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All Saints in Poland

Posted by on Oct 31, 2014 in All posts, Poland | 0 comments

While in some countries people are all dressed up to celebrate Halloween, Poland is getting ready to commemorate Wszystkich Świętych (All Saints) on November the 1st. It is a huge catholic event, when masses of people flock to visit the deceased at their graves. Without costumes but carrying znicze, zapałki i zmiotki (cemetery lights, matches and brushes). The graves and tombs are carefully cleaned and decorated. In one day, Polish cemeteries turn into a magic place, adorned by countless candle lights, flowers and wreaths. When the sun sets, the effect is one of walking through a sea of flames and colours. Beautiful and eerie. Most people also take care of neglected neighbouring graves and put up a candle, so as to remember the souls of the deceased. It stems from the ancient Slavic pagan custom of Dziady (Forefathers Day),...

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The Flat, Food, Fun, Festival – our Krakow!

Posted by on Oct 2, 2014 in All posts, Poland | 0 comments

We will miss Krakow despite its legendary air pollution (better come in warmer months before inhabitants start working their old chimneys). Life’s amenities have been fully met in this lively city. Wed had found a cosy place to sleep, some great places to dine and the best place to hang out and party. This post is about our apartment rental, our favourite restaurants and the hippest location for eating, shopping, dancing and relaxing. Fun comes first. Which all comes down to the Hotel Forum Despite its name, it is not a hotel anymore. If you haven’t heard of it, you will undoubtedly see it, when walking down the river boulevards. A monstrous, wide and forlorn structure, sitting on Krakow’s riverfront will appear. This massive building was the most modern hotel in Poland in 1989. Designed in the 80s, it...

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Japan does Christmas

Posted by on Jan 1, 2014 in All posts, Japan | 2 comments

Christmas in Japan is the day of couple romance and strawberry cakes. Bright, sweet and colourful. Tokyo hardly ever gets snow but streets are covered with white and blue LED lights, producing perfect winter landscapes. Winter is also strawberry season in Japan which is why on Christmas day couples and families share strawberry cake with a lot of whipped cream and soft sponge cake. Tokyo is fun and delicious during Christmas. Have a tasting with me! Couples have a romantic dinner on Christmas Eve. For people on a budget, conbinis (Japanese convenience stores) provide fantastic catering on Christmas. Your order will be brought to you to the door on the day. Apart from strawberry cake, chicken is part of the main meal. Apparently fast food chain KFC has popularized the tradition to eat chicken for Christmas.   But most...

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Halloween day is food day in Tokyo

Posted by on Nov 5, 2013 in All posts, Japan | 2 comments

Halloween is the day of superstition, when strange things happen and the spirits of the dead are up to a lot of mischief. For us, Halloween day was food day. We didn’t dress up, but dressed nice enough to attend a photography workshop in Tokyo, to learn how to produce delicious food porn. That weekend we hosted our Japanese friend Takumi who came from Nagoya and suggested the workshop to improve on image quality (hint hint – he is not the one writing a blog). The day started out calm and I hoped for the haunts of Halloween to spare us. We do travel with a blue penguin mascot – which should be considered normal. In Japan anyway. Donpen, the blue stuffie is an icon in Japan.   As calm as it all started out, I seriously do not...

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Festivals in Lao – like Boat Racing

Posted by on Oct 31, 2013 in All posts, Laos | 0 comments

Once a year, the boat racing festival takes place in Luang Prabang and transforms the city into a fun fair. It just so happened that we arrived from China on that day in Laos. It was our first day and the party was full on! People flock to the streets and crowd along the riverbanks. Everybody is keen to watch the slimmest boats I have ever seen, race along a designated length on the brown waters on the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers. The boats, resembling narrow, light and elongated nutshells, are packed with oarsmen. Those rowers give everything to stir up the waters and push their team forward. What a sight! Team red.   Team red-shirt racing against team white-shirt. Doesn’t it look like the rowers are under water waist down?   End point of...

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Finding events in Tokyo – Shuggie Otis live concert

Posted by on Apr 23, 2013 in All posts, Japan | 0 comments

Tokyo is the conglomerated hub of things. There are not to miss events that take place every day and I love to know what is going on in the city to fill some precious free time. When we arrived in Tokyo we were pretty clueless as to what events were taking place, we usually went along with friends or read news-posters around central Tokyo and the metro… until I found this cool site (in English!): http://www.timeout.jp/en/tokyo  (BTW this is a genuine recommendation, I am not getting any money for the link.) You can check out events by the day and get loads of infos about what to see, where to eat and what to do. This is how I found out that our psychedelic idol SHUGGIE OTIS is a) still alive and b) coincidentally also in the city on...

