â€œIf you do ever get there, though, the Gandamack Lodge is the place to drown your sorrows. Great bar. The cityâ€™s not exactly awash with them. All the news crews stay there, and itâ€™s the circuitâ€™s watering hole. Plenty of company.â€
Kabul was hardly competing with Amsterdam of Prague for the city-break crowd. â€œWelcome to sunny Kabul.â€ He laughed. â€œWho in their right mind would want to come to this God-forsaken place.”
And on the Serena hotel, where Carsten Thomassen was killed in January,
Whoever had designed the place had made it almost impregnable to ground attack by anything except a Challenger or a Warrior, and with not a HESCO or roll of razor wire in sight
The Gandamack Lodge had opened in the days following the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, when a glut of news crews found themselves with nowhere to stay. It very quickly became a Mecca for journalists. That in turn, made it a Mecca for another breed of war veteran, the fixer.
Like Basra, Kabul wasnâ€™t exactly a hail-a-cab sort of place for foreigners.
The first thing I saw in the hallway as I stepped inside was a long rack of old Martini-Henry rifles, probably relics from the last time we tried to control the area and got fucked off big time.
The reception desk wasnâ€™t manned. A card told me the name Gandamack had come from the fictional home of Harry Flashman, the nineteenth-century answer to James Bond. It was also the name of the village that had seen the slaughter of about sixteen thousand British troops by the Afghans in 1842. I wondered if some of the gear in the racks had seen action there.
And for an insider’s view of those guns and wotnot, click on Vaughan Smith’s video taken during his time there in September 2007.