Getting drunk on my own in the former Soviet republics: Confessions of an alcohol analyst

It’s long past midnight in a rugged little town high up in the Caucasus Mountains, and I’m lying on my back in the middle of an icy street, gazing up at the stars. There is freezing air in my lungs, a mountain climb in my legs, and half a bottle of chacha in my veins. I am so happy I can’t move.

I arrived in northern Georgia from Tbilisi the night before, and booked a room in a guesthouse in Stepantsminda (also called Kazbegi), to make the trek up to Gergeti Trinity Church – one of the most beautiful places in the Caucasus.  … More Getting drunk on my own in the former Soviet republics: Confessions of an alcohol analyst

A day in Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh)

Artsakh is the Armenian name for Nagorno-Karabakh, the disputed territory between it and Azerbaijan. The two nations have been at war over Karabakh for over 30 years. Both feel that the territory belongs to them: the land became part of Soviet Azerbaijan during Stalin’s era, but most of the people living there are still Armenian. The conflict has killed tens of thousands on both sides, with no resolution in sight. … More A day in Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh)

Photo essay: Armenia’s sorrow (Yerevan to Gyumri by train)

I arrive at Yerevan’s train station just after dawn, and buy coffee and bread from the underpass between platforms – fuel for the four-hour journey to Gyumri, Armenia’s second city.

The train is dusty and dilapidated; it has hard seats and filthy windows. It goes slowly, bumpily, its wheels making soothing clunks on the rusted tracks.

The journey is haunting. The landscape of western Armenia looks abandoned, left for dead. But this isn’t so. This rocky corner of the Caucasus is far from an unwanted wasteland: it is one of the most emotionally charged places on earth. … More Photo essay: Armenia’s sorrow (Yerevan to Gyumri by train)

‘The Mysterious Zorats Karer Stones’ – for Caravanistan

Zorats Karer means Army Stones in Armenian, but they are also known as Carahunge – Speaking Stones, for the whistling sound that fills the site when strong winds blow through the holes. The best guess is that the rocks were placed 7,500 years ago; at the time that Stonehenge was created the army stones had already been standing in Sisian for over two thousand years. … More ‘The Mysterious Zorats Karer Stones’ – for Caravanistan

‘Postcard from Noravank monastery, Armenia’ – for Elsewhere Journal

For my first few days in Armenia my mind was elsewhere. I was searching for signs of the two worlds that overlap in the South Caucasus, where wild Eurasian land is punctuated by the Cyrillic – and the shambles – of the post-Soviet space… … More ‘Postcard from Noravank monastery, Armenia’ – for Elsewhere Journal