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11 Awesome Stops That Should Be on Every Harry Potter Fan's Vacation List

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Love Harry Potter? Love traveling? Then we have a bucket list for you.

1. COLLEGE OF WIZARDRY // CZOCHA, POLAND

This LARP (or live action role-playing) event is about as close as most Muggles are likely to get to being a wizard. The volunteer-run College of Wizardry takes place in an actual castle, which participants live in for a long weekend. “We want the larp to feel like you're stepping into the world of Harry Potter,” the organizers state on the website. Upon arrival, participants—who play students and instructors—receive a wizard robe, a study book, and a tie in their House color. The event, according to the website, “is created by the players and organisers together, with everyone pitching in and helping make the magic come alive.” Registration for the next event, which takes place in April 2015, is now open.

2. THE QUIDDITCH WORLD CUP // VARIOUS LOCATIONS

You don’t need a portkey to get to the Muggle version of the Quidditch World Cup (you might need a plane ticket, though). The event, which is located in a different place each year, started as a competition between two schools in the Northeast in 2007. It has since become an international event featuring the sport’s 80 best teams, each comprised of seven players—who must hold their brooms at all times—assuming the posititions created by J.K. Rowling. An additional player serves as the Snitch. (According to the Quidditch World Cup website, “Snitches at this years World Cup will be selected based on past snitching experience and self-reported time trials. Snitches who hold a current & active certification from a Snitch Academy will be given priority selection over non-certified snitches. Certified snitches do not need to submit time trials as similar trials are being held as part of the Academy process.”)

3. MUGGLE TOURS // LONDON

This guided walking tour happens nearly every day and takes participants to a number of filming locations from the Harry Potter films, including the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron from Prisoner of Azkaban, the visitors’ entrance to the Ministry of Magic from Order of the Phoenix, the alleyway that served as the inspiration for Diagon Alley, and No. 12 Grimmauld Place, among others.

4. HARRY POTTER ENGLAND TOUR // LACOCK AND OXFORD, ENGLAND

The Harry Potter series filmed all over Britain, and this day-long tour, which picks up and drops off in London, takes fans to some of the hotspots. Adventurers will stop in Lacock Village, where they’ll see Professor Slughorn’s house, James and Lily Potter’s house in Godric’s Hollow, and the classrooms of Professors Snape and Quirrell. Then they’ll head to Oxford, where the University Colleges were used as stand-ins for Hogwarts. (A longer, two-day tour also includes a stop in Gloucester and an up-close experience with owls.)

5. WARNER BROS. STUDIO TOUR // LONDON

Of course, no Harry Potter fan’s world tour would be complete without a visit to Leavesden Studios—formerly an old airplane factory and runway—where the movies were filmed for over a decade. Visitors can hang out in the Great Hall and Diagon Alley, visit the Dursley’s home at 4 Privet Drive, board the Knight Bus, drink a butterbeer, and even hop on a broom against a green screen to take an awesome souvenir photo.

6. PLATFORM 9 ¾ // KING’S CROSS STATION, LONDON

Wizards-to-be, of course, ran through a barrier in London’s King's Cross Station to this platform, where they caught the Hogwarts Express to school. Muggles can’t do that, but they can take fun photos with the trolley that’s halfway through the wall and shop in the nearby Potter store, which has some fun exclusives.

7. LONDON ZOO REPTILE HOUSE // LONDON

Memorably, in the Sorcerer's Stone movie, Harry visits the London Zoo with the Dursleys. In the Reptile House, he not only has a conversation with a Burmese python, he makes the glass front of its habitat disappear, allowing the snake to slither free. Potter fans can reenact the scene themselves, but let's hope they don't make the glass disappear: In real life, the exhibit holds a very venomous black mamba.

8. WIZARD CHAMBERS, GEORGIA HOTEL HOUSE // LONDON

Maybe you never got your Hogwarts letter in the mail; maybe you’re too impatient to wait for it. Either way, staying in the Wizard Chambers at the Georgia House Hotel should scratch that Hogwarts itch. The rooms are furnished in a gothic style with four-poster beds, cauldrons, old trunks, and the Gryffindor crest on the wall. It’s enough to make any Muggle feel like they’re staying in a magical castle.

