Leiden

A rich heritage in science, arts and commerce

The Dutch city of Leiden is only 180km away from Brussels, where I live, but it took me many years to finally get round to visiting the picturesque city.  Even then, it took a proposal from a group of friends in the UK to go to see an exhibition on the ancient Persian city of […]

Białowieża

Europe's last surviving primeval forest

Once upon a time I visited a magical, snow-covered forest.  It is the sort of forest one imagines in fairy tales and that could easily be mistaken for the Lantern Wood that features in the Chronicles of Narnia. In fact the forest is in eastern Poland.  Its name is Białowieża. I am a forest fan, […]

Lalish

Holy Mountain Village of the Yazidis

One of the highlights of my latest trip to Iraq was the opportunity to visit Lalish, the holiest village of the Yazidis some 60km northeast of Mosul. The Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking group.  Most live in Iraq, though there are also populations in Syria, Armenia, Georgia and Russia.  The Iraqi Yazidis live in the north […]

Egypt on Horseback

From the Nile to the Red Sea

Think of Egypt and images of pharaohs and pyramids probably spring to mind.  Like many people, as a child I was fascinated by Ancient Egypt, an interest spurred by the 1972 Tutankhamun exhibition at the British Museum in London. (Scroll down to see the photos) I never got to see the exhibition and in fact […]

Newfoundland

Rugged Island with a Warm Welcome

Newfoundland is a large island off the eastern coast of Canada.  Covering 108,000 square kilometres, it is almost three times the size of Belgium yet has just over half a million inhabitants.  Newfoundland is big and – compared to the country of Tintin – Newfoundland is empty! Scroll down for the photos! The fact that […]

L’viv

Ukraine's Cultural Jewel, Steeped in History

L’viv, Lwów, Lemberg, Leopolis – four names for a single city, the largest one in Western Ukraine.  L’viv – the name its inhabitants currently call it – has a long and rich history.  Yet it is not on most people’s A-list of European cities to visit, which is a pity because this colourful and welcoming […]

Minsk

The City that Rose from the Ashes

The Belarussian capital Minsk has a long history.  It had been on my ‘to visit’ list for a long time, yet mention Minsk and most people ask “Why do you want to go there?” Which is a pity because the city is certainly worth the trip.  Although the legacy of Soviet town planning is still fairly […]

Iraqi Kurdistan

Stunning, Surprising and Safe

Iraqi Kurdistan is a land of mountains and rolling hills, forests and farms.  Rivers – some clear turquoise, others torrid grey – rush through the countryside as if eager to escape to flatter lands where they can relax on their way to the sea.  The region is a stark contrast to the dry deserts of […]