Category: Cold War

Categories

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.

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

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,

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

Dark Tourism & Furniture

And here comes the second of the themed posts (after last week’s “DT & hands”) that featured in our most recent poll, which didn’t have a clear result. So for this time I’ve picked furniture.

The photo below was taken at the DDR-Museum (‘GDR museum’) in Berlin and shows a reconstruction of the furnishings of a typical East German 1970s/early 80s living room – note in particular the

31 Years of German Reunification

Today is the 31st anniversary of the official reunification of Germany on 3 October 1990. I already marked this last year on the 30th anniversary with a special post that recycled four posts from my purged Facebook DT page taken from my archived version. Today I won’t repeat that. Instead I’ll give you a few photos from different corners of Germany that illustrate the diversity of the country and its dark-tourism portfolio.

I’ll begin with

Dark Tourism & Hands

The most recent theme poll didn’t have any winner by last Sunday, but one vote came in late and nudged ‘Hands’ ahead of the other three. So I’ll feature this theme first, but the others will come up here at some later stage as well.

The first photo – featured above – was taken at Recoleta cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which features plenty of beautiful Gothic elements, but this pretty hand with cobwebs, a detail of a full-body statue, is one of my favourite hand photos of them all! Beautiful and a bit spooky at the same time.

Another favourite is this next one, taken at the fabulous

Riga & Tallinn

Last Wednesday I came back from a nine-day return trip to the Baltics, well, just to two of the capital cities, Riga in Latvia and Tallinn in Estonia. My first trip to the region had been in 2014, and I knew that in these cities a few new sites of relevance to dark tourism had newly opened in the meantime or had changed significantly, thus warranting a re-visit.

In Riga, the

A medical theme

To make up for last week’s absence of a new blog post (and the likelihood of there not being one next week), I give you an extra-elaborate one today – on a medical theme, not decided on by a readers’ poll, but just by myself. The reason being that early tomorrow morning I’ll have my left hand operated on. Hence I picked the above photo as the lead image.

I took that in

Dark Tourism & Pianos

As promised in the previous theme post, I now bring you the other one of the joint winners of our latest theme poll.

So in what ways can pianos be associated with dark tourism? A pretty unique example is this, a piano-shaped tombstone:

The Thornton grave used to have an open lid on the stone piano too, but that got destroyed by vandals. Maybe it’s

Tito

On this day, 41 years ago, on 4 May 1980, Josip Broz Tito died. He had been Yugoslavia’s socialist leader since the end of WWII. Tito famously fell out with Stalin and the Soviet Union and paved the way for the Non-Aligned Movement as a third way, taking neither the Eastern Bloc’s side nor the West’s side during the Cold War. Moreover he somehow held together a multi-ethnic Yugoslav federation, and

Beelitz & a new poll

Today is World Tuberculosis Day. The date was chosen because it was on this day in 1882, 139 years ago today, that Dr. Robert Koch of the Berlin Institute of Hygiene announced his discovery of the Tuberculosis (TB) bacillus that causes the disease. At that time TB was raging through Europe and America, killing millions, especially amongst the working classes living in

Dark Tourism & Corona

About a year ago we went into the first lockdown here in Austria. Corona was still very new, and back then we had no way of knowing that it would continue to have such a grip on the whole world for so long.
Anyway, I thought this was a good point to look back and go on a little time-travel excursion here. So I’ve lifted the series of Corona-related posts I had on my DT page on FB at the time of the first lockdown from the Facebook-posts archive that I

Dark Tourism and Bars

The topic of this blog post was decided by the most recent theme poll, where it sailed to a clear victory over all the other options by a huge margin (as reported in last Sunday’s newsletter). So here we go.

As a couple of commentators noted, the word ‘bars’ is of course lexically ambiguous, and exploiting that double meaning had been my intention all along. So let’s begin with the darker side of bars – those you sit behind in prisons and similar institutions.

The first

Another Nine Eleven

In 1989 it was on this date that the Berlin Wall “fell”. In actual fact it was just that the border crossing points between East and West Berlin were opened, but soon after people began hacking at the Berlin Wall. A bit later the Wall was actually dismantled systematically. And so the most iconic symbol of the Cold War, the most fortified and secured stretch of the Iron Curtain, disappeared. Almost all of it, that

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

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

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

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

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

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):

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

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