Tag

europe

The ‘Forbidden City’ just outside Berlin

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The largest Red Army base outside the Soviet Union was a 40 minute drive south of Berlin. It was just beyond where the new airport — and the old Schönefeld SXF — is today. Wünsdorf-Waldstadt was completely off limits to East Germans during those long, dark Iron Curtain years. They called it Die Verbotene Stadt (the Forbidden City). Others called the massive base ‘Little Moscow’, and I guess it...

The abandoned airport down the street

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I’m moving flats next month and saying goodbye to Tempelhofer Feld, my favourite space in the neighbourhood. But before I pack up my books and lug them across town, I’d like to tell you a bit about the history of what was once the world’s largest building. The 1.2 km long complex was built by the Nazis to be the most advanced airport the world had ever seen, but war cut short their plans and they...

The Heavy Load-Bearing Body Down the Street

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I’m moving flats soon, after four years, leaving this neighbourhood behind for another pre-war altbau in a different part of the city. Imminent departure has prompted me to poke around some of those minor historic sites I’ve passed so often but never gotten around to exploring. One of the largest is just down the block. I biked past that strange concrete mass so many times over the past four...

To The Lake: A Balkan Journey of War and Peace

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Kapka Kassabova is taking us back to the Balkans. I’ve been looking forward to something new from this wonderful writer since Border, which was my top travel read of 2018. That earlier book touched on the author’s childhood in Bulgaria, and To The Lake takes us deeper as she journeys to her grandmother’s place of origin in the mountainous Macedonian lake district. The region was once an important...

What do you think of the ‘deep state’?

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A friend asked me this week, “What do you think of the ‘deep state’? The short answer is, “I try not to.” Mostly because it has no meaningful impact on my life. ‘Deep state’ is the idea that some sort of shadow government made up of rich, powerful actors wields power, either within or behind the legitimately elected government. The Bilderberg Group, the Illuminati, the Freemasons, the CIA and the...

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...

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...

A Postcard from Lastovo

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  Lastovo: isolated Adriatic island of jagged hills clad in holm oak and aleppo pine, where the sea laps sunbleached stones with tongue translucent blue. Settled by Illyrians and later controlled by Rome, over the centuries it was destroyed by Venice for harboring pirates, joined the Dubrovnik Republic, and passed through the hands of Napoleonic France, Austria, Italy, Yugoslavia, to finally...

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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