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How does Historical Fiction influence your trip?

I was just rereading a trip report I submitted last week and I hadn't realized how much historical fiction (books, not movies) has influenced how meaningful a trip can be for me.

When I think back, the first historical fiction that I remember reading was A Tale of Two Cities in high school many, many, many years ago. Because of that book and multiple readings since, the French Revolution has always been of interest to me and influenced my decision making of what to see in France. Another heavy influencer for France was Les Miserables. I also remember reading that Notre Dame was never really that famous until the Hunchback took up residence and the story influenced the rebuilding and renovation of the cathedral in the 19th century.

Pompeii by Richard Harris had me bouncing up and down when I finally got to visit.

I've had quite a fascination with Elizabeth the 1st and was so excited to see her tomb at Westminster Abbey and also visit Hampton Court Palace thanks most recently to stories by Ken Follett and Bernard Cornwell.

I also get excited when I see plaques for where famous authors lived such as the many for Dickens, or when I saw where Mary Shelley lived in Bath when she wrote Frankenstein. Typically, once I've read fiction that has real historical figures in the plot line I start researching this history so I'm able to separate fact from fiction and when I see the actual placed it adds a new dimension and historical understanding to my travels. However, sometimes I feel like I'm alone on an island, as other people just take their photos and move on or don't even care or understand the relevance of seeing something such as Aethelflaed's plaque in Warwick. Am I alone or has fiction influenced anybody else's travel decisions and added a sense of wonderment once you got there?

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1418 posts

Me too. We are headed to London the end of April and Dickens’ stories have definitely influenced my planning for our upcoming trip. Reading about Henry VII is behind our Hampton Court day and Bletchley Park due to numerous reads about WWII.

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7633 posts

Well, my answer seems pretty low-brow after your erudite answer! Yes, my trips have been influenced by things I've read.

I love the Regency era novels and thus loved Bath for those connections. The "good" Regency authors are careful with their historical facts and reference actual streets and other historical sites in Bath. While I'm not a particular Jane Austen fan, one year I planned my travel dates around the Jane Austen Festival in Bath and loved seeing people dressed in Regency garb. So fun to live in a bit of a fantasy!

The novel Sarum as well as the Ken Follett novels about building medieval cathedrals has influenced my wanting to see and understand those churches. There is a section in Sarum about the stone carvers and I always think of that when I am in Salisbury Cathedral. There is one stone carving of a man's face in a chapel that I'd swear looks like the model on those 80's bodice rippers, Fabio - flowing hair, chiseled nose! The Cathedral also has a Medieval Graffiti tour which I'd love to take. That kind of incidental makes the carvers come alive for me.

I also like to stop and see plaques. I usually stay on Ebury Street in London and there is a Blue Plaque noting the address where Ian Fleming lived. Not particularly a James Bond fan but wow, I love to know thinks like that. Mozart lived on the other end of the street and yes, I smile when I see his house too.

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3978 posts

I am not influenced one iota, particularly by films and tv programmes. Croatia was a great place to visit before it got swamped by Game if Thrones groupies - I haven’t seen a single episode.

I don’t understand the mentality of visiting a place because a tv programme was filmed there, rather than visiting because it’s intrinsically an interesting place to see or stunning countryside - for example Highclere where Downton Abbey was filmed - there are far more interesting stately homes in the U.K.

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11704 posts

I read Labyrinth prior to a trip to the Languedoc area. It added some interest. I personally gained more by studying actual history. For instance, it took a lot of searching to learn that Cathars weren't just a Christian sect with different traditions but were Gnostics - which is why the Pope ordered a crusade against them.

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2089 posts

While I am a fan of historical fiction--and also non-fiction and biographies of Europeans--my biggest influence was the Paddington the Bear books I read around age 8; they nurtured a life-long interest in London and thus when I started travelling London was the first place I went. Anne Frank's diary read at age 10 started my interest in WWII and particularly the plight of the European Jews, thus another important trip included a visit to the house in Amsterdam.

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9409 posts

Sarum, as well as Pillars of the Earth were great to read when I was only dreaming of England, but visits there enriched my re-reading as I could visualize the settings. I also loved London by Rutherford and, like you, Pompeii which is one of my all-time favorites, made the site come alive.

