Macedonia a beautiful mixture of cultural contrasts. Part Balkan, part Mediterranean and rich in Greek, Roman and Ottoman history this combination makes Macedonia a fascinating country. Ohrid is the place to be in Macedonia. Best of all is that you can be skipping through historic monuments one minute and lying on a deck chair with your toes in the water of Lake Ohrid the next. The reconstruction of the capital Skopje following the 1963 earthquake was mainly conducted by the Polish architect Adolf Ciborowski, who had already planned the reconstruction of Warsaw after World War II. The plan turned Skopje into a modernist but grey city. At the end of the 2000s, the city center experienced profound changes. A highly controversial urban project, “Skopje 2014”, was adopted by the municipal authorities in order to give the city a more monumental and historical aspect, and thus to transform it into a proper national capital. Several neoclassical buildings destroyed in the 1963 earthquake were rebuilt, including the national theatre, and streets and squares were refurbished. Many other elements were also built, including fountains, statues, hotels, government buildings and bridges. The project has been criticised because of its cost and its historicist aesthetics.
Things you didn’t about Macedonia:
- Alexander the Great, the once-king of the Kingdom of Macedonia was the world’s first conqueror, who extended an empire across Greece and Persia to India and Egypt.
- Macedonia was one of the only countries during the break up of Yugoslavia to remain at peace throughout.
- Kokino, to the north of the country, is one of the world’s oldest observatories, as recognized by NASA and dating back to the 19thcentury BC. It is inscribed on a Unesco “tentative” list of protection.
- Skopje, the capital, is said to be seven thousand years old and was known in the Roman period as Scupi
This recipe is perfect if you’re having vegetarians or vegans over for dinner or just as a side dish. The spices are just right! and it’s great to eat with just a piece of toast. My best friend is a vegetarian, and she loved this because it is often hard to find something that is filling and easy to make!
Libya is an ancient crossroads of civilizations. On the Libyan coast, you can some of the finest Roman and Greek ruins in existence, among them Leptis Magna, Cyrene, and Sabratha. Libya also has some of the most beautiful corners of the Sahara Desert, from seas of sand the size of Switzerland and as well as mysterious caravan towns (Ghadames) and an isolated black-as-black volcano (Wawa al-Namus) in the desert’s heart. A country with so beauty much to explore… yet so much unrest. The country has been as unstable ever since the revolution 2011. The whole country remains off-limits to travelers with chronic instability and ongoing conflict.
Things you didn’t know about Libya:
- Much of the central and eastern area of the country is covered by the Libyan Desert. The Libyan Desert is one of the most sun-baked and arid places on earth. There is no average rainfall — the land may go for decades with no rain and the highlands for five to ten years without it
- Tripoli the capital is also known as the Mermaid of the Mediterranean for its turquoise waters and whitewashed buildings.
- The Berbers identify themselves with their village or tribe before their country.
- Food is eaten with three fingers on the right hand. The left is considered unclean. Good manners dictate you leave a little food on your plate to indicate that your host is a gracious and generous provider.
- Saving face is important to Libyans, who are non-confrontational. They avoid disagreeing or saying no
This Libyan fish is really good the spicy sauce is really tasty and a great change from what I normally do with fish.
When I think of Latvia I think cold and woods full of pine trees. Which is not wrong, but not the only things identifying Latvia. First of all it one of the least densely populated countries in the European Union with only 2 million inhabitants. (compared to where I live in the Netherlands, 18 million people!!!) Nearly half of the entire population lives in the capital Riga. The capital is an interesting mixture of somber Sojvet and ancient medieval buildings. Apart from the large forests, there are also beautiful beaches, During Soviet times they were zoned off as a high-security military base, strictly out of bounds to civilians. The region’s development was stunted and today the desolate coastal villages feel as though they’ve been locked away in a time capsule.
Things you didn’t know about Latvia:
- Over 50% of Latvia is covered by forest, and it’s one of the most environmentally friendly countries on the planet.
- Latvia has the highest rate of fashion models per capita in the world.
- A Latvian-Jewish tailor invented jeans (Levi Strauss backed him financially)
- The Latvian culture still retains many Baltic pagan traditions, such as the celebration of the summer solstice (sees picture above), when Latvians go to the countryside to get drunk, to dance, light huge bonfires and do something called seeking the fern flower (having sex in the forest)
- When Swedish Vikings were at the height of their power around 1187, ancient Latvian chiefdoms not only stopped them from conquering their country but sent a fleet of ships to the then Swedish capital Sigtuna and burned it to the ground.
This recipe was kind of a bummer to be really honest, i didn’t really like the potato pancakes, they were a bit boring for my taste. The kotletes on the other hand were perfect quick easy meal!
Kuwait is quite different from the other countries in the Gulf region. It is just as oil-rich as the other Arab countries but they choose not to express their wealth in the same way. Where the others are all about glitter and glamour, in Kuwait they made conscious decision not to sell its soul to the gods of commercialism. And Kuwait lies just far enough away from those Gulf mass tourism places to the south to mean that tourists and expats are fewer here. So it feels more authentic and less fake. That doesn’t mean that Kuwait is boring because it is most definitely not! Kuwait remains an oasis in a land of desert plains and has excellent museums, a fine souq, beaches and lively restaurants.
Things you didn’t know about Kuwait:
- Kuwait is the only country in the Gulf to have an elected parliament and a constitution.
- Kuwait National Day was celebrated on June 19th until 1962. In 1963, it was changed to February 25th in order to avoid the hot summer weather.
- Gas is cheaper than water. Petroleum and petroleum products make up nearly 85% of export revenues.
- The flag of Kuwait contains four colors: green, white, red, and black. They symbolize “our lands”, “our deeds”, “our swords”, and “our battles” respectively.
