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Summer 2018 Reading Challenge: Backpack Across Europe

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Update August 12
Travel hub for the week: Scotland
Weather delay: Greece and Poland
Traveler delay: None this week
Special Event/challenge alert: Culinary adventure. All participants are eligible. This week is all about food! You may earn up to x points over the week. Stage 1: Appetizer from your current country (1 extra point). Stage 2: Entree. Cook and post a main meal that is typical to your country (3 extra points). Stage 3: Dessert back/cook and post a photo of a dessert that is typical to your country (2 extra points).

You must actually cook/bake/make the meal yourself. Restaurants don’t count. Be creative and also add the recipe for others to follow. If you travel across countries over the week. you can make different dishes for the stage where you are located.
Creativity points: TBD

Welcome to our summer 2018 reading challenge where together we will read our way across Europe! The goal of the challenge is to backpack (a.k.a. read) across Europe and amass the highest points. The challenge will begin July 2 and will end September 30 at midnight EST.

How to play:
All players will begin in their home country and will fly to one of the following airports: Heathrow (UK), Charles de Gaulle (France), or Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (Netherlands). Once you arrive you must read a book from that country in order to begin your travels and move on to the next country.

To travel across the Europe you must read and review books corresponding to each country that you visit. The book either must be predominantly set in that country or the author has to be from that country. You will be awarded points for each country that you visit. To fully participate you must travel to at least 4 European countries prior to arriving back home. You must move across the continent in the same way you would travel over land. You can’t skip over countries (see exception below) by using water travel. You may only use water travel to visit island countries.

To move across a continent you must complete your book and post a mini review (or link to your review on Goodreads or your blog) as a comment on this page.

Four bonus points will be awarded for visiting landmarks. To get credit for visiting a landmark, you must be able to draw a link between your book and the landmark. This can be a quote, a reference to a historical event, a central theme of the book, or another type of tie-in (character in the book visits the location, etc). A moderator (Book Worm or myself will determine whether the reason you provide is sufficient to merit the landmark points). The landmarks are the following:

Mont-Saint-Michel, France
Parthenon, Greece
The Charles Bridge, Prague
La Grand-Place, Brussels
Brandenburg Gate
The Gran Bazaar, Istanbul

Old city of Dubrovnik
Buda Castle

Your trip will end when you arrive back in your home country and complete a book for your home country. To travel back to your home country, you must depart from one of the following airports: Frankfurt (Germany), Istanbul (Turkey), or Adolfo Suarez Madrid (Spain). If you live in Europe you may travel back to your home country over land, bypassing the final air travel requirement.

Travel Exceptions: Each Monday (starting July 2) three types of major events will happen that can impact your game. One event type will advance your game and the other two event types will delay you. In addition, a fourth type of event will pop up periodically and could help you.

  1. Travel hubs: Each Monday we will use to select 1 country that will become a travel hub for the week (Monday-Sunday). If you arrive in this country any time in the week it is the designated travel hub, you will be able to move to any other European country from that travel hub. In order to take advantage of this opportunity you must declare that you are using the travel hub and where you are going before the end of the week.
  2. Travel delays: Two randomly selected participants will be picked each Monday to experience a travel delay. If you are selected, then you will not be able to advance to a new country until the following Monday. You can finish your current book but will not be able to start a new book until your travel restriction is lifted. You may be delayed multiple times throughout the game. We want you to take your time “traveling” and enjoying the sites. Speeding through countries too fast may result in more frequent travel delays. Each week players’ names will be entered into the randomizer for travel delays based on how many countries they visited in the prior week. So if you didn’t complete any books your name won’t be entered into the randomizer but if you complete 5 books in a week, your name will be entered  5 times and the likelihood that you will be delayed will increase.
  3. Weather warning. Two countries will be randomly selected as blackout countries each Monday. This means that for that week, you will be unable to travel through that country. If you are already in that country when the weather warning occurs, you may finish your current book but  may not start your next country until the blackout is over. If you are adjacent to that country and want to travel through it, you must either wait until the end of the week OR find a alternate route.
  4. Special events. At periodic times through the challenge, special events will be announced that impact a specific country. If you happen to be located in that country in the week of the special event, you will have the opportunity to participate in a special (non-reading) mini-challenge to earn more points.

