I've just finished Patrick Leigh Fermor's 'The Broken Road' - the last part of his journey across Europe in the 1930s to Constantinople. In three books of magical prose he charts his walk through a vanished world. I came to his books in the late 80s - eleven years after the first describing his walk - 'A time of gifts'- was published; and was immediately captured by that, and when it appeared, by its successor 'Between the woods and the water'. This last part of the journey was a long time coming; Fermor found it difficult to write in his increasing old age, and it's more discursive. Still, the old sparkle shines through.
But the journey breaks off before he reaches his destination, and we have no coruscating descriptions of Constantinople. Hints of what might have been are found in writing of the remains of Byzantine culture along the way in south eastern Europe, but Constantinople itself? Yes, he arrives there, yes, he is absorbed by those in the city who expected him, and to whom he is introduced, but nothing remains in his prose to tell us of those days, what it meant to arrive, what he felt he had accomplished.
It's a disappointment, to this reader at least. But maybe it's a fitting end, on further reflection; maybe the journey is always more important than the arrival. For Christians, the notion of journey, and especially of pilgrimage has been a significant way of structuring understanding of the life of faith. I cannot tell my journey in such wonderful prose, my encounters do not scintillate like his, but the journey has been an endless source of recollection, recapitulation, learning, reflection. It has been a time of gifts, sometimes a broken road, but the road lies ahead, and I intend, with God's grace, to walk it to the end, to a city more captivating even than Byzantium of old.