A Travellerspoint blog

Honduras: In the Eye of a Coup d'Etat

Researching the ongoing presidential crisis in Latin America's first major coup in a quarter century.

View Honduras 2009 on AC Frieden's travel map.

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (Aug. 7, 2009) -- Here I am in a city tormented by uncertainty. It is much more than a mere constitutional crisis. Far worse than a confrontation between rich and poor, or right and left. Honduras has become the epicenter of a political quake that has sent ripples far down the hemisphere and across the seas. And the epicenter is still rumbling. And the world has surgically chosen the consequences, all of them so far futile in restoring President Zayala to power.

You can feel the tension in the streets, many of them under the watchful eyes of military and security personnel, who ironically follow orders that will ultimately work against their own economic and social interests, and those of the millions of poor in this Central American nation. From heavily armed guards around the Presidential Palace, to soldiers patrolling the areas around the Congress, to riot police sweating in the heat in open squares, the city's political and military infrastructure is only pretending to function. Politically noxious graffiti stains the walls of churches, entrances to hospitals and government buildings. Banners condemning the coup-plotters lay abundant on streets. The working class simmers. The capital is tense, and its more evident than even locals wish to admit. Even in the upscale malls and in the plush neighborhoods like Las Lomas, you hear the whispers of fear and disharmony. And that's why I've chosen to come here, to see first hand what a political earthquake in a tiny country can do. It is not only a political theme central to my next novel, but I am fascinated by how the circumstances are playing out -- as if history has been wiped clean, as if this new leadership has shut its mind to a tainted past as it blindly thirsts for a return to center-right policies.

Above: Chatting with soldiers overlooking a ceremony at the Presidential Palace.

Above: The Presidential Palace.

Above: Guarded gates of the Presidential Palace.

Above: Army and Special Forces trucks behind the Presidential Palace.

Above: I attended a demonstration in the central square in the old quarter of the capital.

Above: The Congress building in the old town.

Above and below: Expressions of anger at the coup leaders.


Above: The old part of the city and the national stadium.

More comments and pictures soon...

---- Travel Essentials Summary (and ratings) ----
Hotels: Intercontinental Tegucigalpa***** (9)
Restaurants: Factory (8.5), more info soon...
Bars/Night Clubs: more info soon...

All photos and text Copyright © 2009 A.C. Frieden. No reproduction permitted without prior written approval by A.C. Frieden. For reproduction rights and higher resolution images, send email to afrieden[at]avendiapublishing.com.

Posted by AC Frieden 15:17 Archived in Honduras Comments (1)

Dubrovnik's Present Beauty and Troubled Past

In search of historical scenes for a mystery/thriller novel.

View Croatia 2009 on AC Frieden's travel map.

more info and pictures soon...


Posted by AC Frieden 13:17 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Northern Italy Offers Perfect Scenes for Novels

In search of venues for a thriller, a mystery novel, and an aerial photography book.

View Croatia 2009 & Italy 2009 on AC Frieden's travel map.

more info and pictures soon...

Posted by AC Frieden 13:12 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Searching for Intrigue in the Swiss Alps

In search of scenes for a thriller and a mystery novel.

View Italy 2009 & Switzerland 2009 on AC Frieden's travel map.

more info soon...

Above: A sporty police car in Lugano, Switzerland.

Posted by AC Frieden 13:06 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)

Denmark's Historical Center

Research for scenes in an upcoming novel

View Sweden & Denmark 2009 on AC Frieden's travel map.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (May 24-25, 2009) -- I arrived in Copenhagen late in a day that started at nearly 7 a.m. at the Stockholm Central Station (my time in Stockholm involved little sleep to begin with). I'd taken the three-hour express train to Goteburg, rushed to the Aeromuseum for my Cold War-era research near the City Airport northeast of town, then raced back downtown and rushed to make my flight to Denmark at the Landvetter Airport on the other side of town. So, I was exhausted by the time I landed in Copenhagen, but since it was my only night there, I got my second wind by the time I got to the hotel -- my hotel room view of downtwon also added to my interest to explore the city. Although I had not originally included Copenhagen in my literary scenarios, I found a couple interesting sites that now I consider interesting and fitting for a part in one of my upcoming novels.

Above: View of the Øresund (the sound) and a row of wind turbines as my flight turns to final for Runway 22 at Copenhagen Airport).

