In 1842 the middle-aged Austrian Ida Pfeiffer (1797-1858) set out for the Holy Land. To counter protests from her family, horrified by her plan to travel alone, Pfeiffer, who became a well-respected travel writer, disguised this journey as a pilgrimage. Her travel diary, which appeared as Reise einer Wienerin in das Heilige Land (1844; A Visit to the Holy Land, 1852), gives immediacy to her perceptions and conveys the excitement she felt despite the many hardships of the journey. In it she presented herself as a religious woman eager to visit sacred sites, but she also relished the freedom of traveling and she commented on life in the Holy Land at that time, views that were widely disseminated because of the book’s popularity in Europe. Her diary vividly depicts her own perceptions of being a “pilgrim,” presents a picture of life in the Holy Land, as she experienced it, and reveals the difficulties she encountered as a woman traveler.

issue 06 / December 2013 by Jennifer Michaels