“You will come to a place where the streets are not marked…”

Dr Seuss usually knew what he was talking about, but he obviously did not know my family.

Amongst a raft of other things I found in my parent’s house after their respective deaths, were an awful lot of maps, both old and new. Pictured above are three examples. Unfortunately the maps which had originally been in the covers of France and Afrique have disappeared, but the one for Europe is still intact. I also found random maps of various areas of Europe, of Russia, of the Ukraine, of Turkey, of the USA and of Australia. It would be easier to list the maps I did not find. So far I have not come across any maps of Alaska, South America or Asia.

One of the maps which I prize is of the Baltic States prior to the Latvian War of Independence. It shows the boundaries of the areas as they were named before my father was born: Kurland, Estland and Livland. Kurland was where Nurmhusen, my father’s family’s estate, was situated. I had the map reframed and it now hangs in pride of place in my hallway. Opposite it are three maps – of Russia, Siberia and Turkey. There is nothing particularly special about these maps, no marks where my family used to live, I simply liked the way they looked.

I wonder which of my immediate family members collected the maps. My money is on my father, but a few of the maps are so old they could have belonged to my grandparents. Some of the maps are in pristine condition – it is possible I was the first person to fully open them – but most of them are worse for wear, with tears along the creases and, in some cases, random holes. A lot of the maps are so big they need to be unfolded on the floor in order to take them all in.

I remember when we all used hard copy maps to navigate our way through new places, or even our own cities. The days before GPS and phones when I used to drive to places with the map spread out on the passenger’s seat of the car. It reminds me of Paddington Bear – that bit in the story where some of his dried marmalade strands glued themselves to the map, looking like roads, and the Brown family get totally lost trying to follow them!

Back to Dr Seuss and I can assure him my family would never reach an unmarked street. They might have had to be patient while they sifted through all the maps they owned to find the right one, but they appeared to have a map for everywhere they wanted to go. I am curious though as to why anyone in my family had a map of Africa. Although members of my father’s family settled in different countries of Africa after WWII, I cannot remember either my parents or grandparents ever indicating that they might want to go there.

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