I am a voracious reader and it is literature that will often sway me to a particular travel destination. It might be an article in Sunday’s New York Times travel section or a piece written in one of my favorite travel magazines. Though more than likely it’s a novel that I read which temporarily transported me from my comfy armchair to some wonderful foreign land. That was certainly my reason for booking the Scandinavia / Russia cruise that leaves this month!
I first read “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” while in middle school. If you haven’t read it, the diary chronicles the two years young Anne and her family live hidden away from the Nazis in a little section of Anne's father's office building that is walled off and hidden behind a swinging bookcase during the time of German-occupied Amsterdam. I reread it again a few years ago, finding a copy amongst my son’s school books and was so moved by it, I knew I had to one day climb the steps to that tiny historic secret annex (pre-booked my ticket online).
I felt another pull towards Amsterdam after my book club read “Girl With a Pearl Earring”, by Tracy Chevalier. This is a novel that merges history and fiction. It is the story of a 16-year old girl who becomes a maid in the house of the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. Her life is transformed by her brief encounter with the artist as she is immortalized in canvas and oil. The actual painting by the same name is housed at the Mauritshuis gallery located in The Hague, an easy day trip from Amsterdam. I’d love to fit this in my upcoming travel itinerary!
Along with 60 million others, I read the wildly popular Stieg Larsson Millennium Trilogy. There are now walking tours in Stockholm based ""The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"", ""The Girl Who Played with Fire"", and ""The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest"". You start the 2 hour tour on the island of Södermalm, at Bellmansgatan 1, the home of the main character, Mikael Blomqvist and you walk your way through key locations in the books; bars, cafés, and of course, past Lisbeth Salander’s apartment. The tour ends at the Stockholm City Museum where you can check out a Millennium exhibition. Definitely on my “to-do” list!
Its no wonder I feel so strongly compelled to visit St. Petersburg, Russia. I have read countless stories that take place in the city. I loved the soap operaish plot of Tolstoy’s ""Anna Karenina""…lust, love, betrayal heartache, and forgiveness all set in Russia during the late nineteenth century. Along those same lines, I thoroughly enjoyed ""Dr. Zhivago"" by Boris Pasternak. The novel tells the story of a man torn between his love for two women while caught in the tumultuous course of twentieth century Russian history. Another book worth mentioning is by one of my favorite authors, Ken Follett. ""Fall of Giants"" is an epic novel spanning Russia throughout the entire 20th century.
After I booked my Scandinavia / Russia cruise (which leaves in just a few weeks) I wanted to learn a bit more about Russian architecture, history, the Czars that once ruled so I read three Robert Massie biographies; ""Peter the Great"", ""Catherine the Great"" and ""Nicholas and Alexandra"". These books were detailed, interesting and easy to read, leaving me better prepared for the things I will see during my 2-day St. Petersburg stay.
Do the books you read influence where you travel?