Nepal is a spot for the adventurous kind of traveler. Of course, there is the Mount Everest and the Annapurna’s to climb for the true diehard athletes, fortunately, there is plenty to do for those who are less sporty like me. (Hey I’m a chef, I like cooking and eating that’s what I do) There are temples to be worshipped, jungles with tigers you can explore, and medieval cities and sacred sites to be admired. In short, Nepal is Nirvana for backpackers.
Even though 90% percent of the population is Hindu and only about 10 % is Buddhist. Buddhism is still taken very very seriously. Which makes sense because Buddha was born in Lumbini Nepal. Beautiful Buddhist temples can be found all over the country!
There are over 120 etnolinguistic groups in Nepal. It’s The population consists of 30 million people with over 120 ethnolinguistic groups. (How do you manage a country with soooo many languages?). The first language is Nepali which is very similar to the Hindi language which is natively spoken by about 45% of the population. To simplify things English is commonly spoken in government buildings, offices, and businesses.
Things you didn’t know about Nepal:
- The abominable snowman, also known as the Yeti, is a legendary apelike creature that is believed to frequent the high valleys of Nepal.
- Namaste the greeting that begins of ends your yogaclass is the standard “Hello” in Nepal.
- Nepal does not celebrate an independence day because they had never been under any foreign occupation. The nation is the oldest country in South Asia. Nepal became a federal democratic republic in 2008 after having a monarchical form of government until then.
- Unlike the common quadrilateral flags, Nepal is the only country where the flag is of two triangles. The upper triangle has an image of the moon while the lower triangle has that of the sun representing the two major religions of Nepal, Hinduism and Buddhism. Although the current flag was incepted in 1962, the design is said to be 2000 years old. It is also said to represent the Himalayas.
- Ever worshipped a little girl as a goddess? Yes, you heard it right. If you are in Nepal, you shall witness the living goddess. Also known as ‘Kumari’, literally meaning virgin, pre-pubescent girls are believed to be the earthly manifestations of divine female energy or the incarnations of goddess Taleju, otherwise known as ‘Durga’ in India. They lived in temples and worshipped and driven in chariots during festivals. However, the goddesses retire on puberty or if they fall prey to illness or accidents.
- Sherpas are the ethnic community in the eastern part of Nepalese Himalayan Mountains, who are employed as porters. They are known to be immune to the effects of altitude due to their upbringing and genetics.
The dish is tasty and quick just soak your beans the night before!Read the rest of this entry »
Chances are you have never heard about Micronesia. Micronesia is made up of 607 islands and they take up over a 2.589.988 km² of oceanic territory however, in land surface area they only make up 702 km². These islands are divided into 4 states: Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae. The islands were formed from underwater volcanos.
Culturally the people of Micronesia come from a long line of clans mostly rooted in traditional stories passed down from generation to generation. For instance, there is the legend of a cursed city that the twin sorcerers created; Nan-Madol. Supposedly they had the help of a flying dragon and that’s how the first dynasty was started according to legend.
Nan-Madol is just as special as Easter Island or Machu Picchu just less accessible and therefore less well-known. To even be able to enter Nan-Madol you have to ask the Chief of the clan for protection and permission to enter the site. There are rumors of people who died who didn’t follow this protocol. You have to undergo a special sakau-ceremony to get the approval of the chief: drink a drink made out of sakau root which is mushed by hand to make sure the spirits of Nan-Madol accept you. Only a tiny fragment of the legendary Saudeleurs city can still be seen, mangroves hide what else is covered.
But who were these Saudeleurs? Pohnpeian legend recounts that the Saudeleur rulers were of foreign origin and that their appearance was quite different from native Pohnpeians. The Saudeleur centralized form of absolute rule is characterized in Pohnpeian legend as becoming increasingly oppressive over several generations. Arbitrary and impossible demands, as well as a reputation for offending Pohnpeian gods and religion. All of this naturally sowed resentment among Pohnpeians.
