Many years ago, much before the travel bug ensnared me in its magical web, I had already begun my voyages around the world on the wings of my imagination fueled by an insatiable appetite for books. I traveled to far away places and learnt about different cultures, I learnt about people in far away lands, about exotic locations, great cities and civilizations.
And then one day, I started traveling to the very places about which I had read again and again, places about which I had stared in awe through the visual graphics conjured up by my imagination. It really was a heady feeling as I felt that I had entered the realm of the book itself and could almost hear the characters speaking their lines.
This post is an ode to the literary magic of the great writers who penned these masterpieces as well as the lovely places they set their stories in. Constraints of time and space compel me to restrict my account of these wonderful experiences to a few, but needless to say, they are many, and hopefully I can pick up the thread again in a later post.
Heidi the name of the heroine of a book by the same name had captured my young imagination as she wandered around the Swiss Alps, followed by a cute little lamb, gamboling behind her. Heidi is a childrens’ fiction by the Swiss author Johanna Spyri. The Swiss countryside and The Alps are as much a character in this book as any of the others and provide a beautiful setting to a lovely story. Years later, when I visited Switzerland, the years seemed to have fallen away from me as I reveled in the heavenly beauty of Switzerland, its meadows and mountains.
One man chases another and kills him in the silent halls of one of the most famous art Museums in the world. The dying man arranges himself in a strange and convoluted pattern on the floor before breathing his last. Thus begins a race to unravel the pieces of a veritable jig saw puzzle.
It was with an eerie feeling that I walked into the Louvre, through the famous Pyramid main entrance. Memories of the book and the movie haunted me as I recalled the hero of the book, Robert Langdon, doing the same. The book seemed to come alive in front of me as I traced his footsteps along the Louvre. I took the very trail as described in the book. I stared in awe at the Mona Lisa, again torn between fact and fiction, I wandered through the halls marveling at Leonardo Da Vinci’s creations, one part of my mind expecting a Robert Langdon or Sophie Nevue to step out of the shadows any minute!
These are some experiences that have emerged from the realms of books and metamorphosed into reality for me, however there are many destinations which are still confined to the pages of the books that I have read and imagined about, these are places that are still on my bucket list.
I share two such dreams with you and hope that they too would fructify into reality very soon.
Much before I came to associate the city if Amsterdam with Tulips, I had read about this city in the heart wrenching book, “The Diary of Anne Frank“. The book is the English translation of the writings of a young girl in Dutch which recounts her life in hiding during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Anne and her family hid in a secret, sealed off portion of her Father’s office and were later joined by her Father’s business partner and his family. The secret hiding place was concealed by a movable book shelf and was known to only a few trusted associates. Anne kept a diary in which she poured her heart out. After a period of about two years of hiding the family was betrayed and were whisked off to Nazi concentration camps. Anne Frank died in the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen at the young age of 15.
The book had a great impact on me and I would love to visit Amsterdam and the house where Anne Frank hid with her family and bow down to the indomitable spirit and courage of this young girl.
Charles Dickens has been an all-time favorite author for me and many of his books left a deep and lasting impact on my mind. “Oliver Twist“, “Great Expectations” and what I consider as his greatest work, “David Copperfield“, have kept me mesmerized for hours and days together. My first introduction to the city of London was through the books of Charles Dickens. I walked with a vulnerable 11 year old David on his trip from London to Dover in search of Miss Betsey and I could feel his loneliness on hearing the church bells ringing on that Sunday morning.
I ran away with Oliver Twist to London where he met the Artful Dodger and started living with the ‘Gentleman”, Fagin and his gang of juvenile pickpockets.
London and England of a bygone era come alive in Dickens’ books and have always inspired me to travel to this land, the birth place of a language that has become my own, a land where the earth was kissed by the hallowed footsteps of great masters like William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens among many others.
This article was also published on Huffington Post. Check out here.
Which books have inspired you to travel?
How have you felt when a place, about which you have read in a book, stretches out in front of you?
Would love to hear about your thoughts and experiences on this, please feel free to go ahead and comment.