• 001 - the logo.jpg
  • 002 - Hiroshima sunset.jpg
  • 003 - Auschwitz-Birkenau ramp.jpg
  • 004 - Chernobyl contamination.jpg
  • 005 - Darvaza flaming gas crater.jpg
  • 006 - Berlin Wall madness.jpg
  • 007 - Bulgaria - monument at the bottom of Buzludzhy park hill.jpg
  • 008 - Ijen crater.jpg
  • 009 - Aralsk, Kazakhstan.jpg
  • 010 - Paris catacombs.jpg
  • 011 - Krakatoa.jpg
  • 012 - Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, Hanoi.jpg
  • 013 - Uyuni.jpg
  • 014 - DMZ Vietnam.jpg
  • 015 - Colditz Kopie.jpg
  • 016 - Glasgow Necropolis.jpg
  • 017 - Hashima ghost island.jpg
  • 018 - Kazakhstan.jpg
  • 019 - Arlington.jpg
  • 020 - Karosta prison.jpg
  • 021 - Kamikaze.jpg
  • 022 - Chacabuco ghost town.jpg
  • 023 - Eagle's Nest, Obersalzberg, Berchtesgaden.jpg
  • 024 - Kursk.jpg
  • 025 - Bran castle, Carpathia, Romania.jpg
  • 026 - Bestattungsmuseum Wien.jpg
  • 027 - Pripyat near Chernobyl.jpg
  • 028 - Sedlec ossuary, Czech Republic.jpg
  • 029 - Pyramida Lenin.jpg
  • 030 - Falklands.jpg
  • 031 - Majdanek.jpg
  • 032 - Soufriere volcano, Montserrat.jpg
  • 033 - moai on Easter Island.jpg
  • 034 - Sidoarjo.jpg
  • 035 - Hötensleben.jpg
  • 036 - Natzweiler.jpg
  • 037 - Polygon, Semipalatinsk test site, Kazakhstan.jpg
  • 038 - Srebrenica.jpg
  • 039 - Liepaja, Latvia.jpg
  • 040 - Vemork hydroelectric power plant building, Norway.jpg
  • 041 - Enola Gay.jpg
  • 042 - Pentagon 9-11 memorial.jpg
  • 043 - Robben Island prison, South Africa.jpg
  • 044 - Tollund man.jpg
  • 045 - Marienthal tunnel.jpg
  • 046 - Aso, Japan.jpg
  • 047 - Labrador battery Singapore.jpg
  • 048 - Artyom island, Absheron, Azerbaijan.jpg
  • 049 - Treblinka.jpg
  • 050 - Titan II silo.jpg
  • 051 - dosemetering doll, Chernobyl.jpg
  • 052 - Holocaust memorial, Berlin.jpg
  • 053 - Komodo dragon.jpg
  • 054 - cemeterio general, Santiago de Chile.jpg
  • 055 - Tuol Sleng, Phnom Phen, Cambodia.jpg
  • 056 - West Virginia penitentiary.jpg
  • 057 - ovens, Dachau.jpg
  • 058 - Derry, Northern Ireland.jpg
  • 059 - Bulgaria - Buzludzha - workers of all countries unite.jpg
  • 060 - Sachsenhausen.jpg
  • 061 - Tiraspol dom sovietov.jpg
  • 062 - modern-day Pompeii - Plymouth, Montserrat.jpg
  • 063 - Pico de Fogo.jpg
  • 064 - Trinity Day.jpg
  • 065 - Zwentendorf control room.jpg
  • 066 - Wolfschanze.jpg
  • 067 - Hiroshima by night.jpg
  • 068 - mass games, North Korea.jpg
  • 069 - Harrisburg.jpg
  • 070 - Nuremberg.jpg
  • 071 - Mostar.jpg
  • 072 - Tu-22, Riga aviation museum.jpg
  • 073 - Gallipoli, Lone Pine.jpg
  • 074 - Auschwitz-Birkenau - fence.jpg
  • 075 - Darvaza flaming gas crater.jpg
  • 076 - Atatürk Mausoleum, Ankara.jpg
  • 077 - Banda Aceh boats.jpg
  • 078 - AMARG.jpg
  • 079 - Chacabuco ruins.jpg
  • 080 - Bucharest.jpg
  • 081 - Bernauer Straße.jpg
  • 082 - Death Railway, Thailand.jpg
  • 083 - Mandor killing fields.jpg
  • 084 - Kozloduy.jpg
  • 085 - Jerusalem.jpg
  • 086 - Latin Bridge, Sarajevo.jpg
  • 087 - Panmunjom, DMZ, Korea.jpg
  • 088 - Ijen blue flames.jpg
  • 089 - Derry reconsilliation monument.jpg
  • 090 - Ebensee.jpg
  • 091 - Mödlareuth barbed wire.jpg
  • 092 - skull heaps in Sedlec ossuary, Czech Republic.jpg
  • 093 - Nikel.jpg
  • 094 - Fukushima-Daiichi NPP.jpg
  • 095 - Tital launch control centre.jpg
  • 096 - Dallas Dealy Plaza and Sixth Floor Museum.jpg
  • 097 - Auschwitz I.jpg
  • 098 - Stalin and Lenin, Tirana, Albania.jpg
  • 099 - Malta, Fort St Elmo.jpg
  • 100 - Peenemünde.jpg
  • 101 - Tarrafal.jpg
  • 102 - Kilmainham prison, Dublin.jpg
  • 103 - North Korea.jpg
  • 104 - Mittelbau-Dora.jpg
  • 105 - St Helena.jpg
  • 106 - Stutthof, Poland.jpg
  • 107 - Merapi destruction.jpg
  • 108 - Chueung Ek killing fields, Cambodia.jpg
  • 109 - Marienborn former GDR border.jpg
  • 110 - Mig and star, Kazakhstan.jpg
  • 111 - Nagasaki WWII tunnels.jpg
  • 112 - Hellfire Pass, Thailand.jpg
  • 113 - Kiev.jpg
  • 114 - Grutas Park, Lithuania.jpg
  • 115 - Zwentendorf reactor core.jpg
  • 116 - two occupations, Tallinn.jpg
  • 117 - Trunyan burial site.jpg
  • 118 - Ushuaia prison.jpg
  • 119 - Buchenwald.jpg
  • 120 - Marienthal with ghost.jpg
  • 121 - Murmansk harbour - with an aircraft carrier.jpg
  • 122 - Berlin Olympiastadion.JPG
  • 123 - Bastille Day, Paris.jpg
  • 124 - Spassk.jpg
  • 125 - Theresienstadt.jpg
  • 126 - B-52s.jpg
  • 127 - Bledug Kuwu.jpg
  • 128 - Friedhof der Namenlosen, Vienna.jpg
  • 129 - Auschwitz-Birkenau barracks.jpg
  • 130 - mummies, Bolivia.jpg
  • 131 - Barringer meteor crater.jpg
  • 132 - Murambi, Rwanda.jpg
  • 133 - NTS.jpg
  • 134 - Mauthausen Soviet monument.jpg
  • 135 - pullution, Kazakhstan.JPG
  • 136 - palm oil madness.jpg
  • 137 - Berlin socialist realism.jpg
  • 138 - Okawa school building ruin.jpg
  • 139 - Pawiak, Warsaw.jpg
  • 140 - flying death, military museum Dresden.JPG
  • 141 - KGB gear.JPG
  • 142 - KZ jacket.JPG
  • 143 - ex-USSR.JPG
  • 144 - Indonesia fruit bats.JPG
  • 145 - Alcatraz.JPG
  • 146 - Chernobyl Museum, Kiev, Ukraine.JPG
  • 147 - Halemaumau lava lake glow, Hawaii.JPG
  • 148 - Rosinenbomber at Tempelhof, Berlin.jpg
  • 149 - Verdun, France.JPG
  • 150 - hospital, Vukovar, Croatia.JPG
  • 151 - the original tomb of Napoleon, St Helena.JPG
  • 152 - Buchenwald, Germany.JPG
  • 153 - Bhopal.JPG
  • 154 - Groß-Rosen, Poland.jpg
  • 155 - at Monino, Russia.jpg
  • 156 - blinking Komodo.jpg
  • 157 - inside Chernobyl NPP.JPG
  • 158 - Mount St Helens, USA.JPG
  • 159 - Maly Trostenec, Minsk, Belarus.jpg
  • 160 - Vucedol skulls, Croatia.JPG
  • 161 - colourful WW1 shells.JPG
  • 162 - Zeljava airbase in Croatia.JPG
  • 163 - rusting wrecks, Chernobyl.JPG
  • 164 - San Bernadine alle Ossa, Milan, Italy.jpg
  • 165 - USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.JPG
  • 166 - Brest Fortress, Belarus.JPG
  • 167 - thousands of bats, Dom Rep.JPG
  • 168 - Hohenschönhausen, Berlin.JPG
  • 169 - Perm-36 gulag site.JPG
  • 170 - Jasenovac, Croatia.JPG
  • 171 - Beelitz Heilstätten.JPG
  • 172 - Kremlin, Moscow.jpg
  • 173 - old arms factory, Dubnica.JPG
  • 174 - Pervomaisc ICBM base, more  missiles, including an SS-18 Satan.jpg
  • 175 - Cellular Jail, Port Blair.jpg
  • 177 - control room, Chernobyl NPP.JPG
  • 178 - Podgorica, Montenegro, small arms and light weapons sculpture.jpg
  • 179 - Vught.jpg
  • 180 - Japanese cave East Timor.jpg
  • 181 - Ani.jpg
  • 182 - Indonesia wildfire.jpg
  • 183 - Chacabuco big sky.jpg
  • 184 - Bunker Valentin, Germany.JPG
  • 185 - Lest we Forget, Ypres.JPG
  • 186 - the logo again.jpg

Facebook archive page 2015

  
This is the reproduction of my posts from the year I first joined Facebook and set up my DT page that was purged and deleted by the company in 2020. As before not everything could be restored 100% (see here), but most material is there. Again, it's ordered reverse-chronologically, so as it would have appeared on the FB page, but you can also go through it in chronological order, i.e. in the order they were originally posted, by going to the bottom and then scrolling up. 
   
  
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Thursday 31 December 2015
  
  31 12 15   ICBMs at the USAF Museum, Dayton, Ohio
  
On this Day, New Year's Eve: at midnight millions of people around the world will set off fireworks worth millions and millions just to cheer in the new year, 2016. A big show for sure, but not as big as these monsters seen in today's picture - full-size ICBMs on display at the USAF Museum in Dayton, Ohio. Each one of these could have incinerated whole cities had the Cold War ever turned hot ... and several hundred still remain at the ready even today. Cheers!
  
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Sunday 27 December 2015
  
  27 12 2015   Banda Aceh boats stranded by the tsunami, Indonesia
  
On this Day: 11 years ago it was the day after ... after the devastating Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, that is, and it was the beginning of a long and hard rebuilding effort. This photo was taken in Banda Aceh, the city worst hit by the tsunami, and it shows two boats that had been carried far inland into the town and came to rest stranded in somebody's garden. And they were still there when I visited the region in July 2014. The site, which serves as a kind of improvised private memorial now, is far less well known than the official memorials and the large Tsunami Museum in the city centre, but it gives a better impression of what it must have looked like after the waters had receded. The two boats amidst garden greenery still look totally bizarre. The rest of the city, however, has been rebuilt better than it ever was before, and what's more, they now have several tsunami-safe evacuation buildings and an early warning system, so hopefully the catastrophe of 2004 could not repeat itself, at least not on a similarly deadly scale.
  
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Saturday 26 December 2015
  
  26 12 2015   house swept away by the 2004 tsunami, Yala, Sri Lanka
  
On this Day: 11 years ago, on Boxing Day 2004, a massive earthquake just off the north-western coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, caused the gigantic Indian Ocean tsunami that became the worst natural disaster in living history, killing hundreds of thousands and wiping out infrastructure on a colossal scale. After rolling over northern Sumatra itself, the tsunami wave travelled across the Indian Ocean to hit numerous other countries on its coasts all the way to east Africa.
  
Amongst the countries affected the worst was Sri Lanka, where this photo was taken. It shows the battered foundations of a building on the south coast, within Yala National Park. Forty-seven people were killed here, amongst them 15 Japanese and German tourists. Many of the bodies, washed miles inland by the force of the tsunami wave, were never found.
  
The ruins of the house were left as you see in this pic, to serve as a memorial, and adjacent to the site a monument in the shape of a breaking wave was erected as well. It's a sobering sight to behold when going on a safari in the National Park, and may provide the odd juxtaposition of elephants and pheasants trotting past, as if nothing had ever happenend here.
  
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Wednesday 23 December 2015
   
  23 12 15   Darvaza flaming gas crater, Turkmenistan
  
Photo of the Day: it's nearly Christmas, so time to light some big candles ... This is the fabled Darvaza flaming gas crater (aka "Door to Hell") in the Karakum desert, Turkmenistan.
  
It's the result of an industrial accident, a drilling operation gone wrong. The ground collapsed and gas seeping from the soil ignited. When exactly this happenend is contested, possibly in the early 1970s, i.e. during the Soviet era. Whatever, it's been burning ever since.
  
Camping overnight in the desert you can see the flaming pit in its full glory (it's less impressive during daylight hours). It is certainly one of the most incredible sights to behold on the planet.Unfortunately it is allegedly under threat. The current president of Turkmenistan is said to "not like" the Darvaza gas crater and wants it filled in. This has been rumoured for a number of years now, but the flaming gas crater is still there. Still, if you want to see it, it may be a good idea not to put it off for too long.
  
I may not be able to post much over the Xmas period, so let this be a fitting flaming Season's Greeting from DT!
  
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Tuesday 22 December 2015
  
  22 12 2015   Palace of Parliament, Bucharest, Romania
  
On this Day: 26 years ago, on 22 December 1989, the reign of Romania's iron-fist Stalinist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu ended.In contrast to the peaceful and "velvet" revolutions going on in other communist countries at the time, the revolution in Romania was anything but bloodless, with the military firing at demonstrations on Ceaușescu's orders and tanks out in the streets in central Bucharest.
  
On 22 December, the situation escalated for Ceaușescu and he had to flee by helicopter from the roof of the Central Committee building just ahead of an angry mob that stormed the building to get him.
  
Only three days later, however, he was hastily tried and convicted by an improvised military tribunal and executed, together with his wife Elena, by a firing squad on Chistmas Day.
  
