The ‘Forbidden City’ just outside Berlin

This was once the largest Red Army base outside the USSR

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.

The abandoned airport down the street

Tempelhof airport was once the world’s largest building

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 Heavy Load-Bearing Body Down the Street

The base of the Schwerbelastungskörper

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.

To The Lake: A Balkan Journey of War and Peace

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.

What do you think of the ‘deep state’?

Spies everywhere…

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.

Will COVID-19 Break the European Union?

(Photo: REUTERS/Regis Duvignau)

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.

Picnics and Laughter in a Rhodope Mountain Glade

Plovdiv: Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited city

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.

Hiking Bulgaria’s Pirin Mountains

The Pirin Mountains are a hiker’s paradise…

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 the Alps.

Drifting Through The Crossroad of Empires

Rila Monastery

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.

An unmarked plane didn’t bode well…

A Postcard from Lastovo

lastovo.jpg

 

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 become a part of independent Croatia.