‘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
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
In the wilderness of south-east Kazakhstan, between the Tien Shan mountains and the steppe, is Charyn Canyon – one of Central Asia’s most spectacular natural wonders. … More Charyn Canyon, Kazakhstan
The lady from the whisky company had told me to go to Shymbulak ski resort, in the mountains above Almaty. But I didn’t make it: I got on the wrong marshrutka bus on Al Farabi street and ended up 30km away, in the bedlam of the Altyn Orda bazaar… … More A meeting with Kazakhstan – for Open Central Asia magazine
In the wilderness to the east of Almaty, between the lush Tien Shan mountains and the dry steppe, are some of Kazakhstan’s ethereal natural wonders. The most tranquil of them is Kaindy Lake. … More Kaindy Lake – Kazakhstan’s underwater forest