Mongolia, a rough country with a tumultuous history squeezed between Russia and China. Mongolia’s founding father is the legendary and once feared Genghis Khan. He came to power by merging several nomadic tribes. In 25 years he conquered more land surface than the Romans did in 4 centuries. Quite an impressive dude right? In the 13th century, the Silk Roads became an important economic route in Asia. Salesmen like Marco Polo traveled all the way from Europe to gain access to luxury goods like diamonds, pearls, rubies, silk, porcelain, paper, peaches, rhubarb, elephants, and horses. Modern-day Mongolia is not what I expected. In the capital city, Ulaanbaatar cars and pedestrians commingle with livestock. Nearly 60% of Mongolia 1,4 million people have moved to the city, where they seek a more luxurious lifestyle. The result is the Ulaanbaatar has become the most polluted capital in the world. It has gotten so bad that in the winter months when the smog is at its worst doctors advise couples to avoid conceiving children.
Things you didn’t know about Mongolia:
- Mongolia is home to a lot of endangered animals like snow leopards and the twohumped Bactrian camel
- More than one-quarter of the population live as nomads.
- There is a theory that Mongolian horsemen first invented the ice cream. They would take animal intestines on long journeys. The combination of freezing and being jolted around on the horse produced an ice-cream like substance. This then made its way to China, Marco Polo, then Italy!
- Mongolian native horses are the last truly wild horses left on the planet. They have 66 chromosomes, one or twom more than the average horse.
- The Gobi desert is Asia’s biggest desert. It is like no other in the world. The Gobi Desert is also regarded as the world’s biggest dinosaur fossil reserve.
These cookies are really good and so easy to make.Read the rest of this entry »
Moldova, a tiny tiny country in Eastern Europe wedged between Romania and Ukraine. The national hero of Moldova is Stephen the Great who is Dracula’s (then know as Vlad The Impaler) cousin. He fought the Turks and won 46 of his 48 battles. He was crowned by the Pope as Atleta Cristi which means Champion of Christ. Then there is the story of Transnistria a country within a country that is nog recognised by the rest of the world as country but a part of Moldova. Nonetheless they have their own currency (which is useless everywhere else), visa, border patrol. The biggest part of Moldova feels connected to Europe, but Transnistria feels more connected to Russia and the old Sovjet Union.
Things you didn’t know about Moldova:
- Moldova is placed the 12th among the top world wine exporters. Vine growing and wine making in Moldova counts for almost 5,000 years. And also the largest underground wine cellar in the world, Cricova, is “hidden” in this country. It’s a 120km long and the deepest point is more then a 100m deep. The wine cellar holds at about 40 million liters of wine.
- Cleopatra Stratan holds the record for the highest paid young artist, the youngest artist to receive an MTV award and the youngest artist to score a #1 hit in a country.
- In the time of the USSR Soroca became the Gipsy capital of the world.
- The biggest animal that ever lived on this territory is “Denoterium”, a breed of what is known to be like an elephant. The animal’s skeleton is now preserved in the ethnographic museum and is considered to be the second biggest in Europe.
This is a really nice recipe perfect for hot summerdays accompanied with a nice salad! The herbs make it nice and fresh!Read the rest of this entry »
The Marshall Islands, another country I had never heard of before writing this. Which is not that strange since it has only been independent since 1986. Before that it was under American rule, but they kind of screwed up so when the inhabitants decided they were ready for independence they had to kindly agree to let the Marshallese fend for themselves. What happened you ask?… Well for starters they used Bikini island (Yes guys I know Spongebobs birthplace) as a site for testing atomic bombs. They told the inhabitants of Bikini that they had a calling from God to move away for the sake of worldpeace. For 12 years they regularly bombed the island with nuclear weapons. Nowadays you can take a trip to Bikini Islands (it’s called Nuclear Tourism, are there people who do this?).
The Marshall Islands’s economy is still very intertwined with the US economy, but that kind of makes sense being such a tiny place. The Marshallese call their own country “Jolet Jen Anij” which means “The Gifts from God” The county is made up of 29 coral atolls containing 1100 smaller islands and islets and then 5 solid isolated islands.
Things you did’t know about the Marshall Islands:
- The Marshall Islands provides the world’s largest sanctuary for sharks, which virtually doubled the protected area for sharks worldwide.
- The only indigenous land mammal in the Marshall Islands is the Polynesian rat.
- The trade in copra has been important to the economy of the Marshall Islands. Copra is dried coconut meat. Once the meat of coconut has been dried to make copra, it can be ground or pressed to yield coconut oil. Copra is classed as “dangerous cargo” when in transit as it can spontaneously explode with great force when it is being transported in volume.
- The society is matrilineal and, therefore, the land is passed down from generation to generation through the mother.
