April 25, 2013 § 1 Comment
Three years ago I went with my mom and sisters to the annual library booksale in South Dartmouth. Each summer, we make the rounds at local antique malls, vintage stalls, and yard sales seeking treasures.
Well, that day, amidst the pillars of used paperbacks I found a small basket labeled “old postcards”. I peered inside, expecting to see the cartoonish fonts and garish colors of the 1960s- but instead I found a stack of antique photographs (cartes des visites!!, the 19th-century enthusiast inside me whispered in glee). I snatched up the whole set and tried to mute my delight as I bartered with the man behind the counter. They were supposed to be 3-for-a-dollar but he made me a Yankee deal and sold the lot of forty for $10.
Between the landmarks depicted on the fronts and the faded inscriptions on the backs, it became clear that the pictures were someone’s mementoes from a trip around Europe in 1867. Many of the locations were familiar, but some were less obvious, or from kingdoms long since dissolved and nationalized. I set to work identifying locations and mapping out the cards. How fun it would be, I thought, to retrace this Grand Tour and see what the passage of 150 years has done to each place.
I managed to place all but one card, which showed a windmill but offered no other place markers. The writing on the back was illegible. Google kept directing me to Holland. I resigned myself to not knowing. Then, two years later, I recognized the mill in a friend’s photo-set from an open-air museum of historical windmill replicas in Germany (who knew?). He helped me solve the mystery and complete the map.
This is what the Historic Mill of Sanssouci looks like in 2013. So here begins a Grand Tour, Take Two.