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 […]

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 […]

Orava Castle, Slovakia

Built in the thirteenth century in response to Tartar raids, this stunning castle has a colourful history, but, as tends to happen when Hollywood scatters its stardust, it is better-known as a film location. Various scenes from Nosferatu, the first-ever Dracula movie, were shot here in 1922, with castle exteriors doubling for Dracula’s Castle in […]

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 limitless 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. […]

The pagan strikes back

If you take a photo in Vilnius’ main square from a certain angle, it appears that the bronze statue of Grand Duke Gediminas (1316-1341), Lithuania’s most celebrated medieval ruler, is smiting the Cathedral’s bell tower with his sword. A cheap trick perhaps but one that is apt for one of Europe’s last great pagan rulers, […]

Tallinn 2021

The past oozes out from between the bricks in Tallinn’s ancient city wall; it clacks along with the feet ascending steep cobblestoned streets to viewpoints overlooking the red-tiled roofs and turrets of the old town; and it flutters proudly from watchtowers and palaces, a horizontal triband of blue, black and white. According to the most […]

Photostory: through younger eyes

Village of Tchikala, Angolan Highlands, 2009. This welcome from the village kids was as refreshing as the temperate climate, a welcome respite from the confused furnace of Luanda where we lived and worked behind heavily-guarded Embassy walls, meeting only those Angolans who worked in government or for NGOs. I had come here with my Ambassador […]

Dinner with elephants

An almighty splash and primordial trumpeting wrenched me from the velvet embrace of the canopied bed. I strained my senses beyond the ghostly mesh of the mosquito net, past the stylish teak furniture and below the veranda to find them, to fathom their purpose. Yet I need not leave my bed to see them as […]