A Travellerspoint blog

A shitload of shillings

New currencies and other musings

sunny 26 °C

So we did a blog in Mongolia about all the things we found interesting about the country. Here we will give some interesting tidbits about our travel overall. By the way we are in Nairobi now and since it is highly recommended that we stay inside at night we have some time so here we go....

  • once you've seen a Cyrillic alphabet and figured out how to count letters and see commonalities you can find your way around (Russia, Mongolia and Bulgaria are Cyrillic)
  • we have to find a common reference point in Canadian for money for each country we visit. So we always pick 5 and 10 dollars so we can estimate costs - example in Kenya right now 1000 shillings is about 11.80 so at least it gives us a quick reference. Changing currencies regularly has us saying,"so $5 is this much in (tugrik, rubles, krona, lira, euro, koruna, forint, lei and lev) so far and now shillings.
  • not all toilet flushers are created equal - leaving one country and entering the next where you pulled up on the knob on the tank to flush results in lifting off the whole lid in the next; as for toilets there are the pay toilets, which does not mean paper; train and bus toilets - maybe/maybe not and Kellie has become quite good at charades to ask for toilet paper from train conductors - use your imagination; some have seats and some do not; some with seats have shoe prints on them - these are not squats ladies; most in Eastern Europe are co-ed; and some have very little water in the bowl and a high shelf for doing stool samples way easier.
  • door locks - what should be a simple lock and unlock procedure for 2 university grads.... "You try, now you try; it's 2 turns; pull it out part way; don't put it in all the way; try it twice it works better" - oh how the eavesdroppers must laugh - if they understand English.
  • asking for directions - reactions range from running away to getting in the rental car and directing from the back seat
  • towels and pillows- really matter! Some towels have given us exfoliation treatments
  • stairs and elevators that don't quite go to the top! And if your room is on the 3rd floor it is really on the 5th floor.
  • subway stations that make you go down and then back up - hmmm!
  • laundry - well we have had access to only two washing machines so far on this trip, which makes for a lot hand washing in bathroom sinks. There isn't usually a day that goes by where either Shelley or my underwear are hanging somewhere in the room. Often we tell hotel cleaning staff just to skip our rooms given the various pantaloons that are a strewn
  • trusting others - to trust or not to trust, that becomes a constant thought. Even though we would like to think strangers are offering assistance out of kindness, and maybe some are, we do find ourselves being extremely wary when all we would like to do is relax and be ourselves
  • coffee - its hard to get a good cup! Even in Eastern Europe and we have even come to rely on Nescafe 3 in 1 ( which is our Mongolia discovery, which is coffee, artificial creamer, and sugar all in one thin sleeve of tastiness)
  • trains, planes and automobiles - so many inconsistent rules regarding security (liquids must be in plastic bags/no bag/no one cares), carry-on weight for baggage may not be applied, Turkish Airlines still rocks!
  • jewellery, natural make up and shoe stores - very prolific everywhere. Shelley has been laughing at the outrageous shoes (to her) worn with tights, shorts, pants, dresses - who would wear that with that! And the stilettos and high wedge shoes on cobblestones and uneven pavement - and no broken ankles! Shelley has become a jewellery junkie and is keeping up with Kellie in this department! Most countries seem to have their individual special gems so it's a lot of fun!

Well we are off to sleep - Lake Naivasha shuttle experience first thing tomorrow. Should be an interesting adventure!

Posted by kelshell 16:49 Archived in Kenya Comments (1)

Rainbows over Romania

We found our pot of gold!

sunny 24 °C

Well our side trip to Romania certainly was worth the effort to get there! To explain about this side trip I will tell you a quick little story. In 2006 John and I had traveled to Crete and spent a day in Elafonisi which is to me still the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. It lies at the southwest tip of Crete on the Libyan Sea. While on Crete that trip we met a family who I stayed in contact with over the years. They invited us back in 2012 so we returned. After our visit with them in the North East, we did some other touring around and returned to Elafonisi for 3 days. We met a lovely young woman named Elena who was working there. Elena is from Romania and was working at a taverna/pension on the beach (the only one there I might add). She was working there in order to earn better money for her family than she could earn in Romania. This was her second full season away from her husband and 2 young children and she was really missing them. We stayed in touch over the last 5 years and thankfully Elena only spent one more season away from her family after our visit. She used her earnings partially to expand greenhouses on a family property. When I told Elena we would be in Eastern Europe she asked us to visit and Kellie and I were planning this from the outset.

