Hoi An-Vietnam

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Beijing Street Food

I love street food. Just smelling it, looking at it and tasting it makes me giddy with anticipation and pleasure. I just know my taste buds are going to rejoice and do the “happy dance” as these flavors hit my tongue. From the hot red bean cakes found in Seoul to the jack fruit I tasted in Chiang Mai; there is something exciting about supporting vendors who have found their niche in the world of food.

One of the best places I have ever found for street food is in Beijing. Rows and rows of vendors some selling directly from their carts along with the lucky few who have a few tables for their best customers; this is a place where just about any food can be found. This is a place where food is plentiful and cheap…very cheap. If you are on a budget, street food should be your culinary horn of plenty.

But any words I could possibly say about this experience would be bland, like food without spice, wine or salt. So instead I leave you with these pictures of Beijing street food so you can “taste” them yourself.

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The most flavorful dates I have ever eaten

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Corn anyway you like it

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And they say the Iowa State Fair has everything on a stick…I beg to differ!

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The Port at Bodrum-Bodrum, Turkey

One sweltering hot day in the middle of the Grecian summer we decided we needed to get away. But where should be go? Being on an island did not offer many opportunities but as our friendly hotel manager pointed out there was one place we could go while visiting a new country to boot …so we booked passage to Bodrum Turkey on the ferry and took off the next morning.

Now I live in a state known for its high temperatures and I am used to the heat. Yet, it was so hot the day we went that even the boat skipping over the cool water provided little relief. The cross breezes were so mild that blowing my own hot air cooled the air around me more than the breeze coming off the water. It was sweltering, so I took to dipping my shirt in the water to cool down; the effect not long lasting as it would be dry within 10 minutes. But the water was crystal inky blue and the birds dived along beside the boat making  for a memorable ride as the parched hills seemed to rise higher the closer we came to Turkey’s shore. But what I remember most was when St. Peter’s Castle a/k/a Bodrum Castle suddenly appear on the horizon….now that was a site! And then slowly the harbor around which it is perched came into view. Oh, the anticipation of seeing what was in this ancient port city stirred the fire in my belly.

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After disembarking we stood in line, passports in hard, waiting to have them stamped. I guess we looked harmless enough because they let us in. Sometimes that still astounds me… that whole letting me in process. Really….me?!!!!!!

With landing completed we joined the throng of tourists also taking a day trip to this fascinating country. Boats with flags of all colors and countries lined the dock. Some were sleek, some dingy, but all were magnificent in their own way. We turned towards the castle.

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Construction on Bodrum Castle began in 1402 by the Knights Of St. John. Each langue of the Order had its own tower and each had their own distinct style. The castle was built with plenty of twists and turns in order to keep enemy soldiers at bay. It served as a sanctuary for Christians throughout the area for over a century.

Then in 1962 the Turkish Government decided to turn the castle into a museum called the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology. It houses one of the biggest collections of ancient glassware in the world and contains relics from the 12th century BC. Ship excavations are detailed and the treasures that can be found through the many rooms of the castle are truly a site to see.

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Back outside the port area bustles. Tourist shops line the street, small restaurants and craftsmen ply their trade.

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                                                         I found this sign slightly humorous

Little side streets and alleyways beckon you to explore a little deeper into the heart of the city.

 

This is a photo of an artist whose pictures we admired and bought several from him which hang in our home today.  Such a sweet, friendly and talented man!

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You will find just about anything you want here (except really good shade) so shop carefully because undoubtedly you’ll find the same item cheaper further on down the street.

While in Bodrum we took one of the tour buses. That is a story itself which I will save for another time. But if you are ever in the area I would recommend a stop at Bodrum. In fact, if I had to do it all again I would have spent several days in and around this area of Turkey only this time I would forego traveling there during the intense heat of the summer. And because is a land where ancient and modern meet,  you never know just what surprises await you but they are sure to be memorable.

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HINTS: This is not a cheap excursion. It costs a little less than $40 USD round trip for the ferry.

HINTS: The Museums are closed on Mondays. The entrance fee to Bodrum Castle is approximately $9 USD.

My Absolute Favorite German Town-Gernsbach, Germany

Okay, I will admit that I am a little biased. I may even be more in love with this town than just about any I have ever been to but it has nothing to do with the fact that my 2nd great grandparents emigrated from here and that their parents and their parents parents lived here too. No, this town is a true historical gem and it deserves any accolades it receives. Each and every one of them.

