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Cyprus

A week ago today I returned from my 12-day trip to Cyprus. I’m still busy processing all my photos, but I’ve picked a small preselection to use here in a first blog post about Cyprus. This is just a taster and brief overview of what I did on the island in terms of dark tourism. Over the coming weeks and months I’ll prepare more blog posts about specific places, and of course I will also have to substantially expand the current short stub chapter about Cyprus on my main website and add individual chapters about the various specific dark destinations within the country. For my book Atlas of Dark Destinations it is

All Caught Up Again & Austrian History

For only the second time in the ca. 15 years since I started writing for my main website, I’m all caught up, i.e. I’ve completed and uploaded all the chapters that I had material for from my own travels. (The first time I had come to that point was earlier this year.)

First I finished the remaining chapters for Namibia, namely about Swakopmund and its local museum. And then I still had a substantial chapter to write about a relatively recent addition to the museum portfolio of the city I live in, Vienna, namely the House of Austrian History (“Haus der Geschichte Österreichs” in the original German, or HdGÖ for short), housed in

Namibia & North Korea

Many readers will wonder what the south-west African country of Namibia, one of the best-functioning democracies of the continent, can possibly have to do with North Korea, that staunch ultra-communist dictatorial hermit country in the far east of Asia. But there is a link. This: The Mansudae Art Studio in Pyongyang. North Korea has a massive demand for propaganda posters, monuments and other socialist-realist art, and most of that is produced by the Mansudae Studio. It’s a veritable industry. So big is the “industry” that it also has an “Overseas Projects” branch, offering their services to other countries. And several countries have indeed taken up that offer over the years, mostly in Africa,

Elizabeth Bay

This is the third and final blog post about the diamond-mining ghost towns in Namibia (after the earlier ones featuring Pomona and Kolmanskop). This time it’s about the largest of the three: Elizabeth Bay. And again this post is primarily a photo essay.

The name comes from the actual Elizabeth Bay on the Namibian Atlantic coast where the town and diamond mine were established in the 1920s. The bay was given its name by the British in the mid-nineteenth century, during the German colonial era it was known as “Elisabethbucht”. Locally the name

First Anniversary of my Book

On this date, one year ago my book Atlas of Dark Destinations, pictured above, was released internationally. Back then I marked the occasion with this celebratory post (the date also happens to coincide with the National Day here in Austria).

At that point I was still cautiously optimistic that the book would earn me some money beyond the advance I had been given by the publishers. Unfortunately, a year on, that has still not happened. Sales have not yet fully recouped the advance, so I’ve not earned a single extra penny from it so far. I wasn’t

Pomona

As promised in the previous Blog post about the famous ghost town of Kolmanskop, I now bring you another photo essay about a far less well-known ghost town in the south of Namibia: Pomona.

This desolate place lies deep inside the “Sperrgebiet”, i.e. the ‘forbidden zone’, the restricted-access diamond-mining area stretching from Lüderitz all the way to the Orange River at the border with South Africa. A special permit is required to gain access to this vast area, and plenty of strict rules apply. But there are

Kolmanskop

This is the most fabled of Namibia’s ghost towns, in fact one of the most photographed ghost towns in the world. And indeed it is immensely photogenic. Hence this Blog post will essentially be a photo essay (as promised in the previous Blog post). But first here’s just the briefest of summaries of the history of Kolmanskop:

The town owes its existence to diamonds. In 1908, so during the German South-West-Africa colonial era, a railway worker who had previously had a job at Kimberley Mine, South Africa, discovered a diamond while clearing desert sand off a railway track. He showed the find to his German foreman, soon more more diamonds were found and before long a veritable diamond rush ensued. The whole

Namibia

I’ve finally finished processing the many photos I took in August in Namibia. Most were taken in RAW format so required a lot of developing/processing (white balance, exposure, etc.) so that was quite a bit of work, but that’s now done. In this new post I’ll give a general overview and a few taster photos (15 in total) – naturally with an emphasis on dark-tourism-relevant aspects.

