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It'll be great to walk 1400miles across Europe in my hero's hob-nailed footsteps. But there's no way I'll get chance to kidnap a Nazi general; ADVENTURER'S TREK FROM NETHERLANDSTO TURKEY INSPIRED BY WORLD WAR II LEGEND; 80 years on Euro hike to raise cash for children's charity.

Byline: | Mark Woods

He was the real-life Indiana Jones, a former soldier whose globetrotting adventures made James Bond look dull by comparison.

Patrick Fermor would go on to become the country's greatest travel writer after walking the length of Europe alone a year before Hitler came to power.

The decorated war hero's daring coup to abduct a German commander during World War II was turned into a Hollywood movie with Dirk Bogarde playing the adventurer.

More than 80 years later, retired designer Phil Crane is now set to retrace Fermor's footsteps and march solo across eight countries.

Phil, 68, said: "This all started when I read Patrick's obituary in the paper. I was fascinated by what he'd done.

"The walk that he did in 1933 has been in my head for almost seven years. I had a heart operation in 2012 and that delayed it. But this year I've got to do it.

"Patrick took lifts in early automobiles and rode a horse at one point. His idea was to get a cultural feel for Europe because he was only 18 at the time.

Travel writer Patrick Main, "My idea is to walk the whole way. I'm not sure anyone's ever done that."

It's a mind-boggling 1400-mile journey that will see the former aquarium designer, from Edinburgh, set off on February 12 - his 69th birthday - and march solo through eight countries as he follows Patrick's path from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople, now Istanbul. Patrick, with just an old army coat, a pair of hobnailed boots and some letters of introduction, set off on December 8, 1933, less than a year after Hitler had come to power in Germany.

He slept in barns, shepherds' huts and monasteries but also was invited by landed gentry and aristocracy into the country houses of central Europe.

He took 13 months to reach his destination, with his tour including a romance with a Transylvanian countess and encounters with a host of character0s Phil who gave him a bed for the night along the way.

He arrived in Istanbul on January 1, 1935, then continued to travel around Greece while he started writing about his travels.

Patrick moved to Romania, only returning to Britain when war was declared in 1939 so he could enlist.

Phil once hitchhiked from London to Australia, straight after spending three months canoeing down an 800-mile stretch of the Amazon through Bolivia, at a time when you were more likely to meet a bandit than a backpacker.

He said: "That's why I think I can do this walk. The Amazon trip took three months, we ran out of food and had to catch piranhas to eat. It was characterbuilding. It's not my first great expedition - and might not be my last."

But Phil won't copy Patrick's daring kidnap of a German commander after joining the Irish Guards.

Fluent in Greek, he was one of a small number of Special Operations officers posted to Crete to organise the island's resistance to the occupation.

Disguised as a shepherd and nicknamed Michalis or Filedem, he lived for more than two years in the mountains.

In 1944, he and a group of commandos captured and evacuated the island's German commander, General Heinrich Kreipe.

In 1957, the daring capture - which became a PR coup for the Allies - was made into movie Ill Met by Moonlight. Actor Bogarde met Patrick, then a successful travel writer, to talk about his life. His most famous books - A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water, are about his first solo trips.

Phil hopes that his walk will reignite interest in the books and raise money for charity.

But, at the moment, he just wants to make sure he's fit enough to do the walk.

He said: "I've been in the gym three days a week as well as doing a heavy aerobic session and playing basketball for two hours every Saturday.

"I exercise every morning in the park in Edinburgh so some days I've done 300 press-ups before lunch.

"I've been out camping in the Pentlands to test out my tent and all the stuff I know I'll need.

"I've also been trying the wonderful dried food I'll keep to use on the nights I can't book up a cheap B&B because it's impossible to book ahead when you're not sure how many miles you'll manage on any given day.

"I might be going up hills or through boggy forest or it might be snowing or raining. If it's windy, that slows you down. So there will be times I just camp.

"My aim is to do 100 miles a week. In my greatest dreams, I might manage 130 miles a week. But it will depend on the terrain and whether I pick up any injuries. I don't know how hard it'll be.

"I've done 20 miles in a day before but that's not day after day. I'll need to take one day off a week to be sensible."

Phil will be cheered on by his kids and grandkids and he's on the hunt for others to fly out and join him for chunks of the way. But the trip won't solely be a slice of swashbuckling self-indulgence.

The big goal is to raise sponsorship cash for Edinburgh's Royal Hospital for Sick Children so patients can get the chance to dream of long-distance adventures of their own.

He said: "This is going to take six months. So hopefully people can follow my journey and donate along the way."

Phil's fundraising page is: phil-s-walk-across-europe

PHIL'S EPIC TREK Designer Phil will set off on February 12 - his 69th birthday.

NETHERLANDS He will march solo through eight countries as he follow's Patrick's path from The hook ofHolland to Istanbul.

ISTANBUL The brave adventurer hopes to do 100 miles a week.


NO FEAR Travel writer Patrick Main, Phil

MISSION Patrick, right, with fellow soldier William Stanley Moss, who helped capture General Kreipe

ADVICE Patrick, above left, with actor Dirk Bogarde, who starred in film, left, about his daring coup to capture Nazi general
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 31, 2017
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