Above: the "bistro"at the campground where we probably should have eaten. Below: barely-conscious klaverjas; essential naptime; Kaffee Worpswede, where we enjoyed many different shades of oversaturated yellow and had a surprisingly sophisticated and delicious meal; wonderfully salty bread with very good olive oil, more people should make bread this way; desperately unsaturated spaghetti mit sommertrüffel, spinat und parmesan; schnitzel “Wiener Art” auf warmem kartoffel-rucolasalat und pesto (Wiener Art = schnitzel, a big pile of schnitzel).
Not pictured: rucolasalat mit gebackenem ziegenkäse, strauchtomaten und pesto, also full of little surprises like trapezoids of perfectly cooked asparagus and tart spheres of fried goat cheese; the portly waiter who negged me all night long (pretending to have absolutely no idea what my pronounciation of "hefeweizen" could possibly be referring to; smirking and-or tsking when I ordered schnitzel and a bier while my comparatively sophisticated date ordered truffles and wine; coming back after I struggled through 3 of my 4 schnitzels and pointing at the last, saying "what's this here, then?"; offering only Madame Nelson the dessert card because she finished her dinner and I didn't, when in fact it was I who finished her dinner in order to make her plate look clean, I AM NOT BITTER). It was kind of cute after a while.
More reporting from our Department of Cultural Stereotypes. It's because heyyyyyy, you can't help it, you just notice things, right? When you travel? Meet new "peoples"?
Like for example, you come visit America for the first time....you notice things! Wow, everyone's so polite and friendly all the time, unless they disagree with your politics, or unless you have any kind of opinion about America not being perfect, or unless they're sitting alone at their computer posting violent, misspelled vitriol about things they only barely understand at some vague, inarticulate, primal level of repulsion or attraction! There are TVs everywhere, really loud, all tuned to either CNN or ESPN or something with Guy Fieri in it! And the food, goodness, the food portions are so.....big! The people are so....so....big!
There was a sign at the entrance to the campground that I saw, but didn't really read, because I don't speak German and sometimes the signs, they just bounce off. This one said something like "Rest Period: 13:00-15:00 and 22:00-07:00".
Great, yes, I'm all for rest. People need rest. We certainly could've used some rest the night in question because we barely slept a fucking wink due to some asshole snoring away like a power saw somewhere nearby.
But I digress. Something that was not explained to us when we checked in was that this signage I almost noticed indicated a mandatory rest period during which no vehicles were supposed to be driven in the campground. So when we got home from Das Sonntag at 11:17pm or something Thursday night, the big metal gate to the campground was closed. "Huh", we said. "Boo."
I got out and looked at the gate, and lo and behold there was a place for a key, I tried the one key I'd been given for the bathroom and showers, and lo and behold it worked. Yay! Why would it work if you weren't supposed to use it? I quietly moved the gate aside, we drove in, I locked it, we parked, we walked to the tent, didn't sleep due to power snoring, etc.
The next morning when Nelson was brushing her teeth one of the campground managers came up to her and gave her a stern lecture about making noise in the campground after 10pm. "Two people complained!!!" How did anyone have any idea that Nelson was the culprit? This we don't know. Nelson replied to the manager (probably with a mouthful of toothpaste), "Yeah, we didn't know, very sorry!" The manager said, well, don't do it again, and Nelson said, yeah, um, sorry (fuck you), we're going to do it again tonight. We have a dinner reservation at 8pm, so I imagine we won't make it back by 10. "Well then you can't park inside the campground." Stare in disbelief. Snarl. Etc.
I missed all this, I was taking a shower or something. When I saw Nelson again there was literally steam rising off of her and she was flushed scarlet a delicate pink with apoplectic rage. Her last coherent word was,"Germans!!!!" before her eyes rolled back and she slipped into a mumbling semi-catatonia (ed. note: catatonia and mumbling? may want to check on this). Eventually I was able to get her eyes to refocus and she gradually turned unpink and she told me what happened and then it was time to go into town for breakfast and Art.
We ended up at Moma Kafehaus and had a helpfully-portioned cup of coffee and a surprisingly tasty and intereresting piece of healthy "Worpswede" chocolate cake, unfortunately I can't find any more info on this, then went to look for Heinrich Vogeler's house and the museum inside. How hard could it be to find?
Wellllll....we didn't have the Wifi or the Google Maps or the any useful technology, and the town had kept signage to an impressively absolute minimum, hopefully due to aesthetic concerns because that's the only valid reason there could be for making your main tourist attractions so goddamn hard to find, and so we eventually gave up and went to the Tourist Center to find a map.
Nelson parked outside with the engine running while I went inside for maybe 4 minutes, and I returned to find Nelson wild-eyed and pink again.
"Did you see that woman?" she said.
"What woman," I said, looking around.
"That woman on the bike."
"She just came up to me and told me I couldn't park here."
"But you're not parked here. You're waiting."
"Exactly! That's what I said. I said I'm waiting for my boyfriend, he's just in there."
"And she said, well you can't wait here,"
"But there's nothing happening here."
"I know! And now...there she is! See her? She's taking a picture of that parked car over there."
Indeed, a totally normal-looking older woman (older than me, maybe 55) was on her bike, stopped, taking a picture of the back of a parked car with her phone. Was she the po-po? No visible indications of that. Was she just crazy? Could be.
Orrrrrrrr......was it just the kind of broken-camel-back behavior you see from rule-following locals in a town besieged by rule-breaking tourists.
