Michael Palin
New Europe

Author: Michael Palin
Read by: Michael Palin
BBC Audio
RRP: 25.00
ISBN: 978 1 8460 7199 7
Available 08 October 2007

In his seventh voyage of discovery Michael Palin reads his own account of a journey into a new Europe. Michael Palin: New Europe
starts with a simple idea: that only a couple of hours from home is a half of Europe that is for him as unknown and unexplored as the plateau of Tibet or the vastness of the Sahara. Cut off for most of his life by Cold Wars and Iron Curtains, Europe’s eastern lands are now open for business - and Michael sets off to discover them...

Michael Palin: New Europe may sound like the ex-Python has gone soft (is he really too old to travel far from the comforts of home now?) but this adventure is as much a voyage of discovery as any of Palin's other journeys, as he finds himself in countries he'd barely heard of, many of them new names on the map, many unfamiliar and mysterious, all with tragic histories and much brighter futures.

Starting in the snows of the Julian Alps, on the borders of Italy and Slovenia, Palin heads east to discover the half of Europe he never knew. Visiting twenty countries, more than in his Himalaya and Sahara journeys combined, he encounters painful memories and exuberant celebrations. Throwing himself into local life with his usual reckless curiosity, he samples pig fat with a brandy chaser, meets Romanian lumberjacks, drives the 8.58 stopping train from Poznan to Wolsztyn, learns about mine-clearing in Bosnia, treads the catwalk at a Budapest fashion show and watches Turkish gents wrestling in olive oil.

While in the past I've been a huge fan of Palin's various travel shows (well, except for the below par Himalaya) I'd never listened to one of his audio books. And to be perfectly honest I wasn't sure what to expect. The six CD collection is simply Palin recounting his adventures. I was expecting the odd background sounds of the countries he visited, or the voices of the people he met on his travels, but none of these were present. Instead Palin carries the whole production on his broad shoulders like the accomplished speaker and story teller that he is. Even when he provides the voices of the people he met you are totally sucked into the adventure.

There are numerous highlights in this collection. As well as the examples mentioned above, Palin also meets two people whom he met on other travels, and maybe familiar to you; gets to watch a camel wrestling tournament; visit Dracula's castle in Transylvanian; watches locals firewalking; attends a tank driving school; and explores the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

This is Palin at his best.

Darren Rea

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