An Estonian Prophecy


There were still ten minutes before the Tallinn double decker sightseeing bus was scheduled to depart.  The top deck now full: in front a group of Russians and, last on, a small group of Brits smartly dressed and diffusing as much aftershave as the perfume counter in Debenhams. During a stay in Tallinn 17 years earlier I met a traveler from Quebec at a backpacker hostel. Mike had been in the city for under a week and was ‘running out of things to do.’ His enthusiasm for the ‘pretty little place’ was as yet undiminished, but he was certainly aware … Continue reading

Stalin’s World


 Gruto Parkas was designed with the intention to shock and early signs were that it would do just that. The parks 500 acre grounds were dominated by some sixty odd statues of Communist icons, the old favourites such as Lenin and Stalin and some less known additions. Despite it being a sculpture garden with cafes, kids playgrounds, a zoo and other concessions to the modern day visitor, the idea was to ‘recreate the horror of the Soviet gulag’, and first impressions were indeed more gulag than theme park. First off the park was surrounded by barbed wire, guard towers and … Continue reading

Spare a thought for Laika


There’s a lot of talk about space at the moment; with the new Star Wars film soon out and Tim Peake’s recent blast off. Should the latter have missed your radar (and that would have been difficult)  the first British man in space launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the same place where the first man in space Yuri Gagarin launched from in 1961. It’s also no coincidence that in September Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, opened the exhibition at the Science museum: Cosmonauts – Birth of the Space Age, which includes Vostok 6 and has been called ‘the most significant collection of Russian space craft and artifacts ever … Continue reading

More Volga Times

Volga beyond Staritsa

The following pics are of the early stretch of the Volga between the source and the historic town of Staritsa….. it really does feel like time stopped a few centuries ago and didn’t start again. Its the most contained and probably the most welcoming  part of the whole river. Bruce Chatwin, in his book ‘What am I doing here’ writes, ‘The Volga is the nomadic frontier of Modern Europe, just as the Rhine and Danube was the barbarian frontier of the Roman Empire. Once Ivan crossed the Volga, he set Russia on her course of eastward expansion, which would roll on and on, until … Continue reading


If you were to ask someone what the Volga meant to them you would probably get one of two responses. The first: ‘The Volga? Never heard of it!’ The second, a story of the tragic, turbulent and often brutal history of a river, at the heart of which would probably be Stalin’s vision of ruthless and rapid industrialisation. And of course it is the latter that resonates most with our understanding of Russia’s history; at once a place of merciless aspiration, tragedy and loss. Certainly the Volga can evoke this history…factory chimneys pushing out endless clouds of smoke, sewage pipes … Continue reading

Volga Times

For anybody who might find themselves reading The Way a River Went I’m going to provide some visuals to accompany the book. For the time being I’m going to blog a few images chapter by chapter (based on reading speed of approximately one chapter per week…this output may increase or decrease at any time based on a whole variety of factors I wont go into here…..or anywhere else probably). I am aware that for some its quite possible to finish the whole book in well under a week (if not day…its not a big book) however I’m trying to consider everybody’s needs. I’ll do … Continue reading

Swimming in Kazan


News of the World Swimming Championships in Kazan (taking place at the moment) and the development of ‘the most advanced sporting infrastructure in all of Russia’ and one of the ‘most advanced Aquatic facilities in the world’ to host the event, prompted me to remember passing through the capital of Tartarstan a little while ago, whilst following the Volga River. I didn’t spend long in the city but enough time to take a few holiday snaps. My photographic endeavours usually find themselves filed away and largely forgotten  so I’m taking this opportunity to put a handful out there..

Barry and Me


For the past few months I’ve been more than a little distracted. A number of reasons could be sighted (a new book published next month being one) however the main source of my diversion is simple: I’ve fallen in love! And thus have been experiencing the open mouthed, soft in the head, judgement impairing symptoms which the above condition involves. For years now I’ve been searching for the kind of love that brings true happiness, and after far too many to mention failed attempts, all the elements of the cosmos eventually conspired to bring me together with …….Barry.   Now for the uninitiated (and … Continue reading

Mystery of missing dalek uncovered.

 One time Laibach, suffered an earthquake in 1895, the mess was cleaned up and from the rubble rose a delightful art nouveau bricks and mortar phoenix. The Slovenian capital continues to impress visitors today. Those not already saturated by the old towns of Mittel Europa are here gifted yet another photogenic centre piece square, not to mention a castle and a river lined with bars and restaurants, Ljubljana is a visitor friendly city that throws up very few surprises. Except for perhaps two….. In a landlocked country better known for it’s skiing than its sailing I was surprised to see a large anchor on … Continue reading


 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