One of the very darkest chapters in Namibian history was what is widely regarded as the 20th century’s first genocide, namely against the Herero and Nama peoples at the hands of the German colonial military, the so-called “Schutztruppe” (‘protection force’). This took place (mostly) between 1904 and 1907. One particular place

Kosovo

A few weeks ago, over the long May Day weekend, I travelled, for the first time, to Kosovo, the newest country in Europe: it declared itself independent only in 2008 … after a long period of struggle and unrest in the wake of the break-up of Yugoslavia (Kosovo, which is predominantly ethnic Albanian, was a semi-autonomous part of Serbia in the Yugoslav federal state).

This struggle included the full-blown Kosovo War of 1998/99 that eventually prompted a NATO intervention and the subsequent stationing of peacekeeping troops (KFOR) in the territory. To date, only a little over half of the countries

Islands of Dark Tourism

In this post I want to take you off the beaten track and to some less well explored, more exotic, remote locations. The eight selected places have only one thing in common: they are all islands. Other than that they are very different from each other and represent a range of distinct categories of dark tourism that dark globe trotters visit for very different reasons.

Of course there are well-known dark islands, too, such as Alcatraz or Robben Island, both former prison islands turned memorials, which today attract large numbers of visitors and hence overlap with mainstream tourism; but here we are going to get further away from that.

Budapest in 2022

This past Whitsun weekend I was in Budapest. Even though it’s just a 2 ½ hour train ride from Vienna (where I live) I hadn’t been to this fabulous capital city of Hungary since October 2008, so a re-visit was overdue. I had only a bit over 48 hours there but used the time well. Here’s a short report with some selected photos:

In terms of dark tourism my first priority was a sight that I learned about only after my previous visit to Budapest. That’s the Hospital in the Rock and

A Major Change at a Place that Changed the World

Last Friday I received a press release from the NIA (Norsk Industri-Arbeidermuseum – or ‘Norwegian Industrial Workers Museum’) at Vemork near Rjukan in the Telemark region of southern Norway – and immediately decided that this deserves a new Blog post here as well!

I visited Vemork as part of my long Norway (+ Svalbard, Boden and Murmansk) trip in the summer of 2012, so

Spaç prison

This is the second blog post derived from my recent week-long trip to Albania (see the previous post about Tirana). During that week I had also booked a day excursion with a driver/guide to the former ruined Spaç prison.

Under the long communist dictatorship of Enver Hoxha, Spaç was one of dozens of political prisons and forced labour camps dotted all over the country. It was set up in such a remote location that the

Tirana in 2022

On Monday I returned from a six-day visit to Albania, my first proper dark-tourism trip this year! I was based in the capital Tirana and did most of my fieldwork there, but also went on a guided day trip to one of the former communist-era prisons/hard labour camps in the mountains in the north of the country … but that will be for another separate Blog Post some time soon. For this post I’m going to concentrate on Tirana only.

It was

Another Peak Milestone

For the first time ever, i.e. since I started working on my dark-tourism website project almost 15 years ago, I am fully caught up on all the material from my own travels. All this time I had always been more or less behind (at some points quite seriously behind – years!). Now I’ve reached what at the moment is the finishing line, as it were.
The (for now) final chapter in question is one that was left over from my summer trip to Switzerland in 2020, namely the one about the Matterhorn and Zermatt. The featured photo above is

Dark travel videos and a surprise change in Turkmenistan

Last week I was contacted by someone in the English department of the Franco-German co-operation TV channel ARTE. I was alerted to two series of short video productions (with episodes of between 5 to 8 minutes in length) on topics that include, or at least overlap with, dark tourism themes. (Find the links to the programmes below!)

