Friday, 14 April 2017

Bright Tracks

In 1959, nearly 60 years ago, four friends from Cambridge University decided that they would take a six week backpacking holiday to Greece.

Unlike today when tourists merely board a jet and get out at their destination only several hours later, in 1959 they joined a party of travellers who were heading to Greece, by train.

The train was called the Tauern Express and it took three days to travel through Europe from Ostend.

The four friends discovered a way of life that was vastly different from their own home lives, as they find themselves in a country still dealing with the aftermath of having been occupied by the German Army during World War Two, a decade ago.

They travel throughout Greece exploring the rich variety of places of historical importance and significance and meet a range of highly colourful characters.

The author, Richard Pike, took copious notes during the trip of a lifetime and he and his three companions took many photographs.

But Richard's notes were allowed to be stored away as he got on with the more pressing demands of establishing himself as an educationalist and a teacher.

He also wrote and published several books but the notes of his adventure remained pretty much undisturbed until Richard decided to dust them off and read through them.

The result is a highly personal account of a journey to and through a place that sadly, for the main part, no longer exists, the Greece and Europe of a different century and a vastly different milieu.

It is wonderfully illustrated, including many photographs taken by Richard and his companions during their epic journey. There are also some wonderfully evocative sketches by Mike.

From the dour officials of Eastern Europe to the attractive girl they met, to the disappointment of old ruins that were, after all, only some old ruins, to the limousines of Athens to the live hens tied by their feet to the roof rack of a wheezing, ancient bus, all life is here and faithfully recorded by Richard and his three compatriots.

It's published by Matador at a remarkably reasonable £9.99 and will make an excellent gift for the traveller, armchair or otherwise, or the lover of well-written socio-history of the past, post long and recent.

You can buy it here at the That's Book bookshop https://goo.gl/Ltov34.

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