Additional Rules:

  • You can only read one book/country at a time.
  • You may only get points for a country once. If you travel through it again, you need to read a new book in order to pass through the country BUT you will not get points for reading that book. We suggest you plan a trip that avoids visiting the same country more than once.
  • You must complete the book and write a mini review BEFORE you move onto the next country.
  • Please keep track of your own score on this page. You can start a thread for yourself by posting a comment with your name. Then each time you return to update, just hit reply to your original comment with the mini review and score update. I will double check all scores.
  • Books must be over 120 pages.

Travel by Ferry. We are limiting ferry travel. You are backpacking through Europe and are strapped for cash so you can’t afford to travel by Ferry or airline. You may use ferry for the following:
Iceland to and from Norway & any UK country
UK (we will allow any UK country to count) to and from France
Greece to and from Italy

Be Creative and make it fun!

For a truly immersive experience, go the extra mile. Post photos, journal entries, maps, quotes, etc! Photoshop yourself into travel pictures, write short stories about your experiences “visiting” each country. We want you to tell your travel story.  At the end of the game, we’ll be picking 5 people who’ve done the best job in creating a complete travel experience and our readers will pick their favorite. You can post your updates on Litsy (but make sure to tag both me @jenP and @bookwormM and use #backpackEurope. You can also post your journey on your own blogs, goodreads, or instagram – just make sure to let us know so we see the posts. 

Points & Prizes:
-Country points: 1 point per country completed. NOTE: You will only receive point the first time you visit a country.
-Landmark points: You can earn 4 bonus points for each landmark visited. Your must post how your book ties into the landmark and a moderator must approve the tie in for you to receive these bonus points. NOTE: You will only receive points the first time you visit a landmark.
-creativity points: Each week I will award one participant with 1 bonus point for creativity. The person who is most creative in their posts (photos, stories of their travels, tie-in, etc) will be awarded with an extra point. I will announce that person at the beginning of the week.

Grand Prize: Fabulous mystery box filled with books and bookish items. To win this prize you must a) reach your home country AND b) have the highest number of points among all those who also reach home. If you have the most points but fail to reach your home country by end of game (September 30) you will not be eligible for the grand prize.
Creative Reader: One lucky winner will be selected who best represents the spirit of the game and immerses themselves in the experience. Myself and Book Worm will select 5 top contenders and everyone will have a change to view their posts and vote on their favorite.
Early Bird prize: $25 Amazon gift card for the first person to arrive home (must visit at least 4 countries prior to returning home).

TO SIGN UP: Simply create a thread in the comments section here for yourself. See the example I created for myself.

List of participants:

  1. Diane S
  2. Jen (Goodreads & Litsy)
  3. Jamie B (Goodreads & Listy)
  4. The Other Jen (Goodreads 1001 member)
  5. Paula S (Goodreads 1001 member)
  6. Claire B (Litsy @Dulcinella & Goodreads)
  7. Kelly (Goodreads and Litsy)
  8. The other Diane (P) (goodreads 1001 member)
  9. Liz M (goodreads 1001 member & Litsy)
  10. Tatjana (Goodreads 1001 member)
  11. WanderingLynn (Litsy)
  12. Tatiana (TCLinrow on Litsy)
  13. Katja (Litsy)
  14. Cindy (Litsy @cinfhen)
  15. Tanya D (here)
  16. Andrea J. (Litsy)
  17. Jan H (wordpress blog)
  18. Rachel O (Litsy)
  19. Molly G (Litsy)
  20. Allissa (@lapreader Litsy)
  21. Parzival
  22. Jessica H (Litsy)
  23. Nicole D
  24. Charisma
  25. Rachel N
  26. Tessa B
  27. Denise (jerdencon Litsy)
  28. mhillis (mhillis Litsy)
  29. Cindy (here)
  30. Ashley (Ash.on.The.Line Litsy)
  31. Simona (Litsy)
  32. Nikki (@VeganCleopatra Litsy)
  33. Juliana Brina (blog: The blank Garden)
  34. Elizabeth G (@Mabell Litsy)
  35. Jo (Litsy)
  36. Hilde (GR and Litsy)
  37. Hallie (@Hes7 Litsy)
  38. Amelia (Litsy @schmia)
  39. Amanda (Litsy @Amanda61)
  40. Linsy (Litsy)
  41. April (@AAdamson Litsy)
  42. Kristel (goodreads and Litsy)
  43. Barbara (@Barbarabb)
323 Comments Post a comment
  1. bellavitagirl4 #

