Category

Europe

The future was there

T

Berlin residents must have felt one step closer to the future in the decade before the Cold War ended.  That’s when a 313-metre-long spacecraft materialized in Westend.   East Berlin was building their Palace of the Republic in the 1970s, and the West’s Congress Hall in the Tiergarten — known as the pregnant oyster for its unfortunate shape — was too small. A competition was held to...

Wannsee and the bureaucracy of genocide

W

The villa of the Wannsee conference Remembrance Day isn’t observed here in the country that started and lost two World Wars. But Berlin is filled with memorials which commemorate the Twentieth Century’s darkest events. I normally stand alone in my study for the 11am moment of silence. But this year I decided to observe Remembrance Day by visiting the Wannsee villa where Nazi bureaucrats met to...

In the city of the golden fleece

I

Colchis Fountain, Kutaisi The train ride passed quickly with comfortable first class seats and a back issue of the London Review of Books.  It was the same Zugdidi-bound service we’d used a few days before, but we would not be returning to the highlands. We were bound for Berlin the next day, and there isn’t much more to say. All aboard for Kutaisi I liked Kutaisi immediately, with it’s...

Leaning balconies of Tbilisi

L

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

M

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

T

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

R

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

R

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

A

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...

Caught in a rainstorm wine jug ambush

C

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...

NEWSLETTER

Sign up for my entertaining email newsletter


Recent Posts

Archives