Neither Here Nor There:: Travels in Europe

Neither Here Nor There:: Travels in Europe

by Bill Bryson

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Overview

In the early seventies, Bill Bryson backpacked across Europe—in search of enlightenment, beer, and women. He was accompanied by an unforgettable sidekick named Stephen Katz (who will be gloriously familiar to readers of Bryson's A Walk in the Woods). Twenty years later, he decided to retrace his journey. The result is the affectionate and riotously funny Neither Here Nor There.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780380713806
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/15/2001
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 346,086
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.72(d)

About the Author

Bill Bryson's bestselling books include One Summer, A Short History of Nearly Everything, At Home, A Walk in the Woods, Neither Here nor There, Made in America, and The Mother Tongue. He lives in England with his wife.

Hometown:

Hanover, New Hampshire

Date of Birth:

1951

Place of Birth:

Des Moines, Iowa

Education:

B.A., Drake University, 1977

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

To the North

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. It is on the edge of the world, the northernmost town in Europe, as far from London as London is from Tunis, a place of dark and brutal winters, where the sun sinks into the Arctic Ocean in November and does not rise again for ten weeks.

I wanted to see the Northern Lights. Also, I had long harbored a half-formed urge to experience what life was like in such a remote and forbidding place. Sitting at home in England with a glass of whiskey and a book of maps, this had seemed a capital idea. But now as I picked my way through the gray late December slush of Oslo, I was beginning to have my doubts.

Things had not started well. I had overslept at the hotel, missing breakfast, and had to leap into my clothes. I couldn't find a cab and had to drag my ludicrously overweight bag eight blocks through slush to the central bus station. I had had huge difficulty persuading the staff at the Kreditkassen Bank on Karl Johansgate to cash sufficient travelers' checks to pay the extortionate 1,200-kroner bus fare -- they simply could not be made to grasp that the William McGuire Bryson on my passport and the Bill Bryson on my travelers' checks were both me -- and now here I was arriving at the station two minutes before departure, breathless and steaming from the endless uphill exertion that is my life, and the girl at the ticket counter was telling me that she had no record of my reservation.

"This isn't happening," I said. "I'm still at home in England enjoying Christmas. Pass me a drop more port, will you, darling?" Actually, I said: "There must be some mistake. Please look again."

The girl studied the passenger manifest. "No, Mr. Bryson, your name is not here."

But I could see it, even upside down. "There it is, second from the bottom."

"No," the girl decided, "that says Bernt Bjørnson. That's a Norwegian name."

"It doesn't say Bernt Bjørnson. It says Bill Bryson. Look at the loop of the y, the two l's. Miss, please."

But she wouldn't have it.

"If I miss this bus when does the next one go?"

"Next week at the same time."

Oh, splendid.

"Miss, believe me, it says Bill Bryson."

"No, it doesn't."

"Miss, look, I've come from England. I'm carrying some medicine that could save a child's life." She didn't buy this. "I want to see the manager."

"He's in Stavanger."

"Listen, I made a reservation by telephone. If I don't get on this bus I am going to write a letter to your manager that will cast a shadow over your career prospects for the rest of this century." This clearly did not alarm her. Then it occurred to me. "If this Bernt Bjørnson doesn't show up, can I have his seat?"

"Sure."

Why don't I think of these things in the first place and save myself the anguish? "Thank you," I said and lugged my bag outside.

The bus was a large double-decker, like an American Greyhound, but only the front half of the upstairs had seats and windows. The rest was solid aluminum covered with a worryingly psychedelic painting of an intergalactic landscape, like the cover of a pulp science fiction novel, with the words "Express 2000" emblazoned across the tail of a comet. For one giddy moment I thought the windowless back end might contain a kind of dormitory and that at bedtime we would be escorted back there by a stewardess who would invite us to choose a couchette. I was prepared to pay any amount of money for this option. But I was mistaken. The back end, and all the space below us, was for freight. "Express 2000" was really just a long-distance truck with passengers.

