I am a lucky person to be able to travel so much in one year! We all are lucky really in different ways and some more than others, but at the end of the day we all have something to be thankful for. I am personally thankful for being able to go to London three times in one year and be able to share my stories with all of you.
It’s that time again of the year for: Christmas parties, gifts, card sending and, of course, advent calendars! A dear friend of mine has a birthday conveniently placed closely to advent calendar giving month. So I set out into the world in search of a unique gift that keeps giving all December long… Continue reading
About a month ago I was pleased to get a phone call from a friend of mine wanting help catering a small gathering for his friends. I was delighted to put my cooking cap on and come up with just the right menu for the occasion and I decided to add a particular je ne sais quoi to the mix as well! Continue reading
To give us all a bit of a break from my travel/food stories I found something interesting to share with you all. Well, wait, it is food related what am I saying…
About a year ago, I wrote about a wurst/meat dispensing machine located in Delbrück and how practical it was for the locals to head over to this machine and buy local meat. Especially on Sundays when all the grocery stores are closed this particular vending machine is a superstar. Here comes the news: the meat dispensing machine now has a partner – a dairy vending machine! One can purchase fresh milk, yogurt, and cream!
Equally practical and now the initial meat vending machine has a partner next to him! Happy tastings on this soon to be wonderful Friday!
This past week I boarded the plane to Berlin for a spiritual wonderful experience that I will never forget! Armed with a great deal of enthusiasm and cooking skills I set off to volunteer to cook for three days for the Amma “Embracing the World” charity.
What a world! And what a fantastic woman!
I checked into my hipster hotel called Michelberger located about two stations from an equally very hipster part of Berlin called Mitte. All the food served here is mega organic, yes I just raised the organic bar a couple of notches. The building inside, well let’s just say it screams cool hipster meets Berlin! I chose this hotel based on proximity to Arena Berlin where I would be volunteering, not knowing what to expect and was, well, as you can tell, pleasantly surprised! I dropped off my bags and off I went to the Arena to start my day.
The kitchen was buzzing full of equally stoked volunteers from all parts of the world joined together for one cause – Amma. I stood there in amazement how calm and collected they all were. The menu for the three days was vegetarian. Vegetarian food made in huge quantities and served to the masses to feed the hungry people.
This was my first time cooking for easily over 600 people, and somehow it all went smoothly and everyone went home well-fed. Honestly, what got me through the chopping, chopping, and more chopping was the meditative music playing in the background. The first day we chopped vegetables and made rice for a nice spicy curry, while others were busy setting up the Arena for Amma’s/crew’s arrival in the wee hours of the night. To great success we managed and I met some incredibly humble gentle people that made me think wow what an amazing world it is! Satisfied with the turnout of my first day I hung up my apron around 10 pm and headed to my room where I feel asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
Surprisingly, the next morning I woke up refreshed and ready to go. I quickly had my breakfast (eggs, bacon and a banana), drank some coconut water and I was pumped. On my way into the Arena I noticed more things around me, seeing that it was broad daylight. For instance, I passed a portion of what used to be back in the day part of the Berlin Wall. There, now, lives a great gallery full of avantgarde art and funkism. I walked a bit further and realized all the cool art people have done on the side of many buildings. It felt so refreshing to observe the human mind working away at everyday life by looking at these drawings/art pieces.
I reached my destination and I was quickly taken aback how differently the Arena looked. It no longer looked like a storage container with a kitchen and toilets, but rather quite homey. So many smells were bouncing around in the atmosphere: lit candles, freshly brewed coffee, relaxing scents of all sorts, and spice smells from the cooking. I took a minute to look around and ground myself. I was amazed to see the work around the clock that so many people participated paid off royally. I headed straight for my apron because everything suddenly began to hit home for me. I was here to help – that was my objective from the very beginning, but now there was a growing sense of must give it my all!
I worked diligently around the clock until about 3pm at which time I took a break to walk through the Arena; to be in a crowd of people. And let me take a bit of a cul-de-sac to talk about ‘the people’ here. I call it a “cul-de-sac” because it’s all about the people and no matter how you turn it around it always comes back to the people. There were more than 400 people at a time showing up to manifest their support and participate in this amazing human ritualism. Amma to these people was a Guru; someone wise, who had a message and possessed a strong will power! Her message is simple: spread the word: love and adapt your everyday life to fit love into it. It’s simple, yet so powerful. It hits home, because I suddenly realized that all these people were here to celebrate their unionship with a spiritual belief, love. I stood there in amazement. I couldn’t sit down and I couldn’t relax. There was an unsettling feeling around me, which made me feel sad about all the time and energy I’ve wasted thinking negatively about certain stages in my life and the answer all along was embrace everything and love everything. I walked to the booth and asked for a token. I sat in a never-ending lineup to receive from Amma her famous hug, because I wanted to experience everything. I kneeled in front of her and her arms embraced me and I felt a rush of adrenalin hit the top of my head and suddenly as I swallowed I felt a huge ball stuck in my throat and I cried. Not sure I can actually explain what happened, but what I do know is I felt safe and shielded – safe enough to feel vulnerable.
