The Baedeker Blitz
March 11, 2009 2:03 PM   Subscribe

"Loot the Baedeker I did, all the details of a time and place I had never been to, right down to the names of the diplomatic corps." - Thomas Pynchon from Slow Learner.
Baedeker's were the de facto travel guide for international men of leisure: "Baedeker’s publications, which covered most of Europe, became so popular that Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany was quoted as saying that he stationed himself at a particular palace window each noon because “It’s written in Baedeker that I watch the changing of the guard from that window, and the people have come to expect it.” Baedeker maps online. Baedeker books online.
Are the old ones the best ones?

posted by vacapinta (13 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
That link is an amazing thing to browse around. Here's a taste, almost at random (from The Mediterranean, apparently 1911):
IV. Intercourse with Orientals.
The objects and pleasures of travel are so unintelligible to most Orientals that they are apt to regard the European traveller as a lunatic, or at all events as a Croesus, and therefore to be exploited on every possible occasion. Hence their constant demands for 'bakshish' ('a gift'). To check this demoralizing cupidity the traveller should never give bakshish except for services rendered, unless occasionally to aged or crippled beggars.
And I can't resist recommending Mina Loy's Lost Lunar Baedeker here, too.
posted by RogerB at 2:19 PM on March 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Throw your Baedeker into the Arno.
posted by longsleeves at 2:32 PM on March 11, 2009 [3 favorites]

Great post. From the BBC link:

The world wars were disastrous for a German company reliant on the free flow of wealthy Europeans, but the books did prove useful to soldiers and airmen. The Baedeker raids of 1942, the bombings of historic English cities, were so-called because the Luftwaffe had supposedly vowed to destroy every British building marked with three stars in the guide.

I learned about Baedeker's guides in a Hemingway class I took as an undergrad. They can be wonderful snapshots of a place and time.
posted by marxchivist at 2:52 PM on March 11, 2009

Here's a better Internet Archive link (279 hits).
posted by stbalbach at 2:54 PM on March 11, 2009

on the same token ... from The Dominion of Canada:
X. Sports and Pasttimes

{... following a lengthy, multi-page treatise on fishing and hunting in the Canadian wilderness ...}

Lacrosse is the national game of Canada and takes precedence of all others in the public estimation.

Cricket. The principal clubs are those of Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec, Winnipeg, Victoria, St. John, and Halifax. There is an Association, which selects players to represent All Canada in the annual match with the United States and against other visiting teams. The game, however, excites little general interest.
what is this nation that loves lacrosse and plays cricket against its southern neighbor (a national US cricket team? really?) and where has it gone?
posted by bl1nk at 2:55 PM on March 11, 2009

this is just an awesome fpp. I had no idea this even existed, and now i'm hooked. thanks.
posted by shmegegge at 2:57 PM on March 11, 2009

Give it to me; I shan't let you carry it. We will simply drift.
posted by desuetude at 4:58 PM on March 11, 2009 [3 favorites]

One of my favorite all time stories, though probably not true:
Verlag Karl Baedeker was raised by several nannies, each of whom spoke a different language. He claims that for some time he thought that every person in the world spoke a different language, and that he would need to learn a new language for every new person he met.
posted by alms at 7:25 PM on March 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Verlag" is not his first name - it means "publisher" in German...

Anyways, interesting FPP!
posted by Harald74 at 1:28 AM on March 12, 2009

the de facto travel guide for international men of leisure:

I'd like a travel guide for international men of mystery. It'd show you all the places where you could shag now or shag later. Yeah, baby, yeah!
posted by jonp72 at 7:24 AM on March 12, 2009

I love Baedekers; thanks for the post! Here's a wonderful article by Edward Mendelson about them (pdf file); I wrote about one aspect of it here (where I also brag about my 1905 edition of the Austria-Hungary guide—I have a reprint of the famous 1914 Russia as well). Those maps are things of beauty; just compare the Alexandria one to the crappy modern one in that last link.
posted by languagehat at 10:11 AM on March 12, 2009

The USA cricket team.
posted by Helga-woo at 2:26 PM on March 12, 2009

Oo yeah, thanks for this! I recently bought a Murray's Japan (similar to Baedeker's in content and color) and looked up my old stomping grounds - shockingly little has changed in the past 100 years, including the main tourist attraction: a waterfall and spring that used to dispense sake. The maps are little works of origami.
I've done some repair work on these little babies and depending on when and where they were assembled, the staple bindings are either still intact (pre-war = good metal) or post-war (crappy metal that is now rusting and eating away at the paper).
posted by ikahime at 9:54 PM on March 12, 2009

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