    bookandcat – Litsy @bookandcat and likely Instagram @bookandcat_ig

    Late to the party but ready to go!

    Liked by 2 people

    July 13, 2018
    • Glad you could join in!

      Liked by 1 person

      July 13, 2018
    • bellavitagirl4 #

      Home : USA.
      Internet has been spotty so I will send some updates from the past few !

      Country 1 (England, Mansfield Park by Jane Austen): Well, I made it England! The flight from the US was long. I spent some time in London and got to see the specialty blimp everyone was talking about. I also visited Bath, where I had a tea party and finished up Mansfield Park for my #janeaustenreadalong #mansfieldparkredaysadlalong – I have always wanted to visit England! Book was 3/5.

      Country 2 (Scotland, The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith): next up on my list was Scotland. While I didn’t see any murders in Edinburgh like the heroine of my book did, I saw plenty of tartan and wool! I decided against the haggis. I also listened a bit to Harry Potter on audiobook and imagined taking the Hogwarts Express through the Scottish countryside.
      I love Alexander McCall Smith but this book wasnt my cup of tea. Dalhousie needed more to do.

      Country 3 (Ireland, The Likeness by Tana French): here’s a spooky reading in the dark picture from my hotel in Ireland for a very spooky, dark book. Tana French is my favorite crime writer and writes all about the Dublin Murder Squad. I went on a ghost tour. No beer drinking for me because it tastes gross. I’ve enjoyed walking amid all the greenery in the countryside. Ireland is as green as they say, but haven’t found a pot of gold yet. 5/5 stars.

      Current score: 3


      July 13, 2018
    • bookandcat #

      JUNE 16-22: Country 4 (Iceland, Independent People by Halldor Laxness): TRAVEL DELAY. I was 80% set to move on from Iceland when my ferry got delayed due to rough seas! I won’t be able to move on for another week😣. I have enjoyed touring Reykjavik in the summer (I hate the cold, so it’s a *bit warmer* now. And I took time with my delay to see the Northern Lights!)
      This book was not my fave. It was about farming but not comforting/pastoral. My first Icelandic author! 2/5

      Points: 4


      July 18, 2018
    • bookandcat #

      Country 5 (Norway, Autumn by Karl Ove Knausgaard): Travel delay is over, I made it to Norway! It’s nice during the summer – gorgeous hiking scenery!!
      Karl Ove Knausgaard is the master of the micromundane. These meditations written for the impending birth of his daughter are stunning. I’ve loved his My Struggle books but had never finished this one – I restarted it and devoured it a day. Looking forward to the sequel. 5/5

      Current score: 5


      July 23, 2018
    • bookandcat #

      Country 6 (Sweden, My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry by Frederik Backman)) Sweden is an interesting place! People are very friendly here. I went to a crayfish party and didn’t mind it, but I’m not a fan of all of the other fish. The castles are pretty amazing too. I wanted to go to the beach but the water is too cold!
      This is now my 2nd favorite Backman book. I hope I am like the grandma one day. I liked the HP references and found it uplifting and very touching. 4/5
      score: 6

