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

In a moment of outrageous good luck, in 2016 I was offered a job as a wine & spirits market analyst. My job for the next three years was to travel to the countries of the CIS region to meet with alcohol companies – from vodka producers, to importers of whisky, rum and wine, to local vineyards. I met hundreds of people, in luxury offices and decrepit warehouses from Tbilisi to Tashkent, and learned everything about what people in the former Soviet republics drink. 

The analysis part of the job was collecting data and writing reports. I didn’t need to try the drinks I was writing about.

Which isn’t to say that I didn’t…

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GEORGIA

The main street in Kazbegi

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

Back in Kazbegi, ravenous from the hike, I go to the tavern on the main street for khachapuri – Georgia’s adored oval-shaped bread with a warm puddle of suluguni cheese and egg on top – and a jug of homemade red wine. 

Then the host asks me if I want a glass of his homemade chacha, the national spirit: a rough, over-proof clear brandy made from grape skins. When a Georgian asks you that question, there is only one answer you can give. Throughout the evening he asked me many more times.

Eventually he asks me to leave the bar so he can go home. 

I remember the euphoria of laying on the icy road outside the tavern, blowing chacha out of my lungs. The next thing I remember is how my head felt the next morning, still looking up at the mountains, but now, somehow, in my bed. 

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Tbilisi – Abanotubani neighbourhood

The evening began with a soak in the Abanotubani sulphur baths. Before I step into my chamber, a private steam room with walls made from blue ceramic tiles, the woman from reception brings me a half-litre bottle of Georgian beer to drink as I sit in the hot water.

Washed, de-stressed, light-headed, my skin still hot and bright pink, I walk out of the bath-house and wander through Abanotubani, the little cobbled neighbourhood below Narikala Fortress. In a souvenir shop a lady has hidden a barrel of homemade brandy in a corner, and is selling it in plastic Coke bottles. 

I ask her if I can just try a sip of the konyak; she fills a cup to the brim and won’t take any money for it. It is sweet, soft, and ridiculously easy to drink.

Clutching the rest of my takeaway brandy, I walk to Tbilisi’s restaurant district, Kote Afkhazi street, for dinner. There is rugby on the TV in the cafe; I have a couple of glasses of Georgian red wine, and at half-time the lady at the bar starts to bring me something light green in a tequila glass – chacha infused with tarragon.

I am completely hammered as I leave the cafe. As I walk back to my hotel, up the steep cobbled hill that leads to Narikala, I’m ready to throw up.

When I get into my room, I see the report on my laptop that I was supposed to work on that evening.

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AZERBAIJAN

İçərişəhər – Baku’s Old City 

Looking for a place for dinner in the beautiful sandstone lanes of İçərişəhər (Icheri Sheher), a man beckons me through a narrow door in a stone wall. Inside the wall is a cosy round room with a log fire, a low table. and some cushions on the floor to sit on. 

I tell him what I’d like to eat, and a few minutes later he brings it from somewhere, with a glass of Azeri red wine. 

I stay in the secret stone room for the rest of the night, all on my own, drinking pomegranate wine and heating up from the fire, until I’m so drowsy I can barely stand up to go home. 

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ARMENIA

Yerevan – Cafe ‘Coast’, Cascade, April 2018

Yerevan was the quietest city I knew – until the week I found myself in the middle of Armenia’s revolution.

In the days before I arrived in Armenia, anti-government demonstrations had begun in Yerevan. The country’s long-standing president, Serzh Sargsyan, had gone back on his word to stand down, and was about to remain in power. Armenians, especially young people, felt their country going backwards.

The protests escalated in my first days in Yerevan. But there was no violence, no riots. Instead, people began to march through the streets carrying Armenian flags. Cars also clogged the streets and made a noise: everywhere in Yerevan the din of car horns was deafening.

I just manage to meet the people I need to, before the city shuts down for everyone to join the protests. By 23 April there are a quarter of a million people on Republic Square and the streets that lead to it – Teryan, Abovyan, Mashtots Avenue.

When news breaks that the president has given in to the pressure and resigned, I’m in a cafe at the bottom of the ‘Cascade’ steps. I had just climbed up the steps, to see the view over Yerevan with Mount Ararat in the distance. As soon as the waitress hears that Sargsyan has been removed, she brings everyone a glass of sparkling Armenian wine to toast the revolution.

As soon as I finish the wine, I rush back to Republic Square. Now the crowd is celebrating. It’s even louder.

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RUSSIA

Somewhere in Russia’s wilderness

After weekend trips to very, very special places, always came the long train journeys back to Moscow. 

The trains have been some of my happiest experiences in Russia: a comfy space in a first-class carriage, and lazy days and nights watching the countryside pass by – snowy pine forests; villages of wooden huts; eerie wagon yards lit by sinister yellow lamps. 

In two nights drifting through the taiga on the way back from Kandalaksha, a town by the White Sea above the Arctic Circle, I got through a bottle of vodka, safe in the knowledge that I would wake up to beautiful scenery and a cup of instant coffee from the provodnitsa

To help me to sleep after leaving Arkhangelsk, I poured Arkhangelskaya vodka into a tea cup and mixed it with a bright green fizzy drink called Tarkhun. 

In Yoshkar-Ola, a stunning town in the republic of Mari El, I got a cup of instant coffee with rum from the vending machine at the station before boarding the train back to Moscow. Sitting on my bunk that night, I finished off the bottle of Stariy Koenigsberg brandy that I had bought in a supermarket shaped like a castle. 

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Moscow – Rizhskaya / Prospekt Mira

After long days bouncing through Moscow’s metro for meetings across the city, I usually fell asleep in the taxi back to my hotel. 

To help me wake up in the evenings, I would use the hotel gym, then unwind in the sauna before bed. The sauna was the best bit. 

It was a small wooden cabin with a glass door, only big enough for one person to fit inside. After a couple of evenings I discovered a panel in the wall with buttons that change the lighting and temperature, and a radio hidden in the top of the booth. 

After my workouts I refilled my water cup with cheap Abkhazian or Russian wine, and put myself in a trance of tiredness and tipsiness under red or green light, meditating to esoteric Russian music: songs I will never hear again, from radio stations that brought all of Russia to a little sauna in the middle of Moscow. 

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Ulan-Ude, republic of Buryatia – Yurta bar, ul. Kommunisticheskaya 

In the centre of Ulan-Ude, between the Lenin statue and the Hotel Buryatia where I’m staying, I find a bar called Yurta – the yurt. It’s dark and drab, and filled with smoke. 

Buryat teenagers are drinking vodka around square tables. As I walk in, the soundtrack to this Saturday night in the borderlands between Siberia and Mongolia is Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’. 

It gets much weirder. As I take my plastic pint glass of dark Buryat ale to a free table, a young woman approaches me. Her skin is very pale, clammy and scarred; she is drunk and stumbling. 

She sits opposite me and tells me disturbing stories. 

Five of her friends were killed in a helicopter crash somewhere in Buryatia last year. It isn’t safe for me to be here; Ulan-Ude’s criminals know the streets outside the hotel, and where the security cameras have blind spots. 

Then she takes a napkin, and writes on it: Мир наизнянку. Mir naiznyanku – the world is inside out. 

She stares at me and repeats: Mir naiznyanku. Mir naiznyanku. The world is inside out. 

The girl gives me the napkin and leaves me, to talk to two men sitting at the next table. Then the yurt’s two security guards carry her outside. 

On my way back to Hotel Buryatia I buy half a litre of Sibbitter vodka from a mini-market, then drink it all in the bath in my room. 

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UZBEKISTAN

Tashkent – Shodlik Palace Hotel

I don’t need the gulps of Uzbek konyak to make me light-headed. I’m still dizzy from the day just gone.

At one of my meetings with a drinks importer I mentioned that I’d like to go to Chorsu Bazaar, one of the biggest markets in Central Asia, while I’m in Tashkent. Early the next morning the company’s driver is waiting for me outside my hotel to take me there. 

When we arrive at Chorsu, Bakhtiyor gives me an envelope stuffed full of the company’s money, and then spends the day showing me every part of the huge bazaar – which foods to try, which people to talk to, which things to buy. 

Bakhtiyor buys us lunch in a canteen at the bazaar, then in the afternoon he takes me to Khazrati Imam mosque. At the end of the day we drive to his company’s store, where he asks me to choose two bottles for myself as extra presents.  

