I am addicted to maps. I love them… I collect maps wherever I go. It must be related to ex-patism and travel-buggishness. Or maybe just a need to reduce my ignorance level of the places where I ended up with no prior local knowledge.
Once I bought a giant map at a flea market in Germany. It was one of those enormous scrolls that used to hang in schoolrooms. I had to haggle like crazy with the stallholder to get it down to a reasonable price… and then spend an evening pacifying my map-sceptic family who wanted nothing to do with this monstrous item which threatened to dominate the living room. I ended up hanging it in a storage room, but whenever I’m going somewhere I sneak off and consult it.
On our kitchen wall is an old map of the Rhine which was another flea market find. It shows the Rhine from its source all the way to where it reaches the sea – with pictures of the main cities it passes on its way. It’s a little difficult to read at first, because it is horizontal – so the North is to the right. But you get used to twisting your neck round and trying to visualise which way you need to go.
Some of my favourite maps, though, are in old atlases. These you can often find in second hand bookshops and junk stores. Of course, all the borders have changed nowadays – so often the places you find in the maps are no longer even in Germany. Regions like Prussia change shape and size depending on the date… and different cities take on new prominence over time.
As for my own little town…well, in this map from 1901, it is not even shown. Was it really such an insignificant place in those days? The village up the road warrents a mention though… even though nowadays it’s relatively much smaller.
Oddly enough we do, however, get a mention in a map around same period showing the region’s coal mining assets. Which is odd… because to my knowledge there has never been any mining in our immediate locality. From all the local history books I’ve read, we have always been pretty much a farming community.
Perhaps I should start excavating the back garden… maybe there’s black gold to be found here after all!