Travel

Travel on the trail of Wilbur Smith

International bestselling author Wilbur Smith transports readers from Berlin to Addis Ababa, evoking the sights, sounds and smells of these incredible cities. Follow in his footsteps and travel to the settings of his novels Thursday, 16 May

By Wilbur Smith

A good book can transport you to distant lands without you ever having to leave home. Bestselling author Wilbur Smith is a master of this art, with a plethora of globe-trotting novels taking readers everywhere from ancient Thebes to Swinging London. Courtney’s War, the 17th book in the Courtney series, is released in paperback on 16 May, and along with Smith’s other works it can whisk you away to another place and time — or you can use it as inspiration for your own travels. Here’s the ultimate reading list, and where it could take you.

Courtney’s War: Berlin, Germany

A trip to Germany’s capital can transport you back to the era of Courtney’s War, which follows secret agent Saffron Courtney and her Luftwaffe pilot lover, Gerhard von Meerbach. To brush up on your Second World War history, visit the House of the Wannsee Conference, where you can stand in the room where the Holocaust was planned, before taking a guided tour of the striking Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, near Brandenburg Gate. The Berliner Unterwelten air raid bunkers offer another insight into the period.

King of Kings: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

A tale of love and courage, King of Kings is set in the late 19th century, before the Ethiopian Empire (known as Abyssinia) was dissolved in 1974. The novel’s heroine, Amber Benbrook, makes the then-dangerous journey to Addis Ababa, which today still retains its ancient and mystical feel. Here, skyscrapers rub shoulders with traditional markets, such as Shola Market, which sells everything from spices to clothes. British suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst, born in 1882, around the time of the novel’s setting, is buried at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, a 15-minute walk from the National Museum of Ethiopia, where you can also see the skeleton of the world-famous ape, known as ‘Lucy’.

Pharaoh: Luxor, Egypt

Smith has dedicated an entire series of novels to Ancient Egypt, including Pharaoh, the story of slave-turned-army-general Taita, who battles in the ancient city of Luxor. The surviving monuments from this period of ancient Thebes remain of immense scale and grandeur, amidst the spectacular backdrop of the Nile. Catch a glimpse of the Temple of Luxor at sunrise before walking down the Avenue of Sphinxes, a walkway that once stretched over a mile to Karnak and is now almost entirely excavated. The Luxor Museum holds fascinating treasures, including Tutankhamun’s funerary bed; you can see the mummified young pharaoh at his tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

Golden Fox: London, England

Swinging Sixties London provides the setting for Golden Fox, in which headstrong Isabella Courtney is seduced by an undercover KGB operative. Get a taste of her fun-loving, hedonistic city on a vintage Routemaster bus tour, or by strolling down Carnaby Street and the King's Road — two major catwalks of Swinging London. Sip cocktails in cells at the Courthouse Hotel, a former magistrates’ court where Mick Jagger was fined for drugs offences in 1969, or catch a gig at The Troubadour, where everyone from Joni Mitchell to Bob Dylan have played. Also not to be missed are Abbey Road Studios and the Jimi Hendrix Museum.

The Angels Weep: Zimbabwe

The Angels Weep centres around the power struggle between British colonists and African tribes during the 20th century, with Rhodesia-born Smith drawing on his personal experiences. Lions and a landscape of swirling dust are the domain of this novel — and can be expected on a trip to this country of rich wildlife, lush mountains and laid-back towns. Spot the Big Five (leopard, lion, rhino, elephant and buffalo) on a safari in a national park, admire one of the natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls, and explore the nation’s greatest architectural treasure, the ruined city of Great Zimbabwe in Masvingo.

Courtney’s War, by Wilbur Smith, is published in paperback by Zaffre on 16 May, and for a chance to win six of his best novels, click here to enter the competition.

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