Paphos, Republic of Cyprus: Archaeological Park

We flew down to Cyprus at the beginning of November and had a very enjoyable week with lots of sun. It was hot enough to go swimming, but cool enough to go on day trips. The ocean was unfortunately too turbulent to go in without crashing into the pier, due to the heavy storms over Europe, but the swimming pool was fine. From most hotels you can easily catch a bus at a nearby stop and travel to the city center for a very low fare. Near the bus station you will find the entrance to the mosaics in the Archaeological Park (the reason why we chose to stay in Paphos). These mosaics stand on the list of World Heritage Sites of the UNESCO.

It is advisable to carry along some water, as the area of the mosaics in ‘NeaPaphos is quite extensive. The mosaics, some in the open, some under excavation and some in the four very large Roman villas (House of Dionysus, Aion, Theseus and Orpheus), are very well preserved. The villas are usually built around an atrium with a proclinium in the front.

Other constructions have also been uncovered, an agora, the basilica of Panagia Limeniotissa – “Our Lady of the Harbor”, a Hellenistic-Roman theatre, the Saranta Kolones (40 columns) fortress, an asklipieion and a necropolis. If you are lucky, you can watch the archaeologists working. The opening times are from 8.30 am to 7.30 pm. Currently the entrance fee is €4,50.

The Maldives

Originally we had intended to fly to another destination, but couldn’t find anything we liked, so we followed the advice of a colleague and decided to try the Maldives. We were in no way disappointed! We landed in Malé airport and a boat took us out to Coco, one of the 1200 atoll islands which form a large circle.

We especially love the climate, about 30°, mostly sunny, not so humid and moreover, no “climate change catastrophes” such as tsunamis or typhoons or earthquakes. The people in charge of Coco (my good friends) have transformed this island into a lush paradise of palm trees, flowers and walkways between the island villas and the boardwalks to the water villas, which are more costly, but worth their money.

Coco offers about 5 fantastic restaurants, cafeteria and à la carte, a beauty salon, a diving school, meet and greet evenings, a turtle research center, several shops, e-carts to get to the other end, a large pool. several beaches and many other things.

At the research center you can talk to the marine biologist about how turtles are often caught in fishing nets or plastic waste. They sell adorable stuffed turtles and the proceeds go towards the research. The corals are unfortunately also bleached in many spots since 2016, when the water temperatures rose worldwide. Yet they are altogether still in better shape than, for example, the Red Sea. Many are growing back, due in part to the efforts of the research center.

The snorkeling is wonderful in this clear green-blue water, there are masses of colorful fish, turtles, manrays, small sharks and corals of every hue. You can take boat trips, learn diving, arrange for a massage with aromatic oils, book a table and order fresh fish at one of the open air restaurants, watch the natives dance or just relax on a beach. Hopefully this atoll will now be flooded some day when water levels rise!

Open-air farm museum in Großgmain, Salzburg

We boarded the bus early to drive south-east to Salzburg in Austria where we were planning to take a tour around the open-air museum of beautiful old farm houses and sheds from different centuries of five regions: Pongau, Pinzgau, Tennengau, Flachgau and Lungau.

The tour with one of the family Fuchs lasts about one and a half hours and the walk can be extended to seven kilometers around the farm houses and up the hill to the Alm houses. You can also board the little train that chugs all around the terrain and has several stops, free of extra charge (currently 11,-€).

In the entrance area and in the General Goods Shop you can buy all sorts of books, guides, souvenirs and local produce such as walnut liqueur, old-fashioned sweets, household appliances, postcards and the like.

a lovely 17th century house
a Hanichl fence: dried fir branches cut to measure
a balcony is a Hausgang here – note the wooden shingles on the walls
thriving plants like fennel, lettuce, beetroot, onions, carrots, herbs like parsley, sage and thyme and flowers like aquilegia, phlox, sunflowers, lilies, tagetes, zinnias, lemon balm/ melissa, forget-me-nots, also currants and boxtree
the hole in the box-seat is for chickens to get inside in the winter
nails were too expensive to forge to save the split shingles from a storm, so long poles and heavy stones would keep them in place
this stone wall is gaily decorated with swirls and “trees” made with black stones on white

Our treat after alle the walking and trying to remember all the construction details was heading back to Ruhpolding to the Windbeutelgräfin and ordering from a long list of cakes and Windbeutel – puff pastries full of whipped cream / ice cream / fruit / eggnog. Each was decorated as a Lohengrin swan and absolutely gigantic. There are tables indoors and out, display cases with doll houses, Mozart busts and flower stencils all around, quite picturesque and worth a stop!

Hongkong

Hongkong was the last stop of the three week trip in the group and we added on another day before we flew the 13 hours back home. It is a fascinating city of old and new, hi-tech and traditional. We first had a harbor cruise and afterwards drove up to Victoria Peak for the best views. One can pay to get into the platform, but opposite there is a shopping mall with good windows too. We also visited the largest museum with exhibits of crafts, boats, city model and art.

Naturally, we went to visit a temple with buddha statues, puppet figures and many other buildings of interest. My husband bought a nice cell phone downtown, it just needs a different plug for charging. Many Chinese speak quite good English and are always helpful. We sometimes took the underground subway train, cheap and fast.

Downtown Hongkong is a busy, bustling place. There is so much to see and to admire that it is difficult to describe it all. It is rather a shame that the British influence has lessened, but it is wonderful to visit. We can strongly recommend the Maritime Museum down at the water’s edge.

