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Wanli urbexing

Since the previous Blog post about Auschwitz was topically about as dark as it can get, I decided to offset that with a post about something at the lighter end of the dark-tourism spectrum: urbexing (from ‘urban exploration’, visiting abandoned structures for fun if you, like me, enjoy the aesthetics of dilapidation and decay – in fact on my website I say that urbex only overlaps with dark tourism, but as it’s one of the least touristy categories it’s one I often enjoy a lot).

Wanli is a largely abandoned beach resort park on the north coast of Taiwan. Officially it is a district of New Taipei City, but is actually far from being ‘urban’ in the literal sense; instead

Return to Auschwitz

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, aka “Auschwitz Day”, as it was on this date, 27 January, that in 1945 the Soviet Red Army arrived at Auschwitz and liberated the camp, after the SS had largely “evacuated” it already and sent most of its inmates on death marches, to camps further away from the westward-moving front line in a WWII that was already de facto lost for Germany.

It also so happened that a little earlier this month I revisited the memorial sites at Auschwitz as part of a six-day trip to Kraków and Oświęcim, planned at short notice. So I decided to do another Auschwitz Day post (see also

Back from Taiwan

On Thursday I returned from a 19-day trip to Taiwan. It was a fabulous trip in all manner of ways, and not least in terms of dark tourism. The material I gathered on this trip will provide content and photos for several new Blog posts and a few dozen new and/or expanded chapters for my main website.

I took thousands of photos and it will take me weeks to develop all the files in RAW format and process them. So here’s just a little pre-teaser with images taken only by smartphone, so not the best quality, but hopefully good enough for a first impression.

The dark-tourism subcategories covered on this trip included

Belfast and the “Troubles”

For many tourists visiting Belfast, the main “Troubles”-related activity is those (in)famous Black Taxi Tours – which is exactly what I did on my first trip to the city back in 2012. On my more recent and much longer return trip in April this year I instead chose a walking tour of West Belfast and also did a lot of exploring independently.

A major spot on any “Troubles”-related tour (whether guided or unguided and whether on foot, by taxi or by coach) is the so-called Solidarity Wall (also International Wall). This is actually

Sered

here’s a Blog post about the Sered Holocaust Museum, which I visited in late October this year.

The museum is housed in the original barracks of what was Sered’s labour/concentration camp in the Holocaust in Slovakia during WWII.

As is often the case on this Blog, the post is primarily a short photo essay with just essential information.

There were in fact several labour camps for Jews in Slovakia from ca. 1941 onwards. After the Slovak National Uprising in August 1944, which was quickly and brutally crushed by Nazi Germany (see Muzeum SNP), these camps became proper concentration camps, now run by the SS, and also

On the Northern Edge

I was reminiscing recently about my travels to Norway back in 2012 after reading a couple of articles focusing on places I visited during that trip. Both articles are about how places of Norwegian-Russian contact have been affected by the current war Putin is waging against Ukraine. The first article is about Spitsbergen, more specifically about the Russian mining town of Barentsburg. The other article is about Kirkenes and the nearby border with Russia. So both places are a bit on edge at the moment, and both are located in the far north – hence my choice of title for this post.

In both places

Israel now and then

Just like recent developments in Artsakh inspired me to take a nostalgic look back to when I travelled to that region, I can now do the same for Israel. I visited the country in August 2006, at a time when Israel was having “troubles in the north”, as the euphemism back then was when referring to the border war with Lebanon at the time, but it was nowhere on the scale of the horrors now.

The reason I went to Israel was completely unrelated to those

Artsakh Lost?

First of all, to explain: Artsakh is the Armenian name for the region that is more widely known in the rest of the world as Nagorno-Karabakh. This has been in the news recently, for very disturbing reasons, now that Azerbaijan appears to have achieved its mission of “reintegrating” the territory, which had been a self-declared republic since 1994, fully back into Azerbaijan. The latest aggression by Azerbaijani military forces, in violation of the peace deal brokered in 2020, seems to have sealed the fate of the Armenian population living in the region. In recent

Inside a Volcano!

As the title says, it is indeed about going inside a volcano. Obviously that won’t be an active volcano (any such volcano you could enter only once, and get instantly vaporized). Instead it’s a very special, probably even unique commodification of a dormant volcano, more precisely a drained magma chamber, going down over 120m below the crater top. It is located on the Reykjanes Peninsula a ca. 20-30 minute drive south of Reykjavik.

