Many years ago, while exploring an antiquarian bookstore in Koblenz, Germany, I came across what appeared to be a dusty old diary. I opened the cover carefully and saw that I held in my hands the personal travel journal of Hans Baedeker, the unheralded and somewhat dimmer younger brother of Karl Baedeker, the father of the modern guidebook.

Fascinated, I wiped the cobwebs off a creaky bentwood chair in a corner of the shop and began reading what appeared to be a 200-page lament about 1) the horrors of traveling with ones brother and 2) the discomfort of traveling anywhere at all in the mid-19th century.

Apparently, Hans was Karls secretary, valet and errand boy, and, if Hans is to be believed, he suffered unending humiliations at the hand of his more famous and imperious older brother (who would unkindly introduce him to new acquaintances as his Madchen Freitag or girl Friday). But Hans did get to travel the world with Karl.

The diary, though full of bile directed at Karl, also has invaluable observations about travel that ring as true today as they must have when they were written. Unlike Karl, who would give recommendations for what travelers should see, Hans would write about all the things that travelers should avoid.

As a service to Travel Weekly readers and their clients, passengers, friends and family, I offer this modest effort at translating a passage Hans titled Things One Must Avoid at All Costs When Traveling:

Thing No. 1: Changings of the guard. Karl dragged me to yet another of these mind-numbing time-wasters, this one at Buckingham Palace. I thought nothing could be more stultifying than watching the guard-swap at Monte Carlo, but this one raises the form to a level of absurdism worthy of the Dadaists, once that movement is born. While I can certainly understand the joy a parent might feel in watching his 5-year-old walk around and stomp his feet in precision with other 5-year-olds, Ill never understand why people would line up to watch grown men unknown to them go through this. Id rather eat blood pudding on stale crumpets than see another changing of the guard.

Thing No. 2: Anything with the name village in it thats not really a village. If a commercial enterprise is called Something or Someones Village, this is a most certain indicator of a tourist trap. (Karl is as drawn to these as I am repelled, of course.)

We went to Santas Village up near Stockholm last week, and it had all the importance and substance of tinsel. If this is a village, then its a village where all the villagers happen also to be proprietors of souvenir shops, operators of contrived and amateurish attractions and purveyors of boiled sweets. I suspect that, after fudge is invented, therell be fudge shops, too.

Thing No. 3: Any town or attraction that calls itself The (blank) of (blank). If a city or natural attraction tries to lure you in by comparing itself to something truly famous, you must certainly resist the lure.

In the past two months, Karl has dragged me to the Switzerland of Africa, the Grand Canyon of Oman and the Paris of the German Empire. If these were really accurate comparisons, the attraction in question would, of course, be as famous as the site theyre comparing themselves to. I suggest that if the German Empire wants a Paris, they should simply conquer the one that already exists. (Translators note: There are no documents to confirm rumors that Hans diary was once housed in the government libraries in Berlin.)

Unfortunately, space does not permit translation of the entire chapter, but even these three nuggets seem worthy of preservation, if not worldwide distribution.

This holiday season, instead of a box of fudge for your favorite clients, perhaps a needlepoint of Hans Baedekers Travel Words of Wisdom would be more appreciated. 


From Our Partners

2021 Family Expo
Family Travel Expo
Register Now
Air Astana 1366
Air Astana
Read More
2021 Caesars Webinar
Watch Now

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI