On the steppe of eastern Kazakhstan, close to the Tien Shan mountains that straddle the border with China and Kyrgyzstan, is the beautiful Kolsai lake. *** Kolsai is a lush spot in the wilderness, where Kazakhs come to hike in the surrounding forest, fish, or rest by the water. *** The lake is 300km east … More Kolsai Lake, Kazakhstan
From ‘Bessarabka’, walk up one of the steep vulytsi (streets) that lead to the highest part of the city, and choose a cafe for brunch near the 11th Century Zoloti Vorota (Golden Gates). Eat some varenyki – Ukrainian dumplings that are made with both sweet and savoury fillings. Near to Zoloti Vorota is the gorgeous St. Sophia’s cathedral. Climb to the top of the bell tower for a first panoramic view of Kiev: the exquisite and colourful buildings of Sofiyska Square and St. Michael’s monastery below, and on the horizon, the districts of the left bank of the River Dnieper. … More ‘How to spend a perfect weekend in Kyiv’ – for Lonely Planet
Kazakh nomads say that shubat and kumys lower blood pressure, and swear that they cure all sorts of illnesses and diseases. They are popular throughout Central Asia: on my first trip to Kazakhstan I tried a little bottle of supermarket-brand shubat. But the milks from the bazaar, in recycled plastic bottles, came straight from someone’s herd of camels and horses, somewhere on the steppe outside Almaty. … More Drinking camel’s milk (shubat) and horse’s milk (kumys) in Almaty, Kazakhstan
A story that I wrote about my son Andrew, and a trip we made to Bulgaria’s Thracian Valley when he was four, is included in a new book by Bradt Travel Guides called ‘Kidding Around: Tales of Travel with Children’. … More Kidding Around: A story in the new Bradt Travel Guides anthology
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)
Spending time in Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s grand, roomy capital, I learned a lot about daily life in Central Asia: … More Six things I felt in Tashkent, Uzbekistan