Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Back to Berlin

A section of the Berlin Wall
(C) fifiheavey

Big pressure this week.            
I return to Berlin.

Four years ago I flew into Berlin not expecting anything great and with my own preconceptions about the city and the country. But it astounded me, the history was amazing, the culture intriguing, the people fun and helpful and the entertainment – out of this world.

Me and a Berlin bear
(c) fifiheavey

Berlin surpassed Paris as my favourite place in Europe and I have been singing its praises ever since.
This week I return to the once divided city.
But this time I am not alone, I will travelling with a friend (cousin to be exact).

I have told him Berlin is amazing, the craziest place on earth, the most interesting location in the world ... etc etc

(C) fifiheavey

And now I have to make it live up to that huge reputation. There is a whole lot of pressure on me and on this unique city. If we return and he is not bowled over by Berlin and all the wonders it holds – my reputation could be ruined.

Its gonna be easy though right? 
There are so many things to see and do, so many historic sites, buildings, streets, museums. 
The Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate, Unter Den Linden, The Reichstag, Museum Island, Checkpoint Charlie, Topography of Terror ....

Brandenberg Gate, Berlin
(c) fifiheavey

“I don't really do the tourist thing” he told me.
Uh Oh.
So he will be expecting the strange and wonderful, the quirky, the unknown.

Still Berlin should be able to deliver. I just stumbled across craziness on a daily basis in Berlin four years ago. I didn't have to go looking – they were right there on tap.

But em... if you had to go looking, say for strange unique things to see and do – where would one look? 
I am open to all ideas!

My back up plan: Get him drunk on authentic German Beer and turn him into a history craving tourist!

Craziness on tap - looking forward to hangover free German beer!
(C) fifiheavey

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Hutt River Principality

Australia is full of surprises, the land down under has a different landscape, different species and most certainly a different way of life.

But I had never expected a principality - a royal family, a new currency, a different country within a country.

Entrance to Hutt River Province

The Principality of Hutt River, about 300 miles north of Perth, Western Australia achieved legal status as an independent sovereign state in 1972 having annexed from Western Australia in 1970.

The principality was founded on 21 April 1970 following a dispute over wheat production quotas. The Casley family failed in their bid against the quota, so resorted to the British Treasons Act 1495, which they felt allowed them to secede and declare independence from the Commonwealth of Australia.That loophole has obviously since been removed.

The family succeeded and Leonard George Casley was elected administrator of the new state by his family.After the government threatened him with prosecution, Casley styled himself 'His Majesty Prince Leonard I of Hutt' to take advantage of a Commonwealth law that a monarch could not only not be charged, but that anyone who interfered with his duties could be charged with treason. (They changed this law too surprisingly!)

The principality looks no different from an ordinary Outback farm, the state is about 75 square kilometres (19,000 acres) in size. They have their own currency Hutt River Dollar, stamps and passports. I was only delighted to get my passport stamped! Tourism is their biggest economy.

Hutt River coin

His Royal Highness Prince Leonard I of Hutt is an amazing man to meet, quirky and strange, the tall thin old man is obviously very intelligent and loves to share his unique story with tourists. He is very proud of how he used the law to annex his family's land. He was a genius – I am sure many other countries wish they could have thought of it before him!

In 2008, the Council of the European Union issued a memorandum identifying Hutt River passports among known "fantasy passports ... issued by private organisations and individuals" to which a visa should not be affixed.

A cultural stop in the Hutt River Province
(c) fifiheavey

But Prince Leonard has several documents from countries all over the world which he claims accept his state - he also has a letter from the Queen of England!

The Prince and his impressive Principality shows that it really does pay to read the small print!
This is one crazy pit stop that should not be missed on your tour of Western Australia.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Celebrating Irish Food

We do love potatoes!

Unless you are Irish, you probably don't come to Ireland for the food.

If you are a foodie you travel to France, Italy, Spain, Greece - countries renowned for food. 

But this is changing.

Ireland is one of the best producers of lamb and beef in Europe, we are an agricultural based country. We are also expertly located for fine fish and our vegetables are some of the most organic, sweetest produce in the world.

So why are we not pulling in the punters for our food? Is it that we can't cook? Of course not. 
We are just too easily influenced.