In the restaurant at my hotel that evening, I order a glass of brandy to go with my dinner, and try to make sense of what had happened.

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KYRGYZSTAN

BishkekArzu restaurant, ul. Togolok Moldo

I dreamed of visiting Kyrgyzstan for 12 years; it had almost become an obsession. So my first night in the country, my first walk and first meal, all have to be epic. 

I find an upmarket Arzu restaurant in the neighbourhood, and treat myself to an enormous plate of spicy laghman noodles. It begins to snow outside – wet flakes that hurtle across the windows, but only turn Togolok Moldo street to slush. 

The most decadent end I can think of to my first night in Bishkek is ice cream, a double espresso and a large glass of local brandy, called Kyrgyzstan, to toast myself for finally being here. 

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KAZAKHSTAN

Almaty – Hotel ‘Kausar’, ul. Tole Bi

In all my best stories from Kazakhstan I’m drinking tea – or camel’s milk. The first Kazakh alcohol I drank was a whole bottle of Zhar-Zhar wine; but unlike most of the times I have been drunk in the post-Soviet world, I can’t remember what happened next.

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Two days in St. Petersburg, Russia – for Lonely Planet

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“Russians have another name for their second city: simply ‘Piter’. This word best captures St. Petersburg’s mix of beauty and commotion, history and innovation. Here’s how to experience Piter in a couple of days…”

Continue reading my article “Two days in St. Petersburg: the perfect itinerary” on Lonely Planet

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Calm in Arkhangelsk (northern Russia)

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Severnaya Dvina embankment, Arkhangelsk; north-west Russia, close to the Arctic Circle.

To my left: the path beside the Severnaya Dvina river, which led me to the town’s timber port, buried in the snow, then to Svyato-Troitskaya church, then the bridge over the river.

Behind me: the town of Arkhangelsk – the pretty wooden buildings of Chumbarova-Luchinskogo street, so very Russian, with mothers pushing prams along the snowy, bumpy street, past pharmacies and craft shops; and the cafe that I ran to for blinchiki, and to escape from the freezing cold.

In front of me: the northern bank of the Severnaya Dvina, in the distance beyond the frozen, snowed-over river.

And around me: a true Russia winter – tranquil, silent, pure.

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Letter from Ulan-Ude (Republic of Buryatia – Siberia, Russia)

The Rinpoche Bagsha temple crackled with the deep murmur of Buddhist prayer. Under the gaze of a golden cross-legged Buddha, eight monks in crimson robes sat at a low table in the centre of the room, ethereal chants bursting from their throats. A bell tinkled. During the final prayer the congregation, squeezed together on benches close to the monks, picked up parcels of food and waved them in front of themselves in clockwise circles. The bell tinkled one last time.  

And with that, a hundred Russians put on their hats and coats, and came outside to where six marshrutka buses were waiting. The driver took their 20 roubles before taking them down the hill to Soviet Square. So begins a Sunday evening in the republic of Buryatia, Eastern Siberia’s Buddhist province.

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A country of rolling hills between the southern shores of Lake Baikal and Russia’s frontier with Mongolia, Buryatia spans a territory as big as Germany, but fewer than a million people live here. Half of them are in Ulan-Ude, the Trans-Siberian stopover and capital of the Buryat people. Buryats are of Mongolian stock, nomadic herders with a language and culture close to their cousins across the border. They lived alongside each other for centuries, when Mongol khans governed the lands around Baikal. But living inside Moscow’s orbit for generations – first in the Buryat-Mongolian Autonomous Soviet Republic, then as Russian citizens – has changed their identity. Buryatia is at once Russia, Siberia and Mongolia.

At Rinpoche Bagsha, on top of one of the hills north of Ulan-Ude, Buryat identity is felt strongly. The complex is built in the form of a Tibetan datsan, a school as well as a temple. Its teachings are from the Vajrayana school of Buddhism practiced in Tibet and Mongolia. As the first buses leave, some people stay behind for the monks to bless their food. Some stay to offer more prayers – first stood facing the Buddha with palms touching above their heads, then prostrate on their stomachs on the carpet. They leave the airy, pastel-coloured hall walking backwards, so as not to turn their backs on him.

