"Geopolitical" trips

(Last update April 2021)

 

My Top 5
 

Berlin : Fall of the Wall (November 1989)
Somalia & Somaliland : a very interesting but quite stressful trip partly with military escort (2019) !
Afghanistan : a real 'geopolitical' visit !  (2019) 
North Korea : twice, quite in depth (1999, 2012)
Colombia : a trip with the FARC to their former Andean stronghold (2020)

 

 

 

Afghanistan

Wearing an afghan attire in order to be unnoticed, I saw Kabul, Herat, Mazar-E-Charif and Bamyan (by plane ; by road would be close to suicidal !), and by car : the Panjshir Valley (home of Massoud, the 'Lion of Panjshir') ; Balkh & Samangan from Mazar-E-Charif ; Bamyan & Band-E-Amir lakes (2019).

 

Bosnia & Croatia

Long after my first two trips there (1965 & 1968) when these two countries were part of communist Yugoslavia, I went there, by local public buses, in 1996 just after the Dayton Peace Agreement (December 1995) which put an end to the war that torn down former Yugoslavia (1993 - 1995).

I went to heavily battled sites in Croatia
- Osijek (on the border with Serbia) (site of the Battle of Osijek, from August 1991 to June 1992,  one of the major battles of the Croatian War of Independence),
- Serbian Krajina, where the largest act of ethnic cleansing of the entire Yugoslav conflict of the 1990s took place (300,000 Krajina Serbs were driven from their ancestral homes...) ; a ghostly empty region with nearly all houses destroyed or damaged.

As well as to major war sites in Bosnia :
- Banja Luka (capital of the Republika Srpska entity), Sarajevo, Tuzla, Mostar.    

                                                
I went back in Bosnia-Herzegovina (including Republika Srpska) in 2019. Nothing much remained of the conflict, except some memorials (among them, the very moving Srebenica Memorial) & some ruined buildings in Mostar, numerous abandoned houses in the region near the Croatian border and in Srebenica area.

 

Central African Republic

Thru this war-torn country after the 2013 / 2015 civil war, still unsafe (2017).

 

Colombia

AI went to Colombia for my 4th time, this time a very special trip with ETIC 2020 (Extreme Travelers International Congress 2020).
After having met Timochenko, leader of the FARC party and former number 1 of the guerilla war,  I went to Marquetalia, lead by former guerillas, deep in the Andes, a trip involving 15 hours by car and 4x4 followed by an 8 kms trek. 
Marquetalia, just a camp on top of a plateau far away, is the 'cradle' of the FARC. The 'República de Marquetalia' was an autonomous region set in 1958 and uncontrolled by the Colombian government from 1958 to 1964. It was retaken by the Colombian army in June 1964. Most of the guerillas managed to escape and started the 'Fuerzas armadas revolucionarias de Colombia' (FARC). The resistance opposed by the guerillas to the military attack against Marquetalia is fundamental for the FARC : they consider May 27, 1964, date of the first major clash with the army, as their anniversary date. 
Since the November 2016 peace agreements, this mythical site is now reachable. Following securization of the area by some 150 soldiers (some FARC guerillas do not accept the peace agreements and could have threatened us ...), we were the first foreigners to go there (except UN) (2020).

 

Eritrea

I visited this newly independent state 6 months after it gained independence from Ethiopia in April 1993, following a long wara which ended in 1991 (another war started just after independence …). 
Numerous scars of the fierce fights which occurred were visible (1993
).

 

Germany

Berlin : Fall of the wall (November 9th) ; I took immediately the train to Berlin and was there just a couple of days afterwards and saw East Berliners 'sitting' on the Wall and rushing to West Berlin thru it. Amazing to be part of the most important event since WWII and to share the happiness of these people to be freed from the communist dictatorship (November 1989).

 

Irak

Irak under Saddam Hussein's rule, between First Gulf War (1991) & Second Gulf War (2003).
A quite detailed tour around Irak, very safe then and on the road to a later aborted prosperity, including, among other places,, Mosul, Samarra, Tikrit, Khorsabad, Kerbala, Nadjaf, Nassiriyah & Bassorah (2001).