Above: View from my room of Vestebrogado Avenue and the Radhuspladsen square (City Hall square) in central Copenhagen.

Above: Nestled in the heart of Copenhagen, luxurious Radisson SAS Royal is one of the most exclusive designer hotels in Northern Europe and a great example of modernist architecture. The entire hotel from the exterior facade through to the swan and egg chairs in the lobby have been designed by the renowned Danish architect, Arne Jacobsen. Opened in 1960, the 22-floor, 275-room hotel is an architectural landmark of the Jet Age and was Copenhagen's first major skyscraper.

Above: The corner room 1611 is exceptional, offering splendid views of Copenhagen both by day and night.

Above and below: Tivoli (or Tivoli Gardens) is the famous amusement park and pleasure garden in Copenhagen, Denmark. The park opened on 1843, making it the second oldest amusement park in the world (the oldest is also in Denmark).


Above: Standing 80 m (170 feet) above ground, the "Himmelskibet" is the world's tallest carousel, giving riders in the 12 double-chairs a thrilling ride with stunning views.

Above: A retail/office building on H.C. Andersens Boulevard, facing City Hall.

Above: Copenhagen City Hall (Radhuset) in Rådhuspladsen (City Hall Square) in central Copenhagen. It was designed by architect Martin Nyrop and was inspired by the city hall in Siena, Italy. Construction began in 1892 and was completed in 1905.

Above: A beautiful building in Nytorv square, along the Strøget, the city's long car-free, pedestrian shopping area.

Above: In the same square is the Copenhagen Byret, the largest of Denmark's 24 municipal courts. The court serves a large part of the City of Copenhagen and Dragør and Tårnby municipalities, which total about 400,000 inhabitants.

Above: One of the many beautiful buildings facing the Højbro Plads, one of the main squares in Copenhagen. The square is located at the east end of the Strøget, the city's long car-free, pedestrian shopping area.


---- Travel Essentials Summary (and ratings) ----
Hotels: Radission SAS Royal***** (8.5)
Bars/Night Clubs: The Old English Pub (8)

All photos and text Copyright © 2009 A.C. Frieden. No reproduction permitted without prior written approval by A.C. Frieden. For reproduction rights and higher resolution images, send email to afrieden[at]avendiapublishing.com.

Posted by AC Frieden 08:11 Archived in Denmark Comments (0)

Göteborg's Secret Cold War Base (Sweden Part II)

Research for an upcoming novel and a non-fiction piece

View Sweden & Denmark 2009 on AC Frieden's travel map.

GOTEBORG, Sweden (May 24, 2009) -- I arrived in Göteborg from Stockholm after a comfortable 3-hour, 1st class ride on the modern X2000 highspeed train and immediately headed to an interesting underground Cold War site in Göteborg, Sweden. This once secret installation is located at Säve Depå, on the property of the current civilian Göteborg City Airport, about 15 minutes northwest of downtown.

Above: Hardened east outer entrance of the underground shelter.

The former military facility is best known for its 22,000 square meter hardened aircraft shelter (HAS), built in the early 1950s to protect combat aircraft from the Göta Wing (F 9) of the Royal Swedish Air Force. An 8,000 square meter shelter is also at the base, though the larger one is currently open to tours by the Aeroseum Foundation. The Swedish Defence Ministry declassified the base in 1999 and in 2008, the Aeroseum became part of the national historical preservation network of Swedish Military Heritage (For a diagram of the HAS, click here; for a Map/Satellite image, click here or here).

The F 9 Säve fighter wing was commissioned in 1940 and the first rock shelter at was completed in 1942. This is among the world's oldest shelter of its kind (Switzerland and Italy developed these a few years earlier) and was initially used to protect Italian-built fighter Fiat CR 42 biplanes, among other aircraft. At the height of the Cold War in the 1950s, the base was greatly expanded with new, deeper and better protected tunnels, which were used for over ten years to house the SAAB J 29 "Tunnan" combat jets. The wing was decommissioned in 1969.

Above: An aged JA 35 Draken fighter bomber greets visitors at the entrance to the once secret aircraft bunker.

Above and below: Hardened main tunnel entrance with 24-inch thick concrete sliding doors.


