Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Basdorfer-Wald Winter-Schneelandschaft

The first serious fall of snow has hit us, and I don't think we will be going anywhere on the bikes:
photos in the woods around Basdorf, Germany, in Winter 2014 by Andie Gilmour

So, we head over the snowy lines of the Heidekrautbahn into the forest that surrounds our village of Basdorf.
photos in the woods around Basdorf, Germany, in Winter 2014 by Andie Gilmour

We discover a Winter-wonderland straight out of a Brothers Grimm illustration for Hansel and Gretal.
photos in the woods around Basdorf, Germany, in Winter 2014 by Andie Gilmour

photos in the woods around Basdorf, Germany, in Winter 2014 by Andie Gilmour

photos in the woods around Basdorf, Germany, in Winter 2014 by Andie Gilmour

Though the woodland is silent except for the tap-tap-tapping of a wood-pecker, our imagination populates the stands of fir-trees with wolves stalking us.
photos in the woods around Basdorf, Germany, in Winter 2014 by Andie Gilmour

photos in the woods around Basdorf, Germany, in Winter 2014 by Andie Gilmour

photos in the woods around Basdorf, Germany, in Winter 2014 by Andie Gilmour

There are avenues of virgin snow, just waiting for a sleigh to come ploughing down them:
photos in the woods around Basdorf, Germany, in Winter 2014 by Andie Gilmour

photos in the woods around Basdorf, Germany, in Winter 2014 by Andie Gilmour

photos in the woods around Basdorf, Germany, in Winter 2014 by Andie Gilmour

Back home the garden gets snowier ...
photos in the woods around Basdorf, Germany, in Winter 2014 by Andie Gilmour

And snowier! ....

Time to head inside and light up the wood-stove.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Winter Birds - Wintervögel

Here are a few snaps of blue-tits (Blaumeisen) and great tits (Kohlmeisen) on our garden feeder today. It has been the first heavy snow-fall of the year, and they looked as if they really needed the food.

photos of Winter garden birds  by Andie Gilmour

photos of Winter garden birds  by Andie Gilmour

photos of Winter garden birds  by Andie Gilmour

photos of Winter garden birds  by Andie Gilmour

photos of Winter garden birds  by Andie Gilmour

I'm not forgetting the ground-feeders either. Here's a juvenile black-bird (Amsel) finishing off a pile of porridge oats:

Amsel / blackbird feeding in Winter, photo by Andie Gilmour

We went for a walk in the woods and I also spotted a greater spotted woodpecker (Größere Buntspecht) high up in the trees. Even at a distance the bright red belly was very noticeable.

photos of Winter garden birds  by Andie Gilmour

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Have Yourselves a Curry Little Christmas!

Are you fed up with the same old Christmas dinner of turkey, roast-potatoes, and (bleurgh!) brussel sprouts year after year? Does your idea of Christmas spices only extend as far as ginger, cinnamon, star anise, and nutmeg? Should a Winter Warmer be more than just a glass of Glühwein, and instead bring on an actual sweat? That's what we were thinking when we decided to have a very untraditional Indian curry feast for Christmas dinner - an Anti-Christmas Dinner as it were.

We invited a couple of American friends over and spent most of Christmas day working our way through four courses of spicy, home-made, Indian goodies. First course was papadums with raita and a selection of pickles and chutneys, washed down with a cold glass of Sekt:

After that we had American-made salad to cool us off, together with mushroom and broccoli pakoras straight out of the karahi.

Then onto the main course, which consisted of a selection from a bowl of a mild and creamy pumpkin, chickpea and coconut curry, and a bowl of fiery aubergine, tomato and mushroom curry. Of course heaps of basmati rice and home-made naan bread, plus a rather cheeky Californian red wine, were on hand:


Finally we had a Nigella Lawson gluten-free clementine cake with orange jelly cubes and home-made chocolate and orange ice-cream drizzled with a fruit compote. No photos of that, as we were all too busy demolishing it! Delicious! (though maybe not particularly Indian).

The feast was a great success and we were full to bursting. No room even for cheese and biscuits and a glass of mango lassi that we had planned.

Next Christmas we might get the tajine out and have a Moroccan-themed feast. Do you want to join us?

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The Naples Metro

Berlin has its fair share of interesting underground stations, and I was very pleased to find that Naples has some too!