We left at exactly noon. I quickly realized that everything about the bus was designed for discomfort. I was sitting beside the heater, so that while chill drafts teased by upper extremities, my left leg grew so hot that I could hear the hairs on it crackle. The seats were designed by a dwarf seeking revenge on full-sized people; there was no other explanation. The young man in front of me had put his seat so far back that his head was all but in my lap. He had the sort of face that makes you realize God does have a sense of humor and he was reading a comic book called Tommy og Tigern. My own seat was raked at a peculiar angle that induced immediate and lasting neckache. It had a lever on its side, which I supposed might bring it back to a more comfortable position, but I knew from long experience that if I touched it even tentatively the seat would fly back and crush both the kneecaps of the sweet little old lady sitting behind me, so I left it alone. The woman beside me, who was obviously a veteran of these polar campaigns, unloaded quantities of magazines, tissues, throat lozenges, ointments, unguents, and fruit pastilles into the seat pocket in front of her, then settled beneath a blanket and slept more or less continuously through the whole trip.

We bounced through a snowy half-light, out through the sprawling suburbs of Oslo and into the countryside. The scattered villages and farmhouses looked trim and prosperous in the endless dusk. Every house had Christmas lights burning cheerily in the windows. I quickly settled into that not unpleasant state of mindlessness that tends to overcome me on long journeys, my head lolling on my shoulders in the manner of someone who has lost all control of his neck muscles...

