Month: February 2014

Ragusa, Sicily

Our first day in Sicily looked a lot like this:

Shall we go in for the close up?

We had to wake up ridiculously early to take the boat from Malta to Sicily and suffered for it during the remainder of the day. Maybe you can’t tell from the fine details of his face, but this is sleepy-face, not queasyface (I feel, sadly, that I am at a stage in this blog where I would like to acknowledge the fact that I did not heave up my food on the way over). Possibly there’s some hunger in there too.

Of course, at some stage in the morning, someone fed him caffeine, and he spent the rest of the day yo-yoing between super tired and super hyperactive. I’m not pointing any fingers here mother, but I’m pretty sure that someone wasn’t me. I know not to feed the gremlin after midnight.

Anyway, we arrived back on Italian soil, and spent 20 minutes discussing with the taxi drivers the fact that it was Sunday. We wanted to take a train from the Pozzallo city centre to Ragusa. They told us it wasn’t possible- we would have to take the cab. ‘It’s Sunday’. Which was the phrase they kept using instead of answering if there actually would be trains or not. ‘It’s Sunday’. ‘It’s a problem.’ ‘Because: Sunday.’

We went with the taxi, arrived at our accommodation, sat sleepily for a bit, and then some ridiculously nice people who were checking out agreed to drive us into the city (there would be a bus, but- say it with me- SUNDAY).

Ragusa is this beautiful city built in the hillsides. Fun to walk into. Less fun to walk back out of (uphill!). 

We walked around for a couple of hours, before settling down in front of a church to stuff our faces with Sicilian delights.

This photo almost looks like there’s a poster of a church behind her. I promise it’s a real church!

 

Told you it was real:

At one point, I sighted some Carob, and forced it upon Andy. He was.. not a fan.

We continued to walk around the city, stopping for a while to relax in the park…

Featuring Gum Trees!

Gargoyles for Ariel: 

 We couldn’t work out what this was about. It was on the side of an ex-church that was currently being used as a modern art gallery. 

Also from the sides of buildings, these death notices.

And these slightly more upbeat swirls of moss and stone.

We managed to find icecream at a place not-to-far from another place that had a little ‘Montalbano was here’ sign over the door. Which is as close as our ‘brush with fame’ got.

The bus services were supposed to come on again at 4pm (I refused to walk all the way back up the hill), where ‘4pm’ ended up being more of a ‘suggested time’ rather than an ‘actual plan’.

This would never happen in Germany!

Mother waited patiently..

Some of us found ways to amuse ourselves.

 

And then it came, and we rode away, and once more we were looking down on the city!

As a side note, the b’n’b we stayed in – ‘L’Abbraccio’, was super amazing. Not only was the place lovely, but the couple who owned it, were ridiculously kind to us- going out of their way to make us feel more than welcome. If you head to that part of the Island, you should definitely stay the night there.

We had a sweet little three person room, with double bed on the ‘second floor’ and kitted kitchen, bathroom, TV and single bed on the ‘ground floor’.

I’m not so sure why Andy’s face looks like someone just walked in on him in the shower. I think he’s trying to pose and be amazed at the same time?

The next morning started sweet…..

Andy in a Rainbow Scarf

One of my plans for this shiny new year is to do more ‘art’ to balance out the science. You know, because sometimes pippetting thousands of samples, and then lather, rinse, repeat unto infinity, just doesn’t feel like it’s fulfilling me in every way possible.

The wonders of youtube taught me the most basic of basic stitches (behind, hook, pull through)- and how to stitch in a straight line.

So here’s a scarf I made for Andy.

Now to learn the stuff that requires actual skill!

And that’s Malta Folks

The next day in Malta began with the traditional ‘coffee and proof of life photograph’.

The coffee, which came with a shot of burnt expresso on top of syrup, was horrible. Perhaps as expected. I really wanted to try the one they had with pistachio syrup because a) odd and b) awesome looking coffee.. but they didn’t have the pistachio, and then I panicked. On the plus side, I was able to pull funny faces and force Andy to drink the rest of it.

