Those who have crossed the Alps with Bernard Levin in Hannibal's Footsteps know the pleasure of travelling with him - the delights (and shocks) of discovery, the pauses for reflection, history, art and cuisine, the meeting of new and old friends, the side-trips within as well as without. Now there is the chance to follow an excursion along the entire course of another of Levin's heroes - the river Rhine itself. From its trickling in the Swiss peaks to the mighty Dutch delta where it empties into the North Sea, we follow the noble waterway which has spawned dark legend and bright music, religious fervor and war, castles, steel mills, galleries, cathedrals and co-educational bathing. It is a journey of stimulating variety; a heartstopping Alpine helicopter flight, shooting the rapids in a rubber dinghy, hunting in the Black Forest and wishing for death at the Dusseldorf funfair. Levin spends time with a Swiss army regiment who make him feel like Alexander the Great, meets a musical instrument maker who transports him to the court of the Medici and stops off at Lichtenstein under the pretence of mooring some off-shore millions. At the Schubertiade he greets Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, at the 4711 perfumery he encounters the Nose of Cologne and in Strasbourg he says 'boo' to some geese. Levin formulates new theories of physiognomy when confronted with Kurt Waldheim at close quarters at the Bregenz Festival and with the bust of Beethoven in Bonn. He plays tribute to the Bible of Gutenberg, the Issenheim Altar of Grunewald and the genius of Rembrandt at the Rijksmuseum. In Basle he basks in contemplation of Erasmus; at Worms he shivers at the thought of Luther. And it is in Baden-Baden that he learns a thing or two while bathing (hot and cold) with naked ladies. The subject of a six-part series on Channel Four, Levin's Rhine journey traces an erratic and intriguing march of time, from lofty ancient fortresses to freshly-concocted seats of power. The river has been and will continue to be witness to a great tide of events and deeds o its waters and its shores. The monuments and mysteries it washes up have in Bernard Levin a fascinated chronicler. All the photographs, including those on the jacket, were taken by Graham Edgar.
Bernard Levin's other travel works are Enthusiasms, Conducted Tour and Hannibal's Footsteps, which was made into a Channel Four television series. He is also the author of four anthologies of journalism, Taking Sides, Speaking Up, The Way We Live Now, and In These Times.
To the End of the Rhine by Bernard Levin
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