  

The first one is called “Toxic Tour” and has six episodes, each about

Russian Reflections

This photo was taken in St Petersburg and shows a reflection of one of the most iconic sights in this city, namely the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood … what a name in the current circumstances! (But its name is actually a reference to the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881.)

Secondly, I know in the West all eyes are currently on Ukraine and especially the Ukrainians, who are suffering the most in this ongoing war, and I naturally feel for them too. But my heart also bleeds for Russia – for various reasons I will

Fear-mongering vs a feel-good discovery

on the news yesterday were reports about a sensational discovery in the Antarctic waters. An expedition managed to track down and photograph the wreck of the Endurance, the ship of the Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1914-16 Antarctica expedition, also called “Endurance”. The ship hit pack ice early on, got stuck in it and was thus immobilized. As the ice increasingly crushed the vessel, it had to be abandoned by the crew who camped off-board on the ice. The ship eventually sank on 21 November 1915.

After that,

Easter Island escapism

Easter Island can be regarded as a dark-tourism destination only in a more symbolic way, making a link between its dark past of environmental overexploitation and the current threat to the whole Earth’s global biosphere – to quote my own book’s final chapter, which is about Easter Island: “[the islanders] had to learn the hard way that there was no other island they could evacuate to, just as the people of planet Earth must learn – to quote an often-used slogan at climate-change demonstrations – that there is no planet B.”

International Women’s Day 2022

Just a short one for once … Today is 8 March, Women’s day. Last year on this date I gave you a post featuring various more or less gigantic female statues.

One of them was the humongous titanium-clad Rodina Mat (aka Motherland Monument) in Kyiv, featured in the photo above. The statue is a staggering 62m tall (with the sword), combined with the plinth she towers over the city over a 100m high.

The photo was

Babyn Yar

As the brutal war that Putin’s Russia has launched against Ukraine continues, there has been another clash with the world of dark tourism too.

On Monday there was a missile strike on the Kyiv TV Tower, once the world’s tallest steel lattice structure. The link to dark tourism is this: the TV Tower is directly adjacent to a very dark site of the Holocaust, Babi Yar, or Babyn Yar in Ukrainian spelling, a massacre site and mass grave. During the

Nuclear Threats

Sunday’s announcement that Putin has put Russia’s nuclear forces on “high alert” really knocked me off balance. You see, I’m a child of the Cold War … I came of age in the early 1980s, at the very height of the Cold War, one of its most dangerous phases, in fact. I became increasingly aware that any minute could be my last. I’m somewhat reminded of that feeling now. Although there are significant differences: for one thing,

Very Dark Times for Ukraine

I’ve been struggling for words over these past three days. But slowly they are coming back.

And I thought I just have to speak out in some way rather than just staying silent. So I decided to throw my otherwise self-prescribed political neutrality on this blog overboard and make a statement.

In a way that’s partly because now it’s personal. Putin’s

42 years since the military coup in Suriname

On this day, 42 years ago, on 25 February 1980, the so-called “Sergeants’ Coup” took place in Suriname, led by the later military dictator Dési Bouterse.

Suriname is the smallest independent country in South America and is rather little known in the outside world – except in the Netherlands, where there is a sizeable Surinamese expat community. That’s because Suriname used to be Dutch Guiana, the

Post from Moscow!

I don’t mean that I’m in Moscow and posting this on my Blog from there. No, I’m still in Vienna, Austria, but I had a parcel from Moscow delivered to my door by the Austrian postal service this morning. I had to pay a delivery fee of 6 EUR – so I was tempted to entitle this post “From Russia – not with love but a fee” …

Here’s a photo of the

Dark Tourism in the Literally Dark – Vienna’s Central Cemetery by night

Last Saturday I joined an exclusive guided group tour of the grand Central Cemetery (‘Zentralfriedhof’) in Vienna that took place after dark. I had visited this vast burial ground several times before and cover it extensively on my main DT website. Now I was able to add another, even literally darker element to it. On the basis of that I’ve amended my website’s entry for the cemetery a little and added a few extra photos to the photo gallery.

