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 […]


Of Castles and Commonwealth, Conquest and Cold

The Eastern European country of Belarus is perhaps one of Europe’s less well known countries and a bit off the beaten track as regards tourism.  That is a pity because it certainly has much to offer the visitor – especially if, like me, you are interested in history.  There are several UNESCO World Heritage Sites […]

Saint Pierre and Miquelon

France's last territory in North America

The islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon are the last French territories in North America.  France’s North American colonies once covered thousands of square kilometres, with New France – as they were known – stretching from New Orleans in the South, through Louisiana, to Canada in the North.  But after the Seven Years War (1756-63) […]


The Caucasus' smallest republic

Ingushetia lies on the northern slopes of the Caucasus in Russia’s Deep South.  It is sandwiched between the neighbouring republics of North Ossetia-Alania to the west, Chechnya to the east and the country of Georgia to the south.  At just 3,000 square km, Ingushetia is the smallest of Russia’s North Caucasian republics. Like the Chechens, […]


Quintessentially Caucasian

Chechnya is perhaps one of the North Caucasus’ better known republics.  Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that, since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, it has been in the news more than the others – sadly, for all the wrong reasons.  Chechnya’s two wars for independence from Russia in […]

North Ossetia-Alania

Deep into the Caucasus

The North Caucasian Republic of North Ossetia-Alania is one of a series of semi-autonomous Russian republics stretching from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea.  Like the other republics and countries in the region, it is steeped in history and has often been at the mercy of successive empires jockeying for power over the mountain […]


From the Caucasus to the Caspian

The mountainous Republic of Dagestan lies at the eastern reaches of Russia’s North Caucasus region on the Caspian Sea coast.  Sandwiched between Chechnya to the west and Azerbaijan and Georgia to the south, this relatively little-known corner of the world offers the visitor stunning scenery, a wealth of history and some remarkably good wines.  Its […]