- Wives do not take on their husband’s name upon marriage. The name you are born with is your name from birth until death.
- They only make up a third of the population, a minority within their own country. The other 2/3 are composed of expats from all around the world. Kuwait has an interesting societal structure and the international community.
The ingredients sound a bit bland for someone who hasn’t tried the dish. But the overly sweet ﬂavor of the fresh dates paired with the nutty earthy ﬂavor of the ﬂour mixture topped with cinnamon and walnuts is divine.
Florence a city I have yet to visit but is on the top of my list ever since I read Inferno by Dan Brown. It’s been a year since I read it and it still haunts me almost every day… and please don’t go and watch the movie, please just read the flipping book… I love Tom Hanks just as much as the next girl, but Inferno… naaaah not his best work. Sorry people! Too bad because the story had so much potential to be one of the most influential movies of all time.
About Florence,… Florence brought forth so incredibly influential historical figures that it seemed strange to me not to choose Florence as one of the 4 areas I am discussing in Italy. Italian icons like Leonardo Davinci, Dante, The Medici family (who ruled over Florence for 200 years!), Botticelli, Donatello just to name a few… The height of Florence was during the Renaissance, actually, Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance!
Things you didn’t know about Florence:
- Between 1865 and 1870 Florence was made capital of the newly united kingdom of Italy.
- It was Hitler himself who rescued The Ponte Vecchio of Florence from being destroyed during the World War II. He thought it was beautiful…
- Florence was the birthplace of pavement! In 1339 so before Rome, Venice, the first paved streets have been invented.
- Stendhal Syndrome has been born in Florence and acquired the name of Florence It is the state of mind when someone becomes lightheaded or dizzy because of the outstanding art. As strange as it sounds it is really true.
- Florence is the birthplace of the Italian language. The famous Florentine – Dante Alighieri is said to create the standard Italian language that the whole country speaks nowadays.
Guinea has a very tough history! They’ve gone through many struggles over the centuries. Nonetheless they are a very brave nation. During their struggle for independence one of their slogans was: “We prefer poverty in liberty to riches in slavery!” and who can blame them. Freedom is one of the most important basic human rights! But when the French let them have their independence they immediately cut off all financial and physical support which let to a disastrous fall into poverty. After gaining independence from France, Guinea turned to the Sovjet Union for support. The first president introduced a socialist government. Thousands of people were killed or tortured during this time. Today, the country is trying to become a democracy, but the process is not easy. At this moment there is still no light on the horizon for Guinea. The most recent disaster was the Ebola virus which wiped out a chunk of Guinea’s the population.
- Guinea was a part of the Mali empire between the 13th and the 15th century.
- Guinea was the first country gaining independence from the French on October 2nd 1958
- The literacy rate of Guinea is very low.
- Guinea has a rich musical tradition like other West African countries.
For Guinea I made an African snack called puf puffs. You can compare them with beignets only there is onion in them which strongly seems to work perfectly!!!!
Ingredients: 2 cup of all-purpose flour,, 1 and ½ cup of warm water, 1 tbsp of dry yeast, ½ cup of sugar, 1 tsp of salt, ½ tsp of vanilla extract, 1 tbsp of finely grated onion (optional)
- Dissolve the yeast in the water and pour on the flour. Mix it really well .
- Add the sugar, salt, vanilla extract and onion. Cover with a napkin and let it rise for at least 2 hours
- Heat the oil and use your hand or a spoon to drop the mixture in the oil, fry until each side is brown.
- Tips: To get the puff puff right make sure that the batter is not too thick nor too thin. And the also the temperature of the oil is important. The oil should be hot enough but not too hot.
This week another isolated archipelago, The Faroe Islands. They are autonomous islands under the protection of Denmark. They are not part of the European Union and they speak their own language. A lot of Faroese would like to be independent. Half of the Faroese population lives in the capital Torshavn. The problem with the Faroe islands is that the young people all go to college in Denmark, most of them stay there. Despite being so far away from the rest of the world, the music, art and culture scene in the Faroe Islands is booming! They have a lot of music festivals.
Things you didn’t know about the Faroe Islands:
- Soccer is really popular the 1 in 20 men is semi soccer pro! The country’s football team won their first competitive match against Austria in September 1990, which prompted a massive Faroese party.
- The Faroe Islands are one of very few countries in Europe to have no McDonalds. You can, however, find a Burger King, in Torshavn if you’re in need of fast food.
- There are three traffic lights on the Faroe Islands. All are in the capital Torshavn and are very close to each other.
- The weather in the islands changes so quickly and frequently that a well-known Faroese saying is ‘If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes’.
- The Faroese drink in sheebeens, known as key clubs – set up in secret when alcohol was banned on the islands. These dens were so popular they stayed open when prohibition ended. There is an Irish pub called, imaginatively, ‘Irish Pub’. It is said to serve the best beer on the islands.
Wash and cut the washed rhubarb into fine slices. Cut about 1/2 inch cubes.
In a large pot add the rhubarb, water, sugar and a stick of cinnamon. Bring the mixture to a boil.
Reduce heat, put the lid on the pot and cook the mixture for about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on the rhubarb because you want the rhubarb tender but not mushy.
Next, combine the cornstarch with 1/4 water in a small bowl. This will be used to thicken the rhubarb porridge
After the rhubarb has cooked for 5 minutes, turn off the stove. Remove the cinnamon stick out of the rhubarb mixture.
Add and stir in the corn starch mixture. Add a little at a time and the rhubarb mixture will start to thicken.
Taste to see if it is sweet enough. If not, stir in a little more sugar.
Pour into a heatproof glass bowl to cool down. Sprinkle sugar to prevent a skin from forming. Cover and chill in the refrigerator.
Once ready to serve ladle into bowls and garnish with either milk or cream. Enjoy!