Whenever I visit somewhere new, I love exploring the area. When I go abroad, I am obsessed with seeing graveyards and ruins (and highly recommend Spinalonga leper colony in Crete). When I go to a new city, I love wandering to the places where your wallet is less likely to remain in your pocket. That’s why I want to visit Verne’s centre of the Earth— to explore.
The book follows a scientist and his nephew down the Snæfellsjökull volcano in search of the Earth’s core. By the time you work out how to pronounce the volcano’s name, they discover an underground cavern. To their side is a forest of mushroom trees which are “forty feet high”; in front of them is a sky of “electric light” and a “vast sea”. On the land and in the sea is an abundance of prehistoric animals, long extinct above the ground but thriving here: pterodactyls, elephant things, turtle things, tall bird things and those long-necked whales. Who doesn’t like dinosaurs?
If I survived the passage over the sea, I would land on another island. What’s different about this one? Cavemen. I could see the cavemen and dinosaurs coexist, partially just as a middle finger to the people online who say they never coexisted, but also because it would be amazing to see. The book was already a phenomenal experience, with Verne’s writing style being so engrossing, but nothing would beat seeing these things. I would highly recommend anyone who is interested to check out Édouard Riou, who created superb illustrations of the book. My edition (Sea Wolf Press) had all these illustrations included, which activated my inner 6-year-old and made reading it so much better.
As a great fan of European history, I would love to see a place from the past. Sure, I can always go to a museum, but experiencing landmark events in person would be far more exciting. And medieval Russia from Arden’s trilogy is truly unique - painfully realistic and wonderfully magical at the same time. Set in the 14th century, the books follow crucial moments in its history that eventually formed the powerful country we know today.
It would be fascinating to observe the rising influence and beauty of Moscow, thus witnessing the birth of a magnificent culture. I would also love to explore wintry landscapes, wild nature and mysterious forests. However, it is visiting rural areas where Christianity and Slavic paganism coexisted that seems the most intriguing.
Speaking of which, meeting the local community is often the best part of the journey. Sure, places themselves are admirable, but it is who we get to know that makes travelling truly memorable. And when it comes to Arden’s Russia, it would be even more interesting since the country is full of mythical creatures - Domovoy, a guardian of the home, clever Leshy, majestic Firebird - they would all make my trip simply unforgettable. I just hope they won’t mind a stranger from the future - the prospect of being drowned by a cruel vodyanoy is not especially compelling. Not to mention that my desire to meet the charismatic winter king, Morozko, could have tragic consequences… But a journey without risk is way too boring.
When I get tired of travelling in the cold, being wary of magical creatures and trying to communicate in a language I’ve never studied, I will visit Baba Yaga in her wooden hut. Surprising destination? Maybe, but if Baba Yaga decides that I don’t look like a delicious treat, she might agree to teach me her tricks. And coming back from a trip with new (dangerous?) skills would be remarkable… After all, travelling broadens the mind.