Kaliningrad-Koenigsberg (S5.01)

 

Audio: Kaliningrad / Koenigsberg

We’re (finally) kicking off season five! In this episode of 80 Days: An Exploration Podcast, we’ll be talking about Kaliningrad, formerly Koenigsberg, a city on the Pregolya River, at the head of the Vistula Lagoon on the Baltic Sea. This city has a storied history, having been originally established as a Sambian or Old Prussian settlement, before being administered by the State of the Teutonic Order, the Duchy of Prussia, the Kingdom of Prussia, the German Empire, the Weimar Republic, and Nazi Germany. Shortly after the second world war, Königsberg and the lands surrounding it were incorporated into the USSR, being renamed Kaliningrad.

City Flag of Kaliningrad

City Flag of Kaliningrad

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As a major transport hub, the city is home to the headquarters of the Baltic Fleet of the Russian Navy, and is one of the largest industrial centres in Russia. It is situated within the Kaliningrad Oblast, which is separated by around 400km from the next nearest Russian Oblast, bordered by Poland to the south, Lithuania to the north and east, and the Baltic Sea to the west. It is therefore impossible to travel overland between the Oblast and the rest of Russia without passing through at least two other countries. As of 2010, only a small number of ethnic Germans remain in the city, with most of residents being recent immigrants from other parts of the former Soviet Union. With a population of around 450,000, the city is similar in size to Miami, Florida, or Tallinn, Estonia, and is the 40th largest city in Russia. Kaliningrad and the lands surrounding are home to the world’s largest deposits of amber, with over 90% of the world’s supply.

Flag of Kaliningrad Oblast

Flag of Kaliningrad Oblast

Your hosts, as always, are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Dublin, Ireland, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Galway, Ireland. Our theme music and other stings come from Thomas O’Boyle @thatthomasfella. We also have to give huge thanks to Professor Nicole Eaton of Boston College for her help with this episode, and for giving us a sneak preview of her upcoming book (German Blood, Slavic Soil: How Nazi Germany Became Soviet Kaliningrad (Cornell UP, Fall 2022)). 

Some further reading:

  • One of the few remaining remnants of Old Prussian culture are the so-called “babas” (or “Old Hags”) which are stone figures up to 2m tall of warriors and priests scattered around Poland. Read more about them on Atlas Obscura.
  • Read more on the Sambians and their burial traditions here.
  • The 1963 book Balts by Gimbutas, Marija is available on Archive.org
  • PrussianHistory.org also contains a Short History of Koenigsberg.
  • For more on the Order of the Teutonic Knights, see imperialteutonicorder.com.
  • The architectural history and significance of Koenigsberg Cathedral, as well as some excellent archival photographs see here.
  • For more of the Battle of Grunwald, which Mark mentions in his section, see here.
  • Brandenburg-Prussia, in all it’s glory, can be seen in the map below:
Brandenburg-Prussia within and outside of the Holy Roman Empire (1618)

Some music by composers from in and around this city include:

Minisode: Christmas Stories

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Minisode: Christmas Stories

In this festive episode of 80 Days: An Exploration Podcast, we’re inviting you all to join us for a little festive celebration, after what’s been a very hard year for many of you out there. On the menu we have three Christmas stories, as well as a surprise or two, and a short sneak preview of what’s to come in season 5. We really want to take the time to thank our patrons, many of whom joined us in the past 12 months, so we’ll be sprinkling our thanks to them throughout this episode.

Your hosts, as always, are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Dublin, Ireland, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Kildare, Ireland. Brand spanking new minisode theme music comes from Thomas O’Boyle @thatthomasfella. Cover image from Алсу Ягудина on Unsplash.

Svalbard (S4.10)

S04E10 Svalbard Audio

In this episode of 80 Days: an exploration podcast, we’ll be talking about Svalbard (also known as Spitsbergen), a small polar archipelago off the northern coast of Norway. Svalbard is by far the most northerly place we’ve covered on the show, lying roughly midway between continental Norway and the North Pole, around 580 miles (930 km) north of Tromsø, Norway. The archipelago consists of nine main islands, the main island being Spitsbergen, which makes up over half of the land area. In total, Svalbard has a land area of around 24,209 square miles (62,700 square km), making it similar in size to Sri Lanka or the US state of West Virginia. There are only 2,500 permanent residents here, most of whom live in the main city of Longyearbyen. First settled as an arctic whaling base in the 17th century, the islands later saw the establishment of coal mining towns, but in recent years Svalbard’s main economic lifeline has been tourism and arctic research, both of which have boomed recently. Due to its extreme northern latitude, in the summer, the sun does not set on Svalbard for 4 months, while in the winter the archipelago goes weeks without any sunlight at all. Svalbard is also notable for being home to the Global Seed Vault, while as of 2012, all residents must carry a gun while travelling outside an established settlement, in case they encounter one of the many polar bears that live nearby.

