Friday, June 17, 2011

Longing for the sea

As a child, I used to live by the sea with my grandparents. At the beginning of my elementary school, I moved to another city. Since then, I've always longed for the sea.
I love all things related to our oceans: mysterious creatures of the sea, sounds of waves, sea shells, lighthouses, ship, navy uniforms, etc.
In the postcard, you can see a schoolgirl wearing sērāfuku (Japanese for "sailor outfit") and holding a French navy sailor hat with a red pompon. While looking at a painting hanging on the wall, in which a German lighthouse with red and white rings around the tower and Scarlet Sails-my favorite literature symbol of powerful love- from the children's book with the same name, written by the Russian writer Alexander Grin, are shown, she's picturing herself being surrounded by many beautiful citizens of the sea.

Monday, June 13, 2011

My trip to Spain- Part 2: Toledo

Toledo was the old capital of the kingdom of Spain in medieval times, before the Spanish court was moved to Madrid. Nowadays, this city is the capital of the autonomous community of Castile-La Mancha. In the past, Toledo was well-known because of the co-existence of Jews, Christians and Muslisms. That's why, it earned the name "the city of three cultures".

 I love this city and its very, very delicious marzipans. It's fair to say that the marzipan of Toledo is considered one of its finest food products. Making marzipans has a long tradition and it has brought fame to the city. Remember the name Santo Tome! You won't be disappointed by marzipans from this confectionery shop.

There is a lot of narrow passages in Toledo. As a fan of old, narrow and mystic-looking passages, I found here my heaven. This is a sketch of one passage heading to the university.

The kingdom of Spain is well-known for its Spanish inquisition in the past. Maybe, people in Spain won't like to hear of this fact as well as people in Germany feel uneasy, when we discuss World War II. I was really excited to go to the exhibition of ancient instruments of torture at the Alfonso XII exhibition hall. The exhibition hall is not big. However, it's scary enough to make you very grateful not to be born as Jews or Muslims at the time of the Spanish inquisition. These three masks of shame are the most harmless.

On the way to Puente de San Martin ( the bridge of Saint Martin), I discovered this lovely inner yard covered by oleanders and rosemary. I'm really envious of the people living there. They have huge rosemary bushes. I have a pot of rosemary at home. No matter what I do, my rosemary doesn't grow bigger. It stays tiny and weak. The lack of sunlight is the main problem. I have heard, in sunny Mediterranean area, rosemary bushes can reach up to one meter in height.
If I have a chance to go to Spain again, I'll come back to Toledo for sure, stay here longer and eat so many marzipans, that I feel like I'm going to explode.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

My trip to Spain- Part 1: Madrid

Happy Hippo and Iwent to Spain to visit one friend of us living now in Madrid. We stayed in Madrid for one week. Besides the capital of Spain, we also visited some cities in the proximity.

This is how the Kingdom of Spain looks like. As you can see, there are 17 autonomous communities and 2 autonomous cities (Ceuta, Melilla). If you don't have a keen interest in visiting Madrid, but Barcelona, you have to go to Cataluña. 

A she-bear and a strawberry tree (Spanish: madroño) -Arbutus unedo- are the symbol of Madrid.

I'm not sure, if this hand-made stuffed animal is a "cat", because it looks more like a little dinosaur to me. However, his creator considers it a cat. Maybe, at first, he wanted to sew a stuffed cat. The final product varies from the idea very often. Anyway, I like it.  

My friend in Madrid cooked dinner. It tasted good.

The 2nd day in Madrid was Sunday. That's why I went to El Rastro- the most popular flea market in Madrid. I like flea markets. Things are cheap here and sometimes, with a bit of luck, you can find some odd-looking but very interesting ones.
I got this wind chime, made from sea shells, as a present.

At El Rastro, I found a lot of stalls selling Spanish fans. I love hand fans of all kinds: Chinese folding fans, Japanese round fans, Vietnamese straw fans. Why shouldn't I add to my fan collection a Spanish one?
I'm not really a fan of Real Madrid. However, if there is a final match between this football club and FC Barcelona (as usual), I'm in favour of Real Madrid. 

I have heard, churros with thick hot chocolate is very popular in Spain and Latin America.
No one in my family is fond of chocolate; so am I. In my opinion, we can eat the churros without chocolate. They themselves taste already very good. Eating churros reminds me so much of Youtiao 油条, which my Mum likes to eat with rice congee for breakfast.

Street plaques in Madrid are beautiful. Have a look at some I saw not far from Plaza Mayor!

There is a lot of cockroaches in tropical countries. When I was in Vietnam, I saw them everyday. Since I've been in Germany, I haven't seen anyone. It made me think, these stinking creatures don't inhabit in Europe. I'm totally wrong. In the warm Mediterranean area, there are some of them.

While walking across Plaza de Colón (Columbus Square), I saw this artwork of Fernando Botero, a well-known Colombian artist. I don't have a clue, in which relation this statue of a naked "large" woman holding a mirrow has to Columbus.

Motives I cut from a brochure for the 28th festival "Fall in Spring" (???). What a name!

At the night of the 4th day in Madrid, the friend in Madrid and Happy Hippo gave a cocktail party.
Don't mistake this kitchen implement for a microscope. It's a juicer, comes from Venezuela and is made specially for oranges. Oranges in Spain taste very, very good.

I visited Museum of the Americas on the 5th day in Madrid. My favourite object is this vessel in the form of a guinea pig. If you google the word "Cui/Cuy", you get a lot of scary pictures of a dish made from the meat of guinea pigs. A whole baked/grilled guinea pig showing its teeth is often served on the dish.

Other objects in the Museum of the Americas.

On the 6th day, I went to Toledo-located 70km south of Madrid- for a one-day trip.
This is my dinner, cooked by Happy Hippo, with some rosemarries we got from Toledo, after we arrived in Madrid.

(Sketches from Toledo and Aranjuerz are coming soon.)