Category: dark tourism

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Dark Tourism & Clothing

As decided in the most recent poll, and announced on Monday, today we come to the theme “dark tourism and clothing”:

You could be forgiven if you think this is a really exotic theme within the wider subject of dark tourism. But items of clothing do actually come up quite often. And the ones featured below are only a selection.

Perhaps the most predictable case of clothes with a dark association is those iconic and infamous striped

National Day and poll result

Today it’s “Nationalfeiertag” (literally ‘National Celebration Day’, or just ‘National Day’ for short) in Austria, the country I reside in. It’s another good opportunity to dig out from my archives the photos and texts I posted on my DT page on Facebook until it got purged. I’m reproducing them here in reverse chronological order, i.e. starting with last year’s post first:

Vajont

On this Day, 57 years ago, on 9 October 1963, the Vajont Dam disaster in northern Italy killed some 2000 people.

It was part natural disaster and part man-made. The hydroelectric dam as such was an engineering marvel (at 262 metres the highest in the world at the time, and still in the top ten), BUT: the mountainside to the south of the reservoir that formed in front of the dam when it was completed turned out to be unstable. This geological fragility had been recognized and warnings were voiced – but the relevant government officials preferred to ignore all this.

And so the

A Former Republic’s Ex-National Day

On this day, 7 October, the former GDR (in the West aka ‘East Germany’) used to celebrate the anniversaries of its founding on that date in 1949. It managed to get to its 40th anniversary in 1989 – but that was at a time when severe cracks in the state’s regime were already more than apparent. A few weeks later the Berlin Wall fell and just days before it would have been the 41st anniversary of the GDR’s founding, the state had ceased to exist on 3 October 1990 (see this recent post).

I used to mark this day, “Tag der Republik” in GDR parlance (literally ‘day of the republic’), on my former

Dark Tourism & Cars

As decided in the latest poll, the theme of this post is ‘dark tourism and cars’. It won by two votes ahead of ‘dark tourism and clothes’, so that will be entered again in the next poll. And since several people said that their second choice (and close contender) was ‘dark tourism and spheres’ I’ll give that another chance next time too. NPPs will have to wait a little longer, but as that is one of my personal favourites it is bound to pop up at some point as well (whether in another poll or independently I can’t say yet).

But now to cars. Searching through my archives I found

30th Anniversary of German Reunification

On this day, thirty years ago, on 3 October 1990, Germany was officially reunified and the GDR (the old communist East German state) ceased to exist, just eleven months after the so-called Fall of the Berlin Wall (or, more precisely, the opening of the border crossing points, which is generally seen as the beginning of the end for the GDR). The physical Wall too was soon after mostly demolished. So it has now actually been gone longer than it had been in existence! How time flies.

30 years is of course a big anniversary and the German media are predictably full of

Nagorno-Karabakh in Trouble again

There has been extremely worrying news the last few days from a little-visited region in the Caucasus that was included in my trip there ten years ago – Nagorno-Karabakh. Apparently the ‘frozen conflict’ over this contested region has flared up again and escalated into military confrontation and fighting, with already over a hundred dead, so it’s worse than the last time around in 2016. Moreover, now Azerbaijan is receiving open backing by Turkey, while Armenia is banking on support from Russia. So this has the potential to spiral into a full-on proxy war (as nearly happened in Syria a few years ago).

A little bit of background: Nagorno-Karabakh was a

New Flak Tower Photos – and a New Poll

Flaktürme, or ‘flak towers’, in Vienna’s Augarten park. In case you don’t know, “Flak” is short for “Flugabwehrkanone”, or ‘anti-aircraft gun’, and these towers were constructed to house batteries of big guns of that type during WWII. They were each complemented by another tower for radar/aiming technology. Hence the main towers were called “Gefechstturm” (‘combat tower’), while the smaller secondary tower was called “Leitturm” (‘directing tower’ or ‘lead tower’). Thus these installations always came in pairs. On the lower floors they additionally provided much needed air-raid-shelter space for civilians. But in their main military purpose,

Light at the End of Dark Tunnels

The idiomatic phrase ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ is probably being used a lot in these weird times– as something that is hoped for, the end of a crisis. Alas, with regard to the current pandemic, that light remains very faint at best, if it’s discernible at all. There’s still no cure, no vaccine, no clear outlook of what’s yet to come.
These thoughts inspired me to look through my photo archives searching for images of tunnels with lights at their ends, and indeed there have been some on my extensive travels. Here we go, the first one is

Dark Tourism and Mummies

This post’s theme was not decided by a poll this time but just by myself. For one thing it allowed me to reconnect to the first of my little trips I made this summer, namely to Brno, Czech Republic. The photo above was taken in one of the prime dark sites in that intriguing city and shows some of the fabled mummies to be seen in Brno’s Capuchin Crypt. They’re only semi-mummified (naturally, through the crypt’s micro-climate, it is said); you also see some bare bone. I found the hooded mummy in the centre one of the scariest-looking specimens here.

