hidden europe 50

Improbable Places

by Nicky Gardner

Picture above: One of Robin Stam's 'euro bridges' in Spijkenisse. This bridge is a copy of the design featured on the ten euro banknote (photo © Roel van Deursen, licensed under CC BY 2.0).


The last year or two have seen a flood of new books which invite readers to engage on a virtual journey exploring our planet. We take a look at a new volume called 'Atlas of Improbable Places', just published by Aurum Press.

Regular readers of this magazine will know that hidden europe often features unusual places. So our eyes naturally lit up when we heard that an Atlas of Improbable Places has just been published — not least because the title comes from Aurum Press, a London-based publisher which has a fine track record in tackling unusual themes. We gave a glowing review to another Aurum Press book, Skylines by Yolanda Zappaterra and Jan Fuscoe, in hidden europe 47.

The Atlas of Improbable Places escorts the reader to about four dozen oddball spots around the world, scattered over six continents. Europe enjoys fairly good coverage, with 17 ‘sights’, among them many very creative choices.

One of these sights is a town near Rotterdam where the designs for a series of bridges have been inspired by an unusual source: the euro banknotes. The architectural elements that feature on the euro notes are ingenious fabrications created by Austrian banknote designer Robert Kalina. The brief was to design a montage of quintessentially ‘European’ images without depicting specific structures. Using real bridges would have opened up a fiery debate about which country’s structures warranted inclusion.

This is just an excerpt. The full text of this article is not yet available to members with online access to hidden europe. Of course you can read the full article in the print edition of hidden europe 50.
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Many years ago, I spent a long hot summer in and around a sleepy ksar on the edge of the Sahara. I read many books that summer, but it was 'Dans l’ombre chaude de l’Islam' that tugged and tugged again, urging me to return to its pages. That book was my introduction to Isabelle Eberhardt, a writer who — perhaps more than any other — has influenced my life and my thinking. This summer, so far from the desert and in a country where the most charming of all oases is my garden, I turned to Sharon Bangert’s English translation of 'Dans l’ombre chaude de l’Islam'. It appears under the Peter Owen imprint in a pocket-sized paperback.

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