On the Shore of the Aegean

The Galata bridge that spans the Golden Horn in Istanbul is normally full of touts and scammers. Gypsies beg on the ground, swathed in blankets, small children in their arms. Ragged boys place footballs in the middle of the path and line up small wooden blocks alongside the wall for the punters to kick over. […]

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To the Edge of Asia

When the plane landed in Kiev the first thing we saw were United Nations aircraft parked alongside military jets beside the runway. The bold “UN” lettering and famous globe flag on the grey tarmac under the grey sky. The airport was not deserted but it was quiet. The only planes were stamped with Ukranian colours. There were no […]

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Warszawa Days

Coming out of the subway the only things to see were towering apartment blocks. The biggest was round, like a space station or something from an industrial plant, round and white and looming over the square blocks that otherwise made up the Warszawa night. I’d had a long journey; first the overnight train from L’viv to […]

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Wraiths of the Milk Bar

We walked into the doors of the milk bar (bar mleczny) and immediately felt like we’d stepped back 40 years to when Poland quivered under the glare of the Soviet Union and these state subsidised dens were the only places honest people could afford a meal out. Somewhere between a soup kitchen and workers canteen, the […]

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At a Honky-tonk in Poznan

Near the front of the bar was a man with a thick, roughly etched face, a clinging, defiant beard and that honky-tonk stare familiar to every visitor to Nashville, Tennessee. Before us was an old lady with short grey hair and golden earrings waving her arms above her head in time with every song. The […]

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7 Days in Hungary

Prostitutes and beggars hang out in front of kebab shops waiting to ensnare unsteady drunks. Loud English and Australian tourists hollar into bars and out of clubs. And me, I’m just walking through. Suitcase rolling along in one hand, the other patting down the pockets, phone in the left, wallet in the right. Over my […]

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The Bums of Budapest

There was a homeless man just around the corner from here snarling and muttering to himself by the side of an old building. He was using a concrete window sill to roll a cigarette and as I walked past I noticed with shock that his fevered mutterings were not in Hungarian but in English. “They’re […]

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Night Train to Budapest

“Sob! Sob!” He had stood up suddenly and was looking out the window and yelling. “I’m sorry?” “Szob! We’re in Szob! My brother lives in Szob.” Just then our phones beeped simultaneously; “Welcome to Hungary. A call home will cost you $4 a minute.” We’d boarded the train together in Warsaw and were the only […]

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Waiting for a Train in Poland

Polish people cringe when I tell them my first experience of this country was the train station at Katowice in 2010. 

The cold concrete interior, swathes of wandering homeless, and an open air butchers shop that filled the station with the dead smell of raw meat are a few of the impressions I’ve retained from […]

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A Village with No Pub

In a small village in greater Poland there are farms, houses, two identical conveniences stores, side by side, and a memorial to local pilots who defended the home land during the Second World War.  There was, however, something missing. It took me a couple of hours to realise exactly what. “Where’s the local pub?” I […]

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