May 29, 2014

Down In The Darkest of Dungeouns

Sake On Manhattan

It was a hot and humid summer night, and I had finished a great meal on Lower East Street, Manhattan, so I wasn't hungry. It was not the food that draw me in...  I had heard about it through the grapevine, and I was curious to try it out. It seemed too good to be missed. It seemed too interesting to be overlooked. 

I had walked past it before, without immediately recognising it, but now that I returned to the area it was easier to spot - I knew what I was looking for. The stairs were narrow, but the gate that had been closed when I passed the previous time now stood open.  I carefully stepped down, wondering what I was getting myself into... Me, a woman travelling on my own, stepping down these little stairs, not knowing what to expect. It didn't really look like a bar would be hiding behind the door. 

The door squeaked slightly when I pushed it open. The room was empty except for a couple sitting in the opposite corner. I was early. And yet the room had a very special atmosphere, it was like stepping in to an old film...   

May 28, 2014

It Was That Thing With Parisian Food Markets - Place d'Aligre

What's Cooking In Paris

or rather where... Last year I visited Paris and I wrote about the food markets there - click here to get to the old post. In Paris everything is expensive and I am again and again disappointed with the food - and then I realise/remember it is because I go to the super markets.

In Paris you need to stay away from the supermarket. In Paris you need to go to the local places, to the butcher, to the vegetable shop, to the cheese shop, to the local little chicken roastery. You don't go to the supermarket, you go to the little shops - as long as they are away from the touristy areas - and you go to the open markets, the farmer markets, and you buy what's in season. It is not much different from  any other country although here it is even more obvious, price wise.

Last time I wrote about Place d'Aligre, but since I didn't include a map, I thought I'd bring it up again.

Place d'Aligre and the food market, Marche d'Aligre, is not that easy to find, not at the first glance, and I had walked past it several times, without knowing it was actually there - well, not the actual indoor market, but the area where the market stands tend to be.

May 27, 2014

Muzeum Gastronomia - Gastronomic Museum - HOW Could I Resist

When In Prague - Food Museum

I mentioned in a previous post about the flooding in Europe this year (link from Deutsche Welle)  that I was in Prague last summer, Prague, the capital of Czech Republic. 

In Prague it rained and rained and rained but I never the less had a chance to see and do a lot - not the least because of the friends who were there too and had organised several dinners and us going to a beer festival; It's great to have friends who like to travel. 

However as always when I travel, I take the opportunity to see some on my own; In this case also because I arrived before my friends and left later. 

A little place that I came across was the Muzeum Gastronomia, a gastronomic museum in central Prague; Totally unexpected, I stumbled across it when turning around a corner and trying to find protection from the rain. 

May 26, 2014

The Munich Food Markets - Once Again

Viktualienmarkt - A Favourite Spot

Last summer I visited Munich, or as it's called in German, München, the capital of Bavaria, the state in Southern Germany, the state known for Octoberfest, the beer festival that takes place in the end of September. In Munich I have several good friends that I was visiting - and when I visit friends I love to cook - it is one of the best treats about visiting friends, having access to a kitchen and someone who is interested in sampling food - and it is a great and fun challenge too, to cook in someones home. 

And to cook, I of course need to get ingredients, and ingredients I love to go to the market for. I don't like supermarkets, I use them now and then for toilet paper and kitchen rolls and detergents, as well as for flour and oats, mustard and light bulbs and a few other things.

May 25, 2014

Europe is Flooding - Last Year it was Prague

  There is a Lot of Water

A year ago I was in Prague, Czech Republic. It rained, rained, rained and rained. I was visiting with friends, among them Joy from My Traveling Joys (see link).

I believe the only time it didn't rain was when the others from our group were on a tour and I was seeing another friend who lives in the city, every other day it rained; We went for coffee - we were soaked. We went to the beer festival we were joining; We were soaked. I went running, I had water dripping from me when coming back for breakfast. 

