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Geography of Europe

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Heavy rainfall over Europe during the the past week has swollen many rivers past their flood stage, wreaking havoc unseen in decades across Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic. At least 18 people across the region have been killed, and tens of thousands have been evacuated. In Germany, the crest of the Elbe River is now approaching the North Sea, as the swollen Danube River is surging toward the Hungarian capital of Budapest. Collected here are images from the past several days of those affected by these historic floods, even as meteorologists predict more rain over the coming weekend. [36 photos]

The city hall of Grimma, Germany, surrounded by floodwater, on June 3, 2013. Flooding has spread across a large area of central Europe following heavy rainfall in recent days. Eastern and southern Germany are suffering under floods that in some cases are the worst in 400 years. Tens of thousands of Germans, Hungarians and Czechs were evacuated from their homes as soldiers raced to pile up sandbags to hold back rising waters in the region. (AP Photo/dpa, Jens Wolf)     

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Alone in Serbia: Living on a Rock

While clicking through the Picture of the Day section of the British Telegraph, this special domicile captured by Marko Djurica, caught our eye. A house built on a rock on the river Drina near the western Serbian town of Bajina Basta. The house was built in 1968 by a group of young men who decided that the rock on the river was an ideal place for a tiny shelter. We totally agree.

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Berlin in the 30s

It is always bizarre to see pictures of the past. It makes you realize how much has changed in the space of so few decades.

This is a vintage photograph of the old Berlin by an anonymous photographer, capturing a previous era in Germany’s history. View more of these pictures here

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"Why would they want to pull down these walls?” asks William Boyd mildly as he offers me a cup of tea in his home at Cluan Place, a predominantly Loyalist area of east Belfast.

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If there is a place on earth that inspires more melancholy, reminiscence and regret than Abkhazia, I have yet to find it. A republic of sighs, home to 250,000 people who still mourn their dead as much as they plan their future.

“Do you remember how it used to be?” they say. “It was like a little Soviet Union.” This is a sweet memory, because the Soviet Union, to Abkhazia, was above all a place where dozens, even hundreds, of races lived under one roof in peace. The brutal ethnic war of ’92-’93 erased many things, but not the memory of a time before bloodshed.

This is equally bittersweet for photographer Yuri Kozyrev, who summered in nearby Sochi as a boy, and who remembers, like all children of the Soviet Union, the paradise that was Abkhazia. Imagine: high mountains dive toward a warm sea. Beaches against verdant forests, long promenades lined with ice cream vendors under palm trees.

Today marks the twentieth anniversary of Abkhazia’s first declaration of independence from Georgia. That initial gesture of July 23, 1992, was boycotted by the ethnic Georgians in government and ignored by the outside world. But soon enough, it began a cycle of attacks and reprisals, fueled by alcohol, old grudges, and the chaos of the Soviet collapse. Total war soon followed, one of the bloodiest and most fratricidal conflicts of a decade that saw plenty of both.

And though the Abkhaz people were victorious—they alone rule Abkhazia now—the republic they liberated has never quite come into being.

Kozyrev and I visited Abkhazia last year, traveling south along that fabled coastline, up into the mountains, down to the tense Georgian border in Gali. Kozyrev had been in Abkhazia during the war; it was my first visit. We were both, however, equally struck by how time just seems to stand still there. A rusting trawler lists on the beach in Sukhum, the radios in the beat up taxis all play songs about the war. In the mountain mining town of Tkvarchal, which starved and suffered under siege during the war, seems half-deserted and wholly inhospitable. Even the national pastime is a sleepy one: the Abkhaz are famous for their skill at dominoes.

Part of this torpor is forced upon them. Georgia and its allies, including the U.S., have been effective in isolating the republic, which it sees as perpetrators of ethnic cleansing against Georgians during and after the war. Only Venezuela, Nicaragua, Vanuatu and a couple of equally small states have recognized its independence. Georgia has blockaded all southern routes by sea and land, and so Abkhazia has to rely on the kindness of its neighbor and patron Russia, with whom it shares a land border.

