A book accompanying the TV series always fails to offer a sense of discovery, yet, for devoted followers like me, in Palin’s case, is a blissful sin of marketing. We all lit up when a hard copy of New Europe with Palin’s portrait on the cover landed as a present in our living room. Especially, as this time, he travels through my home region, Central and Eastern Europe.
I have always believed that Michael Palin must be one of the nicest people on Earth. He comes in second to David Attenborough in terms of personal heroes because he stays humble and light-hearted even in less comfortable situations. I grew up watching him show me the world, which clearly isn’t as rosy as in his documentaries, yet I am generally grateful he resists being diminutive. I have read all his books, I have seen all his travel programmes. I am definitely what you call a fan.
This historic admiration puts me in an awkward situation when trying to review his new book, because I could certainly criticize him for many things. The question is whether I want to. Someone who has given, and continues to give you joy should never be criticized. Still, I feel blind fanatism on the long run would lead to untruthful consequences, so it is with a heavy heart when I say the series have seem to have become a routine and Palin’s crew rushes through these European countries. For me, they lacked interesting, not-stereotype-like material and fail to break through the “grey” image of post-communist countries. I admit, the sights here are not always as exotic and as spectacular as elsewhere. The thrill lies more in the history of the region, but looking to the past, showing signs of the bloodshed these nations strive to put behind, is an easy way to get away with the show. I know it’s hard to go around the past, but naturally it hurts my sense of PR when the potential and interestingness of Central and Eastern Europe stays in the background.
Maybe I just have more hands-on experience with this part of the world, maybe I was over-enthusiastic. I don’t know. To top it all, being a native, I am oversensitive of course. I know I am. But you should never wait for an outsider to tell you new things about you homeland either.
Despite all the above, I am not the type who has a heart to take an idol to pieces. I certainly wish Michael Palin would have enjoyed his trip more, but surprisingly, he is no less likeable in my eyes. Do you happen to know when he is setting off again?