The MS Utting

The Ammersee in southern Bavaria has summer passenger boat service provided by two paddle steamers, the Dießen and the Herrsching, the smaller motor-powered MS Augsburg and, until recently, the MS Utting. Because we have connections to Utting, I was always especially pleased to see it in service (which didn’t seem very often, if at all, in the last year). Then in early March we were stunned read that it was being retired, and taken off to a new life as some kind of performing space shell in Munich. Ah well, that’s that, we thought.

Until just a few weeks ago, when it was announced that the new MS Utting was on its way to the docks on the northern shore, and so we stopped by to see the new addition.

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By the time we arrived it had already been welded together (it had arrived in two pieces via the Autobahn during the wee morning hours) and was sitting in the water. Masts, upper deck facilities, windows and the interiors all had yet to be installed.

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Those are some impressive cranes.

The new MS Utting is 50.80 meters long and 9.60 meters wide, and will hold up to 500 passengers. It will be barrier-free (with an elevator to the upper deck for wheelchair users) and have a slide for children. The Free State of Bavaria is investing a cool 5.4 million euros in the new vessel.

 The first test ride is planned for the end of June. If all goes well, the MS Utting will have its maiden voyage in the second half of July. Maybe we’ll be on it!

 

Rooftop Blogging: Final Edition

When I began the blog nearly 8 years ago, I wanted to do some kind of photoblogging that could be done on a regular, perhaps weekly basis with ease. A lot of people were doing “Saturday cat blogging”, which I found a little tiresome but it was something amusing to add to the big conversation going on, and I wanted to be part of that conversation by contributing to it. The mountain/city view from my terrace is beautiful and constantly changing, and seemed a good enough choice. So let’s have a last look around.

There have been so many changes to Innsbruck, architecturally speaking. While the little Altstadt retains its Medieval look, the areas just outside it have been changing in leaps and bounds. Here are the ones I can remember since 2000, when I arrived, starting with the changes observable right outside my window:

Bergisel Ski Jump
Schanze Before
The old one demolished in 2001 (I watched from my apartment), the new one, by star architect Zaha Hadid, opened in 2002.

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Sillpark Plaza and Annex
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I like the extra mall shops (and the green roof!) I don’t like the plaza (Vorplatz) for one reason: its acoustics. The shape of it triggers sound — people talking, music, drumming — to ricochet right up through our windows. It has gotten much louder here over the years. Last night a crowd of twenty-something girls were doing some kind of ritual screaming at the beach bar, over and over. They were there for hours.

Amraserstraße/Museumstraße/Brunecker Straße
An old, antiquated Post Office building stood on Brunecker Straße, and for a time I went there to pick up packages. Now the sleek, golden brown Pema Tower takes up most of that block, provides cover from sun and rain on that side of the street, and holds a few nice new businesses. The empty lot on the Amraserstraße side is currently a construction site for another tower. The bus/tram stop has been fixed up nicely too, and a pedestrian tunnel installed.

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Frachthof now

Die Sill Insel
This was a dirt parking lot, if memory serves me. There was some kind of old loading depot building which had some use in the alternative scene, and a little pink villa of sorts which I believe housed modern art. I often wondered what their original purpose was; they may have belonged to the Ferrari Palace (now a vocational school) across the street. Perhaps cargo was pulled off the Sill Canal and loaded on wagons there. The little house, I have no idea. On that site now stands a new apartment building. (It hasn’t destroyed the view, but I did have to get used to idea that other people now stand on their balconies and look over at me.)
Inntal BeforeInntal now

