hidden europe 34

From Waterlitz to Austerloo

by hidden europe


Did you know you can take the train to Brathlavstan or fly to MaastrAachen? The portmanteau title of Daniela-Carmen Crasnaru’s 1998 poetry anthology Austerloo prompts us to reflect on portmanteau terms in European geography.

Have you ever heard of Brathlavstan? Until recently we had not. And when we did stumble on Brathlavstan, we were surprised to find that it lies on the banks of the Danube downstream from Vienna. The name hinted of somewhere distinctly more exotic.

In fact Brathlavstan is a rare European example of a portmanteau place name. The name refers not to a country but to a railway station, namely Bratislava hlavná stanica, which both the German and Russian railway ticketing systems (and, for all we know, many others besides) abbreviate to Brathlavstan.

North America bristles with portmanteau place names, from Calexico and Mexicali (two sides of a community that straddles the border between California and Mexico) to names like Michiana and Arklatex (which both refer to interstate regions within the United States).

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