If you are like me and are somewhat addicted to travel guides, be they Lonely Planet, Rough Guides or something similar, you will greatly appreciate Molvania: A Land Untouched by Modern Dentistry.
Written by a team of Australian comedians — the same men behind the films The Dish and The Castle and the current-affairs mockumentary series Frontline — this is a spoof travel guide for a fictional nation located somewhere in the Baltic region of the former USSR.
In the best travel guide tradition it provides a wealth of advice on places to stay, the best places to eat, the sights to see and intriguing little snippets about the country's social and cultural history, all interspersed with amusing photographs and illustrations.
By turns completely realistic and laugh-out loud funny, it is one of the most entertaining reads I have had in a long while. On every single page there is something that will grab your funny bone and have you chuckling uncontrollably. For this reason, my advice is not to read it in public. It's also not advisable to read it while you have a friend in the room because you will spend all your time annoying them by saying, "hey, listen to this", as you regale them with insights from the book, and then, before you know it, you will be reading the whole thing out loud in between bouts of laughter.
Some random examples to prove my point:
The famous statue of Helmzlog III (the 'Liberator of Lutenblag') stands in the centre of the busy main square, holding aloft a sword and what was for years assumed to be a shield, but has recently turned out — upon closer examination — to be the grille from a Fiat 350.
Many visitors will no doubt have heard of the Gyrorik Art Gallery, an institution that made headlines a few years back when its curator Vbrec Mzecjenj suspected a Rembrandt landscape in the gallery's possession may, in fact, have been painted over a rare, and far more valuable, self-portrait of the Dutch master. Under the curator's guidance a painstaking restoration process was commenced in which the outer layer of the painting was delicately stripped away. The work took almost 16 months and eventually revealed nothing underneath. With the original work destroyed, all that remained of value was the frame which now holds a copy of Mr Mzecjenj's letter of resignation.
And if that wasn't enough, my favourite section of the entire book is not related to the actual travel
writing but to the short biographies assigned to each of the fictional authors who have created the book. For example:
Trudi Dennes: Trudi has lived and worked in Japan for over 10 years. She now works in the department of classical history at Tokyo University. Trudi has never visited Molvania and was assigned to this guide due to a staffing error.
My only quibble with this very clever and comical book is that it gets a bit "samey" after awhile. It's definitely not one to read cover to cover, but one to dip in and out of over an extended period of time. It's perfect light reading to lift your mood and bring a smile to your dial should you need one.