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
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, but with an aluminium smelter and locomotive depot giving the area an industrial purpose under the Soviet Union, 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. … More Kandalaksha – Russia’s Arctic North
At 7am the streets of Yoshkar-Ola were dark and empty. As I shuffled over dirty snow and treacherous black ice, the only sound was the bickering of ravens overhead. The shops on ulitsa Kremlyovskaya – Apteka No. 67; Evroset; Moda 21 vek – told me that I had arrived in provincial Russia. Except that ul. Kremlyovskaya is also Kreml urem: street signs and building plaques are written in Russian and Meadow Mari, the most widely spoken of the four Mari dialects.
I made a beeline for the peculiar buildings in the distance. … More ‘Letter from Yoshkar-Ola (Republic of Mari El, Russia)’ – for The Calvert Journal
For my first few days in Armenia my mind was elsewhere. I was searching for signs of the two worlds that overlap in the South Caucasus, where wild Eurasian land is punctuated by the Cyrillic – and the shambles – of the post-Soviet space… … More ‘Postcard from Noravank monastery, Armenia’ – for Elsewhere Journal
Taking the train between Yerevan and Gyumri was going to be the highlight of my time in Armenia – especially the journey through Ararat province. But on the day I went, Mount Ararat was hidden by clouds. Instead, the best part of my trip was the beautiful sight of white storks gliding above the farms and fields next to the train, and making their nests on top of the station buildings at Masis and Etchmiatsin. In Armavir province, hoopoes fly next to the train tracks. … More ‘Five things that will surprise you in Armenia’ – for Wandelion
Khor Virap monastery, 30km west of Yerevan on the border with Turkey, for the vivid and important story behind it – and the beautiful sight of Mount Ararat looming over the church. In Yerevan, the Sargis Muradyan gallery (on Isahakyan street, near to ‘Cascade’) is a great place to spend a free hour. … More ‘Just back from… Armenia’ – in Wanderlust magazine