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The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (100 years)

221b Bake Street, London, Sherlock Homes Museum

Sherlock Holmes’ famous flat, 221b Baker Street, London

In the fourth and final novel starring Sherlock Holmes, a coded message warning of imminent danger is delivered to his London flat and hastily sends him crime-solving in the countryside. Visitors to the fictional sleuth’s Victorian-era quarters at 221bBaker Street—once shared with roommate and detecting partner Dr. Watson—can be forgiven for thinking he might reappear there at any moment. The rooms he “rented” have been vividly re-created just as they’re described in “A Study in Scarlet” and other tales. On display at the Sherlock Holmes Museum are the detective’s most prized possessions, including his deerstalker cap and the Persian slipper where he stored his tobacco.

The Metamorphoses by Franz Kafka (100 years)

Franz Kafka Museum, Prague (photo:

Franz Kafka Museum, Prague (photo:

The strange story of a man who wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a large, insect-like creature was one of only a few of Franz Kafka’s works published during his lifetime. Before his death from tuberculosis at age 41, the relatively unknown author implored a friend, Max Brod, to burn his diaries, manuscripts, and letters unread. Instead Brod overrode the directive and published three of Kafka’s unfinished novels, including The Trial and The Castle. Today, Prague’s Franz Kafka Museum continues the work of Brod and others who refused to let the writer fade into anonymity. Some not-to-miss items are the last known photo of Kafka and the final letter he wrote to his parents the day before he died. w

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (150 years)

Alice in Wonderland Window Oxford

Stained glass window in the Great Hall, Christ Church College, Oxford, UK

The original manuscript of Carroll’s beloved book is usually on display in the rare treasures gallery at the British Library in London. Soon Alice admirers in the U.S. will have a chance to view the manuscript, the centerpiece of exhibits at the Morgan Library in New York City (June 26-October 11) and the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia (October 14-March 27, 2016). Across the pond, in Oxford, Carroll was a mathematician at Christ Church College, where the dean’s daughters, Alice and Edith Liddell, inspired the storytelling that eventually led to his famed book. Inside the college’s Great Hall is a stained glass window featuring images of the fictional Alice and the characters she encounters underground. For more places with Carroll connections, check out Culture 24’s article “Alice in Wonderland: On the Trail of Lewis Carroll.”

Emma by Jane Austen (200 years)

The English cottage where Jane Austen conjured up the escapades of Emma Woodhouse.

The English cottage where Jane Austen conjured up the escapades of Emma Woodhouse.

The sparkling satire Emma flowed from Jane Austen’s pen in a 17th century cottage in Chawton, England. Prior to moving into the abode, located on her wealthy brother’s country estate, in 1809, none of her work had been published. Her time in Chawton proved prolific. In addition to Emma, the novelist turned out Mansfield Park and Persuasion and revised Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. The writing table where she worked is on display in the cottage, now Jane Austen’s House Museum. Emma-related events are taking place throughout the year, leading up to the anniversary tie-in in December.

Don Quixote, Part II by Miguel Cervantes (400 years)

Don Quixote's "giants" in the Spanish countryside.

Don Quixote’s “giants” in the Spanish countryside.

On a hillside in Campo de Criptana, Spain, witness the spectacles put on by the famous windmills that Don Quixote valiantly battled after mistaking them for giants. The comic misadventures of the chivalry-obsessed knight errant and his faithful squire, Sancho Pancho, were enormously popular with 17th century readers. Miguel Cervantes is believed to have begun writing what is considered the first modern novel while imprisoned in a cave underneath the Casa de Medrano, some 60 miles south of where the windmills turn. He had the misfortune of being imprisoned at least twice for irregularities in his accounts while working his day job as a tax collector.

One of literature’s most memorable sleuths hits the big screen in Sherlock Holmes, directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Robert Downey Jr., which opens tomorrow in the U.S. and on Saturday in the UK. If the film awakens your inner detective, here are five ways to make like Sherlock Holmes in London.

Pay a Visit to 221b Baker Street. At the Sherlock Holmes Museum (left), the detective’s Victorian-era quarters have been vividly re-created just as they’re described in A Study in Scarlet and other tales. On display are his most prized possessions, including his deerstalker cap and the Persian slipper where he stored his tobacco. Click here to read more about the famous lodging place.

Take a Walking Tour. “What do you say to a ramble through London?” Holmes once asked his sidekick, Dr. Watson. Follow suit with the walking tour “In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes.” Like the detecting duo, you’ll be “watching the ever changing Kaleidoscope of life as it ebbs and flows through Fleet Street and the Strand.” Among the sights are Charing Cross Station, where Holmes and Watson often dashed to hop a train in hot pursuit of a clue, and Covent Garden’s Royal Opera, where they caught a Wagner performance in The Red Circle Case. Tours are given on Fridays at 2 p.m. (except Christmas Day).

Check into The Langham Hotel. Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle dined at The Langham in 1889 with a magazine editor who commissioned his second novel, The Sign of Four (playwright Oscar Wilde was also at the dinner). The luxurious Regent Street hotel is featured in the Holmes adventure A Scandal in Bohemia and other tales. Through April 30, 2010, guests can opt for the “Sherlock Holmes Package” and slumber in the split level suite named for Conan Doyle. Also included are two tickets to the Sherlock Holmes Museum (a short stroll away), a gift from the Langham Book Butler, and a specially-created “Sherlock Holmes” cocktail in the hotel bar.

Dine in Sumptuous Surroundings. Holmes and Watson mulled over clues and celebrated the end of successful cases at Simpson’s-in-the-Strand, which serves traditional English fare in an elegant dining room adorned with wood paneling, molded ceilings, and chandeliers. The restaurant, which dates to 1828, is famous for its roasted meats carved tableside from antique serving ware. Real-life luminaries like Charles Dickens and Vincent Van Gogh dined here as well.

Toast Holmes and His Creator. Savor a pint at the Sherlock Homes pub, which featured as the Northumberland Hotel where Sir Henry Baskerville slumbered in The Hound of the Baskervilles. Or head to the Museum Tavern, located opposite the British Museum where Conan Doyle once made use of the domed, circular reading room. The scribe is thought to have used the Tavern as the doppelgänger for the Alpha Inn where the Christmas Goose Club meets in The Blue Carbuncle.

Now what are you waiting for? As Sherlock Holmes would say, “Come, the game is afoot!” –Shannon McKenna Schmidt

[Photos: Sherlock Holmes Museum ©Joni Rendon; Langham Hotel ©Langham Hotels International]

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