The largest bit of legacy in stone left by the megalomaniacal Ceaușescu is the so-called Palace of Parliamant in Bucharest seen in this photo.
  
This gigantic pile, one of the largest builings in the world (by floor space) is filled with expensive marble, crystal chandeliers and all manner of other outrageous luxury decorations, for which Ceaușescu had diverted vast funds from the impoverished country's GDP.
  
Today you can go on guided tours of parts of the interior and shake your head at all that crazy exhuberance. A highlight of any trip to Bucharest for sure.
  
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Sunday 20 December 2015
  
  20 12 15   statues and Juche Tower, Pyongyang
  
Photo of the Day: after yesterday's downer, today let's look at something a bit more uplifting ... at least that's what it's supposed to be: socialist-"realist" triumphant statuary in front of the Juche Tower in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Juche is the name of the peculiar state ideology of the DPRK, the "Democratic People's Republic of Korea".)
  
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Saturday 19 December 2015
  
  19 12 15   Beachy Head, England
  
Photo of the Day: I'm off to England, so I thought I'd post something from there. You may (or may not) be pleased to hear, though, that this is not the exact location where I'm heading (instead it's Birmingham). The photo shows not just any white cliffs on the southern English coastline and a picturesque lighthouse - this is Beachy Head, one of the world's top sites for topping oneself. So that's pretty dark. Like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Beachy Head has an almost magnetic attraction for people who want to commit suicide by jumping off. Presumably without thinking about the poor sods who then have the gruesome task of scraping the bodies up at the bottom later (you see, suicide isn't ever painless, certainly not for the people left behind).
  
All that aside, however, it really is a very scenic spot, isn't it?
  
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Friday 18 December 2015
  
  18 12 2015   Stalin, Grutas Park, Lithuania Kopie
  
On this Day: on 18 December 1878 a certain Iosef Besarionis dze Dzhugashvili was born in the little Caucasus town of Gori in Georgia. He was later to become one of the greatest despots the world has ever seen: Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union from the mid-1920s until his death in 1953.
  
Even though he's responsible for millions of deaths (famous Stalin quote: one death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic) in Russia he's still revered as one of the greatest figures of all time, according to some recent Russian media polls. There's even talk of re-erecting Stalin statues.Originally most Stalin statues (except in Gori) were quickly dismantled after his reign was over - or at least once the USSR had collapsed (Lenins, on the other hand, you can still find in their hundreds all over the former Soviet lands).
  
A few such statues were saved from destruction and a handful found their ways into (post-)socialist-realist exhibitions of communist art and statuary - such as the one in this photo.
  
This classic larger-than-life Stalin statue now serves as one of the prime exhibits at the open-air museum of Grutas Park in Lithuania, which is informally also known as "Stalin World" (even though the one in this picture is the only large-scale Stalin statue they have - that and a couple of busts).
  
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Thursday 17 December 2015
  
  17 12 15   Kilmainham Gaol main cell block
  
Photo of the Day: main cell block of Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin, Ireland
  
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Wednesday 16 December 2015
  
  16 12 15   Hamlet monkey in a Milan shop window
  
Photo of the Day: a Hamlet monkey in a Milan shop window
   
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Tuesday 15 December 2015
  
  15 12 15   wintery Berlin Holocaust memorial at night
  
Photo of the Day: winter in Berlin (a few years ago - not now!). This is the famous Jewish Holocaust memorial - with the layer of snow on top of all those black blocks of stone the atmosphere at the place is so different.
   
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Monday 14 December 2015
  
 14 12 15   Sahara   riding over the dunes 
  
 Sahara - riding over the dunes ...
  
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Sunday 13 December 2015
  
  13 12 15   old cemetery of abandoned village near aluminium plant, Slovakia
  
Photo of the Day: a rusty Christ against the backdrop of chimney stacks. This is the old cemetery of the abandoned village of Horne Opatovce, Slovakia.
  
It was mainly due to the pollution from the giant aluminium plant (seen in the background here) that the villagers left. Today, only the old village church and this cemetery remain. It makes for quite an atmospheric contrast - rural devout Christianity meets the brutal reality of industrial modernity.
  
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Friday 11 December 2015
  
  11 12 15   Mussolini's bunker, Rome
  
Photo of the Day: inside Mussolini's bunker at Villa Torlonia, Rome
  
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Thursday 10 December 2015
  
  10 12 15   Karkaralinsk war memorial with a MiG on a plinth, Kazakhstan
  
Photo of the Day: classic post-Soviet composition - a MiG-21 on a plinth seen through a Soviet star. Karkaralinsk, Kazakhstan.
  
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Wednesday 9 December 2015
  
  09 12 15   Sally with wine silhouette
  
Photo of the Day: shadow of a driving force behind dark-tourism.com (and I do NOT mean the glass!). Thanks and Happy Birthday, my dear!
  
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Tuesday 8 December 2015
  
  08 12 2015   cone shaped house and volcanic cones, Fogo, Cape Verde
  
On this Day: only last year, on 8 December 2014, the renewed eruption of the Pico de Fogo volcano in the Cape Verde Islands, destroyed the remaining parts of the Cha das Caldeiras settlement within the caldera. In just a couple of hours the fast-advancing lava flow swallowed up the village of Bangaeira, after the twin village of Portela had been completely destroyed in the days before. All of the ca. 1500 inhabitants were displaced, many had to be housed in emergency shelters, others could move in with relatives elsewhere in the archipelago. Together with the housing, their livelihood has been wiped out as well, in particular the unique wine co-operative.
  
This also means that ca. 150 years of history of settlement in the caldera and its exceptional culture have been destroyed too. Probably for good, as it seems unlikely that any attempt at returning back to normal will ever be possible. But then again, life inside the volcano was never really "normal".
  
For me this is also particularly tragic, because it was only in early 2013 that I stayed in one of the houses in Bangaeira on my trip to Cape Verde. And I have particularly fond memories of Fogo. It is sad to think that that nobody will ever get the chance to experience this again. And the villagers? You cannot begin to imagine how devastating it must have been (and still is) for them.
  
How come, I wonder, that none of this was ever reported in the international media (except, to a degree, in France)? Even though this must rank as one of the worst volcanic disasters of the century ...
  
This photo was obviously enough taken on my trip to Fogo in 2013, i.e. before the latest catastrophic eruption. In the background you see the towering cone of Pico de Fogo - and in the foreground its shape is kind of echoed in the form of a round hut, whose walls were actually made of volcanic rock. These huts were quite an iconic feature of the Cha das Caldeiras settlement (though most lived-in houses were square-ish and larger than this little hut). I also like the way in which the diagonal shape of the slope of the volcano's flank bisects the little window inside the hut.
  
The cinder cone to the right at the foot of the main hulk of the volcano, by the way, is where the previous eruption of 1995 started - and which apparently was also the starting point of the disastrous 2014 eruption (when even more cinder cones formed and eventually united into one big fire and lava spewing monster).That's the thing with volcanoes - beauty and tragedy so intertwined ...
  
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Monday 7 December 2015
  
  07 12 2015   hotel ruin in Gyumri, Armenia
  
On this Day: 27 years ago, the Spitak earthquake caused a major disaster in the then Soviet Republic of Armenia on 7 December 1988. The quake, which had a magnitude of at least 7 on the Richter Scale, killed between 25,000 and 50,000 people and made many more homeless. The village of Spitak itself was mostly levelled. But the worst damage overall was caused in the nearby city of Gyumri, where many buildings, especially those poorly constructed concrete housing blocks from the Brezhnev era, completely collapsed.
  
This photo shows the ruins of the former Shirak hotel. When I visited Gyumri in 2010, this was about the only ruin of a modern building still around. But many more partially damaged buildings could still be seen in the old centre, including tsarist-era mansions and even older churches, such as the All Saviour's Cathedral with its collapsed dome.
  
Though not completely destroyed, these also demonstrated the forces of nature quite visibly, even after all this time. In addition there were still areas of "temporary" housing (tents, sheds) on the outskirts of town for those who had lost their homes in the disaster. What a lasting dark legacy!
  
The Shirak region around Gyumri in the north-western-most part of Armenia, bordering Turkey to the west and Georgia to the north, is one of the least touristy parts of the country, rarely visited by mainstream tourists (even though it also has plenty of other historical gems and cultural delights to offer!) but is definitely well worth exploring from a dark-tourism point of view.
  
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Friday 4 December 2015
  
  04 12 15   Belgrade   remaining structure of Semlin concentration camp
  
Photo of the Day: I'm off to Belgrade today (to meet up with the OSCE lot), so I picked a photo from when I was last there.
  
This is at Staro Sajmiste, a former fair trade/exhibition complex that between 1941 and 1944 was turned into a Nazi concentration camp. Today it is one of the "forgotten camps" (or had you heard of it before?). This tower-like edifice shown in this photo is the best-preserved bit left ... which says a lot about how underdeveloped the place is. There are a couple of plaques and a monument by the river, that's it. Otherwise no commodification or interpretation on site. There is, however, a project campaigning for a better development of the site as a memorial. We have to wait and see what may come out of that.
  
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Thursday 3 December 2015
  
  03 12 15   dissection room at Sachsenhausen
  
Photo of the Day: dissection room, Sachsenhausen.
  
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Wednesday 2 December 2015
  
  02 12 15   mine warning signs, Falkland Islands
  
Photo of the Day: landmine warning signs on the Falkland Islands - in this case near Port Howard on West Falkland.
  
There are indeed plenty of mines still left over from the Falklands War of 1982, but the minefields are all well marked, so as long as you heed these signs, they do not pose any danger. Still, they are startling reminders of the legacy of that war.
  
When I was in Port Howard (wonderful place, by the way!) I met a guy who lived in this very settlement at the time it was occupied by Argentinian forces. He was a young teenager at the time (13, if I remember correctly) and he said that for him it was all just a great adventure - he even played football with some of the Argentinian conscript soldiers.
  
At a different place, at Goose Green on East Falkland, I met another guy who was a local child war witness back then, but he still harboured very hard feelings towards the Argentinians (or "Argies", as the local pejorative word goes). And that for understandable reasons: he was locked up, together with the rest of the civilian population of the village, in the local community hall for four weeks. This was collective punishment for allegedly "spying" for the British (when in actual fact none of them had done any spying - the information the British got about Argentinian military movements had been obtained through SAS lookouts across the bay).
  
Otherwise it is all peaceful today on the Falklands and the islands are a great travel destination, not just for "battlefield tourism" but also for scenery and wildlife watching.
  
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Tuesday 1 December 2015
  
  01 12 15   grim reaper on a house facade in Santiago de Chile
  
Photo of the Day: last month of the year has begun ... smile!
  
(This is a little find spotted on the facade of a private university in Santiago de Chile.)
  
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Monday 30 November 2015
  
   30 11 15   Hamburg Ohlsdorf
  
Photo of the Day: a tribute to my original hometown of Hamburg - this angel was found on Ohlsdorf cemetery (one of the largest in the world!) ... and congrats, Hamburg, for having made the right decision in yesterday's referendum by rejecting the city's proposal to bid for hosting the Olympic Games 2024. Well done! Sense has prevailed.
  
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Saturday 28 November 2015
  
  28 11 15   oil rig cemetery at Lokbatan, Azerbaijan
  
Photo of the Day: time for something a bit more industrial again - this is the oil rig cemetery of Lokbatan on the Caspian Sea coast south of Baku, Azerbaijan.
  
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Friday 27 November 2015
  
  27 11 15   nightly glow of the Halema'uma'u lava lake
  
Photo of the Day: the nighly glow of the lava lake inside Halema'uma'u crater, Kilauea, Volcanoes National Park, Hawai'i, in early August 2015.
  
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Thursday 26 November 2015
  
  26 11 15   hyena
  
Photo of the Day: another one of the wildlife watching niche within dark tourism. This is a spotted hyena in a protected nature reserve on Palmarin island in the Sine-Saloum Delta in Senegal, West Africa.
  
Of course, this only qualifies as related to dark tourism on the basis of cliches that are mostly wrong. Hyenas are indeed underrated in popular perception, and quite routinely vilified as sly, vicious, ugly and as being cowardly scavengers. But much of that negative reputation is quite unjustified.
  
It is true that some hyena species do live off carrion to varying degrees – but why should that be more lowly than preying on live animals like leopards or lions do? And yes, hyenas also steal other animals' prey - cheetahs in particular often lose out to hyenas. But that's just because evolution made hyenas cleverer. They can even outwit and outnerve lions. Spotted hyenas do hunt as well, by the way (i.e. they are not at all "merely" scavengers.), in highly organized packs.
  
Moreover, they are wonderfully social animals. They live in tight family groups usually led by an alpha female (matriarchy!) and show a complex social behaviour, more akin to that of primates such as baboons, than that of any canines like wolves (incidentally: hyenas are not canines – they are actually more closely related to cats than to dogs).
  
In short, hyenas are not *really* "dark" - they are just misconceived as such. Nevertheless I thought I'd give one an appearance here, partly so that I can do something to rehabilitate the species a bit.
  
This photo was taken on a special hyena safari by horse cart (organised by the wonderful Collines de Niassam Lodge). This hyena was just waking up after a post-hunt snooze in the grass - hence the hearty yawn. Others we saw only from a distance. So this very close encounter was quite special.
  
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Wednesday 25 November 2015
  
  25 11 15   fugu sashimi at Kuromonto
  
Photo of the Day: and now for something *completely* different - the culinary side of dark tourism. We haven't had anything of that sort so far. The photo shows a plate of Fugu, in the sashimi form, which I had in a restaurant in Tokyo back in 2009.
  
Fugu, or pufferfish, is infamous for being extremely toxic. Hence the preparation of Fugu is strictly controlled in Japan (it is completely illegal in most other parts of the world including the EU). Only specialist chefs having undergone specific training for something like 3 years are allowed to prepare Fugu (and the fail rate in the exams is ca. 70%!). The skill lies in separating the edible parts form the toxic bits, especially the liver, without contaminating the rest. Special knives with extremely thin blades are used for this.
  
Given these strict regulations it is actually quite safe to eat Fugu in specialized licensed restaurants. There are now also farmed pufferfish that are hardly toxic at all. Most deaths from Fugu result from lay people (illegally) preparing Fugu at home. Other, high-profile cases of Fugu poisoning resulted from basically playing "Russian roulette": the liver (the most toxic part, remember!) is regarded by some culinary extremists as a delicacy. But it is essential to get the (miniscule) dose right. Just a little too much and it's lethal.
  
