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The Walker's Anthology

The Walker's Anthology

Sample 3: Walking at Night

Contents | Introduction | Sample 1: Setting Out | Sample 2: Through Countryside | Sample 3: Walking at Night | Sample 4: On Hills and Mountains


Through Rotterdam before dawn, 1950


Setting out on the long journey which would carry him across Europe as the clouds of war were building up, Leigh Fermor landed at the Hook of Holland, and through the snowy night went by train to Rotterdam, arriving at dawn.
I wandered about the silent lanes in exultation. The beetling storeys were nearly joining overhead; then the eaves drew away from each other and frozen canals threaded their way through a succession of hump-backed bridges. Snow was piling up on the shoulders of a statue of Erasmus. Trees and masts were dispersed in clumps and the polygonal tiers of an enormous and elaborate gothic belfry soared above the steep roofs. As I was gazing, it slowly tolled five.
The lanes opened on the Boomjes, a long quay lined with trees and capstans and this in its turn gave on a wide arm of the Maas and an infinity of dim ships. Gulls mewed and wheeled overhead and dipped into the lamplight, scattering their small footprints on the muffled cobblestones and settled in the rigging of the anchored boats in little explosions of snow. The cafés and seamen’s taverns which lay back from the quay were closed except one which showed a promising line of light. A shutter went up and a stout man in clogs opened a glass door, deposited a tabby on the snow and, turning back, began lighting a stove inside. The cat went in again at once; I followed it and the ensuing fried eggs and coffee, ordered by signs, were the best I had ever eaten …
The landlord asked where I was going: I said, “Constantinople”. His eyebrows went up and he signalled me to wait: then he set out two small glasses and filled them with transparent liquid from a long stone bottle. We clinked them; he emptied his at one gulp, and I did the same. With his wishes for godspeed in my ears and an internal bonfire of Bols and a hand smarting from his valedictory shake, I set off. It was the formal start of my journey.
A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople


The Walker's Anthology


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