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A LAND FAR, FAR AWAY 


MOLVANIA: A LAND TOUCHED BY MODERN DENTISTRY
By Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner & Rob Sitch (Overlook Press, 175 pages)

As both a traveler and a writer, I've always noticed it, but never known quite what it was – that nagging sense from "travel writers" and their "guidebooks" that they know everything there is to know about a country. So no matter what I do in some strange land – even following the advice laid out in said guide – I'll never experience "the real `insert obscure destination here`" in the same enlightened fashion as the author, despite having an incredibly meaningful and entertaining vacation in the process.

Well, the authors of the Jetlag Travel Guide series must have grown tired of feeling like they weren't getting the "real" travel experiences they "should" have had. So they decided to publish an entirely new kind of guidebook, one that gives the lowdown on an entirely fictional country, so everyone can feel left out. Unsurpris-ingly, the first book in the series, Molvania, is currently a best seller in Europe and Australia; you know, where all the "real" travelers come from. (They probably think Molvania is the one place they've yet to visit and can't wait to hop the next Aeromolv flight to Lutenblag.)

In a stylistic cross between the snootiness of Fodor's and the aren't-we-cooler-than-everyone-else vibe of Lonely Planet, Molvania chronicles the best places to stay (or at least those least likely to have lice), the best things to eat (usually old meat and three starches) and the best sights to see (because, certainly, you're dying to take in all the wonder of the Eastern European catastrophe that is Molvania). Whether it's the faux-architecture, the faux-cuisine or the faux-history (my favorite bit is about St. Fyodor, Molvania's patron saint, who gave up all movement), the authors never give up the joke. While some of the entries are redundant, it just wouldn't be a travel guide if it didn't point out the best parts of Sasava, Vajana and Dzrebo.

In the same way that Molvania is quick to cheer on the toothlessness, communist-era inefficiency and general drabness of Eastern Europe in a decidedly un-PC way, it's doubtless that the next "guides" in the series, set to detail the splendors of Bongoswana and Moustaschistan, will be similarly insensitive. And I can't wait for 'em.

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