Your hosts, as always, are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Dublin, Ireland, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Kildare, Ireland . (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle @thatthomasfella)


Thanks to Dr Ciaran McDonough (@metamedievalist), Sonja Murto, Aengus Ó Maoláin and Roxana Cremer (@cloudcycling) for talking to us about their first-hand experiences visiting or living in Svalbard. They were invaluable to giving us a full picture of the place.

Some further reading:

  • More on the Pomors, believed to be some of the earliest inhabitants of this region can be found here.
  • The Svalbard Museum has a wonderful section on their website about whaling in the Arctic.
  • An August 1906 article in Nature entitled “The Early History of Spitsbergen” can be found here.
  • For more on Basque whaling, see NABO’s article here.
  • Svalbard-Spitsbergen.com has more reading on the charming-sounding settlement of Smeerenberg, also known as “Blubbertown”.
  • The article concerning Horatio Nelson’s visit to Spitsbergen can be found here.
  • For more on the early scientific expeditions on Svalbard, see this article from Svalbard-Spitsbergen.com
  • The Svalbard Museum has more on hunting and trapping, as well as the discovery of coal.
  • One of the travel guides we referenced on Svalbard can be found for free on Google Books.
  • The “Tragedy at Swedish House” is detailed in an article in Polar Record, which can be found here.
  • You can read more on the history of the Dutch settlement on Barenstburg on visitsvalbard.com.
  • Military Wiki has an extensive article on Operation Gauntlet, which was discussed in this episode.
  • You can read more on the King’s Bay Affair here.
  • An article on Medium details the doomed Vnukovo Airlines Flight 2801, entitled “The crash that changed Svalbard forever.”
  • Thinking of visiting Pyramiden? It’s here on TripAdvisor.
  • Future North: The Changing Arctic Landscape, referenced in this episode, can be found on Google Books here.
  • Take a virtual tour of the Global Seed Vault here, or learn more about it by listening to Endless Thread‘s episode “The Vault
  • This American Life: episode 630 “Things I Mean to Know”, about the Novaya Zemlaya Effect
  • Bowhead [whales] are jazz” article about baleen whalesong and its surprising diversity

Music:

Videos:

Luxembourg (S4.04)

S04E04 Luxembourg Audio

In this episode of 80 Days: An Exploration Podcast, we’ll be talking about Luxembourg, a small, landlocked European country at one of the central crossroads of Europe, bordered by Belgium, France and Germany.  Officially known as the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the country has around 600,000 inhabitants and spans a total area of around 2,500 square kilometres or 1,000 square miles, making it roughly the same size as Hong Kong and about two thirds the size of the smallest US state – Rhode Island. The world’s only remaining Grand Duchy, it has been referred to throughout history as the ‘Gibraltar of the North’ for its strong fortifications and although that fortress has been occupied many times throughout its long history, since the 10th century it has always been a separate, if not autonomous, political entity. Today, the capital city of Luxembourg is one of three capitals of the European Union and is much better known for its financial prowess rather than its military fortifications. Most citizens here are at least trilingual, speaking French, German and Luxembourgish, and although it has one of the EU’s smallest populations, Luxembourg also has the fastest-growing population in Europe.

Location of .mw-parser-output .nobold{font-weight:normal}Luxembourg (dark green) – in Europe (green & dark grey) – in the European Union (green)

This episode, just like all of our recent ones, is supported by our Patreon backers. If you want to help out the show, you can help out by joining us over on www.patreon.com/80dayspodcast to give us whatever you can in terms of financial support and avail of all the lovely awards and extras that entitles you to. If you’re unable to support us financially, you can always leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts from.

