Ryan Murdock

Writer, Traveller, Reader of Books

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Spandau Citadel

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Spandau Citadel by A.Savin (Wikimedia Commons · WikiPhotoSpace) – Own work, FAL, Berlin is finally emerging from the pandemic lockdown we’ve been in with increasing forms of severity since mid-December. The biergarten are open, so I guess civilization won’t end just yet.  We can go to shops now, too. And barber shops and indoor dining are open to those who show a same...

RORY MACLEAN: Berlin, Bowie and the new Cold War (Episode #2)

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Rory Maclean Rory Maclean is the author of 15 books, including Berlin: Portrait of a City Through the Centuries, Stalin’s Nose, and Pravda Ha Ha.  He’s been called “the outstanding, and most indefatigable, traveller-writer of our time” by the novelist John le Carré. Jan Morris described his work as “a new kind of history, in several dimensions and innumerable moods, that adds up to — across...

Anthropology-lite with Barnaby Rogerson of Eland books (Episode #1)

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Barnaby Rogerson (Photo by Tom Bunning, October 2014) I’m launching my new Personal Landscapes podcast with Barnaby Rogerson, publisher of Eland books. It’s the only possible way I could open a discussion on books about place. Eland has been resurrecting lost travel classics and keeping them in print for more than 35 years.  The legendary travel presenter and Monty Python...

Time Among the Maya

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“If Greek civilization explored the universe with geometry, the Maya did so with arithmetic and time.” This insight comes early in Ronald Wright’s Time Among the Maya, and it sets the stage for his journey through Belize , Guatemala, Chiapas and the Yucatán. Like the Mayan calendar, the narrative ranges through vast spans of time, from distant prehistoric beginnings to the heyday of powerful city...

Moving to Germany? Bring medicine

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I’ll never forget the first time I got sick in Germany. In Canada, the common cold is a trivial annoyance. Simply trudge to the nearest Shopper’s Drug Mart and buy a bottle of Tylenol Cold, perhaps with a Robitussin chaser for the cough. Put the kettle on that night, sip a mug of NeoCitran with a dash of gin, and achieve a fantastic, un-nose-blocked sleep. You’ll wake the next morning feeling...

The NSA listening post on Devil’s Mountain

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Teufelsberg — ‘Devil’s Mountain’ — is a man made hill that rises 120m above sea level and provides a 360 degree view of flat Berlin and the surrounding Grunewald. The hill was built from an estimated 12 million cubic metres of war rubble, the remains of all those shattered buildings that were left of the city after WWII bombing. They dumped the broken brick and stone over an unfinished Nazi...

Palace walk with lockdown blues

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I took a long walk through the neighbourhood again, partly out of a desire for new sights in a year of lockdown drudgery, and partly as an antidote to irritability caused by too little sleep and too much noise. The long curving low rises of my neighbourhood gave way to a small collection of German and Croatian restaurants, a few pharmacies, an optometrist, and small shops, and then the brick...

The end of hobo chic

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The barber shops reopened in Berlin this week. I’d booked an appointment as soon as I saw it coming, to beat the mad rush of involuntary hippies. And so I set out this morning to put an end to my out-of-control hobo chic. For the wielders of the clipper and comb, it must be a lot like shearing sheep. At a time like this, I’m thankful to have a Welsh barber. Although the guy who mans the front...

An afternoon with Dicke Marie

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It’s beginning to feel like someone broke the weather. We had snow here two weeks ago — the most snow I’ve seen in four years in Berlin. It didn’t snow at all last year. Before that, a few centimetres once or twice which melted within a day. This year we had 10cm to 15cm. While such an amount would hardly be noticed in Canada, it caused a surprising amount of chaos here, with cancelled trains and...

German pillows are a crime against sleep

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How big is your head? I’m not suggesting you know its exact circumference in centimetres, but you do have an idea of how much space it takes up, right? I don’t think this is the case for German people. How else would you explain their pillows? The sleep-deprived foreigner has two choice of pillow here in Germany, and each is terrible in its own way. The most common type is the pointlessly huge...

Ryan Murdock

Author of Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America. Host of Personal Landscapes podcast. Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Canada's Outpost magazine. Columnist at The Shift. Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

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