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There is no moral equivalence for atrocity

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I try to avoid politics on my blog. My focus is travel, culture and books. But I’m unable to tear myself away from the scenes of barbarity making their way out of Israel through Twitter, and sites like Bari Weiss’s Free Press substack. There’s one video I can’t get out of my head.  A young girl is yanked by her hair from the back of a Jeep by a man with a pistol who shouts “God is great”...

Tim Cocks: Life in Africa’s biggest megacity

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Tim Cocks Lagos is a massive city with massive problems. It’s plagued by traffic jams, power cuts, street gangs, police extortion, widespread fraud, and every hustle under the sun. I’ve always been drawn to Africa’s desert regions in my own travels.  And I’ve always thought of Lagos as a place to avoid: a dangerous shithole where nothing good could possibly happen to the outsider unlucky...

What I learned from writing 500 blogs

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Writing in the Aeolian Islands I wrote my 500th blog on this site a couple weeks ago.  In case you’re wondering, it was the one about the Stalin Museum in Georgia.  You can search my archives by clicking the little hamburger icon in the menu up top. It’ll open an entire world of options. Anyway, I thought I should take a look back at what I’ve learned from doing this — if anything...

In the city of the golden fleece

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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...

Jeremy Bassetti: Pilgrims on Bolivia’s Hill of Skulls

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Jeremy Bassetti Sacred mountains seem to pop up everywhere. We find them across cultures, from Japan’s Three Holy Mountains to high altitude Inca sacrifices in Peru, and the pilgrim circuit around Tibet’s Mount Kailash.  These geographical features feel closer to the gods. Physical border zones between the sacred and profane. That’s what we’re talking about today. I’m joined by Jeremy...

Leaning balconies of Tbilisi

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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...

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