15 MAY 1936, Page 32

In Search of the Picturesque

Wanderings in Yugoslavia. By Nora Alexander. (Skeffington. 18e.)

AN interesting essay might be written on the British habit of eccentric foreign travel and the ways in which it shows itself. It has nothing to do with culture ; the French are a more cultivated people and do not travel nearly so much as the British. It has-little to dO with wealth : rich-people lend to stay within the range of luxury hotels. It has little to do with adventure : adventurers go where the money is. The days of the explorer are not over, but explorers who do not explore for gain must either lie ascetics like Charles Doughty and the missionaries, or else have far more money than the ordinary traveller. There is in Britain a large class of would- be explorers who would have liked to traverse Darkest Africa or trace the Upper Amazon to its source, but who cannot afford the time or money. They make for any country which is both " unspoilt " and cheap. They used to please themselves in Germany or Italy or France. Coleridge wandered in the Harz and Robert Louis Stevenson in the Cevennes and Mr. Belloc on the Path to Rome. But regimes have changed and the pound has fallen. German castles and Italian mountain cities seem to have lost their charm. The modern traveller : seeks relief in Spain or Austria or Yugoslavia, where people are sympathetic and the pound is still the pound.

Mrs. Alexander's book is a chatty record of a jolly walking tour in Yugoslavia. The author has the first great qualification for a good narrator : she was determined to enjoy herself and did.- She may have listened rather uncritically to what the people she met told her about the Terrible Turk or the Great War or their own splendid qualities. But, true or not, some of her stories are good stories and, though continual ecstasy does not make for purity of style, the reader understands why Mrs. Alexander was excited. There is nothing like love at first sight, and she fell in love with the Southern Slays, as many others have done before. The Bosnian towns and the Dalmatian islands are beautiful enough to turn the strongest head. Mrs. Alexander found a romantic peasantry living in a countryside of idyllic loveliness. She saw little else:•—even in poverty-stricken Macedonia, even' in the inns, where she only twice found bed-bugs. It is ungenerous to carp at her 'enthusiasm. She does herself and her subject most justice in her photographs. Several of these are excellent.