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In September 2019 we left Turkey by air, to continue our trip north along the Adriatic, in the Balkans, to Austria, with a brief side trip to Bratislava in Slovakia. 

'The Balkans' is a geo-political construct named after the Balkan Peninsula between the Adriatic and the Black Sea.

According to most geographers the 'Balkans' encompasses the modern countries of Albania; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Croatia; Greece; Kosovo; Montenegro; North Macedonia; Serbia; and Slovenia. Some also include Romania. 

 

 

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The Balkan Peninsula - from Google Earth

 

The Balkan Peninsula was among the first regions on Earth to be civilised. The ancient Vinča culture of the area developed Old European Script, the oldest form of writing known, and clay tablets have been found in the area dating back to around 5,300 BCE.

Consequently, it is a much contested geopolitical area, prized by conquerors and by those who want to capture the hearts and minds of their followers.

In modern times it was such a struggle that led to the First World War and more recently to the ethnic and religious wars that took place in Bosnia, Herzegovina and Kosovo between 1992 and 1999.

While it has from time to time been unified under a single strong emperor; king; or 'democratic' leader, it is more often best described as the brittle shards of a once whole vessel, shattered by internal disunity and differences, hence the dictionary term 'balkanisation': 'to divide into small states hostile to one another'.

The fellow to the side in the regal outfit is Peter the First of Yugoslavia, the King under whom Yugoslavia was created in October 1918 when the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire were dismembered, as a result of batting for the wrong side in the First World War.  In his early years Peter had fought against the Ottomans as a guerrilla.

I apologise to all those who treasure their newfound independence but I struggled to find a figure common to most.  An alternative might have been Tito - too soon?

After the Second World War, and the Germans were defeated again, Tito took his place as President of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia that comprised: Bosnia and Herzegovina; Croatia; Montenegro; North Macedonia; Serbia and Slovenia.

Bulgaria and Albania were also 'liberated' by the Soviet Union in 1945 and in 1946 the 'People's Republic of Albania' and the People's Republic of Bulgaria became independent Communist States and members of the Warsaw Pact. Bulgaria overthrew the Communists in 1990 establishing democratic elections and a market economy but it has struggled and is at the bottom of the European Union development table.

 


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Travel

USA - middle bits

 

 

 

 

 

In September and October 2017 Wendy and I took another trip to the United States where we wanted to see some of the 'middle bits'.  Travel notes from earlier visits to the East coast and West Coast can also be found on this website.

For over six weeks we travelled through a dozen states and stayed for a night or more in 20 different cities, towns or locations. This involved six domestic flights for the longer legs; five car hires and many thousands of miles of driving on America's excellent National Highways and in between on many not so excellent local roads and streets.

We had decided to start in Chicago and 'head on down south' to New Orleans via: Tennessee; Georgia; Louisiana; and South Carolina. From there we would head west to: Texas; New Mexico; Arizona; Utah and Nevada; then to Los Angeles and home.  That's only a dozen states - so there are still lots of 'middle bits' left to be seen.

During the trip, disaster, in the form of three hurricanes and a mass shooting, seemed to precede us by a couple of days.

The United States is a fascinating country that has so much history, culture and language in common with us that it's extremely accessible. So these notes have turned out to be long and could easily have been much longer.

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Fiction, Recollections & News

Bonfire (Cracker) Night

 

 

We children were almost overcome with excitement.  There had been months of preparation.  Tree lopping and hedge trimmings had been saved; old newspapers and magazines stacked into fruit boxes; a couple of old tyres had been kept; and the long dangerously spiky lower fronds from the palm trees were neatly stacked; all in preparation. 

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Opinions and Philosophy

Now we are vaccinated

 

 

 

Now that every adult in my extended family is vaccinated is my family safe from Covid-19?

The short answer is no.  No vaccine is 100% effective. Yet, we are a lot safer. 

It's a bit hard to work it out in Australia as, although we are familiar with lockdowns, we have so little experience with the actual disease.

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