The scars of war

There can be few places where the scars of the Bosnian War remain so evident today: buildings pocked with bullet holes, split by shells or shorn of their roofs, and the quaint old town, with its iconic medieval bridge, looks as sparkling new as a Vegas imitation. Of course, the immediate aftermath of the Bosnian […]

Ti(p)toeing around the issue

The polished marble of Tito’s tomb is as flawless as his legacy in the eyes of those Yugoslavia nostalgics who are still sprinkled liberally across the lands of the former Socialist Federal Republic. The tomb is set within an oasis of tranquillity, flanked by lush vegetation within a mausoleum that in turn nestles within genteel […]

There’s snow debate about Sarajevo in the winter

Visiting Sarajevo in mid-winter may mean that your toes go numb and your cheeks flush with the cold, but the snow-covered mountains form a magical backdrop for exploring this fascinating city: for a stroll across the triple-arched stone bridge opposite where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot, triggering the chain of events that led to WWI; […]

Catia Sophia

Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia may have been the most magnificent orthodox basilica in the Byzantine Empire, crowned with a stunning dome centuries before they were used in the western Catholic church, and subsequently one of the most important mosques in the Ottoman Empire, but in recent years felines have stolen some of the limelight. Gli, a […]

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 […]

Black Sea is not plain to see

On first contact with the Black Sea I was disappointed to discover that the water is not really black! That said, when I returned on a gloomier day the name naturally seemed more appropriate. The reality is that the precise etymology is subject to debate and may not reflect the Sea’s colour at all. Theories […]