I was a little surprised to witness

Dark Tourism & Villas

As decided in our recent poll, this blog post’s theme will be villas. You’ve probably been wondering how something as nice as a villa can be dark – but just read on …

Let’s start on a grand scale. The photo below shows Villa Grande.
This grand pile, more a stately mansion than a mere villa, really, was the oversized home of Vidkun Quisling, the right-winger who assumed power in Norway during World War Two as Germany’s Nazis invaded, with whom he happily collaborated. That’s what’s given the English language the expression “a quisling regime”!

Today the building houses

Switzerland and its Darker Sides

Just back from Switzerland this morning! It was a nice eight-day trip, mostly in the Alps, but also a bit of city (Zürich). The main emphasis was on the spectacular Alpine scenery. Around Zermatt this is indeed dominated by the Matterhorn, the planet’s most iconic peak.
As for the dark elements: well, the building of the Jungfrau Railway cost several workers their lives during the tunnelling. At the touristified complex at the summit one section commemorates those victims of the project (which took decades to complete from the late 1890s to the 1920s). Most names looked Italian. But there was also

Change of Plans – More Travel – Poll Extended

My wife and I have another final week of this summer break left and spontaneously decided on our return from Venice (see previous post), to spend it in Switzerland. I wouldn’t have thought of Switzerland as a travel destination so soon, but – as with Venice – this may be a good time to go there, what with the absence of large international (esp. Chinese) tour groups. So we quickly booked our train to Zurich and a few hotels. In the country we’ll use the Swiss Travel Pass for maximum flexibility.

There’ll only be a few dark elements lined up, the main thing is to see the Alps, esp. the Matterhorn, which I have so far

Brno and Big Blasts

This week I resumed a little bit of travelling, for the first time since January in fact, namely by going to Brno in the Czech Republic, which is only a 90-minute train ride away from where I live (Vienna). Brno (Brünn in German) had long been on my to-do list but had been too easy to postpone given its proximity. Now, with all those pandemic-induced restrictions it had become a more immediate option to test the waters of travelling during these COVID times. So I travelled with my wife by train on Tuesday and came back the same way on Thursday.

I managed to tick off all four significant dark-tourism attractions of Brno during that time: the

Two apologies and one recommendation

There’s an interesting film out about the so-called “stalkers” of Chernobyl, i.e. those people going there not by the usual tourist route, with a guide and a permit, but who enter the Exclusion Zone independently and illegally. The above photo was taken by one of them (Thierry Vanhuysse) and is part of a press package of the film company, which is where I took it from.
Apparently there’s quite a large scene of Chernobyl stalkers. I know one personally, who also told me that this film is a bit unrepresentative in so far as it only features a certain subtype of stalkers. The majority of stalkers, so I was told, follow an ethos of not banging on about their stalking exploits on blogs or social media, whereas

Stauffenberg’s Execution after Operation Valkyrie’s Failure

On this day, 76 years ago, in the early hours of 21 July 1944, Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg was summarily executed by firing squad in the courtyard of the Bendlerblock building in Berlin, together with some of his co-conspirators.

Their plot, code-named “Operation Valkyrie”, had been to assassinate Adolf Hitler at his command post of Wolfschanze (‘wolf’s lair’) in what today is in north-eastern Poland (then German East Prussia).

Stauffenberg, thanks to his high rank in the military, had access to Hitler, and so it was decided that he would plant a bomb hidden in a briefcase near Hitler during a meeting at Wolfschanze. Stauffenberg was to leave the briefing early and

Trinity

On this day, 75 years ago, on 16 July 1945, the first atomic bomb explosion was set off in what was called the “Trinity” test in the desert near Alamogordo, New Mexico, USA. The image above is a historic photo of the mushroom cloud that formed shortly after the detonation. The whole event was meticulously documented, including by means of super-high-speed cameras. Here’s another example; it shows

Dark Tourism and Electricity!