And here is Andy, proving to his Mother that no, we haven’t drowned or lost him.

The morning began with full breakfasts, and-for some of the more decadent of the group- cake.

Would you like to see some photos from a day spent wandering, posing, acting like lions and wishing we were Santa Claus?

Here goes:

Andy is Peacocking, but this Pigeon is doing it much better. Who’s a pretty boy then?

This will be our Christmas card next year.

Andy thinks I am taking a photo of him. He is outshone (you know, literally but also in the metaphoric way) by the building!

 
I’m sure y’all know the phrase ‘the family that poses like a lion together, stays together’

Andy has never really had any contact with animals, and- a bit like the painters of old who tried to make a lion by putting a mane on a greyhound- is a little unsure of what to do.

Mother is much more convincing.

Although possibly less fabulous than us:

We visited a(nother) church. One with decorators who had clearly never heard of ‘less is more’. I described the whole experience as ‘Rose Porteuos meets Bollywood’

 

They did have a whole lot of this very pretty etiolated grass though!*
*For those of you playing at home, my PhD project revolves around etiolation- which is what happens when the plant doesn’t get any light and fails to become green.

There were cats…

‘Come, let me guide you through my city’

… and there was dramatic cloud coverage.

And the next day: the Brightest of Blues in the sky.

Mother is excited to go into Mdina- the silent city (there are no cars). Probably because Andy and I have spent the whole trip discussing the relative value of each of our destinations as a refuge in the coming zombie apocalypse and she is ready for some silence on the matter.

There were more lions, but they were too high for us to pose with.

M’dina has many churches, but apart from that there’s really not very much going on. You know that Joni Mitchell song about paving paradise and putting up a parking lot? Well it feels a lot like that there. They’ve taken away anything that could be interesting (except for the churches), and put in tourist shops. Which makes the quiet city kinda boring.

We stopped for lunch and.. Guess what granddad?? Brajioli!
This is thin meat, which is wrapped around a mixture of olives, bacon, maybe cheese- and then slow cooked for hours so that the flavours infuse the meat and the whole thing is a tender deliciousness.

My granddad used to make it a lot when we were kids, and I love it.

This, unfortunately, was not so great. They seemed to have forgotten the ‘slow gooking’ part- and the whole thing was quite tough, almost dry- and not particularly tasty.

 

Low walls and close proximity of the nearby cities makes this an un-ideal location for the zombie times.

Plus, the streets are very narrow. You want wide streets in a zombie apocalypse.

After a very short time in the old city of M’dina, Andy and I went off to explore the slightly-less-old surrounding city, while mum checked out some Roman Ruins.

On the way back home we stopped in at Mosta, which holds the St Marija Assunta Church, which in turn holds the ‘third largest unsupported dome in the World’ (behind the Pantheon (check), and the Vatican St Peter’s (check)). Andy, who had not seen a dome for several days, was ecstatic. 

I tried to concentrate on the dome, but got distracted by the tiny nuns running around in flocks.

 
And that’s Malta Folks! 

 
 

The Grey Island

Here’s why I wanted to go to Gozo.

http://images.summitpost.org/original/325684.jpg

I mean- seriously! Che Magnifique and all that! This, my friends, is the Azure Window- filled with prettiness and light.

This is what we got instead…

Man- it’s supposed to be Auzure!

I’m pretty sure that Malta sees good weather about 364 days of the year. The day that we went to Gozo clearly coincided with their ‘wet season’.

The trip to Gozo itself was fairly horrible if you are pathetically weak sea-dog like myself. The ferry ride from island to island was fairly simple- only about 20 minutes.. doable. But Maltese streets are some sort of windy horror out of the mind of Escher and Dante’s love child, and our bus stopped and started up and down all the little hills and all through the alleyways and…

Well, to make a long story short, it was a good thing I didn’t have any breakfast, because not all of my contents made it to the smaller island.

I am a delightful travelling companion.