My friends left and I stayed a bit longer and Prague was more or less submerged, metro stations (underground) were closed, restaurants filled with water and no food could be served. Going home by the night train was scary, we drove through a south Eastern Europe completely covered in water, along the railway the houses that I saw on the way down were not to be seen, or only the top floor or the roof was sticking up. 

May 23, 2014

High Up in the Taiwanese Mountains is Ruilie

Up Up Up - and Then You Reach a Piece of Paradise

The first time I came here was a warm and humid day in the spring. My hair was curling and was sticking to my forehead, my bag felt enormous, and my legs were tired. I had managed to get a coffee on the way, which had helped a little but far from enough. I had not had time to have a proper breakfast. All I wanted was to have a nap and something to eat, not necessarily in that order.

I had to get hold of a person but had not been successful, I could not reach him on the phone and while it seemed the first text message I had sent had gotten through the rest were bouncing and I couldn't get through, nor did I have any idea if I had reached the right person. I had no idea if I'd actually be able to find the place where I was going to stay that night, and it did worry me a bit.

And then I stepped of the train, and realised that whatever happened next, it would be OK, because with a view like that, nothing can ever be anything but OK or better!

May 21, 2014

10 000 Buddhas - and 10 000 steps

When in Hong Kong

A little while ago I wrote an article on another network about the 10 000 Buddha's Monastery in Hong Kong. Since then I have been going through my travel pictures and I have been dreaming myself away.

Hong Kong is in itself a bit of an odd mix between extremely Western and very Eastern, or very Chinese, having been a brittish crown colony from 1842, when the First Opium War ended has definitely left it marks, even though it's been back under Chinese rule since 1997, when the Brits returned the country to China. However Hong Kong is still managed under the "One Country, Two Systems" device, and Hong Kong have their own currency, their own border controls and their own visa rules for us foreigners, for example those of us on any of the EU passports can travel to Hong Kong for three months without a visa, whereas in China we would need one. Hong Kong also uses the traditional Chinese characters for writing, just like Taiwan does, also when writing mandarin.

And at the same time Hong Kong is full of English stores, uses the English power plugs, drives on the left side of the road and in general is very English - and yet not English at all, even though all administration can basically be done in English.

It is the Asian side of Hong Kong that fascinates me, and the mix - the English side I can see in England. I try and stay away from Hong Kong Island as much as possible, and instead head to Lamma island, to Lantau, to Kowloon and to the New Territories... 

May 17, 2014

Did you think New York attracted big crowds?

Japan Day in Düsseldorf 

Or it all depends what you compare it to

2010 I was in New York City for one of my many trips to the country, and I ended up at a big event in Central Park. Well, at least I thought it was big, with about 40 000 participants showing up.

And then I came to Düsseldorf, Germany...

And now it is  that time of the year again; The day when Düsseldorf gets filled up with amazingly interesting people and gorgeous food, the time of the year when you look outside and you feel transported to another part of the world.

The time of the year when Japan Day happens... 

With one of the biggest Japanese populations outside of Japan, excellent Japanese food is always readily available, there are every Japanese tool you can imagine available, you can buy Japanese books and magazines, you can go to the Japanese temple, it is fascinating and spellbinding.  And on one day every year, the Japanese community comes out and show the rest of the city what Japan and being Japanese is about. 

May 15, 2014

National Palace Museum - a Spot You Have to See

National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan - the other history

It may not tell the story of Taiwan, but what it does is telling an amazing story of a time long time passed, a story of a culture that has impacted all of us, in different ways, regardless of where we are in the world.

The museum building, surrounded by green trees, and the path leading up to it.It tells the story of China.

A China well before it became the People's Republic  of China, a China when the emperors ruled the area, when emperors had the power in the Centre of the World - Zhongguo, 中國, meaning just that - the central country. A China full of mystery, full of traditions, and full of culture. National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan tells a story of China before it opened up, when the Forbidden city in Beijing was inhabited by the emperor and his wives. The air in the National Palace Museum is so full of history that you can't avoid being impacted, draw in to the magic of the old stories.  

