All posts tagged: culture

Castle on a Hill

The slow mornings continued to prevail, this time eventually making our way to Székesfehérvár – a city in Hungary that used to be its capital in the middle ages. After taking a Hogwarts-style train to the city, we walked through empty, serene roads lined with fruit trees to try and find sustenance – we sneakily picked off some ripe, tantalisingly orange apricots and ate the fresh flesh to temporarily fix our hunger. At long last, we finally settled on bEAT restaurant – fine dining in the city without a hefty cost. To start, an amazing Hungarian meat and cheese platter served with slices of soft sourdough baguette. For mains, Hungarian ratatouille; slices of tomato, pepper, onion and more, in a rich tomato-y sauce, mixed with eggs and with two slim sausages atop. To finish we had the ultimate cheesecake, with a nutty, slightly green tinted biscuit bottom, flower petals and a lip-staining blueberry sauce. Bellies heaving, we bumbled back onto a bus and made our way to Bory castle – a small castle built by …

What to Eat When You’re (in) Hungary

Apparently unwelcoming to the notion of belonging to the Eastern side of Europe, favouring the idea of belonging to the more central regions, Hungary undoubtedly emanates Eastern European magic. Growing up with Bulgarian culture in a Bulgarian family, I can say this with (some) certainty. This time of year, however, is seeing these regions suffer bitter winters, ones unheard of since the 1960’s. Heavy snow blankets the city, and icy rain soon follows to turn the magic into a slushy, and drearily cold, mess. Faux-ice-skating is the preferred mode of transport for those on foot by this point, travel times taking double or even triple the usual, and sanctuary is found in small cafes, restaurants and bars dotted up and down streets illuminated by the amber orbs of traditional-style street lamps. My travels are invariably punctuated by local food-culture; no trip is complete without eating like a local. Skidding down the Parisian-style streets during my first days in Budapest this Winter, seeking shelter from the snow and my hungry belly, I entered a warmly lit …

Fruitful Adventures in the Motherland

Our last days in Bulgaria, much like the rest, were restful and filled with food fit for gods; banitsa, meats, cheeses and salads up to your ears. My aunt and uncle’s home is beautifully exquisite, and so the experience was further enriched; a small wooden balcony overlooked the living room, high and lined with wooden beams, decorated with an ornate wooden star. White marble tiled the floor, cool on your toes on hot Bulgarian summer days. Rows and rows of gifts from near and afar line oak shelves and glass cabinets, above a fireplace and a beautiful wooden structure providing a sort of separate between the living area and the dining/kitchen area. A tiny outdoors open conservatory of sorts is only a few footsteps away for dining in bright daylight or by the white clean moon, crickets chirping in the vast garden, speckled with flowers and shrubs and fruits and vegetables. Over at the back of the dream house can be found a fairly large allotment space, partially covered in a white plastic tarp to …

Banitsa the Saviour

If you’ve been following my journey through Bulgaria then you may experience deja vu as I continue my incessant worship of the heavenly food that is Banitsa. If you’ve ever been to Bulgaria you’ll know what it is; it’s Bulgaria’s croissant, or quiche (in a French context). It’s the street food that takes precedence in every bakery shop window on all roads, big or small. And it’s the moreish meal which will leave you falling dangerously into a future where all you think about or eat is banitsa. I kid, but seriously: watch out. As well as being an extremely popular street food, banitsa is a symbol of Bulgarian tradition and cuisine. On Christmas and New Year, banitsa is traditionally prepared and served with “kusmeti” – tiny “lucks” such as wealth, health, prosperity, shiny hair, etc. written on separate shards of paper, wrapped then in foil so as not to melt into the dish. A coin is also wrapped with foil and added into the mix, and whoever gets the coin is the most prosperous …

The Taste of a Memory

Continuing the pattern of drifting slowly through the Summer days, I traveled across the small Bulgarian town to my dad’s friend’s villa; an amazing little place high up in the hills overlooking the town. The wooden house held two floors and a balcony. Fruit trees bore beautifully ripe apricots and peaches, and chickens roamed in a small allotment amongst flowers and shrubs and plants; a dream location. We then continued on drifting to try and find some particular spices that we’ve longed for for many a year in our home cooking; chubritsa, regan and a kind of cumin. Often used in marinades or in meat and fish meals, to me it’s the smell of Bulgaria. Most notably the chubritsa and cumin truly MAKES a kufte – a Bulgaria “meatball” (basically a tiny burger). Mothers’ meeting. Venturing into my grandma’s building’s long-unopened cellar whilst back home, my dad and I went to find his old camera film developing equipment; cobwebs entangled abandoned possessions from long ago and dust thickly coated boxes and books and barrels. The …

