Category: Russia

Categories

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

A Momentous Milestone & Other Developments

Another cause for celebration: yesterday I uploaded the One Thousandth Destination Chapter to my main website. What a breakthrough! I think it’s fair to say that this has to be the biggest milestone in the history of dark-tourism.com. It certainly sounds more momentous than one hundred destinations, and even if I make it to two thousand that won’t sound quite so momentous as hitting four figures for the first time … and I

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

Dark Tourism & Toys

As decided in our most recent theme poll, I now bring you the winner, DT & toys. It was probably the oddest of the choices, the biggest juxtaposition, and hence the most intriguing. In any case it was a very clear win far ahead of all the other choices.

So what kind of dark do we get with toys. Well, for starters there are war toys, like model planes, tanks, toy guns and whatnot. In fact, one of the

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

Women’s Day

On this day it’s International Women’s Day, so I’m marking this by posting some photos of really big women sculptures. Above is the very biggest of them all, the largest female statue ever built. This is the Rodina Mat, aka “The Motherland Calls”, statue on Mamayev Hill in Volgograd, Russia. She’s the central part of the memorial complex for the Battle of Stalingrad. This is Soviet monumentalism at its most monumental! The figure is 52m tall from head to toe, with sword even 85m. At the

Dark Tourism & Spheres

As announced in the latest newsletter, our recent themed-post poll ended in a draw, so I decided to feature both winners, one after the other, starting with spheres today, to be followed by DT & lakes next week.

This structure, a steel globe containing the experimental Dounreay Fast Reactor (DFR), is also sometimes referred to as “the sphere”, or alternately “the golf ball”. The reactor inside was one of the first to supply power to the British National Grid but was taken offline in 1977 and is currently undergoing decommissioning (while

Stalin

On this Day: on 18 December 1878 a certain Iosep Besarionis dze Dzhugashvili was born in the Caucasus town of Gori in Georgia. This man is of course better known to the world under his self-adopted name: Stalin (meaning Man of Steel).
On my travels in the East, I’ve come across Stalin in images and statuary in various places, and so I can give you a little Stalin-themed photo essay here.

Let’s begin at the beginning, as it were, in

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

War and Peace, More or Less

There have been significant developments elsewhere while most of the world’s eyes have been almost exclusively on the US elections and the COVID-19 pandemic. Remember my post from early last month about military conflict breaking out again over Nagorno-Karabakh? It now appears to have ended with a partial victory for Azerbaijan, who’ve retaken the second city of the region, Shushi, or ‘Şuşa’ in Azeri, some territory around it, as well as the

Dark Tourism & Stars and Stripes

This theme was not decided on by a poll, but just by myself, and the link to today’s significant date should be obvious.

But let’s start at the beginning. So, what kind of stars feature in dark tourism? For one thing there’s the old communist or Soviet five-pointed red star, like these:

Halloween

Today it’s the 31st of October – Halloween! But of course in the currently escalating pandemic crisis, there cannot be a proper Halloween party. And it’s even a Saturday, so it would have been ideal for partying. Such a shame …

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not missing all the commercialization of Halloween. In fact it was that very over-commercialization that had put me off Halloween for most of my life. It wasn’t until 2014 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

Sisian – and a new poll

After the previous, rather text-heavy post, this time I picked something more visual, and while the previous post was newly-created original material, this time it is again something from the archives. Just over a year ago I posted a series of photos on my now purged Facebook page that were taken in the little town of Sisian in south-eastern Armenia. This followed one of the quiz questions I used to put up there regularly on Fridays. The photo above came with the question “a fun-less funfair, abandoned, overgrown and slowly rusting away … Where is this?”. I had half expected that

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

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 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