From Hungary to Europe (The Organization of Travel in the Early Modern Hungary)


Starting from the difference in the goals of travel in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, István Bitskey's study focuses on various genres of travel literature and aims to outline the traveling customs of the early modern period. The essay also explores the meanings of this endeavor for individuals of that time: increasing knowledge and awareness of other cultures and a quest for identity. The study takes into account various definitions and contexts of travel and focuses on its purpose, spiritual or academic. While dealing with the rituals of pilgrimage and their meaning, the essay concerns itself primarily with academic travel, taking into account the experiences of both Protestant travelers to northern Europe and Catholic travelers to Rome. The study further considers the various travel destinations - pointing to the attraction of certain sites, like Venice (which was considered worth visiting for its beauty but was also well located for people traveling to Rome or to the Holy Land). The essay explores the social background of travelers, their decision to travel individually or as a group, means of travel, distances covered in one day, accommodation along the road, amount of luggage, (which largely depended on status). The essay emphasizes the difference in experience of travelers from specific social strata: the Kavalierstour of the young aristocrat being worlds apart from the adventures of the ordinary student. The study takes into account preparation for travel including the acquisition of information and the use of guidebooks, and the processing of the experience as well as the wealth of texts produced in its wake. Guidebooks were intended to shape the experience of travel beforehand, diaries documented it on a daily basis, letters provided rich accounts of the adventures, travelogues and travel books described the journeys in more thoughtful ways. The essay analyses the specific genres that were meant to prepare the young academic traveler. Finally, the study is concerned with the benefits of travel: academic credentials were obtained alongside life experience and a taste of the world. For the young of early modern Hungary travel was not entertainment but rather an eye opening experience. The author is ever aware of the clash of cultures and highlights contemporary awareness of the cultural encounter that travel facilitates.