I leave this Thursday night for Vienna with the kindly and, fortunately for me, highly competent and patient Janet. We fly via Alitalia, making a quick transfer in Milan. Sadly, there will be only the short stop in Italy, as it was too expensive to travel there during the summer months. No worries, though, as Vienna will prove to be very fulfilling, I'm sure.
Anyway. A few years ago when I went to Morocco with Mom, I discovered the joys of obsessively reading a travel guide. I would wonder aloud why Morocco was a certain way, why people did certain things, and Mom, who had inevitably read the entire book from cover to cover, would explain why. So when we went to Turkey the following year, I made sure to read all about it. Specifically, we had purchased a Lonely Planet guide. I've been hooked on LP ever since.
As people who spend a good deal of time with me know, I have a tendency to become obsessed with things that interest me - NPR, a good book, Chappelle's Show, and so on. So that, in conversation, I'll frequently start a sentence with "I was listening to NPR" or "That reminds me of the [fill in the blank] piece on Chappelle's Show" (then I'm reduced to giggles as I try to spit it out). Right now, it's all Lonely Planet. Poor poor Janet. (The fact that it rhymes is not lost on me).
While Janet and I were going over plans and sharing information, I started at least 15 sentences with the phrase "According to the Lonely Planet...." By the end, I could hear the sigh from Janet. The girl lived with me for three years during college, so she knows how I get - I did this all the time with classes. You should have seen me during my Mexican History class. I couldn't shut up about it. (Mexican history is very exciting, though).
Suffice it to say, I believe that having a good guide book is terribly useful - not just for telling you how to say "thank you" in Turkish (tesekkur) or explaining why Moroccan goats climb trees (they like the eat the seeds off them.... don't even get me started on what Moroccans do with the goat excrement) or that Vienna's U-Bahn works on the honor system (but woe to the person who gets snagged without validating their pass!). I personally have a greater appreciation for a destination when I understand its culture and history to some degree before I arrive. I read about the Easter uprising before I went to Dublin, and so seeing the GPO was more than just a building to me - it was an experience. Also, guide books help me figure out all the food I'll eat, which we all know may be the most important thing.