Have you ever spiralled down into a disused tube station, feared for your well-being during an exhilarating ride on the backseat of a Vietnamese motorcycle or scaled a derelict chimney in London? Have you ever wandered through the perpetual flow of humans in a Mumbai market, felt the chaos resolve itself around you as dusk falls and lanterns alight in Kyoto, or found yourself wonderfully lost whilst meandering down a charming Milanese side-street?
The French have a wonderful word—flâneur—for someone who seeks to explore and understand the nature of a city’s landscape, usually by taking spontaneous adventures amidst the ebb and flow of life going on around them. In this week’s theme we invite you to lose yourself reading about the flâneur-esque adventures of Maptia’s streetwise connoisseurs and explore a myriad of cities through their eyes. Explore the interactive map below for a selection of the stories, and scroll down to discover them all.
At the end of this post you’ll find all the exciting details for our next Storytelling Theme—‘Festivals and Celebrations’. Contribute your story on Maptia by December 14th for the chance to be featured, but for now we hope your curiosity is piqued... it’s time to dive into the 26 stories of urban exploration below.
As soon as night falls every day, I know that what I can see and understand is ringed by a much greater dark that represents, excitingly, all that I do not and will not ever know. The less you see of someone or somewhere, the more enticing they often are.
Deep snow, wild camping, fence jumping, bacon butties, kebab shops, and a shopping trolley—walking a lap of the M25 turned out to be quite an adventure. Kindness and incredulity followed us in equal measure along the way.
Alastair Humphreys was voted National Geographic’s 2012 Adventure of the Year and is currently writing a new book about ‘Microadventures’. Read our previous Latitude Series Interview with Al or check out his new film ‘Into the Empty Quarter’. If you enjoy his story on Maptia be sure to drop him a line @Al_Humphreys to say thanks.
This was our goodbye to Battersea Power Station. We’ve given it a lot of love and attention over the years—watching the 5th November fireworks from the base of the chimneys four years in a row. Now we scaled the towering stacks to the top with ropes—it was both terrifying and wonderful.
Dance down an alleyway, sidle along a side street; in London, there’s always something to see. A tantalising snippet of history or teasing taste of the creative spirit that bubbles up and bursts to create an ever-fresh backdrop to frantic city life.
Weaving in between cars, whirring around crazed intersections, taking me to far-flung Districts with plenty to see along the way, I found myself looking forward to any opportunity to grab a ‘xe om’ motorcycle taxi in Saigon.
Never a place for the faint-hearted, the chaotic streets of Ho Chi Minh City can seem intimidating and dangerous to the pedestrian. The solution? Get your wits about you, get a crash helmet, and get on two wheels.
Few cities can lay claim to the beauty, charm and allure of Rio. The landscape is lush and the locals can party. But Rio is, without question, a city divided. Whilst Ipanema beach and its residents distract at eye-level, favelas perched atop jungle peaks dominate the skyline.
I traveled from Ireland to India with my mother and grandmother to meet my Indian family for the first time. It was 1981 and I had never been abroad until then.
From the weaving crowds of the famous Yengi Bazaar, with its sweet smoky odor of grilled mutton and cumin to the spirited negotiations of tough, weathered men in the livestock market, the ancient city of Kashgar remains a fascinating place—despite the heavy hand of change.
David Noyes is a photographer and travel writer who tells complicated stories about complicated places. He is also the founder of the innocent eyes project—an organisation that supports grassroots child education programs in developing countries. If you enjoyed his story you should drop David a line on Twitter @noyestravels.
Visiting a South African township by bicycle, where people and life and answers to questions are up close and personal.
Capital cities are a total playground for photographers like me. I shot these photos after dark in a cold and windy Washington DC, just before Christmas. The light blanket of snow and multi coloured artificial lights added a rather magical element to the city.
Paris is full of wonderfully wide paths for meandering. This is doubly true in the snow when people are reluctant to venture beyond their maisonettes. Black and white photos really sum up the fantastic architecture, slightly scary driving and particularly Parisian mood for me.
