Once upon a time there was a plethora of travel guide publishers and the traveller was spoilt for choice when considering what type of guide to squeeze into their luggage.
Over the last decade or so, for obvious internet-related reasons, the situation has been transformed.
Some companies, like Thomas Cook Publishing, simply abandoned the travel guide business; some, like Footprint, were forced to make drastic cutbacks in their publishing range.
One famous company dumbed down by primarily addressing not intrepid travellers but gormless ones intent on ticking boxes and seeing ‘iconic’ sites where they join other selfie-snapping tourists.
One of the big hitters, Rough Guides, has stayed the course and continues to produce intelligent and well-informed analogue guides that earn a place in your wheelie.
More recently, the company has branched into a new kind of thematic travel guide and the result is “Travel the liberation route Europe”.
The guide, produced in cooperation with the Liberation Route Europe Foundation, is based around an internationally recognised remembrance trail that connects important milestones from modern European history.
The countries covered are Italy, UK, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Poland, Czech Republic and Germany.
Each country is broken down into relevant geographical areas, from two for Czech Republic (Pilsen and Prague) to around half a dozen each for the other countries.
For each of these geographical subdivisions, places of interest that can be visited are listed and described. So, for example, London has the Imperial War Museum, Churchill War Rooms, HMS Belfast, Whitehall and, so full of official US buildings during the war that it was nicknamed ‘Eisenhower Platz’, Grosvenor Square. Lublin and the east, as another example, covers the State Museum at Majdanek, the Museum and Memorial in Belzec, the Partisan War Cemetery Osuchy, and Sobibór Memorial.
A number of features make this guide distinctive.
The quality of photographs, evocative ones in black and white that were taken during the war and colour ones relating to what can be seen today, blend the contemporary with the historic in ways that remind us that World War II is not ancient history.
Inter-chapter sections explore topics like various Resistance movements, the role of women in the war effort and the plight of displaced persons and refugees.
Dealing with Europe’s refugees posed colossal problems, with millions of malnourished and homeless people looking for ways to rebuild their lives.
For many, new lives had to be created due to border changes, forced deportations and the transfer of millions of civilians.
The Liberation saw collaboration between between nations that helped create the United Nations and the European Union. The authors of “Travel the liberation route Europe” see the concept of human rights emerging as a result of the Liberation.
Suggestions for tailor-made trips, films and books of relevance, personal reflections and other material all contribute to the making of an exceptional guide about an exceptional event.
“Travel the liberation route Europe” is published by Rough Guides