And dying from Fugu poison is very nasty indeed: the toxin paralyses the muscles while the victim remains fully conscious, but is rendered unable to speak (thus unable to ask/call for help) and eventually unable to breathe, so death is by asphyxiation. Absolute horror.
  
However, cases of death by pufferfish have become very rare these days, and, as already said, in restaurants it is practically without risk. Still, there is without question a certain dark "thrill" in trying it for the first time (and in my case the only time).
  
So, what does Fugu taste like? It's actually quite unspectacular and bland. The sashimi form is OK, but the other preparations I had, e.g. fried or boiled in broth, were not very nice at all. The fish is very bony and chewy and virtually taste-free. From a purely culinary perspective, then, I wouldn't really recommend it. But what remains is that certain thrill ... I cannot deny that.
  
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Tuesday 24 November 2015
  
  24 11 15   Albanian pillbox bunkers galore
  
Photo of the Day: Albania - bunkers galore.
  
In his paranoia about the outside world (all of them enemies!) Albania's ultra-Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha had countless bunkers built all over the country, mostly those small pillbox-type bunkers seen in today's photo. Thus Albania was not only the most isolated country on the planet at the time, it also set a record for the highest density of bunkers anywhere in the world.
  
Hoxha died in 1985, communism is history, Albania's isolation is over - but the bunkers remain an odd characteristic of the country. Some of them have found new uses, e.g. as bars - I even spotted a tattoo parlour - some have been painted in bright colours, others have been demolished. But many just sit there silently in fields and on hillsides as derelict grey reminders of a crazy past ...
  
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Monday 23 November 2015
  
  23 11 2015   Natzweiler, France
  
On this Day, 71 years ago, on 23 November 1944. the Allies liberated the concentration camp of Natzweiler in France. The camp had already been evacuated by the SS, so when the Allied troops got there they found it empty - so it was quite unlike the later liberations of Dachau, Buchenwald or Bergen-Belsen. There's a link to Belsen, though: Natzweiler's former Commandant Josef Kramer, who in between had also been at Auschwitz-Birkenau, ended up in charge of the Belsen camp when it, too, was finally liberated by the Allies in April 1945. Kramer, who even gave the British liberators a "tour" of the camp on their arrival, was arrested, put on trial, sentenced to death and executed in December 1945.
  
Today, Natzweiler, in its remote location in the hills of Alsace in eastern France, is a sombre memorial site and still one of the darkest places in the whole country.
  
The photo shows the main gate, a watchtower and barbed-wire fences. Only a few of the original barracks and ancillary buildings survive. One of them houses an older exhibition. In 2005 an all-new modern museum was added adjacent to the site.
  
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Sunday 22 November 2015
  
  22 11 2015   measuring towers radiate out from ground zero at the Semipalatinsk Test Site
  
On this Day: 60 years ago, on 22 November 1955, the Soviet Union exploded its first proper (two-stage) thermonuclear bomb (H-bomb) at the Semipalatinsk Test Site (STS). The test, code-named RDS-37, was also the world's first thermonuclear bomb dropped from a plane, i.e. as a theoretically deployable weapon (unlike the previous such tests with stationary devices). It had a yield of 1.6 megatons (scaled down from its original capacity of 3 megatons).
  
With RDS-37 the Soviet Union truly drew level with the USA in terms of the nuclear arms race. It was one of the "hottest" phases of the Cold War.
  
The photo shows the ruins of the old measuring towers that radiate out from the Opynoe Pole ground zero at the Polygon, or STS in the sparsely populated steppes of what today is the independent state of Kazakhstan. These eerie monuments of the atomic age, some scorched black and with partially melted concrete surfaces, are the only real indicators of the many nuclear tests conducted here, in the middle of an empty, spooky and largely featureless wilderness.
  
This desolate, remote corner of the world is nevertheless one of the most extreme dark-tourism destinations in the world.
  
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Friday 20 November 2015
  
  20 11 2015   fascist intimidation architecture at Valle de los Caidos, Spain
  
On this Day, 40 years ago, Spain's dictator Franco finally joined the great Fascist party rally in the sky on 20 November 1975. It eventually opened the way for Spain's long overdue return to democracy. But first the dead dictator was buried with much pomp in the place he had long lined up for the event: Valle de los Caidos ('Valley of the Fallen'), seen in this photo. It shows the gargantuan cross on top and the entrance to the underground cave-like basilica in which Franco's grave is located.
  
The whole complex is typical Fascist intimidation architecture. And what's more: the construction of the massive site involved Republican prisoners, victims of Franco's repression, that is, who in a "redemption scheme" were promised reduced prison terms if they toiled away in the creation of this shrine to their oppressor and Spanish Nationalism in general.
  
Today, the site is still very eerie indeed, especially on a Sunday when mass is attended by members of the "old guard", i.e. diehard Francoists. What's to become of the site in the future hangs in the balance. After a period of closure it was reopened to the public in 2011, but the longer-term plans are still unclear.
  
[Update: thsi has changed, meanwhile Franco's body has been exhumed and reburied in a regular cemetery in Madrid] 
  
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Thursday 19 November 2015
  
  19 11 15    fishy
  
On this Day: as I just found out, 19 November is apparently "International Men's Day" ... didn't even know such a thing existed! So I should have kept yesterday's photo for today, rather. Well, I can give you another one from the same location (Stadio dei Marmi, at the Foro Italico, Rome) that continues the virility theme in that Fascist glamorizing way. Although the one in the foreground in this picture really is a bit fishy ...
  
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Wednesday 18 November 2015
  
  18 11 15   ball games
  
Photo of the Day: ball games ... or not, as the case may be = my allusion to yesterday's symbolism-laden football ... or not-football, as in the case of the match Germany v Holland, which was called off due to yet another post-Paris terror alert. I'm not blaming the German authorities for refusing to play ball (or let ball be played, rather) but it all still seems a bit murky as well as worrying.
  
So for today's photo I picked another, older and very, very dubious case of associating ball games (and sports in general) with war, terror and extreme ideology: This photo shows one of the many marble statues of the Stadio dei Marmi in Rome, an astonishingly well-preserved relic of Mussolini's Italian-Fascist intimidation architecture and stonemasonry, which in this case not only bluntly imitates classical styles of the ancient Roman Empire but also rather excessively glamorizes physical strength and masculinity. Well, b*ll*cks to that ...
  
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Tuesday 17 November 2015
  
  17 11 15   missile shower, military history museum Dresden
  
Photo of the Day: a shower of missiles and bombs.
  
It's an installation inside the surprisingly non-militaristic Military History Museum of the German Armed Forces (Militärhistorisches Museum der Bundeswehr) in Dresden. It is one of the very best institutions of its type worldwide, without question, not least because it admirably manages to consistently keep up a very balanced and sober portrayal of its subject matter, devoid of the usual propagandistic glamorization of war and all things military that you find in many other military museums in the world. I found that very impressive.
  
Of course I also picked this particular image because sending showers of missiles and bombs as a reaction to terrorism seems to be a popular strategy once again. But I have my doubts. It so failed to work before, in fact making matters worse, so why should it be the right way now. But this is about as political as I will allow this page to be. Because its central theme is not politics but the practice of dark tourism - so it is the paragraph above that is the more important one in this context.
  
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Monday 16 November 2015
  
  16 11 15   Auschwitz III Monowitz memorial, Pere Lachaise, Paris
  
Photo of the Day: at Pere Lachaise, Paris
  
  
< comment: it should perhaps be clarified that, apart from the location in Paris, this image has actually nothing to do with last Friday's horrific terror attacks in the French capital. This is a memorial monument on the famous cemetery of Pere Lachaise. This most celebrated cemetery does not just have lots of remarkable graves, but - and this is less well known - also features a whole row of Holocaust memorials. This is the one commemorating Monowitz (aka Auschwitz III). I found this amongst the most haunting designs of the entire ensemble of memorials.
  
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Satrurday 14 November 2015
  
  14 11 15 & 15 07 16   slightly tilted but not fallen
  
  slightly tilted but not falling
  
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Saturday 14 November 2015
  
  14 11 15   beacon of hope
  
let there be a beacon of light and hope ...
  
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Friday 13 November 2015
  
  13 11 15   former UN vehicle left behind from 1999, East Timor
  
Photo of the Day: follow-up to yesterday's post.
  
This image shows an abandoned ex-UN Jeep in Liquica, East Timor. Despite it looking shabby and missing its "U", it should not be forgotten that the UN intervention in East Timor was for once actually a success story.
  
It was belated, yes, and initially not decisive enough, but in the end it did fulfil its mission. Not least due to the personal involvement of the UN's then SG Kofi Annan who was clearly keen not to repeat the mistakes of Rwanda in 1994.
  
Even the Australians joined in, despite having long backed the Indonesian annexation of East Timor. But then Australia sent the largest contingent of professional troops to sort out the mess ... and they did. The (pro-)Indonesian militias were disarmed and the bloodshed and chaos finally ended - which had culminated in 1999 following a pro-independence referendum held under UN supervision that the Indonesians wouldn't accept. But this time justice prevailed.In 2002 East Timor was the first newly independent nation to join the UN in the new millennium.
  
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Thursday 12 November 2015
  
  12 11 2015   Santa Cruz cemetery massacre monument, Dili, East Timor
  
On this Day: 24 years ago, on 12 November 1991, the Santa Cruz Massacre in Dili, East Timor, went down in the country's history books as the bloodiest day in the Timorese struggle for independence. And for once it didn't go completely unnoticed by the outside world.
  
What happened: a young Timorese independence activist by the name of Sebastião Gomes had been shot dead by Indonesian troops, and on 12 November a memorial procession was held. As the procession was arriving at Santa Cruz cemetery, where Gomes is buried, Indonesian troops suddenly and without provocation opened fire on the unarmed, peaceful protesters. Such random violence was not even that unusual. The Indonesian repression of East Timor had always been brutal since their military invasion and annexation of the ex-Portuguese colony in 1975.
  
By 1991, some recognition of the plight of the East Timorese had been made somewhat more public through exiled Timorese activists as well as a few international journalists. And so it happened that on this occasion there were three Western journalists present during the Santa Cruz massacre, and one of them, British cameraman Max Stahl, caught on camera what was happening. They subsequently managed to smuggle the video material out and so the world got to see evidence of the occupiers' brutality that for once could not be brushed aside by the usual Indonesian propaganda.
  
So the events of that day were, on the one hand, the worst atrocity the Timorese suffered in their long fight for independence, but on the other hand it was a PR disaster for the Indonesians, which helped pave the way for international intervention and the end of the Indonesian occupation.
  
It was to be another 10 years before East Timor achieved full independence, but the media coverage of the Santa Cruz massacre was a key element in the developments that eventually made this possible. 12 November has thus been made the official National Remembrance Day in East Timor.
  
One particularly poignant image from that Max Stahl video material was the inspiration for the Santa Cruz monument in Dili that is depicted in the photo for today. The wounded man and the friend cradling him both survived the massacre, but the image became the iconic symbol of that day. In the form of this monument it is now cast in metal, as it were, for posterity.
  
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Wednesday 11 November 2015
  
  11 11 2015   poppy and old GDR border watchtower
  
Photo of the Day: 11/11, 11:11
  
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Tuesday 10 November 2015
  
  10 11 2015   Atatürk Mausoleum, Ankara, Turkey
  
On this Day, 77 years ago, on 10 November 1938, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk died, the founder of the modern Republic of Turkey. Such was the cult of personality revolving around Atatürk that they took a decade and a half to construct the monumental mausoleum at Anıtkabir in Ankara depicted in this photo.
  
Atatürk's body was transferred into the tomb underneath the main Hall of Honour on 10 November 1953.
  
Atatürk had led Turkey through the difficult times after the crumbling of the Ottoman empire and defeat in World War One. Atatürk had been an army officer in that war (and fought, for instance, at Gallipoli in 1915) and subsequently led the Turkish Nationalists in the Turkish War of Independence from 1919-1923.
  
He eventually achieved his goal of founding a unified and secular Turkish nation state. This secular principle had long been a pillar of Turkish politics but has in more recent years begun to show cracks, as the current political heavyweights in Turkey no longer seem so keen on that element of Kemalism ... but that's another story.
  
Anıtkabir is certainly an impressive place. Size does matter here, but there are also intriguing stylistic details which seem to bring together elements of Nazi aesthetics and socialist realism all at once. Well worth a visit!
  
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Monday 9 November 2015
  
  09 11 2015   Berlin Wall at Topography of Terror memorial
  
On this Day, 26 years ago, on 9 November 1989 the madness ended - the Berlin Wall came down.
  
Well, not literally at first, but the border opened, partly by mistake (that famous Schabowski press conference!), partly due to the pressure from the people and their peaceful demonstrations in the final phase of the collapsing GDR.
  
Soon most of the actual wall would indeed come down - demolished, removed, consigned to the history books.
  
Only a few remains were left standing, such as this one at Niederkirchnerstraße in central Berlin (Berlin Mitte) opposite the Topography of Terror memorial site.
  
You can see in this photo that the wall looks quite badly damaged. This is the result of "wall peckers" ('Mauerspechte') - people who chiselled away at the concrete shortly after the border had opened. Physically hacking the wall to bits became a popular way of expressing contempt for the old regime while what was left of the GDR authority was in free fall.
  
These days, the wall remains on Niederkirchnerstraße are protected by a fence, so nobody can continue damaging this monument - as it now serves as a reminder of the dark history associated with this concrete monster of old.
   
Meanwhile the souvenir bits of wall for sale to tourists these days have become smaller and smaller ... and increasingly of questionable origin. It's hard to tell whether any of them are actually still original pieces.
  
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Sunday 8 November 2015
  
  08 11 2015   the Wall, Hötensleben, Germany, sepia
  
On this Day: 26 years ago, 8 November 1989, was the last day before the so-called "Fall of the Berlin Wall". Nobody predicted on that day that this most infamous border fortification would so soon disappear.
  
Well, it hasn't completely disappeared everywhere ... a few relics, and in even fewer cases some shorter stretches of the actual wall and other border installations were preserved to function as memorials for future generations.
  
The best of all these is not actually in Berlin, but at a point along the former inner-German border between the FRG (West Germany) and the ex-GDR (East Germany), namely at a small hamlet called Hötensleben.
  
