Coordinators review - as interesting insight into Spain pre-WW2; it makes you realize how much has changed in the past 80 years. But the truly interesting part of the story is in the final chapters, as the Civil War engulfs a country ready to be torn apart by its ruling elite. 7 out of 10
Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe - Kapka Kassabova
In this extraordinary work of narrative reportage, Kapka Kassabova returns to Bulgaria, from where she emigrated as a girl twenty-five years previously, to explore the border it shares with Turkey and Greece.
Kassabova discovers a place that has been shaped by successive forces of history: the Soviet and Ottoman empires, and, older still, myth and legend. Her exquisite portraits of fire walkers, smugglers, treasure hunters, botanists, and border guards populate the book. There are also the ragged men and women who have walked across Turkey from Syria and Iraq. But there seem to be nonhuman forces at work here too: This densely forested landscape is rich with curative springs and Thracian tombs, and the tug of the ancient world, of circular time and animism, is never far off.
Border is a scintillating, immersive travel narrative that is also a shadow history of the Cold War, a sideways look at the migration crisis troubling Europe, and a deep, witchy descent into interior and exterior geographies.
Adventure Coordinators review - a gem of a book - I could not put it down. 9.5 out of 10
True North: Travels In Arctic Europe - Gavin Francis
The stark, vast beauty of the remote Arctic Europe landscape has been the focus of human exploration for thousands of years. In this striking blend of travel writing, history and mythology, Gavin Francis offers a unique portrait of the northern fringes of Europe. His journey begins in the Shetland Isles, takes him to the Faroes, Iceland, Greenland, Svalbard and on to Lapland. Following in the footsteps of the region’s early pioneers, Francis observes how the region has adapted to the 21st century, giving an observed insight into the lives of people he encounters along the way. As with all the best travel writing, True North is an engaging, compassionate tale of self-discovery, whilst blending historical and contemporary narratives in the tradition of Bruce Chatwin and Robert Macfarlane.
Adventure Coordinators review - well researched and a good read about the furthest reaches of Europe. Some of these areas I have travelled to, which made some of his adventures recognizable. 7.5 out of 10
Four Scottish Journeys: An Identity Rediscovered - Andrew Eames
Travelling through the wild north-west in winter, between Clyde and Tweed in spring, through the Hebrides in summer and along the east coast in autumn, the author explores Scotland through the people he meets along the way. His range covers steel workers from Ravenscraig and marginalized Highland landowners, peat-cutting on Islay and prawn-trawling in the Clyde, talking to the new millionaire owner of the island of Gigha and visiting an oil rig following the ceilidh trail up the islands and joining the royal watchers at the Braemar Gathering. The result is a picture of Scotland as it really is today, not under a tartan wrapping.
Adventure Coordinators review - thoroughly enjoyed Andrew Eames' storytelling, somewhat of a lost art. The people he meets and the history behind places really liven up his travel account. 8.5 out of 10
The Olive Series: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Olive Oil in the South of France - Carol Drinkwater
When Carol Drinkwater and her fiancé Michel, are given the opportunity to purchase ten acres of an abandoned olive farm in the South of France, they find the region's splendor impossible to resist. Using their entire savings as a down payment, the couple embark on an adventure that brings them in contact with the charming countryside of Provence, its querulous personalities, petty bureaucracies, and extraordinary wildlife. From the glamour of Cannes and the Îles de Lérins to the charm of her own small plot of land-which she transforms from overgrown weeds into a thriving farm, Drinkwater triumphantly relates how she realized her dream of a peaceful, meaningful life.
