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A guide to seeing the Northern Lights

Seeing the aurora borealis for the first time is one of my most vivid memories. We were staying in the Shetland Islands, around 100 miles north of the Scottish mainland, and had returned to our cottage after dinner. It was just before midnight, and being early April it was still bitterly cold when the wind […]

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Belarus and the day when X really did mark the spot

It was 6.15 am on a deserted railway platform in western Belarus. The early morning sun was shrouded in thick cloud and a light drizzle greeted us as we stepped off the train. There was no sign of the driver who I had been promised would be waiting for us. And then as we started […]

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Dinner with an ex-Soviet submarine commander

It’s funny how people with the most amazing stories to tell are often the least vocal in sharing their experiences. This was certainly the case with the driver we hired for our short stay in Belarus. Yevgeni had met us early one morning at a rainy railway station in western Belarus. We were a group […]

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Estonia Week on 501 Places – reflections from the departure gate

After five days in Tallinn, we are on our way home. It’s been a busy yet relaxing week, and I will leave Estonia with many happy memories (and a few pounds heavier too!) This morning we saw a little more of the Old Town and noticed how much more activity there was as the weekend […]

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Estonia Week on 501 Places No.5: Lahemaa National Park, and what I don’t get about Estonian tourism

It’s hard to beat a whole day spent surrounded by beautiful and varied landscapes, finding some great short hikes to do, and hardly meeting another person for the whole time in the park. We had set off from Tallinn in our rental car (very expensive compared to UK/US prices: around £55 for the smallest car). […]

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Estonia Week on 501 Places No.4: A proper look at Tallinn

We finally dedicated a full day to see Tallinn today, and use our Tallinn Cards (24 hours of included sights and activities within Tallinn). Having stayed in the city, we have been waiting for the right day to visit. On Monday many of the museums are closed, and on Tuesday we had ventured out to […]

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Estonia Week on 501 Places No.3: A trip to Haapsalu and an old man’s memories

Our third night in Tallinn, and we are yet to explore the Old City in daylight! That is the plan for tomorrow, but today we took the chance to venture out of town, 100km out to be precise, to a small coastal spa town of Haapsalu. Once we finally found the right bus station (how […]

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Estonia Week on 501 Places – The beach off-season, and a Russian feast

Everything in Tallinn is close; most things are certainly within walking distance. This is a view from Pirita Beach, apparently popular in the summer but today almost deserted, looking back towards the Old Town, little over an hour’s walk away. Having learned that most museums in Tallinn are closed on Mondays, we decided to take […]

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Estonia Week on 501 Places – Finding our bearings, and a plate of pigs’ ears

One of the nice things of writing on the road is that you can capture your feelings, your impressions and your experiences as they happen. They are not altered by subsequent events; events which may confirm, contradict or deem irrelevant that which you noted at the time. Arriving in Tallinn, my initial impressions were a […]

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Belarus – Europe’s last true dictatorship

I have to admit that Belarus is not top of many people’s holiday lists.My trip too, was not made on the pretext of visiting many of the fascinating historic sites of this sleepy corner of eastern Europe. I had come here with eight of my family members to find the village where my father had […]

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