Roumeli is not to be found on present-day maps. It is the name once given to northern Greece—stretching from the Bosporus to the Adriatic and from Macedonia to the Gulf of Corinth, a name that evokes a world where the present is inseparably bound up with the past.
Roumeli describes Patrick Leigh Fermor’s wanderings in and around this mysterious and yet very real region. He takes us with him among Sarakatsan shepherds, to the monasteries of Meteora and the villages of Krakora, and on a mission to track down a pair of Byron’s slippers at Missolonghi. As he does, he brings to light the inherent conflicts of the Greek inheritance—the tenuous links to the classical and Byzantine heritage, the legacy of Ottoman domination—along with an underlying, even older world, traces of which Leigh Fermor finds in the hills and mountains and along stretches of barely explored coast.
Roumeli is a companion volume to Patrick Leigh Fermor’s famous Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese.
…Mani and Roumeli remain extraordinarily engaging books. This is partly thanks to Leigh Fermor’s ability to turn an insight into a telling phrase…and partly thanks to his capacity to weave a compelling story out of sometimes unpromising material. One of the best tales of all is the hilarious digression in Roumeli on the attempted recovery of a pair of Byron’s slippers from a man in Missolonghi, on behalf of Byron’s very odd great-granddaughter Lady Wentworth…When you see through all the nonsense about Hellenic continuity, there is, underneath, a much more nuanced account of the ambivalences of modern Greece, its people and its myths (its own myths about itself and us, as much as our myths about it).
— Mary Beard, The London Review of Books
Recommended to those who admire exotic people, unbookish intelligence and captivating style.
— Gilbert Highet
Roumeli is not a beginning and middle and end book, but a series of pictures loosely related, mainly placed in Roumeli, in the north of Greece. Its unity, however, is not geographic so much as psychological. It deals with secluded ways and people—communities but not minglers—people who either by the necessities of their crafts or the strength of their traditions have kept to their own stream, side by side but not deeply affected by the changes around them….Placed as we are at probably the most sudden turn in history, any writing that deals with what has so short a time of survival ahead adds, as it were, a museum interest to its own intrinsic qualities. These pictures of Greece are things that a coming generation will look for in vain among the realities of their day.
— Freya Stark, The New York Times