Former European diplomat, the author has travelled extensively in Central and Eastern Europe and recorded on film scenes of daily life, landscapes, cultural events and historic sites. This is an anthology of his photographic archives collected in 40 years of diplomatic activity for Europe.
For the largest part of my life, every city, town, village, or any place East of the border of the Federal Republic of Germany with the “DDR” was “out of bounds” or “off limits”. This was almost the same with any country, which was within the Soviet Union sphere of influence, be it located in the North-East or the South-East of Europe. Virtually they were all not accessible with of course some very precise exceptions.
I had been in Prague in 1945 with my parents on our flight from the invading Russian Army, I had been in East Berlin, “Capital of the DDR” in 1958 before the building of the Wall and I had travelled extensively in, what is now called, the former Yugoslavia in 1966. I had also been for a few days to Budapest on an organised tour from Vienna, the only way to enter Hungary in 1967. Photos of these early adventures are included in this book.
All this changed dramatically just before and after 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down and one country after the other of Central and Eastern Europe became gradually part of the family of Western democracies.
It was thus a great experience, challenge, privilege and opportunity to see, visit and travel in these countries at a crucial moment of their history and at a turning point of their economy. The ensuing photos reflect some of these modifications. Now, more than twenty years later many things have become normal and a new generation has grown up in the East and West looking at those years as history taught in school only.
I trust that the following chapters will contribute to a better appreciation, comprehension and understanding of the culture and geography of Central and Eastern Europe.
However, I would like to stress that the photos have by no means a comprehensive or encyclopaedic character. Nor are all countries covered. Either because I have not been able to go there or there has been no chance for photography during my stay. The amount of photographs per country is also very uneven. This is partly due to the time and conditions available during my visits. It does not prejudge in any way on the merits, importance, beauty, culture and interest of the particular country. This book is a private and personal approach to people, architecture, landscapes and art.
We will review impressions, feelings and experiences in twenty countries in a clockwise way from the European North East, starting with countries East of the Federal Republic of Germany such as the GDR, to the European South East, finishing with Albania.
Please note: this is street photography and by no means politically correct!