What else has changed? The Hauptbahnhof is new-ish, having reopened in 2004.
The Tiroler Landestheater opened its new annex in 2003, with rehearsal spaces, offices and workshops.
The Rathaus Passage and Kaufhaus Tyrol, both on the Maria-Theresien-Straße,  are two new urban shopping malls which, judging from the masses who go there, seem to be doing very well, despite my insistence that the latter, formerly Bauer & Schwarz, was cursed. The gods of commerce won that battle. Bauer and Schwarz would probably have approved.)
The Convention Center (Messegelände) was taken down and replaced with a newer, larger one.
The Hungerburgbahn was redesigned, with two new stations also designed by Zaha Hadid. The line was extended over to the Hofgarten, where the city tourists can reach it more easily.
The Tivoli football stadium was renovated to seat the larger crowds of the European Championship in 2008, with extensions which, by design, can be added for larger events and later removed.
The streetcars were replaced with the current red, noiseless version. I missed the old ones for a while but quickly got used to the new ones, especially since the Iglerbahn now quietly slithers through the forest, Innsbruck’s own Tatzlwurm.
A less-vaunted change was the demolition of the Bürgerbräu brewery on Ingenieur-Etzl-Straße, on which now stands a modern glass building of businesses below and apartments above. The not-unpleasant smell of hops used to waft through the air on warm summer nights. They made Kaiser Bier, and certainly there was a connection with the Kaiserstube restaurant, just around the corner on Museumstrasse. Below, both Bürgerbräu and the old streetcars.
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The Stadtsäle is going to come down this summer. This postwar structure was erected after the older Stadtsäle was condemned and demolished. A rather beautiful and ornate palatial hall from 1890,
Alte Stadtsäle
it succumbed to allied bombs that fell over Innsbruck late in the Second World War. I have always thought of the current Stadtsäle as our local version of the Palast der Republik, useful, ugly, but aesthetically interesting in a “retro” way.
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When it’s razed, the Landestheater’s Kammerspiel will go along with it, and a new Kammerspiel will take its place. I have many fond memories of this 200-seat theater. You can say I cut my teeth on that stage.

Bürgerbräu photo from here.
Image of old Stadtsäle from here.
Image of current Stadtsäle from here.
All other images by the author.

A Chapel in Axams

A free Sunday afternoon and it happens to be Tag des Denkmals in Austria. This is a day for  cultural and historical monuments across the country, and often there is the chance to see something not normally open to the public.
That opportunity is what got me on a bus to Axams, a village on the slopes of the mountains southwest of Innsbruck. Axams is a very, very old village; archaeological finds point to human settlement in the area as far back as 1200 BCE and the current name is of Celtic origin (Ouxumenes, “very high place”). (g) Its situation on a sunny plateau high above the Inn Valley certainly made it prime real estate then (and now — it’s both a commuter town, being a 20-minute drive from Innsbruck, and a popular spot for ski tourists). // Ein freier Sonntagnachmittag und Tag des Denkmals in Österreich. Dies ist ein Tag für die kulturellen und historischen Denkmäler im ganzen Land, und oft gibt es die Möglichkeit, etwas in der Regel nicht für die Öffentlichkeit zugängliches zu sehen.
Diese Gelegenheit brachte mich in einem Bus nach Axams, einem Dorf im Mittelgbeirge südwestlich von Innsbruck. Axams ist ein sehr, sehr altes Dorf; archäologische Funde weisen auf menschliche Besiedlung in der Region soweit zurück, wie 1200 v.Chr; und der aktuelle Name ist keltischen Ursprungs (Ouxumenes, “sehr hohen Platz”).  Seine Lage auf einem Sonnenplateau hoch über dem Inntal machte es zu einem attraktiven Siedlungsgebiet (und heute ist es sowohl eine Trabantenstadt, 20 Minuten Fahrt von Innsbruck, alsauch ein beliebter Ort für Ski-Touristen).

But the cultural site on offer today was from an era a bit later in its history. The Widumkapelle (“dower”, or endowment chapel) was built around 1330, originally stood as a stand-alone structure, and then became part of the larger parish offices. Into the late 1990s it was used as a furnished meeting room; after extensive excavation in 2003, the original frescoes (g) were uncovered and restored. These frescoes, interestingly, reveal that the original structure was not simply a chapel. // Aber die Kultstätte im Angebot war heute aus einer etwas jüngeren Zeit. Die Widumkapelle wurde um 1330 erbaut, ursprünglich freistehendes Objekt, das später Teil des Pfarramts wurde. Bis in die  späten 90er Jahre wurde es als möblierten Besprechungsraum verwendet; nach umfangreichen Ausgrabungen im Jahr 2003 wurden die Fresken freigelegt und restauriert. Diese Fresken zeigen interessanterweise, dass die ursprüngliche Anlage nicht einfach nur eine Kapelle war.