Adventure Coordinators review - the 7-volume Olive series makes for an easy read, despite the sometimes poor style. I found volumes 4 and 5 (The Olive Route and The Olive Tree) , where the author travels around the Mediterranean basin the most interesting. 7 out of 10
Down the Danube: From the Black Forest to the Black Sea – Guy Arnold
The River Danube, rising in the Black Forest area of southern Germany, and flowing east through eight countries, and three capital cities, is one of the world's great rivers, flowing for 2840 kilometres [1,705 miles] eventually reaching the Black Sea. The widely-travelled author decided to travel its length, beginning by covering the first 400 kilometres from Donaueschingen on foot, and carrying absolute minimum luggage. He gives vivid descriptions of barge travel, towns, cities and villages, the people he meets, but always-the river is the centre of the narrative.
Adventure Coordinators review - the author is mostly a spectator rather than actively meeting people. However, reading about his travels when communism was still a thing in Eastern Europe, made for a good read. 7 out of 10
In Sicily - Norman Lewis
A loving take on an extraordinary island, based on Norman Lewis's sixty-year fascination with all things Sicilian. Dedicated to a Sicilian journalist killed by a Mafia bomb, Lewis rarely lets us forget the presence of organized crime. We benefit from his friendships with policemen, journalists, and common people. Moreover, he writes beautifully of landscape and language, of his memories of his first father-in-law (professional gambler, descendant of princes and member of the Unione Siciliana), of Sicily's changing sexual mores, of the effects of African immigration, of Palermo and its ruined palaces - and of strange superstitions, witches, bandits, and murder.
Adventure Coordinators review - it took me a while to get into Lewis' writing style but once i did I read the book twice, back to back. Sicily was bumped up my bucket list because of this book. 8.5 out of 10
Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks
Have you ever made a drunken bet? Worse still, have you ever tried to win one? In attempting to hitchhike round Ireland with a fridge, Tony Hawks did both, and his foolhardiness led him to one of the best experiences of his life. Joined by his trusty traveling companion-cum-domestic appliance, he made his way from Dublin to Donegal, from Sligo through Mayo, Galway, Clare, Kerry, Cork, Wexford, Wicklow--and back again to Dublin. In their month of madness, Tony and his fridge met a real prince, a bogus king, and the fridge got christened. They surfed together, entered a bachelor festival, and one of them had sex without the other knowing. And unexpectedly, the fridge itself became a momentary focus for the people of Ireland.
Adventure Coordinators verdict: while the title was a bit of a put-off, once I started reading this book I could not put it down. Laugh-out-loud funny in many places, a tad naughty in some, this is one unlikely travelogue everyone who loves Ireland, it's people and British humor should read. 8.5 out of 10
Vanilla Beans and Brodo: Real Life in the Hills of Tuscany -Isabella Dusi
Isabella Dusi, a native Australian, settled in Montalcino, a beautiful mountain eyrie famous for its wine and the proud nature of its inhabitants. Her acceptance into this close-knit community was a hard-won thing and has inspired Isabella to capture the true spirit of Montalcino. Vanilla Beans & Brodo tells of the violent history of this medieval village, which has lefts its mark on the character traits of the Montalcinese, and also offers a rare insight into the anxiety, joy, fun, and pressure of daily life as it unfolds with the seasons. An evocative story of the rivalry between village neighborhoods, of football fever and festival pageantry, Isabella Dusi destroys the myth that Tuscan villages are tranquil places, and instead reveals a life infinitely rich and full of dramas.
Adventure Coordinators verdict: while it took me a little while to warm up this book, the nice thing is that this is indeed about real life in Tuscany, not the a tourist's impressions or a visitor's musings - 8 out of 10
The last Storyteller - Frank Delaney
In The Last Storyteller, Delaney weaves an absorbing tale of lasting love, dangerous risk, and the healing power of redemption. Ireland in 1956: the national mood is downtrodden; poverty, corruption, and a fledgling armed rebellion rattle the countryside, and although the main character Ben wants no part of the upstart insurrection, he unknowingly falls in with an IRA sympathizer and is compromised into running guns. Yet despite his perilous circumstances, all he can think about is finding his former wife and true love. Brimming with fascinating Irish history, daring intrigue, and the drama of legendary love, The Last Storyteller is an unforgettable novel as richly textured and inspiring as Ireland itself.
