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New Europe

Introduction

Michael Palin - New EuropeMany times, too many times, I've woken, 35,000 feet in the air, in that limbo-land between the end of an old day and the start of a new one, after a long flight from somewhere far away. I've pushed up the window shutter and peered out at the twinkling lights below and wanted to be down there, in a real house with a kitchen table and eggs on the stove and coffee on the hob.

More often than not, it's eastern Europe that I see waking up below me and though it's only two hours from where I live, I realise with a jolt that I know more about Hong Kong or the Hindu Kush than what it's really like down there.

Of all the continents I've touched in the nineteen heady years since we started out on Around the World in Eighty Days, Europe is the one in which I've lingered least, partly because it is so close to home, and partly because much of it has been in serious disarray. Our planes were bombing Serbia only eight years ago. But since the start of the twenty-first century Europe has begun to sort itself out. East and West have drawn closer. There have been no major conflicts. Countries once suspicious of visitors now welcome them with open arms. So when it came to reuniting Saga Platoon for one more adventure it seemed that there was a gap to be filled. The continent I had flown over on so many dark mornings could not be ignored any longer. It was time for Europe. And time to get out my trusty, increasingly tattered, Penguin Encyclopaedia of Places.

'Europe: Apart from Australia, the smallest of the continents. It occupies about seven per cent of the earth's land surface. On the other hand it is second to Asia for size of population, containing over 20 per cent of the world total.'

And therein lay the first problem. An awful lot of people to meet.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: New Europe
  • Chapter: Introduction
  • Country/sea: England
  • Place: London
  • Book page no: 6

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