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Photo by Justin Main on Unsplash

Not every photographer produces art and not every artist produces a story. The desire for self-expression, however, is often found as much in news publications as on the walls of galleries and to clearly distinguish where the sphere of journalism ends and artistic practice begins can be a bewildering task. For example, take a look at Gold and Silver, the exhibition now on display at the National Gallery of Canada presenting a collection of captivating images of the Californian Gold Rush, or at Fenton’s photographs of the Crimean War on show at the Royal Collection Trust. The prints document defining historical eras but could easily be confused for well thought through fine art graphite drawings. …

Chernobyl's Exclusion Zone, the quarantined area surrounding the power plant where one of the worst nuclear disasters in history took place, sees way more traffic than the name might suggest. Since the site opened to visitors in 2011, a growing number of tourists have come to northern Ukraine armed with cameras and Geiger radiation counters to visit the rusting remains of the ghost city of Pripyat. It is estimated that in 2017 alone 50,000 people visited the area that was evacuated after the №4 reactor explosion, a number three times greater than in 2015. …

Although Christianity is experiencing a comeback under Putin’s Russia, the relationship between the Kremlin and the Church hasn’t always been trouble-free. Following Karl Marx’s idea that religion is the “opium of the people,” the Soviet Union set out to eradicate organized faith entirely, with the Russian Orthodox Church being its primary target. In the attempt to convert the whole nation into atheism, Lenin and his successors persecuted believers and most members of the clergy, sending Christians to labor camps, removed theology from education, and confiscated the Church’s property.

As reported by The Moscow Times, by 1939, of the 50,000 parishes and cathedrals that existed under the Tsar’s government, only between 200 and 300 remained open. Of the many churches that were taken, including world-famous St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow's Red Square, a significant number were destroyed while others were desacralized and converted into something entirely different. Most of the repurposed parishes were ultimately returned to the Russian Orthodox Church after the fall of the Soviet Union; however, some still operate as museums and cultural centers. …

IT TURNS OUT THAT the “middle of nowhere” is actually somewhere very specific. Located in the corner of China that is bordered by Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and Russia, the Eurasian pole of inaccessibility redefines the benchmark for “remote.” The farthest point from any sea or ocean on the planet has always been on the bucket list of geography nerds and explorers, and as the name suggests, reaching it is an adventure not without obstacles.

What is a pole of inaccessibility?

The poles of inaccessibility are the points on the map considered most difficult to reach because of their distance from any coastline. But determining how hard it is to actually travel to these locations is subjective, and although some of them are easy enough to visit, others are truly isolated from civilization. …

Crossing Central Asia overland is undoubtedly faster and less eventful today than it was for sixth-century merchants looking to exchange weapons for spices, but if you’re planning to set out for a transcontinental journey of this kind, it will nevertheless be epic. With modern(ish) methods of transportation available and a relatively calm situation in most countries along the way, traveling the 5,000-mile route connecting east and west is mostly a matter of patience.

What is the Silk Road?

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Khiva, Uzbekistan. Photo: Angelo Zinna

If we were to interpret the term literally, the legendary Silk Road should be traversed in only one direction, east to west. Silk, one of the most precious items to be traded by merchants in this part of the world, originated in China and traveled for months through Central Asia in order to reach Roman hands in Europe. However, the name coined by German geographer Ferdinand Freiherr von Richthofen in 1877 refers to something much larger than the mere exchange of fabrics. …

My 5,000-mile journey from Murmansk to Kerman

Murmansk was the northernmost point on the map I had ever been to. Starting at parallel 69, I was about to attempt traveling along the invisible continental boundary to reach lower Iran from the top of Russia, partly to experience again the sense of in-betweenness which only seems to exist in the New East, and partly to invest the two months at my disposal in an itinerary I hadn’t heard anyone following before.

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Photo: Angelo Zinna.

To reach the cool North, I had flown into Saint Petersburg from Amsterdam, to then catch a twenty-five-hour train to the largest city in the Arctic Circle. I had arranged for a Couchsurfer to host me during my stay in the port city. However, she had canceled just a couple of hours prior to my arrival. What I had found instead waiting for me at the railway station were two police officers and an interpreter. It was the middle of the night in Murmansk, but the sun was still floating in its mid-afternoon position, far from dropping anytime soon. Summer, at this latitude, means total absence of darkness. “What are you doing here? There are no matches in Murmansk” the police had asked while checking my passport. It was the final days of the football World Cup and while thousands of visitors had flown into Russia to support their national teams, I was the only foreigner on that train. “Just… visiting?” …

When walking along Oudezijds Voorburgwal in Amsterdam, few minutes south of Central Station between Dam Square and Nieumarkt, it’s hard to keep a straight line. Day and night a seemingly endless stream of people flows along the canal looking for entertainment or orientation among bars, pubs and smoky venues. …

In 2014 massive murals began appearing on the walls of old building around the city. Discover six of the best artworks from local and international artists.

Kiev's fame as an Eastern European cultural hotspot has increased dramatically since 2014 when a number of large murals began appearing on the facades of old Soviet buildings. Today, Ukraine‘s capital city hosts over 150 pieces of public art produced by local and international artists, often hidden in lesser-known parts of the city. The bold, massive paintings in the neighborhoods east and west of the Dnieper are reshaping the city’s identity.

Kiev, a millennia-old metropolis with a long history of conflict, is quickly becoming a vibrant hub for creatives by establishing itself as a central node on the global street art scene. Exploring Kiev through its murals is a highly rewarding treasure hunt, and by going out in search of the colorful compositions that decorate the urban landscape, you will also find yourself discovering historical landmarks, amazing architectural pieces, and underrated areas you would otherwise never visit. …

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Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

The institution of literary awards has been shaping readers’ choices for decades, modeling the canon and altering, year after year, the cultural landscape in both academic and commercial environments by promoting certain texts while overshadowing others. Whether such action has produced positive or negative effects is debatable, but what cannot be questioned is the need for the reader to make a choice in the first place. Not only it is physically impossible for an individual to read all the literature available, it is also highly unlikely that a selection will be made without external influence.

Literary awards, review systems, bestsellers lists and book clubs all compete in providing such guidance, often determining the success of publishers and authors. Considering that the quality of any form of creative expression cannot be measured on an objective scale, literary awards still maintain a prominent role in determining what should and should not be read. Organizations such as the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize, the National Book Award, the Man Booker Prize may be criticized for their (perhaps) elitist and non-democratic approach, but, as I will argue in this short essay, are still the best tool at our disposal to find orientation in the vast realm of literature. …

Based on what you hear on the news and read on your government’s travel advisory, you might not be too inclined to put Iran on the top of your “future holiday destinations” list. Think twice. With a rich cultural heritage dating back thousands of years, a striking geography varying from the snow-capped peaks in the northern provinces to the lush desert oases of the south, and a population eager to change your preconceptions with its disarming hospitality, Iran is well worth a visit. …


Angelo Zinna

Freelance writer based in Amsterdam, NL.

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