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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

More Silk Road Adventures - The Caucasus

 

 

 

Having, in several trips, followed the Silk Road from Xian and Urumqi in China across Tajikistan and Uzbekistan our next visit had to be to the Caucuses.  So in May 2019 we purchased an organised tour to Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia from ExPat Explore.  If this is all that interests you you might want to skip straight to Azerbaijan. Click here...

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Fiction, Recollections & News

More on Technology and Evolution

 

 

 

 

 

I recently read and commented on Dan Brown's latest novel 'Origin' in which the question 'where are we going?' is answered in suggesting an ever greater human symbiosis with technology.  But what if that's not all?

Regular readers will know that I have an artificial heart valve.  Indeed many people have implanted prosthesis, from metal joints or tooth fillings to heart pacemakers and implanted cochlear hearing aides, or just eye glasses or dentures.   Some are kept alive by drugs.  All of these are ways in which our individual survival has become progressively more dependent on technology.  So that should it fail many would suffer.  Indeed some today feel bereft without their mobile phone that now substitutes for skills, like simple mathematics, that people once had to have themselves.  But while we may be increasingly transformed by tools and implants, the underlying genes, conferred by reproduction, remain human.

The possibility of accelerated genetic evolution through technology was brought nearer last week when, on 28 November 2018, a young scientist, He Jiankui, announced, at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong, that he had successfully used the powerful gene-editing tool CRISPR to edit a gene in several children.

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Opinions and Philosophy

Energy and a ‘good life’

 

 

 

Energy

With the invention of the first practical steam engines at the turn of the seventeenth century, and mechanical energy’s increasing utility to replace the physical labour of humans and animals, human civilisation took a new turn.  

Now when a contemporary human catches public transport to work; drives the car to socialise with friends or family; washes and dries their clothes or the dishes; cooks their food; mows their lawn; uses a power tool; phones a friend or associate; or makes almost anything;  they use power once provided by slaves, servants or animals.

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