IMG_1619IMG_1627While the eastern wall bears sacred images of Saints Christopher and Dorothy (both early Christian martyrs), // An der östlichen Wand befinden sich Bilder der Heiligen Christophorus und Dorothea (beide frühchristlichen Märtyrer),

IMG_1628…the western wall displays two jousting knights representing the Knights of Freundsberg and Starkenberg. // …die Westwand zeigt zwei Turniereritter, die Ritter von Freundsberg und Starkenberg.

IMG_1624The northern wall, meanwhile, bears the image of a kind of doorman/bouncer, ready to pummel any unwelcome visitors as they enter. There are also several crests of Austrian principalities.  Was this small building erected for official business between clergy and ruling nobility? A kind of ceremonial or memorial hall, as our guide today suggested? Historical research has not yet come up with the answer. // Wohingegen die Nordwand, das Bild von einer Art Pförtner / Türsteher zeigt, bereit, allen unerwünschten Gästen eins über die Rübe zu geben. Es gibt auch mehrere Wappen der österreichischen Fürstentümer. Wurde das kleine Gebäude für offizielle Zwecke zwischen Klerus und herrschendem Adel errichtet? Eine Art von Zeremonienraum oder Gedenkhalle (“Widum”, mit dem Wort “Widmung” verwandt) wie es unsere Führerin annahm? Die historische Forschung die Antwort noch nicht gefunden.

 

Remembering the Pogrom 1938

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In light of reports like here and here, one might start to think that Europe is going under any day. Reading beyond the headlines, one learns

[t]he trend in Europe does not signal the return of fascist demons from the 1930s, except in Greece, where the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn has promoted openly racist beliefs, and perhaps in Hungary, where the far-right Jobbik party backs a brand of ethnic nationalism suffused with anti-Semitism.

But the soaring fortunes of groups like the Danish People’s Party, which some popularity polls now rank ahead of the Social Democrats, point to a fundamental political shift toward nativist forces fed by a curious mix of right-wing identity politics and left-wing anxieties about the future of the welfare state.

Yes, the far-right groups are worrisome. No, we are not being taken over or sliding back into the 1930s.

That said, it is still supremely important to remember what happened, and today marks the 75th anniversary of the November pogroms in Germany, known as Kristallnacht. Efforts have been made in the last decades to stop using this latter name and call it what it was, a pogrom, and most formal reference to it uses Novemberpogrome. The old name is still around, though.
Innsbruck has a group of citizens dedicated to keeping the memory of the horrors in the Anschluss years from fading into obscurity. They have toiled for years publishing about many aspects of those years — the schools, the psychiatric system, the ethnic cleansing, the local resistance, and a lot more I can’t even think of right now — if you are looking for literature, this author has been especially prolific (I have read some of his books, and am impressed enough to recommend anything written by him.)
The commemorations this year include a concert featuring the work Concerto funebre by the late Innsbruck composer Bert Breit, dedicated to the Innsbruck victims of Kristallnacht; walking tours of the Altstadt with emphasis on its former Jewish residents; research projects for high school students at the City Archives; commemorative speeches at the entrance to the Jewish cemetery, followed by a silent march to the Pogromnacht memorial menorah near the State Govermnent Building (Landhaus), where a Kaddish will be recited.

I assume that other cities across Austria and Germany will be having similar events tonight.

Yesterday evening I attended a small reading and slide-show presentation of letters to one Erna Krieser, a young woman who left Innsbruck in the late 1930s to take a job with a rich family in Tuscany, from her immediate family. Her mother and twin sister write in ever increasing urgency about their situation — being forced to sell the family business, being told they must leave Innsbruck, eventually settling in the Jewish ghetto in Vienna, all the while hoping to find a way out and being too afraid to make any rash decisions — a reunion in South Tyrol becomes out of the question as the family learns they would not be able to return home. This is difficult for many younger listeners to understand, but without proper travel and residency papers, virtually nothing was possible, especially for a middle-aged couple and their daughter. On the other hand, if they had known what was in store for them (the parents perished in Auschwitz, Erna’s sister Käthe in the Lodz ghetto), would they have risked it? (A good novel on the kafkaesque labyrinth of bureaucracy one faced is “Transit”, by Anna Seghers). Their last letters, right up to the outbreak of the war, and the closing of all the borders, were filled with hoping against hope that someone would come through for them, and with enormous gratitude that their daughter Erna had got out (she was able to emigrate to Palestine.)

