Mercury in the Bath

August, 2017: the sun is shining on the edge of North America, but the foghorn still cries its warning to the clouded sea. Two paired blasts per 60 seconds; a signature to identify location by sound. In the dark, you need to know which horn you’ve heard.

This is Cape Race lighthouse, which holds one of the last remaining hyper-radial Fresnel lenses ever made. Perched on the southern coast of Newfoundland, it offers the first sighting of land for ships crossing the Atlantic. Oh, and it’s got nearly 800 pounds of liquid mercury at the top.

Continue reading “Mercury in the Bath”

Black Mountain

01 May, 2018: I spent a week in Montenegro (or Crna Gora, in Montenegrin), in Bar on the Adriatic coast. Bar is a port city (the main port of the country) and border crossing (by ferry) first and a tourist destination second; it’s really only a tourist spot because the spectacular Belgrade-Bar railway ends there (more on that in the previous post!). I wandered into the port by accident while trying to photograph something interesting and industrial, and got yelled at by the border police. I gave them my best tourist smile and made camera-charades, and they laughed at me, so it all worked out.

I also managed to arrive on a national holiday (this is becoming a habit, after hitting Hungarian National Day my first weekend in Budapest and Easter parts 1 and 2 in both Vienna and Belgrade) — May 1 is Labor Day. Most shops were closed, and the cafes were more crowded than usual. I also got accidentally caught up in yet another parade/procession, this one featuring the mayor(?) and a bunch of fancily-dressed townsfolk waving flags, and ending with news cameras (probably the entire news corps of the town, all two of them).  Continue reading “Black Mountain”

Wide Awake on a Sleeper Train

I took my first sleeper train! It was fantastic. I decided to start on a high note, with one of the most spectacular train lines (according to the internet) in Europe: the Belgrade-Bar line.

I did a bunch of reading first, of course, and in the process I learned that sleeper trains (at least in Europe) are disappearing. Cross-border railway fees increased in 2000, making the trains more expensive to run. They hold fewer people than regular seated trains, so even when they’re full there’s less revenue. The rise of low-budget airlines makes them less popular, and faster modern trains means that trips now don’t take nearly as long, so many runs that formerly only made sense if you could sleep on the train can now be accomplished in less than a day.

With that in mind, I feel exceptionally lucky that I got to take not only *a* sleeper train, but this particular one. It was like a trip back in time, with a distinct Wes Anderson flavor.  Continue reading “Wide Awake on a Sleeper Train”