Recently I saw excellent BBC’s documentary series Great Continental Railway Journeys with Michael Portillo retracing the journeys featured in George Bradshaw’s 1913 Continental Railway Guide. Offtopic, Mr Portillo is former UK minister of defence, and I reported about his visit to British peacekeeping forces. Of course, there were no colourful shirts and suits he is wearing now.
This TV series reminded me on a book I found online last year, titled Motoring in the Balkans: Along the Highways of Dalmatia, Montenegro, the Herzegovina and Bosnia, publushed in 1909, and written by some Frances Kinsley Hutchinson. As much as I could have found about her, she is a lady from Chicago with no other travelling books or writings, and with only one other book, titled “Our country home”.
It was really adventurous trip in those days, when cars were rare even in more developed European countries. Of course, word “highways” in book’s title depict something completely different than today, mostly driveable roads. This is one of the photos published in a book, probably Ms Hutchinson’s car.
Also, we can only imagine how inhabitants of rural parts of Balkan viewed American lady with her escort travelling in a car. And she was a lady. And great and witty writer, too.
Writer and her party travelled really interesting route, 2372 kilometres lond. Trip began in Trieste, Italy, and then lead them to Opatija, Crikvenica, Senj, Gospić, Zadar, Skradin, Šibenik, Split, Solin, Klis, Metković, Dubrovnik. Further, they travelled to Montenegro’s Zelenika and Cetinje, than back to Dubrovnik, and further to Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Trebinje, Gacko, Travnik, Mostar, Jajce, Banja Luka, Novi. Route took them then to Plitvice, Karlovac, Zagreb, and finally to Slovenian Celje and Maribor, finishing in Austrian Graz and Vienna. And all that almost with no road maps, not to mention service stations. Impressive route, with all the most attractive locations included. Even today it would be interesting to drive it. We checked, it’s not much shorter nowadays, Google Maps offered route of 2331 kilometres. Maybe new TV series? If anyone interested in producing it, I’m ready to drive, even if it includes remains of roads Ms Hutchinson drove by.
It was interesting to read how Ms Hutchinson described Split. They stayed in Grand Bellevue hotel, right on the western part of seaside promenade Riva (look at the main photo of this article), and spent four days in Split. I must say she was extremely precise in depicting all the city’s landmark, especially Diocletian’s palace she was really impressed with. What I liked even more is Ms Hutchinson’s effort to get familiar with everyday life in Split, meeting people, shopping at the green market, and enjoying rare restaurants of the era. Writer visited Split prior to 1908, which is visible from her description of Saint Domnio cathedral covered in scaffolds due to a renovation. This was the view of Riva and Diocletian’s Palace in time when she was here.
This book is really great reading, maybe one of the best of early tourism publications. You can read it online here. Also, it’s available for Nook e-book readers, for free, here. There are some later editions available in paper, too, check out at Amazon.com.