Ryan Murdock

Author of Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America. Host of Personal Landscapes podcast. Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Canada's Outpost magazine. Writer at The Shift. Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Leaning balconies of Tbilisi


Tbilisi balcony I was getting used to the cool dimness of our rented flat on Revaz Tabukashvili Street, with its taciturn owner who was only talkative when scented with vodka, but our time in Tbilisi was drawing to a close. We slept late, and walked over to the Dry Bridge, where mismatched items were being laid out on plank tables or plastic sheets on the ground. It was the same sort of trinkets...

Museum for a monster


Gori’s Stalin Museum I told you about Mirian in my last blog — the driver we hired to visit two towns outside Tbilisi — and how intent he was to educate us about Georgia’s Atlantean origins, its remarkable fecundity in spawning the bloodlines of every royal family from Europe to Asia, and the mysterious way a baby can tap into universal truth. If only they had a larger vocabulary, we’d all...

The Pyrenees: Matthew Carr on Europe’s savage frontier


Matthew Carr The Pyrenees is one of the great European landscapes. It cuts across the mouth of the Iberian peninsula, forming the border between France and Spain. It’s been a place of beauty and of terror; a passage for refugees, dissidents and resistance fighters; and the cradle of both religious heresy and religious pilgrimage. This fascinating region is too often overshadowed by the...

Raving Mad in Mtskheta


Looking over the confluence of the Aragvi and Mtkvari Rivers When a morning starts with obscure theology, you know it’s about to go off the rails.  We hadn’t been driving for more than five minutes when Mirian launched into an earnest lecture on celestial theories of contact with other realms, and how the soft spot in a baby’s head is actually a portal that closes as we get older, cutting us...

Riding the rails to Tbilisi


A forlorn shell of a station It was time to leave Svaneti’s mountains and towers and descend to the lowlands. We caught a marshrutka at 8am for the long and winding drive to Zugdidi, capital of Georgia’s Samegrelo region. I expected it to be as dizzying as the drive up, but a little worse for being crammed in with so many other passengers.  Early morning marshrutka to the lowlands To my...

A hawk on Mount Gul


I had one more hike to do before we left Svaneti and moved down into the lowlands. I was glad to be back at Meri’s again. It wasn’t as though the food had been bad in Ushguli. It’s just that Meri’s cooking made everyone else’s seem mediocre by comparison.  Meri’s cooking didn’t make me fat — it’s my wallet hanging under my shirt The heat was so intense I caught myself glancing...

Simon Winchester: Outposts at the edge of the world


Simon Winchester If you think colonialism ended after the Second World War, then my latest conversation may surprise you. There are still some 56 colonies and dependent territories in the world today, — or 61, depending on how you count them. Some are uninhabited hunks of rock, but many are home to thriving communities with strong ties to their parent country. I naively considered traveling...

Caught in a rainstorm wine jug ambush


The 45km road to Ushguli was said to be treacherous: a precarious dirt track requiring a 4×4 and at least 3 hours. Small jacked-up Mitsubishi Delica vans make the trip many times each day in the August high season, and so we walked to the centre of town in the morning to buy a ticket. To my surprise, we were pointed to a regular-sized marshrutka van, the typical fixed-route...

On the cow-strewn road to Mestia


The road from Kutaisi followed the flat coastal plains of what used to be, in Greco-Roman geography, Colchis — the land where Jason and his Argonauts sought the Golden Fleece.  Archaeologists believe there may have been some truth to this legend, at least as far as the fleece was concerned. Around the 5th century BC, people in this region did sometimes stretch a sheep fleece over a wooden...

Tom Parfitt: Walking the High Caucasus


Tom Parfitt Tom Parfitt walked across the northern flank of the Russian Caucasus, from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea, through republics whose names are synonymous with violence, extremism and warfare. He did it to rid himself of nightmares brought on by the terrible events he witnessed during the 2004 seige of School Number One in Beslan, North Ossetia. He also wanted to understand how places...


Sign up for my entertaining email newsletter

Recent Posts