Paris Catacombs (S5.04)

Audio: Paris Catacombs

In this episode of 80 Days: An Exploration Podcast, we’ll be talking about Paris, or rather, what lies underneath it — The Paris Catacombs. What began as a network of mines beneath the city which spanned approximately 200 miles or 322 km soon morphed into something much more. A crisis in the 18th Century quite literally shook the foundations of the city, prompting the creation of an ossuary or network of catacombs beneath the city, which would go on to become home to generations of Parisien dead. Throughout the centuries, these catacombs have become a city beneath the city, and have been host to a number of wild and wonderful tales, including revolutions, occupations, secret cinemas and even heists. At this point, I’d normally tell you the population of the place we’re discussing, but we can only approximate for this one, and it’s possibly a record for this podcast — around six million, all of them (as far as we know) dead. 

Plan_cata_paris_1857_jms

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 feature music in this episode from friend of the show Will Woods. 

Saints_Innocents_1550_Hoffbauer

Cimetière des Saints-Innocents in around 1550 (via Wikipedia)

  • Plenty of additional media, articles and other info is available on the official website of the Catacombs.
  • Also check out Erin-Marie Legacey’s invaluable book ‘Making Space for the Dead’ here.
  • There’s plenty more that we didn’t discuss on the Cemetary of the Holy Innocents, which can be found here.
  • The Independent has an extensive piece on The Stones of Paris, aka Lutetian Limestone.
  • Wikipedia has an extensive article on the Danse Macabre, used and discussed in this episode.
  • More on Mushrooms? Gastro Obscura has you covered.
  • For more on the use of the Catacombs during the resistance, see Nigel Perrin’s full blog post here.
  • The Guardian has a full article on the 2017 wine theft we discussed.
  • This old tourist brochure from Archive.org has some really great photos and maps.
  • A brilliant article in The New Yorker entitled “The Invisible City Beneath Paris” is available here.
  • William Fetridge’s “The Rise and Fall of the Paris Commune”, quoted in this episode, can be found in full here.
  • The BBC also has a full podcast episode of their own dedicated to the Catacombs.

Thanks to all our patrons who support the show. We really appreciate your continued backing of us. If you want to join them, more information is available at www.patreon.com/80dayspodcast

Gabon (S5.03)

Audio: Gabon

In this episode of 80 Days: An Exploration Podcast, we’ll be talking about Gabon, officially the Gabonese Republic, an equatorial country on the west coast of Africa. Originally inhabited by Bantu tribes, the area we now know as Gabon was first explored by Europeans in the 15th Century. Local inhabitants began to sell slaves to Europeans in the 18th and 19th centuries, which established the region as a hub for the slave trade. In 1910, Gabon became one of the four territories of French Equatorial Africa, and fifty years later became fully independent. Since then, the politics of the country has been dominated by Omar Bongo, Gabon’s second president, and his son Ali Bongo, who succeeded him in 2009.

Gabon-map-features-locator

Gabon has a total land area of around 257,000 square km or just under 100,000 square miles, making it around the same size as the UK, New Zealand or the US state of Oregon. Gabon is bordered by Equatorial Guinea to the northwest, Cameroon to the north, the Republic of the Congo on the east and south. Gabon is home to just over 2.1 million people, with the vast majority of those being in Libreville, the largest city and capital, lying on the Komo River, near the Gulf of Guinea. The official language is French, although many Gabonese people speak various mother tongues according to their ethnic group, of which there are over 40.

Gabon is one of the most prosperous countries on the continent, with the fifth highest GDP per capita in all of Africa, while almost 85% of Gabon is covered by rainforests, 11% of which has been dedicated for national parks.

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. 

  • Some great examples of ancient ancestral Gabonese art can be found here.
  • For more on early history and archaeology, see iExplore.
  • You can watch a short documentary on the Punu-Lumbo mask at smarthistory.
  • For more on the life of the Dread Pirate Roberts, see here.
  • Liz Alden Wily has written an entire book on land rights in Gabon, which you can read in full online.
  • Christopher Chamberlain’s paper ‘The Migration of the Fang into Central Gabon during the Nineteenth Century: A New Interpretation’ can be found at JSTOR.
  • Gabon : beyond the colonial legacy by James Franklin Barnes can be read for free on archive.org.
  • For some more modern history (1960s onwards), see this page at the University of Central Arkansas.