Above: I'm standing next to a Saab JA 37 Viggen, a Swedish fighter plane that was ahead of its time in the 1970s/80s. Its double delta configuration is similar to several of today's state-of-the-art fighter aircraft such as the Eurofighter Typhoon, Rafale and its Swedish Air Force successor, the Gripen.

Above: A Saab JA 35 Draken (foreground) and a Saab JA 37 Viggen (background).

Above and below: Back end of the Saab JA 37 Viggen. The Viggen was powered by a single Volvo RM8 turbofan, which was essentially a licence-built version of the Pratt & Whitney JT8D engine, except that the Viggen engine included an afterburner and a thrust-reverser. The thrust-reverser gave the Viggen near-STOL capabilities, allowing the aircraft to easily handle landing and takeoff on short runways and highways (under 500 meters or 1600 feet). For more information on the Viggen, click here.


Above: The Saab 35 Draken (meaning "dragon") is a second generation supersonic interceptor with a distinctive double delta wing. The fighter aircraft served in the Swedish Air Force (Flygvapnet) between 1959 and 1974. The Draken was built to replace the Saab J 29 Tunnan and, later, the fighter variant (J 32B) of the Saab 32 Lansen. The indigenous J 35 was an effective supersonic Cold War fighter plane. A total of about 640 Drakens were built. Export customers included Denmark and Finland. In 1985, the Austrian Air Force purchased 24 J 35D s reconditioned by Saab. It was retired from Swedish services in 1999. Today, the U.S. Navy and the Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC) use retired Drakens for pilot training. For more information on the Draken, click here.

Above: The west end of the HAS has a rotating platform to facilitate aircraft maneuvering.

Above: Inside the cockpit of the JA 37 Viggen.

Above: A green colored Saab J 35 Draken.

Above: In the cockpit of a J 35 Draken.

Above: In the event of a fire or explosion, these fire resistant curtains were designed to fall from various tunnel section dividers to reduce damage and the speed of smoke buildup.

Above and below: A Saab 32E Lansen is a two-seater attack aircraft that served the Swedish Air Force (Flygvapnet) between 1955 to 1978. The aircraft was used in multiple roles, including as a fighter, reconnaissance, electronic warfare and even as a target-tug aircraft. Over 400 of the aircraft were built.


Above ang below: The command center in the HAS, which did not include radar monitors, but rather relied of communications with pilots and ground observers to control traffic.


Above: A wall diagram of the entire underground complex, showing the tunnels, command and control rooms, storage and other operational areas.

Above: Part of the concrete passageways leading from the command center.

During the 1950s, the Swedish Air Force built multiple road bases to disperse their aircraft and increase survivability of squadrons. The bases consisted of stretches of main roads and highways constructed to serve as landing strips, with underground fuel tanks, communications bunkers and other necessary infrastructure. During that period Sweden had one of the most powerful air forces in Western Europe, both numerically and qualitatively, and posed a serious challenge for Soviet Air Force planning in the Baltic region.

Above: The Aeroseum displays numerous photographs of what the facility looked like in its prime. In this picture, a J 29 Tunnan fighter is wheeled out of the shelter toward the taxiway in the presence of visiting dignitaries and senior officers (circa 1950s).

Above: This is one of 146 Canadian-built North American Harvard Mk IIB (Sk 16, reg. Fv 16068) that entered service with the Swedish Air Force in 1947. A second batch of variants of the original aircraft was purchased in the early 1950s and were designated Sk 16B and Sk 16C. Although these later models were retired in the late 1950s, a few of the earlier Sk 16A kept flying until the early 1970s.

Above: The Sud Aviation SE 3130 Alouette II (Hkp 2, reg. Fv 02036, Marinen) was one of 13 to serve in the Swedish Navy between between 1959 and 1985. The helicopter was used for liaison, sea survey, rescue and also for anti-submarine warfare (ASW). The large bubble canopy gave the pilots excellent visibility. During its service, the helicopter was often deployed on navy vessels, such as the destroyer HMS Småland.

Above: This Agusta Bell 206B Jet Ranger (Hkp 6B, reg. Fv 06051) was one of 32 Jet Rangers acquired in two versions for the Swedish military. Eleven helicopters for the Army were ordered (designated HKP 6A) along with ten for the Navy (designated HKP 6B). These were all built under by Agusta in Italy. The last ones were retired from service in 2004.