Adventure Coordinators verdict: fascinating at times but has the tendency to ramble on a bit - 7 out of 10.
Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes - Elizabeth Bard
Ten years ago, New Yorker Elizabeth Bard followed a handsome Frenchman up a spiral staircase to a love nest in the heart of Paris. Now, with a baby on the way and the world's flakiest croissant around the corner, Elizabeth is sure she's found her "forever place." But life has other plans. On a last romantic jaunt before the baby arrives, the couple take a trip to the tiny Provencal village of Céreste. A chance encounter leads them to the wartime home of a famous poet, a tale of a buried manuscript and a garden full of heirloom roses. Under the spell of the house and its unique history, in less time than it takes to flip a crepe, Elizabeth and Gwendal decide to move-lock, stock and Le Creuset-to the French countryside. When the couple and their newborn son arrive in Provence, they discover a land of blue skies, lavender fields and peaches that taste like sunshine. Seduced by the local ingredients, they begin a new adventure as culinary entrepreneurs, starting their own artisanal ice cream shop and experimenting with flavors like saffron, sheep's milk yogurt and fruity olive oil. Filled with enticing recipes for stuffed zucchini flowers, fig tart and honey & thyme ice cream, Picnic in Provence is the story of everything that happens after the happily ever after: an American learning the tricks of French motherhood, a family finding a new professional passion, and a cook's initiation into classic Provencal cuisine. With wit, humor and scoop of wild strawberry sorbet, Bard reminds us that life-in and out of the kitchen-is a rendez-vous with the unexpected.
Adventure Coordinators verdict: funny at times, an easy read in which the recipes may just inspire you to try some of them - 8 out of 10
The Umbrian Thursday Night Supper Club by Marlena de Blasi
Every month on a Thursday evening, a group of four Italian rural women gather in a derelict stone house in the hills above Italy’s Orvieto. There - along with their friend, Marlena - they cook, sit down to a beautiful supper, drink their beloved local wines, and talk. Here, surrounded by candle light, good food and friendship, they tell their life stories of loves lost and found, of aging and abandonment, of mafia grudges and family feuds, and of ingredients and recipes whose secrets have been passed down through the generations. Around this table, these five friends share their food and all that life has offered them - the good and the bad.
Adventure Coordinators verdict: saving the recipes for the kitchen, this is a wonderful read that will have you smile, cry and leave you hungry. 8 out of 10.
Borderland: A Journey Through The History Of Ukraine - Anna Reid
Centre of the first great Slav civilisation in the tenth century, then divided between warring neighbours for a millennium, Ukraine finally won independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Tiring of their own corrupt governments, Ukrainians have since mounted two popular revolutions, taking to the streets to demand fair elections and closer ties to Europe. In the spring of 2014, Russia responded by invading Crimea and sponsoring a civil war in the Russian-speaking Donbass. Threatened by Moscow, misunderstood in the West, Ukraine hangs once more in the balance. Speaking to pro-democracy activists and pro-Russia militiamen, peasants and miners, survivors of Hitler's Holocaust and Stalin's famine, Anna Reid combines history and travel-writing to unpick the past and present of this bloody and complex borderland.
A Time of Gifts - Patrick Leigh Fermor
In 1933, at the age of 18, Patrick Leigh Fermor set out on an extraordinary journey by foot - from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople. A Time of Gifts is the first volume in a trilogy recounting the trip, and takes the reader with him as far as Hungary. It is a book of compelling glimpses - not only of the events which were curdling Europe at that time, but also of its resplendent domes and monasteries, its great rivers, the sun on the Bavarian snow, the storks and frogs, the hospitable burgomasters who welcomed him, and that world's grandeurs and courtesies. His powers of recollection have astonishing sweep and verve, and the scope is majestic. First published to enormous acclaim, it confirmed Fermor's reputation as the greatest living travel writer, and has, together with its sequel Between the Woods and the Water (the third volume is famously yet to be published), been a perennial seller for 25 years.
