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  • hardie karges 9:21 pm on February 20, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Kosovo   

    Springtime in Kosovo 


    smoke ’em if you got ’em

    Kosovo is a mess.  Once the Roman province of Dardania, it became part of the medieval Serbian Empire, which withdrew after losing the Battle of Kosovo to the Ottoman Turks in 1389.  Still they never forgot, and always claimed it as their cradle of the culture.  Albanians claim their ancestors were here even before all that, and regardless, they greatly outnumbered the Serbs at the time of the fall of Ottoman Turkey, precise reconstructions of the past being tricky business, what with the fog of memory and all.  So when Slobodan Milosevic moved to limit Kosovo’s autonomy, tempers flared.  Following the Bosnian War in the 1990’s, the Kosovo question was left unaddressed, so they duked it out.  By this time, of course, NATO was in no mood for Serb atrocities, so they bombed Belgrade and proceeded to administer Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008.  That’s the way it stands to this day.  Euro is the best currency to have.  Serbo-Croatian and Albanian—and English—are the best languages to know.  Calling code?  Yeah, right…

    Have you been to Kosovo?  I was there in 2009…. (More …)

  • hardie karges 9:45 pm on February 18, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   


    ImageEastern Europe is the most exciting destination to open up for independent travel in years.  Not only are there gingerbread houses and wedding-cake villages, but the food is delicious and the people are friendly.  The variety is breathtaking, also.  Poland and the CzechRepublic may seem like extensions of their Western neighbors, but they are extensions that were frozen in time for almost fifty years before the Iron Curtain finally fell some twenty years ago.  Communism did nothing if not stop the clock, and what you find now are perfect specimens of old Europe, the one with the stunning architecture and the bustling city centers.  Places like Russia and Romania are something else entirely, of course, and Turkey is one of the most exotic and popular destinations in the world.  Best of all, prices in general are about half that of the West. 

    (More …)

  • hardie karges 6:33 pm on February 13, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Armenia, , , , ,   

    Yerevan Nights, Armaniac Drivers 


    Dinner with the duduk makers…

    YEREVAN is the capital of modern Armenia and can trace its history back to 782 BC as Yerebuni, making it among Europe’s oldest.  Sitting smack on the crossroads of space and time will put you through some changes, of course, and Yerevan has seen it all (or most of it, anyway) with Arabs, Persians, Ottomans, and Russians all leaving their piss tracks on Yerevan’s face.  Things were hard after independence, too, but are gradually getting better, with construction booming and the bars and clubs full.  They’ve even got bars in the parks, complete with sofas!  How’s that for service?  Still the symbol of Armenia, Mt.Ararat of Noah’s Ark fame, sits there in the distance, visible from any angle, across the border in Turkey.  Ouch!  That’s gotta’ hurt.  Armenians love to party; did I mention?  There are four hostels listed in the upcoming book, due out any day now, “Backpackers & Flashpackers: Eastern Europe,” with complete specs and contact info.  Have you been to Armenia?  Tell me (us) about it.  I was there in 2009: (More …)

  • hardie karges 9:10 pm on February 6, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Moscow,   

    There Is No Cow in Moscow 

    St. Basil's Cathedral on Red Square

    St. Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square

    MOSCOW is the heart of the Russian beast, of course, documented from at least the mid-12th century and prominent since the 1300’s as the Grand Duchy of Moscow.  Before that it was just a village on the river Moskva.  It lost some prominence in the 1700’s with the founding of Saint Petersburg, but regained it in the Soviet era.  It withstood the onslaught and sieges of Napoleon in the early 1800’s, ditto Hitler in WWII, so naturally became a little bit defensive about the challenge laid down by the US during the Cold War.   Already the head of a 15-nation USSR with a strong buffer zone in Europe’s own Warsaw Pact, Moscow increasingly found itself at the center of an empire spreading (ideologically at least) all over the world, first China and Mongolia then North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, with more to come, increasingly more totalitarian dictatorships than economic socialists—Angola, Ethiopia, Libya, Syria, Nicaragua, Afghanistan (sound of needle scratching long and hard over vinyl)—and the rest is history. (More …)

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