Now Elena, Catalin and their beautiful children Teodora and Edy live in Northeastern Romania. How to get there from Hungary? For a Canadian perspective it would be like traveling from Calgary to Vancouver. We returned to Budapest from Tokaj region to take one train 7 hours to the Romanian town of Timorsoara and then a fifteen hour evening/night train to Pascani. The train travel was a story all on its own, including feuding drunks, sleeping on different seats throughout the night, Kellie being awoken over and over again to have the tickets checked, etc, etc - paint your own picture! One thing Kellie wants to mention here is the sight of me sleeping upright with a shirt over my head (to keep the train lights off my face), head bobbing as if I'd been hung. She really wanted to take a picture of this macabre vision but was too tired!

We were warmly met by Elena and Catalin at the Pascani train station. The children were at school until noon so Elena made us a wonderful breakfast all from their own produce. Kellie and I took our first bite of their greenhouse tomatoes and looked at each other astonished saying at the same time, "this is the best tomato I have ever tasted in my life!" Incredible!

Once the children returned, shy greetings were the order with them too nervous to practice their English. Edy dazzled us with his skills using a local Romanian toy and after a bag was packed for the family, we took off in the van for a 2 day amazing tour. Romania is stunning! So many landscapes and things we had never seen. Unique to this countryside in the NE are the following: haystacks ( old fashioned kind with stick in the center supporting the weight of the hay piled in a pyramid shape); beautiful housing architecture with no 2 houses the same; elaborate eavestrough systems stylized ornately; horse and buggies carting anything imaginable; huge cows tied in front yards; traditional handicrafts;

We drove to a region which housed a fort from the 1400s. Kellie had to stay behind and drink cappacino as the trek to the fort was steep and lengthy. The fort was a major stronghold under Stefan the Great's reign and repelled Turkish and Tartar forces. We then drove to a spectacular privately owned museum called Museum Popa where a man's lifetime collection of artifacts and his unique carvings were displayed. Neculai Popa was an eclectic sculptor and collector of archaeological evidence, icons, nave paintings and sculptures with numerous masks of his designs. At the museum we were taken around by Popa's daughter who was knowledgeable and helpful answering all of our questions, as well as explaining the cultural significance of the masks. We were also given a short performance by her using a goat body-type puppet that is tradionally used on December 31st in celebrations. We have taken a short video that hopefully we can post (when WiFi is strong enough). Once Shelley and I saw this goat, we immediately recognized this icon from a busker that was performing in Prague, some of you may remember the video we posted, which we found very funny.

Upon leaving this interesting and special place, it was off to the mountain region to find a place to sleep for the night. The drive was scenic and even though I kidded with Catalin about his fast driving, we saw some wonderful scenes so representative of this area of Romania. It was so cool to still see the traditional use of horses, people walking their cows on a lead ( getting them to another pasture we guessed) and the numerous styles of houses that I know Shelley mentioned previously but it needs mentioning again! Some styles were ornate styles looking more Turkish, while others were decorated with stucco appliques that provided decoration above windows and doors, and sometimes over complete walls. To talk about the sights here one must also mention the flowers! Gardens and beautifying individual homes is definitely one priority here. Lovely roses and Dahlias and other colorful flowers were abundant as we drove through on our way to the mountain lodge. Despite not being able to stay where Elena had hoped, due to the fact the place required a two night minimum stay (which we all thought was crazy given they had many rooms available and there were 6 of us in total and would also be eating and drinking there), we managed to settle in at a lovely traditional motel. This place was a great choice where the attending staff allowed Shelley and I to bring in our wines from Hungary to share for dinner. I was excited to try the Cabernet Franc I purchased from the Eger region, while Shelley opened her late harvest white from the Tokaj region. The wine was enjoyed by all, and we tried some traditional Romanian Raki. Dinner was of Romanian styled pork (smoked) with chicken and mushrooms in a cream sauce. Dinner here in Romania is also nothing without polenta! Yummy :).

