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Transnistria, Baron Munchhausen, Salisbury, Russian & Saudi Ineptitude, Paveway Bombs

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

◄ Baron Munchausen at Benderry

Back in July I made a brief (ie 24 hour) visit to Tranistria – that curious sliver of a nation sandwiched between Moldova and Ukraine and recognized by nobody in the world except for Vladimir Putin and his friends. In my Transnistria blog I mentioned Lenin and Gagarin, but totally forgot to highlight the ‘country’s’ most famous name – Baron Munchausen. The hero of the 1785 account Baron Munchausen’s Narrative of his Marvellous Travels & Campaigns in Russia,.would later be the starring role in Terry Gilliam’s disastrous (ie it lost a lot of money) movie The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

Baron Munchausen is famous for telling elaborately tall tales and the Transnistiran story recounts how he rode a cannonball over the walls of the Bendery fortress on his way to defeating the Ottoman Turks. I certainly didn’t miss the Baron or his cannonball, even if I omitted them from my blog.

▲ my photograph of Baron Munchausen and his cannonball.

◄ The cloister of Salisbury Cathedral

One person who is highly unlikely to have missed Baron Munchausen when he was visiting Transnistria is Russian military doctor Alexander Mishkin who used the alias Alexander Petrov to travel to Salisbury in England to poison people with the nerve agent Novichok. According to the investigative website Bellingcat Dr Mishkin was enthusiastic about Transnistria and since he appears also to have been such a keen tourist Baron Munchausen would clearly have been part of his Transnistrian itinerary.

When he visited Salisbury it was the beauty of Salisbury Cathedral with the largest cloister in the UK and at 123metres the tallest church spire, which attracted him. Along with his friend/accomplice and fellow tourist Colonel Anatoly Chepiga, aka Ruslan Boshirov. Stopping off to poison people was clearly just a minor distraction. Of course he might have picked up his cloister and spire information from Lonely Planet’s Britain guide, I wrote up Salisbury for the very first edition, although the facts and figures are also readily available online, in Wikiipedia for example.

It’s the sheer ineptitude of countries like Russia or, more recently, Saudi Arabia, which boggles the mind. Somebody thinks we’re going to believe this stuff? Oh somebody – journalist Jamal Khashoggi – visits the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and never emerges while 15 Saudi agents fly into Istanbul visit the embassy and then quickly fly out again? Well war crimes and Saudi Arabia go together, why not common or garden murder as well? As I write this the Saudis are trying to dream up a story that keeps Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s – aka MbS – hands clean. That way Donald Trump can ensure his US$110 billion arms sale to the Saudis isn’t endangered.

Just think what the Saudis can buy with US$110 billion? Laser-guided GBU-12 Paveway II bombs are just US$21,896 according to Wikipedia so you could buy 45,000 of them with just one billion dollars. It only took one Paveway to wipe out a Yemeni schoolbus and kill 40 schoolkids in Saada in Yemen in August this year. Sort out this little confusion over a dead journalist and the POTUS can pave the way for the Saudis to wipe out every school bus in all of Yemen. Although it appears Paveways are equally useful for killing civilians at weddings, funerals or in hospitals according to Human Rights Watch.

Transnistria, Baron Munchhausen, Salisbury, Russian & Saudi Ineptitude, Paveway Bombs

16 October 2018 | Living

◄ Baron Munchausen at Benderry Back in July I made a brief (ie 24 hour) visit to Tranistria – that curious sliver of a nation sandwiched between Moldova and Ukraine and recognized by nobody in the world except for Vladimir Putin and his friends. In my Transnistria ...

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Wajib & its Insights into Nazareth

14 October 2018 | Media

The film Jirga recently took me back to Afghanistan and now Wajib takes me on a quick return trip to Nazareth, the Palestinian centre in Israel. A wajib is an obligation, not an absolute necessity, that’s a fard, but something you should do. Like deliver invitations f...

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Jirga – a film in Afghanistan

29 September 2018 | Media

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Komodo & Sumbawa

20 September 2018 | Places

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Kuta – then & now

19 September 2018 | Living

◄ Poppies Gang – a ‘gang’ is a narrow pathway or alleyway – and this popular gang at Kuta Beach in Bali, Indonesia, runs by Poppies Restaurant and Poppies Hotel. Despite Kuta’s massive growth Poppies Gang looks just the same as it did in the ‘70s, right down to the tr...

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Looking for Transwonderland

3 August 2018 | Media

Although she grew up in England and lives there today Noo Saro-Wiwa definitely has a strong connection to Nigeria. In 1995 her father Ken Saro-Wiwa, an environmental activist (and a peaceful one) was hanged along with 10 others who had the temerity to complain about t...

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The Painted Monasteries of Bucovina in Romania

2 August 2018 | Places

I’ve been a regular visitor to Romania in recent years. Mauren and I were in Bucharest and Transylvania in 2014 and enjoyed it so much, particularly the beautiful Saxon villages of Transylvania, that we returned with a bunch of London friends for a second look in 2015...

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Ryszard Kapuściński’s Imperium

1 August 2018 | Media

Back in 2008 I read Ryszard Kapuściński’s Travels with Herodotus, the travelling tales of the Polish journalist whose adventures proved, once again, that less is often more. His expense account was as threadbare as the Soviet-era Polish economy and he made up for it b...

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Minsk in Belarus

29 July 2018 | Places

After Moldova, Transnistria and Ukraine (I haven’t reported on my starting point, the Bucovina district of Romania yet) my final Eastern European stop was in Belarus – ‘Europe’s last dictatorship,’ thanks to Aleksandr Grigoryevich Lukashenko who has been President for...

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British Airways Baggage Refund & a Trip to Svalbard

27 July 2018 | Living

I’m a firm believer on travelling only with carry ons, avoiding the hassles of checked baggage. A recent experience with British Airways underlines why that’s a good idea. No, they didn’t lose my baggage, but extracting a baggage money refund from them after a flight ...

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