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The skies are strangely empty

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It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon in Berlin, but it doesn’t feel like spring is in the air. The biergarten are shuttered. The parks are roped off. And many of the ice cream parlours are closed. With nothing else to do but work, I decided to stretch my desk bound legs with a 20km bike ride towards the outskirts of town. My target was a section of open ground near Lichterfelde Süd, where the Berlin...

Loss and change in a post-pandemic world

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In my last blog, we talked about what the future of the European Union might look like in a post-pandemic world. I’d like to add a few more random predictions as we pull back the lens to consider the globe. In short, I think we’ll see a move towards de-globalization, where items deemed essential are manufactured ‘on shore’ rather than pieced together from parts sourced in China and other regions...

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...

The hamsters are loose in Berlin

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It’s not surprising that the culture which gave us specific words for a brilliant idea you get while drinking but end up regretting later (Schnapsidee — I get a lot of these), and for the perverse sense of satisfaction at taking joy in someone else’s pain (Schadenfreude) should also have a term for hoarding. The Germans call panic buying Der Hamsterkäufe (‘hamster buying’). When I think about it...

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...

Travels With Myself And Another

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How did I live for 47 years without reading Martha Gellhorn? She’s best known in some circles for her brief wartime marriage to the writer Ernest Hemingway, much to her chagrin. But she is better known as a brilliant war correspondent and travel writer, though she wanted to be remembered as a novelist. She covered the Spanish Civil War, went ashore on the beaches of Normandy on June 7, 1944, and...

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...

The Best Books I Read in 2019

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It’s that time again. I typically read around 100 books a year. Everything from travel literature to poetry, history, psychology, fiction and memoir. I love reading lists, and I bet you do, too. As each year comes to a close, and as dark Berlin huddles beneath grey skies, I like to take a moment to share my top reads from the past twelve months. They made my list because they were either...

Ryan Murdock

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

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