I had just finished Rober Harris' Munich when we toured that great city with a WWII historian. I was dumbfounded to find myself in locations featured in the novel. It is important to dig in and separate the fact from the invented, though, and I am more motivated to do so when I visit.

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704 posts

After reading In the Company of a Courtesan visiting Venice and Florence had a little more depth for me. Now did it influence my decision to visit those places ... no, but it did add to my visit.

I didn't know Game of Thrones was filmed in Croatia until we arrived. Our driver was amused that we had never seen one single episode.

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1422 posts

I think it's the other way around for me. After seeing a place, I develop an interest in learning - and reading - more. For example, after touring the Art Bunker in Nuremberg, I went home and re-watched the movie "Monuments Men." Knowing that it was a movie version of historical fiction, I went on to read Robert Edsel's 3 non-fiction books, beginning with "The Monuments Men : Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History," on which the movie was based. Had it not been for my travels, I might not have developed the interest in anything other than, perhaps, watching the movie again.

Similarly, after visiting Dresden - and being prompted by a local who I met on my trip - I went home to re-read Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five," which meant much more after my visit.

To your point, having seen the city or the place, it added a sense of interest in reading the books, which were then that much more vivid.

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1016 posts

my biggest influence was the Paddington the Bear books

Not Paddington, but another lovable bear, Winnie-the-Pooh for me. But it didn't really influence my love for England as a child since the 100 Acre Wood could have been anywhere. However, I will admit to being disappointed last year that Big Ben was covered by scaffolding which denied me the opportunity to possibly see Peter Pan standing on the clock arms ;).

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2444 posts

Historical fiction definitely influences my travels,- usually as motivation to visit certain places. If I had never read the Jane Austin novels I doubt I would have had more than a passing interest in Bath. Sarum, Pillars if the Earth, and the New Forest books also spurred my interest in seeing those areas. Fleshing out the facts, on the ground as it were, made the visits all the more worthwhile. Similar books set in Paris, Venice, and Rome made a lot of our walks and tours all that more interesting.

Further afield, I reread Shogun and Memoirs of a Geisha just before our trip to Japan (visiting Osaka castle was an important stop for me). And yes, I reread the Hobbit and the Ring trilogy before going to NZ. ( OK, for you purists- it's fiction, not historical fiction. Maybe) Didn't meet any hobbits, but visited their town and had a beer in the Hobbiton tavern. 🙃

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961 posts

My love of historical fiction influenced my decision to major in history in college and the two have remained intertwined ever since.
My favorite city to visit is Paris and I've been there more than 10 times over the last 25 years.
I'm currently reading "Paris" by Edward Rutherford, an 800 page Micheneresque historical novel that spans 1260 to 1968. I expect that this will influence a few places that I will choose to visit this Spring when I'm in Paris again.
I've also read tons of books set in historical Italian, England, and Greek cities, but so long ago that I can't remember their names to share with you.
I'm enjoying all the posts and looking forward to adding to my list of "must reads!"

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1066 posts

Anyone with an interest in World War II should read The Winds of War and War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk. The books are just amazing and cover almost all of Europe. The two miniseries are also well worth watching.

I learned more about Siena, Italy than I could from a textbook. Yes, it covers the Palio in detail!

Posted by
7633 posts

Oh Dale, had forgotten about Wouk's books. They were so good and yes, fueled WWII interests.

Christa! Oh yes...Paddington Bear!

And Madeline for Paris! I've tried reading Rutherford's Paris a number of times but can never get into it.

Harry Potter for Platform 9 3/4, lol!

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1930 posts

This is a great thread! I can't tell you how many historical fiction books have influenced how meaningful a trip can be for me. I usually try to read several books before visiting an area. The books come alive when you can visit the actual place that was described.
Sometimes I will follow up with books upon my return. As previously mentioned, either way it only adds a sense of wonderment.

Some favorites that come to mind: Les Miserables (read in Middle School) A Tale of Two Cities, The Thorn Birds, The Shadow of the Wind, Girl with the Pearl Earring, The Nightingale, All the Light we Cannot See, The Book Thief, The Invisible Bridge, Corelli's Mandolin, The Cellist of Sarajevo, The Hare with Amber Eyes, On Persephone's Island, A House in Sicily, just to name a few!