As you may recall from the general Iceland post, the Reykjanes Peninsula is also where

Copenhagen in August 2023

Just under two weeks ago I returned from a short trip to Denmark’s capital Copenhagen, arranged at short notice too. But I had three wonderful days in that fabulous city. It was in fact the last capital city in Europe I hadn’t yet visited. Now I can’t understand what kept me from visiting Copenhagen for so long.

Well, partially I can: I had put off a visit for years because I had read about one of the main attractions in terms of dark tourism, namely the

Iceland in 2023

Twelve days ago I came back from my return trip to Iceland. Like on my first trip there back in 2004, I totally fell in love with the Icelandic scenery, be it glaciers, volcanic wastelands or dramatic sea cliffs (full of puffins in various places). Unlike in 2004, though, I brought back plenty of much better photos too, compared to the ones I took with my very first digital camera in 2004 (see this previous Blog post). So I can give you another little overview photo essay now – up to date and obviously with a

Cyprus and Ethiopia developments

After the past few more topical posts here comes a current-affairs one once again. Just a shorty, though, as I have to carry on preparing for my upcoming Iceland trip (see previous Blog post!).

For one thing Cyprus, where I went in January this year (see especially this older Blog post), has been in the news again last week, repeatedly in fact, in close succession and for very different reasons. The most important

Looking back on Iceland – and forward to it!

In just under a week’s time I should be on my way to Iceland for a return visit. My first visit was a very long time ago, back in August 2004. I know that since then things have changed, not just in terms of DT (mostly on the volcanic front), but also in general tourist numbers overall, while prices remain painfully high. That’s partially why this upcoming trip will be for only ten days.

The main points of my (dark) interest will be a couple of new

Titan and Titanic

It’s been only a few weeks since I published the latest previous Blog Post “Belfast and the Titanic”, based on my recent travels to Northern Ireland.

Now the Titanic has suddenly made headlines in the media worldwide – for all the wrong reasons. You will have probably seen those headlines yourself, but here’s my summary of events as they unfolded (based mainly on my

Belfast and the Titanic

Belfast is a rare case in terms of tourism. Most of its tourism industry revolves around the two “Big Ts”, that is “the Troubles” (more on that separately later) and the legacy of the RMS Titanic, both catered for by a range of specific individual tourist attractions and activities. It’s not very often that a city’s top tourist attractions all fall within the catchment area of dark tourism. But both

A Celebratory Day?

Yesterday was VE Day (‘Victory in Europe’) in the West, i.e. the anniversary of the end of WWII, when Nazi Germany unconditionally surrendered to the Allies in a ceremony culminating in signing of the relevant documents in Berlin in 1945 on that day 78 years ago today … or not? In the East, the date of this celebratory day is a day later, i.e. today, on the 9th of May (if you don’t know why there is this date discrepancy, see

Northern Ireland in 2023

about a month ago I went on a return visit to Northern Ireland (NI). My first visit was back in December 2012, but it was short. I knew lots had changed in the meantime and various new developments warranted inspection from a DT perspective, so a return to this highly intriguing corner of the world was long overdue.

And so on 3 April I set off,

Varosha

In previous posts I more or less promised a photo essay Blog Post about the fabled ghost town of Varosha in Northern Cyprus, which I visited in January. I am now fulfilling that promise. I’ve selected 20 photos to illustrate the atmospheric ghost-town-ness of that place. This is basically just a visual post, a photo essay, without so much text. For the historical background as well as the controversial and contested status of this ghost town please

A Surprise Arrival, New Media Feature, Cyprus Complete

This past week I had a parcel delivered to my door that I hadn’t expected. Inside I found three copies of the book depicted in the featured photo above. Readers who’ve followed this Blog for some time will instantly recognize the design of the book’s cover. I had no idea that this was in the pipeline, but yes, this is the newly released Slovak version of my book Atlas of Dark Destinations! It also surprised me that such a

A Dark Anniversary, Cyprus Progress, Interview

The media are awash with special programmes and articles about the first anniversary of the start of Putin’s war against Ukraine, so I thought I can’t leave this sad day unmarked either.

My initial devastation and panic in the first few weeks of the war (or “special military operation” in Putin Newspeak), especially with the first of his nuclear threats, has somewhat

Mitsero mines

A couple of readers have expressed an interest in seeing more from those mines near Mitsero that were briefly mentioned in the previous Blog post about Cyprus in general. So as a first single-topic Cyprus post I picked this. It’s primarily a photo essay, but also with a bit of a story and some background info.

It’s actually about two locations and comprises three types of mines, all not far from the village of Mitsero (ca. 18 miles/30 km south-west of Nicosia), so they are subsumed under that short name here, for simplicity’s sake. They are “ghost mines”, i.e.

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 Österreich” 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