We got off the ferry, and jumped straight on one of those hop-on/hop-off tour buses.

The views were lovely, the air was.. bracing.

Here is an artistic impression of the joy of the journey:

We were some of the few people brave enough to sit on the upper level, and by the time we reached our first destination, we were all fairly happy to hop off.

The Ggantija temples are some of the earliest man made structures remaining: at 5500 years old they’ve been hanging around longer than the pyramids and possibly twice as long as Stonehenge. We entered through the Museum (which is some sort of binary to ‘exiting through the giftshop’), and met up with these tiny little guys:

Including my favourite of all- human figures carved from Cow Toebones! I mean seriously! that is some awesome up-cycling there.

One of the problems with having a ridiculously old structure, is that there’s not really much you can say about it. The museum itself was fairly small and mostly contained ‘we suspects’ ‘we thinks’ and we ‘wildly guesses’.
The Temple Itself:

One of the coolest things about the temple is the blatant vandalism that, due to having occurred itself many many decades ago, has become somewhat part of the history of the place. Luckily, the people who came, saw, and scribbled, also managed to draw out a couple of pics of the place at the time, allowing current researchers to have a slightly more accurate understanding of the temple in its pre-current form.

The temple was also filled with these deliberate holes, but once again- the exact reason for them was some what a mystery.

I tried to get in touch with my pagan side:

.. and Andy embraced the ‘slightly cold tourist’ within:

We managed to barely miss our next hop-on, and had to spend another 20 minutes hanging around a very small, dead part of town (although this was on Christmas Eve, so the deadness is fairly justifiable). We took shelter from the horrible weather in a tiny shop, occupied by a very fierce older couple, hell-bent on the upsell.

The bus pulled up just as we were about to convince ourselves that we really did need an 8 pack of matching doilies. The weather was horrible, and the bus was full to the brim. We smiled happily, and talked loudly about how awesome the temple was, in a vicious attempt to lure unsuspecting seat-hoggers off the bus.

Our next stop was a seven minute break which seemed to coincide with the bus drivers need to take a ciggie break. Down there somewhere is supposed to be Calypso’s cave- where she kept Odysseus ‘against his will’ for several years on his ‘attempt to return to his wife and kid’. Sure thing buddy.

We did managed to find ourselves some kickin’ Pasticci. Which is basically just deliciously layered filo pastry enclosing some sort of cheesy (or other- but the cheese are best) inside. These things- which have also made their way into my mongrel heritage- are magnificent, and tend to cost less than 50 cents on Gozo.

We made it to the ‘Ultimate Photo Spot’ on the island, and tumbled though the rain and wind in attempts to catch the Ultimate Photo.

This man is telling me about how awesome it is that there are many fossils that I am currently trampling on. He seemed upset that, in my soaking wet and freezing cold state, I couldn’t manage much more than ‘uhuh? Interesting!’

Andy was also Cold!

Look Ma! I found shelter!

Ma is to busy looking into the deep grey:

After an all to long time (those buses really should come more regularly), and several very long minutes in which the entire tour group feigned interest in ridiculously over-ornate and over-priced glass just so we could seek shelter int he glass shop, we got back on the bus again.

This time, Mother refused to get off again, and went straight for the ferry home. Andy and I got off at Victoria, and had a look around the old city.

There, on top of the fortressed city, the wind picked up, froze me to death, but at least made me feel quite dry.

We also got a very nice view, and some more pasticci.

Oh! And there was a church. It was fairly nice as church goes. You know, nice and warm and protect-y.

Andy bought some weird little pizza with sausages on it. Not the right choice.

Typically, the sun decided to come out just as the day was ending. On the plus side, it made the journey back much more pleasant.

Gozo: Go there when the weather is good!
Gozo: Go there for the pasticci!

Berlin Mama

On the only weekend during Mutti’s visit that we weren’t a) feeling very very sick to the stomach or b)Roaming through Rome, Meeting Malta, See-silianing Sicily and Visiting Venice, we headed to the Big City.

And introduced Mother to some of Berlin’s ‘Cuisine’.