There was only a hunch. That’s it. But it gnawed at me, saying: “You need to leave your home town, get on a plane, train or bus headed for Paris, learn French and just see what happens. That was as far as I planned... The rest just happened.
Milan is a launchpad, in the eyes of an international student. It’s within range of several countries—why not see as much as possible, every weekend? And yet, this is the perspective of a non-conformist who set off to find adventure within his new home. Oh how misunderstood a cold city can be.
Ryan is a twenty-something writer in way over his head. He tries to find ways to stay on the good side of Lady Fortuna. If you enjoyed his serendipitous story be sure to drop him a line on Twitter @heyryanhess.
If we had only one word to describe this city, it would be “BIG”. From the population of over 11 million, to the imposing, magnificent buildings in the vast historic district, each taking up a city block, to the incredibly wide streets—everything in Moscow is dynamically huge!
The scent of the freshly picked marigold, the sounds of shop shutters opening, the swagger of the morning auto-commute, the chatter of the bargain and the lingering taste from the first cup of chai of the day. Good morning Old Delhi!
The city of lakes and Maharajas is the most ideal place to spend a weekend. In fact a single day is enough to walk through the entire city covering most of the landmarks, as I found out on one such wintry day of February...
The shouts, cries, clangs, bangs, whispers and warbles that make up the symphony of Istanbul.
Almost 9 years ago stifling sobs, and trying to swallow down the rock lodged in her throat, Diane Caldwell boarded a plane to Greece. She hasn’t been back to the States since and blogs at Dianewanderer.
I wasn’t prepared for India. I arrived at the Hyderabad airport in the middle of the night without any familiar face to greet me. People told me to brace myself, saying it would be a shock in many ways. They were right. Within moments of landing, I found myself clinging on for dear life.
Though Venice has all the makings of a tourist trap, there is still something quite beautiful and lovely about this city on water.
Casting off their current lives, Mari and Rick quit their jobs, unloaded their belongings and set off on an epic journey across the world. You can see their phenomenal photography and follow their migration route over at nomadic-habit.com.
Venice is a city that instantly captures ones imagination.
Despite living in New York and being within hours of Canada, I had never traveled to Quebec. This all changed this past summer when I headed to the city to explore the innovative culinary scene and to catch a few shows at the Summer Festival.
As an American traveling in a former republic of the Soviet Union, I confront misperceptions I didn’t realize I had.
Delhi had been a whirlwind week. It was only during my next stop, in the Pink City of Jaipur, that I started to surface from the colourful chaos and the culture shock to gulp back air and look at India with new eyes.
I can’t be sure if I remember Ireland now. If I think of it kindly or whether my 6-week memories of its cold and uninviting landscapes have been distorted over time.
Ella is a writer out of necessity, and an illustrator by accident. Currently working on a book with real pages, you can peruse Ella’s mesmerising and delightful illustrations on ellafrancessanders.com. Ella is also working with us as our wonderful In-house Illustrator at Maptia. Say hi @ellafsanders.
Festivals and Celebrations
Maptia Storytelling Theme 5
Since the earliest days of humanity, festivals and celebrations have brought communities together—fostering traditions and forming an important part of our cultural heritage—yet in recent years we feel more connected to our iPhones and via the internet than each other. As as result the value of opportunities for meaningful, real-world connections with both family and strangers is greater than ever. Some celebrations can feel like stepping into dream-worlds in which cultural norms cease to apply, and for this reason, attending great festivals can feel like turning up the saturation on life.
The top stories for this theme will be featured on the Maptia Blog in a few weeks’ time—be sure to complete your stories on Maptia by December 14th for a chance to be featured.
For now, just a small group of founding storytellers are contributing to Maptia and we are only able to send a limited number of new invites each week. We don’t yet have the resources to cope with more, and are still working on the coding and design. However, if you have a story about a festival in mind, and absolutely can’t wait to get started, then send a 200-word snippet and photo to firstname.lastname@example.org and we would love to shuffle your invite right to the front of the queue.
If you have made it through this reading list of urban stories why not take a look at a couple more of our most popular posts below: