Category: ruins

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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

A Dark Anniversary and a bit of Time Travel

On this Day it’s the 19th anniversary of 9/11 – i.e. the terrorist attacks in the USA by means of hijacked planes, two hitting the Twin Towers of the WTC in New York, one the Pentagon near Washington D.C. …

The photo above was taken at the former “Tribute WTC” visitor centre in New York (now relocated, reworked and renamed “9/11Tribute Center”) and shows a projection in the exhibition part of the old centre, involving iconic images of those spiky steel facade elements that remained upright after the collapse of the towers.

This date was also always

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

Viva Venezia – Venezia buia

I had a fantastic five days in Venice. Even though it wasn’t exactly empty and devoid of tourists, there was certainly not the degree of ‘overtourism’ that had plagued the city before the pandemic. Without the usual thick throngs of tourists, Venice was indeed much more pleasant to visit now.
While much of the trip was about just enjoying Venice as it is at the moment, wandering about and indulging in culinary delights, there had to be some dark elements too, of course. Venice may not be a top-league dark-tourism destination, but it does have its dark sides as well. The second Italian phrase in this post’s title, “Venezia buia”, means ‘dark Venice’, by the way.

Dark Tourism and Bridges

This beautiful and highly iconic structure is of course the fabled Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, USA. And what’s its dark secret? This very deadly one: it’s one of the world’s top suicide hotspots. Thousands have jumped off this bridge to end their lives, how many exactly is impossible to tell, but some 1600 bodies were recovered. Yet many others will have drifted out into the Pacific with the tide never to be found.

As a place to top oneself and simply vanish, this was an almost ideal spot. The height of the bridge, 70m above the waterline, more or less guarantees death on impact through

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

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,

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