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Obscura Tourer

20 January 2018 12:00AM Viking Raid

We're a half hour metro ride out of Rotterdam, in Spijkennisse. On the outside, this just looks like any other Dutch suburb, but don't be fooled. Hold on to your scarves, kids. This is where things get weird.

1. The City.

We had no itinerary going into Rotterdam, besides buying Lochie some snow boots. Somehow in our wandering route across the city, we stumbled across our first two items from the Atlas.

On our way out of an enormous indoor outdoor market, we spotted the Cube Houses and went in to take a look. I havent included pictures of these, because I didn't take any - but there are plenty online. You can even rent a couple of them on Airbnb, which is just about all they're good for, in my opinion. They're far too impractical (and far too 80s) for everyday living.

We also, quite by accident, stumbled across the Statue of Santa. I haven't included pictures of this either. Not because I didn't take any, but because I know my mum reads this blog and I really don't want to have to discuss that Christmas tree Santa's holding with her.

And at that point our paths diverged. As Lochie and Grace went to run an errand or two, I got on a train.

2. The Mountain

For three weeks I'd been chasing steadily more impressive mountains, but this one - unexpectedly - was one of the most wonderful.

a mountain of books

Books. As far as the eye can see, lined up from floor to ceiling, winding in terraces like gardens, books.

a terrace of books

This place is literally called Book Mountain. You might think it's a fancy bookshop or a national archive, but nope. It's just a regular neighbourhood library, in a pretty unremarkable chunk of suburbia outside Rotterdam.

a garden of books

The roof is all glass, and sunset was a good time to come. All that sunlight on all those spines of all those books - and almost all of them in a language I can't read, being read by people I can't talk to. It's like a special circle of hell. The most beautiful library I've ever seen, and I can't read a single word of it.

It's all very well to come here and take a Pilgrimage to the Book Mountain as a tourist attraction, but I'm the only one looking up. Everyone else is engrossed: in their books, in their movies, in their study, in their Lego. For them, this isn't architecture, it's a public amenity. And even on a regular weekday around closing time, it's still filled with people.

The culture you build is the culture you get, I guess. Maybe my ambition should be to live somewhere they build libraries instead of stadia.

 i have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library

3. The Bridges

"This is such a quality prank." - Lochie, 2018.

Next time you have some Euros in your hand (which, I admit, might be a while), take a look at the bridges. Every Euro note has a bridge on it.

Like so many things about the EU, the art on the Euro banknote is aggressively neutral. With more countries than there were denominations, choosing real bridges for each note was fraught with political uncertainty - and that's before we even get into who gets which denomination. So they made some up. Seven banknotes, seven imaginary bridges. Problem solved, right?

foreground: a euro note. background: the bridge from that note

That is, until a housing developer in just outside Rotterdam went and built them, and claimed every single bridge for the Dutch.

Well played, The Netherlands. Well played.

 the fictional bridges that became real

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