Yet, they still have their natural gifts. The war did not erase the beaches or the mountains. Russians, particularly poorer ones who can’t afford the neon Shangri-la that Sochi is becoming, still flock to the shore.

The Abkhaz also have something they won at a heavy, heavy price: freedom. The question remains, twenty years later: what will they do with it?

Nathan Thornburgh is a TIME contributing writer and a founder of Roads & Kingdoms, a new journal of foreign correspondence, food, and photography. You can read his full report on his travels to Abkhazia with Kozyrev here.

Yuri Kozyrev is a contract photographer for TIME and was named the 2011 Photographer of the Year in the Pictures of the Year International competition.

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A graffiti-ridden wall dividing Protestant and Catholic communities. A teenage boy defiantly packing drugs into a battered homemade bong. A man gazing at a memorial wreath nailed to a brick wall. The whitewashing of a propaganda mural – the last of its kind. These are the scenes of modern Belfast. The images, both resonant and ordinary, are part of photographer Adam Patterson’s series, Men and My Daddy. The collection of photographs – which features both documented stills from Patterson and found images – tells the story of how the members of Northern Ireland’s largest loyalist paramilitary group, the Ulster Defense Association, are adjusting to life after the notorious Troubles.

Courtesy Adam Patterson

UDA and UVF members pose for a snapshot taken inside the Maze prison in the early 1990s. The title of Patterson's project comes from the words on the back of the picture, written by the daughter of Tommy (front row, 4th from the left), who features in the project.

“I felt it was a really interesting time; it was a transitional period,” Patterson, who was born in Northern Ireland, said of the country after the fighting had ceased. For decades Northern Ireland was largely characterized by violence and terror as the country divided into two camps: the Protestant unionists and the Catholic nationalists. In 1971, the UDA emerged as a force to be reckoned with, instigating some of the region’s most mobilized fighting. When the conflict was brought to an end and paramilitary groups pledged their commitment to the peace process, the UDA – much like Northern Ireland – was faced with the task of reinventing itself.

Intrigued by the work that was being done, Patterson built relationships with several members of the community. He began documenting one project that focused on repainting the various murals around the region, which featured armed men in what was part of a “fear campaign” established by the UDA. “The idea is to change the murals so they still symbolize the traditions of the area, but not in a violent way,” said Patterson. But soon he became interested in what the reformed men — and their offspring — were dealing with internally as well. Though many were committed to change, Patterson noted that it was a lot easier said than done: “Obviously when people sign up to the peace process minds don’t change overnight.”

As he spent more time at home in Northern Ireland, he came to recognize the different way the country’s youth, who’d only heard of The Troubles secondhand, viewed the process towards peace. “The young people kind of become frustrated that they’ve been cheated out of fighting for this nostalgic idea that’s passed down through the generations,” said Patterson. “They don’t hear the tales of misery or the prison sentences, they only hear these elements of nostalgic stories. They feel like they’ve missed out.” Photographs of youths continuing the traditions of the previous generation — such as building massive bonfires while still being wary of rival youths — attest to the deceptive allure of the country’s history. It’s what Patterson calls a “twisted nostalgia.”

Yet as he became more immersed in his work, Patterson soon felt his own feelings about The Troubles growing complicated as well. “Obviously, I was initially quite apprehensive about it because I didn’t know much about [former UDA members] besides what you’d read in the newspapers which is never good,” he said. “Whether I’ve met these guys or actually think they’re nice guys, is irrelevant to some extent. What the organization stood for and what the organization did was terrible. That’s not excused. But a lot of these guys today would think the same thing.”

Though Patterson maintains that he doesn’t shoot to “change people’s opinions,” after working in his native country he’s come to appreciate the biggest challenge facing these reformed extremists: forging a better path for their sons and daughters to follow.

“It’s about helping young people find a passion,” he says, “so they have something to try and emulate beyond their uncles and forefathers in the very recent history.”

Adam Patterson is a Northern Irish photographer. More of his work can be seen here. Patterson is currently showing work from his project A Very Normal Place at RUA RED in Dublin.

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Tradition is something that is celebrated, enjoyed and handed down to the next generation but, in the small corner of western Europe where I was born, it has led to shootings and bombings and the...

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