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Hanami cherry blossom hot spots in Tokyo

Posted by on Apr 9, 2013 in All posts, Japan | 3 comments

Tokyo is adorned with cherry trees. Stunning white and pink cherry blossoms are making for the most popular scenes of the world, drawing the crowds who come to celebrate Hanami (flower viewing) with picnics and festivals. It is my second time in Tokyo during spring to get high on the sight and smell of Sakura (cherry blossom). Here is a list of my favourite spots for Hanami: 1. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden – flower blossom perfection a few minutes from Shinjuku Station 2. Edogawabashi Riverside – meet the locals strolling from Edogawabashi Station 3. Ueno Park – lots to see and do right next to Ueno Station 4. Hinokicho Park – perfect night shots of cherry blossom from Midtown Tower close to Roppongi Station 5. Aoyama Cemetery – blossom tranquillity in Minato and you can look for Hachiko’s tomb...

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How to do Hanami step by step

Posted by on Apr 1, 2013 in All posts, Japan | 0 comments

Cherry blossoms is a big thing in Japan. When the cherry trees blossom, Japanese people do Hanami. That means that they are viewing (mi) flowers (hana).   You would like to know HOW TO DO Hanami? Let’s learn from the locals! Follow me.   Lots of hana to mi!   10 steps to become a Hanami master: 1. READ THE NEWS and follow TV which show maps on how far north in the country cherry tree blossoming has progressed. Weather forecasts will report on when to expect full bloom. Okinawa for example gets Hanami as early as February. We had Hanami in Tokyo very early as well, which started mid March and the petals were already falling the very first days of April 2013. You might start to feel anxious about trees and worry about blossom in Japan. This...

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Valentine’s Day and White Day in Japan

Posted by on Mar 16, 2013 in All posts, Japan, Thoughts and Treasures | 0 comments

March the 14th is a special day in Japan. It is White Day, in Japanese  ホワイトデ Howaito Dē. On this date the MALE gender is well advised to return the gift-giving which they have received from Japanese females onValentine’s Day. That’s right. On Valentine’s Day the GIRLS give gifts to the GUYS. They buy (or make) chocolate presents to give to work colleagues, male friends and dads which is called giri choco (obligatory chocolate). The boyfriends get honmei choco  (love chocolate) which is slightly more elaborate candy or expensive chocolate. Sometimes it is something to wear or a present that has been hand crafted. On White Day the favour is returned by the guys. Now on this day the rule of sanbai gaeshi (return three times) applies. That basically means that the gift must be at least double the...

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Great inventions – Celebrating with donuts

Posted by on Feb 7, 2013 in All posts, Poland | 0 comments

Humankind has the obscure yet pleasing habit of inventing grand festivities to make room for big family reunions, massive food orgies, irresponsible amounts of alcohol intake.  Many days were selected to have a good time and party. The Catholic Church invented Christmas (adapting to pagan celebrations), mothers day was brought about by Miss Jarvis (not a mother herself but a loving daughter installing the tradition to cherish mums), medieval rituals of courtly love created Valentine’s celebrations based on the legend of Saint Valentine and… …industry is busy selling chocolates, candy, presents and mass produced greeting cards. Today, dear reader, I had the honour of celebrating Tłusty Czwartek, that is Fat Thursday. Proclaiming the last Thursday before Lent, Poles and Germans share the tradition of feasting big. Yet in Germany this day is marked more by a ‘fiesta’ than a...

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My Polish Christmas

Posted by on Jan 3, 2013 in All posts, Poland | 1 comment

In between happy family commitments and jolly friend visits, I feel bad for seriously neglecting my blog. Tomek and I have been enjoying Poland at its best, which is Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. I hope you did the same. I am consoling myself with the thought that you were all suffering from Christmas-cake-induced-comas or simply didn’t have time for silly blogs. Getting ready for Christmas Eve is a major ado. Poland is largely catholic and it is the event of the year. It mainly involves cleaning the house (very thoroughly), preparing Polish Christmas dishes, wrapping presents, putting on your best dress and visiting churches that have traditional nativity cribs on display. I am a new age kid and consequently love the frenzy Christmas creates, the decorated windows, the hazardous armies of candles, the glitter and glamour of Christmas...

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‘A day to remember’ – Meeting William and Kate

Posted by on Dec 4, 2012 in All posts, England | 0 comments

“Are you getting off here, dear?” “I don’t know. Is this Cambridge centre?” “It sure is. Kate and William are strolling through town just now, you know.” “Really? I am getting off, then! Thank you.” (British people are polite and chatty and call you ‘dear’ and ‘love’ and it’s just such a small world and Cambridge feels wonderfully accessible and familiar.) This was about my conversation with a friendly old lady who would postpone my shopping spree in order to make the 28th of November, which was last Wednesday, ‘A day to remember’. Indeed. Kate and William in Cambridge. ‘Souvenir edition’ did sound special. I bought one. I am gullible.   I had two full days to enjoy myself in Cambridge and coincidence had it that I was going to meet William and Kate. They had been given the...

