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After Agatha Christie tied the knot with archaeologist Max Mallowan at an Edinburgh cathedral in 1930, they set out on an adventuresome journey. “Max had planned the honeymoon entirely himself; it was going to be a surprise,” Christie penned in An Autobiography.
Romantic Venice was the first stop for the newly wed crime writer. Christie had passed through the Italian city previously while traveling on the Orient Express from London to the Middle East, where she met her future husband on an archaeological dig.
The honeymoon tour continued in dazzling Dubrovnik. Christie gives the seaside walled city just a brief mention in An Autobiography. But then words hardly do this dreamy destination justice.
Next up on the newlyweds’ itinerary was Split, another wonderfully atmospheric city that, like Dubrovnik, lies along the Adriatic Sea. Mallowan and Christie—who was intrigued by archaeology even before marrying into the profession—no doubt made like other tourists in town and admired Split’s main attraction: the ruins of a palace built by a Roman emperor.
An intrepid traveler, Christie then climbed aboard a cargo boat to travel down the Dalmatian coast to Greece. Once back on land, the couple made their way by train to Olympia, founded in the eighth century BC and site of the original Olympic Games. Christie’s verdict? “Olympia was as lovely as I thought it would be.”
The next day, though, a rigorous outing tested even Christie’s fortitude and “very nearly tore the fabric of our married life,” she reported. An estimated eight-hour mule ride to a hilltop town turned into fourteen. After two days spent recovering, Christie “admitted that I was not sorry to have married [Max] at all, and that perhaps he could learn the proper way to treat a wife—by not taking her on mule rides until he had carefully calculated the distance.”
For Christie, the highlight in Greece was Delphi, where ruins cascade down the side of a mountain. “It struck me as so unbelievably beautiful,” she recalled. It’s no wonder then that in ancient times, Delphi was considered the center of the world and home to an important oracle. In Greek mythology, Zeus released two eagles in opposite directions, and Delphi was where they met after circling the world.
The honeymooners stopped to admire more ruins and views of azure waters in Nafplio. Looming over the town is a fortress built under the Venetians’ rule and reached via 857 steps.
Christie and Mallowan explored a few other places before ending their honeymoon in Athens, where they parted ways—she back to London via the Orient Express and he to an archaeological site.
It’s doubtful that they got out and about to the Acropolis and other popular sites in Athens, as Christie was felled by an illness that lasted several days. Still, even being sick didn’t dampen her enthusiasm for the nuptial trek. As she declared in An Autobiography, “I am sure nobody enjoyed a honeymoon better than we did.”
If you’d like to know more about Agatha Christie’s love life, check out Writers Between the Covers.
In anticipation of Writers Between the Covers, on sale October 29, we’re spotlighting literary locales associated with some of the figures featured in the book.
When archaeological excursions in the Middle East weren’t on the itinerary for Agatha Christie and her husband, Max Mallowan, the couple could often be found at Greenway House, their holiday retreat in the English countryside. Among the items on display in the 18th century residence-turned-museum—which inspired the setting for the Poirot tale Dead Man’s Folly—are the author’s 1937 Remington portable typewriter and a Steinway piano. The musically talented Christie, who trained as a classical pianist, was too shy to play the piano for anyone except Mallowan.
Before Christie found her happily ever after with the archaeologist, she endured the painfully public demise of her first marriage. After her spouse walked out on her, she became embroiled in a real-life mystery. Christie disappeared for eleven days, sparking the largest-ever manhunt in England before resurfacing with claims of amnesia.
INVESTIGATE CHRISTIE’S RETREAT
Greenway House sits on 30 acres of woodland and gardens overlooking the River Dart. Mystery buffs who want to do more than meander through the museum can holiday in Christie and Mallowan’s digs; a five-bedroom apartment, spread over the first and second floors of the house, is available for short-term rentals.
Following a multi-million dollar restoration, the historic Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul is due to reopen this month. Originally opened in 1892 by the owners of the Orient Express to provide suitably grand accommodation for their passengers at the train’s Istanbul terminus, the Pera Palace quickly became established as the place to see and be seen for members of high society.
Among the hotel’s most famous guests was Agatha Christie, who stayed there many times between 1926 and 1932 and is believed to have written portions of her beloved mystery, Murder on the Orient Express, in Room 411, which can be reserved by guests and contains a library of her books in several languages. A mysterious key she reportedly hid under a floorboard in her room, said to be the key to lost diaries that contain information about her mysterious 11-day disappearance in 1926, is displayed in the Orient Bar. Other famous guests who have lodged at the Pera Palace include Alfred Hitchcok, Greta Garbo, Zsa Zsa Gabor and the Mata Hari.