The barbed wire, electric fences, watchtowers, and heavily armed guards that once lined the Iron Curtain are long gone, but red deer wouldn’t dare jump the border. Behavior learned at the height of the Cold War lives on among the herds that roam land that used to straddle the former Czechoslovakia and West Germany. The once heavily fortified borders separating East from West today traverse national parks and remote landscapes that serve as popular summertime migratory destinations for the imposing beast.
In the spirit of post-Cold War fellowship, Germany’s Bavarian Forest National Park and the Czech Republic’s Sumava National Park established a transboundary wilderness area where animals like the red deer could find refuge. But as it turns out, the deer populations on either side of the former Iron Curtain roam along the border and remain reluctant to cross.
Read more. [Image: Luke MacGregor/Reuters]
It’s been two decades since the Iron Curtain fell, but post-communist Europe still has a long way to catch up—and Google autocomplete knows it.
It’s not camera-hacking elves: If you take your North American smartphone to Europe and shoot video indoors there, an odd flickering appears in the recording. As intrepid videographer Tom Scott shows above, it’s because of something normally invisible—the differences in how the two continents transmit electricity.
It’s an awesome video, interesting even if you’ve never bounded the Great Circle.
KIEV, Ukraine — Early Wednesday morning, thousands of Kievans answered a call sent out on mobile phones and social networks and rushed the capital’s central Independence Square to repel a raid by scores of riot police. There, in bone crunching, sub-zero temperatures, they formed a massive wall of bodies, blocking the black-helmeted police and ultimately forcing them from the square.
For the participants in this three-week-old movement of mass civil disobedience, who have barricaded themselves inside Independence Square—in Ukrainian, the Maidan Nezalezhnosti, or just “the Maidan”—it was a heady, inspiring victory. “We are simply standing for our rights,” said Ruslan, a 20-something manning the ramparts, who at 2 a.m. had rushed from a birthday party to bolster the resistance. “And if the police force us out, we’ll come and stand here again.”
Read more. [Image: Vadily Fedosenko/Reuters]
On Friday, November 22, Kateryna Kruk, a 22-year-old press secretary for an opposition lawmaker in Ukraine’s parliament, left work and took to the streets of Kiev to join budding protests against President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to reject a trade deal with the EU.
Fourteen days later, she’s still there, spending nearly all day, every day, providing a fascinating on-the-ground account on Twitter of Ukraine’s “Euromaidan” protests. Her goal, as she put it in one tweet, is to break the “information blockade” that is keeping the world from understanding what’s behind the massive demonstrations.
Read more. [Image: Kateryna Kruk/Twitter]
While Saint Nicholas may bring gifts to good boys and girls, ancient folklore in Europe’s Alpine region also tells of Krampus, a frightening beast-like creature who emerges during the Yule season, looking for naughty children to punish in horrible ways — or possibly to drag back to his lair in a sack. In keeping with pre-Germanic Pagan traditions, men dressed as these demons have been frightening children on Krampusnacht for centuries, chasing them and hitting them with sticks, on an (often alcohol-fueled) run through the dark streets.
The collective mood of a nation mired in a prolonged economic recession shows many of the symptoms of clinical depression: despair, fatalism, an inability to make decisions, lack of motivation, and irritability. This is one of the impressions I got from a recent trip to Spain and Italy, two nations I know well and visit often. While both countries have recently made small strides on the path to recovery, I nevertheless came away with the strong sense that their economies are in recession and their societies are in depression. In the course of my travels, I also felt more than ever before that Europeans have fallen out of love with Europe—or, more precisely, with the idea of building a Europe-wide union.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
Where does Europe end? Geographically, this is an easy question to answer. Geopolitically, not so much.
The European Union’s “Eastern Partnership“ initiative was launched in 2009 to bring six post-Soviet countries—Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine—closer to the EU, primarily via trade agreements. The outcome, to be unveiled at a summit in Lithuania later this week, has been disappointing. In September Armenia broke off talks with the EU and announced that it would join the nascent Eurasian Customs Union, alongside Belarus, Kazakhstan and the group’s paymaster, Russia. Last week, Ukraine did the same—a much bigger blow to the EU’s ambitions, given Ukraine’s size, mineral wealth and strategic position. Now, only tiny Georgia and Moldova are expected to sign trade agreements with the EU this week.
Ukraine’s U-turn sparked huge protests in Kiev over the weekend. As many as 100,000 people took to the streets on November 24 in favor of closer integration with the EU. Sporadic clashes between dwindling ranks of protestors and police are continuing; jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko announced a hunger strike yesterday on November 25.
Read more. [Image: Gleb Garanich/Reuters]
When it comes to homeschooling, public perception is largely limited to a few, all-pervasive tropes. The first is that of the religious homeschooler–those who, like David d’Escoto of Christian website Crosswalk.com, see public schools as the “biggest morality corrupters and worldview warpers” in America. Less common, but still prevalent, is that of the self-proclaimed “hippie homeschooler,” inspired by texts like Grace Llewellyn’s The Teenage Liberation handbook to practice an extreme version of free-range parenting, in which children are encouraged to determine their own curriculum in accordance with their passions. Yet, even as a full three percent of the school-age population in America embraces homeschooling, according to a 2012 New York Magazine article by Lisa Miller, homeschooling is all too often treated as a monolith: Homeschoolers are either fundamentalists or anarchists, religious extremists or hippies. Rarely, if ever, is it explored as a potential educational setting for so-called “gifted” children–those looking for an academic challenge beyond that which their local educational facilities can provide.
Yet, during the two years I spent on-and-off as a homeschooled middle-schooler (spanning what would have been the seventh and eighth grades), the opportunity to work at my own pace and largely develop my own curriculum provided me with a level of academic intensity and emotional as well as intellectual independence unavailable (and, indeed, unaffordable) through more traditional means. Part of the decision to homeschool was pragmatic—my mother’s work took us to France, then Italy, in quick succession. Yet no less influential was my—and my mother’s—desire to offer me a degree of challenge beyond that which the schools I had attended could provide.
Read more. [Image: Carolus/Wikimedia]
How lots of tiny acts can change how a continent looks from space