The day we came we had visited a town 10 miles away that my SIL’s family had emigrated from. It was small, desolate and looked like much of it had been destroyed during WWII. New buildings stood on a main street lined with them. It was a real disappointment to her because there was no character in the town. None. Needless to say, I was afraid that I would be bitterly disappointed to have come all that way to see Gernsbach and have it just be a shell of a town. Thankfully it wasn’t.

Gernsbach is located 7 km from Baden-Baden in the Black Forest.  The town was established in the 12th century and paper is a huge part of its economy as it has been for centuries. My 2nd great grandfather worked as a Joiner while living here in the early 1800’s. His mother, Elizabeth Lippert, was born in this town in 1792.

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The first clue that this would be a grand place to explore was the huge stone bridge that stood as an entrance to the town and divides it in half. We made a quick right and began climbing up the hillside streets where we had views  that stretched for miles of the surrounding mountains. It was breathtaking. This has got to be one of the most romantic spots in all of Germany so take advantage of it.

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Another era of the past were the cobblestone streets filled the town square and stretched out beyond meandering throughout the city.  But the most impressive thing were the row upon row of beautiful timbered houses that have stood for hundreds of years.

One has been around since the 1600’s and tours are given of this outstanding building which is in the process of being restored. We climbed throughout the building venturing here and there and when we reached the top the views of the church on the hill were unmatched. I have to confess I ran my hands along the buildings outer and inner walls just sure that my 5th Great Grandmother had once done the same and that somehow we were touching each other’s hands.

Besides the numerous timbered houses there are also charming fountains that dot the city. Filled with baskets of flowers surrounding the water they are some of the most beautiful that I have ever seen.

There are also two churches, the protestant St.-Jakobskirche with its beautifully tended cemetery. It is an interesting thing that in Germany that you will rarely find old tombstones. This is because a family will lease the burial plot for a period of thirty years and if the family does not pay to have the plot renewed, everything is removed including the headstone. That said, this churchyard does have a few old stones that are worth looking at.

 

The other church is the Catholic church which was re-built in the 1800’s. The town walls surrounds it along with the early history of the place. We happened upon the church when the organist was practicing and the music was as enchanting as the building was beautiful. Hearing the organ explode throughout the church is something I will never forget.

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Part of me hates to write about Gernsbach. It is an undiscovered gem. I am afraid that the next time I go back it will be swarming with tourists because with all its history and  beauty this town is worthy of the biggest and  best bus tours. This place is an undiscovered treasure. Selfishly, I hope it remains one.

Altes Rathaus, or Old Town Hall, was once a palace built for a rich timber merchant in 1671-1618.

 

Namdaemun Market-Seoul, South Korea

Lately, with globalization around every corner it is hard to go somewhere and not think to yourself that the whole world now looks alike.  Window shopping at Pottery Barn looks the same in Kansas City, Calgary and Sydney. That is the point, I suppose, but for a traveler it is just plain depressing. Where is the unique to the place items and where are the  local customs…Often you begin to wonder …where the hell are we?????… in this oh-so identical world.

That is what I love about Namdaemun Market. Opened in Seoul in 1964 it is the largest market in Korea but it really dates back to the reign of King Taejong where it operated as a government managed marketplace. This place is truly the SEOUL of the city.

While there are certainly an overabundance of crass commercially made products it is the pulse of the place that draws you into the market and into Korea herself. Some of the best street food can be found here including  noodle dishes, pungent kim chee, hottoek and comforting warm red bean cakes. Follow an alleyway to the place where you find the most Koreans sitting on shallow stools, chopsticks and bowl in hand. This is where you want to enjoy an authentic lunch.

Because the market was built so long ago it is predominately a walking market. While you will see motorcycles delivering goods and boxes being transported by wooden carriers strapped to the backs of men smaller than the load they are carrying; this is a place to explore at your leisure and just soak up the sounds.

Here  at Namdaemun you can shop for such things as rare ginseng, fresh fish, raincoats, shoes and even silkworms to be eaten for lunch. Traditional clothing (hanboks) can be found in a variety of bright colors and styles along with Korea’s world famous celadon pottery. Beautiful wrapping papers, paint pigments and calligraphy supplies are also easily found along with the paintings of various artists. But my favorite are the luxurious silks and tapestries that can be found within. The variety of what is sold here is enormous and there is always something you “need” to take home with you.

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Just outside the market lies Sungnyemun Gate. It is one of the eight gates that were located in the fortress wall that surrounded Seoul. It is a wooden pagoda style building that dates back to the 14th century and has stood there ever since until an arson fire burnt part of the gate in 2008. It was restored and was re-opened in 2013.

To get to the market take the green subway line (number 4) to Hoehyeon Station. It is a short escalator ride up the the market.