Here are a few photos to give you a flavour:

Down the escalator to Linea 1 at Museo:
photo of Napoli Metro Station  by Andie Gilmour

The University Metro station:
photo of Napoli Metro Station  by Andie Gilmour

photo of Napoli Metro Station  by Andie Gilmour

photo of Napoli Metro Station  by Andie Gilmour

photo of Napoli Metro Station  by Andie Gilmour

photo of Napoli Metro Station  by Andie Gilmour

photo of Napoli Metro Station  by Andie Gilmour

photo of Napoli Metro Station  by Andie Gilmour

photo of Napoli Metro Station  by Andie Gilmour

photo of Napoli Metro Station  by Andie Gilmour

The Dante Metro Station:
photo of Napoli Metro Station  by Andie Gilmour

photo of Napoli Metro Station  by Andie Gilmour

photo of Napoli Metro Station  by Andie Gilmour

photo of Napoli Metro Station  by Andie Gilmour

photo of Napoli Metro Station  by Andie Gilmour

The moving walkway (or treadmill, as our host translated it) between Museo (Linea 1) and Cavour (Linea 2) Metro stations:
photo of Napoli Metro Station  by Andie Gilmour



NB: If you are confused why these are being posted on a blog about Berlin & Germany, it is because we went on a short vacation to Southern Italy and England for my Beloveds significant birthday. Normal service will be resumed gleich.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Sfogliatella Heaven!

The obvious first choice of local food to sample in Naples is pizza. After all, the pizza was reputedly invented in Naples, and in particular the pizza margherita was supposedly first created at the pizzeria 'Brandi' in 1889.

Second and third choices though are sfogliatelle and rum babàs.

Sfogliatelle are pastry shells filled with a mixture of ricotta, sugar, cinammon, and candied citrus fruit. They can be puff-pastry (sfogliatella riccia) or, not so good, shortcrust pastry (sfogliatella frolla).

Rum babàs you might have had before, but I bet not like the Neapolitan ones! These moist cakes are soaked in rum and often filled with cream.

Here is a moth-watering collection of confectionary including sfogliatelle and rum babàs on display in the old Spanish Quarter of Naples:

photo of Neapolitan sfogliatelle and rum babas, photographed in the Spanish Quarter of Naples by Andie Gilmour

You can risk transporting these back to your hotel room or apartment for a solitary indulgence, or much preferably have them at a cafe in a piazza, like this one, the Gran Caffe Neapolis, on the Piazza San Domenico Maggiore:

Photo of espresso, a sfogliatella, and a rum baba, at the Gran Caffe Neapolis in Naples - photo by Andie Gilmour

You are very welcome to read my review of the Gran Caffe Neapolis here on TripAdvisor.


Up Pompeii!

If you are visiting Naples (as we did) then it is a must that you also visit the remains of Pompeii (as we did). Actually, if you have never heard of Pompeii then maybe don't bother, as you are probably (and I don't want to get judgemental here) going to get bored trudging around the excavations of a two thousand year old Roman city. There is only one pizza restaurant on-site and the shopping isn't very good unless you want to buy, say, a plastic reproduction centurion sword and helmet. For anyone else with even a passing interest in life in Ancient Rome, then go and visit; you won't regret it!

Getting to the Pompeii site is relatively easy. We took a train on the Circumvesuviana line that runs between Naples and Sorrento every thirty minutes. Here is a tip though, catch the train at Napoli Porta Nolana where the train starts, rather than the central Garibaldi station. This train gets very busy with local poeple as well as tourists, and most get on at Napoli Stazione Centrale.

Also, by the way, watch out for pick-pockets; I very nearly had my e-reader stolen from my rucksack. If I hadn't of felt the pocket zip starting to open behind me ... (on the other hand, if you do want to pick up a cheap i-Pod or tablet PC - no packaging or power-pack or questions asked - then there are plenty of people hanging around Napoli Stazione Centrale who will be happy to oblige).

The train journey from Porta Nolana to Pompei Scava Villa Misteri takes either 24 minutes or 37 minutes depending on whether you get the train that stops at all the stations on the line. Check out the timetable here. I wouldn't say it is one of the most scenic train journeys in the world, though Michael Portillo did take it on an episode of the BBC TV programme 'Great Continental Railway Journeys'. It does raise the anticipation levels watching Mount Vesuvius gradually loom into sight, though.

The walk from the Villa Misteri station up to the entrance of the archaeological site is about five minutes, though you might want to grab a glass of readily-available freshly-squeezed orange juice from outside the station before you go in. Whether you get an audio-guide from the entrance (and note, this is the only way to get a printed map of the site) is up to you, but there is lots of information out there on the net, e.g. this pdf of the site.

We visited Pompeii on a rather dull and wet day in December. The down-side to this is of course that your souvenir photos of the experience might not be very sunny (see below!), but the plus-side is that apart from near the Forum and the well-trudged sights on the tour-guide trail, we very much had most of the streets and buildings to ourselves. Pompeii gets around 2.5 million visitors a year, so I imagine that it could be a neck-craning and shoving match at the height of Summer.

Here then are some of my own souvenir shots of the day. I am not appending any explanation of what they depict. Not because I am lazy or can't be bothered to cut-and-paste from Wikipedia, but because I think the delicious mystery of these kinds of places is best left to the imagination to conjure up what could have been going on here on that fateful day in 79AD. (If you don't agree, then in the words of the immortal Frankie Howerd: Oh please yourself!)

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour

photos of Pompeii by Andie Gilmour