Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The old country

The Lonely Planet guides are one of our more popular series, and they seem to appeal to the adventuresome traveler looking for unusual destinations (Frommer's does not devote an entire guide to Tibet, while Lonely Planet does). In addition to their travel guides, they also do some lovely 'coffee-table' books - The Lonely Planet guide to the middle of nowhere and The cities book : a journey through the best cities in the world - that take a broader look at travel. Their newest offering actually focuses on a very traditional travel destination: Europe.
The Europe book : a journey through every country in the continent is edited by Laetitia Clapton. It's a beautiful book, full of colorful pictures, and it's very fun to leaf through. It is in no way, shape, or form a travel guide or a thorough overview of the countries of Europe. For instance the 'History in a nutshell' segment for Greece is just that - from the Bronze Age to the 2004 Olympics in under 250 words. You get a little map, a list of Essential Experiences (in Slovakia, take a torch-lit tour of Trencin Castle - bring your own pitchfork) and a description of the country's Top Festival (St. Patrick's Day in Ireland, of course.) Other snapshot gems include famous films and novels, quintessential fare, traditions, economic mainstays and opportunities for ecotourism. This is Lonely Planet, after all.
The nicest thing about this book is that it looks at every part of Europe, not just the headliners. You can learn a few quick facts about San Marino, Montenegro, Andorra, Moldova and Liechtenstein. You can get suggestions for continent-spanning journeys (The Grand Tour, the Orient Express, or a trip Behind the Iron Curtain). You can also get a real sense of the cultural diversity in an area that is often conglomerated into two letters: EU.

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