Sometimes a great piece of fiction can be the best inspiration to travel. I have written in a previous blog about my trip in Northern Ireland and how we visited location shoots of the famous HBO series Game of Thrones (favorite!!!!), and the truth is that it’s just one of many fine examples. Some of the best and most iconic works of literature to come out of Europe deal intimately with incredible destinations. And if this is the sort of thing that interests you, there’s something to be said for visiting these destinations with the appropriate books in hand.
These are a few fun examples to think about.
Pamplona, Spain (The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway)
Many of us think of The Sun Also Rises as a high school curriculum book, but if you skipped it in school (or forgot its contents) it’s worth another read. As much as any other work, this book established Hemingway as one of the greatest American novelist, and as perhaps the best example of the power short sentences and simple words can have when arranged correctly. Telling the story of a group of expatriates in Spain in the years following World War I, it deals intimately with the town of Pamplona – a place Hemingway is said to have revered in his own time. In this case the author is so closely tied to the location that you can actually follow his footsteps through town in a sort of unofficially organized tour.
Venice Lido, Italy (Death In Venice by Thomas Mann)
This is a novella that can rub some people the wrong way, in that it largely concerns an aging author’s lustful fascination with a young boy. However, it’s also widely considered to be a terrific piece of writing, and it’s one of the more accessible examples of the fact that Thomas Mann is about as beautiful a writer as has lived in 150 years. The book follows the aforementioned aging author, Gustav von Aschenbach, on a retreat to the Venice Lido – a small island off the coast of Venice. It’s a wonderful place to visit regardless, but reading this book there you can get a sense for why Mann seemed to view it as the perfect place for his character’s retreat.
Bran, Romania (Dracula by Bram Stoker)
When we think of Dracula today, we think of a sort of caricature of a vampire that can trace its inspiration back through innumerable projects. The recent film Dracula Untold attempted to form a darker image after numerous games turned the character into a sillier villain. One such game, the Dracula slot by NetEnt, specifically notes that the story has been adapted across theatre, film and TV many times, but took its own lead from the 1931 Universal film. That film in turn was inspired by Bram Stoker’s original novel – which happens to have been partially inspired by a real figure: Vlad Tepes, a ruthless ruler in 15th century Romania. Vlad’s castle still stands, but it’s the beautiful Bran Castle that’s become popularly known as “Dracula’s castle.” Reading the original novel while visiting this area and seeing the fortress is a remarkable experience.
Birmingham, England (The Lord Of The Rings & The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien)
Nowadays we tend to associate the lands of Tolkien’s masterpiece fantasy series with New Zealand. Indeed, the town of Hobbiton is a real place in New Zealand that many people visit. But it’s actually a far less spectacular area that is said to have inspired Tolkien. That would be the town of Birmingham, northwest of London. This is where Tolkien lived at times during his childhood, and by all accounts he made a sort of fantasy land out of the perfectly ordinary surroundings there. Visitors today can tour the “Tolkien Trail” to see sites like an old mill and a brick tower that inspired specific locations in the novels. If you’re a true literature enthusiast, or a big Lord Of The Rings fan, there’s something special about booking a room in Birmingham and flipping through the series.