The National Palace Museum in Taiwan deservs your time

National Palace Museum in Taiwan is one of the biggest museums in the world, and it has the largest number of Chinese artifacts, without any doubt.

May 10, 2014

The Modern History of Taiwan - a Complicated Affair

The modern history of Taiwan, the way it was told to me

I started writing about the history of Taiwan a billion times, and every time I get lost in my own
words, because the history is so long and so full of twists, so this time I thought I'd get right to the point – the modern story of Taiwan, and some historical insight to why the relation to China isn't an easy one...  I wrote about it before, both here on the blog and on "The Stinky Tofu" - but to connect the dots, I need to explain about about the history of Taiwan. 

And to understand the modern history of Taiwan, you have to understand the modern history of China. This is a story that needs to be told as it lays the foundation to the understanding of what is going on today.

China, or as it is officially referred to, "The People's Republic of China" (中國人民共和國 – Zhongguo RenMin GongHeGuo in Pinyin) has in its current shape and form existed since 1949. October 1 that year Mao Tsedong, aka Chairman Mao proclaimed The People's Republic of China and China the way we know it today was born. But before Mao came to power, there was a civil war, or a revolution going on – and this is where you need to pay attention;

China had been ruled by emperors under a long long time but 1911, just a few years before WWI started in Europe, the Chinese party KMT – Kuomintang – started a revolution which lead to the last emperor of China stepping down 1912.

The revolution threw China into turmoil and during the years following 1912, China was anything but a stable country. KMT, founded by Dr Sun Yat Sen, and the communist party of China, CPC, lead by Mao Tse Tung (Mao Zedong) were fighting over power. 1925 a man named Chiang Kai-Shek took over KMT, and this is where it starts to get really interesting, if you know anything about Taiwanese history. You see, it is not a coincident that the name KMT and the name Chiang Kai-Shek appears first in China and later in Taiwan, as you may have guessed already it is indeed the same party and the same man – a Chinese party, a Chinese man.

May 07, 2014

Don't Talk About Politics – But if You Don't, it May Be Too Late

There is an elephant in the room

-Don't talk to the Taiwanese about politics!

It was the first advice I was given after I moved to Taiwan. "Do not talk to the Taiwanese about politics; It will make them uncomfortable and it is not polite to make your hosts uncomfortable. Talk about food instead, or something else.".
No, this is not the elephant in Taiwan
I had been to Taiwan before but visiting a country is not the same as living in it. I knew Taiwan to be a wonderful country, full of interesting people that were all very sweet; So far so good. And talking about food is easy - it is my passion as well as theirs; TV, Radio, newspapers, it is all full of food - recipes, discussions about food, restaurant reviews - but very little politics - and it is not because it's not allowed, Taiwan is a democracy and as such, have free press. Still, the politics don't really make the media, not the way we are used to in Western Europe at least.  

Learning the hidden cultural rules is part of moving to a new country. I was lucky enough to get the advice early on which means I immediately started to observe what was going on around me, and it was true; The Taiwanese in most cases avoid what may make the next person uncomfortable, often a great treat, but also something that can be very dangerous - if you don't talk about what is going on around you, how are you going to be able to have an influence on it? When politics was brought up, normally by some foreigner not understanding better, the Taiwanese as a general rule seemed to switch topics.

May 05, 2014

Spend Your Time Wisely - spend it around good people

Parc de Bastions, Geneva, Switzerland
In Gothenburg, Sweden they are in the basement of the central library.

In Geneva they hang in the park, and the chessboards are big and part of the pavement – and unlike in the library, there is no silence, but a constant chatter of voices, there is continuously a sound of people chit chatting, the bystanders commenting on the games, the sound of children playing in the park nearby, and occasionally you may hear the players themselves comment on the game as well.

Just like in the library you are not allowed to touch your pieces unless you are actually moving it, but unlike the library, you do touch the board. You have to. Your only way to reach the chess pieces is to walk on the board, and the pieces will reach to you the knees or higher. Because in the park you don't sit at a table.