Between the woods and the water - Patrick Leigh Fermor
The journey that Patrick Leigh Fermor set out on in 1933—to cross Europe on foot proved so rich in experiences that when he sat down to describe them, they overflowed into more than one volume. The opening of this book finds Leigh Fermor crossing the Danube—at the very moment where his first volume left off. A detour to the luminous splendors of Prague is followed by a trip downriver to Budapest, passage on horseback across the Great Hungarian Plain, and a crossing of the Romanian border into Transylvania. Remote castles, mountain villages, monasteries and towering ranges that are the haunt of bears, wolves, eagles, gypsies, and a variety of sects are all savored in the approach to the Iron Gates, the division between the Carpathian mountains and the Balkans, where, for now, the story ends.
Walking the woods and the water - Nick Hunt
Aged eighteen, Nick Hunt read A Time of Gifts (above) and dreamed of following in Fermor's footsteps. In 2011 he began his own great trudge - on foot all the way to Istanbul. He walked across Europe through eight countries, following two major rivers and crossing three mountain ranges. Using Fermor's books as his only travel guide, he trekked some 2,500 miles through Holland, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. His aim? To have an old-fashioned adventure. To slow down and linger in a world where we pass by so much, so fast. To discover for himself what remained of hospitality, kindness to strangers, freedom, wildness, adventure, the mysterious, the unknown, the deeper currents of myth and story that still flow beneath Europe's surface.
Along the Enchanted Way: A Story of Love and Life in Romania - William Blacker
When William Blacker first crossed the snow-bound passes of northern Romania, he stumbled upon an almost medieval world.
There, for many years he lived side by side with the country people, a life ruled by the slow cycle of the seasons, far away from the frantic rush of the modern world. In spring as the pear trees blossomed he ploughed with horses, in summer he scythed the hay meadows and in the freezing winters gathered wood by sleigh from the forest. From sheepfolds harried by wolves, to courting expeditions in the snow, he experienced the traditional way of life to the full, and became accepted into a community who treated him as one of their own. But Blacker was also intrigued by the Gypsies, those dark, foot-loose strangers of spell-binding allure who he saw passing through the village. Locals warned him to stay clear but he fell in love and there followed a bitter struggle.
Change is now coming to rural Romania, and William Blacker's adventures will soon be part of its history. From his early carefree days tramping the hills of Transylvania, to the book's poignant ending, Along the Enchanted Way transports us back to a magical country world most of us thought had vanished long ago.
Recommended by your fellow traveller Joey McArthur. Adventure Coordinators score: 9 out of 10. Simply loved this book and it already has me wanting to go back to explore more of this forgotten part of Europe.
My dam life - three years in Holland - Sean Condon
Sean Condon has moved to Amsterdam, he's married, and he and his wife are unemployed. As he explores the strange habits of the Dutch and tries to avoid being deported, Sean also keeps a wonderfully self-deprecating eye on the strange business of writing about yourself and the absurdities of everyday life.
Recommended by your fellow traveller Joey McArthur
A Thousand Days in Tuscany: A Bittersweet Adventure - Marlena de Blasi
They had met and married on perilously short acquaintance, she an American chef and food writer, he a Venetian banker. Now they were taking another audacious leap, unstitching their ties with exquisite Venice to live in a roughly renovated stable in Tuscany.
The Green Road Into the Trees: An Exploration of England - Hugh Thomson
Award-winning British travel writer Hugh Thomson explores the most exotic and foreign country of them all -- his own.
From the very centre of England Hugh travels to its outermost edges. The Green Road into the Trees is a journey made rich by the characters he meets along the way. And the ways he takes are the old ways, the drover-paths and tracks, the paths and ditches half covered by bramble and tunnelled by alder, beech and oak: the trails that can still be traced by those who know where to look. By taking a 400 mile journey along the Icknield Way, through both the sacred and profane landscapes of ancient England, Hugh casts unexpected light -- and humour -- on the way we live now.
