This morning as I read my New York Times, I noticed a full page ad for a Harry Potter contest to coincide with the release of the latest film in the series. My sons are such big fans and it seemed like a fun exercise to have them enter.
Getting sucked into a series of books can be a marvelous experience. You become so invested, almost intimate with the characters. Much to my surprise, I am completely taken by Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy and have been burning the midnight oil as I gallop through the three books. I keep putting the reins on my reading because I don’t want it to end.
This summer, on a trip to the Pacific Northwest’s Olympic Peninsula, I insisted we take a 50-mile detour to visit Forks, Washington, home of the Twilight saga. Twilight is a series of four vampire, teen romance novels by Stephenie Meyer. It follows a teenage girl, named Bella, who moves to Forks, Washington and falls in love with a 104-year-old vampire named Edward Cullen.
I have not read any of them and have little interest in the recent wave of vampire chic, but I am interested in the cult fascination of the vampire trend, and thought it might make a fun side trip. If for nothing else, my 11-year-old son has friends who are obsessed with the characters and so I was intrigued.
After much moaning by the three boys in the car, we took the hour-plus trip from Port Townsend to Forks, a sleepy logging town that has become somewhat of a Mecca for Twilighters or Twihards, as they are called.
Let me tell you, this was a mistake. Unless you have a tween daughter or are particularly smitten with the saga, it’s a huge waste of time. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s positive that a little town on the edge has been resuscitated by a literature feeding frenzy, but I didn’t need to waste the gas money. Besides some life-size poster cutouts of Edward and Bella in the surplus store and this hilarious stall for wood bundles cashing in on the sensation, the town isn’t exactly scintillating. I’m sure if I had read the books I would feel differently, but I certainly used up my free pass to make a travel suggestion for the whole family.
If you are a Twihard, there are tours and chotchki shops on the main drag. You can spend the morning hiking in the Olympic National Forest and then make a detour to this two-stoplight town.
Now a trip to Stockholm, Sweden sounds more appealing. I might even be tempted to take a Millennium Trilogy Tour, seeking out all the spots in Stieg Larsson’s mega hit series. The books ooze with Swedish culture. Since reading the books I have baked Swedish bread and grilled my Swedish friends about everything from the incredible caffeine overload the country must experience to trying to keep the Nordic names straight. The tours take visitors around Stockholm to the real and fictional addresses in the books. The tours even make a stop at the 7-11 shop Lisbeth Salander frequents; she seems to live on frozen pizzas.
Interestingly, the global sensation of the trilogy has meant that visits by tourists have spiked whenever books are translated into a new language. The Larsson mystique was amplified by his premature death of a heart attack at age 50, and there is talk that he was mid-way through a fourth novel when he died unexpectedly. Swedish tourism officials have said the fans of the trilogy, along with the royal wedding this summer, have put Stockholm in the limelight and increased tourism traffic.
If you are interested, there are English language tours, tickets cost about 120 Swedish kronor or about $18-$20. Lisbeth and Blomqvist groupies can also purchase a map of the tour’s route for 40 kronor, about $6, at the Stockholm City Museum or the Stockholm Tourist Center.