I finished the reconstruction of the posts on my purged Facebook page for the year 2017. And noticed that it had been a good year, especially for themed weeks of successive posts with a common topic or keyword.

Some of those were rather unusual and probably unexpected for most readers, such as ‘dark tourism and animals’, ‘dark tourism and ash’, ‘dark tourism and bridges’, etc. – and perhaps the most exotic one was ‘dark tourism and electricity’. I reproduce it here (with some adaptations):

The Thing and the Deepest South

Yet another post featuring a photo with glacial ice! But this time it is for a different reason than suggesting virtual cooling off. Rather it is about chilling in another, more figurative sense … read on … it is going to get very chilling!And more photos will feature as well further down.

Yesterday’s news included that Ennio Morricone had died, aged 91. He had still been very active, producing music and touring until late 2019. He was best known as a film music composer, although he also did other sorts of music, the full gamut, from avant-garde modern to

Another Arctic Escape: Greenland

In today’s post I’m not only offering you another respite from the mid-summer heat in terms of virtual travel, but I’m also featuring a country that doesn’t even have an entry (yet) on my main website: Greenland. There is one photo from there to be found on the website, and those readers very familiar with the site may have seen it. It’s in the ‘about’ section and functions like a kind of profile photo. It was also used for a similar purpose by the publishers of an academic book I contributed to. It is

A Virtual Escape into the High Arctic

In the northern hemisphere we’re at the height of the summer right now, and many of us have to deal with hot temperatures and sometimes humid conditions. So I decided to provide some respite by directing today’s “virtual travel” exercise, which I think these blog posts can be seen as, far north, beyond the Arctic Circle: to Svalbard. So you can cool off a bit, in travel dreams …

I’ve only ever been north of the Arctic Circle once, namely on my summer 2012 trip to Norway, including a few days on Spitsbergen, and Murmansk in the northwesternmost part of Russia.

The Svalbard archipelago, with the main island Spitsbergen, is

An Ex-Yugoslav Underground Airbase Inside a Mountain

Yesterday’s post mentioned the fabled underground airbase of Željava, located now on the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. I said it would be worth a post of its own. So here we go. Why delay it.

It’s a very cool site, especially in terms of ‘urbexing’ and it’s visually extremely appealing, provided you like it dark, dank and even a bit scary 😉

As it happened, though, a different

wreckage from the Balkan wars

Balkan Belligerents

On this day, 29 years ago, on 25 June 1991, both Slovenia and Croatia declared themselves independent, marking the first proper secessions from the Yugoslav Federal state. This happened amidst rising tensions between different ethnicities and especially between Serbs and Croats, which eventually developed into war.

Slovenia got off comparatively lightly, with a military intervention by the Yugoslav army that lasted only 10 days and cost “only” 65 or so lives, before the country was reluctantly but effectively released into independence. The above photo shows a relic from that short war, namely a piece of wreckage of a Yugoslav helicopter that is on display in the generally excellent modern history museum in Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana.

In Croatia, on the other hand,

Juneteenth – and the topic of slavery in dark tourism

Today is the 19th of June, celebrated as “Juneteenth” in the USA. Narrowly defined it commemorates a declaration of emancipation/freeing of slaves in Texas in 1865 on that date, but is now more generally celebrated to mark African Americans’ civil rights and freedom. Amidst the current Black Lives Matter protests, this date has been given an extra boost.

Regarding the subject of slavery, this also features in dark tourism. Sites related to the

"17. Juni", Ulrich Hohenhaus

17 June

This date has historical significance for various reasons. E.g. it was the day when the last public execution by guillotine took place in France, as late as in 1939. The following year the three Baltic states fell under Soviet rule; while in 1967 China detonated its first thermonuclear test device on this date. But in Germany, the date is primarily remembered for the 1953 Uprising in the GDR, especially in East Berlin, which was brutally crushed by the Soviet military, even involving tanks, and was followed by mass arrests and dozens of executions.

In East Berlin, one of the main demonstrations took place outside

38 Years since the End of the Falklands War

On this Day: 38 years ago, on 14/15 June (read on!) in 1982, the Falklands War ended with the surrender of Argentina.

The photo above shows an abandoned Argentine position near Wireless Ridge, north-east of Mt Longdon, not far from the islands’ capital Stanley. This position is comparatively well preserved. My guide even pulled out some hidden personal items left behind by the soldiers.