Some music related to Gabon:

Thanks to all our patrons who support the show. We really appreciate your continued backing of us. If you want to join them, more information is available at www.patreon.com/80dayspodcast

Paraguay (S5.02)

Audio: Paraguay

In this episode of 80 Days: An Exploration Podcast, we’ll be talking about Paraguay, a small South American nation sometimes referred to as the “heart of South America”, bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. One of only two landlocked countries in South America, the other being Bolivia, Paraguay was home to a number of Native Indian groups, most prominently the Guarani, before being colonised by Spanish conquistadores in the early 1500s.

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During the 17th century, Paraguay became home to a large number of Jesuit missions, where the native Guaraní people were settled and converted to Christianity. Following independence from Spain in the early 19th century, the country was involved in a number of regional conflicts and subject to the whims of numerous dictatorial governments. This period culminated in the disastrous Paraguayan War, which began in 1864 and resulted in the country losing up to half of its prewar population and up to a third of its territory.  Since colonisation, the Guarani culture, language and traditions have remained integral to the country’s national identity, and the majority of modern day Paraguayans are mestizo, descending from a mix of settlers and Guarani. The country has around seven million inhabitants today, and has a land area of around 400,000 sq km or 150,000 sq miles, comparable in size to Norway and slightly smaller than the US state of California. Despite a history of poverty and political repression, Paraguay often ranks as the “world’s happiest place” based on global polling data.

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. 

Some further reading:

  • Do your homework if you haven’t already and check out our Uruguay episode from way back in season 2.
  • Read more on the Jasuka Venda discovery of human habitation dating to 5,000 years, displaying “footprint style rock art”
  • More on the indigenous groups, including the Payaguá (whence the name Paraguay), Guaycurú, M’bayá, Abipón, and Chiriguano.
  • Historian Adalberto Lopez has written extensively on this region. His book on the The Revolt of the Comuñeros, 1721–1735 can be found here.
  • For more on the life of the Guarani and how their traditions have persisted through to the modern day, check out this video, which Joe mentions toward the end of this episode.
  • The trailer for period film The Mission, in all its glory, can be found on YouTube.
  • The UNESCO World Heritage website has more on the Jesuit Missions of La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná and Jesús de Tavarangue.
  • The Library of Congress also has a wealth of info on Paraguay which can be found here.
  • Wikipedia has a whole article dedicated to the unique Paraguayan Flag.
  • This fascinating video shows how the Paraguayan War played out day by day using map visualisations.
  • Military Wiki also has an extensive article on Francisco Solano Lopez, who is discussed at length in this episode.
  • Historian Leslie Bethell has written a paper on the Paraguayan War which can be found here.
  • Thomas L Whigham’s book The Paraguayan War: Causes and Early Conduct, quoted in this episode, is also available in its entirety online is here.
  • Eliza Lynch has an extensive page over on Wikipedia.
  • The two 150th anniversary articles referenced on the impact of the war on Paraguay are available from The Economist and The Guardian.
  • The New York Times has an article on the 1887 Nueva Germania colony that Joe speaks about in his second section.
  • TIME has a piece on the Nazi outposts in San Bernadino that are discussed in this episode, as does OZY.
  • The US Library of Congress has a short paper on Paraguay and WWII.
  • Read more on Paraguay’s hydropower capabilities at hydropower.org.
  • José Felix Estigarribia, who Mark discusses in this episode, is profiled here at Britannica.
  • The graphic below gives an interesting indication of the plurality of languages spoken in Paraguay in the modern day.
  • For more on food, check out Culture Trip for 6 Traditional Foods You Have to Try in Paraguay

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

  • Sanapana music from the Gran Chaco tribe, taken from this video.
  • The polka song, written in Guarani by Emiliano Fernandez about the Chaco War and performed by Romón Vargas Colman, can be found here.
  • We also include some Paraguayan Harp in this episode, which you can find more of here.
  • For a selection of music from Augustin Barrios, one of Paraguay’s most famous musicians, click here.

