Oh…that Prince Harry.

Passing through Freedom Square during a visit to Tallinn earlier this year, I had been intrigued to see the Union Jack dancing in the breeze next to the Estonian flag. I was on my way up to the tourist magnet that is Tompea …at a time that I hoped would avoid the crowds.On arriving outside the entrance to the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral opposite the Parliament building it transpired my decision had been a good one, as only a handful of people were about. Three teenage girls stood on a grassy mound not far from the cathedral. They gripped  souvenir union jacks and expressions of extreme anticipation filled their young faces – I … Continue reading

Tallinnaland

 Tourism is big business in Tallinn, the old town or medieval theme park as it’s also known draws in tourists by the boat, plane and coach load. And indeed walking its ancient cobbled streets is a great way to spend a couple of days. Although most stays don’t allow enough time to visit many/if any museums, the city has no shortage. Many are indeed not worth a visit, but I did feel during a recent short stay, it was worth paying a visit to the Occupations Museum, considering Estonia had spent considerably more time being occupied than not over the past 150 years. The museum was built a result … Continue reading

Nowhere quite like it.

According to an article in the St Petersburg Times - Vladimir Putin once said ‘It is my misfortune…and tragedy that I am alone. There just isn’t anyone like me in the world. After Mahatma Gandhi died, there was nobody left to talk with.’  Even Prince Charles, who will gladly have a natter with anybody, sounds like he might  steer clear  in the future. The Russian president’s home town is the resplendent city of St Petersburg … the brain child of a certain Peter (the Great). The architect of the Venice of the North with its photogenic waterways was another single minded Russian, with an autocratic leadership … Continue reading

Good hair doesn’t equal good books!

  Another round of quite unnecessary elections took place in North Korea earlier this year and unsurprisingly the world’s best quaffed dictator came out victorious. Kim Jong-Un was voted in to represent his district of Mount Pektu. Choice was indeed narrow as there was only one candidate – as with all the other seats…unlike European elections which allow any old nutter to run! The event aroused something of a celebratory tone as poems were recited, such as the sublime ‘We go to Polling Station’ and the unforgettable  ‘We break into cheers from the bottom of our hearts.’ Voters appear to have … Continue reading

Golden Belarus

  News of Anton Kushnir’s gold in the men’s freestyle skiing aerial event at the Olympics, hot on the heels of Alla Tsuper’s medal in the equivalent event for women, must come as a welcome respite for the people of Belarus after a month of less than cheery tidings. With the news that lace underwear production and sales will conclude as of July  and the controversy over the ‘constipated’ courage monument in the city of Brest, it has been a gloomy few weeks for the Belarusians. If the memorial finding its way into a top 10 of ‘ugly’ monuments and … Continue reading

Who needs the Eiffel Tower!

So with plans afoot for a Disney style theme park to be built on the shores of Lake Baikal, perhaps as imagined by the Kremlin’s deputy culture minister Alla Manilova, Siberia is about to become the best tourist destination in the world…a place capable of making people feel ‘ten years younger’. Increasingly with Olympics and World Cups Russia is the place to visit….so why shouldn’t this ambition become a reality. Of cause some would argue that Mickey Mouse has already arrived in Siberia in the form of ‘Meteor Disneyland’, with the arrival of a lump of rock near the Urals … Continue reading

A brief reflection on travel….

 ‘Everything was dead’ Kerouac writes of the disillusion from which his particular road was born, his own abandonment travel. My own disillusionment contained within delivering rolls and sandwiches around Lambeth on a bicycle, in fact acted as an incubator for what may well turn out to be my greatest adventure. A gestation loaded with all the timeless feelings of frustration, underachievement…….. boredom. Yet whilst the above, captured so eloquently by the Kerouacs and Salingers, were conspiring and the boredom took hold, there was a growing freedom to be seduced by something. The more claustrophobic the familiarity became- greater the force crushing … Continue reading

No Languishing in Languedoc

Towards the end of last Summer I spent a few days in the Languedoc region of southern France, rich in Cathar history aswell as some very healthy looking vineyards. My French history is limited as is my wine appreciation however I know a good idea when I see one and the seductive fusion of the natural landscape and some fairly robust artwork littered about the hillsides to be found at the Sentiel Sculpture Park, is just that. ‘The old traveller’ and ‘The arches of life’ are just two of the many sculptures that look quite at home in their charmed surroundings and probably will be for years … Continue reading

Mine is something strange with extra Cheese

A trip to the city of Amsterdam has been compared to passing through the wardrobe into Narnia. With over four million international visitors annually – most of whom seemed to be there during my stay recently – it is certainly not a place of permanent Winter, the warmth generated by the crowds is infectious. It is undeniably charming with it’s gabled facades and baroque, flower markets, canals and cobbled alleyways not least around the old quays district of De Wallen – where dark streets and decadence are the order of the day. The constant threat of death by fast moving … Continue reading

70,000 dead at Borodino….that’s nothing!

A memorial to one of the most unforgiving battles of WW2 …and located in Russia was always going to be big. But nothing prepared me for the goliath of a tribute that is the Mamaev Kurgan. The numbers involved are too big to comprehend….600,000 Russian dead, 600,000 German. The Battle of Stalingrad as with Russia itself has generated many superlatives. The German 6th Army launched an attack on Stalingrad city centre in 1942. The Soviet 62nd Army defended. The memorial complex was commissioned after the war and built between 1959 and 1967. Vasily Chuikov who lead the Soviet forces is … Continue reading