Fisherman’s tale to be a real catchBy Linda Fort
April 01, 2010
When Sonning Common author Tom Fort first crossed Eastern Europe in 1990, fishing as he went, he was often the first Englishman the locals had ever seen.
His first trip was shortly after the fall of the Iron Curtain, when the River Danube was “the sewer of Europe” and people had not been allowed to travel from their own countries.
He returned in 2008 revisiting old haunts and meeting old friends – mainly keen anglers – to see how the countries – Poland, Hungary, Romania and the newly formed Czech Republic and Slovakia – had changed.
Against The Flow is his latest book, telling the story of the two trips relating the way Eastern Europe has been transformed by political and economic change.
Father-of-five Mr Fort, 57, said: “When I first visited, making a phone call meant spending at least a day in a PTT office waiting to make the call.
“This time I could sit on the banks of the River Danube fishing and chatting on my mobile phone.
“The only useful currency on the first trip was the dollar and there were one million zlotys to the pound.
“Now the zloty is tied to the euro and there are banks everywhere with cash machines.
“Everyone is much richer too.”
Mr Fort is a keen fisherman and at the time of his first trip he was the angling writer for the Financial Times and a BBC sub editor.
The River Danube, once filthy, was now clean enough to fish, he said, but smaller, more remote rivers had been spoilt by development.
“On my first trip, most of the rivers were completely unspoilt and utterly beautiful but now many of them are lined with holiday homes,” he said.
The people had changed little, still hospitable in a way that would put the English to shame, but he thought they were perhaps a “little more suspicious”.
And with good reason – since the area has become the stomping ground of British lads on stag dos drinking their way around Europe.
He said: “I tracked a group on my last day in Krakow and I must say I felt ashamed to have any connection with them.
“When I first went to Krakow the streets were lined with Polish drunks lying in the street.
“On the second trip, I found the Poles sitting drinking lattés and wondering why the English have to get so drunk.”
Mr Fort will be talking about his travels on Radio Berkshire on Saturday, April 10, on the Henry Kelly show and on the BBC Radio 4 travel programme Excess Baggage on Saturday, April 17.
He has written a number of successful books including Under The Weather, Downstream, the Grass is Greener and The Book of Eels. His latest book Against the Flow is published this week by Century at £14.99 and will be in bookshops from tomorrow.