9. HARRY POTTER EXHIBITION // TRAVELING

Upon entering this traveling exhibition—currently in Germany—visitors are separated into houses by the Sorting Hat. Then, they’ll travel through rooms with displays inspired by the films’ sets to check out authentic Harry Potter props and costumes. There’s also an audio guide featuring interviews with the craftsmen and women who helped bring this magical world to life.

10. HARRY POTTER TOUR // EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND

Go back to where it all began with this tour, which starts in Edinburgh. First, travelers will go to the cafes where J.K. Rowling wrote the books; then, they’ll travel Northumberland to visit Alnwick Castle, which acted as Hogwarts in the first two films. The tour finishes up in the Scottish Highlands, where the visitors will visit filming locations and take a steam train that crosses over the Glenfinnan Viaduct (which Potter fans will recognize from Chamber of Secrets—it’s where Ron and Harry have a close encounter with the Hogwarts Express in Mr. Weasley’s Ford Anglia!).

11. THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER // ORLANDO, FLORIDA

Americans looking to get the Harry Potter experience without leaving the continent can head to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida. There, they’ll visit Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, ride the Hogwarts Express and Dragon Challenge rides, drink pumpkin juice and butterbeer, eat at the Three Broomsticks and The Leaky Cauldron, and shop at stores like Dervish and Banges, Honeydukes, and Weasleys Wizard Wheezes.

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12 Facts About Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness
George C. Beresford/Getty Images
George C. Beresford/Getty Images

Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novella about venturing into the moral depths of colonial Africa is among the most frequently analyzed literary works in college curricula.

1. ENGLISH WAS THE AUTHOR’S THIRD LANGUAGE.

It’s impressive enough that Conrad wrote a book that has stayed relevant for more than a century. This achievement seems all the more impressive when considering that he wrote it in English, his third language. Born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in 1857, Conrad was a native Polish speaker. French was his second language. He didn’t even know any English—the language of his literary composition—until age 21.

2. HEART OF DARKNESS BEGINS AND ENDS IN THE UK.

Though it recounts Marlow's voyage through Belgian Congo in search of Kurtz and is forever linked to the African continent, Conrad’s novella begins and ends in England. At the story’s conclusion, the “tranquil waterway” that “seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness” is none other than the River Thames.

3. THE PROTAGONIST MARLOW IS CONRAD.

The well-traveled Marlow—who appears in other Conrad works, such as Lord Jim—is based on his equally well-traveled creator. In 1890, 32-year-old Conrad sailed the Congo River while serving as second-in-command on a Belgian trading company steamboat. As a career seaman, Conrad explored not only the African continent but also ventured to places ranging from Australia to India to South America.

4. LIKE KURTZ AND MARLOW, CONRAD GOT SICK ON HIS VOYAGE.

Illness claimed Kurtz, an ivory trader who has gone mysteriously insane. It nearly claimed Marlow. And these two characters almost never existed, owing to their creator’s health troubles. Conrad came down with dysentery and malaria in Belgian Congo, and afterwards had to recuperate in the German Hospital, London, before heading to Geneva, Switzerland, to undergo hydrotherapy. Though he survived, Conrad suffered from poor health for many years afterward.

5. THERE HAVE BEEN MANY ALLEGED KURTZES IN REAL LIFE.

The identity of the person on whom Conrad based the story’s antagonist has aroused many a conjecture. Among those suggested as the real Kurtz include a French agent who died on board Conrad’s steamship, a Belgian colonial officer, and Welsh explorer Henry Morton Stanley.