This is what today's photo shows: the Hötensleben border memorial. It's the closest in apperance to what the Berlin Wall used to look like ... and to emphasize this look even further I took the liberty of giving the image a "sepia" effect.
  
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Friday 6 November 2015
  
  06 11 15   West Virginia Penitentiary
  
Photo of the Day: inside West Virginia Penitentiary, Moundsville, WV, USA. The prison is closed but you can go on guided tours of the expansive facility, and it's one of the most fascinating ex-prison tours I've ever been on.
  
A small but good museum complements the guided tour.
  
And it's also home to "Old Sparky" (!!!) ...
  
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Thursday 5 November 2015
  
  05 11 15      view straight down into the reactor core Kopie
  
On this Day: 5th of November - Guy Fawkes Day in Britain, when the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 is commemorated - is a different kind of anniversary here in Austria. On this day, 37 years ago in 1978, a referendum stopped nuclear power in Austria. The newly constructed Zwentendorf NPP was ready to be loaded with fuel rods and switched on, but a referendum called by then chancellor Bruno Kreisky did not yield the expected result. Instead it narrowly was a "no" vote. So Austria found itself with a state-of-the-art brand new nuclear power plant but could not use it. Guy Fawkes tried (and failed) to blow up parliament with gunpowder 410 years ago, in Austria nuclear fire was stopped (by the people) from being ignited 37 years ago.
  
Well, in actual fact Zwentendorf has subsequently been used, but in different ways - namely as a training centre for NPP staff (mostly from Germany where several plants of the same design were/are in use), for spare parts and as a film set. Moreover: you can visit the site as a normal mortal, as a mere tourist, too.
  
This is a unique opportunity for those dark tourists (like me) who are especially into nuclear tourism. Nowhere else in the world can you walk straight into parts that in active NPPs would be deadly. This includes the reactor core shown in this photo. In operation it would have been covered by water, but here it is fully exposed. The picture was taken from the fuel rod insertion crane above the reactor. It's a fascinating feeling to be standing there, without having to wear protective clothing, and be able to see all this so close up. Amazing and spooky at the same time.
  
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Wednesday 4 November 2015
  
  04 11 15   Soviet star above barbed wire, Mauthausen
  
Photo of the Day: Soviet star above barbed wire - at Mauthausen, Austria.
  
The barbed wire is part of the Mauthausen concentration camp memorial site.
  
The Soviet star adorns the largest of the ensemble of memorial monuments just outside the camp's walls.
  
I like the evocative juxtaposition of the two elements in this photo, even though thematically they are actually quite independent of each other.
  
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Tuesday 3 November 2015
  
  03 11 2015   life and death at Monumentale, Milan
  
Photo of the Day: life and death at Monumentale cemetery, Milan, Italy.
  
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Saturday 31 October 2015
  
  31 10 2015   Halloween
  
Photo of the Day: Halloween - the day when even normal people go for a bit of dark ...
  
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Friday 30 October 2015
  
  30 10 2015   Berlin Tempelhof
  
On this day - seven years ago, on 30 October 2008, Berlin's Tempelhof airport was closed for good. Even though it made sense from an economic and city-planning point of view, for me it was kind-of a sad day, because I have a personal connection with Tempelhof: it was the first airport I ever arrived at, on my very first flight in a plane, when I was a small boy. Back then, this was an incredibly exciting adventure for me. And the sweeping curve of the airport's giant roof hanging over the edge of the apron made a deep impression on me. I can vividly recall walking from the plane to the terminal under this roof (no buses or bridges back then!). I think I already fell in love with Berlin that very moment.
  
All that personal angle aside, Tempelhof is also of tremendous historical significance, of course. Built in the Nazi era, the terminal building was once the structure with the largest floor space in the world. You can still see certain typical stylistic marks from that era, both in architectural design as in the adornment with metal eagles on the facade (the swastikas, on the other hand, have of course long since been removed).
  
After WWII, Tempelhof became famous for being one of the main airfields for the Berlin Airlift during the Soviet Blockade of West Berlin.
  
Located in the American Sector of West Berlin, the US military also used Tempelhof during the Cold War. But mostly it remained a premier civilian airport for West Berlin, together with Tegel. The latter, however, gradually took over more and more air traffic and so Tempelhof declined.
  
Following Germany's reunification in 1990 the decline of Tempelhof's role accelerated. In its final years only occasional small planes arrived. With the projected transformation of the former East Berlin Schönefeld airport to become Berlin's new main airport hub (even though the botched planning of this project made Berlin a laughing stock), Tempelhof's future as an active airport was dead in the water.
  
After the airport was finally closed in 2008, the government did NOT sell off the land for redevelopment (how incredible is that?!?), but the airfield and runways were given over to the public, so you can now freely stroll around on this historic ground ... dodging the skaters and kite flyers. The terminal, meanwhile, can now only be visited on guided tours.
  
The photo shows part of the terminal to the left, and a former US military radar tower to the right. On the ground you can make out a historic plane - one of the so-called "candy bombers" ('Rosinenbomber' in German) from the Berlin Airlift.
  
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Thursday 29 October 2015
  
  29 10 15   Slovakian former weapons factory Kopie
  
Photo of the Day: another picture from my recent trip to Slovakia. This is one for the fans of urban exploration!! It was taken inside a former weapons factory in Dubnica nad Váhom, once home to one of the largest manufacturers of arms in the Eastern Bloc. After the fall of communism and the Soviet empire and Czechoslovakia's return to peace and democracy, the plant quickly became redundant. Today only some parts of it are occupied and still partially active making a variety of non-weapons-related metal products (e.g. for the railway industry). This part of the old plant, which was fortified like a massive bunker just before WWII (when the plant produced ammunition and tanks for Nazi Germany), is now totally abandoned, but you can slip inside and poke around. Spooky atmosphere!
  
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Wednesday 28 October 2015
  
  28 10 15   Slavin memorial Bratislava
  
Photo of the Day: Slavin war memorial monument, Bratislava, Slovakia.
  
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Thursday 22 October 2015
  
  22 10 15   at the war memorial in Chisinau, Moldova
  
Photo of the Day: marching off east again tomorrow, though not quite so far (this picture is from Chisinau, Moldova, and shows the the city's grand memorial to the Great Patriotic Fatherland War, aka WWII in the West) ... I'm only going to Slovakia for a short field trip. Not sure I'll be able to post any PhotD during that time, but I'll try, hopefully of yet more socialist-era grand monuments, housing estates, abandoned factories and the like ...
  
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Wednesday 21 October 2015
  
  21 10 2016   Aberfan, Wales
  
On this Day: 49 years ago, Aberfan in Wales saw one of the country's worst disasters, when on 21 October 1966 a slag heap from a local coal mine collapsed after heavy rains and sent a massive landslide down the hillside. Amongst the houses destroyed in the disaster was a junior school. 144 people died, 116 of these children. The trauma of this catastrophe persists to this day in the village. There's a small memorial garden in the centre and a special section in the cemetery that commemorate the disaster. This image shows one of the rows of uniform white arches that mark the victims' graves in the children's section of the local cemetery.
  
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Tuesday 20 October 2015
  
  20 10 15   DMZ   Vietnam
  
Photo of the Day: while we're on the subject of Vietnam ... here's one from Khe Sanh, once an important US base in the Vietnam War, now a Vietnamese memorial site in the former DMZ area. It's significantly more developed than yesterday's war ruin near Hue, but the museum on site is a bit faded. However, some of the outdoor exhibits are quite impressive, including the wrecks of planes, choppers and tanks as well as that mock-up of a bunker entrance. Not so easy to find either unless you have a guide, but worth it.
  
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Monday 19 October 2015
  
  19 10 15   Vietnam War ruin
  
Photo of the Day: Vietnam - ruin from what the Vietnamese refer to as the American War ... scars from this disastrous conflict remain to this day. This one was the Truong Bo De school near Hue.
  
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Sunday 18 October 2015
  
  18 10 15   Kurchatov nuclear testing museum, Kazakhstan
 
Photo of the Day: one more with vintage Cold-War-era technology. In this case from the nuclear testing museum in Kurchatov, Kazakhstan, the closed (secret) military headquarters and garrison for the Semipalatinsk test site during the Soviet Union's nuclear testing programme. Kurchatov is still not an easy destination, but no longer completely closed to visitors. It took our guides some persuasion to get them to open the museum up for us, but they did (after a lengthy process of checking papers and IDs). We were then given a guided tour by a very stern woman who appeared to have time-travelled straight from the 1970s to the present just for us. Amongst the displays were these stacks of machines, not all of them totally obscure. Note the big lenses on the right. These were part of super-high-speed special cameras used to record the nuclear explosions on film. (see also the posts of 16 July and 29 August !!!)
  
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Friday 16 October 2015
  
  16 10 15   Hack Green nuclear bunker, England
  
Photo of the Day: Hack Green nuclear bunker in Cheshire, England. It's been opened to the public as a kind of museum and they even switched some of the old machines back on to give it a spooky, 1960-ish Cold-War-cum-Science-Fiction aura. Does it for me. I'm a child of the Cold War era and it still gives me the creeps. I also have this thing about the look of old vintage elelctronic machines. I find them cool - and the more mysterious their function, the more so. The soundscape in this part of the bunker was eerie too ... maybe I should have done a video instead ...
  
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Thursday 15 October 2015
  
  15 10 15   casual cutthroat   Duomo, Milan
  
Photo of the Day: another one from a church - a casual cut-throat depiction, on the facade of the Duomo in Milan. That magnificent cathedral is actually very rich in all manner of brutal imagery. This is just one example - and it shows that sometimes mainstream and dark tourism overlap with ease ...
  
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Wednesday 14 October 2015
  
  14 10 15   weathered look, Liepaja, Latvia
  
Photo of the Day: something for a rainy day ... hollow look of a weathered sculpture on a church in Liepaja, Latvia.
  
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Tuesday 13 October 2015
  
  13 10 15   the infamous ESMA, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  
Photo of the Day: The main portal of the former Navy college ESMA, which during the "Dirty War" of the military dictatorship in Argentina between 1976 and 1983 served as the principal clandestine detention, torture and execution centre in Buenos Aires. Thousands of political prisoners passed through this site, and only few survived. Many were "disappeared", i.e. disposed of by being dropped from aircraft, sedated and tied up, into the Rio de la Plata to drown and be washed out to sea.
  
The military moved out of the old ESMA in 2010 and the site has slowly been turned into a memorial of sorts. Argentina still has a long way to go in coming to terms with those darkest parts of its history, but the memorial museum exhibition at the ESMA site is probably one of the best steps in that direction so far.
  
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Monday 12 October 2015
  
  12 10 15   metal tears, Kaisergruft, Vienna
  
Photo of the Day: after yesterday's elections there will be some black and blue tears in Vienna's First District today. Good. This one's tears are even cast in metal (sculpture in the Imperial Crypt).
  
Nach den gestrigen Wahlen werden in Wiens Innerer Stadt sicher ein paar schwarze und blaue Tränen fließen. Gut so. Die hier abgebildeten Tränen sind sogar in Eisen gegossen (Skulptur in der Kaisergruft).
  
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Sunday 11 October 2015
  
  11 10 15   NATO radio tower at Gaustatoppen, Norway
  
Photo of the Day: follow-up to yesterday's post - this is the summit of Mt Gausta, Norway, with its NATO radio/listening station at the top. The train tunnel ends underground inside the mountain.
  
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Saturday 10 October 2015
  
  10 10 15   Gaustabanen, Norway
  
Photo of the Day: Gaustabanen, Norway - a train going up diagonally INSIDE a mountain (Gausta) to provide all-weather access to a Cold-War-era NATO radio installation/listening station at the top. Today it's open to the public and tourists can ride the train (at a hefty price - like everything in Norway).
  
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Friday 9 October 2015 … photo series about Vajont dam
  
   09 10 2015   Vajont dam crest, Italy
  
  09 10 2015   Vajont dam, Italy
  
The text could not be reconstructed it must have slipped through as I was trolling through the page while it was still visible prior to its deletion in May 2020. But you can check the proper chapter about Vajont on this website to get all the background information!
  
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Thursday 8 October 2015
  
  08 10 15   Schloss Hartheim in the fog, Austria, b&w
  
Photo of the Day: something grey for a dull day (at least here in Vienna).
  
This is Schloss Hartheim near Linz in Upper Austria. The old castle, depicted here in black and white in the morning mist of a cold autumn day, actually looks quite atmospheric in this photo ... but underneath that pretty facade lurks a historical significance that is much darker than just grey.
  
This was one of the main places of the Nazis' "Aktion T 4", better known as the Third Reich's "euthanasia" programme, i.e. the systematic murder of (mentally) disabled people. In Hartheim alone some 30,000 victims are known by name, killed between 1938 and 1941, the main phase of the programme, but there may have been many more whose names remain unknown, especially from the years 1941-44.
  
The six "T-4" institutions were also the precursors of the Nazis' death camps of the Holocaust - at least "technically". It was at these institutions that the "convenient" method of using gas chambers and crematoria was first established. Even some of the key perpetrators were the same. For instance, Franz Stangl and Christian Wirth had both worked at Hartheim and later became commandants of the death camps in Poland during the "Final Solution" (Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec), where they applied the experience from the Aktion T4 to the industrial-scale mass murder of Jews in the most deadly phase of the Holocaust.
  
And it really doesn't get any darker than that.
  
So, pretty picture of a pretty castle - but appearances can be viciously deceptive ...
  
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Wednesday 7 October 2015
  
  07 10 2015   Tag der Republik   GDR relic, Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin
  
Photo of the Day: 7 October, "Tag der Republik", was for 40 years the GDR's anniversary of its founding in 1949 - up to the very last celebration in 1989 when the GDR was already heading towards collapse. While GDR leader Erich Honecker was still rambling on about the GDR's and socialism longevity, the USSR's Mikhail Gorbachev (as guest of honour) made ominous remarks about the GDR regime's inability to reform. Demonstrators in the streets shouted "Gorbi, Gorbi", not "Erich, Erich", so it was made publicly clear who the people were putting their hopes in (NOT the old guard!).
  
Only a month later, Honecker was deposed and the Berlin Wall had fallen. Before it could come to a 41st "Tag der Republik", that republic had been dissolved on 3 October 1990 with Germany's reunification (see the posts on 3 and 4 October).
  