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:

Kuril Islands (S3.06)

S03E06 Kuril Islands Audio

In this episode we’ll be talking about the Kuril Islands. This island chain is located in the Northern Pacific, and stretches between northern Japan and Kamchatka, Russia. The 56 islands extend for more than 750 miles across the ocean, and they total 10,500 square kilometers (4,000 square miles) of territory altogether, making their entire landmass roughly the same size as Lebanon or the island of Puerto Rico. The islands today have a population of roughly 20,000, and are controlled by Russia. However, the islands were previously administered by Japan  from the 18th century up until WWII, and have been subject to a land dispute ever since. Japan claims the southernmost islands as their ‘Northern Territories,’ and the conflict over them has led Moscow and Tokyo to avoid signing the peace treaty that would have formally ended the Second World War.

Your hosts, as always, 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 @thatthomasfella)

Flag of the Sakhalin Oblast, where the Kuril Islands are officially administered by Russia  Map showing Kuril Island chain between Hokkaido in Japan and Kamchatka in Russia. The sea of Okhotsk and the island of Sakhalin to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east

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

Joe was recently in Honshu and Hokkaido and took some photos, including from a Jomon-era archaeological site, and the the Museum of Northern Peoples in Hakodate, which listeners might find interesting. Well worth a visit if you’re ever in the neighbourhood

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Music from these islands and the neighbouring territories, some of which you heard, can be found at the following sources:

A massive thanks to all of our patrons on Patreon who are supporting season 3. If you’d like to join them and see what rewards are available for supporters, and get a peek behind the curtain check out www.patreon.com/80dayspodcast. We really appreciate the support and input!

Finally, here is a picture of some of the postcards sent from Hokkaido to our Neil Armstrong-tier patrons on Patreon – they truly are out of this world!

San Marino (S3.02)

S03E02 San Marino Audio

In this episode we’ll be talking about the Most Serene Republic of San Marino, the world’s oldest constitutional republic, and a country that is, in itself, a historical oddity. Similarly to other European microstates, such as Monaco, Liechtenstein and Andorra  it’s a relic of a time when borders were formed based on the area that a cannon could reach from a city’s walls. Founded on the slopes of Mount Titano in 301 AD, this tiny republic has seen the rest of Europe consolidate around it, surviving attacks by other self-governing Italian city-states, the Napoleonic Wars, the unification of Italy, and two world wars. Today, it’s borders are entirely enclosed by Italy, making it one of only three countries in the world to be enclosed by another nation.

It is the smallest independent state in Europe after Vatican City and Monaco and, until the independence of Nauru (1968), was the smallest republic in the world, at just 61 square kilometre (23.6 square miles). Tourism dominates the economy of modern day San Marino.  which plays host to more than three million visitors every year, while the republic is home to just over 30,000 people.

Your hosts, as always, 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 @thatthomasfella)

Flag of San Marino   

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

Music you heard was from the following sources:

A massive thanks to all of our patrons on Patreon who are supporting season 3. If you’d like to join them and see what rewards are available for supporters, and get a peek behind the curtain check out www.patreon.com/80dayspodcast. We really appreciate every penny!

Hong Kong, 1941 (Christmas Special)

Christmas 1941 – Hong Kong Audio

Merry Christmas from the 80 Days team! We hope you enjoy this Christmas themed “minisode” – this is a new, shorter and more focused format of episode we’re trying out before we launch Season 3. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this different style of storytelling (positive or negative), or indeed we’d love to hear your thoughts on anything on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @80dayspodcast or by email at 80dayspodcast@gmail.com

Best wishes for 2018, wherever you are around the world.

Birobidzhan, the Jewish Autonomous Oblast (S2.10)

Birobidzhan Audio Link

In this episode of 80 Days: An Exploration Podcast, we’ll be discussing the Jewish Autonomous Oblast (JAO), a somewhat independent region in the Russian Far East wedged between Siberia and Northern China. Its capital is the city of Birobidzhan, and with 75,000 inhabitants it is by far the most populated part of the region. For that reason, the name Birobidzhan is often used to refer to the whole area.