When we got up in the morning we walked to the Monastery of Voronet. Elena explained that the blue color used was specific and called the " blue of Voronet." This monastery from 1488 was stunning! Outside there were murals of saints still in very good condition. Inside the murals were very well preserved and so beautiful. The domed roof was spectacular. We left this region to travel to another monastery called Humor. There is a new orthodox church built beside the old monastery here. Elena asked the priest if we could see the new church first and he unlocked it for us. Brand new murals greeted us here. Then we went into the old monastery built in 1530 for nuns and even got to watch some restoration work in progress. A beautiful drive into the Carpathian mountain range showed more of the beauty of this region of Romania. We left quickly though as we still had to go to Elena's parents for dinner and get Catalin off to work for his night shift. Dinner at the family home was super. Elena's mother had made traditional food which was delicious and we had Raki and wine made by her father. We saw the family chickens and Vietnamese pot bellied pigs. Before going back to Elena's apartment we visited their greenhouses, 4 very large structures growing the world's best tomatoes. Elena and Catalin work very hard at their greenhouses outside of their day jobs. We slept at their apartment and said our goodbyes to Elena early in the morning before she went to work and waited for Catalin to return from his night shift to take the children to school before driving us to the next town for our 6 hour bus to Bucharest. We stopped at their local corner store to buy some food for the bus and were astonished to see an advertisement on the store window for Cedar Creek wines made in the Okanagan! "It's a small world after all...."

We want to thank Elena, Catalin and their family for a most excellent time with them and their corner of Romania. Kellie and I both agree that a return trip to Romania is necessary! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Xoxoxo.

View from the fort

View from the fort

Teodora and Edy in the armory

Teodora and Edy in the armory

Stefan 1st

Stefan 1st

Church in fort

Church in fort

From left - Elena, Teodora, Edy and Catalin

From left - Elena, Teodora, Edy and Catalin

Horse and foal at Popa museum

Horse and foal at Popa museum

Masks in background

Masks in background

Traditional masks

Traditional masks

More masks

More masks

Traditional clothing

Traditional clothing

Neculai Popa

Neculai Popa

Exterior wall of Voronet monastery

Exterior wall of Voronet monastery

Shelley and Elena Voronet

Shelley and Elena Voronet

Outside Voronet

Outside Voronet

Inside the monastery

Inside the monastery

Domed roof Voronet

Domed roof Voronet

Elena's parents home eavestrough

Elena's parents home eavestrough

Edy and Teo in grandparent's corn crib

Edy and Teo in grandparent's corn crib

Elena's parents yard

Elena's parents yard

Shelley and a beautiful ceramic soba for heating house with wood

Shelley and a beautiful ceramic soba for heating house with wood

Romanian haystack

Romanian haystack

Double ended rainbow

Double ended rainbow

Humor monastery

Humor monastery

Humor monastery

Humor monastery

Humor monastery

Humor monastery

Humor monastery

Humor monastery

Humor monastery

Humor monastery

Humor monastery

Humor monastery

Outside old Humor Monastery

Outside old Humor Monastery

Beautiful roses

Beautiful roses

Humor monastery

Humor monastery

Icon

Icon

New Humor monastery

New Humor monastery

Inside monastery

Inside monastery

Inside new monastery

Inside new monastery

Tower monastery grounds

Tower monastery grounds

Long haired Romanian sheep

Long haired Romanian sheep

Carpathian mountains

Carpathian mountains

Elena and Shelley in the mountains

Elena and Shelley in the mountains

Mountain peak

Mountain peak

Old monastery

Old monastery

Monastery roses

Monastery roses

Elena, Teo and Shelley

Elena, Teo and Shelley


Double ended rainbow

Double ended rainbow

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tE63aR12v1w
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZrdJWHNIxw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfdLnNMUNk8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rag4p14aEkI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5DpH6wX2sw

Posted by kelshell 21:02 Archived in Romania Comments (2)