Mountain cable car in Guilin, Yaoberg, China and Li river

We had heaps of fun borading the cable car that goes up the hill Yaoberg. Actually, we had even more fun calling out to the Chinese children (and grown-ups) coming down the hill “Hello! How are you?” and listening to their delighted giggles when practicing their bit of English. Also it was refreshing having the cool breeze on the cable car after the heat farther down in the tea plantation.

We then went aboard a larger tourist boat to see the landscape of the Li river. As usual, we Germans were stared at a lot by the friendly Chinese. Many asked us to pose for a photo with them. Most speak quite passable English and we enjoyed the cultural exchange. We especially loved the bizarre mountain formations on both sides of the Li river.

In the evening we went to Guilin to see a dance show depicting the river, the rice planters, the rowers etc., with fusion music and hundreds of dancers with long, billowing, colorful scarves and local costumes with heavy silver headdresses.

Guilin is a quaint little town with market stalls and street vendors and even some “German” restaurants in one street. The Sauerkraut and sausages and beer tasted quite like the original. Of course, this quarter is rather “touristy”, but fun in its own way. Some Chinese ladies were wearing traditional costumes from different regions.

City trip: Passau in Bavaria

Passau is a small town in Lower Bavaria, well-known for its geographical situation at the confluence of three different rivers in three different colors : the Danube (Donau) which sometimes reflects the blue sky, the black peat swirled in by the (schwarze) Ilz and the green Inn. As you can tell in the photos, we visited just when it had rained a lot and many roads and passageways were flooded, so the river water had more of a muddy hue.

The buttresses (arc-boutants) over the narrow alleyways between the buildings actually support the walls on either side. Older walls have flowers growing out from between stones and some wooden doors show elaborate carvings. The alleys lead up from the waterside to the higher areas of the town. The colorful cobblestones are part of an art project leading to different ateliers; just recently the Passauer had their first Art Event. Passau boasts a Modern Art Museum, the Cathedral Museum, a Roman Museum and a wonderful Glass Museum near the Rathaus.

The Gothic facade of the Rathaus (Town hall) is a kind of trompe-l’oeil: behind it eight smaller buildings are hidden. Formerly lovebirds had to climb up and down stairs trying to find the Justice of the Peace. Nowadays lovers can find his door much more easily in the adjacent new building on the right of the plaza.

The Cathedral /Dom St. Stephen is the original of the diocese St. Stephen in Vienna. Burned down in 1622, it was rebuilt by the baroque architect Carlo Lurago , the stucco by G.B. Carlone and the frescoes by C. Tencalla. Visitors can walk into the courtyard and buy a ticket for €5 for the 11.00 or 12.00 concerts. The magnificent music is played by one of the eight organists on the largest organ in the world. It consists of five different sized organs in the choir loft, the fifth is ensconced in the vault. From the bottom you can only see some small holes in the ceiling. All of the 17,974 pipes and 233 stops have meanwhile been coordinated into the central console. So one organist can play any one organ from his bench up in the choir.

For very good lunch with a great view we drove up the hill to the Brauerei Hacklberg (brewery). Mine was pork filet with noodles and a crème bavaroise with raspberry fluff for dessert. They have many rooms, a large beer garden, a shop and brewery tours.

After lunch we headed down again and walked around building due to the fact that the walkways were flooded to the boat dock. Seeing Passau from the water with a cup of coffee is a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.

Our last stop was the fortress Veste Oberhaus. Unfortunately our bus chose the wrong road and in the first especially steep and winding curve we got stuck with white smoke billowing out of the motor vent. Our driver carefully inched back down close to the precipice and we all started breathing again when he backed into a forest road and turned to go find a regular street leading up the hill.

At the top of the hill there are a youth hostel, football fields and other buildings. One group was doing a drama course with a “freeze” game. The fortress has a tower to climb (or take an elevator) and a large, sunny terrace café with a birds-eye view of Passau and its confluence of three rivers.

Quick and healthy: asparagus with potatoes and ham

Here in Central Europe May is the month of asparagus and strawberries and rhubarb! In France they tend to eat more of the green kind that is only peeled at the bottom end. Here in Germany both kinds are sold, but the fat, white stalks are the most common, from Pörnbach, Abensberg or Schrobenhausen, although they are also sent up from Greece. The first ones arrive in April and the last harvest is traditionally towards the 24th June, Johannistag (St. John’s).

One kilogram usually costs about €12. I’d suggest buying about 5-6 stalks per person. I use a special peeler (cf. photo) and peel first the ends, then the top end while staying away from the shoot which doesn’t necessitate anything. The yellowish in-between layer must also be peeled away. Then the bottom end is cut off, a little more if the end is tough.

My asparagus are cooked in a large skillet, but professionals use special cylindrical pots so the bottom is cooked longer than the bud. I cook mine for approximately 10-11 minutes in salted water, some people add in a bit of sugar, some like them more al dente and cook them a minute less.

Meanwhile wash some potatoes with flaky skin and cooked them in salt water for about 20 minutes depending on their size. I poke them after 18 minutes or so to check the degree of softness.

You can make your own sauce hollandaise out of butter, shallots, egg yolks, vinegar, salt & pepper, whisked creamy in a bain-marie. Or you simply buy a packet of sauce hollandaise, also as fat-reduced, and heat it along with the asparagus, adding a splash of lemon.

Delicious accompaniments are cooked honey, smoked, lemon-pepper or serrano ham, also small veal scallops or beef tournedos.