Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Wedding in Haarlem, Netherlands

I saw this cool wedding in Haarlem last March this year.

The bride arrived in style in an oldtimer convertible. She was sitting on top of the backseat together with her son who stepped down from the car and gave her away to her soon to be husband. All this happened in front of the old city hall of Haarlem where they will be wed on the Grote Markt (Big Market Square). The bride and groom were then whisked away to the back entrance of the city hall, which really is just several metres away.

Before all the guests and the wedding couple moved into the old city hall of Haarlem, I managed to have a little peek. Heh, sneaky me =)

Trivia: Did you know that many couples in the Netherlands opt for the cohabitation and legal partnership routes instead of the traditional path, marriage? Marriage statistics plummet down year after year in this country. Some couples as well would often live together for a long time and have children before they get married.

The Grote Markt (Big Market Square) in Haarlem.

Wedding guests waiting for the bride and groom to arrive.

Where the wedding rites will be held inside the Old City Hall of Haarlem. 

The bride arrived in an open-top old automobile with her son who gave her away to the groom.

The happy couple posing for photos.

Off to getting married!

Visit Period: March 2014
Destination: Haarlem (North Holland), The Netherlands

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Apples and a Dinner in Wolvega, Netherlands

A few times a year Dutchman and I go up to Friesland to visit friends. These are mostly birthday get-togethers which are typically Dutch by the way.

We were there again last weekend because this time our dear friend turned 50. I didn’t get to take pictures which is a pity because the food theme was ‘Oud Hollands’ (Old Holland). From the candies to the cheese to the wine and beer, its all Dutch. The mains were erwtensoep (pea soup), stamppot boerenkool (mash pot of potatoes and kale), hutspot (mash pot of potatoes and carrots) with rookworst (Dutch smoked sausage). I had a little portion of each. Lekker =)

But I do not have any pictures. Not a single one. Jammer.

However, we were there though back in August and I took a few pictures =)

And their apple tree in the terrace has turned into an ivy that has clawed in the structural fence and created a sort of shrub hedge. But lo and behold, the apple tree has lots of fruits! We harvested a few apples and brought them inside for the evening’s dessert.

We are baking an apple pie. Well, let me correct that, the lady host is baking an apple pie =)

I am not sure what type of apple this is? Perhaps Pink Lady?

Wetland grass. I was tempted to pick those brown stalks for home decor =) My parents used to have the fake ones long time ago at home.

The neighbourhood in Wolvega. 

It is dinner time!

Little Bee is hungry and wants her share. Our friends have 3 children and Bee is the second and only girl.

But before we sit at the table to feed ourselves, the lady host has to finish the apple pie so she can put it in the oven. These were the apples growing in their terrace and we are eating this for dessert.

Grilled potatoes and vegetables (carrots, mushrooms and paprikas) with rosemary. Smells so good.

Salmon for the fish lovers. That's me!

And schnitzel for the non-fish eaters. That's the Dutchman.

These two pictures I took on our way to Wolvega. The highway itself is a huge draw bridge which opens from time to time when there is a big boat passing by. In the summer this bridge can get busy, as well as the traffic on the highway.

The Ketelbrug (Ketel Bridge) on A6 highway.

Visit Period: August 2014
Destination: Wolvega (Friesland), The Netherlands

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A Less Satisfying Steak Dinner at Mej. Janssen in Utrecht

Last night Dutchman and I went out for dinner in Utrecht Centrum and I just realised that I still have a dinner in Utrecht last year, also in December (a year ago indeed) that I haven’t posted yet. I am not really encouraged to post this because this dinner was 3 stars out of 5 in my book.

To give you an idea how I do my food trip rating, here it is below. Yes, according to moi =)

1 star would be horrible
2 stars would be not good at all
3 stars would be mediocre to good
4 stars would be very good to excellent
5 stars would be perfect which I almost never give anyway

Now I usually rate with a decimal/point added such as 4.2 stars or 3.9 stars.

Here at Mej. Janssen I found the food really mwah. The cooking is along the home-cooked cafeteria style. I mean I even thought I could do better at home? And I am not a super cook even. I am just a regular cook who does not mind cooking everyday. To let you in a secret, this is my gauge meter on what is better and not. If I can cook the food better at home, then its a rating of 3 stars and below.

On the other hand, the Dutchman thinks I am a good cook, which is why he prefers to eat at home, and also the reason why he has a little belly going these days haha, which as a matter of fact, I do not really mind at all. That is food love! But I know myself better than to compare my kitchen work to restaurant food, and to foodies who truly breathes cooking and baking. You know, I am a just mere foodie who loves to eat =)

The interior design and ambiance as well of this restaurant needed some dire encouragement. Perhaps a much due facelift would be in order?

The restaurant is located on the Oudegracht: Restaurant Mej Janssen.

Dutchman and I shared this beef carpaccio for our starter. This was so-so.

Dutchman had some steak that looked like it got burned. I think this is the Mej. Janssen steak and I am sure Dutchman ordered it well done, luckily he doesn't mind it being burned. Not raw meat fans, Dutchman and I prefer our meat well done.

I had the Entrecote and here it is covered in champignons and vegetables. I can cook this at home, exactly like this, so when I go out to eat, I expect a little bit more, some creativity, a bit of imagination, than what my cooking skills can offer.

We received a small bowl of chips and green salad on the side which was nice.

Dutchman had a Dame Blanche for dessert. He likes this though.

I had some coconut lemon tart with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. The cake was a bit dry, luckily there's some whipped and ice cream on the side to aid the dryness.

And this is Utrecht during December. Beautiful!

