Today, 87 years ago, on 10 January 1929, a young reporter boarded a train from Brussels to Moscow accompanied by his dog, Snowy. It was the start of Tintin’s first great adventure and the beginning of Hergé’s career. Tintin and Snowy (who thinks and acts like a human) have numerous adventures, a great knack for escaping crashes and kidnappings, and exposing international criminals. Tintin is a Belgian reporter for the small newspaper “Le Petit Vingtième”, although I did not see him write or send in a story even once. Tintin is forever enroute to exotic places, both fictional and real.
Captain Haddock is bringing a few crates of whisky, Thomson and Thompson are bringing the laughs, Professor Calculus is bringing cool stuff like pendulums and pocket submarines, and Snowy is bringing the woofs. You bring your passport. LET’S GO AN ADVENTURE. ✈️ ⛵ ? ? ? ? ?
Tintin and snowy are sent to the the Soviet Union to report on the policies of Joseph Stalin’s Bolshevik government.
Tintin is off to the Belgian Congo to report on events in the country. Amid various encounters with the native Congolese people and wild animals, Tintin unearths a criminal diamond smuggling operation run by the American gangster Al Capone.
Tintin goes to Chicago to report on organized crime in Chicago. He confronts Al Capone again, who he thwarted in Congo. Tintin arrives in Chicago, in the midst of the Prohibition, and all the gangsters in the city set out to give him a tough time. Tintin in America is the highest-selling Tintin title of all time.
Tintin and his friend Captain Haddock are travelling in Egypt when they discover a pharaoh’s tomb filled with dead Egyptologists and boxes of cigars.
Still on the trail of the mysterious pharaoh and the box of cigars, Captain Haddock and Tintin land up in India, where they reveal the secrets of an international drug smuggling enterprise. Herge’s India is full of elephants, snake charmers and tigers. The fictional town of Gaipajama literally translated means “the cow’s pajamas”! The Tintin comics and TV series are hugely popular in India. I remember huddling in front of the TV with my family to watch Tintin while having our dinner.
Tintin and snowy are invited to China in the midst of the 1931 Japanese invasion, where he reveals the machinations of Japanese spies and uncovers another drug-smuggling ring.
Tintin travels to England in pursuit of a gang of counterfeiters. He’s framed for theft and bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson are after him.
Pursued by detectives Thomson and Thompson, Tintin and Snowy head to Scotland, discovering the the counterfeiters on the (fictional) Black Island.
Tintin uses diverse modes of transport ranging from a Belgian train, a truck, the Ostend to Dover cross channel ferry, a taxi, hitchhiking, a car, a caravan, a British train, a goods train, a private single engined light aircraft, a motorboat, and for the return journey, a commercial airliner.
Tintin would have made a great travel blogger today, right? I would totally follow Snowy’s Instagram.
Prague, and then (fictional) Syldavia
You will not not find Syldavia on a map. I remember as a child, poring over my grandfather’s many atlas volumes to find Syldavia. In the comic, King Ottokar’s Sceptre, Tintin saves the Kingdom from being overthrown by fascists. Although Syldavia is a creation of Herge, the Sceptre is real. Herge was not aware of the Sceptre actually existing when he wrote about it. In 1976, while restoring the Saint Vitus Cathedral, that is housed inside the Prague Castle, certain royal possessions of Ottokar II, King of Bohemia (1230-1278) , were discovered.
Tintin and Snowy travel to Morocco to pursue a gang of yet another international drug smugglers.
Tintin and Captain Haddock go on a scientific expedition to the Arctic Ocean to find a meteorite that has fallen to the Earth.
Tintin and Captain Haddock launch an expedition to the Caribbean to locate the treasure of the pirate Red Rackham. This is where they meet Professor Calculus, genius inventor and also complete crackpot. His help in locating the treasure is invaluable, but he gets them into a lot of trouble in the comics to come.
Hapless Professor Calculus is missing so Tintin and Captain Haddock undertake an expedition to Peru to track him down. They continue their efforts to rescue the kidnapped Professor Calculus by travelling through Andean villages, mountains, and rain forests, before finding a hidden Inca civilization.
Tintin travels to the middle east to to uncover a militant group responsible for sabotaging oil supplies in the Middle East.
Tintin, Snowy and Captain Haddock receive an invitation from Professor Calculus. They’re all going to the moon. The comic was published in 1954, and Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon in 1969. Herge’s account of the moon was surprisingly extremely accurate. His research and attention to hyper-realistic detail ensured that there’s was no fantasy involved.
Tintin and Captain Haddock go to Borduria to rescue Professor Calculus. He developed a machine capable of destroying objects with sound waves, and gets kidnapped yet again.
Tintin in Tibet was one of the best comics in the sense that there were no bad guys here. Tintin made a friend on his China trip, who invites him to come to Tibet. It’s a journey of self-exploration as much as it is of exploring another beautiful country. Herge was a voracious reader and as he became fascinated with Taoism, Buddhism and Zen he introduced his hero Tintin to them.
Tintin travels to Indonesian islands of Nusa Tenggara or the Lesser Sunda Islands or (“Southeastern Islands”) they are a group of islands in Maritime Southeast Asia, north of Australia. The islands are part of a volcanic arc, in the Java Sea. The only thing you need to know about me is that I’m obsessed with Indonesia and that I will be going here.
The last Tintin Adventure unfolds in the fictional city of San Theodoros, located in South America. While sketching the art for this comic, Herge took his inspiration from the Mayan pyramid of Yucatan called El Castillo de Kukulcan in South Mexico. My boyfriend, who’s lived in South America, will be delighted.
Tintin and his creator Herge are both from Brussels. There are a lot of places that inspired locations in various comics as well as street art and museums to keep the magic of Tintin alive. The city is very proud of their traveller detective and Herge.
Rereading the Tintin comics today has both a sharp nostalgia as well as a whole new feeling. I’m now a grownup and I can actually go to all the places my traveller hero has been to! I’ll always be grateful to Tintin for showing me that adventures can be fun and above all, possible.
TRAVEL LESSONS FROM TINTIN
1. One outfit is enough. Pack light.
2. Read all you can and be well-informed about countries, their people and culture.
3. Get a dog.
4. Don’t get caught up taking photos. Tintin didn’t lug around a DSLR.
5. Be optimistic.
6. Don’t lose your temper.
7. Travel with friends who would do anything to bail you out.
8. Make friends from different countries.
9. Respect local culture.
10. Pick up a few words of the local language.
11. Never miss out on local cuisine.
12. Learn to climb and drive anything. Tintin can drive any sort of transport: cars, boats, planes, tanks, hot-air balloons, life rafts, submarines, space crafts, elephants, etc.
13. Be fit. Mountaineering, jumping off cliffs, swimming, hiking a desert – Tintin and Snowy did them all.
14. No need for the guidebook. You ever saw Tintin with a Lonely Planet? Exactly.