The concept of travel accounts covers all texts and images handed down by travellers, or even non-travellers from Western Europe, who in a printed document or manuscript related their experience, knowledge or vision of travelling in the area of the Mediterranean and Southeastern Europe or who described the area in their work, from the 15th to the 20th century. Thus, the notion of travellers includes scholars such as geographers, cartographers, writers of isolaria, and erudite humanists, even if they never travelled physically, together with the diplomats, pilgrims, spies, naturalists, members of the military, sailors, physicians, priests; people with a more theoretical or more experiential approach; painters, landscape painters, architects, engineers, archaeologists, romantic writers, merchants and missionaries; monks, scientists, pirates, captives, writers and adventurers who left texts and images from their journeys. Travellers and their accounts act as intermediaries in the communication process between western Europe and ethno-religious groups such as Orthodox Greeks, Muslims, Armenians, Jews and Catholics in the East, and the powers that dominate them at different periods (Ottomans, Venetians, Genoese, British, French etc.) The perception of space and people by travellers changed and fluctuated according to the intellectual, political and cultural currents which shaped European history from the 15th to the 20th century. Consequently, through text and image, travel accounts speak of how Europe, at any given time of its history, has viewed the places, people and monuments that travellers saw during their voyages.
Voyages and testimonies
At the beginning, as far as locations and people are concerned, travellers compose hazy islets of reality by seeing, writing and drawing – simply because at this point they “look without seeing”. They are still unable to see anything besides what they carry inside, culturally and emotionally (16th - 17th century). Gradually, travellers from the West deal with the past and with the unknown with increased sensitivity and knowledge. Through complex procedures, destinations and goals become clear and the traveller's knowledge is enriched with elements beyond the expected (late 17th to 18th century). Together with unprecedented experiences, travellers' backgrounds, aims and ideological viewpoints become ever more diverse. Nineteenth-century testimonies record a profusion of situations and events, people and ideas in movement, and encounters and exchanges, which permits to glean the dimensions of the ever-growing and by now widespread current of travelling in the Mediterranean.
ATravellers' texts are the result of a complex process. Travellers start out with a certain theoretical baggage and ideological positioning, which is often subverted by means of the travel experience. The traveller's perception of their journey, as it is recorded in his/ her account, is reproduced in succeeding texts and thereby contributes to the formation of certain stereotypes.
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