The readings were interspersed with selections from an old photo album, many “last photos” of Jewish Innsbruck families in their homes, on holiday, on the way out of Europe. The evening was titled Abschiedsbilder, farewell pictures, and presented by local author and filmmaker Niko Hofinger.

Kulturblogging: Die Hofkirche

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One of Innsbruck’s main attractions for the historically-minded is the Hofkirche, or Imperial Church (but no one calls it that, it’s just always the Hofkirche). As a tourist sight, the plain white exterior is deceiving (I heard it once remarked that the front facade resembles the face of a polar bear, and this pretty much pops into my mind every time I see it.) The interior, however, is impressive.

The Hofkirche was part of Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian’s last will and testament — and a beautiful sarcophagus was made for him there, although actually his remains ended up in the castle that was his childhood home, in Wiener Neustadt.

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Keeping watch over this empty sarcophagus (which makes it a cenotaph) are two lines of life-size bronze statues commonly referred to locally as die schwarzen Mander (“the black men”), although they are neither all males nor even black, but more of a beautiful, deep dark chocolate brown.

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The English Wikipedia entry for the Hofkirche describes these figures as being of “ancestors, relatives and heroes”, which is the best way of putting it. They are all titled, some go way back into the early Middle Ages (Clovis I, Theodoric), and the existence of one is now questionable (King Arthur, although he was surely assumed to have been an genuine person in Maximilian’s time.)

IMG_0583King Arthur’s statue in the Hofkirche

 

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I always found the large old clock high above the altar in Innsbruck’s St. James Cathedral a nice touch if a little unusual (do you really want your flock to be checking the time during the mass?) but the Hofkirche goes one better with a charming little clock which chimes the hour, as well as each fifteen-minute interval. This morning I had the honor of participating in a special Sacred Heart Sunday mass, which has special meaning in Tirol — in the time of the battles with Napoleon’s troops (see Andreas Hofer), promises were made that, in return for divine intervention on the battlefield, official masses would be celebrated in the province each year. During today’s service, the little clocked chimed throughout, even making the priests stop mid-prayer to wait until the hour was rung.

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And speaking of Andreas Hofer, he’s here too. Thirteen years after his execution in Mantua in 1810, his body was brought to Innsbruck and laid to rest in the Hofkirche, where his statue guards the entrance.

Maybe We Can Translate It As “Kakastrophe”

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One sees/hears a lot of English words which have been absorbed into the German language. Sometimes, like HD vs Blue Ray, you’ll hear competing German and English terms for certain things (“Computer” seems to have won out over “Rechner”, for example). But this one in the Tiroler Tageszeitung took me completely by surprise. I really would have expected to see it in quotation marks, since it probably came from the subject’s own Facebook posting (which would not have been in German).

The article, if you’re curious, states that the designated composer of a new anthem in honor of the upcoming Coronation in the Netherlands (the Queen is stepping down and handing the throne over to her eldest son. This is THE STORY up there right now) has withdrawn his composition after massive protest and ridicule from citizens. My Dutch friends assure me that it’s godawful. Hence the Anschiss.

Looking it up in the online German-English dictionaries, I find that the word “shitstorm” was named the 2011 Anglizismus des Jahres (Anglicism Of The Year), and not perfectly translatable, therefor accepted “as is” in the German language. There are links at the links, if you’re that interested.