LDN > SOF | Part 2

Kardzhali, once a centre of industry, 60 years later now overgrown and unmaintained, it’s serene and slow; its residents never run – a leisurely stroll is mandatory. As is meeting friends or long lost acquaintances on it’s uprooted pavements whom will always have an hour or two to spare to sit in front of a bakery or cafe for a snack, drink and a chat. Tall trees, planted when my dad was only a young boy rise high along the sidewalks, regimented and beautiful, their leaves brushing tall apartment blocks and providing an green filtered shelter from the searing Summer sun. My grandma, now 83 years old, lives in the same apartment as when my dad was a boy, just across the road from his primary and secondary school and within minutes of walking distances from cousins, aunts and old friends who may as well be called relatives. An overwhelmingly familiar and homely scent of the apartment brought rushing memories of fun and festivities, when the family from far and wide would gather and party …

LDN > SOF | Part 1

O’er misty mountains and forests of trees we flew and arrived in the motherland: Bulgaria. Over ten years later we made our return, to a country where my parents and entire family grew up and still continue to live. I on the other hand am more or less British born and bred, but with Bulgarian blood through and through. And so after a few trips many a moon ago whence I was too young to understand or appreciate anything culturally stimulating I have returned to absorb the culture from heritage and all that comes along with it. A quick pit stop in Sofia after a late night flight led us to meet an Aunt who thankfully I remembered spoke fluent english – ashamedly I struggle to speak Bulgarian but can perfectly understand everything. We took a trip to a local pub/restaurant and I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting but before me arrived dishes of extremely familiarity – basically the food I grew up on and continue to eat to this very day, only …

Better Lake Than Never

Região dos Lagos is a picturesque coastal region, radiating with natural beauty. It’s both luxurious and simple, colonial and modern; a perfect alternative to the hustle and bustle of Rio’s capital. Only two hours away from Rio’s centre, one can only think to be in a dream when travelling alongside the beautiful coast. Despite being super later for the coach, speeding through the manic streets of Rio in a super swanky Uber which we feared was a going to empty our pockets (turns out it was a recent convert from Uber Black to Uber X) and believing a ghost had mysteriously nicked a pair of Pedro’s sandals (turns out they were just under the bed), our cares dissipated in the warm breeze and serene atmosphere of our new destination. Praia Do Forte Cabo Frio – one of the most stunning beaches I’ve ever seen – the sand was so unbelievably soft. Staying with your man’s family has perks; excellent local food, a personal tour guide and a warm welcome to an unfamiliar place. I even made …

At the Copa, Copacabana

To comfort a failed attempt at visiting Rio’s famed Botanical Gardens (who doesn’t have card machines anyway these days???????????) condensed milk popcorn was in order, and yes you heard that right; condensed milk is extremely popular throughout Brazil, it being used as a topping for cakes, doughnuts, ice cream, fruits and more. Including popcorn. On the streets of both Rio and Recife are tiny vendors selling popcorn, salty or sweet. The salty variety is usually topped with something called Bottle Butter – which is exactly as it sounds. The contrary is coated in a slightly crunchy caramel and topped with runny condensed milk. When consuming make sure to have some napkins and bottled water to dribble on your fingers when done, the popcorn makes a rather sticky, yet un-regrettably tasty, mess. In the hopes of being second time lucky with seeing Christ, we abandoned plans to see Ipanema beach and hurried to Corcovado. At night the statue is illuminated and has a supposedly beautiful view of the sunset over Rio. But alas, as if luck …

Tomorrow’s Museum Today

Rio’s centre is filled with both modern and historical gems to discover, and a very new one is Museu do Amanhã – the Museum of Tomorrow; a super slick and modern futurist science museum (as you could probably guess) exploring the Anthropocene and the profound effect of human civilisation’s presence on earth over the past century. Its exterior is one to be seriously impressed by, the architects having modelled its pristine white shell on the skeleton of a whale. Breakfast: orange cake and a much needed coffee. Its interior was no less impressive, being composed of large bright white expanses, undulating curves and organic shapes, all being filled with natural light. The exhibitions were impressively immersive and interactive, visitors becoming unquestionably enthralled in thought provoking games, interactive displays, 15 foot high panels of film, and stunning interior structures, art and installations illuminated with coloured lights. You leave the museum intrigued and inspired, or like me in a state of awe at the entirety of the stunning experience.