I had this experience also. That "old world" feel is kind of depressing in this day and age. I began by trying to strip off old sticky varnish with the citris stripper, but couldn't really get back to the original wood even with several applications. Same for any other type of stripper. The bleaching process won't work until you remove the varnish, so forget that idea. Even if you did remove the finish, you'll find that most bleaching products really don't do as advertised.
Now if the paneling are quality wide plank, tongue and groove boards (not plywood), paint would be something of an insult to this material, in that the cost of wood installation is several times that of conventional drywall. There's no sense putting up wood if you're going to hide the grain.
In my situation, I removed each board from the wall with a punch and hammer, and then planed and sanded them. I used citris stripper along the molded edges as best I could, and then I stained the wood with a very light natural color.
Be careful with the color that you plan to use because over time pinewood naturally darkens anyway.