The most riotously un-PC travel guides ever! The informed, detailed, authoritative and unguardedly rude Baedeker’s. An Englishman on holiday in Spain a century ago found a country with little to recommend it. Waking up on the first morning and consulting his guide-book, he would have read the following description: ‘Spain is a bleak and often arid land, with few traces of picturesqueness.’ Heh-Heh; Some things never change…!The towns, the guide continues, are wreathed in tobacco smoke and the cafes are ‘very deficient in comfort and cleanliness’. The guide further warns that the service from waiters, chambermaids and porters is generally very slack and that the traveller should always count his change. In the Spanish countryside there is great danger of highway robbery, while in the cities the police will arrest anyone they can lay their hands on. The railway carriages and omnibuses are so filthy that a clothes brush, a duster and some insect powder should always be at hand. As for the national sport of bull fighting, it is ‘the most unsportsmanlike and cowardly spectacle’ a civilised man will ever see.
This is the account of Spain given in the 1914 Baedeker Guide. These small, red books, bound in leather, were the first recourse for an Englishman abroad in the late 19th and early 20th century. The tone of the Baedeker guides is informed, detailed, authoritative — and riotously, unguardedly rude. “The Spanish are indolent, the Greeks filthy, the Italians dishonest and the ‘Orientals’ as stupid as children.”
“In Syria, you are advised to ward off stray dogs with an umbrella and in Egypt it is acceptable to hit a cab driver with your walking stick.” Germany, of course, is beyond reproach. But what of Great Britain? “As for the British themselves,” Baedeker observes “that the country is a place of parsons, puppy dogs and peculiar people”
The Baedeker’s guides reflect an imperial attitude that would be unthinkable today. For a century, Baedeker’s — founded in 1832 by German publisher Karl Baedeker — was the indispensable guide to Europe, the Middle East and beyond. The most riotously un-PC travel guides ever! The informed, detailed, authoritative and unguardedly rude Baedeker’s
Oh for a time machine to return to the age of pre-digital, pre-policitcal correctness, and pre-health & safety. Yours Aye.