We headed East to the gallery, to see the pretties and bathe in the sunlight.

Last time we visited the wall with Andy’s fold we found this rather racist and hateful message: ‘We want the Wall back’. Classy.
This time the word ‘don’t’ had been added, the whole message scratched out and the pleasing rebuttal of ‘you stupid meanypants, get the bumhole out!’. I am paraphrasing to make this blog ‘G for my Granddad reads this blog’ rated. But you get the point. Also ‘frigg you!’.

For Adam:

I spent about 3 minutes trying to work out what exactly this meant in English. Then Andy pointed to the left where they had the translation. Still, I was very proud of myself.

‘Those who want the world to remain how it is, don’t want the world to remain’

The little horns and tail make it deeper or something.

Andy really wants to reach for the stars and be an astronaut (actually Cosmonaut), but feels prevented by gates of oppression. Or something.

We walked, as people oft do. I quickly realised that my shoes are not appropriate for walking on stones in german winter.

My primary aim in the walking was to arrive at Knofi, in Kreuzberg- which you might remember we visited with the in-laws and Rob back in spring. I love this place- it has this crazy OTT sort of crowded-cozy-chaotic feel, with dried eggplant skins hanging from the roof and bottles and baskets and bags of goodies occupying every space imaginable. Andy tends to find the decor a bit claustrophobic, and is generally not as much of a fan as me. But the food is amazing- it has a crazy assortment of Turkish dips and pastes and olives and assorted bite-sized edibles.

Here is Mother tucking into a vegetarian tasting plate.

Almost immediately after which we forced her to try Curry ’36.

When in Kreuzberg…

I think, like so many before her, she didn’t really understand the function of the curry powder. I tried to convince her that the other true food experience she should have while in Berlin was a Doner. In the end, I never saw her eat one, but she swears she had one at the last minute on the way to the airport.

Jumping to the next day- when we headed to a couple of markets… Where I saw the man of my dreams:

This little fellow has clearly been painted for the express reason of matching mother’s coat.

I love the smell of cat man’s shoulder.

On Mutti’s final night in Potsdam, we headed for a fancy dinner at Chi Keng in Potsdam.

Chi Keng is a sort of Japanese fusion restaurant (because all asian restaurants in our part of Germany seem to serve ‘mixed asian’ as opposed to the precise country-based food suggested in the restaurant name). It’s apparently the spawn of Mi Keng, a tiny little place on the main mall of Potsdam city centre, which had to expand to a new location due to massive success.

We shared an entree mixed plate for two (the waitress was kind enough to tell us that the mix plate for three people was probably overkill), which was filled with fresh and fried spring rolls, salad, chicken skewers, fried prawns and prawn crackers, plus some super tasty crispy falafel sized salmon rissole things. It was all pretty tasty, and there was a nice mix between the fried and the non-fried.

For mains we went with a salmon sushi roll, which was filled with very crispy and slightly fatty skin-still-on salmon, and roofed with sashimi-grad salmon of the melt-in-your-mouth kind.

It was amazing!

We also opted for a prawn salad, which had beautifully cooked prawns, but was bit heavy in the dill for me…

… and a crispy duck red curry. Again, amazingly well cooked duck, great flavour, but unfortunately the curry was of the ‘with pineapple’ sort, and was super sweet.

So in the end, the two main dishes weren’t as amazing to me as the entrees, but all in all it’s definitely an experience I’d repeat. Interestingly, Andy and I went to Mi Keng- the Sire restaurant this Monday and were not as impressed. Possibly our choice of sushi was not as great- I was very put out that the sugared the top of the salmon in order to give it a nice caramel glaze. Furthermore the two people entree we ordered again this time was not as impressive in several ways- and was generally much more fried and much less fresh than at Chi Keng. Finally, as an un-alcoholic, I really appreciate that Chi Keng has a nice range of Mocktails and juicey mixes. Mi Keng had only Mango and Apple Juice (and respective Schorles), more fizzy muck and a variety of teas.