A recent Lonely Planet guidebook on Ireland said you could order a panini in almost every town in Ireland - it is more accessible here than in Italy!

For too long we looked upon our own traditional foods as poor. It has taken us a long long time to get over the famine, to look past our poor decrepit history, to see the positive in the bare meals our ancestors survived on, but I think we are beginning to understand.

Food Festivals, celebrating our splendid produce, our traditional feasts and our cultural knowledge are springing up all over the place.

Galway Food Festival Brochure
(c) fifiheavey

The inaugural Galway Food Festival, which I attended over Easter attracted an estimated 30,000 visitors to the city, offering more than 70 food-themed events, from cooking demonstrations to foraging trails. And the majority of those visitors were foreign tourists, many quite surprised by what they were seeing, hearing and of course tasting.

More than 50 restaurants and outlets took part in Galway, with some reporting an increase in turnover of over 80% - what a result in a recession. What an inspiration for other towns and cities.Food festivals have “sky rocketed” in the last two years, according to  Fáilte Ireland. In that time the list of Irish food festivals across the country has gone from around 15 to 40. Irish Food Tourism is growing and rightly so.

Demo on how to cook the perfect steak
(c) fifiheavey

We visited a food demo on 'Cooking the perfect steak' at the festival. The cooking part took only a few minutes. First we heard about the history of beef in Ireland and why it is among the best in the world.
Our beef is among the best because of our strategic location and surprisingly our terrible weather. 
(Next time you curse the rain think about a nice juicy steak!)

Happy cow!
The secret ingredient to the perfect steak? 
Nope the secret ingredient is:
A happy Cow!

Of course there were oysters galore, muscles, fish of every size and colour alongside beautiful breads, homemade lemonade, sweets, nuts, deserts and BBQ goodies.

The Food Festival was a delight.
A success. More of these please!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Something missing ...

Where is the table? There has to be a table.”
There was no table, the room was completely empty.

The iconic painting of The last Supper - see the table?!

Imagine visiting Disneyland and not seeing Mickey Mouse, flying around the world to visit an authentic Irish pub to hear the Guinness has run out, find out people in Texas don't wear cowboy hats or take a trip to Lapland and see no snow?
It would be disappointing wouldn't it?

Now I didn't place all my hopes on seeing a table, I hadn't dreamed about it for years, this wasn't the main attraction of the trip. But still I expected it, and it wasn't there.
And I was disappointed, really disappointed – a lot more than I could have expected.

The sign to the Room of the Last Supper
(c) fifiheavey

It was a beautiful sunny day, we were inside the walls of Jerusalem. The walls were the same colour as the buildings, which matched the colour of the ground. There were so many buildings, so many laneways, so many people bustling. Without a guide we would have been lost.

But all of a sudden we were outside the room of The Last Supper (also known as The Lord's Supper, the Mystical Supper, the Cenacle and the Upper Room) it was here that according to Christian belief Jesus and his apostles had one of their final meals before his crucifixion. It is from this meal the Eucharist derives.
The Supper was a feast of the Jewish passover.
Supper - made up of food and drink needs a ....?

We waited outside the room for the large groups of tourists to pass through. I had the image in my mind – you know the one, long table with Jesus and the twelve apostles. I imagined a long mahogany worn down table with a long runner and candles. Obviously not the original – just a symbol.

Inside the Room of the Last Supper.
(C) fifiheavey
But the room was empty. As a result of arguments between the Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians, the Jews and the Muslims each of the religions have a small symbol/carving/area. But aside from that the room is empty. Could they not have just agreed on a table?!
I did not know until the guide explained that the room is directly over the tomb of King David. That was a pleasant surprise. It helped to combat my disappointment – but only just.

The women's section of the Tomb of King David.
(c) fifiheavey
How can you have a supper without a table? Even when I explained my trip back home my family and friends had expected a table there. I understand that each of the religions have their own beliefs and are entitled to them, but it didn't suppress my disappointment.

Luckily the rest of Jerusalem made up for it – and the believed site of the crucifixion, the hill of cavalry, the tomb of the resurrection were all mind blowing.

As I stuff myself with Easter eggs this Bank Holiday Weekend, I will cast my mind back to Israel, to my amazing journey there.
Table or no table, even with all the conflict and the religious turmoil, Jerusalem is a special place, a spiritual destination no matter what you belief in.