Buddhism has flourished in Buryatia since 1991, and dozens of schools have opened. Buryats of all generations come to services at Rinpoche Bagsha, from young children to the elderly. The mood is powerful and genuine, even if the building, opened in 2000, is a lightweight replica of a Tibetan datsan. Governments of republics within the Russian Federation often only pay lip service to religion; the breezeblock temple, it feels, could be turned into a kindergarten or a ballet studio at a couple of nights’ notice.

But outside in the temple’s grounds, Rinpoche Bagsha is a true Little Lhasa. The view from the summit is breathtaking: the wilderness of Transbaikal – Irkutsk to the north, the republic of Tuva to the west, Chita region to the east – beneath an oversaturated dark blue sky. A mountain wind rips through a row of brightly-coloured prayer flags. Cast-iron prayer wheels rasp against fingers in the Siberian cold, while boards display Buddhist mantras in Russian, encouraging patience and hard work. A separate building houses the temple’s museum: its walls are covered with photographs from the Dalai Lama’s visit to Buryatia in 1991, and other photos from trips the monks of the datsan have made to Moscow and St. Petersburg. There is a gift shop and a café with souvenirs and cheery Tibetan folk music.

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Down the hill in Ulan-Ude it’s easier to feel that you are in Russia. Almost everyone talks in Russian, and two thirds of the people are ethnic Russians. Lenina street, a pedestrian zone of pharmacies and beauty salons and cafeterias and young families strolling about, is a very Russian format. The voice of the tannoy ushering people into the chaotic Galaxy mall on Baltakhinova street is the same man I had heard outside a mall in Arkhangelsk the week before, and in Moscow before that. A Communist Buryatia newspaper trampled into the snow on Gogol street offers congratulations on Russia’s Students’ Day. Kuybysheva street is a collection of old wooden Siberian cottages, most repainted colourfully in bold blues and greens and with white window-frames. They survive from the time of the Tsars, when Ulan-Ude – or rather the settlement of Verkhneudinsk – was a Russian trading post on the way to China.

On Soviet Square in the middle of the city is the landmark that gives Ulan-Ude its quaint claim to fame: the world’s largest sculpture of Lenin’s head, which serves as Buryatia’s calling card on the Trans-Siberian Railway. The head, eight metres tall, is known outside of Russia too: the then supreme leader of North Korea Kim Jong-il (himself a man of Eastern Siberia; he was born outside Khabarovsk) travelled here shortly before he died in 2011, especially to pay his respects to Lenin. But Ilyich wasn’t always so popular. The story goes that the sculpture was commissioned in 1971 to mark the centenary of Lenin’s birth, and shipped to Canada, where a delegation from the Soviet Union was taking part in an exhibition. When the 42-ton Lenin returned home, Ulan-Ude was the only town in the land that Moscow could persuade to take him. This impulse buy struck a chord with me. As someone who first came to Russia as a twenty year-old student, I understood the need to take home a discarded Lenin head, and display it somewhere your guests can’t miss it.

If the air inside the Rinpoche Bagsha temple crackles with prayer, creating energy, then during a service at Odigitrievsky cathedral the sound waves soothe you. Each deep ululation of the priest, followed by a chorus of high mesmeric song from the congregation, makes your heart slow down until you are frozen to the spot. The cathedral was built over 44 years in the 18th century with money donated by Cossack merchants. It stands at one end of what is now Lenina street, close to the spot where the two rivers that run through Ulan-Ude, the Uda and the Selenge, almost meet. During the Soviet era Odigitrievsky cathedral was converted into an anti-religious museum – a cruel trick on the place that has always been the home for Ulan-Ude’s Russian Orthodox community. Now though, Christenings and other events take place on its ground floor, and services are held every morning and evening in the church above.

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In other parts of Ulan-Ude, Buryatia’s cultures blend together. At Cafe Kheseg on Kommunisticheskaya street, Buryat families come in for a brunch of boovo (small, hard doughnuts served in a puddle of condensed milk) and blinchiki, as Russian and Mongolian ballads alternate on the stereo. Souvenir shops sell Mongolian handcrafts beside packs of Sagan Dalya, a potent medicinal Siberian tea. Tables at the outdoor market are piled with Soviet textbooks and fur socks from Ulaanbaatar. A statue on Lenina street depicts two fish with their tails entwined to form a circle; this is an auspicious symbol in Buddhism, representing freedom and happiness, and here they are made into omul salmon, native to Lake Baikal.

