Here at Rough Guides, we’re known for our “tell it like it is” ethos, which – coupled with our in-depth knowledge of destinations, reliability, attention to detail and resourcefulness – results in the best guidebooks out there. (We’re not biased.) The current coronavirus situation means we can’t get out there researching at the moment, so we’ve instead decided to take a look back at the wealth of travel writing from the Middle Ages to see whether any of these historical authors would have what it takes to join the Rough Guides team. We’ll be considering big names in the medieval travel industry, like Marco Polo, and more obscure applicants such as Simon of St Quentin. Let’s find out who’s in with a shot!
Visitors to today’s Bergen are unlikely to witness any royal coronations, but the Bryggen part of town retains a medieval vibe, perhaps similar to the city as Matthew would have experienced it. Bergen is also an excellent jumping off point for hiking trips in Norway’s fjords.
There are generally no Mongol army encampments at Sisian nowadays, but the town is a good base for visiting the nearby stone circle of Zorets Karer – Armenia’s version of Stonehenge – or the beautiful Shaki waterfall.
Nikitin’s text includes a description of the sultan’s palace: this is likely to be Bidar Fort, which was constructed in the fifteenth-century and is still well worth a visit today. Elsewhere in town, you can also visit impressive madrassahs and tombs dating from the same period.
As an important site for Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Jerusalem is still an enormously popular destination for pilgrims and tourists alike. Margery is likely to have been most interested in visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, but there are plenty of other places of interest in the city, including the Dome of the Rock and the Temple Mount.
The island of Java is a fantastically diverse destination – visitors can check out the ancient ruins of Borobudur, explore the cosmopolitan city of Jakarta, or go trekking to volcanoes and through jungles. Just don’t expect to find the wine tree.
Archeological traces of Khan-balik can still be seen in Beijing’s Tucheng Park, but the Chinese capital offers plenty of other sites of interest, notably Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. It’s also possible to reach the Great Wall of China in less than an hour from Beijing.
Regrettably, Mali isn’t the safest country in which to travel at present, but it does host some remarkable sights. The Great Mosque of Djenné, built entirely of mud and renewed in an annual festival, is an architectural masterpiece, while the famous city of Timbuktu is a centre of Tuareg culture. Until 2012, a Festival of the Desert was held here, showcasing Tuareg music – perhaps similar to that seen by Ibn Battuta.
Top image: Borobudur, Indonesia © Adel Newman/Shutterstock