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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

Bridge over the River Kwai

 

 

In 1957-58 the film ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai‘ was ground breaking.  It was remarkable for being mainly shot on location (in Ceylon not Thailand) rather than in a studio and for involving the construction and demolition of a real, fully functioning rail bridge.   It's still regarded by many as one of the finest movies ever made. 

One of the things a tourist to Bangkok is encouraged to do is to take a day trip to the actual bridge.

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Fiction, Recollections & News

The Cloud

 

 

 

 

 Chapter 1 - The Party

 

 

 

This morning Miranda had an inspiration - real candles!  We'll have real candles - made from real beeswax and scented with real bergamot for my final party as a celebration of my life and my death. This brief candle indeed!

In other circumstances she would be turning 60 next birthday.  With her classic figure, clear skin and dark lustrous hair, by the standards of last century she looks half her age, barely thirty, the result of a good education; modern scientific and medical knowledge; a healthy diet and lifestyle and the elimination of inherited diseases before the ban on such medical interventions. 

It's ironical that except as a result of accidents, skiing, rock climbing, paragliding and so on, Miranda's seldom had need of a doctor.  She's a beneficiary of (once legal) genetic selection and unlike some people she's never had to resort to an illegal back-yard operation to extend her life. 

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Opinions and Philosophy

Climate Change - a Myth?

 

 

 

Back in 2015 a number of friends and acquaintances told me that Climate Change is a myth.

Half a decade on and some still hold that view.  So here I've republished a slightly longer version of the same article.

Obviously the doubters are talking about 'Anthropogenic Global Warming', not disclaiming actual changes to the climate.  For those of us of a 'certain age' our own experience is sufficient to be quite sure of that the climate is continuously changing. During our lifetimes the climate has been anything but constant.  Else what is drought and flood relief about?  And the ski seasons have definitely been variable. 

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