But the more people I spoke with, the more I realised that only outsiders fixate on Burytia’s location. Buryats don’t see themselves as just a legacy of their republic’s past lives. While Russia and Mongolia overlap in Ulan-Ude, when it comes to people’s tastes and identity, globalisation is playing as great a role as either of them.

Tracking down an exhibition of paintings by Buryat artists, finding it on the second floor of a plush apartment block in the centre of town, its door was locked. The babushka at reception told me the apartment-gallery has so few visitors that it is almost never open. But there was one sign of life in the corridor outside: a eucalyptus plant growing out of a paper Subway cup. I walked to the address of a cafe said to serve the best Buryat food in Ulan-Ude. It doesn’t exist anymore. With no buuzo dumplings in sight I had some cheesecake up the road at Marco Polo restaurant instead. At a bar called Yurta (The Yurt) close to Soviet Square I wanted to hear some Buryat music, and try tarasun – a vodka made from horse’s milk. They had imported beer on tap, and Ed Sheeran on the radio.

It’s a small world now. In the rolling hills between the southern shores of Lake Baikal and Russia’s frontier with Mongolia, the Buryat people eat at Subway, and listen to Ed Sheeran.

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The place where the Buryat way of life is being cared for is only half an hour’s drive north of Ulan-Ude, in the district of Verkhnyaya Berezovka. The Ethnographic Museum of the Peoples of Baikal is a portion of the wilderness punctuated with model villages, each dedicated to the culture of one of the tribes who populate the vast Baikal region – Buryats, Evenks, Soyots, Cossacks and Old Believers. The Buryat settlement has a traditional ger made from wood and animal skin, and an old Buddhist temple. To get to the villages you walk through a wildlife sanctuary, where a Siberian tiger, a pack of wolves, wild red foxes and Bactrian camels roam free. After wandering through the villages, Buryat families warm up in the museum cafe.

On a winter night in Eastern Siberia, with a six-hour flight back to Moscow before dawn, a long walk to the edge of the city should have been the last thing on my mind. But before I could say goodbye to this place, I needed two things: a plate of buuzo, and another sight of a housing block on the way to Rinpoche Bagsha. There, fixed to the roof of the building, is a slogan in big red letters: “Ulan-Ude – star of my Buryatia!”

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Kandalaksha – Russia’s Arctic North

A thousand miles from Moscow, a thousand kilometres from St. Petersburg, the Arctic town of Kandalaksha, on the frozen shores of the White Sea in Murmansk oblast, is one of Russia’s most northerly communities. Founded 500 years ago as a fishing village, its aluminium smelter and locomotive depot gave the area an industrial purpose under the Soviet Union. But Kandalaksha has been forgotten for the last twenty years. It is now only a dot on the vast Kola Peninsula – a 100,000 square kilometre expanse of pine forest between the White and Barents Seas.
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Which isn’t to say that Kandalaksha is decaying. A few Russian store chains – Sem’Ya supermarket; Svyaznoy mobile phones – have braved it this far north. There is an inconspicuous shopping mall, an indoor market, street-side kiosks selling hot pirozhki and instant coffee. There is even a sushi bar. All are close to the eerie Hotel Belomorye, the town’s only landmark. The place is pretty: a couple of orange and blue housing blocks liven up the central street, ulitsa Pervomaiskaya, while a wooden church and old wooden cottages rest by the shores of the White Sea.
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The people of the Kola Peninsula are typical provincial Russians: superficially harsh with strangers, startlingly warm to friends. Kandalaksha feels safe, but foreign visitors get a paranoid greeting, arrested on the train station platform by groups of militsiya, and only let go once they have given up their passports to be scanned, then written the address of every place they have ever worked, studied and lived on a piece of paper.
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A few steps from the eerie Belomorye, a wooden bridge over the River Niva leads straight into the pine forest. Red squirrels scamper up the trees. People come to the forest in winter to make the most of the four hours of daylight, and fill their lungs with the taiga’s perfect air. Children turn slopes into toboggan runs; adults explore the forest paths on cross-country skis.
It’s two sleeps back to Moscow. After a weekend in Kandalaksha, they are two deep ones.
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Interview: Talking #TRLT (The Road Less Travelled)

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I recently spoke with the people behind the #TRLT Twitter chat about my travels on The Road Less Travelled. The interview can be found in the chat’s Facebook group, and is also copied below.