      Liked by 1 person

      July 24, 2018
    • bookandcat #

      Country 7: (Finland, Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name by Vendela Vida)
      I spent some time in Lapland, where I heard some local Sami people sing some yoiks (yodeling folk songs like these: ).
      Oooh this book was SO good but the last few pages of the ending made me so MAD. I had a different book planned (The Finnish Line) but opened this for a page or two and couldn’t stop til it was done. Clarissa’s grief and pain is so raw and beautifully drawn in her search for her bio dad. The writing is as sparkling as the Finnish landscape. 4/5

      Score: 7


      July 25, 2018
    • bookandcat #

      Country 8: (Russia, The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra) I was a bit nervous traveling to Russia (some family members were under Soviet rule) but I enjoyed seeing the Faberge museum, Red Square, and the old palace in St Petersburg.
      This book is lovely but sad – the short stories all link together, from the censor who paints out the ballerina whose granddaughter is an actress who…
      It’s like a lovely piece of music, but the censorship hurt to read about. 4/5
      Score: 8

      Liked by 1 person

      July 26, 2018
    • bookandcat #

      Country 9: (Estonia, When the Doves Disappeared by Sofi Oksanen) I feel like Estonia gets forgotten a lot. I saw the old city of Tallinn and the KGB Museum.
      This book was okay, I think it hit me in the wrong mood. Well-written, it details the national traumas of Naziism and Soviet Communist rule through cousins on opposite sides (Roland and Edgar). The USSR was so Orwellian…and right after Nazi rule…this book made me feel so badly for the people of Estonia but amazed at how they keep on going. 2/5
      Current score: 9


      July 28, 2018
      • I was in Tallinn one day (less than a day) as a port on a Baltic cruise. I would LOVE to get back there some day!

        Liked by 1 person

        July 28, 2018
    • bookandcat #

      Country 10: (Latvia, The Hidden Letters of Velta B. By Gina Ochsner) Baltic tour continues in Latvia, one of the countries of the Singing Revolution. I attended a concert in Riga. Music is very important to Latvia – many songs were used as protest songs and to help gain independence from the Soviets, such as this one:
      I loved how this book contained so much music, and so much musical language. Inara’s words to her son were powerful.4/5

      Current score: 10

      Also Cindy: my choir went on tour to the Baltics but I couldn’t go, I’d love to go IRL!

      Liked by 1 person

      July 29, 2018
      • Mine was a Baltic cruise, so I was there for less than a day. You should get there if you can! Doing a cruise, then booking a tour for the 2 days we were in St. Petersburg was probably the easiest way to get in to Russia, as they organize any visas and whatnot you’d need.

        Liked by 1 person

        July 29, 2018
    • bookandcat #

      Country 11: (Lithuania, Indelible by Adelia Saunders) I explored street art in Vilnius, Lithuania!
      This was the only Lithuania book my library system had😣-a Lithuanian woman can see invisible words on others’ skin. In Paris, she sees her name on Neil. When they return to Vilnius you find out what links them. I’m part Polish; it has been enlightening to read Eastern European books and see similarities/differences in customs/language/attitudes across the region (especially coming through the Nordic – Baltic route). 3/5

      Current score: 11


      July 29, 2018
    • bookandcat #

      Country 12: (Belarus, The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach) Belarus has some lovely castles and a great Chagall museum with hundreds of his paintings!
      If The Fault In Our Stars and It’s Kind of a Funny Story had a Belarusian baby, it would be this. This book was heartbreaking and darkly comic and wonderful. Ivan has been hospitalized in Belarus since birth (parents lived near Chernobyl in Ukraine). But there he meets Polina…
      Gorgeous YA book. 5/5!!