Besides historical fiction books your experience can also be enhanced by an excellent guide. Sometimes a knowledgeable guide will be able to add to the meaning of the situation. All said, a wonderful learning experience.

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3227 posts

Actual history books are very influential to me and my travels. Fake stories? Not so much.

Will I go to a Harry Potter filming location? Sure, because it is Harry Potter and I am interested in the motion picture industry, so it is interesting to se how they made a specific location fit the movie.

Will I go to London or Paris or wherever because I read "A Tale of Two Cities"? Nope.

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1862 posts

Agree with Mark above, it's historical non-fiction, rather than fiction, that really get me going! I always say the reality of human drama is more interesting than the fiction it's based on. Visiting these places where the actual history took place, and learning about the people and stories behind them, always feels more rewarding.

I myself like historical podcasts and audiobooks, they have helped me a lot with my English comprehension. I can heartily recommend "The History of Rome" and "Revolutions" by Mike Duncan and "The Baltic Crusades" and "The Crusade against the Cathars" by Sharyn Eastaugh ;-)

Visiting France? Why not let The Gallic Wars by Julius Caesar be your guide book?

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7633 posts

My word....sorry to post a third time but Asterix and Obelix made me want to go see the Alignments at Carnac, lol!

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191 posts

Visiting France? Why not let The Gallic Wars by Julius Caesar be your guide book?

My word....sorry to post a third time but Asterix and Obelix made me
want to go see the Alignments at Carnac, lol!

Yes, I read Caesar's Gallic Wars in Latin class, but like Pam, we also love Asterix and Obelix! They both added to my enjoyment of travel.

We talked ourselves out of going to Grantchester just b/c of the books & TV series – there are so many other lovely villages in the UK. But when we were within walking distance, it was fun to see how proud the church was of the TV series. Same with Port Isaac. Like Mark, we enjoy seeing how a real town, church, etc. is used in film or TV. And we loved Doune Castle in Scotland for its own merits – a perfect castle in a perfect setting, with loads of history, not crowded, and the perfect blend of partially restored but still partly a ruin – but it did add to its mystique (for us) that Monty Python had done a lot of filming there. (I've never watched Outlander but the employees at Doune are pleased with the uptick in visitors due to that show, enabling them to do some much-needed restorations.)

I see I'm talking more about TV and film than books! I shy away from most historical fiction, preferring nonfiction, especially primary sources; but I make an exception for 'fiction' based primarily on diaries, letters, etc.

Fun thread!

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664 posts

I read a lot; always have done. And most of my reading has been non-fiction, with a lot of history, science, and sociology, so those have naturally directed me to many of the places I've been. But I'm currently planning a trip to Portugal to look at the fortifications and battlefields from the Peninsular War in the early 1800's, a trip that has to a large extent conceived by the Richard Sharpe books by Bernard Cornwell. Frankly, I had not paid a lot of attention to this period in history until I got a set of DVD's with the BBC series on it while touring the Middle East. The theme captured my interest, I read most of the books, and then dug into the histories, diaries, maps, etc from that period and resolved I'd do the trip.

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1920 posts

Count me among those for whom non-fiction books drive travel. I just finished Three Minutes in Poland by Glenn Kurtz, which details the author's search for Holocaust survivors from the predominantly Jewish town of Nasielsk after discovering video from his grandfather's 1938 trip to Europe -- video that included included 3 minutes shot in Nasielsk one year before Germany invaded Poland. When I return to Poland, Nasielsk will be on my list of places to visit.

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11496 posts

A book thread! Making notes of your faves which I haven't read yet!

As some of the rest of you do, I feed the history/inspirational bug with a mix of non-fiction and fiction. Some fictional writers do a better job than others of weaving in actual people and events so if it's also a good story, I'm in! Books I've enjoyed which some of you have mentioned were Rutherford's "Sarum" and "London", Follett's "Pillars of the Earth". Edsel's "Monuments Men" and "Saving Italy", "Shogun", "Memoirs of a Geisha", "The Thorn Birds", "All the Light we Cannot See" and "The Book Thief".

