Friday, March 30, 2012

Neither Here nor There

In Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe Bill Bryson retraces his earlier travels in Europe when he was a young American student and liked Europe so much that he decided to stay.

Now, in 1990, he starts in Norway travelling by bus to the northermost point to see Aurora Borealis. Then he visits France, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and finishes in Turkey. Going by plane, bus, train or on foot, he constantly wonders about the beauty and ugliness of European cities, strange customs, and laws. He meets people of all nationalities and often makes fun of them. Bill generalizes and makes fun of whole countries too. Sometimes he uses black humor, sometimes he swears. Be warned: you may be offended. He describes shopping windows in the red lights district in Amsterdam  and in other cities. He gets drunk, he goes to museums, sleeps in expensive hotels,  and in shabby ones. He gets robbed, and experiences bureaucracy at its worst. He falls in love with some places, and is disgusted by others. In the end, tired, he's ready to go back to his wife and children in England.

Reading "Neither Here nor There" felt like travelling with Bill. You will enjoy this book if you are a man, are not easily offended, and you like to travel on the rough side. And please remember: people change, places change, and whole countries change too. The Europe from Bill's travel no longer exists, and spending a few days or even weeks in a country gives you a very shallow and perhaps skewed knowledge of its people and customs.

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