Yes, books are able to help us travel through many places, be they real or not; but what would it be like to extrapolate fiction and get to know the senses of the places where the stories, as imagined by the writers, are set? What was, not so long ago, an adventure exclusive to intelectuals, avid literature lovers, has become a new area in tourism all over the world called literary tourism.
It consists in visiting the real places mentioned in works of fiction, helping us relive the experience we had while reading the book. This activity seems to have become more popular since the release and success of 'The DaVinci Code', which dragged thousands of tourists through the streets, churches and museums of Paris and London, searching for the supposed mysteries discribed by Dan Brown. In 2005, that was the priority of 8 out of 10 people who visited the French and British capitals. An actual 'DaVinci Code tour' was put together, where tour guides who knew the location of the places mentioned in the book by heart showed the tourist every detail mentioned by the author in the book.
This phenomenon isn't new. In Rio de Janeiro, in the 19th century, the very little used boat line, which connected the island of Paquetá to the continent, became one of the most attended places in the Empire, from 1844, when Joaquim Manoel de Macedo released his spicy novel “A Moreninha”, the "DaVinci Code" of its time. To this day, there are still tour guides in the area to show people around the Moreninha beach and the Moreninha hillock, etc.
Still, one of the most fascinating destinations takes us to Transylvania, located in Central Europe: the Vampire Mecca. The region was the setting for Bram Stoker's novel "Dracula", in which it was described as place of sombre environments, filled with castles and palaces, incredible carriages and enigmatic gypsies. Vlad Tepes, the prince of Wallachia was born there. In Stoker's version of the story, Vlad Tepes would have denied christian faith to such a degree that, as a punishment, he was transformed into an immortal being that fed upon human blood. According to the historic version, however, Tepes would have killed dozens of thousands of Ottomans, driving wooden spears through their bodies, which rendered him the title of "The Impaler". Giving form to the legends, Bran's castle and Count Tepas' castle can bee seen in this Romanian region.
Pouring over more wordly topics, Ilhéus, in the southern coastal region of Bahia, houses a whole neighbourhood with the name of the author that consecrated the city. In the Jorge Amado quarter there are the writer's old house and the streets stepped upon by Gabriela, Cravo e Canela. Through the guided tour, the tourist can get to know details about the writer's life, his inspirations and his characters in a stroll that includes cafés where theatre performances take place, beaches and cocoa plantations. Ilhéus is very well served with hotels for any budget, if you have a preference for luxury, there is the Cana Brava Resort, where you can see it all and play tennis games and the SPA during breaks.
The dream of the lovers in arabic culture can be seen and known as more open with each passing day. The reconstruction of the city, albeit slow, on account of the complexity of its political situation has been able to make the National Afghan Museum fully functionable, the pride of the country during its golden age. There you can see the impressive statue of Surya, the Emperor Babur's Mausuleum and its gardens, the bazars, the Darul Aman Palace, the mosques and frozen mountains described by Khaled Housini in "The Pipe Catcher". The center of Kabul is, in this case the main pearl.
Portugal - Sintra
Portugal - Sintra
“O Mistério da Estrada de Sintra”, a set of anonymous, ficticious letters written by Eça de Queirós and Ramalho Ortigão for Diário de Notícias in 1870 had its first book edition nearly 25 years ago. However the last edition was released last year, joining forces with Jorge Paixão da Costa's movie released in 2007 is a good candidate to a new literary-touristic stop in Portugal. Of all the incredible constructions that fill Lisbon, Sintra's National Palace and the Palácio da Pena, the Torreão do Castelo dos Mouros, aside from the natural sights, such as the mountains and the beaches. However, those of you watching calories beware: if the Sintra cheese-cake, alone, can ruin any diet, it isn't got to picture them alongside pastries and roasted kid.
As you can see, there are many destinations where our favourite books can take us, even further than the landscapes we draw with our own imagination. The experience of getting to know them live can be fascinating and informative, allowing us to take a peek at what went through the mind of the writers while writing their descriptions, leading us to walk through the book at hand.