Georgia On My Mind

A recurring memory from a recent trip that Kay and I took to the Republic of Georgia is of a large pig running freely alongside our bus as it slowly edged around the large, linked potholes that make up many of Georgia’s secondary roads. A free-range pig, unpenned and unsupervised, is not something I believe I’ve ever seen before, yet it wasn’t the most unusual sight we experienced during our four days in this seldom-visited country. Continue reading Georgia On My Mind

Dreams of Zanzibar Fulfilled

I didn’t quite know what to expect upon landing on Zanzibar Island, even though I had read its entries in our Lonely Planet guide. I had long dreamed of visiting this romantic-sounding place with its exotic name. And Stone Town, the historic part of the island, sounded appealing, too. I was to learn that that name was not historic at all, having been suggested by the World Bank in 2006 to appeal to tourists. Continue reading Dreams of Zanzibar Fulfilled

Tunisia at Last


“Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back.” Proverb

The land of Tunisia, on the North African Coast, sandwiched between the giants of Libya and Algeria has long been on my bucket list of countries to visit. Why? Because of what I’ve read of its history and heard of its culture. I have friends who have spoken glowingly of the weeks and months they’ve spent there. And the fact that of all the countries that experienced the Arab Spring, Tunisia is the only one seeking political change that has at least partially achieved it.

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See the USA in a Dodge Van, Part 1

As you probably know, but may have forgotten, Kay and I are no strangers to long road trips. Our last in the U.S. was in 2012 in a motorhome that we nicknamed The Beast. That experience taught us a lesson; we won’t do it that way again. This time we are traveling in a brand new Grand Caravan by Dodge, so loaded with features that we don’t even have to open the two side doors or the hatchback manually. Just give them a nudge and they open automatically. For us old-timers, technology has changed our world in unrecognizable ways, hasn’t it?

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Innocents Abroad in Japan, Part 3

“Wearing kimono and walking in Kyoto”

Sign for a kimono rental service

From the window of a speeding Shinkansen on a sunny day, the impressions pile up quickly. There nearly always seem to be mountains in the distance. In the foreground, every bit of land seems precious. All the arable fields are under cultivation, and in settlements, the two-and-three-storey residential buildings are grouped so close together that it seems it would be difficult to drive a car among them. As for passenger cars in Japan, many are smaller and boxier that the larger, aerodynamic styling we associate with the Toyotas and Nissans in North America.

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Discoveries in Uzbekistan

It is after 7 a.m. in Tashkent where I had arrived with others only four hours before in the middle of the night. I go into the hotel’s currency exchange office and lay a hundred-dollar bill on the counter. The woman in charge goes to a cabinet in the rear of the room and returns with a brick-size bundle of local currency. There are eight packets of one thousand Uzbek som notes, one hundred notes to a packet. With eight thousand som to the dollar, I now have eight hundred thousand som, which, other than for a few major purchases, will see me through the next eight days. “Salem Alaykom.” Welcome to Uzbekistan!

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Gdansk and Around

Kay and I passed through Gdansk for the first time about ten years ago on our way north through the Baltic States in an attempt to beat the summer heat further south. On that occasion, we stayed only a couple days to admire the old city and ogle the amber jewelry in the shop windows.

This visit was more comprehensive. During scheduled excursions from our annual two-week literary conference held at a nearby resort on the Baltic Sea, we revisited the beautiful old town’s center, overflowing with summer tourists, and spent some choice hours in two museums that hadn’t existed at the time of our first visit.

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The Austere Beauty of Iceland

March, 2015

Geologically speaking, nature did a good thing for the planet fifteen million years ago by giving us the volcanic island of Iceland. Of course, it took humans a long time to discover it. It wasn’t until the 9th century CE that a fugitive from Norway named Ingólfur Arnarson approached the island by boat. Throwing two carved logs overboard, he declared that wherever the gods decreed they would touch land he would settle. That spot became known as Reykjavik (Smokey Bay) due to the steam rising from its fissures and thermal pools. Today, it is that steam that heats the water that supplies the bathroom shower and fills the kitchen sink. Its faint odor of sulfur betrays its source.

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