Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A day and night in Malacca

We went to Malacca to celebrate the "month of Liz" (Mother's Day, anniversary, and birthday). Malacca is a relative quiet, walkable tourist town. We were surprise to be greeted by a water dragon and signs wishing a happy lunar new year on Jonker Street, the main street in Chinatown. The street is closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights and it becomes a large night market. Some year we may brave the crowds, but on a Wednesday night it was quiet.
2 months after Chinese New Year and the Dragon is still greeting
visitors to Jonker Street

Behind the hotel's reception desk was the sign "Durians and pets not allowed." Durians are commonly banned; pets don't seem to be explicitly banned (but I am sure that they are unwelcome in most places)

As a world heritage city Malacca has developed enough tourist sites that we still find new things to do. This trip we visited the Malaka Maritime Museum and the Jonker Bird House.

The Maritime Museum is housed in a replica of a 16th century Portuguese trading ship. Other than showing the captain's quarters the replica does not show were the men slept, ate, and washed. The displays focused on the Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonial eras. The information were interesting, but because it was not organized around a time line I found it redundant. Doug pointed out that each deck focused on a single topic: governance, transportation, or trade. The information helped us fill in the blanks in our knowledge of Malaysia's history. Plus, we are interested in how events are described. For example, no mention was made of Chinese traders. Sultans were mentioned, but the exhibits did not trace their evolution into their current roles.

 I read a tourist's complaint about having to taking shoes off before entering the ship's interior. A former student from Bhutan taught me a lesson on taking shoes off. When we were entering a temple he noticed that some people kept their shoes on. He commented that they were being thoughtless and making more work for the cleaning staff.

Akbal Hanum -
Guide Extraordinaire
If you google the Jonker Bird House you will get a list of hotels each including complementary passes to the bird house. With our complimentary passes we went and found it interesting and worthwhile. The bird house is in a renovated shop house. Originally it was on the seafront, but land reclamation projects have pushed the coastline out. Too bad - it is still a pleasant but perhaps less charming than the town we remember in 1974. Our guide, Akbal Hanum, was the best part of the house. She talked to us about the house's history, the birds, and their nests. We went into the center of the house where swifts build their nests, the famed birds nest of birds nest soup, and fly in and out at great speeds. In addition to explaining the house's features, she answered questions thoroughly and we shared personal bits of information as new acquaintances often do. Who ever hired her knew what he/she was doing! At end of the tour we went to a room where young women were cleaning the nests and removing debris for them. At the end we went into room that looked very much like a gold showroom and its collection of birds nests merited the comparison.

Want to buy a bird nest? Note the scale -
they are sold by the gram

Here two wonders seen by street wanders. No, we did not stay at Backpackers Freak Guest House. When we took the picture I imagined a bug infested place with zoned out occupants. I Googled it, read the comments, and now I just feel old and cranky. The reviews were positive (probably nicer and more forgiving than folks who stay at budget hotels);  Probably not the place for retirees, but clearly pleasant for much younger backpackers.

On Jonker Walk we came upon this statue in a pocket park (also the location of public toilets).

This is Gan Boon Leong, "The Father of Body Building in Malaysia." His titles include Mr. Universe, Mr. Asia, Mr. Malaysia, and Mr. Malaka.

Curry Ramen - a huge, tasty healthy bowl
So no post would be complete without a comment about food. We had a lunch at the Geographer's Cafe - initially I had been reluctant to go there because it seem too touristy, but truly what else can you expect in Malacca? Plus, many if not most of the tourists are Malaysian (or Singaporean). I was drawn by the "no MSG" at the beginning of the menu. I order a tasty curry ramen which was tasty and also omitted coconut milk (the tasty ingredient in so many curries)

Directly across the street at Malacca Jonker Nyonya Enterprises we bought pineapple tarts for small hostess gifts. The first ingredient was "pure butter." The tarts received complements from one of Malaysian foodie friends.

