I’ve been looking for suitable material for Placecloud; short, location-based podcasts that reveal the stories of the places around us.
I stumbled upon the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe programme. These are some 40 thematic ‘routes’ throughout Europe. Most of them are not really routes, but thematically linked locations, with subjects like European Mozart Ways, Prehistoric Rock Art Trails, or Le Corbusier Destinations: Architectural Promenades. And not all only cover Europe. The one on Le Corbusier, for example, also includes locations in Argentina and Japan.
Each route is managed by its own organisation, somewhere in Europe, has its own website (well, most of them), developed by some other organisation, and collects and collates information on the locations on its route (or routes) in its own way.
This not only means that the Council of Europe (why are they facilitating this, anyway?) has spent a truckload of money on putting together all these routes, and the information that is provided on them, the quality, accessibility, and usability of all this information also varies wildly from route to route.
One route that seemed prime material for bringing to Placecloud, is the Historic Cafés Route. Just under 100 cafés, in a dozen, or so, countries. Each location, each café, is in a specific location, that is, it’s not a region, or area, and, surely, as they are all historic, they all must have an interesting story to tell. Right?
Turns out they might, but, for some, the available information was limited, or simply not very interesting. One café has since closed down, seemingly as a consequence of the pandemic, and several don’t even have a website.
Strangely, there seems to be no restriction on who, or what, can become a member of the ‘HCR’, which might be the reason why some cafés are listed as ‘friend’, including the Lavazza Museum in Turin.
I ended leaving out a few of the ‘friends’, for not being able to obtain any usable information, anywhere. I also left out the Lavazza museum, the café that had closed its doors, and one café for which I couldn’t get a usable Google Street View.
Placecloud mixes the short location-based podcasts with Google Street View. This way, you can use Placecloud to explore the world on foot, or stay at home, and explore the world of Placecloud through Google Street View. So, a location without a Street View is not usable.
I wrote to the Greek organisation who manages the Historic Cafés Route, asking if it would be possible to use the photos on their website (properly sourced, of course), but never received a response. So, I ended up using Midjourney to illustrate all viewpoints on Placecloud. All texts were put together by ChatGPT (hopefully with little hallucination, but with hard to weed out cliche), and all these texts were then read by a synthesised version of my voice, courtesy of ElevenLabs.
Take a look, explore the world of European coffee.