Poltergeists, ritual murder & a live-in succubus – the 1000-year-old pub with a ghostly reputation
23 November 2020
“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
– L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between.
In November 2011 I relocated from Britain to Bulgaria. The next month, I started a blog – mostly as a way to share updates, photos, and rambling observations with my friends back home. Those early posts were pretty eclectic. In one, I shared my photos of an abandoned mental asylum that I had visited the previous summer in England. The next was about the psychology of music (specifically, discussing new research that investigated the relationship between binaural beats and the theory of the neural correlates of consciousness). My third post was about Doctor Who.
I decided to call my site The Bohemian Blog. It was a name that sounded vague enough to accommodate all my interests – for me, “bohemian” had connotations of “eclectic,” “avant-garde,” and “nonconformist.” Besides, I had recently fallen in love with Prague, and I thought that the real, geographical Bohemia was a place I would be writing about much more often in future.
The name stuck, and in time I stopped thinking about what it meant. Meanwhile, this website was evolving in a different direction. My articles about unusual places were always the most popular with readers, and soon I decided I wanted to make them my sole focus. When I wrote about the abandoned Monument to the Bulgarian-Soviet Friendship in Varna, Bulgaria, in spring 2012, that article went viral. It also happened to be my favourite thing on the website. So this became my template for future posts: I would tell detailed, and comprehensively researched histories about places that few people knew… but I also tried to bring them to life, with photos and immersive first-person writing.
I became increasingly interested in architecture, and I was motivated by my belief that built environments are more than the sum of their parts. Architects don’t just create three-dimensional forms – they create something more intangible than that, I think: their designs dictate the experience of being in a place, experiences which then further mutate as a product of design flaws, interventions, and the passage of time. So I settled on the format of publishing long-form, photo-illustrated articles about these places, as it allowed me to investigate the often-overlooked phenomenological aspect of architecture, cities, and other built environments. The rough edges and hidden corners, the smells, the overheard conversations: how it feels to explore them.
It didn’t take long for this website to outgrow its name. A blog, by definition, is a regularly updated webpage written in an informal or conversational style. But by 2016 I was already publishing dense, formally referenced essays as much as 12,000 words long, and which sometimes took me several months to research and write. The “Bohemian” part didn’t make sense any more either. My place-focussed website was named after a specific region – Bohemia – which I have now mentioned just three times in 200+ articles. Besides, the associations of that word have changed over the past decade too. Search for “bohemian” on Instagram now, and it’s all “boho chic” fashion and Etsy stores selling jewellery made from beads and feathers. (And somewhere lost in the middle of all that, my photos of concrete monuments in Eastern Europe.)
The Bohemian Blog was a name I chose in 2011, based on where I guessed this website was going. But now that I know what the site is about, and where it’s heading next, I’m choosing a better name for it: EX UTOPIA.
I hope you’ll all stick around for this next chapter.