Caving in to time

Every day for some thirty years an orthodox monk had lived and prayed in that cave carved into the cliffs at Old Orhei, Moldova. But the day we visited he was not at home. “I’ve no idea where he is, it’s only the second time this has ever happened”, my guide, Slava, explained sheepishly as, […]

When is a catacomb not a catacomb?

You could walk from London to Edinburgh and back (twice!) in the time it would take to explore the entirety of Odessa’s underground tunnel network. But you wouldn’t need a hard hat, or pass through a Soviet cold war bunker, or walk the plank over roughly hewn, slippery stone, or admire underground street art or […]

Squaring up to history

Kiev’s iconic Independence Square was naturally the focal point earlier this year when a young democracy celebrated 30 years of independence. And worthy of celebration it was too given the obstacles overcome during this period. There has been continued interference from Russia (most notably the annexation of Crimea in 2014), described as “the worst aggressor […]

Lviv is authentic

Lviv is authentic. The past is not preserved; the past just is. It crumbles around you in random constellations as it once did in Europe’s other great medieval cities, the Lisbons and Pragues of this world, before the tourists flooded in and beautification works commenced. Granted tourist dollars bring improved infrastructure, fancier restaurants and a […]

If only buildings could talk

If only buildings could talk. Imagine what the Taj Mahal would say about love. Or Robben Island Prison about one man’s unbreakable spirit and capacity for forgiveness. A discussion with the Binnenhof in the Hague, the world’s oldest parliament building still in use, would surely illuminate on the machinations of democracy through the ages. Naturally, […]

Darting back and forth

It took the death of a ninety-nine year old prince to buck a trend here. For Dartmouth is one of those places that features in guidebooks but rarely in the national press, as picturesque and quaint as it is sleepy and remote. The wild beauty of the surrounding Devonshire countryside makes Dartmouth both alluring and […]

Ground to a halt

The tangled thickets of nettle, blackberry and trumpet-shaped flowers sprawling across the site only heightened a sense of absence. From this vegetal maze, I could discern but a few cryptic clues to what went before: two fluorescent kitesurfing sails billowing above a bank of shingle hinted at an ocean beyond; three arches and a sluice […]

Chobe chomper

Should I unpack my case or explore my surroundings first? The view from the chalet over the Chobe River provided a compelling answer to this common holiday dilemma. The cobalt-blue waters sparkled like gemstones in the sun as they continued their eternal struggle with expansionist grasses for dominion over the floodplains of Namibia’s Caprivi Strip, […]

Errant lawnmowers with fangs

The evening sounds of the Okavango Delta permeated the canvas of my luxury safari-style tent. Baboons barked in the trees above before thudding onto the tent struts, crickets chattered insistently, and go-away-birds called out true to their name. After a while, all creatures were drowned out by a rhythmic, ripping noise that demanded attention. Perhaps […]