Of course that didn't stop some of the old guard from continuing to celebrate this day in private, including Erich's widow Margot Honecker, who lives, unrepentant, in exile in Chile. 20 years on video footage of her and some guests celebrating the 60th "Tag der Republik" emerged ... some just cannot accept the course of history ...
  
This photo shows the state emblem of the GDR, now a museum piece, on the outside wall of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum in Berlin ... (ironically the sign is towering above the four WWII Allied flags).
  
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Tuesday 6 October 2015
  
  06 10 15   Workers Party monument, Pyongyang, North Korea
 
Photo of the Day (with a special greeting to Koryo Tours!): this is the Workers Party Monument in Pyongyang, North Korea. The (obligatory) hammer is supposed to represent workers, obviously enough, while the hoe on the right stands for peasants, and the middle one (which from some angles can easily be misinterpreted and taken for something totally different) is meant to be a calligraphy brush representing intellectuals (I suppose a book or computer wouldn't have fitted the phallic design pattern here).
  
At 50m high this is truly monumental - as a point of reference note the tiny person in front of the base of the monument! It was built in 1995 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Korean Workers Party in October 1945.
  
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Monday 5 October 2015
  
  05 10 15   Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia
  
Photo of the Day: inside Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia. Once a "model prison" when it went into operation, now long abandoned and one of the most unusual and eerie tourist attractions in Philadelphia. This photo was taken through a barred gate into a passage that was out of bounds.
  
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Sunday 4 October 2015
  
  04 10 2015   Marienborn rusty mirror bw red extraction
  
On this Day: 25 years ago, this was the first day after the GDR had ceased to exist when Germany celebrated its reunification (see also yesterday's post).
  
This photo was taken at the now redundant and abandoned former GDR border checkpoint at Marienborn a couple of years ago. Some of the buildings of this enormous complex have been preserved (it's the only site of this type!). And it does bring back vague memories of the stifling atmosphere at these GDR-border crossing points.
  
I used the overland transit route from West Germany to West Berlin on only one occasion, in the mid-80s. But that was memorable enough (in that somewhat nightmarish kind of way). Those GDR border security guards and customs officials certainly had a way of making you feel small, vulnerable and powerless.
  
I took the liberty of subjecting this photo to a colour extraction filter effect, in order to emphasize A) the rust on the frame of the mirror, and B) the grey drabness of the abandoned buildings and everything around.
  
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Saturday 3 October 2015
  
  03 10 2015   V2, Peenemünde, Germany
  
On this Day ... not what everybody was probably expecting, as Germany is celebrating 25 years of reunification ... Instead I'd like to go back quite a bit further in history: 73 years ago, on 3 October 1942, Nazi Germany performed the first successful launch of its Aggregat 4 rocket, which later would become infamous as the V-2. It's a very ambivalent anniversary. On the one hand, the launch was the starting gun for the space age (the rocket reached some 90km in altitude, so not quite outer space, but quite near enough), and indeed the V-2 was the model that NASA started with when developing the rockets for its space programme after WWII.
  
On the other hand, however, the launch also marked the beginning of the age of missiles used as pure terror weapons. The V-2 was used to hit London, Antwerp and other cities to target civilian areas indiscriminately. It was an altogether new way of bringing death and destruction "remotely", as it were. Bombers still had to be flown towards their targets by pilots, missiles could do it all on their own.In the Cold War this soon became the standard type of "delivery" of explosives, of course, so the V-2 can also be seen as a precursor to the system of deterrence (together with nuclear weapons forming MAD - mutual assured destruction) during that era.Whereas these days "remote death" is more often brought by drones ...
  
This picture was taken at Peenemünde, the site where Wernher von Braun and his team developed Nazi Germany's rocket programme. Parts of this site are now a museum.
  
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Friday 2 October 2015
  
  02 10 15   very grim, war museum, Kiev
  
Photo of the Day: another grim one, this time from the war museum in Kiev (Holocaust section). Speaks for itself really ...
  
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Thursday 1 October 2015
  
  01 10 2015   at Pancasila Sakti, Jakarta
  
On this Day: 50 years ago, one of the worst killing sprees in 20th century history began - in Indonesia. General Suharto used an alleged communist coup that had started in the late hours of 30 September as a pretext to launch his own coup to seize power on 1 October and to embark on a purge of communists, alleged communists and countless other "undesirables" ... on a scale that is mind-boggling. Estimates of the numbers of murdered victims range from half a million to a full million or more. That's on a scale similar to that of the genocides in Rwanda or Cambodia! Yet the tragedy of Indonesia 1965 is barely known in the West ... or in the East ... or even in Indonesia itself. The old Suharto propaganda - that it was a threat of a communist take-over that was averted to save the nation - is still prevalent. The film "The Act of Killing" (directed by J. Oppenheimer, released in 2012) may have had an impact on the recognition of the crimes of 1965-66, at least in the West. But those crimes are still not officially recognized at home.
  
This photo was taken at the Pancasila Sakti site in Jakarta, the main "shrine" to the Suharto doctrines revolving around 1 October 1965. This is a depiction of the "vile communists" dumping an assassinated army general down a well. It is all part of a clear line of propaganda: the communists were evil, they had to be killed, Suharto saved the nation by doing so, now shut up.
  
The whole museum is a lesson in how manipulative "history museums" can get. And it is still there. Nothing has been changed. This makes it one of the really weird dark-tourism attractions in Indonesia. On the one hand there's the OTT "realistic" depiction of the bloody "coup", on the other the skewed, unabashedly manipulative propaganda by a regime that is no longer there (Suharto was deposed in 1998) but whose shadows still are. Witnessing this as a Western visitor is an extremely bizarre experience.
  
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Wednesday 30 September 2015
  
  30 09 15   Highgate cemetery, London
  
Photo of the Day: one of the famous gravestones in the enchanted Highgate Cemetery in London. This is actually an old photo (analogue film, just scanned) from the early 1980s. This piano sculpture (the deceased, obviously, was a pianist) is in the Eastern, then still openly accessible part of the cemetery and was apparently a victim of vandalism, with the original propped-up piano lid smashed to bits (who does such things? .. and what for?). From what I hear, however, the lid has now been restored. I must go again and take another look. These days the site is tightly managed, an entrance fee is charged and the Western part can be visited by guided tour only.
  
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Tuesday 29 September 2015
  
  29 09 15   Soviet concrete monumentalism Kopie
  
Photo of the Day: one of my favourite Soviet-era OTT monuments anywhere - this is to be found at the 9th Fort in Kaunas, Lithuania. I just love the way in which the spiky concrete appears to shoot up from the ground, and those chunky grey fists and stern cubist faces - yet it all looks a bit ridiculous, as if it's just trying too hard to be serious. It's precisely this element of contradiction that I adore in monstrous memorial designs like this. Oh, and size matters too. The middle part of this ensemble is over 30m tall.
  
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Monday 28 September 2015
  
  28 09 15   skull, Paris catacombs
  
Photo of the Day: since the previous post has been so popular I add another one from the Paris Catacombs, this time a close-up ... I wonder what those two holes on the side are from and whether they're the reason this head ended up there ...
  
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Saturday 26 September 2015
  
  26 09 15   skulls and bones, Paris catacombs
  
Photo of the Day: the Paris Catacombs ... an absolute classic of dark tourism, one of its its oldest and most established attractions worldwide - one of the places where the niche of dark tourism and mainstream mass tourism merge, even though it is most definitely a very grim place indeed. Proof that this does not necessarily deter the masses, rather on the contrary in this case.
  
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Friday 25 September 2015
  
  25 09 15   former gold mining site on Borneo, Indonesia
  
Photo of the Day: and now for something environmental ... this is what it looks like when gold mining destroys the rainforst. In this case in West Kalimantan, on the Indonesian part of Borneo. The original jungle can be made out on the horizon, the empty desert-like wasteland is what the gold-miners leave behind (when they move on to take their destructive forces to the next part of jungle to slash-and-burn and then start digging). It's not only barren, but also toxic (illegal "wild" gold mining involves the use of mercury, for instance). Of course we were not really supposed to see this, but on a tour to remote Mandor we happened to go past this view ... and our guide explained what we were seeing. In fact, the degree of environmental awareness amongst the people on Borneo seems more developed than in the rest of Indonesia. But there is little they can do against the overwhelming power administered from Jakarta ... or against the unregulated "wild" mining in remote locations. When scanning over Borneo on Google Earth you can find many such white patches. And what you can also see is vast palm oil plantations - for which even more rainforest is cut down ... but that's a topic for another post.
  
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Wednesday 23 September 2015
  
  [photo could not be reproduced]
  
On this Day ... 9 years ago: our grand gothic wedding in Cornwall.
  
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Tuesday 22 September 2015
  
  22 09 15   Chagan ghost town, Kazakhstan
  
Photo of the Day: follow-up to yesterday's photo - this is the ex-military garrison ghost town of Shagan near the ex-strategic bomber airfield of the same name in eastern Kazakhstan. Great place to poke about for a couple of hours ...
  
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Monday 21 September 2015
  
  21 09 15   Shagan ex airbase, Kazakhstan
  
Photo of the Day: another one from Kazakhstan, this time Cold-War-related. This is part of the abandoned strategic bomber base of Shagan, not far from Semey (aka Semipalatinsk). These bunkers were probably for bomb/ammunition storage. You can also drive on the 3-mile long runways. Adjacent to the airfield is an ex-military garrison ghost town that is slowly crumbling away. All pretty extreme dark tourism ... as well as "middle-of-nowhere" tourism.
  
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Saturday 19 September 2015
  
  19 09 15   graphic installation in the ALZHIR museum, Kazakhstan
  
Photo of the Day: as Europe is increasingly sealing itself off from the current influx of refugees, an image like this easily seems to take on a different meaning. The people (well, the hands) in this photo, however, would have begged to be let out, rather than in - it's an installation at the ALZHIR Soviet gulag museum in Kazakhstan ...
  
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Friday 18 September 2015
  
  18 09 15   dissected beauty, Palazzo Poggi, Bologna
  
Photo of the Day: something medical again (and again from Palazzo Poggi, Bologna - wax model of an autopsy) ... just because I have a doctor's appointment today ... it shouldn't be quite so bad, though.
  
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Thursday 17 September 2015
  
  17 09 15    tsunami evacuation area sign on Hawaii
  
On this Day: actually TODAY! 8.3 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Chile a few hours ago. Tsunami alert for coastal areas in Chile, Peru, parts of California, Hawaii, New Zealand and much of the rest of the Pacific. Only a few weeks ago I saw this sign on Hawaii.
  
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Tuesday 15 September 2015
  
  15 09 15   a (tele)vision of hell, Pripyat
  
Photo of the Day: a (tele)vision of hell ... and one of my favourite photos (as far as my own photography goes), composed in an old school building in Pripyat (the ghost town in the Chernobyl exclusion zone), where someone had found a box of gas masks and scattered these all over the floor. Pripyat really is a photographer's dreamland, esp. for those like me with a penchant for the beauty of decay ...
  
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Monday 14 September 2015
  
  14 09 15   GDR border watchtower, Point Alpha museum, Germany
  
Photo of the Day: German border! Maybe it's a somewhat predictable choice, but I couldn't resist the connection between history and current affairs. This particular border is in actual fact a stretch of the old inner-German border between the ex-GDR (aka East Germany) and the FRG (aka West Germany) in the Rhön mountains ... today this GDR watchtower, parts of the border fence (both seen in this photo) as well as a US watchtower on the other side (not visible here), from where NATO looked for signs of an impending Warsaw Pact invasion, form a memorial complex which is named after that US observation post: Point Alpha (also "Grenzmuseum Rhön").
  
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Sunday 13 September 2015
  
  13 09 15   Tsitsernakabert Armenian genocide memorial, Yerevan
  
Photo of the Day: Tsitsernakabert, Armenian Genocide Memorial, on top of the hill of the same name high above Armenia's capital city Yerevan. It will have been a lot busier up here in April at the commemorative events to mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the genocide ...
  
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Friday 11 September 2015
  
  11 09 2015   Pentagon 9 11 memorial, Washington DC
  
On this Day: 14 years ago, on September 11, 2001 ... do I even have to carry on? The events of 9/11 changed the world ... in many ways. And that includes perception. Note the plane in the background - we'll never perceive planes heading roughly in the direction of big buildings in the same way we did before 9/11. The images of those airliners piercing the Twin Towers in New York are forever engrained in public perception. But while the main focus on this day will, as usual, be on New York and "Ground Zero", I thought I'd give you a photo of the other main memorial site instead, namely at the Pentagon near Washington DC (or Arlington, Virginia, to be precise). The memorial is composed of steel structures symbolizing seats - some pointing towards the Pentagon, some away from it, to represent the two groups of victims, those in the building and those on the plane. Each come with their own tiny reflecting pool. Compared to the National 9/11 Memorial site in New York, this 9/11 Pentagon memorial is rather subtle, despite its area size. It is still dwarfed by the massive hulk of the adjacent Pentagon building (view that as symbolic too, if you wish).
  
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Wednesday 9 September 2015
  
  09 09 15   original Iron Curtain fence in Armenia at the border to Turkey
  
Photo of the Day: a stretch of the original old "Iron Curtain", on the border between Armenia and Turkey. This was one of only two stretches of the Iron Curtain where the former Soviet Union (which Armenia was a part of) had a direct border with a NATO member (Turkey). The other stretch was the short one where Russia borders north-eastern Norway. Armenia has become independent since the collapse of the USSR, but the border is still guarded by Russian military (you can see a border guard post in the background in this photo), as Armenia maintains good ties with Russia and relies on its help in securing the border with its old arch-enemy Turkey ... there are in fact no border crossings between the two countries. The border remains firmly closed.
  
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Monday 7 September 2015
  
  07 09 15   Bulgaria   interesting mosaic on Montana cinema
  
Photo of the Day: intriguing mosaic at a cinema in the little town of Montana in Bulgaria (not the US state). I have no idea what exactly is supposed to be depicted here, but is looks a bit like workers and revolutionaries fighing a goliath or Greek god or something like that ... So is this socialist realism or socialist surrealism?
  
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Sunday 6 September 2015
  
  06 09 15   grinning skull, Imperial Crypt, Vienna
  
Photo of the Day: grinning skull on an ornate regal sarcophagus in the Imperial Crypt, Vienna, Austria.
  
