The Future is Now: European Travel as Envisioned by Hans Christian Andersen

A fanciful view of future airship travel, engraved by Britain's Ordnance Survey Office in 1864.
By Hans Christian Andersen (Translated by Greta Wolfe)

Reader Greta Wolfe has had fun translating some of Danish storyteller Hans Christian Andersen's more obscure works. She says, "This one seems to be very prophetic, written in January, 1852, long before Jules Verne wrote Around the World in 80 Days. This vision of the year 2850 already seems to have arrived."

Travels in the Next Millennium

Yes, in a thousand years they will be coming through the air, over the world's seas! The young Americans visiting the old Europe. They will be coming to see the monuments and memorials here, the fading past, just as in our time we wander to south Asia's crumbling splendors.

In a thousand years they'll come! The Thames, Danube and Rhine still flow. Mont Blanc has its snowcap, the Northern lights still dance over the Nordic lands, but generation after generation has passed to dust, forgotten, like those who now slumber in Paradise.

"To Europe!" Cry the young Americans. "To our forefathers' lands! Memories and fantasy's lovely land — Europe!"

Airships coming. They are crowded with travelers, the pace is faster than by sea. The electromagnetic ropes under the seas have already telegraphed how big the air caravan is.

All must see Europe. It is Ireland's coast that first appears, but the passengers are still asleep. They wish to be awakened first when they reach England. There they tread Europe's sod in Shakespeare's land — land of politics, industry's birthplace, others call it.

A whole day is spent here. This is how much time the busy generation can spend in big England and Scotland.

The rush goes on — under the Channel tunnel to France, Charlemagne, Napoleon's land. Molière is mentioned — the erudite talk about classic and romantic schools in the fourth renaissance — and celebrations are held for heroes, soldiers, and scientists of which our time knows not yet. They are born here in the heart of Europe — Paris.

The airship flies out over the land Columbus left, where Cortez was born, where Calderon sang drama in verse; lovely dark-eyed women still live and build in the flowering valleys. And in ancient songs you hear about El Cid and Alhambra.

Through the air, over the sea to Italy, where the old eternal Rome lay. It is obliterated, the countryside is barren, a desert. Of old Saint Peter's Basilica they show a lonely standing wall, but one doubts its authenticity.

To Greece, to sleep one night in the luxury hotel high atop Mt. Olympus. Then one can say, "We have been there." The chase goes on toward the Bosporus to rest a few hours and see the place where Byzantium was. Poor fishermen spread their nets here, where legend told of the Harem's garden in Turkish times.

More great cities on the mighty Danube. Cities our age never knew. But here and there, places rich in memories, the future generations must see. There the air caravan dips and takes off again.

Down there lies Germany, once covered with the tightest nets of rails and canals. Country where Luther spoke, Goethe wrote, and where Mozart in his time wore music's crown. Big names light up science and art — names we can't recognize.

One day stay for Germany, and one day for the North, for Ørsted's and Linnaeus' land, and Norway. The old heroes and the young Northmen's land. Iceland is seen on the return trip. Geysers no longer spout, Hekla is closed. But the strong cliff-island still lies in the turbulent sea — a perpetual monument to the sagas.

"There is so much to see in Europe!" say the young Americans, "and we have seen it in eight days. And it is possible, as the famous traveler (a name is mentioned, that belongs to their age) has shown in his famous book 'Europe, Seen in Eight Days.'"