After showing me this

Iconoclasm versus Interpretation

The photo above shows a plaque in Vienna commemorating Joseph Stalin’s short sojourn in this city as a young man. I’ve been reminded of this by the recent images on the news from the USA, where protesters are disfiguring or toppling monuments to former proponents of slavery and such like, in the wake of the unrest caused by the killing of George Floyd by police. Now, how do the topics of Stalinism and the Black Lives Matter movement go together, you may ask. Let me explain:

Make no mistake, I do understand the outrage of the protesters about the

Anne Frank’s birthday

On this Day, 12 June, it is Anne Frank’s birthday. She would have been 91 today, so could quite possibly have been still alive now had she not been discovered, deported and eventually killed during the Holocaust.

Until August 1944, Anne and her Jewish family had been living successfully in hiding in Amsterdam, but were somehow betrayed, so that the SS did find them after all and deported them first to the transit camp of Westerbork, then to Auschwitz. Anne and her sister Margot were later transported to Bergen-Belsen, where both died, most likely

The Nuclear Landscapes of the Polygon, Kazakhstan

A few years ago I had an extended exchange with a guy in Canada who did an intriguing project about the Polygon/Semipalatinsk Test Site (STS) in Kazakhstan, the place where the Soviet Union carried out the majority of its nuclear tests. The project was part of a master’s thesis in Landscape Architecture, at the University of Toronto, and proposed a number of structural “interventions” at the site, so a kind of commodification for visitors. It was envisioned that

Scaled-down D-Day Commemoration Ceremonies This Year

On this Day, 76 years ago, on 6 June 1944, the biggest ever amphibious landing operations, popularly known as D-Day, took place in Normandy, France, and gave the Western Allies the foothold they needed to begin the fight against Nazi Germany on the Western Front in WWII. The whole plan was code-named ‘Operation Overlord’.

Beginning here, the Western Allies slowly pushed back the Nazi occupiers out of France and eventually

Dunkirk 1940

On this day, 80 years ago, on 4 June 1940, the last of the Allied evacuations from Dunkirk took place, and the next day Nazi Germany declared victory in the Battle of Dunkirk.

It was the first major confrontation on the ground between British and German troops in WWII within France. The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) had been deployed to France after Germany invaded Poland and Britain and France declared war on Germany. When the

Operation Blue Star

36 years ago, in early June 1984, the Indian military launched an attack on the Golden Temple (aka Harmandir Sahib), the holy of holies of the Sikhs, in order to “flush out” the extremist religious leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his followers who, on invitation by a Sikh political party leader, had taken refuge in the temple complex and fortified it. The group had been critical of the dominant social and economic conditions at the time and felt Sikhs were being discriminated against. This had already

A surprise reappearance

Not long ago I found that an article that was published in March, based on a telephone interview I had done with the author in January, featured the above photo of me. This is indeed one of the VERY few selfies I’ve ever taken, at a time when that word ‘selfie’ didn’t even yet exist, or at least wasn’t so widespread yet, namely in November 2010, at Darvaza, Turkmenistan.

And, it is the photo that I had used as my profile picture for my

Illuks, Sri Lanka – a remote, leech-infested mountain retreat

This was the last photo I was still able to put on DT’s Facebook page before it/I was purged. I’m reusing it here (see original post text below), however, for a different reason, namely because I’ve been thinking about Sri Lanka a lot more recently. And the reason for that is this: last week I “attended” (at home) an online ‘Zoom’ meeting that was organized by the travel company ETG (whom I’ve used several times for my travels in Asia, including Sri Lanka). This featured a presentation by travel author John Gimlette, who wrote

The Fluffy Side of Nazism

Another one related to my recent purge from Facebook. I mentioned in my earlier post about this censorship case that I had posted photos on Facebook that I would have considered more “risqué” than the one that started all the trouble. Here’s an example from way back, namely from 25 May 2017. This had been part of a themed week of posts all showing the “fluffy side of something” (see below!). This was probably

Martyrs’ Lane, Baku, Azerbaijan

This would have been my next post on my Facebook page for DT had that not suddenly been shut down (see here). I had already written the text, so instead of letting it, and the photo, “go to waste”, I’m (re)using it here. This would have been the accompanying text (again with a little reference to the coronavirus: “… it occurred to me that many of my photos look like social distancing had been in place for much longer already. That’s because I try to avoid having other people in my photos, not