A guidebook extolling
the delights of the eastern European country of Molvania is causing controversy.
The guide says Molvania is birthplace of whooping cough, one of the world's
biggest parsnip producers and owner of Europe's oldest nuclear reactor.
is one small problem - Molvania does not exist; the book is, in fact, merely a
spoof of a whole genre of travel guides.
But some feel it reinforces stereotypes
of Europe's more deprived states.
Supposedly sandwiched between Romania and Bulgaria, Molvania is described
by the book's authors as "a land untouched by modern dentistry".
The guidebook provides "invaluable information" for those nervous of
negotiating the potential minefield of Molvanian customs.
it forewarns you that at restaurants you will have to pay extra for a waiter with
Co-author Tom Gleisner says the idea for the book came about
several years ago, while he was backpacking through Portugal with friends.
decided to make up a country so we wouldn't offend anybody - or offend everybody,
depending on how you look at it," he told Reuters news agency.
Mr Gleisner admitted that he and his co-writers focused on eastern
Europe because they felt "no-one, even those who live there, is even sure
of the geography of the area".
However Mr Gleisner defended his fictional
"It's a very beautiful country now that radiation levels
have dropped to acceptable standards," he joked on the BBC's Today programme.
Former UK minister for Europe Keith Vaz said the book was a little "cheeky"
because "it does reflect some of the prejudices which are taking root [in
However, he added that the guide highlighted people's ignorance
of much of the continent.
"He [Mr Gleisner] does try and show exactly
where we are lacking in our knowledge," he said.
"The sad thing
is, some people might actually believe that this country exists."