Off top of my head, I'll add any number of Alison Weir's and Antonia Fraser's books, Lever's "Marie Antoinette", Hughes' "The Fatal Shore" (hope to make it to Australia someday), Picard's " Dr. Johnson's London", McCullough's "Morgan's Run", Rosnay's "Sarah's Key" and Kelly's "The Lilac Girls".

Special mention to H.V. Morton's non-fiction "A Traveller in Italy", "A Traveller in Rome" and "In Search of London," They were an interesting look at these locations in the 1940's and 1950's as he relates historic background about landmarks and related people during walkabouts and stop-ins. Terrific reads, all three, we found difficult to put down!

Editing to add: I find historical background just as useful after a trip when I can put some of the material into context, if that makes sense?

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1016 posts

Another one from my High School reading list was All Quiet on the Western Front. Because of that book I have more of an interest in WW1 than WW2, but because most of the sites are out of the way and my wife doesn't share my interest, I haven't made it to any sites yet. Of particular interest to me is the Battle of Vimy Ridge which was documented in historical non-fiction by a very famous Canadian author Pierre Berton. Vimy is a bucket list item for me.

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1016 posts

I think it's the other way around for me. After seeing a place, I
develop an interest in learning - and reading - more.

For me, Fiction before the trip with multiple references to google while I'm reading so I can separate fact from fiction and then I tend to switch to non-fiction once I'm back so I can learn more. However we also tend to watch movies set in places we just visited just so we can relive the sites. For example, Olivia Colman played Queen Mary in The Favourite after we were back from England. It was filmed at Hampton Court Palace and was a fun reminder of that trip.

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2089 posts

Dave--I also read and loved Three Minutes in Poland, just before my trip there in 2015--such an interesting concept. While I didn't seek out the town of Nasielsk, by some strange coincidence I woke up on the train returning from Gdansk to Warsaw just in time to realize we were at the station and spent a few minutes recalling all I had read about it, while marveling at the peaceful and pretty countryside covered in blooming mustard plants.

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5287 posts

Another Jane Austen fan -- loved seeing the "assembly rooms" in Bath.

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872 posts

I spent a few days in Bosnia and Herzegovina, last year, including two days in Sarajevo. My understanding of what I saw and experienced there was deeply affected, and I believe more nuanced and enriched, by two books that I read before my trip: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (historical fiction about the long history of the Sarajevo Haggadah) and The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway (historical fiction about the people and events of the four year long siege of Sarajevo in the early '90's).

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679 posts

Great subject. As I was reading everyone's comments I smiled. The Winds of War is my ALL TIME favorite book. We are gearing up for going to Japan and Southeast Asia and have been reading books about Japan. Just finished Pachinko, The Island of Sea Women and Memoirs of a Geisha. All great books and really sparked my interest in Japan especially Kyoto.

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9 posts

For 30 years, I had Prague and Vienna on my "must see" list because of books I read. The books took place during WWII. The descriptions of various places made them so real to me. I checked Prague off last year. It was as wonderful as I thought it would be. Three hours ago I purchased my airline tickets to Vienna for November. Now to reread the book, so I can visit the places that made me want to experience Vienna.

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1016 posts

I was somewhat surprised that Outlander didn't make the list but I guess that's because it's likely more famous for TV. My wife is currently on the 4th book in the series but admittedly became hooked on Jamie Fraser's pecs thanks to the TV version. However, either way it has us both currently separating fact from fiction on the history of Scotland as we plan a visit for June.

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7633 posts

Well then, Allan, hopefully Clava Cairn is on your list of places to visit. According to my RS guide the split stone there was an inspiration for Diana Gabaldon.

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688 posts

Absolutely! I love to combine fiction TV/books/movies with non-fiction. They all enhance my travels.

Scandinavia: Jo Nesbo, Henning Mankell, The Bridge TV series, The Killing and many others. The round courtyard in the Danish police headquarters has shown up in so many of the shows I have seen that I even begged a Danish policeman to get me in there (no go). I spent three days in Ystad where the Henning Mankell Wallander books take place. It has a museum of Swedish crime shows and movies. Plus, it is a delightful medieval town on the sea. I also saw the apartment that the "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" lived in.

