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Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Literary matters


It was not possible for us to take enough books to read during a whole year. However, this was not a problem, as we were often able to swop books with other travellers and this was an excellent opening line with new friends. Some campsites in Spain in particular, have books in English you can take away. We swopped books and DVDs with Mike and Theresa each time we met up with them - this is the excuse for putting their photograph here.

We have tried to read some books that provide some background to the countries we have travelled in. Below is a list of some of the ones we found most informative.

Books about Europe generally:

  • Europe in a Motorhome, HD Jackson – covers southern Europe and useful motohoming information
  • In Europe: Travels through the 20th Century, Geert Mak – fantastic book with so much information
  • Journey through Europe, John Hillaby – a walk from northern to southern Europe about 30 years ago
  • A Little History of the World, EH Gombrich – excellent background to European history

Books about particular countries:

  • The Dark Heart of Italy, Tobias Jones – good background for contemporary Italy
  • Pompeii, Robert Harris – good historical and geographical background for the Bay of Naples
  • A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway – set in Slovenia and Italy in the first world war
  • Ghosts of Spain, Giles Tremlett – good background for contemporary Spain
  • Soldiers of Salami, Javier Cercas – A well put together story fluctuating between the present day and the Spanish civil war
  • Driving over lemons, Chris Stewart – an ex-pat emigrating and farming near Orgiva
  • A Moment of War, Laurie Lee – A well written account of his time in the Spanish civil war (George Orwell's book is also fantastic, if you are interested in this period)
  • Zorro, Isabel Allende - an excellent tale and good background to Spanish colonialism in north America
In addition, we have Rough Guides or Lonely Planet guides to each country we have travelled in, depending on what has been available in the charity shop or shops when we arrive in the country, we don't really have a preference.

Walking and cycling guides

In Austria and Italy (usually) it was possible to buy local walking maps, which is our preferred way to plan days out walking. However, in Spain and Portugal we have not been able to find suitable scale maps and would advice others to buy maps from Stanfords, via their excellent on-line shop, before setting off.
The following guides have been useful:
  • Walking in The Algarve, Julie Statham, a Cicerone Guide - 34 walks on the coast and in the countryside around The Algarve.
  • Walking in Adalucia, Guy Hunter-Watts - walks in Natural Parks in Andalucia. We used this in Aracena and around Ronda and found it very useful.
  • Cycling Southern France, Loire to Mediterranean, Richard Peace - information and routes for cyclists.
  • Slovenia (Landscapes), David Robertson and Sarah Stewart - Very useful book for walks in Slovenia and includes some driving tours and picnic ideas.

For the countries we were sure we were visiting we took a dictionary and phrase book. Otherwise, the Berlitz European Phrase book is a permanent part of the kit in our van; ours covers 12 languages and means we will never find ourselves in the Netherlands not even knowing how to say thank you again.

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