More than any of its sights, smells and sounds, what hits you most when you arrive in Baku is how the city makes you feel. Azerbaijan’s capital is a discombobulating place: a mix of the ultra-modern and the very-old, where the country’s Turkish, Russian, Persian and European identities collide on every street. Even in its calm moments the city will find ways to confuse you: as you stroll along its promenade on the shores of the Caspian Sea, you are actually 28 metres below sea level. So as you explore the biggest city in the Caucasus, here are the experiences that will give you a feel for Baku’s awesome oddness… … More Highlights of Baku, Azerbaijan – for Lonely Planet
In the heart of the Caucasus Mountains, close to Georgia’s border with Russia’s North Ossetia, the village of Kazbegi is a breathtaking stop along the Georgian Military Highway.
People come here for the hike to Gergeti Trinity Church – a climb of 2170 metres (7120 feet) into the mountains. The trek through farmsteads and forests, and the view from the chapel, are stunning. … More Stepantsminda (Kazbegi), Georgia
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
The loveliest parts of Tbilisi are the easiest to miss… … More Spotted in Tbilisi, Georgia (photo)
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
The new people, places and situations that we encounter during our lives shape the way that we view the world. In late July 2008 I experienced all three at the same time, during an overnight train journey between Hungary and Ukraine in the middle of my vacation from the law firm in Kyiv where I had been working. The journey will stay in my mind for longer than the holiday itself. … More The Night Train