Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

Why do the Faroe Islands feature on the map of Europe shown on the euro banknotes even though the archipelago is not part of the EU? And yet Malta, a fully paid-up member, is not shown on the map. We ponder one of Europe's great cartographic curiosities.

article summary —

Banknotes are not just a convenient way of paying for goods and services. They are laden with symbolic meaning. Even the tiniest dot on a banknote can speak volumes. Most of us have become so used to using euro banknotes that we now scarcely bother to look at them any more. But take a glance at the reverse side of the notes for an interesting piece of cartography. There can be no denying that Austrian designer Robert Kalina has made a superb job of the map of Europe that decorates the banknotes. True, the map is symbolic rather than instrumental, and hidden europe would advise taking something a little more detailed next time you embark on a European tour. Nevertheless, the little Baltic island of Bornholm, a 588 km² outpost of Denmark, is clearly visible. So are the Orkney mainland (523 km²), the Ionian island of Zakynthos (406 km²) and Ibiza in the Balearics (517 km²).

Scan over to the Canaries, and Robert Kalina has contrived to include the five largest islands in the archipelago, but El Hierro and La Gomera evidently fall victim to the exigencies of scale. A little further north, Madeira is plain to see but neighbouring Porto Santo is not accorded a dot. What might appear to be three errant dots above the banknote number is no printer's flaw, but actually the three largest islands in the Azores: São Miguel, Pico and Terceira.

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About the authors

hidden europe

and Susanne Kries manage hidden europe, a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine. Nicky and Susanne are dedicated slow travellers. They delight in discovering the exotic in the everyday.

This article was published in hidden europe 12.