I am going to Paris next and recently read "Sarah's Key". I will definitely visit the monument of the Vel d'Hiv children when I am there. I am reading "The Paris Wife" and will ready many more historical fictions before I go. I am also reading Victor Hugo but it is a chore. I am also watching a lot of French cop shows with subtitles. In addition to fiction, I am also watching lectures/shows about the impressionists.

Oxford is on my list to visit because of "Morse".

I am assuming that those of you that only read histories and non-fiction books to enhance your travel don't read much fiction for any reasons. Otherwise you are really missing out.

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12091 posts

Although in this particular instance, I went to the place (1984) first after reading and researching in numerous books written almost exclusively by British historians connected with the subject, Napoleon and Waterloo.

The historical fiction account I didn't get to until 1990, that's V. Hugo's "Les Miserables" (in English translation) where it is assumed that one knows certain details on French history, thus making Hugo more dramatic and effective in understanding.

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1016 posts

Hopefully Clava Cairn is on your list of places to visit.

On the list. I hadn't realized how close it is to Culloden so we'll likely visit both the same day.

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991 posts

When we went to Morocco, we went solely because of a book that I read when I was 11 years old. I knew it was fiction then. I knew it was fiction when I landed in Casablanca, but it was the reason behind my deep desire to visit that beautiful country. Books have also shaped my views of (and need to visit) countries like England, Scotland & Switzerland.

I can't count the number of times I've stood somewhere and said to myself - OMG! I'm actually HERE!!! For me, having read stories and even fictional histories of places adds dimension to my travels and makes me even more curious when I arrive to learn more about the living, breathing place I'm visiting.

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1016 posts

I saw the movie 1917 on the weekend and it reminded me about the book Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks. The plot is about a British soldier fighting in the trenches during WW1. The book painted vivid pictures for me of what those trenches must have looked like and been like. Then seeing those trenches re-created in the movie was a reminder of how much I really want to visit some WW1 sites.

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7633 posts

On the RS tour we did Clava Cairns and Cawdor Castle on the same day in case you are staying over in Inverness. And yes, you could do it along with Culloden as well.

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12091 posts

I saw "1917" and recommend it, nominated for several Academy Awards. Note the construction of the relative trenches, the British vs the German one. In Vimy some of this has been left this way.

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11411 posts

Historical fiction totally peaked my interest in going to England .

I had been to Europe quite a few time’s by age 35 . However I had never once been to England - had no interest- thought it was too much like here ( I live in a tourist city that bills itself like a bit of England )

One day my stepmother called - she asked if I’d like to go to London with her for a week , she’s a professor in Medieval stuff , and wanted to go see the Sutton Hoo exhibit which had just opened and she had to give a talk - she also had friends who we could stay with in Sloane Square .

Well it was a cheap trip - so my hubby encouraged me to say yes .

But I wasn’t excited .

So reading historical fiction to the rescue .

I made myself start reading all things remotely related to Tudor history / the sappier the better / worked my way up to real history ( Rutherfurds London first ) - also read a bunch of classics by Jane Austen ( so of course had to visit Bath ) , and the Weaker Vessel ( first of Antonia Fraser’s books )

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1915 posts

On our first trip to GB, we visited London, and as a Sherlockian of many years, I wished to visit 221B Baker Street. We did visit the pub with the "Holmes-Watson" room. I understand that things have gotten better since.

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264 posts

Dorothy Dunnett! She wrote two immense and wonderful series, protagonists Francis Lymond & Niccolo. Francis begins in 16th c. Scotland, Niccolo in 15th c. Bruges, & both roam their known worlds. Amazing writing. Hefty to get into, but once you do, you're hooked.

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6 posts

Tongariro Alpine Crossing - I couldn't believe my eyes when I was sitting just opposite Mount Doom! New Zealand is definitely Middle Earth!