“Witch Burning”

My local newspaper reports (g) on an upcoming event called the Hexenverbrennung, or Witch Burning, an old traditional custom in the somewhat remote region of Tirol called Ausserfern. I translate directly from the article, somewhat loosely for comprehension:

On the first Sunday after Ash Wednesday, to cries of “Vivat hoch, die Hex hat Durst — sie will auch eine lange Wurst!” (“Hurrah, the Witch is thirsty, and she wants a long sausage!”*) the communities of Jungholz, Musau, Pinswang and Weißenbach bring back an old heathen custom, driving the winter away with bonfires and Witch Burning.
In earlier times, boys went on “rag Thursday” from house to house, collecting rags “for the Witch”. The Witch — an effigy of hay and straw — would be made, dressed in a gown created from the colorful rags, and hoisted up on a long pole over the pyre. The fire is lit at nightfall. The custom symbolizes the driving out of Winter and is in no way connected to the witch burnings of the Middle Ages.
This old custom from Celtic times has become a popular event with the both the local population and tourists. Above all the social part, the party which lasts late into the night.
The fire is made to drive the evil Winter spirits from the fields and epitomizes the people’s yearning for warmth.

I assumed that this custom must be an old pagan one (bonfire) with some Medieval, early Christian stuff that had attached itself to it over time (the witch), until I remembered the Wicker Man. Roman sources alledge that the Druids made burning human sacrifices to Taranis, the god of thunder. Taranis’ influence apparently covered Gaul, the British Isles, and the Rhineland and Danube regions.
One difference is that the Druids, it is written, burned men.

Supporting sources at Sagen.at (g).

*I’m sorry, but does this sound like gang rape to you?

Hell Under Glass

While we are discussing concentration camps, here is a clip of Jake and Dinos Chapman discussing their work, “The End Of Fun”, which just finished showing at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. The camera zooms in quite a bit on this detailed, cast-of-thousands, miniature dystopian future, showing, well, their view of Hell. It’s not easy to describe, watch the clip. Lengthy but worthy of a look.

h/t to a commenter on a post at Club Orlov.

UPDATE: BONUS LINK. I knew there was another link I wanted to include here, but I had to wait until the fog of this Grippe cleared before I remembered what it was: here an article (with fascinating photos) of a rather unusual officers’ pow camp in Murnau, in southern Bavaria.

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UPDATE 2: Reader Paschberg sends this image of another representation of Hell, found embedded in a stone wall in Naples. Here the (burning) subjects seem to be aware of the glass, and press on it as if trying to escape.

KZ Reichenau Revisited

The event began with an audio recording of of a man named Klaus W., from Hippach (deep in the Ziller Valley), recounting the day the recruiters came to family’s home in the 1940s and said, “one (of you) must go” into labor service. He was chosen, to spare his parents and his sister. A simple story to give light to how these things had been done.

On a recent evening in January, the Wagnersche Bookstore (now owned by Thalia) hosted a presentation by Matthias Breit about Innsbruck’s concentration camp, in a part of the city called Reichenau. The main part of the evening included audio recordings of the recollections of Walter Winterberg, an Austrian man who had been interned there. What follows is a general summary of what we learned and heard on that evening. If I have made any egregious errors, please blame it on the bad head cold I’d brought along (and feel free to correct me.)

Reichenau Aerial

Reichenau was planned and built as a work camp for Italian (mostly) forced laborers who — for whatever reason — were labeled as in breach of their work duties (arbeitsvertagsbrüchig, how’s that word for you?) and in need of a little re-education. Many had probably tried to escape from the farms or factories to which they had been sent. Winterberg came from a Viennese family with some Jewish ancestry. Being a “Mischling“, he was ordered to report for a labor in the Reich’s air defence service. He went, then at some point decided to flee over the Swiss border and into France, in order to aid the French Resistance. (Little did he know that there were Swiss Nazi sympathizers at the borders then.) He was caught while still in Austria and sent to KZ Reichenau for several months before being sent on to Buchenwald.

Winterberg tells of a boy who had been brought from some eastern country, possibly Ukraine, who had suffered a bad work accident and, receiving no treatment, could no longer walk properly. He was then simply written off as unwilling to work, and sent to Reichenau. Another boy from the east, forced to work in southern Bavaria, had been accused of mishandling a child and sent off. This boy underwent the infamous punishment of being forced to strip naked in midwinter and being doused repeatedly with ice cold water until he died. These boys, and many others, were referred to within the camp as piccoli, “the little ones”, all around 12 to 16 years old. There were about 40 of them, and they mostly did maid’s duties: washing up, preparing food, etc.

