|Travel in a time of coronavirus
I started this blog as a celebration of travel and this crazy, fabulous planet, but with Covid-19 closing borders for months, possibly years, any new adventures are on hold for the foreseeable future. In the meantime I’ll be delving into my diaries and scanning my old travel slides to bring you some stories and photos from the past 25 years.
1. A sentimental longing for a past time in the Czech Republic.
I moved to what was then still called Czechoslovakia in early 1992. It was mid-winter but some of my new friends insisted on taking me for a walk in the South Bohemian countryside. The Czech love of hiking, incidentally, is one of the things that quickly made me feel at home.
At one point we emerged from a shady spruce forest and saw before us a rolling landscape blanketed in fresh snow. Smoke curled from farmhouse chimneys and steeples marked distant villages. Below us a horse was pulling a cart across a frozen field.
It’s one of my most vivid memories from those first few weeks in Central Europe. I grew up in a place where snow falls once a decade, if you’re lucky, so I felt like I’d landed in another world. It was like being inside one of those kitschy Christmas cards that seemed so unreal when I was a kid.
These photos were taken during the final year of Czechoslovakia and the first couple of years of the Czech Republic. It’s a pretty random selection that includes a few tourist drawcards but mostly they’re just places or moments that have meaning for me. Some of them — such as view from the railway yards footbridge in České Budějovice — are about as far from tourist attractions as you can get but I liked them anyway.
I also liked the faded, peeling plasterwork that used to characterise historic buildings anywhere in Eastern Europe. I even liked the plume of coal smoke from the city heating plant chimney, because its size told you how cold it was before you even stepped outside the door.
I’ve included photos taken from the windows of my various homes because that’s the view you see, and appreciate, most often. The pictures are arranged by season, from autumn through to summer, rather than geographically.
Some of the places captured here no longer exist. The grey communist-era apartment buildings have since been painted in bold primary colours. Peeling plasterwork has been patched up. You won’t see any more Trabants (an infamous plastic-bodied East German car) and I doubt you’ll still see horse-drawn carts plodding through the snow. For all I know they’ve probably even cleaned up the city heating plant.
Click on the previews to see full-size images.