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12040 posts

I wouldn't say this particularly influenced my trip, but walking into the Napoleonic portrait gallery in St. Petersburg's Hermitage, it was interesting suddenly seeing the actual faces of several of the historical characters from War and Peace, including Bagration, Kutozov, and the emperors Alexander and Francis (along with other well-known figures, like Wellington and Blucher. Alas, no portraits of Pierre, Andrei, Natasha or Nicholai.

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1016 posts

My wife and I just finished watching the first 4 seasons of the Last Kingdom. I'd read the Bernard Cornwell series before and just started book 1 again. It's got me really interested on the Saxon/Dane era. Not sure what there will be to see in London but we are heading to York for 3 days as well. I wouldn't mind heading south to see King Alfred's burial site but that may have to wait for another trip.

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1759 posts

Pillars of the Earth and the other two books in the trilogy are why my next trip will be heavy on England. The problem I am finding is there are few things outside of maybe Salisbury that you can parallel with the books. Still after having read the series I now see great cathedrals with a whole new appreciation. The HBO series "Rome" made a trip to Italy and most Roman ruins much more personal when you can picture characters from the show while standing at an historical site. Seeing the ruins of a home built for Augustus' sister and trying to explain to my wife (who had not watched the show, yet) why I found it so interesting was frustrating. After watching the series my wife wanted to go back and see the same places.

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1016 posts

Richard, I have a fascination with Elizabeth I, and the 3rd book of the series reinforced that. When I saw her tomb at Westminster Abbey I was blown away.

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1759 posts

Allan,
The third book was the most educational for me. Until reading it I never really understood the issues in Northern Ireland for example or to understand what our founding fathers were well aware of and why they made a constitution that prohibited a state religion.

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1915 posts

Allan: I too love Bernard Cornwall. I read every book in the Sharpe series (do not watch the TV show, which is completely ridiculous). The Last Kingdom is indeed a great series. If you like Cornwall, Jack Whyte is also a great writer. He wrote an Arthurian series, but it started 4 generations before Arthur. He completely removes the magical nonsense, and puts the whole thing into the context of the dying Roman Empire.

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765 posts

For me it is not historical fiction that influences my trips, but actual history.

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1308 posts

Read Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric and made a special stop to see it in Visegrad. I already had read a lot of history on the region but the book's characters and themes really resonated. Pro tip: skip over the impalement section, probably the most horrifying few paragraphs I have ever read in literature.

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7 posts

I'm surprised no one has mentioned some of the Masterpiece television programs set in England. Both Poldark and Doc Martin inspired me to pick England for my first Rick Steves tour. The Southern Villages tour did not disappoint. The gorgeous scenery in both shows was on display for us in May 2019. We had great weather and hit many of the spots shown in those programs. We even bumped into a live filming of Doc Martin in St. Ives! It was a thrill and enhanced my appreciation for the shows and inspired me to read the books. Better late than never to the party!

Absolutely! I read every non-fiction book I can find about the Borgia. I can't wait to chase Cesare Borgia through the Emilia-Romagna and Umbria. Senigalia, Forli, Imola, Rimini, Pesaro, Cesema.Faemza. Piombino, Urbino, Perugia, Chiusi, Pienza, Sarteano, San Quirico and Val d'Orca, here I come. I'll throw in a visit to Ferrara, too. I have been in Italy many times, but never on the Adriatic Coast, so I am very excited to see those places. I am pretty opinionated about the Borgia and try to see them through the lens of their times, not the 21st century. Were they that bad? For the time they lived, they were similar to other powerful families like the Medici, Sforza, Colona, etc. Unfortunately, they were on the receiving end of a very aggressive quest to sully their name - and it succeeded. Of course, I understand they were bad enough, but not the incestuous, poisoning, monsters history has made them to be. Aut Caesar, aut nihil.

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191 posts

Pro tip: skip over the impalement section, probably the most
horrifying few paragraphs I have ever read in literature.

Same at Dracula's castle. I had to drift away from the (highly entertaining, except for this part) guide at the castle when he started discussing impalement (by Vlad the ... – until then, I hadn't ever thought what that title really meant). Oh my .... I still get the shudders when I think about the bit I heard.

And I would have mentioned Poldark, etc. (and I think I did mention other shows such as Grantchester, which is based on a book series) only b/c the title of the thread specified books, and in particular fiction.

