In a span of seven years, he paddled a series of 15-foot kayaks more than 30,000 miles from the Danube River in Europe to the tropical shores of far northern Australia. Even better, when he first set out, he was “merely” planning to paddle to Cyprus for work, with no intention of traveling by kayak to the other side of the world. But the paddling proved irresistible and Speck did not stop once he reached Cyprus.
Speck was 25 years old when he set out on his incredible journey. He was an unemployed electrician living in Hamburg. Work was scarce and prospects were dim after the 1929 stock market crash ripped through Germany, so Speck decided to seek work in the copper mines of Cyprus. With no other means to get there, and as a proud member of a kayaking club since his youth, Speck decided to paddle his way to, hopefully, a job.
In May, 1932, Speck shoved off from banks of the Danube in a collapsible and very much not seaworthy 15-foot kayak, and began paddling south. He arrived in the Balkans several weeks later and, lulled to boredom by the languid waters of the Danube, Speck made for the Vardar River, where soon fierce rapids dashed his boat nearly to splinters. While awaiting repairs, winter set in and the Vardar froze over, locking Speck in place for months.
Travel to Syria is advised against by every western government.
There’s adventure tourism, and then there’s thoughtless and stupid shit like this »
As President Bashar al-Assad tightens his grip on the remains of the opposition in the north-west, a handful of tour companies and travel bloggers catering to English-language customers have started running bespoke trips to the country to “mingle with locals while also passing destroyed villages”, visit archeological sites “shrouded in a coat of destruction” and “experience the famous cosmopolitan nightlife that has returned to the centre of Damascus”.
Attempts to reopen Syria for tourism have been met with fierce criticism from some Syrians, however.
Bakri al-Obeid ran a small tourism company in Damascus before Syria’s uprising began in 2011. He left his hometown of Aleppo when the city fell three years ago and now lives in Idlib, which is pounded daily by Syrian and Russian airstrikes.
“What the tourism companies are doing now has just one goal: normalisation with the regime. They are doing this to show the world that Syria is safe and fine and the war is over,” he said.
“[These trips] whitewash the regime and let the world forget the atrocities committed against Syrians. It’s really depressing and painful to see tourists coming to your country from overseas when your house is confiscated by the regime and you can never go back home.”
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