The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - GRA­HAM ER­BACHER

AT­LAS OF CURSED PLACES Olivier Le Car­rer (Black Dog & Leven­thal, $29.99)

Good­ness gra­cious, what a wicked world we in­habit. It all went down­hill af­ter dis­obe­di­ence in the Gar­den of Eden, ac­cord­ing to jour­nal­ist and sailor Olivier Le Car­rer, whose At­las of

Cursed Places is sub­ti­tled “A travel guide to dan­ger­ous and fright­ful des­ti­na­tions”.

If you choose to go on the trip, you’re up for vis­its to Satan’s syn­a­gogue, the an­techam­ber of hell, the toxic la­goon, sui­cide for­est, marsh of the damned and cas­tle of a killer. Add to that places fa­mil­iar with chil­dren be­ing burned for the gods, an in­va­sion of bats, a plague of birds and a cold-blooded mon­ster. You may well be think­ing that a quiet week at home is prefer­able to gal­li­vant­ing around the globe with Rose­mary’s baby. A lit­tle lo­cal knowl­edge goes a long way, how­ever: Cape York gets a black cross for be­ing the land of killer croc­o­diles (it may be time to read more widely on North­ern Aus­tralia than the NT News).

It’s all hugely en­ter­tain­ing, but Le Car­rer is not one to let folk­lore stand in the way of facts. He’s happy to de­bunk the myth of Poveg­lia, Venice’s “is­land of death”, for ex­am­ple, find­ing lit­tle doc­u­men­tary ev­i­dence of the mad and bad said to have run loose there.

And re­demp­tion is at hand. Thumb­ing its nose at a Nazi past, Nurem­berg’s for­mer SS bar­racks build­ing now houses the of­fice of the High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees. As the au­thor re­marks: “One should never lose faith in mankind, even in the most cursed of places.”

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