6. COLONIZING WAS ALL THE RAGE WHEN HEART OF DARKNESS APPEARED.

Imperialism—now viewed as misguided, oppressive, and ruthless—was much in vogue when Conrad’s novella hit shelves. The "Scramble for Africa" had seen European powers stake their claims on the majority of the continent. Britain’s Queen Victoria was even portrayed as the colonies' "great white mother." And writing in The New Review in 1897, adventurer Charles de Thierry (who tried and failed to establish his own colony in New Zealand) echoed the imperialistic exuberance of many with his declaration: “Since the wise men saw the star in the East, Christianity has found no nobler expression.”

7. CHINUA ACHEBE WAS NOT A FAN OF THE BOOK.

Even though Conrad was no champion of colonialism, Chinua Achebe—the Nigerian author of Things Fall Apart and other novels—delivered a 1975 lecture called “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” that described Conrad as a “thoroughgoing racist” and his ubiquitous short classic as “an offensive and deplorable book.” However, even Achebe credited Conrad for having “condemned the evil of imperial exploitation.” And others have recognized Heart of Darkness as an indictment of the unfairness and barbarity of the colonial system.

8. THE BOOK WASN’T SUCH A BIG DEAL—AT FIRST.

In 1902, three years after its initial serialization in a magazine, Heart of Darkness appeared in a volume with two other Conrad stories. It received the least notice of the three. In fact, not even Conrad himself considered it a major work. And during his lifetime, the story “received no special attention either from readers or from Conrad himself,” writes Gene M. Moore in the introduction to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness: A Casebook. But Heart of Darkness managed to ascend to immense prominence in the 1950s, after the planet had witnessed “the horror”—Kurtz's last words in the book—of WWII and the ramifications of influential men who so thoroughly indulged their basest instincts.

9. T.S. ELIOT BORROWED AN IMPORTANT LINE.

Though Heart of Darkness wasn’t an immediate sensation, it evidently was on the radar of some in the literary community. The famous line announcing the antagonist’s demise, “Mistah Kurtz—he dead,” serves as the epigraph to the 1925 T.S. Eliot poem “The Hollow Men.”

10. THE STORY INSPIRED APOCALYPSE NOW.

Eighty years after Conrad’s novella debuted, the Francis Ford Coppola film Apocalypse Now hit the big screen. Though heavily influenced by Heart of Darkness, the movie’s setting is not Belgian Congo, but the Vietnam War. And though the antagonist (played by Marlon Brando) is named Kurtz, this particular Kurtz is no ivory trader, but a U.S. military officer who has become mentally unhinged.

11. HEART OF DARKNESS HAS BEEN MADE INTO AN OPERA.

Tarik O'Regan’s Heart of Darkness, an opera in one act, opened in 2011. Premiering at London’s Royal Opera House, it was reportedly the first operatic adaptation of Conrad’s story and heavily inspired by Apocalypse Now.

12. THE BOOK ALSO SPARKED A VIDEO GAME.

In a development not even Conrad’s imagination could have produced, his classic inspired a video game, Spec Ops: The Line, which was released in 2012.

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Design
A Cartographer Is Mapping All of the UK’s National Parks, J.R.R. Tolkien-Style
Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park
Dan Bell

Cartographer Dan Bell makes national parks into fantasy lands. Bell, who lives near Lake District National Park in England, is currently on a mission to draw every national park in the UK in the style of the maps in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Kottke.org reports.

The project began in September 2017, when Bell posted his own hand-drawn version of a Middle Earth map online. He received such a positive response that he decided to apply the fantasy style to real world locations. He has completed 11 out of the UK’s 15 parks so far. Once he finishes, he hopes to tackle the U.S. National Park system, too. (He already has Yellowstone National Park down.)

Bell has done various other maps in the same style, including ones for London and Game of Thrones’s Westeros, and he commissions, in case you have your own special locale that could use the Tolkien treatment. Check out a few of his park maps below.

A close-up of a map for Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park in central England
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Cairngorms National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Cairngorms National Park in Scotland
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Lake District National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Lake District National Park in England
Dan Bell

You can buy prints of the maps here.

[h/t Kottke.org]

All images by Dan Bell

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