Notes from the field

Our work takes us all over the world. Here we share some of our more personal perspectives on some of the destinations we have visited, filed on location.


Cuba’s Revolution – will it get lost in transition?

Looking down from the rooftop bar of Hotel Inglaterra, the oldest hotel in Cuba, you can enjoy Havana’s architectural splendor, albeit faded and fragile and desperately preserved by multiple coats of often peeling paint. On the street, you risk being assaulted by fumes from diesel cars and aggressive bicycle rickshaw drivers. Havana is a place that both stands still and rushes ahead. more >

Georgians bemoan pace of Western integration

Arriving at Tbilisi airport on a transit flight from Moscow, I witnessed an enterprising act of Georgian diplomacy that brought a smile to my face. As Russian passport holders passed customs control, they were handed bottles of the country’s finest wine. It was a nice touch by the government seemingly keen to reassure the visitors that while relations with Russia may be difficult, it has nothing against its citizens. more >

Tajik leader’s ‘grand designs’ fail to mask economic flaws

The Palace of Nowruz in Central Dushanbe is a mammoth edifice with 12 opulent reception halls. Some are decorated with intricate woodcarvings, others made entirely of expensive marble and semi-precious stones, all adorned with traditional paintings and mosaics. For five years some 4,000 artists worked on decorating the palace and the project is said to have cost $60mn. more >

Berlin rides the tech wave

The gentrified neighbourhoods of East Berlin bustle with activity. Cafés, trendy clothes shops and fancy restaurants line the wide boulevards, serving hip young Berliners. Amongst them are a growing number of entrepreneurs who are redefining the capital. more >

Namibia bucks Africa’s economic downturn

Arriving in Namibia’s capital Windhoek, one almost feels like stepping out of a time machine into 19th century Germany – albeit with a more welcoming climate. Bismarck Street in the wealthy seaside town of Swakopmund boasts shops selling German sausages of a quality that is hard to come by in Germany nowadays, and the fishing town of Lüderitz would not look out of place in Bavaria. Given the abundance of European architecture, traditional German cuisine and what locals proudly call the best beer in all of Africa, visitors might be surprised to learn that Namibia was only a German colony for a mere 30 years. more >

In Montenegro, it’s all business

Few travellers bound for Montenegro stop in Podgorica. No wonder, Montenegro’s capital is a lacklustre town with barely a cluster of lively restaurants and bars in its centre. All the action is along the coast, where the towns of Budva and Sveti Stefan, as well as Tivat and Kotor further inland, attract hordes of tourists with their beautiful beaches and quaint, medieval architecture. more >

Angola at the crossroads

Spend any time in Luanda, Angola’s bustling capital, and the first thing that hits you is the sharp disparities in wealth. more >

From Odessa to Ashdod – a Russian Jewish odyssey

“Why would you go to Ashdod?” The question was frequently raised by friends and colleagues on learning of my intention to visit Israel’s sixth largest city, 20 miles south of Tel Aviv on Israel’s Mediterranean coast. “To have Gefilte fish,” was often my somewhat gnomic response. more >

Harare revisited

Rather oddly, there is a poem about Shropshire in England that has always put me in mind of Zimbabwe. One of the telling lines is: “What are those blue remembered hills, what spires, what farms are those?” Anyone who has looked across into Mozambique from Zimbabwe's Eastern Highlands will appreciate that hills can be blue. And farming remains central to Zimbabwe’s destiny, for better or for worse. more >

Kathmandu bustles, while Nepal waits for a political solution

Kathmandu could probably at one point have been described as dreaming under quiet hills. These days it is hard to see traces of that past. Despite its river valley location, it is close in feel to the crowded Indo-Gangetic plain cities to its south and west, with its streets constantly masked in dust and traffic fumes. The tourist district, in the area of Thamel in the north of the city, sees a constant bustle of backpackers, travellers and climbers headed for Everest, for whom Kathmandu is the first port of call. more >

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