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The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us (WanderLearn Series Book 2) Kindle Edition
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Francis Tapon dedicated a part of his life to travel and describe the world. His first book “Hike Your Own Hike” is for those who like to get travel experiences by foot. As a consequence, it would have been loved by a small circle of readers, but “The Hidden Europe“ is dense with information which is full of action and humor. His work is a result of about 3 years travelling in 25 Eastern European countries.
Because the name “Eastern Europe” is stigmatized, from the first part of the book Francis gives the reason why he included particular counties in that region. There are many definitions of Eastern Europe, and most identities are spatial. For that reason, the chapter with introduction takes up many pages explaining geographical reasons for the selection of lands. In the same chapter, he advocates himself for using generalization. Many conclusions in this book are brought up from the process of generalization. As a result, a number of readers from these countries might disagree with the opinion of the author. But generalization on the other hand gives us the way to judge. Stereotypes are just side effects of generalization.
To fill this book with unique information Francis tried to immerse into a local life as much as possible. He stayed in private apartments using his account in Couchsurfing, he got to know locals and visited different cities, dealt with weather, homesick and local authorities. As a result, he not only expressed the full characterization of each country and its brief history, but he also conveyed national moods. In other words, he did a terrific job. Hats off to him.
What we should know is that the book is not an insult for particular traditions or habits. It shows full picture of how things are going on specific countries.
I look forward to his next book about Africa.
First, the book is, truly, a great achievement, being a vast volume comprised mostly of firsthand experiences in Eastern Europe. There was much valuable information in this sense alone, in a purely travelogue-type way. Also, there were many informative historical briefs for each country and its people, which I also found valuable (insofar as brief historical treatments can be valued, anyway). Second, the author offered many intelligent, sound analyses based on these experiences, along with what he felt they could teach us. Usually, his logic and conclusions were above-average and reasonable, respectively. The author impressed me as genuinely enamored with the world, and concerned for its well-being. The book was often funny, to boot, with a steady sprinkling of clever wisecracks -- never a bad thing, humor.
One negative, however, was the scathing, insulting tone used throughout the text (or so I perceived the tone; perhaps hearing these things spoken aloud would've clarified my perceptions). People and practices were regularly judged as "stupid," "retarded," or "crazy," along with lots of generalizing and conclusion-jumping thrown in the mix. While these things wouldn't normally have bothered me, the fact that, in the book's preface, the author himself denounced all such shallow thinking, lent an annoying, double-minded dimension to it all, making the book a bit hard to read. It would be like me saying "Francis Tapon is a stupid idiot for calling people stupid idiots." In this sense, the book had a third dimension, presenting a study of how even a seemingly intelligent and self-analyzing person can blatantly contradict themselves. (But then, who of us are without our contradictions and mental blindspots?)
All in all, I enjoyed this book very much, and benefited from it. So, a big thank-you to the author and the book's subjects.