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Saturday 5 September 2015
  
  05 09 15   North Korea   Great Leaders in a miniature Japanese bullet train
  
Photo of the Day: surreal North Korean idyll - the Great and Dear Leaders (deceased) surrounded by happy children in an amusement park miniature bullet train (of the Japanese sort! ... they don't actually have any real bullet trains in North Korea). Can propaganda posters be more drenched in OTT kitsch? Hardly.
  
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Friday 4 September 2015
  
  04 09 15   House of Terror, Budapest
  
Photo of the Day: the "House of Terror" in Budapest, Hungary ... given that the city is in the media a lot at the moment I thought I'd post something from there, though this particular place is unrelated to the current developments. It is a museum of sorts that is about both the Hungarian Nazis' (Arrow Cross) terror during WWII as well as the post-WWII communist regimes' (including the 1956 uprising that was brutally crushed by the Soviets). The letters forming the word "TERROR" on the edge of the roof are mirror-inverted so that the word is projected onto the pavement in its proper form when there is sunshine from directly above (so best at midday in summer). It's quite a striking effect.
  
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Thursday 3 September 2015
  
  03 09 15   Gdansk war ruins, Poland
  
Photo of the Day: one more from Gdansk, Poland, the city where WWII started (see previous post) and which was more or less laid to ruin in the course of the war. Even today you can still see war ruins like the one shown in this photo, right in the city centre (though most of the old town has been faithfully rebuilt).
  
[UPDATE: most of the ruins like this have meanwhile fallen victim to the "regeneration" of Granary Island opposite the Old Town, where this photo was taken in 2008. It all looks very different now ...]
  
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Tuesday 1 September 2015
  
  01 09 2015   Westerplatte main memorial, Gdansk, Poland
  
On this day, 1 September 1939, the first shots of World War Two were fired in Danzig/Gdansk by a German cruiser in the harbour, kicking off the German invasion of Poland and what subsequently was to turn into the bloodiest, deadliest war ever. The photo shows the Polish monument at the site - Westerplatte. Socialist monumentalism commemorating the beginning of a monumentally dark chapter in world history ...
  
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Saturday 29 August 2015
  
  29 088 2015, 1949   Joe 1 RDS 1 ground zero of Opytnoe Pole, Polygon, Semipalatinsk test site, Kazakhstan
  
On this Day, on 29 August 1949, the USSR caught up with the US in the early Cold War nuclear arms race ... this is the ground zero of the RDS-1 test (nicknamed "Joe 1" in the West), Stalin's first atomic bomb, detonated here at the Semipalatinsk Test Site in the steppes of Kazakhstan. Today the site is abandoned and hardly secured in any way ... so you can basically just drive in and poke about at will ... as do all the scrap metal hunters you can see digging up old cables from the test sites to sell the metal to China. So next time you buy a made-in-China microwave or smartphone maybe you get a bit of historic irradiated metal built into it ...
  
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Thursday 27 August 2015
  
  27 08 2015   decommissioned but still connected Minuteman missile
  
Photo of the Day: a Minuteman II missile (ICBM) in its silo in South Dakota. While this particular silo is decommissioned and a museum piece now, Minuteman III missiles remain to serve as the USA's main nuclear deterrent. The Cold War may be over (or is it just coming back, Mr Putin?) but the system of hair-trigger alert nuclear ICBMs is still very much in place today. The USA currently has some 400-500 of these sleek monsters at the ready. So the possibility of a nuclear Armageddon has by no means been consigned to the history books, but remains with us for the foreseeable future ...
    
<comment: […] well, that's the thing: the 400+ still active missiles do not just rust in peace but remain clean and ready for launch. But at least they're fewer now than back in the Cold War, and probably on less acute hair-trigger alert than then too
  
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Tuesday 25 August 2015
  
  25 08 2015   Yellowstone, with lots of colour
  
Photo of the Day: Yellowstone National Park ... not particularly dark, you might think. Indeed, on the surface this is just brilliantly beautiful scenery. However, under that surface, the world's largest active volcanic caldera is lurking, and all these coloured hot springs, geysers, fumaroles etc. are evidence of continued activity. The Yellowstone volcano erupts on a massive scale roughly every 600,000 to 700,000 years.
  
The last eruption was 640,000 years ago ... so, it is kind of "due". Should this supervolcano blow up again, it would not only take out Yellowstone NP itself, it could change the earth's atmosphere and hence the biosphere (a new ice age perhaps?), so human existance could be endangered as well. So, while there is no obvious darkness at this site, the potential is gigantic.
  
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Friday 21 August 2015
  
  21 08 2015   Mount St Helens, lava dome and crater glacier today
  
Photo of the Day: Mount St Helens, view of the centre of the blast zone of 1980 ... note also the new lava dome that is forming in the centre of the blown-away summit crater. Dramatic scenery!
  
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Tuesday 18 August 2015
  
  [photo could not be reconstructed - but see the gallery for the Alctraz chapter!]
  
Photo of the Day: Alcatraz, possibly the most infamous prison island on the planet, Visited the place yesterday (together with huge hordes of tourists - the place is too popular for its own good), i.e. I am currently in San Francisco, California. Tomorrow I'll make my way up to Seattle and the next day head for Mt St. Helens. The roadtrip continues ...
  
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Thursday 13 August 2015
  
  13 08 2015   Berlin Wall memorial, Bernauer Straße
  
On this Day, on 13 August 1961, the building of the Berlin Wall commenced ... it stood, dividing West and East Germany as the main frontline of the Cold War, until 1989. Now hardly a trace of it remains. This photo shows one of the few exceptions within Berlin itself, a short stretch of wall along Bernauer Straße, which is part of the official memorial. It's a bit "sanitized" but about the best you can still get of an impression of what this concrete monster used to look like. (Better impressions can be found along the former inner-German border ... but more about that another time ...)
  
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Monday 10 August 2015
  
  10 08 2015   rainbow over Pearl Harbor with USS Missouri
  
Photo of the Day: rainbow over Pearl Harbor. To the left is the USS Missouri, the battleship aboard which the Japanese surrender was signed. So we basically have both the beginning and the end of the Pacific War of WWII in the same picture here. And that on the day that here in Hawaii is still the 9th of August, i.e. Nagasaki day (see previous post!). And to top all these interconnections we are about to go out for a local (Hawaiian) Japanese meal. Domo arigato ... mahalo ... cheers ...
  
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Sunday 9 August 2015
  
  09 08 2015   the Bockscar at the USAF Museum, Dayton, Ohio
  
On this Day, 70 years ago, this plane, a B-29 nicknamed "Bockscar", dropped the second atomic bomb on Japan towards the end of WWII, this time Nagasaki, only three days after the A-bombing of Hiroshima (see the post on 6 August). The Nagasaki bomb was of the same design as the "Gadget" tested on 16 July 1945 in the Trinity test (see the relevant earlier posts on that). The Hiroshima bomb had been an untested design.On the one hand, this second use of the bomb so soon after the first one is even harder to justify, although the pro argument goes that this second show of such power was required to really convince the Japanese military that their game was up ... giving the impression that the USA could continue scorching Japanese cities one after the other with this new type of super weapon. It worked. Japan surrendered shortly after the Nagasaki bomb. The USA, however, had - in a way - been bluffing. The next atomic bombs wouldn't have been available for quite some time after Nagasaki.
  
Anyway, this photo was taken at the USAF Museum in Dayton, Ohio, where the original "Bockscar" is on display today. To my surprise it came with a lot of information panels giving both sides of the argument, for and against the A-bombing, plenty of space. I had not expected that, after the total muteness of the display of the "Enola Gay" (the Hiroshima bomber) at the Smithsonian in Washington DC (where controversy made the curators take all interpretation/information out). So much better done in Dayton with the "Bockscar". So praise where praise is due.
  
The 9th of August 1945, however, remains a particularly dark day in world history, regardless of whether one accepts the justifications for dropping the bomb again or not. Fortunately, it has so far also been the last use of this terrible weapon.
  
  
< comment: I'd like to add that for me, Nagasaki was the most pleasant city of any I visited in Japan. That's partly thanks to the fact that A) Nagasaki retained some foreign contacts during the years of the nation's deliberate isolation from the rest of the world (so there is, for instance, a Dutch quarter, as well as evidence of English, Chinese, and Portuguese influences) and B) the atomic bomb dropped on 9 August 1945 missed the heart of the city by a few miles, so it largely escaped the total destruction that Hiroshima had suffered (even though the total death toll was similarly horrific) ...for more on Nagasaki itself, as well as on the historical political questions regarding the second A-bombing, see http://www.dark-tourism.com/.../individual.../461-nagasaki
  
  
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Thursday 6 August 2015
  
  06 08 2015   Hiroshima A Bomb Dome at sunset
  
On this Day (well tomorrow, from where I currently am, but for most of the rest of the world it is already today, certainly in Japan): on 6 August 1945 at 8.15 in the morning, the first atomic bomb ever used in war was dropped on Hiroshima ... and the world was forever changed. The USA firmly established itself as the world's No 1 dominating power (and it is still the only nation ever to have used this type of weapon of mass destruction), though the USSR caught up soon after (stand by for a PhotD for that one!) ... and the Cold War was on.
  
Japan had more or less been defeated already by that point, and historians are divided over the question whether the use of the bomb really helped in bringing WWII to a quicker close (and thus potentially saving even more lives than it cost) - or whether it was history's largest and deadliest ever "human experiment" and a massive war crime. The case will probably remain open for ever.
  
This photo shows one of the very few structures in Hiroshima that was not completely destroyed, even though it was just a few hundred yards from the hypocentre. It has since become known as the A-Bomb Dome ... and it is certainly one of the most iconic and most recognizable shapes in the world of dark tourism (spot part of it on the right-hand side of the DT logo above!).
  
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Saturday 1 August 2015
  
  01 08 2025   Warsaw Uprising memorial
  
On this Day: 71 years ago, on 1 August 1944, the Warsaw Uprising began. It was the largest underground resistance effort against the Nazis ever staged in WWII ... but it ended in utter tragedy. The beginning of the uprising had been timed to coincide with the arrival of the Soviet Red Army on the outskirts of Warsaw, and the assumption was that the Soviets would come to their Polish brothers' assistance. They didn't. They just stayed put and refrained from entering the city. So the Polish Resistance had to fight it alone, which they did heroically for about two months. However, without the expected Soviet help, it was doomed to fail. The Germans were able to regroup after initial losses and then waged a terrible war of scorched earth, basically razing Warsaw to the ground in its entirety, before retreating west.
  
This photo shows the main Warsaw Uprising Monument in the Polish capital, just south of the reconstructed old town centre.
  
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Friday 31 July 2015
  
  31 07 2015   Pu'u O'o within its vast lava flow field
  
Photo of the Day: another one from that doors-off helicopter flight - this is Pu'u O'o, one of the most active vents of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano (cf. the previous post for a good look inside!).
  
Later today, the destination will be the summit of Mauna Kea, which may no longer be an active volcano, but it is the world's largest (by mass and height, if measured from the seabed base, from where it is more than 10,000m to the top)
  
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Thursday 30 July 2015
  
  30 07 2015   lava in Pu'u O'o main crater
  
Photo of the Day: red hot new! It's been a few days without a photo of the day. Sorry. During that time I was either in the air (23 hours in total!), in transit, or on a layover. But now I've finally arrived in Hawaii and this morning the adventures began in style with a doors-off helicopter ride over some volcanic action. We got pretty close to a vent with some good orange lava visible inside. What a spectacle! I love volcanoes! I think this photo makes up for the few days without any ...
  
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Sunday 26 July 2015
  
  26 07 15   reflection of Chrysler building with flag, Manhattan, NY
  
Photo of the Day: Today I'm off on another road trip of the US of A. It'll be lots of DT fieldwork and driving long hours (plus long flights); but I'm also expecting lots of fun, adventure (including an open-door helicopter ride), fantastic landscapes & cities, nice people, cool places to stay in (and also some predictably less cool budget motels), chances to taste some specialities of various regional cuisines, sipping top-notch craft beers, maybe spotting some wildlife (bears even?), etc., etc.During that time I may not always have access to the Internet (certainly not while actually on the road – or in the air) and therefore won't be able to post the usual Photo of the Day on that regular a basis. I'll try my best to keep it going, but daily is unlikely. On the other hand, you may get some freshly taken images as I go along … we'll see how it goes.
  
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Saturday 25 July 2015
  
  25 07 15   Dollfuß death bed
  
On this Day: 81 years ago, Nazis assassinated Austria's authoritarian leader Engelbert Dollfuss in his Chancellery, an event that dragged Austria even further into turmoil in the years prior to the "Anschluss"/annexation by Hitler's Third Reich. The assassination of Dollfuss briefly soured relations between Hitler and Mussolini, because Dollfuss had a leaning towards Italian fascism. In this photo you see the sofa on which Dollfuss bled to death, which is on display at Vienna's Military History Museum (Heeresgeschichtliches Museum Arsenal), complete with visible blood stains, a piece of Dollfuss's shirt and a bust.
  
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Friday 24 July 2015
  
  24 07 15   Gedenkstätte Nikolaikirche
  
On this Day: 72 years ago, on 24 July 1943 began "Operation Gomorrah", the systematic mass aerial bombing of the city of Hamburg by the Allies in WWII. The bombing lasted a whole week, day and night, and destroyed large parts of the city and killed between 30,000 and 50,000 civilians. Most died in the firestorms caused by the incendiary bombs or succumbed to asphyxiation inside their air-raid shelters. Firestorms on this scale had never been observed before - with blazing tornadoes, 800C degrees hot, raging through the streets and high up into the air. Most affected were working-class residential districts to the east and north of the harbour area.
  
I remember from growing up in Hamburg that even in the late 1970s you could still see bombing scars in certain parts of the city as well as in the harbour. The districts that were completely levelled in 1943 still have a strange uniformity about them, which is also attributable to the bombings, what with all housing having been hastily (and cheaply) rebuilt after the war, mostly in plain red brick or as even plainer prefabs. It's still depressing to look at.
  
The most iconic ruin of them all was declared a memorial monument after the war - and that is what you see in this photo: the burned-out shell of the tall neo-Gothic spire of what was the Nikolaikirche church. There is now also a very touching museum in the former crypt - and it does not fail to duly mention that, after all, it was the Nazis that first applied the "technique" of incendiary carpet bombing (Guernica, Coventry, Warsaw, ...), just not on a comparable scale.
  
