*be sceptical - take nothing for granted!    
Unless otherwise indicated all photos © Richard McKie 2005 - 2020

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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

Berlin

 

 

 

I'm a bit daunted writing about Berlin.  

Somehow I'm happy to put down a couple of paragraphs about many other cities and towns I've visited but there are some that seem too complicated for a quick 'off the cuff' summary.  Sydney of course, my present home town, and past home towns like New York and London.  I know just too much about them for a glib first impression.

Although I've never lived there I've visited Berlin on several occasions for periods of up to a couple of weeks.  I also have family there and have been introduced to their circle of friends.

So I decided that I can't really sum Berlin up, any more that I can sum up London or New York, so instead I should pick some aspects of uniqueness to highlight. 

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Fiction, Recollections & News

Australia in the 1930s

 

 

These recollections are by Ross Smith, written when he was only 86 years old; the same young man who subsequently went to war in New Britain; as related elsewhere on this website [read more...].  We learn about the development of the skills that later saved his life and those of others in his platoon.  We also get a sense of what it was to be poor in pre-war Australia; and the continuity of that experience from the earlier convict and pioneering days from which our Australia grew.                   *

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Opinions and Philosophy

The demise of books and newspapers

 

 

Most commentators expect that traditional print media will be replaced in the very near future by electronic devices similar to the Kindle, pads and phones.  Some believe, as a consequence, that the very utility of traditional books and media will change irrevocably as our ability to appreciate them changes.  At least one of them is profoundly unsettled by this prospect; that he argues is already under way. 

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