Last days in Hungary

Eger and the Budapest Opera House

sunny 28 °C

After leaving the Tokaj region we traveled back toward Budapest to Miscolc and Eger. There are mineral baths at Miscolc so we stopped for a few hours. The baths are a series of cave mineral pools of varying degrees of temperature. Kellie had booked a mud bath (is it someone putting mud on me; am I alone; Oh it's a bath - is it my own mud?) and after this we went to a salt cave. We thought we'd be soaking in salt water in a cave but it was a sauna with 5 inches of salt on the floor and the walls were encrusted with salt. After swimming in the labyrinth of cave pools and feeling relaxed and rejuvenated we left to drive to Eger to explore caves of the region. We arrived too late though so walked around the town. This area was beautiful and definitely merited more time than we had. After sleeping there, we drove back to Budapest and went to our apartment beside the Opera House. We had a private tour because Kellie's knee required using the elevator, then got to watch 2 arias being sung by one of Budapest's opera singers.

Cave bath

Cave bath

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FzrDmQWZfI

Posted by kelshell 21:00 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)

Tokaj wine country experience

Delicious sweet white wines

sunny 22 °C

Well we are in Shelley's wine country here! What a gorgeous countryside the Tokaj region is. And the learning opportunities were just fascinating. Although Kellie knows a lot about wine, I did not. Now I can discern between wines that have been in oak barrels versus stainless steel tanks, differences in growing terrain creating different flavour and really enjoyed wine tasting for the first time. I could finally smell and taste the subtle aromas and flavors people talk about in wines. In the past all I could smell was alcohol or dry acidic smells. These wines have such character I really enjoyed the experience!

It is true, Shelley and sweet wines do go well together. I myself am a bit of a dry white wine lover so was a bit concerned thinking we would be inundated with super sweet syrupy whites. Well, was I in for a surprise! Not only does the Tokaj wine region produce great sweet wines, they also have amazing dry wines. Here we experienced several different grape varietals that were very new to me. To name one, the fermint grape, which is common here, is wonderful. We tasted this as a single varietal as well as well in blends. The volcanic earth here does impart amazing minerality to the wines, and I can say there was hardly ever a dry white that I tried that I didn't like. Often these wines spent time only in stailiess steel vats, so they were crisp and friuty and easy drinking. The whites that spent time maturing in Hungarian and/or French oak where wonderful with creamy notes and fuller body. To my surprise, the late harvest wines and the special Aszu wines, which are definitely sweet, were well balanced with enough acid content that I was able to completely appreciare their flavours. I think what was most amazing about this area was the vast amounts of cave tunnels, deep under the volcanic terrain, dripping literaly with this black noble mold that continues this aging process for these wines that makes them truly unique. As we were told only one other place in the world (Rhine Valley) can this mold be found, and while other countries have tried to reproduce this, they have not been successful. So, here we are, in a relatively tiny area of the world, enjoying an elixer that is completely unique to our world. On top of this, the wine is affordable and such a shame that we can't carry a case of it in our journey. As it stands, we have each purchased several bottles that we will have to drink in the coming days before heading off to Africa. As well Linda, after having all this wine, I can't even feel my knee pain!

large_20170907_075257.jpglarge_20170907_075234.jpg
Grof Degenfeld winery

Grof Degenfeld winery

Grof Degenfeld hotel and winery - 4 star

Grof Degenfeld hotel and winery - 4 star

Muppet eyes - too much wine

Muppet eyes - too much wine

Wine fun

Wine fun

Grof Degenfeld

Grof Degenfeld

Ford Focus

Ford Focus

Bodrog river

Bodrog river

Kellie and Agnes at Oremus winery

Kellie and Agnes at Oremus winery

View from Oremus

View from Oremus

Cave entrance at Oremus

Cave entrance at Oremus

Wine in caves

Wine in caves

Tasting cellar

Tasting cellar

Oak casks

Oak casks

Noble mould

Noble mould

Wine cellar caves

Wine cellar caves


Wine cellar caves

Wine cellar caves

Tasting in the cellar

Tasting in the cellar

Disznoko winery

Disznoko winery

Noble mould on cellar bottles

Noble mould on cellar bottles

https://youtu.be/8fLVBD0yabc
https://youtu.be/nqTLcn-qtZ8

Posted by kelshell 21:20 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)

Hungary anyone?

