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Travelogue D9

May 13, 2015

With the museum’s closing, I found myself back outside in the wind and before the city lots still mustered for review. To the left or west, I peered through the fence, solid concrete base topped with concrete railings and plastic orange latticework where railings had gone missing. Into the distance stretched a string of gravel molds compacted by machinery and molded to resemble, perhaps unintentionally, a slumbering race of tortoises cast off from the “Species” section of the Confluence’s permanent exhibit. I could only admire this false nature and look about other museum castoffs.

As it turns out, castoffs of one sort or another are never far off in the city, and so I found myself, perhaps an hour later, faced with a cluster of sinks and one toilet lying about near a square a few minutes from the flat. Industry, like false nature, has a way of accumulating and piles up, slow but relentless. Were I to come back even a few short weeks later, I would undoubtedly find cabinets and pipes and pots joined with this porcelain company. Given enough time, I might have mistaken this square for the ruins of Bruegel’s Fire allegory.

Once in the flat, I turned my attention again to one wall to which I had already devoted considerable time and mental energy.  For the owner had seen fit to hang physical maps on the wall of our rented flat, of Europe and Asia, all of which had resulted in my remarking to myself several times how little chance entered into the future of a city. For all had been set out beforehand by its location. Given a nucleus, further elements came to accrete about it.

So it was that Vienna sprang from a single point in the gap between the Alps and the Carpathians (represented here by thick black brushwork) along the Danube. Bereft of elevation, Poland awaited its fate on a plain too small by half while Moscow condensed at the center of a vast European plain, bounded by four mountain ranges (Caucasus, Carpathian, Scandinavian Alps and Urals, more black strokes).

Yet the map resisted me in other ways, such as when I tried to piece together the reason for which the circles identifying major cities appeared in either red or blue with no apparent rhyme or reason: Madrid, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Vienna, Moscow in red; London, Hamburg, Leningrad in blue. Whether the groupings owed to political affiliation, elevation above sea level, seaway access, or population remains unclear, even upon scanning the photos which I took. Perhaps a good map hides as much as it gives away.

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