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Thursday 23 July 2015
  
  23 07 15   Majdanek barracks and watchtower
  
On this Day: warning - this is truly chilling! 71 years ago, in the early hours of 23 July 1944, the Soviet Red Army liberated Majdanek, near Lublin, eastern Poland. It was the first major Nazi concentration camp liberated by the Allies and provided the first substantial documentary footage of a Nazi extermination factory. That is because Majdanek, though originally set up as a regular POW and concentration camp, took on the role of a death camp in the Operation Reinhard (aka 'final solution') and was the only other such camp (other than Auschwitz that is) where the chemical Zyklon-B was used in the gas chambers.
  
The Nazis had virtually emptied the camp before the arrival of the Soviets but did not have time to destroy evidence. Thus Majdanek was also the most intact and complete such camp to fall into Allied hands (it was turned into a memorial almost immediately and still looks much like it did back then).
  
Thus the 'liberation' was not so much a liberation of the inmates (most of whom had been sent on death marches to camps further west, and only few survived that). But the physical evidence of the Nazi death machine was overwhelming. Yet, Auschwitz continued operating for another six months without Allied intervention ...
  
The photo shows Majdanek in a wintery spell at Easter in 2008. This gives it almost a black-and-white look, which somehow further underscores the impression of authenticity. And it is indeed the most completely preserved of all Nazi concentration camps. Given this, and its historical role, Majdanek is one of the most sinister locations on the planet.
  
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Wednesday 22 July 2015
  
  22 07 15   classic image of the dried up Aral Sea, Kazakhstan
  
Photo of the Day: as Vienna is sweltering in yet another "hottest day of the year" forecast in this month alone, I'm running out of counterweight photos (see the posts on 6, 7, and 18 July). So I'm doing the opposite: posting one showing how much worse it could be ... and is, in the case of the dried-up ex-Aral Sea.
  
This photo was taken from the harbour quay in Aralsk, Kazakhstan. Where there is now a salty, chemically polluted desert, there used to be thriving fishing port. No more then a mere puddle of water is left, and remains of fishing boats are slowly rusting away.
  
At least the camel seems to be in its element.
  
So when you think you feel parched in the heat of today, remember how much more catastrophic it could be.
  
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Tuesday 21 July 2015
  
  21 07 15   brain surgery wax model   Palazzo Poggi, Bologna
  
Photo of the Day: we haven't had anything on the medical side of dark tourism yet. Since I had a doctor's appointment yesterday (don't worry, it was just a regular check-up, not brain surgery) I thought now was a good time to fill that gap. The photo shows a wax model in the Palazzo Poggi museum at the University of Bologna, Italy. It gives the phrase "picking somebody's brain" a whole new meaning, doesn't it? Hannibal Lecter style ...
  
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Monday 20 July 2015
  
  20 07 15   Wolfschanze, Poland
  
On this Day: 71 years ago, WWII could have been brought to an earlier end, and millions of lives could have been saved, had Stauffenberg's assassination attempt on Hitler succeeded on 20 July 1944. As a high-ranking officer Stauffenberg had access to the Führer's heavily fortified hide-out bunker complex named Wolfschanze, in northern Poland, and thus managed to smuggle a bomb into a meeting room where some of the Wehrmacht's top brass convened, including Hitler. But Hitler escaped the bomb blast with only minor injuries ... and then proceeded to unleash a reign of stepped-up terror in revenge. This photo shows part of the bunkers at Wolfschanze, which the Nazis tried to blow up when they abandoned the place in the face of the advancing Red Army. Don't let yourself be fooled by all those sticks - they do not support this giant block of conrete (the soil does), people just park them there for "visual effect". It's a sinister place with some strange guys hanging around, but a such a historically heavy site ...
  
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Sunday 19 July 2015
  
  19 07 15   the iconic moai of Rano Raraku, Easter Island
  
Photo of the Day: I was talking about Easter Island with a friend yesterday so today I'm posting a picture from there. These are the famous undelivered 'moai' at Rano Raraku quarry, left there ready for being put in their intended place (on an 'ahu' somewhere) but abandoned and slowly sinking into the ground. Why were they abandoned and why exactly is Easter Island dark? Google "Easter Island Paradigm", if you can't guess it - or look it up on DT!
  
  
< comment: overpopulation leading to overexploitation of the environment leading to societal collapse and (near) extinction - so basically what we are doing now on a global scale. More on Easter Island and the warning it sends to our whole planet is explained here: http://www.dark-tourism.com/index.php/easter-island-rapa-nui
  
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Saturday 18 July 2015
  
  18 07 15   the world's northernmost Lenin, Pyramiden, Svalbard
  
Photo of the Day: not that long ago I posted a picture from Spitsbergen as a kind of couterweight to what I proclaimed was the hottest day of the year in central Europe. But now it looks like today's top temperatures might beat it. So this is the chance to fulfil the promise I made when I posted that pic, namely to show the other side of the monument that was in the frame from behind. So here it is: the world's northern-most Lenin bust, on a plinth outside the former cultural palace in the ex-Soviet mining ghost town of Pyramiden. Summer in the Arctic - note that snow on the mountainside! It was ca. 5 degrees Celsius.
  
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Friday 17 July 2015
  
  17 07 15   like a mirage in thin air, Uyuni salt flat, Bolivia
  
Photo of the Day: as a follow-up to the pic of the rusty train graveyard at Uyuni posted a couple of days ago ... today's photo was taken on the Salar de Uyuni (the largest salt flat in the world) during what they call the "Bolivian winter". At that time there's a little more rain up here in the Andean Altiplano, so a thin layer of water accumulates on top of the salt crust. This effectively turns it into the world's largest mirror. Add to this the high elevation and absence of air pollution and you get a totally otherworldly atmosphere and visual effects that are simply beyond words. This is a superzoom shot (30x) taken from the roof of our jeep of another jeep in the far distance pausing for their photo stop. I wonder if anyone in that group took a similar picture of our party as well ...
  
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Thursday 16 July 2015
  
  16 07 15   trinitite
  
On this Day: 70 years ago the Atomic Age started with a bang, literally, and quite a big bang it was too - the first atomic bomb was detonated at the White Sands Missile Range in the desert of New Mexico, USA. It was the culmination of the Manhattan Project, the starting gun for the Cold War, and for nuclear science it meant the loss of innocence. The "Test", code-named Trinity, involved a plutonium-core implosion type bomb (informally dubbed "the Gadget" - see yesterday's post) of the same design that only a few weeks later would be used "for real" over Nagasaki, Japan ... At the Trinity test site, they discovered that the intense heat of the nuclear explosion had fused the desert sand into a greenish, glass-like crust - a substance that has hence become known as "trinitite". And that's what you see in this picture.
  
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Wednesday 15 July 2015
  
  15 7 15   the gadget replica, National Nuclear Museum, Albuquerque, New Mexico
  
Photo of the Day: on this day, 70 years ago, an international bunch of scientists with spooky big plans was fiddling with this "Gadget" somewhere in a remote and secluded desert spot in New Mexico ... what were they up to?
[I remember on comment put it spot on: "lighting the fuse to the Atomic Age"]
  
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Tuesday 14 July 2015
  
  14 07 15   steam train graveyard, Uyuni, Bolivia
  
Photo of the Day: a steam train graveyard in Bolivia, once a proud railway fleet in a mining-rich area, now slowly rusting away in a desolately remote corner of the Andes' Altiplano near Uyuni. In a way it's the railway equivalent of a ghost town - and that in a very ghostly landscape ... (more of the latter to come in future posts).
  
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Monday 13 July 2015
  
  13 07 15   under Vienna, Third Man Tour
  
Photo of the Day: under Vienna, in the sewers that served as a film set for the movie "The Third Man", which was set in Vienna in the immediate post WWII years. Thanks to the enduring popularity of that film, (dark) tourists regularly go down into this underworld on special Third Man Tours. To further enhance the thrill, atmospheric lighting effects have been added, as seen here. By the way: it is far less stinky down there than you might think. And I've never seen a rat there either ...
  
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Sunday 12 July 2015
  
  12 7 15   Iron Curtain   GDR FRG border, Mödlareuth, Germany
  
Photo of the Day: the Iron Curtain - here at Mödlareuth in southern Germany, a small village on the Bavaria-Thuringia border where during the Cold War it took more or less the same form as the Berlin Wall, including a stretch of actual conrete wall, since it separated two halves of one village. The watchtowers are also intensely reminsicent of Berlin before reunification. The tower in the background is original, the one in the foreground is shortened (and you can go inside). This is one of the most chilling relics of the time, much more representative of the Iron Curtain than anything left in Berlin ....
  
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Saturday 11 July 2015
  
  11 07 15   Srebrenica memorial receiving new tombstones, Bosnia
 
On this day: 20 years ago, Srebrenica.
  
In fact the date isn't quite so straightforward, since what is known as the Srebrenica massacre(s) (or even genocide) took place over more than one day. But the 11th of July 1995 is generally recognized as the beginning of the atrocities. In this image you see the cemetery where several thousand victims are now buried.
  
This was taken in 2009, when the forensic investigation and identification of victims found in mass graves was in full swing and new headstones were delivered on a regular basis to replace the stand-in green wooden signs, as you can see in the picture. When wandering around the cemetery reading the dates of birth you can see how young some of the victims were, mere boys.
  
It was certainly one of the darkest chapters in post-WWII European history ...
  
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Friday 10 July 2015
  
  10 07 15   missiles
  
Photo of the Day: having mentioned the Cold War (in a comment about an earlier post on 4th of July) and how the US under Reagan in the early 1980s stirred up tensions with the USSR, here's one, just for balance, as it were, from the Soviet side. More precisely this is a missile display at the war museum in Kiev, Ukraine, and that vehicle with the big tube on top is an SS-20 launcher, i.e. the type of missile that made NATO threaten to deploy mid-range nuclear missiles in Europe too unless the USSR withdrew their SS-20s. They didn't, the US Pershings came - despite massive protests in Germany and elsewhere ... but then along came Gorbatchev and suddenly arms limitation talks actually began delivering results, including the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) of 1987. This spelled the end for the Pershings and the SS-20s. They were decommissioned and destroyed by 1991. This one that's been preserved and put on display in Kiev is thus an extremely rare Cold War relic.
  
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Thursday 9 July 2015
  
  09 07 15   nuclear power plant wear Kopie
  
Photo of the Day: we haven't had anything yet about the "fashion" side of dark tourism. Here's one to fill that gap. It's "nuclear industry wear"! I particularly like the fact that even the underwear on the left is such a garish orangey-yellowish colour!
  
These outfits were to be worn by staff in Zwentendorf nuclear power plant, Austria. At their "nuclear flea market" event, on the occasion of the anniversary of the referendum that stopped the plant from becoming operational, they were giving items like these away (by donation to a cancer charity, fittingly). While I abstained from acquiring such yellow underwear or any overalls, I still picked up a few interesting other bits and pieces ...
  
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Wednesday 8 July 2015
  
  08 07 15   torpedo tubes Kopie
  
Photo of the Day: and now we go UNDER water! Torpedo tube section inside a submarine in Tallinn, Estonia. Not for people suffering from claustrophobia.
  
Anybody venturing a guess as to how old this sub is and where it was built? (If you already know, no spoilers here please.)
  
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Tuesday 7 July 2015
  
  07 07 15   nuclear bunker museum, Prague
  
Photo of the Day: given that for many in Europe this will be the hottest day of the year, I thought this looked almost appealing. It's a depiction of a decontamination scrub-down (and cold shower!) in a nuclear bunker, now museum, in Prague.
  
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Monday 6 July 2015
  
  06 07 15   Pyramiden still life, Svalbard
  
Photo of the Day: something from cooler climes - as central Europe is sweltering in the current heat wave. See the snowy mountains and the glacier in the background! Ah!!!
  
The image is a composition taken in Pyramiden, Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway.
  
Pyramiden was the northern-most ex-Soviet coal mining settlement on the Archipelago, now it's a ghost town. The monument you see the back of in the photo has the world's northern-most Lenin bust at the top (I'll post an image from the front some other time). The guy standing next to it is a Russian guard with a rifle ... on the watch, in case some polar bears decide to pop by in search of a quick lunch (i.e. us) ...
  
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Sunday 5 July 2015
  
  [photo could not be reporduced]
  
Photo of the Day: whatever the outcome may be tonight, it's gonna be dark one way or the other. But don't forget: all that current political darkness aside, there are still good reasons to visit this country, including dark-touristic ones (http://www.dark-tourism.com/index.php/greece) ... don't let them fall further into the abyss by staying away.
  
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Saturday 4 July 2015
  
  04 07 15   grappling for the flag
  
On this day: I guess many Americans will be grappling for their flags again on this 4th of July. Happy holiday, then!
  
(But since this is supposed to be a page that's about dark stuff, let's not forget the many darker things that the USA has created around the world ... in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Chile, Nicaragua, South Africa, Indonesia & East Timor, Guatemala, Korea, Grenada, Argentina, Cambodia, Okinawa, El Salvador, Laos, Mexico, Iran, Sweden, Colombia, The Pacific, ... ... ...)
  
  
< comment: Oh, and please don't get me wrong. I do genuinely love the USA, its people and the land (just politics aside). So let's list some of the really great things the USA has given the world: Rock n Roll (!!!), the Internet, the craft beer revolution, the notion of national parks, "the pursuit of happiness" as part of the constitution, bourbon, chiltepin chillies, the moon landings, Frank Zappa, NIN, Noam Chomsky, Tim Kreider, intellectual punk music (DK, NoFX!!), and, yes, freedoms that many other places in the world can but dream of ... and they gave both Lemmy and Gary a home, so it can't be too shabby ... Enjoy the rest of the holiday! May Goodness bless America!!! Can't wait to go back!
  
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Friday 3 July 2015
  
  03 07 15   Belgrade Aviation Museum
  
Photo of the Day: the outside of the Aviation Museum in Belgrade, Serbia (they even have wreck parts of an F-117 stealth fighter that the Serbs somehow managed to shoot down during the conflict with NATO in 1999).
 
The flying-saucer-like builing is quite distinctive, isn't it? ... I wonder whether anybody has copyright on it ... see my previous series of posts!!! And DO sign that petition if you want to continue to receive these Photos of the Day in future (otherwise I may no longer be allowed to post such images). That EU madness on removing Freedom of Panorama must be stopped!
  
