Travelling in Kazakhstan: Talking on the ‘Samarkand to Issyk-Kul’ podcast with Maria Koltsova

I was recently a guest of journalist Maria Koltsova on her podcast about Central Asia, ‘From Samarkand to Issyk-Kul’. I talked about my experiences of travelling in Kazakhstan – some favourite places in Almaty and the south-east of the country, some unforgettable foods and drinks, how Kazakh people surprised me, and how Kazakhstan compares to the other post-Soviet republics. We also talked about the practicalities of visiting Kazakhstan – how safe it is, how expensive things are, and what languages people speak. Listen to the podcast (in Russian; 29 minutes) on Maria’s page: ‘From Samarkand to Issyk-Kul’.   … More Travelling in Kazakhstan: Talking on the ‘Samarkand to Issyk-Kul’ podcast with Maria Koltsova

Tipsy travels: a tour of Eurasia’s favourite drinks – Bradt Guides

“For most of my travels I have been under the influence of alcohol. In my defence, I had to be: by a very fortunate twist of fate, I once worked as an analyst in the wine and spirits industry.

Covering the Eurasia region I travelled to several countries to discover what – and how much – the people in this part of the world drink. I learned that a country’s choice of tipple always reveals something great about their culture. Behind the data and numbers in my reports were hundreds of stories – not to mention some delicious memories”. … More Tipsy travels: a tour of Eurasia’s favourite drinks – Bradt Guides

A Hundred Years on the Steppe – my translation of a novel by the Kazakh author Bayangali Alimzhanov

‘Grandad! Ata! How did you even stay alive? How did you live to be a hundred in such good health and sound mind?’ my loved ones asked.

‘I’m surprised myself,’ I answered. ‘Probably the Almighty wanted you all to be born, and he had to keep me alive to drag me through the fire and ice of the godless people.’

– Bayangali Alimzhanov – A Hundred Years on the Steppe … More A Hundred Years on the Steppe – my translation of a novel by the Kazakh author Bayangali Alimzhanov

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