Here on the DT Blog I can give you a fuller report and a much more substantial photo essay – here we go:

Another Dark Valentine’s Day

Today is 14 February, Valentine’s Day! Last year I marked this date with a post featuring a photo of a dark bas-relief by Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland plus photos of a few more works by the same artist on public display in Frogner Park in Oslo, Norway.

For today I searched through my archives looking for other things that could be related to Valentine’s Day, like hearts, flowers and other symbols of love – but with a dark-tourism-relevant connection, of course. I did

Another revelation: Warth Mill & Hutchinson Camp

this same week I also came across another revelation of yet another dark chapter of British history that I had not been aware of in this form before: the mass internment of Germans and Austrian as “enemy aliens” in 1940 and the horrendous conditions the early places of internment came with.

Most of the internees were refugees from the Third Reich who had found a safe haven in a welcoming Britain, including many Jews who had fled the

Indonesian revelations

The large archipelago nation of Indonesia has been in the media lately for a couple of unexpected revelations – for me at least.

For one thing, the country’s capital city Jakarta will soon no longer be the capital city!
Indonesia is about to go the Brazil/Myanmar way, as it were, with a purpose-built new capital in the very centre of the archipelago, namely in the province of East Kalimantan, on the

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today is one of the most significant international remembrance days, on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on this day in 1945. It’s impossible to cover every Holocaust-related dark-tourism site in a single post. But what I can do is give one photo each from all the main concentration camps and death camps, i.e. the main places where the Holocaust played out (in addition to

Dark Tourism & Flames

As indicated at the end of last week’s blog post about the “Stans”, I now give you a themed post next, namely DT & Flames. It’s a topic that ran a couple times in the theme polls over the past 18 months (here, here and here) but never won. Now I’m just posting it anyway. And that’s because it follows on so neatly from the parts about the Darvaza flaming gas crater in Turkmenistan that was featured in last week’s post, and included photos like

Trouble in the Stans

“The Stans” is shorthand for the five former Soviet republics in Central Asia whose names all end in -stan, that is: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan (but not Pakistan and Afghanistan!).

All of these have been in the media for more or less unsavoury reasons over the past few decades, but Kazakhstan seemed to be the calmest and least

6 January, Book Feature

How time flies – today it is already a whole year since the 6 January 2021 attacks on the Capitol building in Washington D.C.
The other reason I’m uploading a second post today (after this one, just posted) is to alert readers to a rather big feature about my book Atlas of Dark Destinations in the Mail online, the digital counterpart of the Daily Mail newspaper in the UK. This tabloid may have had its

2022

climate change and all that rarely features in dark tourism (DT), probably because DT is predominantly about dark pasts, not about the future. Moreover, climate change symptoms already in evidence rarely produce visitable concrete tourist sites. But there are a few exceptions, most notably retreating glaciers.

Most glaciers in the world are shrinking due to global warming. And occasionally the shrinkage is marked by signs on tourist walking routes. Here’s an example I spotted in Norway en route to the Briksdalsbreen

Dark Tourism & Boxes

Today is the day after Christmas Day, referred to in Britain (and some of its former colonies) as “Boxing Day”. Last year around this time (on Christmas Eve) I brought you a post about “Dark Tourism & Christmas”, and that more or less exhausted the theme so I can’t do that again. But with a bit of lateral thinking applied, I derive from “Boxing Day” another unusual theme: Dark Tourism & Boxes. Here we go:

The sort of thing some of you may think of first in the

Dark Tourism & Mining

This is another theme post, and again not the result of a poll but half promised in the previous blog post and then requested in a comment in response to that post. So here we go.

In terms of dark tourism, one of the prime places associated with mining has to be Butte in the Rocky Mountains of Montana, USA. It became a boom town in the 18th and 19th century thanks to its rich deposits of