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Last Updated: Friday, 2 April, 2004, 13:54 GMT 14:54 UK
Molvania spoof mocks travel books
Molvania guidebook
Some feel the book reinforces stereotypes
A guidebook extolling the delights of the eastern European country of Molvania is causing controversy.

The guide says Molvania is birthplace of whooping cough, one of the world's biggest parsnip producers and owner of Europe's oldest nuclear reactor.

There is one small problem - Molvania does not exist; the book is, in fact, merely a spoof of a whole genre of travel guides.

But some feel it reinforces stereotypes of Europe's more deprived states.

Invaluable information

Supposedly sandwiched between Romania and Bulgaria, Molvania is described by the book's authors as "a land untouched by modern dentistry".

It's a very beautiful country now that radiation levels have dropped to acceptable standards
Co-author Tom Gleisner
The guidebook provides "invaluable information" for those nervous of negotiating the potential minefield of Molvanian customs.

For example, it forewarns you that at restaurants you will have to pay extra for a waiter with a moustache.

Co-author Tom Gleisner says the idea for the book came about several years ago, while he was backpacking through Portugal with friends.

"We decided to make up a country so we wouldn't offend anybody - or offend everybody, depending on how you look at it," he told Reuters news agency.

'Cheeky' guide?

Mr Gleisner admitted that he and his co-writers focused on eastern Europe because they felt "no-one, even those who live there, is even sure of the geography of the area".

However Mr Gleisner defended his fictional creation.

"It's a very beautiful country now that radiation levels have dropped to acceptable standards," he joked on the BBC's Today programme.

Former UK minister for Europe Keith Vaz said the book was a little "cheeky" because "it does reflect some of the prejudices which are taking root [in Europe]".

However, he added that the guide highlighted people's ignorance of much of the continent.

"He [Mr Gleisner] does try and show exactly where we are lacking in our knowledge," he said.

"The sad thing is, some people might actually believe that this country exists."

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