Decades ago we had fish dinner in a restaurant/shop where we selected the fish (not live ones) and they cooked them. Alas, the shop is a victim of renovation. In the same location we found Eleven Bistro and had baked fish (Portuguese style), a curried chicken (special dable curry), and baked bean curd with mushrooms. All tasty. The service was good - the waiter even got out his cell phone to show us the picture of the fish. What he also told us is the fresh water fishes absorb the taste of the spices and the sea water fishes do not.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A stop over in Germany

Six days in Germany - a lot of walking and a little sight seeing. Our most vivid memories were created as we walked along the streets (or in Frankfurt along the Main). So we will largely skip the narrative and let the pictures show some of the things we remember most.

Frankfurt: Shortly after our arrival we walked along the Main to downtown. We kept our eye on the river. The paths were busy with bikers, runners, and walkers - and it was midday on a weekday.
Bathing in the Main
He (?) took the time to pose so we posted

One of several riverboats (docked for a stopover)
A rowing lesson in progress

Occupy Frankfurt
In front Euro sculpture, behind European Central Bank

A touch of home (Wesak day a public
holiday in Malaysia)

The intersection of time - L to R: future, past (Dom), present (Museum of Modern Art)
Where's the power source? Look up!

Mixed up cultures
Happy Buddha at the bottom; Madonna at the top (Bamberg)
Frankfurt Restaurant
 Another Frankfurt Restaurant - Chillies suggest Mexican (to me)
In Nuremberg - a place to try next time (it should still be there)

A Nuremberg Shop - Picture speaks for itself

A Few Unusual Products

Think green - biogradable BBs (Bamberg)

Modern Hobby Horse - Bicycle Market Bamberg

BMW vehicle - half a Smart? (Bamberg)

 Bringing back memories

Bicycles parked in Bamberg

Motorcycles parked in Bandung

A fresco outside Hotel Everest (Frankfurt)

A Chennai Sign Painter

Which picture has the real painter? The one from Chennai but we had to stare at the one in Frankfurt for quite a while to realize that the painter was part of the fresco.


To store luggage: At Frankfurt Airport overhead signs point to baggage storage. It is on the lower level from the arrival hall. We paid 14 euros/day for two bags. Process was simple. We placed our bags on a conveyor belt and were picked up by staff, who gave us receipts. The Haufbanhof has also lockers that can be used for up to 72 hours; in the same area is a counter where bags can be left for up to three weeks at a charge of 6.5 euros/day/bag.

On getting away from the airport. To go to the Frankfurt Haufbanhof we took an S Bahn from the airport. Follow signs for the trains. Tickets (4.10 euros/person) can be purchased at machines with an S. To get directions in English look for the Union Jack on the display. Long distance trains can be boarded either at the airport or Haufbanhof. It is all very easy.  

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Bamberg: Asparagus, old buildings, new sculptures

In the winter we have feasted on German mushroom dishes. Now that it is spring we devour asparagus (spargel)  and experience the new (to us) white asparagus. A curiosity - in the Nuremberg farmers' market the asparagus were laid horizontly - in Bamberg (less than 50 miles north) they were displayed vertically.
Display of asparagus in Nuremberg, Bavaria
Display in Bamberg, Bavaria

Note asparagus in Bamberg were 6 euros per kilo - in KL we found sad looking white asparagus for roughly 18 euros per kilo.

Now to taste them.We went to Hofbrau, close to the Ratthaus (old city hall), which had posted an asparagus menu. We made a reservation, which proved to be necessary on Saturday night. I had asparagus with perch. The asparagus came with either melted butter or a hollandaise sauce. The asparagus was delicious as was the perch (after seeing so many meat heavy menus I was craving fish). Doug had veal instead of perch. The meal was great and the service was friendly, so we went back the next night, repeated our entrees, included an asparagus salad with a vinaigrette, and Doug added an asparagus cream soup.

"The best way to discover what Bamberg has to offer is on foot" (Bamberg tourism pamphlet), and walked we did. The town was filled with walking tours that seemed to consist of Germany tourists.