Officially founded in 1934 as an attempt to create a Jewish state within Russian borders, the territory was the world’s first attempt at a Jewish national homeland in modern times, and today is Russia’s only autonomous oblast. Aside from Israel, it is the world’s only officially Jewish territory. As of the 2010 Census, JAO’s population was 176,558 people, or 0.1% of the total population of Russia. Judaism is practiced by only 0.2% of the population of the JAO.

Биробиджан,_вокзальная_площадь

This special episode was commissioned by one our very generous Kickstarter backers, Ian Prince from New York (who does terrible things with food on Instagram). 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)

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The somewhat familiar-looking flag of Birobidzhan

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Some sources and further reading for this episode;

  • Masha Gessen’s Where The Jews Aren’t was the basis for this commissioned episode, you can find it on Amazon here, or listen to the author talk about it on NPR’s Fresh Air here
  • We also relied heavily on this excellent multimedia gallery from Swarthmore College, entitled Stalin’s Forgotten Zion.
  • An interview from People’s World with Masha Gessen provides some solid background on the region.
  • We mentioned the RT profile of Birobidzhan in this episode, you can find that here on YouTube.
  • The New York Times profiled Birobidzhan back in 2012. It’s worth a read.
  • The book Jews and Jewish Life in Russia and the Soviet Union by Yaacov Ro’i has some interesting info on the JAO and wider context surrounding Jewish communities in Russia.
  • If you’re interesting in learning more about Stalin in particular, you can check out our episode from earlier this season on Georgia, birthplace of “Joe Steel”.
  • Michigan State University has a good article on the history of the region, as well as some visual essays here.

Thanks to Louise Ireson, John Killeen, Simon Greene for your support on Kickstarter. Thanks too to Rabbi Eliyahu Riss in Birobidzhan for interviewing with us.

We also need to thank our sponsor for the season 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”.

This will be the final episode for this season, but never fear, we’ll be back with more obscure goodness soon. We’re extremely grateful to everyone who’s supported us over the past year and a bit of podcasting, and if you want to hear more stay subscribed to the feed and keep an eye on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

We’ll see you soon!

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”.

Newfoundland (S2.04)

S02E04: Newfoundland Audio

In this episode of 80 Days: an exploration podcast, we return to the north of North America and explore  Newfoundland, a Canadian island in the North Atlantic.  At over 100,000 square kilometres (40,000 sq mi), Newfoundland is the world’s 16th-largest island, and Cape Spear, just south of the capital, St Johns, is the easternmost point of North America, excluding Greenland. Newfoundland has long been a sparsely populated and harsh land, with residents traditionally relying heavily on fishing to survive. The area has a significant Gaelic heritage, with strong connections to Ireland and Britain. Modern-day Newfoundland has a population of just under half a million, and is the most populous part of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

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). Our guest contributor this week is Dr Philip Hiscock (Department of Folklore, Memorial University, Newfoundland)

Table of Contents:
[01:16] Intro
[01:57] Early history – indigenous peoples and pushy Catholics
[09:00] Eric the Red – bad egg/ass
[13:00] Soil update – no codding you
[20:10] As usual the British turn up
[25:40] 80 Days Guest Dr Philip Hiscock – with some local knowledge
[30:00] The French arrive and shrug disinterestedly
[41:54] Beothuk people try to avoid conflict… uh oh
[47:40] Census, politics and telegraphy
[54:11] World wars, & reluctant Canadification
[1:09:06] I’m here from the government and I’m here to help (resettlement, cod & seals)
[1:20:24] 9/11 “We’re diverting you to Newfoundland. All of you.”

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

There is a lot of music (particularly Irish-inspired folk), some examples of which we would recommend if you enjoyed what you heard in the episode:

Thanks this week to Dr Jenn Jones and Jeffrey Doker, who backed our Kickstarter campaign. Your t-shirts should be on their way to you already. Thanks 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 http://www.hairybaby.com by using our promo code – just listen in to the episode for exact details.