The Fault Line: Traveling the Other Europe, From Finland to Ukraine Hardcover - Paolo Rumiz
Paolo Rumiz traces the path that has twice cut Europe in two—first by the Iron Curtain and then by the artificial scaffolding of the EU—moving through vibrant cities and abandoned villages, some places still gloomy under the ghost of these imposing borders, some that have sought to erase all memory of it and jump with both feet into the West (if only the West would have them). In The Fault Line, he is a sublime and lively guide through these unfamiliar landscapes, piecing together an atlas that has been erased by modern states, delighting in the discovery of communities that were once engulfed by geopolitics then all but forgotten, until now. In this book I definitely heard "a familiar creaking sound. A window opening to a new journey." This book brims with the author's love for Eastern Europe, the raw beauty of its landscapes and the hospitality of its people.
Rarely have I read such an engaging book. I could not put it down, nor did I want it to end. 9.5 out of 10
That summer in Sicily - Marlena de Blasi
De Blasi’ s marvelous storytelling, reminds us that in order to live a rich life, one must accept both life’s sorrow and its beauty. This is beautiful story will take you from Sicily’s remote mountains to chaotic post-war Palermo, from the intricacies of a forbidden love to the havoc wreaked by Sicily’s bewildering culture.
Adventure Coordinators review: simple a beautiful read. The first pages describe a dream and you feel you are in it. This whole book reads like a dream
Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis de Bernieres
Extravagant, inventive, emotionally sweeping, this book is the story of a timeless place that one day wakes up to find itself in the jaws of history. On the Greek island of Cephallonia, gods once dabbled in the affairs of men and the local saint periodically rises from his sarcophagus to heal the mad. Then World War II arrives on the island' in the form of the conquering Italian army.
Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucia - Chris Stewart
Former rockstar turned sheepshearer moves with his wife to the remote Alpujarras region of Southern Spain, where they buy a farm covered in lemon, olive and almond trees, without water, electricity or road access. Eternally optimistic, Stewart describes his many adventures in this wonderful book.
Travels with My Donkey: One Man and His Ass on a Pilgrimage to Santiago - Tim Moore
Armed with a 12th century guidebook and a donkey for companion, Moore walks the Camino from Southern France to its end in Santiago de Compostella. This hillarious retelling of Moore's walk is a must for anyone wanting to attempt their own pilgrimage.
Neither Here Nor There - Bill Bryson
Bryson brings his unique brand of humour to travel writing as he shoulders his backpack, keeps a tight hold on his wallet and heads for Europe. Travelling with Stephen Katz—also his wonderful sidekick in A Walk in the Woods—he wanders from Hammerfest in the far north, to Istanbul on the cusp of Asia. As he makes his way round this incredibly varied continent, he retraces his travels as a student twenty years before with caustic hilarity.
Blue River, Black Sea - Andrew Eames
The Danube is Europe's Amazon. It flows through more countries than any other river on Earth—from the Black Forest in Germany to Europe's farthest fringes, where it joins the Black Sea in Romania. Andrew Eames' journey along its length brings us face to face with the continent's bloodiest history and its most pressing issues of race and identity. As he travels—by bicycle, horse, boat, and on foot—Eames finds himself seeking a bed for the night with minor royalty, hitching a ride on a Serbian barge captained by a man called Attila, and getting up close and personal with a bull in rural Romania. He meets would-be kings and walks with gypsies, and finally rows his way beyond the borders of Europe entirely.
In Europe's Shadow: Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond - Robert D. Kaplan
From the New York Times bestselling author Robert D. Kaplan, named one of the world’s Top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine, comes a riveting journey through one of Europe’s frontier countries—and a potent examination of the forces that will det