Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Happy New Year's Eve from 69° North in Tromso, Norway­čçž­čç╗! We're spending our holiday break here 350 km (217 mi) north of the Arctic Circle, where there's only polar nights - no daylight - right now. 
I threw myself into 2019 working more than I have in two years. Dealing with my father's death still catches me off guard at times, and I'm not sure how to deal with the emotions sometimes. It could be a song, a distant memory. So I work.

But working so much, between the two of us, means we can build up some much-needed holiday time - like this trip to Northern Norway. It's been an adventure trip, and we are enjoying it.
I think we saw the daytime version of the Northern lights today on our fjord cruise. At least, that is my story and I'm sticking to it. 

Happy New Year's wherever you may be! I hope that 2020 is filled with those moments of happiness that catch you off guard. 


Monday, December 30, 2019

After living in London for three years, we finally shared our Christmas Eve traditions with Turkish friends we’ve befriended here.

Since hubby and I both had to work half days on Christmas Eve, we planned to share the cooking and shopping responsibilities with our friends. I had half the groceries delivered via Farmdrop and the remainder our friend picked up for us. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, we had talked about what to cook for our meal. The most important thing is to have seven different fishes per my hubby’s Italian-American traditions.

Do you remember one of our first Christmases abroad in Istanbul?

Well, once we arrived at our friends’ flat, we unpacked the groceries and opened up some wine. Of course, you need to have a glass while cooking up Christmas dinner, especially after all the holiday hours I worked this month.

Our first course contained two fishes – marinated anchovies and Scottish smoked salmon.
Our second course was fried calamari made by the other husband. Delicious! Even our friends’ two-year-old really seemed to enjoy it.
Our third course was a version of Turkish karides g├╝ve├ž – a prawn casserole served in a spicy, buttery sauce.
An hour later around 8 p.m., we’re on the fourth course (the fifth fish) which was my version of pan-seared scallops served with a curried butter over butternut mash and fresh fennel. I found a recipe of Chef Charlie Trotter’s in one of my old cookbooks and gave it a go. Delicious combo was the verdict!
Another hour later, slowly pacing ourselves, we rolled onto the fifth course which was English clams cooked in a white wine sauce over linguine. My mother-in-law often serves a dish like this, so hubby carries on the tradition for her.
Funny enough, our last fish course finished cooking an hour later around 10 p.m. – oven-roasted sea bream stuffed with fresh herbs. A dish all four of us have eaten many times in Istanbul.
Now, normally, I’m not a huge seafood fan, but with our Christmas meal paced out over several hours, I actually didn’t mind. I enjoyed every dish – to an extent – and we all had time to actually enjoy ourselves and chat.

After another break with washup included and a good game of Cards Against Humanity, we ended our Christmas Eve dinner with my homemade chocolate yule log filled with a raspberry mousse. Even our friends’ son enjoyed the dark chocolate cake!
Well, another Christmas is over, and I think that means we need to do some dieting in the new year. At least, it was fun!

What Christmas traditions do you have?


Friday, December 20, 2019

Some places are worth visiting more than once and the historical destination of Aachen, Germany’s most westerly city, is one of those.

Since moving abroad in 2010, we’ve visited Germany nearly every year since then, mainly because we have good friends in D├╝sseldorf. Plus, we like visiting Germany for its overabundant supply of pork products (especially the years we lived in Istanbul), delightful Christmas markets, numerous museums and beautiful scenery.

Earlier this month, we returned to Germany for a weekend trip to catch up with friends and visit some seasonal Christmas markets. A 90-minute train journey from D├╝sseldorf took us to Aachen, which we previously had visited in 2014. (See: 13 German Christmas Markets in 5 Days). 

We also travelled with a special one-day DB train ticket that allowed us to travel as much as we wanted with up to five people in the region for about 45 euros. Why can't UK train prices be like this?

Aachen developed from a Roman settlement and spa town and later became the preferred medieval Imperial residence of Emperor Charlemagne. From 936 to 1531, Aachen, and specifically the Aachen Cathedral, was the place where 31 Holy Roman Emperors were crowned Kings of the Germans. Historically, Aachen was one of Europe's most important cities due to its position near the Dutch and Belgian borders.
From the middle of November to December 23 of this year, the cobbled streets near the Cathedral and the baroque Aachen Town Hall are transformed into a Christmas paradise with wooden huts selling everything from woolen hats and Christmas decorations to local chocolates and gingerbread-like cookies called Aachener Printen and more tasty delights. The Aachen Christmas Market, as we re-discovered, is quite popular with tourists, even on a weekday morning, and attracts approximately 1.5 million visitors every year during those four weeks.

During our short visit, the weather was absolutely terrible – downpour rain and blustery winds – so we basically stopped at the first covered, heated gl├╝hwein stand and stayed there for two glasses of warming, spiced wine and some nibbles.

Aachener Printen
If you love sweet treats like I do, don’t miss the local bakeries that sell the crispy gingerbread cookies locally known as Aachener Printen. We avoided the big chain bakeries in town and found some delicious chocolate-covered printen at Klein Printenbackerei. The young sales guy here let us try all the different varieties – soft and crispy, then covered in dark, milk or white chocolate. The dark chocolate-covered crispy ones were my favorite!

Aachen Cathedral
Since the Christmas markets surround the UNESCO-designated Aachen Cathedral, we popped in to take some photos. Emperor Charlemagne ordered the construction of this Roman Cathedral in the 8th century and was buried there just a couple years later in 814. What’s interesting here is that the octagon in the center of the Cathedral was built in the same style of other contemporary Byzantine buildings such as the Little Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna. The cathedral’s interior architecture reminded me of so many different buildings we had seen in Turkey as well as Moorish architecture we’ve recently seen in Spain.
If you don’t have time to visit Aachen for the Christmas markets this year, I would highly recommend planning a stop here next year.