TO FIND the deepest man-made hole in the world, head for Murmansk. There, says the new Explorer's Guide to Russia (Canongate Press, pounds 12.99), you can also see the world's most northerly botanic garden, sanatorium and tram depot. Among the locals, 'sailors and fishermen of every description abound, as do prostitutes'.

The book's title is misleading, since its coverage of Russia stops at the Urals, but for anyone content to stay in the western part of the federation it is a reliable companion.