Visit Period: December 2013
Destination: Utrecht Centrum (Utrecht), The Netherlands

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Class Graduate Pictures in Hungary and Photoshopping

Just want to share this interesting find in Hungary. The month of May is when graduates finally take their diplomas and enter the harsh world of reality.

A very entertaining class graduate picture. Wanted: Dead or Alive. Seriously? Haha.

Graduates in Eger, Hungary. This class may have gambling ambitions.

Apparently, taking class graduate pictures in this manner in Hungary is big business. There were too many photo studio and printing shops there. In the Netherlands though these shops are already in the sad state of extinction. I just cannot help but notice the trending graduation themed picture frames displayed on the shop windows in Eger, Hungary, which made me think—How many photo studio and printing shop does every block of a small city centre need to have?

I quite found the picture frames very entertaining. Many have themes built around them even. Wild, wild west? Casino, anyone? I didn’t check closely if the pictures were photoshopped though because in the Philippines, where I was just recently and which reminds me of a recent incident there as well, photo studios there are notorious for retouching ID pictures, and this was before photoshop made things easy. Everyone comes out very fair, with unblemished skin, pointed nose, high cheekbones and perfect hair in their photos. Sometimes you would not even recognise yourself!

You see, I had an ID photo taken while I was there last month and I told the guy who took my picture not to photoshop it when I saw that he did it with the girl before me. A very sneaky practice yet very much acceptable, in fact recommended in the Philippines.

If the class graduate pictures in Hungary are photoshopped then they aren’t that obvious methinks.

I also noticed that in Romania and Slovakia they have similar practices. Here are a few I saw in Kosice, Slovakia:

Graduates in boy-band style pose in Kosice, Slovakia.

I can’t get this out of my head though: Would every graduate want a copy of this class graduate picture? And where would they hang it at home? In their room?

Here in the Netherlands I am not sure if this class graduate photo is a big thing. I am sure though that each graduate batch would have a class photo taken, for souvenir, but not like the scale of the above in Eastern European countries.

By the way, all the pictures I have posted in this blog are not photoshopped. I don’t have the program anyway. All I have is Picasa which is as rudimentary as you can get but I’m satisfied with it.

Travel Period: May 2014
Destination: Eger (Northern Hungary), Hungary | Kosice, Slovakia

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Monday, December 15, 2014

This is Eger, Hungary

Eger is the second largest city in the Northern Hungary region after Miskolc which I also visited. The city is known for its castle ruins that has a nice panorama over the city, which by the way I visited as well but will post the castle and views separately.

eger hungary

The city centre of Eger in pastel-coloured buildings.

This is the Dobo Square under construction and the Minorite Church in the middle.

In smaller cities like this, it’s not only that there were very few tourists drifting around but the culture is also very homogenous, which means Eger is predominantly white. I stood out like a sore thumb there walking on the streets with my pocket camera in hand.

Majority of tourists who come here are from neighbouring countries and runner-ups are from other western European countries. Very few tourists from outside Europe get lost here though.

When I was here end of May this year, the city was undergoing a massive facelift. The main square of the town, the Dobo Square was not recognisable at all as it was under major overhauling project. Trucks, cranes, piles of gravel and sand and bricks have replaced what used to be a spacious pretty square with a hilltop background view of the castle and its walls.

Many streets in the city centre as well were under construction. They are replacing asphalt streets with new bricks and cobble stones.

Ugh, I came at the wrong time! Oh well, there is not much that I can do except enjoy what has been given to me.

Eger though still proved to be a beautiful town even with the undergoing make over. There’s lots of baroque architecture in the centre and the buildings are painted in pastel colours which makes them so charming and welcoming.

I am sure during the summer Eger will be a place swarming with lot of people.
Here is where Eger is on the map of Hungary:

eger on map

My basecamp is Debrecen which is an hour and a half travel time with the car to Eger. Eger is part of the Northern Hungary region and is the Seat of Heves. Nearby are the Bukk and Matra Mountains. This is an old picture as I still see the defunct Yugoslavia.

The Lyceum which is located in front of the Eger Basilica.

You can see the traces of Baroque architecture in the city centre.

This is one of the main streets with lots of cafes and bars.

I think this was the name of the main street where the happening is.

Some of the attractions in Eger. Hmm, 'Nice Woman Valley'? Open-air baths (well, public baths in general) are very popular and are actually a major cultural thing in Hungary. Many countries have this bathing/spa culture such as Japan, Finland, Turkey and of course Hungary.

This is the market hall but they were already closing when I stumbled here.

This yellow ochre church has a very long name that is so difficult to spell, let alone pronounce it, so I shall leave it out.

Lime green paint on the facade? Why not!

This is one of the newly laid out streets which is not yet finished.

This part of Eger city centre which is near the Dobo Square is a nice area with lots of cafe terraces.

The towers of the Minorite Church and a charming pastel-coloured alley.

I am having a break here at the Hotel Senator Haz's (Senator's House) cafe restaurant. It is in a very central and attractive location, unfortunately the Dobo Square was closed, which could have been my view from the terrace.

I was not hungry so I ordered some booze (rakija) and coffee (espresso). I did not want to have dinner in Eger as I was planning on returning to Debrecen early to eat there instead.

Hungary is not part of the Euro currency countries. This is their money, the Hungarian Forint (HUF). 1 EUR is  309 HUF.

The cafe in the middle where I had a little break. You can see the castle walls in the background. There were very few tourists during end of May in Eger.

I also noticed that not many locals eat out. They mostly go to cafes and have a drink, perhaps a little snack as well. This main street is the liveliest street of Eger, It is the street where you can find the Eger Basilica and the Lyceum.

Busy street where the young teeners gather for drinks.

Travel Period: May 2014
Destination: Eger (Northern Hungary), Hungary

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