Joe visited Luxembourg for us to do some research. Here are some photos from around the city and its fortifications:

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Your hosts, as always, are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Ireland . (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle @thatthomasfella)


Some further reading:

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Faroe Islands (S4.01)

S04E01 Faroe Islands Audio

In this episode of 80 Days: an exploration podcast, we’ll be talking about Faroe Islands, an autonomous group of islands in the North East Atlantic. Home to almost 50,000 people and with historical links to Denmark, Faroe Islands is a country within the Kingdom of Denmark, but has a distinct culture all of its own, in part due to their isolation and remoteness from the Danish mainland (and pretty much everywhere else also.)

The Faroe Islands have probably been inhabited since approximately 300 AD onwards according to archaeological evidence, but the first full settlement was established by legendary figure Grimur Kamban. The Faroe Althing, may be the oldest parliament in the world if, as thought, it was established in approximately 900AD. Faroe Islands were occupied by the British during World War 2 in order to prevent invasion by Nazi Germany. Fishing has always been a mainstay of the economy and advances in technology versus depleted fishing stocks have had opposing impacts on the fragile fortunes of the archipelago.

We also had the pleasure of speaking to Arni Zachariassen, a local Faroese who was able to give us plenty of interesting insights into the local culture and mindset. Big thanks to him for his time! (Listen to Arni on The Faroe Islands Podcast many years ago here)

This episode, is the first of Season 4, and while many things in life change, (Joe has just taken to wearing jaunty hats for example) our need for your support has not. If you like the show, and want to support, you can do us a major service by joining us over on www.patreon.com/80dayspodcast to give us whatever you can in terms of financial support and avail of all the lovely awards and extras that entitles you to.

If you do not have a ha’penny of course, firstly God bless you, but also you can help us for free by giving us an ole five star review on Apple Podcasts.

Waterfall at Gásadalur. Photo by Ævar Guðmundsson on Flickr | Creative Commons 2.0 By Attribution License

Your hosts, as always, are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Ireland . (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle @thatthomasfella)


Some further reading:

Music:

  • Tróndur’s curse on the Christians was the subject of a poem by Janus Djurhuus (1881-1948)  set to music by successful folk metal group Týr (1998-now)! https://youtu.be/E9AwVjRbhto?t=144
  • Flanders and Swann’s satirical song “Rockall
  • An extract of “Lívsmynd” by Xperiment
  • The text of the poem “The Death of St Brendan” by JRR Tolkien, which you heard, can be found here
  • Watch: Sigmuds kvaedi – ring dance

 

Exclaves in Switzerland (Minisode)

In this minisode, Joe explores, literally, the idea of an exclave after wandering into one a couple of years ago. Although we’ve covered a couple of enclaves in the past (including San Marino and The Gambia), this episode is the first time we’ve examined the opposite concept – a tiny piece of a country marooned inside another’s borders.

This is also something of a personal episode for Joe (@anbeirneach), as it marks an end to his time living in Switzerland. Luke (@thelukejkelly) and Mark (@markboyle86) also feature, and we discuss briefly our upcoming fourth season, which is due in a couple of weeks.

For the curious, you can find more on the German enclave of Büsingen am Hochrhein  here on Atlas Obscura, or read this article on BigThink. The New York Times article quoted in the episode can be found here, and further reading on Campione d’Italia can be found here and here. Photo’s from Joe’s trips to the exclaves can be found here.

Here is a summary of some data and statistics:

Name: Büsingen am Hochrhein Campione d’Italia
Population: 1,350 pop 2,190
Currency: €, official (CHF, de facto; DM, formerly) CHF, official (€, accepted)
Area: 7.62 square kilometres 1.6 square kilometres
Border 17.141 km
Country: Germany Italy
Meaning: Settlement of the People of Boso Campilonum – a Roman fort
Separation from country: Cut off by 500m Cut off by 1 km

In addition to our theme music by the talented Thomas O’Boyle, this episode featured a lot of music and sound effects, graciously made available for free by contributors at FreeSound.org, Free Music Archive and Incompatech, for use under a Creative Commons license, by attribution.

The pieces of music you heard under the text were “Swiftwind” and “How I Used to See the Stars” by Lee Rosevere, licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0. The Overture of Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino” was performed by the University of Chicago Symphony Orchestra (musical director Barbara Schubert), used under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0.

