Category

Europe

Will COVID-19 Break the European Union?

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In a previous blog, I promised to share my thoughts on the post-pandemic future of Europe, in particular for North American readers who may not be following developments on this side of the Atlantic. Travel’s off limits for the next several months, so we might as well talk about something. Here’s what it looks like to me as an outsider, and a long term resident and traveler. The Maastricht...

Berlin life in the time of COVID-19

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I’m not a disease expert by any stretch — though I have been sick in several third world shitholes. But it feels like anyone with any sort of public platform is expected to take a position on the COVID-19 pandemic. It certainly had a paralyzing impact on travel. In short: take it seriously. Expect it to last anywhere from several months to most of this year. And start preparing yourself for...

Picnics and Laughter in a Rhodope Mountain Glade

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We left the Pirin mountains the next day and entered the vast flat plain of the Maritza River Basin that connects Sofia to Plovdiv and opens out towards the Black Sea. The was the great path from Europe to the Levant. The road to Constantinople and Asia. The iron pipes of fountains gushed spring water from rocky hillsides where drivers stopped to fill their bottles. Nearby, the watermelons of...

Hiking Bulgaria’s Pirin Mountains

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It was time to move on to the Pirin Mountains, and the off-season ski resort of Bansko, where hotel suites went for bargain prices and half the restaurants were closed. The Thracians knew the Pirins as ‘Orbelus’ (‘snowy mountain’). The Slavs associated them with Perun, god of storms and thunder, the most powerful deity in their pantheon. To us, they promised some of the best hiking this side of...

Drifting Through The Crossroad of Empires

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The beginning of the journey didn’t bode well. Bulgaria Air was nearly two hours late. We eventually boarded an unmarked plane with ancient seats and the sort of old-style seatbelts I hadn’t seen in at least a decade. The in-flight magazines were dog eared and torn. One had a piece of chewing gum folded into it. The man on the cover — the CEO of an electronic payments transfer company — looked...

Wandering Prehistoric Worlds in the Azores

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I circumnavigated the eastern end of the island on minor roads that hugged the rugged north coast, stopping in rural villages that felt a world away from the tourist centres and busy bypass road above. I saw tractors working the fields, and in one village, a cheerful road crew laying down fresh tarmac. But otherwise it was just me and the cows. The coast eventually led me to Nordeste at Sao...

Adrift in the Mid-Atlantic

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It’s a group of nine islands straddling the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a third of the way across the ocean from continental Europe. The people speak Portuguese, but the islands were undiscovered and uninhabited until 1432. They’ve suffered pirates, invaders, religious persecution and serious crop failures. Today they’re an isolated paradise for hikers and nature lovers. Welcome to the Azores. I made my...

Will Europe End With Marching Boots — or Malaise?

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Where were you when the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989? I was sitting in the back room of our old house watching music videos on TV. We didn’t have the specialty channels back then, but the cable company was running a free promo all week, and we could watch the movie channel and the music channel for free. I was 17 years old, and glued to MuchMusic — the Canadian version of MTV — when the...

Wandering Through the Crucible of Western Civilization

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To journey back to Athens was to exit mythological time and step into the historical. We walked the winding streets of the Plaka in silence, as though on pilgrimage to a sacred place. As narrow-alley Antifioki wound ever upward, I reflected on my first visit to the Acropolis: eagerly awaited and long overdue. I’d read so much about ancient Greece, from Classics lectures in university to a...

On the road to Epidaurus

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The road to Epidaurus passed through ancient groves and valleys which induced a sense of stillness the nearer we got to our destination. This entire territory was considered sacred to Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing. Injured or sick pilgrims in search of a cure would make their way here to a vast ritual site known as the Asclepieion, where they would first go through a stage of...

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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