"In these baffling times, the only way to gain control of our environment is to miniaturise it."
Model villages were once a disproportionately British obsession. On those mythical golden holidays of the early 1960s, it was difficult not to trip over one en route to the crazy golf. But then the Costa del Sol and the permissive society arrived, and miniature innocence seemed to go the way of the girdle and the trouser press. But a handful remain to offer seasonal delights, including Bourton-on-the-Water in Gloucestershire (not an imaginary model, but an accurate copy of the town at 1:9 scale, which “enables our American cousins to see Bourton-on-the-Water nine times more quickly”) and Babbacombe in Torquay (featuring, in close proximity, Stonehenge and the Shard). Then there is Godshill on the Isle of Wight, featuring a model village in its model village of the model village, scaled at 1:1,000 with a lake the size of a full stop.
Our fascination with miniature objects has been with us since cave paintings, and we will never tire of bringing things down to size in an effort to better appreciate them. The model village has just become the model world.
Back in Europe, mini-business is booming. One could quite feasibly spend a fortnight ankle-deep in resin and polyurethane. We could begin at Madurodam in The Hague, a commendable and charitable institution that opened in 1952, inspired by Bekonscot and featuring everything you wanted to know about Dutch buildings and history at a scale of 1:25 (this is the norm for walk-around miniature parks: model people come up to your heels, bungalows up to your ankles and the Eiffel Tower looms at 12 metres). And then we could hop over to Catalunya en Miniatura near Barcelona, a tribute to the dazzling confectionery of Antoni Gaudí and more than 130 other, flatter Catalonian structures including the home of FC Barcelona, Camp Nou, and a miniature of the Dalí museum, Torre Galatea. And from there it’s just a leap away to Minimundus in Carinthia, Austria, a global aggregation of the White House and the Taj Mahal, and then just one skip more to France Miniature, in Élancourt, in the western suburbs of Paris, where the Eiffel Tower finally feels at home.
Or perhaps Miniatürk is your thing, Istanbul’s placid array of more than 100 Turkish buildings and historic shrines from the Ottoman empire. (What it lacks in wit it more than makes up for in its dedication to originality; in place of the more usual Arc de Triomphe and the Statue of Liberty there is the Suleymaniye mosque, the Aspendos theatre and a stone rendering of the ancient city of Ephesus.) And let’s not totally ignore Kiev in Miniature in Ukraine, with 48 local wonders including St Michael’s golden-domed monastery and Boryspil airport.