in his travelogue A Time of Gifts, Patrick Leigh Fermor describes a stopover at an inn along the Danube, en route to Istanbul in the winter of 1933. He falls into conversation there--as Paddy is wont to do--about regional history with a local polymath. For Fermor's benefit, the older man sketches ancient civilization out on the back of his copy of the Neue Freie Presse--the Marcomanni tribe here, the Quadi there--little circles of semi-permanent existence alongside the Danube's sinuous line. "And suddenly, at last something happens," exclaims the polymath, invoking Attila and his horde with a slash of graphite through the Viennese classifieds. "Everything starts changing place at full speed! Chaos!"
The sudden flurry of activity is a welcom…Read more >