The feeling of restlessness went away and I walked to a chair and stood there meditating. I suddenly looked at my watch and realized I had to go back to the kitchen. Time stopped and I let go of pressing details for a moment, such as time. Isn’t that powerful? Cutting potatoes to the sound of meditative music feels good; it’s rhythmic and it connected me to the food and the other volunteers around me. We started to exchange stories and suddenly it was 6pm, and we all gathered to hear Amma’s story. All I have to say is her biography is definitely worth reading. Once 9pm came around I was bursting from it all and I need it to be in my room alone. I walked out into the cold night air, while everything was still buzzing.
I needed to internalize everything in solitude. I walked straight to the hotel, and asked for salad and a bourbon. I stood there not able to cut my food or sip my drink. I stood there for what seemed like an hour, and the whole time my mind was racing and compartmentalizing the day’s events seemed crucial. I talked myself into taking a sip of my bourbon and it felt good. I felt I could focus again. I realized I hadn’t eaten all day so I finished my salad and my drink, and I went up to my room. I turned the TV on and fell asleep thinking about the word Love…
The next morning, my last day I woke up and had breakfast with two very cute Berlin souls and they managed to briefly take my mind off of things. After our brunch, they accompanied me back into the world of Amma. As we said our goodbyes and I walked into the kitchen I saw less people than I’ve been grown accustomed to. I was eager to get into the meditative rhythm of cooking when after awhile of working we were finished for the day. I wanted to do more and I didn’t want to go. And I knew that my body craved this kind of interaction with people. I craved this kind of people. Both my body and mind, the last two days, were exhausted from being disconnected and not talking the same language. And suddenly, they were both speaking to one another with compassion and I wanted to stay in this bubble, because it felt/feels so good… Love!
Thank you Amma!
Since my new metamorphosis blog is all about food and travelling, I have to write about Oktoberfest, celebrated by yours truly in the one place where it should be celebrated – Munich! Side note, I know I am posting this a bit after fact, but I am trying to catch up slowly with all my travelling…
If I was going to embrace Oktoberfest in Bavaria I wanted to do it right, which meant dressing up like the locals do. So I borrowed a vintage dirndl, invested in a nice white blouse and I was ready to go (pic below).
The next thing to remember is if you want to get a table in any of the many different named tents you have to reserve something like half a year in advance, which we did. With our tickets in hand and 20 friends we set out around 4 PM to meet our festivities well into the night. Now with our tickets (see pic) you get two “Maß” (1 Liter) of freshly brewed Wies’nbier and 15€ to spend on food, which depending on your appetite is plenty.
What I quickly adored was the unionship feeling among the German masses. It was as though everyone was coming together to eat, drink and dance together. We found our long table, sat down and listened to the many traditional Bavarian (and some not-so-Bavarian) songs. Once the first order of beer was taken and served, everyone was eager to cheer and get the festivities started.
The food menu is extensive and filling. We started with some traditional appetizer: smoked sausages, pickles, cheese, radishes, cured meats, pretzels and of course the famous mustard. Once we were all done with that came the real feast! You have many options as a main: such as different sausages with mashed potatoes or a saucy schnitzel with Knödel (dumpling). We ordered what most traditionally should be ordered at such parties, which is a “Hendl”, a savoury rotisserie chicken stuffed with fresh herbs with a side of potatoes. With our bellies full, we were ready to party the night away.
People singing songs out loud and dancing on their benches, was a sign of the alcohol working its magic. After one point it just didn’t matter who and what the lyrics were. Everyone wanted to have a good time and we all did until it was time to head out and enjoy the outdoor entertainment area. We walked out of our tent and walked all around the park filled with lights and night rollercoaster rides. Most people were super stoked to get on a coaster – I was not one of those people…
It was a fun night and I made many friends, many of which were from different parts of Germany! A unification between beer and dressed up humans is what Oktoberfest in Munich is all about! See you next year…
When you read a name such as “Königswinter” you might think darkness and coldness… Well, although darkness is definitely part of the charm of this resort town one can also describe it as medieval architecture at its best.
The town itself circles a beautiful castle made by an archbishop of Cologne in the early 12th century called Steigenberger. Midway between this lavish castle and street level, we discovered a cave. Ok ok, we followed the rest of the German tourists to see what the fuss was all about. Here comes the darkness part: apparently they believed a dragon was living in this area at that time and that’s where it lived; in this cave. Once the dragon was killed everyone lived happily ever after. What I find most interesting about this town is after 1267 this cave supplied most of the stone for the building of the Cologne Cathedral! This stone was also responsible for the building of Schloss Drachenburg in 1882, which I visited and loved.
