Diary of a Pilgrimage by Jerome K. Jerome

I ought, of course, to sit down in front of this diary at eleven o’clock at night, and write down all that has occurred to me during the day. But at eleven o’clock at night, I am in the middle of a long railway journey, or have just got up, or am just going to bed for a couple of hours. We go to bed at odd moments, when we happen to come across a bed, and have a few minutes to spare. We have been to bed this afternoon, and are now having another breakfast; and I am not quite sure whether it is yesterday or to-morrow, or what day it is.

Jerome K. Jerome’s hilarious Three Men in a Boat is one of my favourite novels from the late Victorian period. I have since tried several of his other books – Three Men on the Bummel, The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow and now this one, Diary of a Pilgrimage – hoping to find another one as good, and although I’ve found them slightly disappointing in comparison, they are still amusing and entertaining. His books also tend to be much shorter than the average Victorian classic and are perfect if you need something light and uplifting between longer, more challenging reads.

Diary of a Pilgrimage, first published in 1891, is very similar to the Three Men books in structure and style. Our narrator, J, is off on his travels again, this time on a ‘pilgrimage’ to Germany to see the famous Passion Play at Oberammergau, a performance which has been regularly taking place there since the 17th century. Accompanied by his friend, known only as B, J travels first from London to Dover, then across the English Channel to Ostend and on to their destination by train. Along the way they stay in several hotels, visit some places of interest including Cologne Cathedral and, of course, find themselves in plenty of ridiculous and embarrassing situations.

Only a short section of the book is devoted to the Passion Play itself because, as J tells us, it has already been written about many times before. He spends much more time describing the places they pass through on the journey, the funny things that happen to them and the people they meet – such as the very boring man who never stops talking:

After the dog story, we thought we were going to have a little quiet. But we were mistaken; for, with the same breath with which he finished the dog rigmarole, our talkative companion added:

“But I can tell you a funnier thing than that -”

We all felt we could believe that assertion. If he had boasted that he could tell a duller, more uninteresting story, we should have doubted him; but the possibility of his being able to relate something funnier, we could readily grasp.

But it was not a bit funnier, after all. It was only longer and more involved. It was the history of a man who grew his own celery; and then, later on, it turned out that his wife was the niece, by the mother’s side, of a man who had made an ottoman out of an old packing-case.

A lot of J’s anecdotes involve his struggles to make himself understood in various foreign languages (he finds it particularly difficult to order an omelette) and the cultural differences he notices between Germany and England. The train journey also poses lots of problems, such as buying the right tickets, finding that other passengers have taken the best seats, and trying to interpret confusing timetables:

“Drat this 1.45! It doesn’t seem to go anywhere. Munich depart 1.45, and that’s all. It must go somewhere!”

Apparently, however, it does not. It seems to be a train that starts out from Munich at 1.45 and goes off on the loose. Possibly, it is a young, romantic train, fond of mystery. It won’t say where it’s going to. It probably does not even know itself. It goes off in search of adventure.

“I shall start off,” it says to itself, “at 1.45 punctually, and just go on anyhow, without thinking about it, and see where I get to.”

Diary of a Pilgrimage is not what I would describe as a ‘must-read classic’ but it’s a bit of light-hearted fun, which I think we all need now and then!

Dubrovnik

I probably haven’t been away long enough for anyone to have noticed my absence, but I’ve just returned from four days in Dubrovnik. It was the first time I’ve been to Croatia and I thought it was a beautiful country with some spectacular scenery. We were lucky enough to have good weather while we were there too.

I’ll have some books to tell you about soon, but while I finish writing my reviews I thought I’d leave you with some of my pictures…

Rooftops of the Old Town

Dubrovnik Rooftops

Old Town Harbour

City Harbour

Stradun (the main street), viewed from the city walls

Stradun

St John Fortress

St John Fortress

St Lawrence Fortress

St Lawrence Fortress

Lopud Island (one of the Elafiti Islands to the north-west of Dubrovnik)

Lopud Island

The beautiful Adriatic Sea

Adriatic Sea

I’ll be back to talk about books in a day or two – including one set in Croatia which I started reading on the plane!

An update…

Sorry for the unannounced disappearance last week! I’ve been to Venice for a few days and was meaning to post about it before I went but never got round to it.

I’m starting to catch up now with all your blog posts I’ve missed while I’ve been away, as well as writing about all the books I’ve been reading recently. But for now, I’ll leave you with some pictures from my trip to Venice. It’s the first time I’ve been and it’s as beautiful and unique as everybody says it is.

The Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs

One of Venice’s many canals

Canal

Gondolas

Gondola

Gondolas 1

The Grand Canal

Grand Canal

View across the lagoon to San Giorgio Maggiore

Lagoon

The waterfront near San Zaccaria

San Zaccaria

St Mark’s Basilica

St Marks Basilica

And two pictures taken on the island of Murano

Murano 1

Murano 2