The Saudeleur Dynasty ended with the invasion of Isokelekel, another semi-mythical foreigner, who replaced the Saudeleur rule with the more decentralized nahnmwarki system which is still in existence today.
Things you didn’t know about Micronesia
- In Yap, one of the four states, you should never enter a village without anything in your hands. If you have nothing, then it is understood that you have nothing to do there and have ill intentions. Carrying a green leaf is a sign of having peaceful intentions and a good way to occupy your hands.
- Chuuk is undoubtedly the wreck diving capital of the world. There are over 50 shipwrecks that sank in Chuuk Lagoon after Operation Hailstone in WWII destroyed the Japanese base. This is a diver’s paradise with wrecks for all levels and at all depths, including some that can be snorkeled. And there is not much else tod do Chuuk , so exploring the underwater life is a must.
- Although the Micronesian states are made of 607 islands, most of them, especially the larger ones where most visitors stay, are volcanic outcrops surrounded by rocks and mangroves and without any beaches.
Ok so this recipe took me quite a while to come up with. Micronesia doesn’t have a lot of traditional recipes, and since i did’t want to do anything halfway or post a bad recipe. I had to come up with of concoction of my own that highlights a few of the ingredients they use a lot! This recipe is completely vegan and really tasty and also quick to make! So please go ahead and try it. Micronesian readers if you have any traditional recipes you would like to share with please do!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.
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!
Lesotho, a tiny tiny tiny country completely surrounded by South-Africa. Lesotho is a very mountainous country, hence it is often called The Mountain Kingdom. The entire country is at least 1000 meters above sea level. Which makes it the highest country in Africa.
And don’t think just because it’s Africa it’s hot. No way!! Up in the mountains, it gets pretty cold, but don’t worry you can buy traditional beanies everywhere! That’s not the only thing you can do up in those mountains. This
might be is very touristy but they have donkey pub crawls!!! Imagine being completely wasted going from pub to pub on a freaking donkey!! That just sounds hilarious and totally something I would do with some friends!
Things you didn’t know about Lesotho:
- Lesotho is ruled by a constitutional monarchy and is one of the 3 remaining kingdoms in Africa. (The other are Morocco and Swaziland). King Letsi III is the reigning king of Lesotho since 1990.
- Not many countries can say that their traditional dress is a blanket. The Basotho blanket is a very common sight in the kingdom of Lesotho, often with colorful patterns. The blanket is not only used to protect the Basotho against the cold but is also worn as a status symbol and cultural identification. Almost entirely made of wool, they protect very well against the harsh cold winter. Another typical feature is the woolen balaclava (which only leaves their eyes free) and the gumboots
- Lesotho is home to the highest altitude pub in Africa in 2874 meters above sea level. It’s located right at the border with South Africa, and the end of the iconic Sani Pass (or the beginning if you come from Lesotho). A cold beer is very welcome when driving this scenic pass starting in South Africa and to top it all off, you’ll have an amazing view from the top (while sipping that cold beer).
- You would not immediately associate Africa with snow, but Lesotho is home to the highest ski resort in Africa. Afriski is situated at 3050 meters above sea level.
Lesotho has 28 airports. Only three of them have properly paved runways. Hold on tight…
Well, this was surprisingly good I never knew putting tangerine in a soup would be so amazing! A great meal for a healthy quick mid-week meal!!!
Haiti, it’s impossible for anything you’ve seen on tv to prepare you for what Port-au-Prince (capital of Haiti) looks like after the earthquake in 2010 that killed about 300.000 people in a day in 2010. And it’s cliche the worst kind of cliche to say life goes on, but of course it does. This is a city of 2.000.000 people as in so many places in the world you do what you need to do get by, you fight to live.
Six years after the earthquake many of the damage that the earthquake caused is still there. The main religion in Haiti is Voodoo, on of their gods in Baron Samedi he is the keeper of the gateway between this world and the next, to the believers certainly a creepy guy. Would it help you if I told you his also the saint of procreation and humor?
