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Category: Syria 🇸🇾

Oskar Speck, the man who paddled a kayak from Germany to Australia starting in 1932, and Sandy Robson, the woman who recreated the adventure some 80 years later

Justin Housman, writing in The Adventure Journal »

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.

Read the whole article in The Adventure Journal »

In November 2016, Western Australian woman Sandy Robson (aged 48), recreated Speck’s adventure, completed in some 5 years, having visited 20 countries and paddled some 23,000 kilometres.

Concern over rise in dark tourism in Syria as war enters ninth year

Travel to Syria is advised against by every western government.

There’s adventure tourism, and then there’s thoughtless and stupid shit like this »

Bethan McKernan »

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.”

Read the whole article at The Guardian »

More » Syria Country Profile

World’s Most Powerful Passports as of Q3 2019

The Henley Passport Index has released its third quarter ranking of the world’s most powerful passports in 2019.

The index is compiled from data provided by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and measures global mobility based on visa-free access to destinations. It also uses data from the index’s 14-year history, “to show how travel mobility has changed over the past decade, looking at which passports have gained in strength and which have fallen behind.”

Japan and Singapore hold the world’s strongest passports, with Visa-free access to 189 destinations. South Korea dropped to second place, joining Germany and Finland with Visa-free access to 187 destinations.

The United Arab Emirates entered the top 20 index for the first time in the list’s 14-year-history, moving up an astonishing 41 spots. Other countries that climbed standings include Taiwan, which climbed 24 places over the past ten years and ranks 30th.

The USA and the UK each dropped to the lowest position they’ve held since 2010, sharing the sixth spot with Canada, Greece, Norway, Belgium and Ireland.

Pakistan now offers an ETA (Electronic Travel Authority) to citizens of 50 countries, including Finland, Japan, Malta, Spain, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates — but not, notably, the USA or the UK.

Afghanistan is once again at the other end of the rankings, with its citizens needing a prior visa for all but 25 destinations worldwide.

Most Powerful Passports of Q3 2019:
1. Japan, Singapore (189 Destinations)
2. South Korea, Germany, Finland (187)
3. Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg (186)
4. France, Sweden, Spain (185)
5. Austria, Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland (184)
6. Canada, Norway, Belgium, Greece, Ireland, UK, US (183)
7. Malta (182)
8. Czechia (181)
9. Australia, Iceland, New Zealand, Lithuania (180)
10. Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia (179)

The Least Powerful Passports of Q3 2019:

101. Bangladesh, Eritrea, Iran, Lebanon, North Korea (39 Destinations)
102. Nepal (38)
103. Libya, Palestinian, Sudan (37)
104. Yemen (33)
105. Somalia (31)
106. Pakistan (30)
107. Syria (29)
108. Iraq (27)
109. Afghanistan (25)

Source: Henley Passport Index

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