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1 posts

I was intrigued reading the broad array of books mentioned in this thread. I really skimmed a lot of the discussion so I may have missed the distinction I find important between historical fiction written by nationals or people who have lived in a country and those who place characters in a place they have researched. Also the ways in which one can get a sense of a place rather than explore one specific sight from reading fiction. As a Holocaust scholar I find that memoir and historical fiction often bring out dimensions of every day existence that you might not otherwise gain insight into. So in anticipation of a trip to Bulgaria I am reading the King’s Ransom and read The Shadow Land in addition to straight history. For those who like mysteries and history of England Josephine Tey’s Daughter of Time is an extraordinary story and beautifully written It also gives one a sense of English humor.

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7 posts

I haven't seen Slow Train to Switzerland: One Tour, Two Trips, 150 Years and a World of Change Apart by Diccon Bewes mentioned. It has inspired me to tour some parts of Switzerland I hadn't considered. I just cannot get my significant other to follow this trip the whole way ;^).

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1 posts

Does anyone have any historical fiction to suggest for a trip to Scandinavia. Not Lisbeth Salander!
Debbie

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1915 posts

Same at Dracula's castle. I had to drift away from the (highly entertaining, except for this part) guide at the castle when he started discussing impalement (by Vlad the ...

Vlad was a patriot living in the time of the Ottoman expansion. His country, now-Romania, was under serious threat by the Ottomans. He was a patriot who protected his people. Alas, not for long. When the Ottomans came through, they would do the standard "kill the men, rape the women, steal all the stuff" thing. As such, I have no problem with his impaling. Of course, I'm glad I wasn't impaled. But the Ottoman alternative was grisly and horrific as well.

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9 posts

How fun to see what others are reading connected with their travel. In addition to some of the Wouk, Follett, Gabaldon, and other fiction, I ALWAYS look for mysteries set in the places I'm visiting.

  • Barbara Nadel's Istanbul series

  • Val McDermid, Ian Rankin, Denise Mona for Scotland

  • Martin Walker for Dordogne

  • Michele Giuttari for Tuscany

  • C S Harris for 19th c London; Deborah Crombie and Elizabeth George for modern London

  • Henning Mankell, Camilla Lackberg for Sweden

Other non-fiction: bio of Monet by Ross King: Mad Enchantment
I'm sure I could think of more but I'm on vacation in New Mexico!

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3 posts

As an amateur WW2 historian, books were what really made me decide to come to Europe. I had visited once in 1979 on a business trip, but in 2004 I and a friend bought Rick Steves guidebooks and Eurail passes and really enjoyed our 6-week trip. Since then, I have returned 3 times (most recently for 55 days!), and each time I've tried to visit more of the places I've read about. But interestingly enough, some of the best reading is still my Rick Steves guidebooks!

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446 posts

Love reading historical fiction! Have read several of the authors referenced above and would add James Michener and Edward Rutherford to the list. If fact, we have visited places I've read about in part because of reading about them in historical fiction books (i.e. Marrakesh as described in The Drifters).

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14 posts

I am inspired by the real thing. As I now live in Turku, Finland, I pass buildings that Queen Kristina has been in. When Finland was part of Sweden for 400 years, she visited Turku often as it was then the capital of Finland. Turku has a Cathedral and the Turku castle that were built in 1300s. There are many fabulous historical houses that people today live in. One night I was coming home, and in front of the Cathedral were two golden coaches. Many knights and glamorous ladies walked across the street in costume! They were about to film Queen Kristina movie's coronation scene at the Cathedral. I love it that, after 45 years in the U.S., I returned to my native country to retire, and can afford to live here very nicely, even if my pension check is not very large. Just love it!

Posted by
17 posts

I don't know about "historical fiction", but I am influenced by "locational fantasy" (I don't think this is a real term, I just mad it up) books - stories that are set in locations like Paris, Rome or Istanbul and use these places and their history to add color to the story. Dan Brown's books come to mind.

Posted by
1016 posts

Has anybody read The Cantebury Tales? Everytime I watch A Knight's Tale (my favourite sports movie) and Paul Bettany's portrayal of Geoffrey Chaucer I keep meaning to give it a try.

