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Neither Here nor There : Travels in Europe [Paperback]

Bill Bryson
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)

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Like many of his generation, Bill Bryson backpacked across Europe in the early seventies -- in search of enlightenment, beer, and women. Twenty years later he decided to retrace the journey he undertook in the halcyon days of his youth. The result is Neither Here Nor There, an affectionate and riotously funny pilgrimage from the frozen wastes of Scandinavia to the chaotic tumult of Istanbul, with stops along the way in Europe's most diverting and historic locales. Like many of his generation, Bill Bryson backpacked across Europe in the early seventies--in search of enlightenment, beer, and women. Twenty years later he decided to retrace the journey he undertook in the halcyon days of his youth. The result is Neither Here Nor There, an affectionate and riotously funny pilgrimage from the frozen wastes of Scandinavia to the chaotic tumult of Istanbul, with stops along the way in Europe's most diverting and historic locales.

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IN WINTER, Hammerfest is a thirty-hour ride by bus from Oslo, though why anyone would want to go there in winter is a question worth considering. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rucksack traveling through Europe. May 29 2004
"Traveling is more fun," Bill Bryson (aka "Bernt Bjornson") observes in this hilarious account of his backpack travels through Europe, "hell, life is more fun--if you can treat it as a series of impulses" (p. 131). After first backpacking through Britain, Ireland, Scandanavia, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy in 1972 (p. 13), as a "skinny, shy" 20-year-old American from Iowa, lost in "private astonishment" (p. 20), and then returning with Stephan Katz (Bryson's memorable hiking companion in A WALK IN THE WOODS) the following summer (p. 20), Bryson attempts to recapture that experience nearly twenty years later in NEITHER HERE NOR THERE. Bryson lived in England for fifteen years before setting out on his midlife pilgrimage from Hammerfest, Norway to Oslo, Paris, Brussels, Belgium, Cologne, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Stockholm, Rome, Naples, Florence, Milan, Como, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Yugoslavia, Sofia and Istanbul. While the result is characteristic Bryson, this book doesn't quite hit the mark of some of Bryson's other books (e.g., A WALK IN THE WOODS, A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING, NOTES FROM A SMALL ISLAND), primarily for the following reason.
Somewhere along the way, Bryson lost his sense of "private astonishment" for Europe. Wherever he travels in this book, and as hard has he tries, Bryson is unable to recapture his youthful sense of wonder for Europe again; it is neither here nor there. As a result, and as numerous other reviewers have previously noted, this is the travel narrative of a xenophobic tourist, who finds very little to praise about his experience traveling through Europe.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as his other books Oct. 4 2000
I was quite curious to see what Bryson would make of Milan, the city where I live. I'd already read quite a few of his other books so I was looking forward to an interesting, intelligent read. Instead, I was amazed: the man was unable to find a coffee shop in the centre of town.
This makes me have my doubts about Bryson as a travel writer. If he couldn't find a coffee shop in a town that has at least two on every block, who knows how many other things he is wrong about? Can I trust his observations on other countries?
On the positive side, the book is amusing, the anecdotes about his youth are funny and his observations are interesting even if after a while they become somewhat trite and predictable. They usually run along the lines of "Why would anyone in their right mind tear down this <insert word here> to put up a modern <insert word here>"). This is a book that's certainly worth reading, even if it's not worth taking seriously.
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2.0 out of 5 stars A tailspin into mundanity July 14 2004
By A Customer
after reading "A Walk In the Woods", I was extremely excited to get my paws on another Bryson book. I was dissapointed. "Neither here nor there" has about half the humor, one tenth of the adventure and even less of the overall appeal of "A walk in the woods". It is a book that starts off on a promising note, with a description of his quest to see the northern lights in northern norway in the middle of winter; it had me thinking, 'great, here we go, typical Bryson, doing whacky things that come to him on a whim'. However, as the book progresses it digresses into a mundane journal of the rather ordinary wanderings of a solo traveler. Part of the problem is that he makes very little effort to interact with others. Because of this there is an awful lot of, " I went from the train station, found a hotel, had some dinner, drank a coke, went to bed" kind