- Before the missionaries came, all Marshallese people were tattooed. The ceremony was extending over a month, most painful and held to confer beauty and bring honor; it was a rite of passage to man or womanhood and was believed the only attribute to be carried beyond the grave; partaking of religion, it served as well to confirm ties of family and birth. Facial tattooing, intended to conceal the wrinkles of age, was reserved for chiefs – to whom was permitted the richest and most widespread adornment.
This coconut creme is an amazingly rich and delicious dessert. Perfect for a quick summer dessert!
Malta, With 3 times more tourists than inhabitants it is a great example of a mass tourism spot. Malta is the ultimate mediterranean holiday in Europe: sun, beaches and cheap liquor. Malta has a really rich history, and the reason for that is mainly due to it’s strategic placement in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. In the past 7000 years Malta has been a part of many empires and conquered a lot; The Romans, The Arabs, The Knights of St. John, The French, and The British. They all left their mark on the tiny island. The capital of Malta is Valetta a beautiful city that is on the Unesco list and for good reason. On less than 1 km² there are over 300 historical monuments. The most important one is st. Johns Co-Cathedral built by the Knights of St. John, they ruled the island in the 16th century. The Knights of St. John were extremely rich and lived their lives to serve God. The cathedral is covered in gold and it’s all real, none of it paint.
To discover the rest of the island you take the touristy bus ofcourse, but you can also go your own way and hop on one of the local busses. All the public transport busses on the island were imported from Great Britain in 1955.
Malta is also of the best diving spots in Europe. The water is so clear that in some places you can see 30 meters deep, the reefs are beautiful and there a few shipwrecks at the bottom of the see when on a diving tour.
Things you didn’t know about Malta:
- During World War I, Malta was also known as the Nurse of the Mediterranean because a large number of wounded soldiers were accommodated on the island.
- Malta is devoid of forests and rivers. Yes, you would not find any of these across its seven islands. Malta is mainly made up of limestone, and there are no hills in the country that are higher than 300 meters.
- You might be surprised to learn that there are more Maltese people in Melbourne, Australia then there are in Malta.
A perfect little handpie to bring for a picknick (i took them to the beach the next day) . Of course you can also eat them immediately. Yummy and delicious, if you leave out the lardons you can make it a vegetarian dish. Please do add a little extra salt if you leave out the bacon.Read the rest of this entry »
We all know Madagascar from the animation movie but what do we know about the actual country. Madagascar was settled best we can tell around 700 AD by people from what is now Indonesia, later by Africans. In 1895 the French came around and left the French language and a couple of great buildings. When they became independent in 1960 it was sudden and ill-prepared for the big change. Because of political incompetence, most Madagascans live on less then 2$ a day. Madagascar used to be rich in natural resources, they have a lot of things other countries want. I have to stress I am not some crazy nature nut but when 90% of a countries jungles and forests are gone something is really really wrong… Luckily the world finally started waking up and are only now making national parks of the scarce nature that is left on the island.
Things you didn’t know about Madagascar:
- Ranavalona I is known by many as Madagascar’s “mad queen”. She started out as the daughter of a commoner, she married the king’s son and when he died, she had the rightful heir murdered, and took the throne herself. During her reign she was brutal, ridding the country of Christian missionaries, ending agreements with France and England, enslaving many of her own people, and sentencing anyone who defied her to death.
- 90% of the wildlife is unique to the island.
- As practicing animists, one of the customs you may still witness today is the funerary tradition of famadihana. Also known as the turning of the bones, this ritual sees Madagascans bring the bodies of their ancestors out of their crypts and dance with them accompanied by music.
- During the 17th and 18th centuries, the golden age of piracy, the island was a haven for pirates thanks to its multitude of secluded coves and the fact that the land wasn’t owned by a European power. It was the ideal place to stop to repair their ships without drawing attention and find fresh food.
This recipe a delicacy from the coast of Madagascar, the way of cooking is soo different from a regular cake. Luckily I love looooove everything coconut and spiced so this cake was a dream for me.
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.
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 flavour of the fresh dates paired with the nutty earthy flavour 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.
The orange zest and the white wine is what truly makes this torta di riso different from any other rice tartlet you had! It makes it taste like luxury!
It’s been over 2 weeks and the image and taste of this cake are still floating around in my head. I’d wanted to make it for ages, since I heard so much about it, and I was pretty nervous when I started. So different from any other cake I ever baked before, so light and fluffy. My Christmas was epic, my mother and I cooked for days, and we really brought Christmas to another level this year. But for me this cake was one of the highlights, so I will share the recipe with you guys! Because I know this is a cake that makes everybody yearning for more.
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.
Things you didn’t know about Guinea:
- 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!!!!