Posted by
9 posts

Hi... This fall we're going to Spain (if the virus doesn't ramp up more so by then). Does anyone have reading/movie recommendations? Reading about my travel objective gets me curious, excited and really looking forward to it. Thank you!

Posted by
1036 posts

Rick just selected this topic as his Forum Topic of the Month. I think it is a great topic with lots of great reads, but I am very surprised that one of the topics regarding the Coronavirus wouldn’t have been selected. Not everyone reads the forum, but a lot of people will read his Forum Topic of the month because it appears in his Newsletter. I think under the circumstances with what is going with the virus in Europe, perhaps a more important topic should have been selected. There are a lot of good postings on the Forum that contain very good information including links tha people may not know about. I think Rick should be more responsible to his readers by making the virus discussions more known. Just my opinion.

Posted by
1016 posts

I think Rick should be more responsible to his readers by making the
virus discussions more known. Just my opinion.

The newsletter that this forum topic was selected for was lead by two articles about the virus, this General Europe section leads with a note from the webmaster regarding the virus, the RS website home page has a banner discussing the virus, how is he not being responsible?

Posted by
21 posts

For Spain- The Queen's Vow, about Isabella and Ferdinand. A bit young-adult in terms of the writing, as I recall, but does bring the characters to life.

Posted by
12091 posts

Yes, The Canterbury Tales was the first work assigned. I read it in my sophomore English lit class in college, English 46 A, the first part of a three semester survey on English lit.

Posted by
9 posts

Thank you Nancy. I will get (hopefully it's on audible where i'm a member) The Queen's Vow and start reading. Sounds good.

Posted by
1422 posts

With my May trip seriously in question, I find myself with a lot of time on my hands to read.

I just finished "Three Minutes in Poland" and loved it, so thanks to Dave and Christa for mentioning it up-thread. Your recommendation was key to me persevering when I couldn't yet see the historical context of the story it weaves. I'm glad to have read it before my (fingers crossed) fall trip to Poland.

I've just gotten "The Nightingale" from the library and ordered "All the Light we Cannot See" and "The Cellist of Sarajevo" - so thank you for those mentions, above.

Allan - your point about fiction-before and non-fiction after a trip is an excellent one. My visits do drive a level of interest that I might not otherwise have had to read that next level deeper.

To add a contribution, which I in turn received from another forum member, I've enjoyed reading Marie Benedict's books about women who played key roles in the lives of the better known men in their lives, including "Lady Clementine," more widely known as Winston Churchill's wife.

Posted by
1016 posts

Allan - your point about fiction-before and non-fiction after a trip
is an excellent one. My visits do drive a level of interest that I
might not otherwise have had to read that next level deeper.

spoiler alert upcoming, don't read the rest of this post if The Alice Network is on your reading list

Now I'm going to give an example of the opposite. I just finished reading The Alice Network and there is a part where the lead character goes to Oradour-sur-Glane and discovers the fate of her cousin. I hadn't really heard of the place until I visited last May and so if I'd read the book before the visit I'm not sure if the impact of the chapter would have registered as much as it did.

Posted by
13 posts

I find that fiction truly does enhance ones travel. It takes you there in a more real way than straight history because you are actually living "there" with the character you are reading about. I read Michener's Poland last year before my trip to Poland and was blown away. I'm not Polish and knew very little about Polish history. This book explains how Poland is the crossroads between East and West. Because it is mostly a flat plain it has been invaded again and again. The suffering of the Polish people has been enormous but they endure and rise again. And of course the suffering endured in the 20th Century tops anything they've ever gone through before. I learned the Germans not only wanted to exterminate the Jews but all the Poles because they being Slavs were an inferior race. Schools were closed because the Poles were to be used as slave labor until they weakened and died. The rich Polish land was to resettled with good German farmers. And the beautiful Polish money displayed all the old Polish kings I had read about.
I also like to read fiction set in the area I am traveling through. I reread All Creatures Great and Small while traveling through the north country of England. We purchased the 5th Harry Potter book the day it was released in Piccadilly square in London. Good travel memories.