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

Highlights of Baku, Azerbaijan – for Lonely Planet

More than any of its sights, smells and sounds, what hits you most when you arrive in Baku is how the city makes you feel. Azerbaijan’s capital is a discombobulating place: a mix of the ultra-modern and the very-old, where the country’s Turkish, Russian, Persian and European identities collide on every street. Even in its calm moments the city will find ways to confuse you: as you stroll along its promenade on the shores of the Caspian Sea, you are actually 28 metres below sea level. So as you explore the biggest city in the Caucasus, here are the experiences that will give you a feel for Baku’s awesome oddness… … More Highlights of Baku, Azerbaijan – for Lonely Planet

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)

Flame Towers and Şəhidlər məscidi – Baku, Azerbaijan

The Flame Towers loom above every street in Baku. At night their neon displays light up the city on their own: first orange and red flames lick up the sides of the towers; then they fill up with splashes of water; then the complex turns the colours of Azerbaijan’s flag – green, red and blue. It is a needless show of wealth, but an extraordinary sight. … More Flame Towers and Şəhidlər məscidi – Baku, Azerbaijan

Waking up in İçərişəhər – Baku, Azerbaijan

Arriving in Baku, I would always come here first. Each time I would explore the maze of narrow sandstone streets within its walls, and walk past every little pale house – some empty, some with chattering coming from inside. I would drink sahlep on a low sofa at a cafe on Boyük Qala, while watching the street outside wake up; always climb up the Maiden Tower for a first sight of the Caspian Sea; always go into the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, to hear again the stories that Azerbaijan tells about itself. … More Waking up in İçərişəhər – Baku, Azerbaijan