In 2018, I made another quite extensive trip across all Kurdistan, a very welcoming country, still part of Irak.

 

Kosovo

A very complete travel there, 3 years after independence. Including the tense Serb-majority municipality of Mitrovica (2011).

 

Lebanon

Visited all Lebanon 2,5 years after the end of the 15 years civil war (which ended in October 1990) ; Beirut was still heavily destroyed (1993). I went again in Lebanon in 1996.

 

North Korea

I always wanted to see by myself this very special country. I therefore went there twice, individually and each time was fantastic ! 
- First time : By train from Beijing to Pyongyang. Individual tour covering West of North Korea : Pyongyang, Kaesong, Panmunjon & Myohyang (October 1999). 
- Second time : Festivities for the 100th anniversary of Kim il Sung birth & individual longer tour covering West & also East of the country : Pyongyang, Wonsan, Hamhung, Mt Kuwol, Sariwon, Mt Jongban, Mt Suyan & Haeju (April 2012).

 

Occupied Palestine

Jordan Valley & Jericho (1995).

 

Rumania

Bucarest : Revolution was underway : I went to Bucarest 3 weeks after Ceaucescu's execution (December 25, 1989). 

 

Saudi Arabia

By car around the country, which at that time was not opened to tourists. I took advantage of having a business visa ... Probably the only country in the world where 'I do not feel at all at home', because of the ubiquiitous presence of religious rules ! (1996).

 

Somalia & Somaliland

In Somalia, in constant state of siege due the Shebab terrorism and facing more than frequent attacks (2 during my stay there !), I visited Mogadishu under the constant protection of a military escort, as well as Baidoa, capital city of the Province of Bay. In Baidoa, as I was the first foreigner (except UN personnel) to venture there, I was especially welcomed by one of the Ministers of the province ! I also went to Somaliland (former British Somalia), self-proclaimed independent in 1991, but unrecognized by the international community (2019).

 

South Ossetia - Alania

Unrecognized country, self-proclaimed independent since the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. South Ossetia-Alania seceded officially from Georgia in 1992 after the 1991–1992 South Ossetian War. In 2008, the Georgian army tried to recapture this territory but lost the war with Russia. Independence of South Ossetia-Alania is recognized only by Russia and ...  Abkhazia, Transnistria, Syria, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru !. 
I entered South Ossetia by road thru Caucasus from Russia (North Ossetia) and visited much of this small country.  I especially saw the National Day celebration on September 20 in Tskhinval (Tskhinkvali in Georgian) (where I met in person the President) (2019).

 

South Sudan

Thru this war-torn country, one year and a half after the initial September 2018 peace agreement which ended a long and bloody civil war (2013/2018), still followed by sporadic fights, and just 2 weeks after a final (?) new agreement (February 2020) between the 2 conflicting parties : Juba, Eastern and Central Equatoria States with still authentic tribes (2020).

 

Spratleys Archipelago

Disputed archipelago (China versus The Philippines, Vietnam & Malaysia).
I went to Layang Layang, an island belonging to Malaysia, with nothing but sand, birds and a small military base ...) (2017). 

                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Transnistria

Unrecognized country, de facto independent since the dissolution of the USSR in 1991 and occupied by russian troops (2008).

 

USSR

I attended to the last May 1st Celebrations of former USSR on Red Square in Moscow, overlooked by Gorbatchev,  that were followed by a huge demonstration against the Communist regime (May 1st 1990).

Previous trips in USSR before the fall of communism : Leningrad (1977), across USSR from Beijing to Moscow with the Transsiberian (1985).

 

In Eastern Europe prior to the fall of the Iron Curtain

Previous trips in Eastern Europe before the fall of communism : Albania (1988), Czechoslovakia (1979), DDR (1987), Hungary (1986), Poland (1981, 1987), Yugoslavia (1965, 1968);

 

 

 

 

 

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