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– Why do you like taking the road less travelled?
JC: I’ve always been drawn to unknown places. I had a very comfortable childhood in the south of England, but understood that I was living in a bubble. It made me want to see as much of the world as I could, and to live differently, so that I wouldn’t have the same stories, the same photos of the Eiffel Tower and the Acropolis, as everyone else. With a mixture of all sorts of support from my family and outrageous luck, I’ve been able to study and work in the same obscure places that captured my imagination when I was young.


– What are your top 5 destinations?
JC: My absolute favourite place on earth is the Caucasus. I love being in the mountains in the north of Georgia, where time seems to slow down, the pure air makes my body and mind feel stronger, and there is always a huge meal waiting at the end of a day hiking.
I love neighbouring Armenia even more. Yerevan is a gorgeous little city and its people are hilarious. The mountains in the south, by Iran, are spectacular. Armenia’s story is often tragic, but always inspiring; in the western part of the country, which feels abandoned, there are reminders of Armenia’s recent and ancient past.
Away from the Caucasus (Azerbaijan has its moments, but doesn’t make my top 5), I really enjoy spending time in Bulgaria. Besides its Black Sea beaches and mountain ranges, Bulgarian food and drink is phenomenal.
Travelling in Russia always makes me happy, especially overnight train journeys, where my sense of adventure – and need to see places that no-one else has – really kicks in. This year I woke up in the Republic of Mari El, and in the town of Kandalaksha in the Arctic Circle.
Finally, the Isle of Mull, one of the islands in the Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland, has hundreds of childhood memories, as well as beautiful wildlife.


– What destinations are you most keen to visit?
JC: Spending some time in Kazakhstan this spring has made me even more desperate to explore central Asia. I’d love to get into Turkmenistan somehow and feel what it is really like, or wander through Tajikistan, which seems stunning. As I travel to Almaty for work, I have a better chance of catching a day or two in Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan – I have dreamed about them both for years.
Another dream is to watch a game of Test cricket in Port Elizabeth in South Africa, with the local gospel choir and brass band playing in the stands, and the Indian Ocean in the background.


– Share your story of one of your favourite travel photos?
JC: This one [the photo above] isn’t one of my favourite photos to look at, but it sums up my travels quite nicely. I was in Athens’s Plaka district – The Road Travelled By Millions – and turned into an empty courtyard to get away from the crowds of tourists. I saw a derelict staircase in the corner and couldn’t stop myself from climbing up the steps inside. I was sure I shouldn’t have been there – there were sinister drawings of ravens on the walls and it felt like the building was ready to collapse. But at the very top of the staircase I found a corner that looked out over the Parthenon through a broken window; a view of the Acropolis that tourists never see.


– How did you find out about #TRLT Twitter Chat and what is it about the community and joining you love the most?
JC: Shane – The Travel Camel – and I used to write travel blogs on the same website (in the years before social media, when sharing travel stories and photos still took days to do). We met at World Travel Market in London and he let me sit in as he set up one of the early #TRLT chats from a bar nearby. Nowadays most of my Twitter feed is taken up by depressing news, so lurking in the chat on Tuesday evenings is a highlight of my week: my timeline gets ambushed by positive people, and cool photos from places I wouldn’t have thought about otherwise.


– What is the best piece of travel advice you can share?
JC: I’m learning not to measure my adventures in things I can’t feel, like kilometres from home, numbers of countries, or ‘likes’ for my tweets, but to enjoy the life-affirming moments for what they are. I try to take these moments home with me and find a place for them in my day-to-day life: taking some time each day to remember the things I’ve done, or turning songs that I’ve heard in cafes and taxis on my travels into a playlist for the gym. I treat people better now for having lived in places where hospitality and generosity are fundamental to the culture.

– Look out for the #TRLT Twitter chat every Tuesday evening at 6pm UK time.

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See more of my published writing here, my photography here, or get in touch with me here.