      Score: 12


      July 29, 2018
    • bookandcat #

      Quick question – will there be traveler delays or weather delays the final week of the challenge or will people be free to move towards airports during the last week? Since I’ve gotten delayed twice already it may affect my route planning – it’s hard because if I get delayed it means I try to catch up the next week which means I get delayed again -_-


      July 30, 2018
      • None the final week. If you want to reduce the likelihood of getting a delay, you should read fewer books each week.
        Most participants are logging 1 book a week so their names only get entered in 1. We did this to level the playing field so that all readers stand a chance of winning rather than just awarding prizes to fast readers. I think this week the two of you who were selected by the randomizer read/logged had
        your names entered into the randomizer a lot of times each. One other player has been delayed twice bc she is also reading like 7-9 books a week


        July 30, 2018
    • bookandcat #

      Makes sense, unfortunately because I took the Nordic/Baltic route I was worried I’d get stuck up there (it’s very far from any airports and is possible to get blocked in with no way out!). But I’m also just a quick reader (230 books so far this year) O_o thanks for letting me know about the final week, that helps me plan where I go next as I leave the Baltics/Eastern Europe.


      July 30, 2018
    • bookandcat #

      Quick question – assuming I go this way at some point and find books for them – for small places contained in Italy like San Marino and Vatican City, can you ferry there from Greece? Do you need to read Italy to get in and out of them (g. Italy, Vatican City, Italy, San Marino, Italy, France) or can you do something like Italy, San Marino, Vatican City, France? Also is Denmark only attached to Germany or does it connect anywhere else via boat?


      August 1, 2018
    • bookandcat #

      County 13 (Ukraine, Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer): I was in Ukraine when I got word I was delayed for a week. I saw churches, toured Pripyat (abandoned city where Chernobyl sits) and the Tunnel of Love (treelined railway, it’s beautiful).
      Everything is Illuminated is one of my favorite books. I was happy to revisit it. I love parts with Alex (such unique dialogue).
      Fave OOC quote: “Your books are arranged by color of their spine. How stupid.”😂5/5
      Current score: 13

      Liked by 1 person

      August 4, 2018
    • bookandcat #

      Country 14 (Moldova, Lenin’s Asylum: Two Years in Moldova by A.A. Weiss): Delay over–to Moldova! The poorest country in Europe (formed post-Cold War), 1 in 4 leave the country to work elsewhere. 3 languages spoken: Romanian, Russian, Ukrainian. I saw Orheiul Vechi (archeological site/monastery), Bendery Fortress (Ottomans!), + Museum of Ethnography+Natural History.
      This memoir about teaching in Peace Corps was funny and engaging. But some country stats made me sad. 3.5/5

      Current score: 15

      (13 before this week + 1 creativity point (thanks!) + 1 point for Moldova)


      August 7, 2018
    • bookandcat #

      Country 16 (Romania, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova [approved]): Romania is beautiful! I read Dracula while delayed in Ukraine to prepare for visiting here – I got to see Dracula’s Bran Castle! I also saw the painted cemetary, some wooden and painted churches, and rode a Carpathian forest railway!
      The Historian is one of my favorite books – it’s about multiple generations hunting for Dracula, who appears to be upset about being discovered. It’s full of libraries and is a bit chilling. 5/5

      Current score: 16

      Liked by 1 person

      August 17, 2018
      • bookandcat #

        I meant country 15*

        Liked by 1 person

        August 17, 2018
  2. Diane M Shea #

    Do we need to have our playlists by tomorrow, or can we post them with a finished book?

    Liked by 1 person

    July 14, 2018
    • Has to be posted by tomorrow


      July 14, 2018
    • But you don’t have to finish the book by tomorrow. Mini challenges have time limits


      July 14, 2018
  3. LAL #

    I just finished France and am heading to Spain. My post on France is up on my blog (which has the link to my Goodreads review):

    Current Score: 8
    2 countries
    +2 for the Henley Royal Regatta (England) special event
    +4 for visiting Mont Saint-Michel (France)

    Liked by 1 person

    July 14, 2018
  4. Diane M Shea #

    This bonus sounds like so much fun! Unfortunately, I am still recovering from surgery and I’m not able to make any meals yet. I would have made Palatshinken (an Austrian crepe-like pancake with apple filling) and a Sachertorte (a super deluxe chocolate torte with apricot jam filling). I wasn’t able to find much for an appetizer, but the other 2 would have been delicious beyond belief!


    August 16, 2018

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