Neither Here Nor There. Copyright © by Bill Bryson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 62 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Negative remarks seem forced and are offendive. He comes off as the ugly American. He should have stayed home.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read his books & saw the movie, A Walk in the Woods, but I will NEVER buy another of his books. He was losing me with his constant belittling - parts were funny but they were clouded over by the negative remarks then he declared that he wished all dogs be shipped off to an island and all poodles should be shot to death. I now agree with the reader who said Bryson should lose his passport. There is no reason to be so critical & so cruel - who enjoys reading such as that. I am finished with Bill Bryson.
katgirlKB More than 1 year ago
I read this on the plane returning from Europe, and it was a humorous, quick read that brought a smile to my face and had me almost laughing out loud as Bryson so remarkably described the experiences I had just undergone attempting to cross streets in Paris and Rome, or weeding through tourists in Florence in an attempt to see the beautiful sights the city offered. A nice collection of short essays reflecting back on his travels 20 years earlier, as well as describing his return visit more recently. After reading it, I had no desire to add Naples or Capri to the bucket list of travel, but would love to spend time in Bruges some day. He brings each location to life through his vignettes.
JYakus More than 1 year ago
I havn't read in years. I was given "A Walk In The Woods" and read it on the way home from Maine this summer. I became hooked on Bill Bryson's books. Neither Here Nor There is an entertaining look at a man who's traveled many lands, and in his witty sense of humor, makes Europe look both pleasing and monotanous. If you're not pleased and inspired to see the world or at least somewhere besides your local town by reading this book, you should stop reading, period!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorite books of all time! I'm an avid reader and seldom ever read a book twice. Like the cliche, there are just too many good books and so little time. This book, however, I've read too many times to count. Never has a story induced tears of laughter nor joy in reading aloud to friends. Neither Here Nor There is a permanent fixture in my living room and whenever I need a chuckle, I only have to open to a random page and I'm lost in one of Bryson's hilarious travel ordeals. If someone doesn't find this book laugh out loud funny, they're either a prude or have no pulse.
Anonymous 9 months ago
I laughed myself silly in some parts and had contemplative moments in others. Enjoyable all the way.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a European living in America for quite some and having travelled with friends across Europe, this was a hilarious book to read. It was a little profane for my liking at times but it hit the bull's eye frequently about Europe and specifically the experience of Americans in Europe.
flydodofly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Yes, I did laugh out loud at times, but I was also surprised to notice that Bryson seems to be annoyed by more than a few things, and quite negative, too. Now I keep thinking whether that was the case with other books I have read, and I just cannot remember...?
loralu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this book, Bryson takes a journey through Europe that somewhat follows his original backpacking journey 20yrs prior. It is wonderful to see his reflections from then to now, as well as see his thoughts on new cities he hadn't previously gone too. Once again I was laughing out loud throughout the trip, all the while updating my list of places to go and things to see. A must read for those wanting to visit Europe.
TianaWarner on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Possibly the best travel book I've read.
voz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I should have known better, after Bryson's abysmal book on Australia, which read as though it was written without leaving hotel rooms. In this, he at least gets out amongst people. One gets the impression he is just going through the motions for his book publisher; it lacks any read depth and the emphasis on stereotypes became tiresome. I had no doubts Bryson is a funny guy, but this is just lazy.
ecw0647 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Bryson writes hysterical travel books. In this one he sets out to re-create a backpacking trip of Europe he made during the seventies when he was twenty. His descriptions of people and places will have you falling out of your chair. The beer he is offered in Belgium, for example, defies his palate. He just can¿t associate the taste with any previous experience, but finally decides it puts him in mind of a very large urine sample, possibly from a circus animal. (He should have stuck with Coca-Cola, nicht wahr, Wendell?) Bryson has truly captured some of the giddy enjoyment that I experience when traveling in a foreign country where one does not speak the language. ¿I can¿t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can¿t read anything. You have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work. . . . Your whole existence becomes a series of interestingguesses.¿At the Arc de Triomphe, some thirteen streets come together. ¿Can you imagine? I mean to say, here you have a city with the world¿s most pathologically aggressive drivers -- who in other circumstances would be given injections of valium from syringes the size of basketball jumps and confined to their beds with leather straps -- and you give them an open space where they can all go in any of thirteen directions at once. Is that asking for trouble or what?¿Interspersed are salient comments about traveling on European trains. ¿There is no scope for privacy and of course there is nothing like being trapped in a train compartment on a long journey to bring all those unassuageable little frailties of the human body crowding to the front of your mind ¿ the withheld fart, the three and a half square yards of boxer shorts that have somehow become concertinaed between your buttocks, the Kellogg¿s corn flake that is unaccountably lodged deep in your left nostril,¿. . .and rude comments about the Swiss: ¿What do you call a gathering of boring people in Switzerland? Zurich.¿ He reveals some funny stories about himself. ¿I had no gift for woodworking. Everyone else in the class was building things like cedar chests and oceangoing boats and getting to play with dangerous and noisy power tools, but I had to sit at the Basics Table with Tubby Tucker and a kid who was so stupid that I don't think we ever learned his name. We just called him 'Drooler.' The three of us weren't allowed anything more dangerous than sandpaper and Elmer's Glue, so we would sit week after week making little nothings out of offcuts, except for Drooler, who would just eat the glue. Mr. Dreck never missed a chance to humiliate me. 