Above: A German built MBB BO 105 helicopter (designated HKP 9, reg. Fv 09221 "FC-90") used in the Swedish military.

Above: Spare engines for the Viggen and Draken fighters are visible in this shot along with a Draken fighter aircraft.

Above: A Falcon missile on a stand and a Draken fighter-bomber loaded with three external fuel tanks.

Above: The tail of a Draken, showing the small rear gear, which protected the lower fuselage from hitting the ground during take-off and landing.

Above: The cockpit of a JA 35 Draken.

Above: The nose cone of the JA 37 Viggen that housed the multi-mode, pulse-Doppler Ericsson PS 46/A radar optimized for the fighter/interceptor role. The radar incorporated lookdown/shootdown capability, with a range up to 50 km, continuous-wave illumination for Skyflash missiles.

Above: The tandem wheel landing gear of the JA 37 Viggen was designed in part to better handle rough airfield operations. A similar landing gear arrangement is found on today's Russian MiG-31.

Above: The ejection seats of a Draken (foreground) and Viggen (back).

Above: This Dornier 27 (reg. 53271) first flew in the mid 1950s and was known for its ability to land and take off from short, rough fields and roads. It was used in particular for reconnaissance, transport and parachute jumping. Recently donated to the Aeroseum, it will likely be restored to flying condition in the near future.

Above: The SAAB Safir (reg. SE-AUR) is best known as a trainer aircraft and was sold to more than 20 countries. The SAAB 91A model was the early version ordered by the Swedish Air Force and was designated Tp 91 for its transport/liaison duties. Later versions included the 91B and 91C, and a total of 323 Safirs were built. Prior to being brought to the Aeroseum, this aircraft was displayed suspended in the terminal building of Goteborg’s Landvetter Airport.

Above: This aircraft is a Cessna/Reims 337G Super Skymaster (reg. SE-GMM) used by the Swedish Coast Guard (the Kustbevakningen).

Sweden has operated other hardened mountain shelters, such as F 13 Norrköping, F 18 Tullinge, F 16 Uppsala, F 8 Barkarby, Fällfors and Arboga, all of which were expanded to house Drakens and/or Viggens, and some of the development resulted from consultations with the Swiss Air Force, which operated aircraft tunnels at seven airbases during the Cold War. Although the underground facility in Goteborg is decommissioned, as are all but one in Sweden, a large number of similar facilities are still in operation around the world, including in China, Taiwan, North Korea, Switzerland (Meiringen Air Base), Saudi Arabia, and former Yugoslavia. During the NATO-Serbian conflict, the U.S. targeted aicraft tunnels in Bihac and Pristina, but the air dropped weapons were not able to damage the interior of the Pristina HAS, showing that such aircraft protection systems are still viable if located under enough rock.

Above: One of the shelter's personnel doorways at the east aircraft entrance.

Above: The underground facility required substantial infrastructure to operate and to allow personnel to live inside for extended periods in case of war. This infrastructure included among others ventilation, air filtration, electrical, fuel, oil and gas storage, fire suppression, and water purification systems.

Above: one of the two taxiways that lead aircraft from the HAS to the runway.

Above: Remnants of the air filtration and ventilation systems that were vital to the underground shelter.

Above and below: The main fuel facility for the HAS.

Additional Research Links:

Hardened Aircraft Shelters in Other Countries:
Modern HAS system (Switzerland)
HAS system in the 1990s (Switzerland)
Meiringen HAS in the 1990s (Switerland)
Former HAS in Željava Air Base, also known as Bihac Air Base (Yugoslavia)
HAS at Pristina Air Base (Yugoslavia/Kosovo)
HAS for MiG-21/F-7 fighters at Gjader (Albania)
Hualien Air Base large HAS under mountain (Taiwan)
Foluo Air Base on Hainan Island (China)

---- Travel Essentials Summary (and ratings) ----
Hotels: n/a (transit only)
Restaurants: n/a
Bars/Night Clubs: n/a

All photos and text Copyright © 2009 A.C. Frieden. No reproduction permitted without prior written approval by A.C. Frieden. For reproduction rights and higher resolution images, send email to afrieden[at]avendiapublishing.com.

Posted by AC Frieden 15:38 Archived in Sweden Comments (0)

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