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Greek Christmas and the Nutcracker ballet in Athens

Posted by on Dec 1, 2012 in All posts, Greece | 2 comments

Since we started to travel the world, I have not been able to continue ballet class which I think I am trying to compensate, on a subconscious level, through an increased attendance at ballet performances. Last Sunday we went to the National State Opera in Athens to see the Nutcracker. A classic to set you right into Christmas mode, which for Greece is not a big holiday.   CHRISTMAS IN GREECE – the Santa of Greece is Saint Basil (This is entertaining.) In Greece 95% are members of the Greek Orthodox Church and Christmas only comes second to Easter. Christmas decorations are scarce in Athens and would admittedly look funny on orange trees. Santa is avoiding Greece all together. Not due to the possibility of reindeer protesting for snow and elves putting down work demanding aircon. In Greece Santa...

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Areas of my expertise: FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid

Posted by on Nov 24, 2012 in All posts, Spain | 0 comments

I would like to share my recently acquired wisdom on soccer – which I  gained when Tomek and I traveled to Barcelona for some cultural attractions but in the turn of events ended up at the match with our soccer-affine friends. This is what happened: As a reasonably sensible, well educated couple approaching middle age, we had managed to get very drunk and attend a game for 400 Euros. On the 7th of October 2012 it was the day of el clásico, the historic clash of FC Barcelona against Real Madrid, the richest and most successful football clubs in the world.   DANGERS AND PRECAUTIONS One often hears stories about soccer hooligans and can’t figure out why in the world one would want to attend a European soccer game. Except that this was not just a game. This was two clubs...

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Pagan spell on Gellért Hill in Budapest

Posted by on Nov 1, 2012 in All posts, Hungary | 2 comments

It’s Halloween. The spookiest day of the year. Strange things happen. I thought it would be fun to take you all the way up Gellért Hill, show you some beautiful panoramic pics of Budapest. But some restless souls of the dead messed with my post trying to spoil it all. Frivolous spirits. Well, thank God, we have the pope. The Vatican strongly condemns the traditions associated with Halloween as being “pagan” and “anti-Christian“. And right so. Ghosts, witches, fairies! Fooling around is all you care about! The whole point of walking the Gellért Hill is ‘Gellért’, the Italian bishop who brought Christianity to Hungary and played a major role in converting pagans. He knew all about pagans – poor, uneducated country folk, who eventually got very pissed (not feeling the Christian vibe) and rolled Gellért down the hill in...

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Singapore – on arts and festivals

Posted by on Jun 1, 2012 in All posts, Singapore | 0 comments

During our stay we were lucky to see the city transform into the Singapore Flipside Arts Festival 2012 with many free performances scattered along Singapore’s most prominent spots. With a variety of events we decided to enjoy the show of Roda Mon at Marina Bay, the ultra modern waterfront promenade. Two inventive and talented guys from Spain presented lively and hilarious acrobatics, comedy, musical violin & drum acts without words. It reminded me a bit of the pantomiming Australian ‘Umbilical Brothers’ with slightly more show accessories and slightly less imagination needed on the audience’s part, presenting an equally attractive show. I was laughing my pants off and was thankfully not picked for interaction on stage like at the NANTA show in Bangkok, this time picking my seat wisely at the very end of the open air amphi theatre. Predictably...

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Enjoy Songkran without getting soaked

Posted by on Apr 14, 2012 in All posts, Thailand | 0 comments

Songkran is the Buddhist new year festival that is celebrated for three days in mid April in Thailand. It is the time of giving and forgiving. Thais visit their family and relatives, give flower and food offerings to Buddha and monks to receive their blessings in return, which you can observe at any Wat temple in Bangkok. They also ritually pour water over Buddha images, thereby symbolically coming clean with old vices and making new year’s resolutions. A chalk like paste is smeared to protect the skin against the harsh rays of the sun. However this peaceful and gentle tradition has somehow transformed over the years – into an event of boisterous water and white powder throwing on every street of the city. Getting throughly doused on the first day, only a few steps away from our hotel, we...

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New Year in Bangkok and wet traditions

Posted by on Apr 13, 2012 in All posts, Thailand | 0 comments

Happy new year everyone! It is now the year 2555 and time to celebrate Songkran in Thailand. Having just arrived from the Hanami cherry blossom viewing in Japan, receiving easter wishes from our family in Europe, we were soon about to unexpectedly engage in Thai new years traditions. Call it the fascinating life of perpetual traveling! Songkran means getting wet and white, as new years wishes are expressed while pouring water and spreading chalk powder over the body, preferably someone elses body, of course. Not just a symbolic sprinkle like the easter blessings from catholic priests with holy water over baskets with food at Polish churches. This event is different and yet somehow familiar. Trying to make it to the BTS sky train in Bangkok today, we received the unmerciful soak, reminding us very much of the so called...

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