'And what is this?' he would say, seizing some mangled block of wood on which I had been laboring for the last twenty-seven weeks and holding it aloft for the class to titter at. 'I've beenteaching shop for sixteen years, Mr. Bryson, and I have to say this is the worst beveled edge I've ever seen.' He held up a birdhouse of mine once and it just collapsed in his hands. The class roared. Tubby Tucker laughed so hard that he almost choked. He laughed for twenty minutes, even when I whispered to him across the table that if he didn't stop it I would bevel his testicles."It used to be -- not as common now as formerly -- that each public washroom had an attendant whose job it was to keep everything clean, and you were expected to drop in some change for his or her income. The sex of the attendant was irrelevant to the sex of the washroom and Bryson had difficulty getting used to the idea of some cleaning lady watching him urinate to make sure he didn't "dribble on the tiles or pocket any of the urinal cakes. It is hard enough to pee when you are aware that someone's eyes are on you, but when you fear that at any moment you will be felled by a rabbit chop to the kidneys for taking too much time, you seize up altogether. You couldn't have cleared my system wi
Harrod on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Bryson, as always, makes me laugh.
Edith1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Travelogue of Europe. At times funny, at times a bit uneventful, but it was an easy read and not boring. And Bill and I seem to be in agreement on those countries that we both visited.
Oreillynsf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While not Bryson's strongest book, NHNT is a fun chronicle of his travels in Europe, from Norway to Italy. His recount of a visit to a dirty book store in Hamburg is funny enough to warrent the price of a book. This book is less about people and more about the places, which I think is why it falls a little short of the others. More like Notes from a Big Country than Notes from a Small Island. But there's one unique benefit -- we meet Katz, the guy who accompanies him on the Appalachian Trail some 25 or so years later. Read mroe about Katz in A Walk in the Woods.
carrieprice78 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a funny book. Of course it was, it was Bill Bryson. I enjoyed it, but wondered how much things had changed in the time since he's been there until now. I think a lot has probably changed, all over Europe. Nevertheless, it was a joy to read and gave me some good ideas of places I'd like to visit someday. It also led me on to Philip Ziegler's "The Black Death," which he mentioned several times in the book. Bryson's a good summer read, but he can be quite intellectual too. A couple of the scenes made me laugh out loud, for example, waiting in a ticket booth line somewhere in Sweden. A must-read for Europhiles.
BeeQuiet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another lovely, and hilarious book by Bill Bryson. I read this whilst travelling, which is what I would suggest for anyone. You can share the frustrations, the joys, and even find yourself writing your own travel blog in an increasingly Brysonesque voice.
skinglist on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my first Bryson's -- love his comparison of the world pre and post the fall of Communism
etxgardener on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Bill Bryson is a funny guy and this book about his re-treacing of his first trip to Europe made me laugh out loud more than once. He shows his various stops on the continent warts and all - even poking fun at himself. This book is a joy for an arm-chair traveler.
rommy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had high expectations of Bill Bryson. I was expecting a witty and intelligent commentary loaded with depth, philosophy, and style. I was disappointed. Although brief moments stood out in this book, I don't find him to be an intriguing person. He's a homebody from Iowa that seems to only enjoy himself when he is comfortable, when things are simple, and when there's CNN in every hotel room he goes to. Most frustratingly, his broad generalizations of places and people in Europe based on a couple bad experiences lack any objectivity that an otherwise intelligent person might have. Everything sucked or everything was awesome. His flashbacks to his time traveling with Katz were the fun parts, because they seemed the most real to me. But his traveling as a mature adult seemed to cater to a lowest common denominator of broad pop culture intelligence, reinforcing xenophobic stereotypes that the average American has of Europeans, most of which were dead wrong, but probably sell a lot of books.
cinesnail88 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I like travel essays a lot, and have read a good few. I've read three of Bryson's other books, and I had a rollicking good time with each of them. This book was a bit different. Yes, I had fun, and Bryson's sense of humor was ever present, but this book almost seemed like a step by step of his journey across Europe, which I suppose it was. At times it seemed repetitive, but overall it was enjoyable enough, and somewhat enlightening at points.
Niecierpek on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I like Bryson very much, but this must be his weakest book. It is a travelogue from his backpacking trip across Europe. He is retracing his steps, from Norway to Istanbul, from the journey he made with his friend Katz eighteen years earlier.Unfortunately, it is truly neither here, nor there. What we mostly learn about is where Bryson slept, had coffee and how many beers he had each night, and how expensive it all was. These irrelevant facts take up a disproportionate amount of text as opposed to the interesting historical, sightseeing and cultural remarks. This information is there as well, thank goodness, as otherwise it wouldn¿t even be `neither here, nor there¿, but `nowhere¿.I enjoyed parts of it, had an occasional chuckle, but I wouldn¿t have finished it, if I hadn¿t read it by bits over a good few weeks.I don¿t think I can really recommend it.
mmh166 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved it. Biting sarcasm throughout. Bryson is my hero. Those who complain about his "ignorance" have clearly missed the point and should stick to Fodors or Frommers if they're looking for a travel book.
ptpdx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I believe this was the first book of Bryson that I've read. And, I have to say that his writing is very witty and fun to read. I bought this to read on my first trip to Eastern Europe. Having read this one, I would like to read more of his stuff.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book makes me want to travel. Witty. Educational. And easy to pick up where you left off.