On the day of Baron Samedi, parades are organized with the cemetery as a destination. Although I can’t imagine going to cemetery is a happy occasion, the Haitians see this differently. On the day of Baron Samedi they celebrate life and bring offers to their ancestors. Offers like food and coffee.
Things you didn’t know about Haiti:
- Haiti produces Rhum Barbancourt, an award winning brand of rum that is referred to as “the rum of connoisseurs”.
- Haiti issued free visas and passports to 70 Jewish families during the Holocaust, about 300 lives saved. It has been speculated that one of the reason they couldn’t give more was the debt Haiti was paying to France, which was basically money the French decided Haiti owed them for freeing themselves from slavery. Haiti’s debt was “forgiven” after the devastating earthquake that hit the country in 2010.
- In 1791, Haitians began what became the only successful slave revolt in the history of the world. Yes, the only one.
- The English word barbecue is that it’s a derivation from the Haitian word barbacoa. The Haitians were referring to the framework of sticks used to cook meat over fire, but Spanish explorers who encountered this cooking method also referred to the results – the cooked meat – as barbacoa.
- Colorful busses called taptaps take you from place to place named after the tap a passenger makes on the bus when they would like to get on or off.
Rice and beans a classic dish from Haiti but also from the entire Caribbean! So o easy to make, so simple yet soon delicious!
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!!!!
The Gambia, tiny English speaking country surrounded by French speaking countries. It was the first British colony in Africa. For many, The Gambia is a country with beaches that invite visitors to laze and linger on package tours. But there’s more than sun and surf.
Small fishing villages, nature reserves and historic slaving stations are all within easy reach of the clamorous Atlantic resorts. Star-studded eco-lodges and small wildlife parks dot the inland like a green belt around the coast and The Gambia is a bird lovers’ utopia: on a leisurely river cruise, you’ll easily spot more than 100 species.
Things you didn’t know about Gambia:
- Punctuality is not often observed in The Gambia and the business concept of ‘time is money’ is approached in a very relaxed and flexible manner. People can arrive for a meeting up to four hours later than originally scheduled.
- Gambia was the first nation conquered by the British in West Africa. It was 300 years before independence would be granted on Feb. 18, 1965. When it became independent, The Gambia became the 37th sovereign African state.
- Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa and is slightly smaller than Yorkshire.
- The official title of The Gambian president is Sheikh Professor Doctor President.
- People cast their votes in elections in The Gambia by dropping stones in holes.
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.
Compared to the rest of Africa Ethiopia is a bit of an exception, because has never been colonized by a European power, except for a small period of time by the Italians. during the Second World War.
For 44 years Ethiopia was peacefully ruled by one man Emperor Haile Selassie. He did a lot of good things for the country in terms of modernization and making them part of the UN. Unfortunately border conflicts and famine got the better of him.
After the coup Ethiopia was ruled by dictators for 22 years. There are more then 70 different tribes in Ethiopia which makes it very difficult to please them all.
Things you didn’t know about Ethiopia:
- Ethiopia is about 7.5 years behind the United Kingdom. This is because Ethiopia is the only country in the world to have 13 months in a year. Ethiopians also celebrate New Year in September.
- The legendary Ark of the Covenant, the relic said to hold the 10 Commandments, is claimed to be housed in a church in Ethiopia. Only one man, the guardian, is actually allowed to see the ark, so whether or not it is actually there remains a mystery.
- Ever heard Rastafarians talking about Haile Selassie? He was an Ethiopian Emperor, born in 1892 and is worshipped by followers of the Rastafarian movement. He is not to be confused with legendary distance runner Haile Gebre Selassie!
- Clocks are set differently! Many Ethiopians measure time from when the sun rises and count time based on dawn. So when the sun rises, it can already be 12:00. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it pretty quick.
If their is one expert in Ethiopian cuisine, it’s celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, that’s why I chose to make one of his recipes. I knew it would be good because it came from him, but in general I don’t really like lentils, to my surprise I loved these. Perhaps it’s combination of the spices or the bite of edamame beans. But this is an amazing recipe and so quick!