Zwanenburg

I love the existence of “now leaving” signs in between the towns and cities of Europe. Much like their “now entering” counterparts, a “now leaving” sign is simply the name of the town but with a red cross through it.

These signs will often be on two sides of the same post, marking the literal in-between space in the middle of one municipality and the other. For cartophiles, this is an exciting place to be — a place where you can really “feel the map”.

I have noticed a lack of “now leaving” signs in North America. I find that this marks a sort of geographic dishonesty, as if the town, or city or province is too proud to admit that it has met its end. The example I think about most often is at the border of Ontario and Quebec along highway 401. When you’re driving east toward Quebec, you have no idea when Ontario will end — it’s only the <<Bienvenue au Quebec>> that finally gives it away, and in this way, I feel Ontario resisting the reality of its finiteness.

UPDATE: After speaking with my good pal, the Peripatetic Philosopher, I feel a little differently about the above-described “dishonesty” of the lack of ‘Now leaving’ signs in North America.

Here’s what he had to say about the subject:

“I think the root reason why we don’t have these signs in Canada is because we are less concerned with the identity and boundaries of our towns. This used to be a huuuge concern for Europeans since they have had countless disputes over territory. 

“As much as I’d love to see these signs in Canada, it’s also nice to think that our boundaries don’t really exist. Driving to Montreal, I always look out the window and wonder ‘Is this Quebec? Did we pass the sign. This looks like Quebec’…then I realize I’m still in Ontario. Here, the real demarcation between places is by visual differences in the landscape. and our places are more about landscape than towns. For example, I don’t care about Gwimbelberry or Tinkertown or Haliburton, I care about the Canadian Shield and I don’t need a human-made sign to tell me when I’ve arrived.”

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