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Thursday 2 July 2015
  
  02 07 15   spy lens and camera Kopie
  
Photo of the Day: Soviet spy camera (to get wide-angle images through a tiny hole in the wall) displayed at the KGB museum at the Hotell Viru in Tallinn, Estonia. Are we heading towards a situation (again) in which it will only be cameras like this that can be used? (See previous post!)
  
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Thursday 1 July 2015
  
  01 07 15   La Maison des Esclaves, Ile de Goree, Senegal
  
Photo of the Day: La Maison des Esclaves, Ile de Goree, Senegal. Looks harmless but is heavy with history. This was one of West Africa's slave trade posts. To the right of the stairs in this picture was the "gate of no return", to the left the "storage" dungeons for the slaves. Upstairs the masters lived in style.
  
  
< comment: I picked this picture as Photo of the Day because I just finished reading a very interesting book on West Africa (though Senegal was not included), namely one entitled "Voodoo, Slaves and White Man's Graves" by Tom Coote (who also runs wickedworld.net): http://www.tomcoote.net/voodoo-slaves.html
  
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Tuesday 30 June 2015
  
  30 06 15   Killing fields of Choeung Ek, Cambodia
  
Photo of the Day: to go with the previous post, here's an extraordinary image from the Choeung Ek killing fields memorial site in Cambodia. Where else in the world could you get such juxtaposition! By the way, the people in the background only appear to be walking in the forbidden way ... in actual fact they respectfully walk around the pits on the outer path. So no 'moral panic' over-reactions please!
  
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Monday 29 June 2015
  
  29 06 15   ghostly end of the tunnel   Marienthal bunker, Germany
  
Photo of the Day: ghostly! ... could that be Yanis Varoufakis desperately looking for the light at the end of the tunnel? But even if there was any such light, that padlocked gate would still block him from reaching it. Symbolism anyone?
  
(But seriously: this is at Marienthal, the former West German Cold-War-era government bunker and command centre, now mostly gutted save for a small part that is preserved as a museum of the Nuclear Age. The guided tour of the bunker ends at this gate. As for Greece, who knows where it will all end ...)
  
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Sunday 28 June 2015
  
  28 06 15   the bloodied uniform of Franz Ferdinand, HGM, Vienna
  
On this day - 101 years ago - Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, was assassinated in Sarajevo, which subsequently triggered the outbreak of World War One. His bloodied uniform, seen in this photo, is on display at the Military History Museum in Vienna.
  
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Saturday 27 June 2015
  
  27 06 15   Glasnost
  
Photo of the Day: Glasnost, meaning 'transparency' ... maybe this is what they had in mind?
  
Having an ex-Russian, now Brit, visiting made me think of the ex-USSR, so I picked this old photo to mark the occasion.
  
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Friday 26 June 2015
  
  26 06 15   German American flags plus Holocaust Memorial, Berlin
  
Photo of the Day: a photographic composition from Berlin - in the background (flying the German flag) is the Reichstag, the German parliament, in the foreground part of the grey blocks that make up the Holocaust memorial (shadow from the past), and in between the US embassy (flying the Stars and Stripes) with the windowless grey block on top widely believed to house the NSA (shadow on the present) ... well not all of the NSA, of course, but its spying centre for the German capital (very convenient location, just a stone's throw from the country's government hub) ... sure this invites all manner of (further) symbolic, political interpretations, right? What's yours?
  
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Thursday 25 June 2015
  
  25 06 15   artfully shattered glass on Mostar war ruin
  
Photo of the Day: symbolic
  
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Wednesday 24 June 2015
  
  24 06 15   rattlesnake perched on a cactus, Albuquerque
  
Photo of the Day: a rattlesnake perched on a cactus ... better not touch, they're venomous Poison, you don't want to get a Snakebite ... or do you wanna Go to Hell? (Alice Cooper is playing Vienna tonight, so I was looking for something with at least some allusion to that occasion ;-) )
  
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Tuesday 23 June 2015
  
  23 06 15   Bautzen Stasi prison, Germany
  
Photo of the Day: Bautzen - the most notorious Stasi jail for political prisoners in the former GDR, now a very poignant memorial site.
  
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Monday 22 June 2015
  
  22 06 15   former schoolbook depository on Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas
  
Photo of the Day: an absolute classic of dark tourism - the much discussed Sixth Floor Museum on Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, USA ... the place from where JFK was shot.
  
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Sunday 21 June 2015
  
  21 06 2015   hung over angel, St Marx cemetery, Vienna 1
  
Photo of the Day: hung-over angel (the second one today!), St Marx cemetery, Vienna
  
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Saturday 20 June 2015
  
  20 06 15      golden Soviet soldier Kopie
  
Photo of the Day: the Golden Soldier in Riga, Latvia. Today is the 20th Rainbow Parade in Vienna and I was struggling to find something halfway suitable to go with that; it seems that dark tourism and Gay Pride don't have that much overlap in terms of images. This is the closest I could find ... hey, I mean a GOLDEN soldier ... and I've always thought that the typical socialist realist fierceness and determination had an element of covert gayness about it at some deeper level. So this should be at least halfway fitting.
  
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Friday 19 June 2015
  
  19 06 15   Hiroshima A Bomb Dome by night
  
Photo of the Day: an absolute icon of dark tourism (spot it partly visible on the right in the logo above) - the "A-Bomb Dome" in Hiroshima by night, doubled by reflection in the river.
  
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Thursday 18 June 2015
  
  18 06 15   inside Chernobyl NPP
  
Photo of the Day: the so-called "golden corridor" inside Chernobyl nuclear power station, 700m long, connecting all four blocks, up to the separation wall to the disaster-stricken Block 4. Gives the phrase "light at the end of the tunnel" an altogether new meaning!
  
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Wednesday 17 June 2015
  
  17 06 15   Komodo dragon blink of an eye, Indonesia
  
Photo of the Day: we haven't had the animal side of dark tourism yet - here's a Komodo dragon, in the blink of an eye ... creepy creatures.
  
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Tuesday 16 June 2015
  
  16 06 15   in the Imperial Crypt, Vienna
  
Photo of the Day: detail in the Imperial Crypt, Vienna
  
  
< comment: I thought it was kind of fitting, as today I'm heading out with some visiting fellow (gothicy inclined) DT-ers to explore Vienna's Central Cemetery and the newly relocated funeral museum. Maybe we'll pop into the Imperial Crypt later too ... but in any case, it's thematically related.
  
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Monday 15 June 2015
  
  15 06 15   Duga 3
  
Photo of the Day: Duga, aka "Russian Woodpecker", aka "Steel Yard" - a gigantic Cold-War-era over-the-horizon radar installation located near Chernobyl NPP (it used colossal amounts of electricity, hence). It is 150m high and 750m long. Standing there is eerie and jaw-droppingly fantastic at the same time. Probably the most visually intriguing Cold War relic anywhere.
  
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Sunday 14 June 2015
  
  14 06 15   Auschwitz I, Poland
  
Photo of the Day: Auschwitz 1 (Stammlager). Note all the fast food stalls, which according to the "Wiener Zeitung" yesterday are allegedly "everywhere" at this memorial site.
  
  
< Comment: Original quote in German: "das seltsame Gefühl, das einen in den endlosen Wegen von Auschwitz beschleicht, die überall von Imbissständen gesäumt sind" (Wiener Zeitung, 13 June 2015, from the article "Liebe Grüße aus der Hölle"). When I visited Auschwitz, I saw just one such fast food stall, by the car park (where I think it may just about be tolerable) plus a soft-drinks vending machine at Auschwitz II Birkenau. It is odd, yes, but probably a necessity. However: there were no "rows of stalls" to be seen anywhere within the memorial complex itself. Or has that changed recently? Can anybody confirm they now suddenly allow such stalls within the grounds as well? ... that would suprise me very much, though, given how strict the Polish site management generally is at this difficult memorial. If anything, they are too strict (e.g. not allowing the individual countries' exhibitions to mention anything post-WWII, e.g. what happened to the perpetrators). Overall though, I think they are doing a fairly decent job in commodifying this extremely tragic site, which nevertheless has to handle huge numbers of visitors. And they do it in as respectful a way as they can, I think, under the circumstances. Or does anybody disagree with that? I'm open to discussion.
  
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Saturday 13 June 2015
  
  13 06 15   Ho Chi Minh mausoleum, Hanoi, Vietnam
  
Photo of the Day: somewhere far away again ... Ho Chi Minh mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam
  
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Friday 12 June 2015
  
  12 06 15   Augarten Flak tower, Vienna, Austria
  
Photo of the Day: staying in Austria, and this time even closer to home. Literally, just round the corner from where I live. This is the large Flakturm in Augarten park ... just saw it on my morning run. It is definitely my most frequently seen dark-tourism attraction.
  
For those who do not know: these concrete monsters were built in the late phases of WWII for air-aircraft guns ('flak', short for "Flugabwehrkanone" in German) to be positioned at the top; but also to provide air-raid shelter space for civilians in the bottom base.
  
Like so many last-ditch crazy efforts (like the V2 et al) these towers were supposed to help turn the war around for the Nazis, when it was already lost. Needless to say, these flak guns never made much of an impact.Now the towers just stand there, as pretty much indestructable reminders of a past not happily remembered here
  
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Thursday 11 June 2015
  
  11 06 15   submarine like Kopie
  
Photo of the Day: this time with a quiz question - where do you think this was taken? What is it?
    
< comment: […] bingo! it is indeed an airlock leading into the inner containment vessel of a nuclear reactor. But perhaps we can make it a bit more precise - which part of the reactor you reckon this leads to? And at what site could this be? I mean you can't normally walk into a reactor just like that ... something has to be different here ...
  
< comment: bingo again! it is indeed all that! Namely Zwentendorf NPP in Austria. The plant was completed but then a referendum against nuclear power prevented it being switched on, so it was never irradiated and now serves as a training centre. ...  more background info in detail can be found here: http://www.dark-tourism.com/.../279-zwentendorf-nuclear...
  
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Wednesday 10 June 2015
  
  10 06 15   giant chopper at Riga aviation museum Kopie
  
Photo of the Day: a splendid Cold War era relic, this is a giant Mil-Mi-6 heavy lift chopper (35m rotor!) at Riga aviation museum.
  
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Tuesday 9 June 2015
  
  09 06 15   sombody arranged a doll wearing a gas mask on a chair
  
Photo of the Day: another one from Chernobyl, or rather Pripyat, the ghost town next to the plant which was also abandoned after the 1986 disaster.
  
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Monday 8 June 2015
  
  08 06 15   Montserrat volcano   pyroclastic surge
  
Photo of the Day: let us start this week with a bang ... a pretty big one at that. This is a pyroclastic surge (at the bottom of a two-mile-high ash plume - spot those little houses beneath) observed at Soufriere Hills volcano on the Caribbean island of Montserrat on 28 December 2009.
  
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Sunday 7 June 2015
  
  07 06 15   Pawiak prison memorial, Warsaw, Poland
  
Photo of the Day: after all the far away places of the previous few days, today we return to Europe. Detail of Pawiak prison memorial, Warsaw, Poland.
  
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Saturday 6 June 2015
  
  06 06 15   cockpit of shot down Skyhawk, Falklands
  
Photo of the Day: and now to (almost) the other extreme, way south, in the Sub-Antarctic waters, more precisely: the Falkland Islands. This is the cockpit section of an Argentine Skyhawk wreck, shot down in the 1982 Falklands War.
  
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Friday 5 June 2015
  
  05 06 15   abandoned mining settlement, Spitsbergen
  
Photo of the Day: further flitting around the far ends of the planet, this time we head north ... far north, Arctic north. This little ghost town is an abandoned mining settlement on Spitsbergen, Svalbard, halfway between Norway and the North Pole. Desolation anyone?
  
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Thursday 4 June 2015
  
  04 06 15   Aso crater, Japan
  
Photo of the Day: to the other end of the world today. This is the sulphurous crater lake of Mt Aso. It may not be Japan's most dangerous volcano, but it is one of the most accessible and the green crater lake with the fumes billowing over the surface is certainly a sight that is pleasing to the eye ... in an eerie kind of way, of course
  
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Wednesday 3 June 2015
  
  03 06 15   formerly NN graves of junta victims, Santiago de Chile
  
Photo of the day: this time we go a bit further afield ... this is the "Patio 29" part of Santiago de Chile's Cementerio General. These crosses are for early victims of the Pinochet junta. Originally all of these about 100 graves were just marked "NN" (i.e. no name). Meanwhile forensic tests have identified many of the dead so that their graves have belatedly been given names after all. But some still remain nameless. This is one of the eeriest and most sobering parts of a dark tourist exploration of that city.
  
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Tuesday 2 June 2015
  
  02 06 15   Choeung Ek Killing Fields skulls, Cambodia
  
Photo of the day: this time an absolute classic ... reflective skulls at the Choeung Ek Killing Fields memorial, Cambodia
  
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Monday 1 June 2015
  
  01 06 15   colourful Mostar war ruin
  
and now for something completely different - photo of the day: a war ruin (of a modern bank building) in Mostar, Bosnia/Herzegovina. For me it's proof that sometimes damage and dereliction can come in surprisingly aesthetic guises. I find the colours and patterns of the shattered glass stunningly beautiful ... as well as haunting ... (This was taken a few years ago - I don't know whether the building is still in this state or not. Can anybody confirm? ... or update me on its current state?).
  
  [Update: it was pointed out to me that by now all the glass and cladding have gone and only the raw concrete empty shell of thr building is still there] 
  
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Sunday 31 May 2015
  
  31 05 15   cooling basin above the reactor without water Kopie
  
Photo of the day: looking down into the waterless cooling basin and the open reactor at Zwentendorf NPP 
  
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Saturday 30 May 2015
  
  30 05 15   standing tall Kopie
  
Photo of the day: Irbene Radio Locator/Telescope, one of the largest Soviet listening devices of the Cold War era, located in a very remote corner in a coastal forest in Latvia.  
  
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Friday 29 May 2015
  
  29 05 2015   infernal sunset with pollution, Almaty
  
Photo of the Day: unfiltered pollution against a red sunset in Kazakhstan! Because of these stark colours I decided to pick it as my new profile pic ...
  
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Thursday 28 May 2015
  
  28 05 15   yours truly at Chernobyl
  
Just back from a scouting trip to Chernobyl!
  
   
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