Alphorn music and yodelling clips (from the Eidgenössisches Jodlerfest in Brig), as well as the Uileann pipes from the Uileann Pipers Club Schaffhausen Festival were recorded on location by Joe.

 

The side-by-side Swiss and German phone boxes in Buesingen

The side-by-side Swiss and German phone boxes in Buesingen

A beautifully Germanic house in Buesingen

A beautifully Germanic house in Buesingen

 

The shorefront at Campione d'Italia, complete with Italian flag

The shorefront at Campione d’Italia, complete with Italian flag

Italian police car passing in front of the now-shuttered casino in Campione d'Italia

Italian police car passing in front of the now-shuttered casino in Campione d’Italia

 

Runnymede, 1215

Runnymede minisode audio

Our second “minisode” focuses on the events that happened in Runnymede, England in 1215, when King John of England sealed a deal with his rebellious barons to bring some peace to his kingdom.

Thanks to Sam Hume from the History of Witchcraft Podcast for lending us his voice to give life to King John. Music this week comes from Lee Rosevere, and is used under Creative Commons License 3.0 (by attribution).

Liechtenstein (S2.09)

S02E09 Liechtenstein Audio

In this episode of 80 Days: an exploration podcast,  we’ll be talking about Liechtenstein,  a tiny European principality, sandwiched between Switzerland and Austria that is still ruled by the same family since the early 18th century. In a small valley towards the beginning of the mighty Rhine river, it was frequented by the Romans and incorporated into the empire before that all went sideways and the Vandals earned their name. After passing through the infuential spheres of central Europe through the centuries they were eventually taken over by the Liechtenstein family in a bid to get more favor with the Austro-Hungarian Empire (which worked a treat as it happened.) They side-stepped the devastation of World War 2 and spent the latter half of the 20th century becoming a financial services powerhouse, while also making a surprisingly successful go of manufacturing – dentures and drills in particular. Builders drills. Not dentists drills. Though there’s a business plan in there somewhere.

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Liechtenstein – strong contender for the nicest place we’ve profiled. Apologies to Liberia…

Your hosts are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Switzerland/Liechtenstein. (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle)

liliechtensteinrap

In a break from our normal desktop research, we sent the intrepid Joe Byrne into the field with the savage Liechtensteiners to risk his life in doing some field research. Turns out it’s super safe and lovely. Who knew? Well you did if you listened in, as well as the chilled out nature of the locals and how normal it is to just run into some royalty if you live there.

Proof of Joe’s expedition below-

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That’s Joe there, showcasing the Liechtenstein flag like a boss.

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Above are a selection of photos from Liechtenstein, including the Roman ruins and the bronze Celtic figurines discussed in the episode. More photos can be seen here.

Here are some HOTLINKS (guitar solo here) to give you all the extra background you apparently weren’t sufficed with in our mega-bumper podcast, you info-hungry maniac:

Some music associated with Liechtenstein:

Thanks to Sarah O’Farrell and Niall O’Leary for your support on Kickstarter and Sinéad Dowling who helped our man on the ground Joe Byrne with his visit and research. Thanks too to Martin Meier for a useful conversation and Donat Büchel, curator of the Liechtensteinische Landesmuseum for some assistance. Special thanks to students Julia and Sebbi from the Liechtensteinische Gymnasium (High School) for a long and informative interview – they make videos that can be found on YouTube.

Thanks too to our sponsor Hairy Baby, who in addition to making the funniest Irish-themed t-shirts, have also produced the official 80 Days shirt for our supporters. Find it by clicking here. You can get 10% off anything on www.hairybaby.com by using our promo code “80DAYS”.

Georgia or “Sakartvelo” (S2.07)

S02E07 Georgia Audio

In this episode of 80 Days: an exploration podcast we’ll be talking about Georgia. Not the US state, but the country in the south caucasus, known to its inhabitants as “Sakartvelo”. This former Soviet Republic is nestled between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, and is home to around 3.7 Million people with a history dating back thousands of years. Throughout its history, Georgia has been subject to numerous larger powers, including the Mongols, the Ottoman Empire, and dynasties of Persia (Iran) and the Soviet Union. As the Iron Curtain fell, Georgia declared its independence and has operated as a modern Republic ever since. It’s neighbour to the North, Russia, however, has ensured that Georgia’s hold over independence has never been as secure as most Georgians would like. Ethnic conflicts and economic turmoil beset the country throughout the 1990s, culminating in the brief Russo-Georgian war of 2008, from which tensions still remain to this day.  