He tells of Ukrainian inmates, young men, being sent out to clear debris after Innsbruck was repeatedly bombed in 1943. There were strict orders against any kind of looting, but a woman in town came up to one of the inmates and gave him a jar of marmalade. She probably thought she was helping him, and I hope for her sake that, when she died, she still believed that. In fact, when the jar was discovered by the guards, he was hanged.

Others came and went quickly enough to make acquaintance difficult. The average stay was 3 months. Many of the inmates arrived with no idea where they were, little if any idea where they would land next, and did not speak German. On the audiotape, Winterberg wonders aloud what happened to them all after the capitulation.

After the war’s end, the KZ Reichenau became a camp for displaced persons and later on some kind of public housing. It was torn down in the 1970s, to make way for the city’s recycling yard. A stone monument can be found nearby, at the side of the road.

The presentation was followed by an invitation to discussion, and this is where things got a little interesting and awkward. The first to speak, a man who looked to be in his 70s but who must have been older than that, said that he had been in the Wehrmacht and in a POW camp, and that upon returning, found no one interested in what he had gone through, since everyone believed that “all Wehrmacht were criminals”. He tried the “both sides did it” attack, an argument I have heard before, but found no sympathy among the other listeners. A second man said that one cannot look at history this way; this is an chronicle of what happened here in this place. We hear of Mauthausen and Dachau but this is a local story which needs to be heard.

A third man stood to say that he found Winterberg had “prettified” the situation in the camp by not stressing that it was in fact “ein durchgangsstation ins KZ” (“a way station to the concentration camp”, as if it were something not quite so nasty as a concentration camp itself). Breit reiterated several of the points made by Winterberg that the man seemed to have missed, that people were constantly being shipped in and out with little knowledge as to what would happen to them.

At this point my concentration skills were fading, I had a rather bad cold and my head was completely stopped up, but words were spoken to the effect that Winterberg didn’t have anything to complain about, he got through it well enough, he doesn’t mention anything terrible happening to him. Breit reminded the speaker that Winterberg states he was 49 kilos lighter by war’s end (108 pounds lighter ) This is where a woman spoke up and said: these are terrible things. When they are not dramatic enough, when this story, or this story, is not bad enough to make one find it terrible, then…

Breit wrapped things up: If too little horror appears in the reports of Reichenau, think then of the millions who passed through here, headed to their fates. This tale presented here is an historic reconstruction, not a tale of horrors. (This got me thinking of the recent need to make Holocaust stories ever more shocking. Simply being imprisoned and treated badly isn’t enough, the public wants some new godawfulness that they’d never heard of before. I thought until now that this was an American thing, but now I am not so sure.)

As we made to leave, two more listeners chimed in, not with opinions but with requests for their own projects. One man was researching another camp (I did not hear which), the other must have been Herr Muigg, who is gathering information about the Wehrmacht execution site on the Paschberg (de). I have seen his flyers posted there.

Update: thanks to information supplied by, believe it or not, a spammer , I have found that there was apparently another work camp called Reichenau, in the Czech Republic (Rychnov).

R.I.P. Patrick Leigh Fermor

I first came across the name Patrick Leigh Fermor in a biography about Bruce Chatwin; he and Robert Byron were his predecessors and influences in travel literature, and they were so neatly described that I immediately ordered old, out-of-print copies of Fermor’s “A Time Of Gifts” and Byron’s “The Road To Oxiana”. These books marked the beginning of a long and happy interest in the writings of people who have grabbed a rucksack and gone off to find adventures in a changing world.

It took me years, however, to get around to ordering the second installment in the planned trilogy, and the third book has yet to come out (although I was happy to read in Fermor’s obituary that a final draft may indeed have been completed, and may actually get published, in my lifetime I would hope…) I can’t be too saddened to hear of his death, at age 96. He lived a long, full and happy life, and cheered many, many people along the way with his delightful stories.