of "action" that even Brysons astounding propensity for making ordinary situations seem extraordinary cannot save it. One other major flaw it seems is that Brysons trip had no ultimate goal, no purpose. It seems to me that most satisfying travel literature begins with the author expressing a desperate need to find or achieve something, then chronicles the pursuit and struggle to meet those ends, cope with failure, and come to some kind of grand catharsis. My all time favorite, "tales of a female nomad" is the story of a womans need to find something fufilling in her life and in herself after essentially losing the "family woman role" that had come to define her. Her travels are not planned to a T, but she does travel cognisent of purpose/goal/need, and this makes that book very compelling indeed. Read more ›
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4.0 out of 5 stars Vintage Bryson In Europe June 30 2003
NEITHER HERE NOR THERE is one of Bryson's earlier travel books, conceived somewhere around 1991. It is a tour of Europe, excluding Spain, Portugal, and Greece. Bryson's method of operation is to steer clear of tours and find lodging and food as needed; his planning is in maps and cultural background reading. He travels by foot, train and bus. This formula produces more winning museum visits and views than desirable rides,lodging and food, but he is not a glass half empty kind of guy. He voices his opinion about bad food and attitudes but he is generous with praise when it is deserved.
There is much to enjoy in this book: Bryson's style of humor, often bratty and tear-inducing in its hilarity, is full throttle. While it is not a muse or a sentimental journey, his travels coincide with the 1973 itinerary of his hitchhiking days with pal Steven Katz, the memorable sidekick from A WALK IN THE WOODS. Bryson sprinkles this book with memories and lessons learned from that first foray. The one thing NEITHER HERE NOR THERE lacks is the degree of information with which he packs his later books, particularly IN A SUNBURNED COUNTRY. As he sets off in Paris, he visits a musty old bookstore called Shakespeare & Company and says nothing--c'mon, Bryson, think Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein, Joyce! He does get better as he gets into the trip, though, and refuses to let Austria and Kurt Waldheim off the hook for their roles in World War II.
One last note: it is interesting to see Europe before the Euro and Sarajevo and Belgrade in that sliver of time between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the devastation of the 1990s. This book is at once very contemporary (American fast food chains everywhere) and yet historic.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious!!
this book made me laugh out loud…soooo funny!! I have become a devoted Bill Bryson fan thanks to this book. :-)
Published 8 months ago by W.W.T.
1.0 out of 5 stars Neither Here Nor There
Not for the serious travel buff. I have been to almost all the same places and found it incredible that Bill Bryson made such little effort to interact with the locals. Read more
Published 16 months ago by travelguy
5.0 out of 5 stars Laugh out loud hilarious
For an American, Bryson writes in a refreshingly candid British style, full of stereotypes and sarcastic observations. Read more
Published 19 months ago by K. Gill
2.0 out of 5 stars Funny read, at times annoying
I would rate this book as the witty, clever ramblings that are to be expected from an American who has spent around half of his life living in England. Read more
Published on Feb. 9 2012 by KafkaSmooth
3.0 out of 5 stars Neither very funny nor terribly annoying
This is the first book by Bill Bryson I've read. I was attracted to the fact that he wrote light and funny books. Read more
Published on April 4 2007 by richard tremblay
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Bryson's best
Bryson's best book is "Notes From a Small Island," about traveling in Great Britain. It's one of the funniest books I've read. Read more
Published on July 6 2004 by Thomas D. Kehoe
4.0 out of 5 stars Very funny!
A Short History of Nearly Everything was my first venture into the world of Bill Bryson, but I don't think I truly enjoyed his writing until I read his travels in Europe. Read more
Published on June 21 2004 by Justin
2.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre at best
Sure he's kind of funny, but this book was more frustrating than rewarding for me. Bryson here seems to be extraordinarily ethnocentric and much of the humor is from looking down... Read more
Published on May 17 2004 by R. Dean
4.0 out of 5 stars Bryson could make anything funny
I love Bill Bryson. I've read almost all his books, and each time I finish another one, I get a little sad thinking there are now fewer left for me to get to. He is that good. Read more
Published on March 19 2004 by Jerry Brito
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Memoir
I picked this book up on a whim. I found myself near the Travel section and it just called my attention. Read more
Published on Feb. 23 2004 by Daniel M. Perez
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