Some tourist sites are really beautiful. Some have historical significance. Then, some fall into the category of literary significance. These are, of course, my favorite.
One of the main reasons we visited Marseille was to see the Château d’If- former 16th century fortress, gloomy prison and (most importantly) pivotal setting in The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. Oddly, I’ve never read the book, but it’s one of Mike’s favorites, so after a last minute viewing of the most recent movie version we were both psyched to go.
The château sits in the bay outside Marseille, similar to Alcatraz. In it’s day it was a gloomy prison- one of the most notorious jails in France. It’s isolated location made escape nearly impossible and many political and religious prisoners were sent to languish in the dark stone cells.
Today though, it’s a popular tourist attraction, easily reachable by ferry from the main harbor of Marseille. They come for the prison but most of all, they come for the book. Since it’s publication the Count of Monte Cristo has never gone out of print, has been published in nearly every language and has inspired 29 movie versions. Now I feel bad for not having read it.
Of course, literary tourism is kind of weird. This island is primarily famous for something that never actually happened. It’s a testament to the strength of the story that you can actually forget that fact and so easily imagine Edmond Dantes locked away in the imposing building. Mike and I even found ourselves speculating which side of the island he must have escaped from.
The tourism center seemed a bit confused on how to handle that as well. Throughout the fortress are plaques- some tell the history of the island and some talk about the novel. There’s a corridor dedicated to Alexander Dumas and a sign pointing out Edmond Dantes cell (how did they decide which one was his?).
Special thanks to Eurail.com for sponsoring our European adventure!