sunny 27 °C

Shelley and I boarded our bus that took us from Prague to Budapest. We have found that even though the trip itself can be longer ( this one taking about 7 hours), the buses are roomy, have movies, and some even offer refreshments. The cost usually can't be beat so this is how we made our way to Hungary, which is our 7th country on our grand adventure. This part of our trip was not prebooked so we managed to get WiFi on the bus and discovered a great apartment in Budapest on the Danube. We are getting very good with big city metro stations and managed to make our way from the bus to our new home away from home without incident. We both agreed it was our smoothest new country transition so far. Given that we lost our WiFi connection half way on our bus journey, we could not really confirm how to get the keys, given it was not a hotel. During booking I remembered reading comments in the review section about how easy is was to pick up the keys at the cafe next door. So, that's what we did, we went to the cafe next door to the address and low and behold, the waitress was there to give us a key. The apartment was in a very old building and was roomy and in a great location. So, we settled in for a few days to get ready to explore Budapest.

During our first day we walked a bit around the 'Pest' side of Budapest. It had great pedestrian only areas, and some lovely architecture. Given the city is split by the Danube, there are also some marvelous bridges that connect the Buda side with the pest side. These bridges are even more beautiful at night, and from our street we walked along the Danube and enjoyed some magical views. Our first meal on this first day , where we were excited to try the real authentic Hungarian goulash, unfortunately ended up in a bit of a disappointment. It seems here it is more of a soup then what we think of as a goulash, and at the restaurant we chose, the 'soup' was not very flavourful. The rest of the day we spent trying to set up plans for our rent a car and went shopping at a local market so we could have dinner in. We bought our first bottle of Hungarian white wine, trying to please both of us which is challenging given Shelley is a sweet white wine drinker and I enjoy my wine on the dry side. It turned out we chose well and enjoyed our first bottle of white for under $7. Can't beat that! We were getting fed up with the car rental prices when Shelley suddenly wondered if all of her credit card points would get us something. After registering for her points redemption and then following the link provided we got our car booked with money to spare for some other place. Now we were ready for wine country from the 7th-10th.

On day 2 we jumped on the tram (sans ticket) to the chain bridge to walk over to the Buda side of the river. After taking the funicular up to the castle we were disappointed that we couldn't get in to see anything due to the capital city's preparation for the annual wine festival to be held while we were in their actual wine region Tokaj. We walked to a spectacular church called St. Matthias and wandered around for quite a while. Beautiful church with an exhibition of the last king and queen of Hungary's story. We had a delicious meal at Jamie Oliver's restaurant and bought food for dinner on the way back to the apartment.

On day 3 we drove to Tokaj for our stay in the famous sweet white wine region. Kellie and her son Eli know wines. Me not so much. But we knew before we left we would visit. Little did I know that this region produces the most famous sweet white wines so as the driver my wine tasting has to be pretty regulated. Rats! We stopped at a nice little winery where we found out about the local aszu wines which are made after botrytis has infected the grapes. Now as a gardener, botrytis is something you don't want and I have battled botrytis with fungicides in the past. Here it is prized as it produces a product found nowhere else in the world. The sugars and the acidity are so well balanced that the sweetness is not overwhelming. I tried a very expensive tasting of eszencia wine (200 Euro a bottle) which is absolutely delicious. It is the residual nectar dripping from the aszu wine barrels, collected and aged up to 20 years. Holy apricot honey flavour! The pictures we will post will show the "noble" mold in the cellars which is created by temperature, humidity and the release of alcohol from the barrels. This symbiotic relationship produces the wines and only the Rhine area of Germany produces a similar noble mould.

large_90_IMG_1350.jpglarge_90_IMG_1351.jpglarge_90_IMG_1352.jpglarge_90_IMG_1353.jpglarge_90_IMG_1354.jpglarge_90_IMG_1355.jpglarge_90_IMG_1357.jpglarge_90_IMG_1362.jpglarge_0F91F6C7A7136DF81E6EA8B8009A35B0.jpglarge_90_IMG_1369.jpglarge_90_IMG_1345.jpg

Posted by kelshell 20:02 Archived in Hungary Comments (1)

(Entries 21 - 25 of 67) « Page 1 2 3 4 [5] 6 7 8 9 10 .. »