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Across the divide – a visit to the former inner German border

Follow the bend in the road, then walk for around 100 metres. If I hadn’t seen the satellite photo a few minutes earlier I’d have had no idea where to look. Beyond the roadside ditch wild flowers were swallowed up by the long grass, and only an occasional car broke the calm of an afternoon […]

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What would Lenin say now?

Our journey from Tampere in Finland to Vilnius in Lithuania followed the journey of the Soviet Union, from the early plans for revolution to its grim consequences Lenin first met Stalin in 1905 in the Tampere Workers’ Hall in Finland, the same building which now holds one of the world’s few remaining museums dedicated to the […]

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Faroe Islands and the thorny issue of whaling

When I mentioned that I was going to the Faroe Islands last week, several people immediately asked me: “Isn’t that the place where they kill whales?”. Others directly asked whether I would be reporting on the whale hunts. These tiny islands in the North Atlantic, blessed with stunning scenery and an incredible number of sea […]

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2014 – A Year of Birds

  It wasn’t meant to be like this. Neither of us have ever been particularly excited by bird watching, apart from the thrill of a rare and fleeting blue flash of a kingfisher on a walk in the country. And yet our travels in the first half of 2014 have been almost exclusively dominated by […]

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A sleepless night in the Polish Bieszczady Mountains

I can’t remember spending a more uncomfortable night. I fidgeted constantly in my rigid lower bunk bed, sleeping in short, unsatisfying 20-minute bursts and, worst of all, running at least once an hour, often more frequently, to the loo. By the end of the night I knew every loose floor board in the building; I knew exactly when […]

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Why the City of London is an open history book

I’ve mentioned this before on this site, but the history you can uncover with even a minimal effort on a walk through London never ceases to surprise me. Take last week for example… We popped into the church of St Martins Within Ludgate, just down from St Paul’s Cathedral, to admire one of the few surviving […]

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Lake Bled and a memory of never-ending rain

Lake Bled is a place where it never stops raining. At least that’s the way it will appear in my mind whenever I hear or read about it. It was pouring with rain when we boarded the bus in Ljubljana last month; it was raining even harder when we arrived in Bled. By the time […]

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Skopje – dazzling capital or monumental folly?

Take a walk for the first time through central Skopje and you’re bound to scratch your head in bewilderment. Mammoth statues of warriors adorn the main public spaces, while neo-classical palaces dominate the banks of the Vardar river. Figures of dozens of poets, musicians and artists line the bridges and embankments. And the bulldozers and […]

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An unremarkable bus journey through northern Kosovo

As border crossing go, it was one of the quickest I’ve ever encountered. A burly policeman boarded the bus, shook hands with the driver, exchanged a few jokes with the passengers at the front and left, waving us through. We had crossed from Serbia to Kosovo or, according to the border police and every one […]

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Erm, erm, erm… Mr President

It’s not every day you address the person sitting across the table from you as Mr President. Neither is it every day that you interview a man for whose freedom you marched as a teenager. Whether or not these are sufficient reasons to explain my bumbling questioning of Lech Wałęsa, Poland’s first democratically-elected president after […]

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