The guided tours were conducted in German. We had to settle for an audio tour. (A note on logistics on Saturday the tourist office is open until 4 and on Sunday until 2:30. An audio tour can be rented for 4 hours - so no dashing in at the last minute.The Bamberg card at 12 euros is a bargain - it is good for 3 days and includes bus transportation and an audio guide, which rent for 8.5 euros.) Since it was raining I tried to manage my umbrella, head set (it kept slipping) and the audio device. The sound quality was mediocre. Still it kept us from mindless wandering.

River view
Frescoes on the old town hall (1386)
Inside the DOM on its 1000 year anniversary
 A row of shops - note stork with baby on right

Despite the rain a gondolier plying his trade

 A river view

Neptune Fountain (1698) Green Market

As an intact historical town buildings dating from medieval times - it is not frozen in time. The "trail of modern sculptures" is particularly remarkable and deserves frequent visits. Each has been purchased by the town and each suggests some wise eyes motivated the purchases.
                                                                     Centurione I by Mitoraj (Bamberg purchase in 2002)

                                                       Same statue - another side. You have to see it yourself
                                                            Lady with Fruit by Botero (Bamberg purchase 1998)
                                                                               Large Sculpture 1982 by Avranidis (Bamberg purchase 1999)

                                                                      Apoli by Lupertz

                                                              Couldn't decide which view I liked best - so here are both

Among the things we couldn't do because of our lack of advance planning was attending a performance of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra.  The local ticket service closes on Saturday at 1PM, and is closed on Sunday.  We went to the box office on the afternoon of the performance.  It was sold out,  our names were added to the waiting list, but most tickets seemed to be sold between private parties.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

R & R in Nuremberg

Entrance to Toy Museum
We visited Nuremberg in 1999 primarily to go to its Christmas Market. On that trip  to get out of the cold we ducked into the Toy Museum (totally worthwhile) and saw a special exhibit on the history of the Barbie doll. This year we retraced our steps as we searched for the restaurant that had terrific sausages. This year's sausages were good, but not up to our 1999 memory. Probably things taste better when you glad to escape the cold and sit in toasty restaurant. The restaurant was the restaurant was the Bratwursthausle, so in the future we won't have to trust our memories.

The desk clerk at our hotel told us that there wasn't much to see at Christmas Market area (hauptmarkt), but he was wrong. There were stalls selling fruits, vegetables, cheeses, breads, salami, cheeses, and chocolates.

Not a sad looking vegetable in this or other stalls

 All items are chocolate!

More chocolate!

                                         Keeping the market clean - I know a lot of cities that
                                         should buy a green machine

After our walk through the market we opened the Tourist Information booklet "Nuremberg and Furth: See and Enjoy." It listed 42 museums and galleries, and an additional 28 places to explore. Included in the latter listing were the city's fountains. The Marriage Merry-Go Round was particularly striking - we never passed by without stopping to take a long look.

From wooing 
To conflict (note skull at the left)

Nuremberg offers multiple tourist opportunities - including tours specifically for people with various disabilities (intellectual, sight, hearing or mobility. (Although specific information is said to be posted on the web we couldn't find it. The key phrase is "barrier-free.") In the spirit of R&R we checked out two art galleries, leaving the more intense Documentation Centre for a later day. The State Museum for Art and Design is worth a visit just to see the building. Although we could take photos the art wasn't engaging - we were reminded of a friend's comment about a more accessible modern art museum that she just didn't get it. The Gallery of Contemporary Art, where we couldn't take pictures, had an interesting exhibit. In one piece there was a rotating center piece surrounded by a non-rotating bench, surrounded by a rotating paper "tent." It demonstrate how hard it is to trust one's perceptions.

We discovered Nuremberg on our own - next time we will get a bit deeper and take advantage of the numerous walking tours. This photo of an uniquely named store seems ideal for closing this entry.