First of all, in order to get to Schloss Drachenburg one must take an ancient train climbing quite slowly to the summit point where this Schloss is located (by the way, Schloss means Castle). Why can you only ride in this ancient train? Because this town back, back in the day had its very own railway system, which closed in 1958. However, the ancient train carts you ride in today were the actual train carts that people used when the railway was fully operational! I find that so cool! (of course, one can also walk up, but it’s way more fun to do it in these little train carts, I think…). The Schloss itself has a sad story: it was built by a broker and a banker for them to live in it, but they never did. Now the State Foundation of North Rhine-Westphalia owns it.
The Schloss itself is engorged in luxury. Everything from the location, to the car waiting to be driven, to the decor in each room, to the bell tower, to the lavish garden grounds! Honestly, I wouldn’t mind this little jewel! See tons of pictures below all representative of the entire area. One question though, who is allowed to drive the sheepishly gorgeous car? No one knows… Maybe I need to join a club whose main purpose is to drive lavish cars belonging to different Castles around Germany. That would be so good!
Who said a trip to the Black Forest can’t be rustically posh? Located in the southwestern part of Germany and surrounded by the Black Forest you can find Bad Herrenalb. As a little girl I remember going here with my family and enjoying the beauty of this place, and I wanted to go back here to explore it as a grown up. I loved it!
It’s all about the outdoors here. Hiking and hunting I would say are the top two activities specific to this area. I went on a couple of hikes which were about 4 hours of intense German wild life extravaganza. See below!
A quick walk around the town and I quickly noticed many people were actually tourists. Where were the locals? The locals were busy running restaurants, hotels, shops and galleries. What I love most about this little town nestled in the Black Forest is night time. All the tiny houses are non-invasively lit up, and people’s chimneys give off a warm crackly fresh wood kind of smoke and smell. I felt instantly warm just looking at this sight and a wave of relaxation surrounded me.
So back to the hiking part… after a four hour hike it totally helps to hole up in a warm comfy room with a spectacular panoramic view at the Schwarzwald Panorama. The hotel is super warm and inviting. The staff members are extremely well trained to provide you with whatever it is you may need. These guys also have a spa and a yoga studio, although while we were there not too many people were using these facilities… The best thing about this hotel is the view from your own private room (see picture), where you can take a nice glass of red and enjoy all the wonderfully organic smells of the Black Forest.
The next best thing about this hotel is after you are done enjoying your very own balcony in the wilderness you sink your body into the comfortable bed and instantly you are deep asleep. So, I definitely recommend this hotel and Bad Herrenalb as a whole!
Between the nature walks, fresh air, no light pollution and an amazing view for the hotel balcony I can safely say we will be back one day…
Today marks my blog’s one year anniversary with over 65 posts, and so I present to you my metamorphosis blog mentioned in my previous post. It is now more focused on two major categories: travel and food!
Hopefully you will feel inspired to share my blog, subscribe and check back regularly for fresh exciting new content!
Please feel free to drop me a line or two with your thoughts and/or suggestions, as they are always appreciated and welcome.
Lots of love xo
Growing up in Toronto I have my personal likes and dislikes about the city, however when I am away and I come back to visit Toronto it’s an entirely different feeling. I can describe it as a nostalgic panicked feeling that somehow, somewhere in me, lives a great realization that we are all working against time. Why does this feeling only arise in Toronto? Not sure, but here are some highlights from my last visit.
People will always draw me in and keep me locked into Toronto forever, I think. My good friends, this little cat below and my mother are some examples.
This trip was all about personal bonding for me. I missed my people and mostly I missed people speaking English. So it was vital for me to get my fill of both! “Coincidentally,” it so happened to be Thanksgiving weekend where people get stuffed with a huge turkey and sides that make one go immediately into a food coma for a about two hours!
Back to the bonding topic: why is it that we as humans need to bond? Maybe it’s because our ancestors have developed over many centuries in communities and not as lonely individuals. I think a sense of community, and I can easily braid in the term friendship here because it works hand in hand, are important and sacred in many ways. For me personally, it is in my community/friendships that I truly find myself sharing and talking about delicate subjects that otherwise I wouldn’t feel comfortable expressing. I guess for me personally the notion of community stems from a deep-rooted personal belonging to a group that provides brief moments of isolation where expressing your vulnerability isn’t bad or scary, it’s just part of living. Although, with expressing my vulnerability comes a sense of, time is passing so get your shit together! Which is scary and gives me a weird sense of a never-ending struggle and sadness that one day this community, my community will no longer be there…
But there is hope, I call it metamorphosis. I am using this term quite lightly now, because I just realized how heavy-handed this post is becoming. I am choosing to associate my personal blog with the term metamorphosis, because from my last visit in Toronto and speaking truthfully within my community I realized that my blog needs a fresh cover and a focus. The focus will be travelling and food using of course a great visual tool, called photography.
Side note: my older posts will not be deleted. You will be able to find them under the ‘about’ section, because after all, they are part of me!
If there is one thing for me to be thankful for this year is my community/friendships!
Stay tuned for my metamorphosis blog! xo