Your hosts are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Switzerland . (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle)

Map of Georgia, indicating disputed areas

Here are a few things you may want to read/watch more about:

The stunning mountain fortress of Vardzia today (Wikimedia Commons)

Most of the music in this episode were examples of Georgian polyphonic singing, a very important style of music, being the oldest polyphonic music in the world (singled out by UNESCO as a vital aspect of cultural heritage).Some examples are:

  • “Chakrulo”, which was one of 27 musical compositions included on the Voyager Golden Records that were sent into space on Voyager 2 on 20 August 1977.
  • Here’s another example in the “Georgia and the Great Caucasus” documentary

Georgian folk dancing is also a wonderful tradition, here are a few videos of that:

Finally, we promised to include the video of the insane baptism rituals available in the Georgian Orthodox Church, so from EuroNews, here it is:

A massive thanks to the inimitable Gary O’Daly and Jeffrey Dokar, two of the backers of our recent Kickstarter Campaign – thank you for making Season 2 possible. Big thanks also to Mariam Kalandarshvili for talking to us and helping us understand (and pronounce) some elements of Georgian history; we now know that the capital is T’bee-lee-see! Thanks too to our sponsor Hairy Baby, who in addition to making the funniest Irish-themed t-shirts, have also produced the official 80 Days shirt for our supporters. Find it by clicking here. You can get 10% off anything on www.hairybaby.com by using our promo code “80DAYS”.

Lapland or “Sápmi” (Christmas Special)

Christmas Special: Lapland audio

For the festive season, 80 Days brings you a Christmas special on the most appropriate place we could think of, complete with reindeer and Santa Claus: Lapland, or – as the native Sami people prefer to call it – Sápmi. This is a large region of Fennoscandanavia, north of the Arctic Circle, with its territory spanning parts of Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russia (see map). This episode will touch on all areas of Lapland, but will focus primarily on the Finnish and Norwegian sides. The area is named for the indigenous people (and their specific language grouping), who have sparsely inhabited the region for several thousand years. 

In Lapland, winter lasts from early October to early May, with temperatures well below freezing throughout the region and up to 60 cm or 23 inches of snow during midwinter. However, in summer the sun does not set on the region for several weeks at a time.  Population has declined quite significantly since 1990, and the region is now home to approximately 180,000 people. Residents are spread across a total area of just over 100,000 square kilometers, or 38,000 square miles, and there are as many reindeer here as there are people. Your hosts are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach, in Hong Kong, the UK and Switzerland, respectively. (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle)

File:Corrected Sapmi in Europe.PNGFile:Sami flag.svg

Some things you might like to know more about:

Toppkandidater Vesthavet valgkrets.jpg

File:Hram Sv Simeona Mirotočivog (Novi Beograd) 040.jpgFile:USMC-101208-M-8527P-077.jpg

  • A lot has been written about Lapland’s most famous resident and how he came to be here. Most of it is mysterious and people make some wild guesses (often not true), but here, in no particular order, are a few resources that might be useful about Santa Claus and his village near Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland. Who is St. Nicholas (about his early years in Myra); Andrea McDonald’s account of visitingHistory of Santa Claus (on the-north-pole.com), Santa Claus and His Works (New York Times piece describing the contributions of artist Thomas Nast to the image of Santa’s snowy abode); Head to Finnish Lapland… (a 2009 article in the Independent, including descriptions of Santa’s village); Checking Out Santa’s Workshop in Lapland (a 1988 article in the LA Times describing visiting Santa in Rovaniemi). For the more cynical, a stuffy article on postmodernism and Finnish tourism policy can be found here (for all the Scrooges out there!).
  • You can often watch people visiting Santa live (or look back at earlier recordings) at this website, which is wonderfully magic

We hope you have a happy Christmas and a wonderful new year and that you are looking forward to joining us for Season 2 in the coming months. As always, please get in touch if you are enjoying what you are hearing or have anything to share with us!

 

Find out about our Christmas Kickstarter campaign by clicking here. With your help we can make Season 2 even better than Season 1!
(https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/80dayspodcast/80-days-podcast-season-2)