I didn't eat anything like this in Germany last week, but I am striving for a week of very simple food and this is pretty much all I felt like eating last night, and, strangely enough, again tonight. You can also un-German-ly add a 1/2 cup of washed quinoa to this when you add the water/broth.....suuuuuuper health time.
german braised cabbage.
2 tbsp lubricant of your choice, I used goat butter last night, tonight I probably use butter butter, but olive oil would also be juuuust dandy
1 onion, sliced
2 tbsp raw sugar
1 garlic clove, pummeled
1/2 large green cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 cup water or vegetable broth
optionally, 1 tbsp vinegar, I didn't feel like this last night
salt, or possibly smoked salt and pepper to taste
Melt lubricant. Add onions and brown slightly.
Add sugar and let caramelize.
Add cabbage, garlic, caraway seeds, and water or broth. Bring to boil and simmer, covered, about 1/2 hour or until cabbage is tender, stirring occasionally and adding extra water if needed.
Season with more salt and pepper if necessary and add vinegar if desired.
Yeah I ripped this off from here, haven't felt like duckifying the whole thing yet.
There are no informative pictures of Thursday night. We were kind of pressed for time. OK here's an example.
Yeah, what is that. Here's what things looked like if I turned my head to the right:
Mmm, yeahh slightly more revealing. But mostly we just forgot pictures because we'd been traveling at top speed to get here, this charming little biergarten/terrace called Das Sonntag. Why was time a factor? Wellllll the day before, Nelson had made an 9:00pm dinner reservation. The next day, I left Amsterdam on a 3:01pm train to Groningen, she picked me up at the train station in the Black Fox and we somehow arrived at Das Sonntag in Worpswede at 8:58pm.
OK, OK, we also stopped to check in at the campground and set up the tent, and then got lost for the first of many many many times this weekend. But still. It felt like a triumph. Anyway, we arrived at Sonntag not only right on time but also stupidly hungry, which we kind of seemed to do everywhere this weekend, so we had a couple of flammkuchen that were ultimately unphotographable in the available light, but they certainly did the job with/to/for our available stomach space.
Sometimes it sounds like I don't speak English.
And then we just "people watched" or whatever you call that, while nursing a couple of Beck's (the local beer, brewed in Bremen, but yeah in the same way Heineken is Amsterdam's local beer), and struggling with terrifically spotty Wifi.
Then the next morning you could really kind of see what the campgrounds looked like:
Oh but right, I have to talk about coming home after curfew and Germans and rules. And forgetting your passport. And not sleeping due to power snoring from neighboring tents. Soon, rabbit, soon.
Above: A real bratwurst from a charcoal grill at a flea market in rural Lower Saxony, with mustard and curry ketchup.
In order to strike back against the anti-climax of Summer Holiday 2016 (me getting sick that is) and to achieve something like an anti-anti-climax, Nelson and I fled to Northern Germany for a couple of days. Specifically here, which I was going to say is nothing like what this New York Times profile suggests, but in fact, well....everything they say about the aging population and the alien-ness of modern art and what will happen if a new generation doesn't take over.....that's all very true it seems.
But we had fun! And swam in an icy cold river. And France remains the most overrated country in Europe. Germany was full of exceptionally friendly people (ok, ok, "our 48 hours in this one German town of 9,000 people were full of etc, except for two people that I can't forget to tell you about"), delicious vegetarian food, giant grilled sausages, and as a not-unexpected bonus, big long randomly capitalized German words for everything instead of puh puh puh poopoo le voo French ones (I need a metatag for something along the lies of "fake racism", and possibly an additional one to signify that I know this is not exactly racism at all but more like grand cultural generalizations cleverly disguised as fake racism....it's all verrrrrrry complicated, I assure you, that's why I need a catchy little metatag).
Plus: we camped! And one of the nights, I slept! I slept like a really long German word in another really long German word.
We decided to tempt fate by eating at Trasteo again before we left town. Thankfully it went well: that's a courgette and Parmesan salad with truffle powder and almonds; artichokes with romesco again; and then (not pictured) migas, which I at first thought was their first misstep but I was eating it wrong, it ended up being gross-looking but great. Still not sure exactly what was going on other than powdered ham on top, an egg inside a puddle of liquid bread maybe? And perfect potatoes underneath. And then the lemon ice cream violet meringue business again.
Then we went in the fucking ocean with our middle fingers raised in defiance towards the red flag, thankfully the ocean's response didn't involve killing us. But immediately afterwards Nelson fell ill and we had to sneak into a hotel pool to lay low for a bit. Then we made it to Estepona and I almost immediately fell ill, which is where and how I remain. Hope this isn't cause of the middle finger business because that didn't even really happen.
Yeah, so...I don't know if anyone remembers what the entire point of this cross-country drive was, but I'll remind you: to purify ourselves in the waters of Zahara de los Atunes, the best undiscovered beach in Spain.
Nine days and 2500km of driving later, we find ourselves here, primed for purification. There is one problem: no one's allowed in the water. "Dangerous winds". Red flags on the beach.
I mean, there are a couple of people in the water. But there are no perfectly dangerous waves like last year, because the wind is blowing at the ocean with a force that makes the waves actually go sideways and opening your eyes on the beach unwise and your legs feel like you're literally being sandblasted, because I guess literally you are.
We did drive 20km away to Los Caños and we got in the water, because otherwise things would've been black. And it was very pleasant and refreshing, but it was not quite the Zahara of last year.
There should have been a red flag inside the restaurant as well. Chairs were blowing over, menus flying, everyone who had a table with an ocean view sported a look on their face like "we are really trying to have a good time despite not being able to open our eyes or mouth for more than a second at a time."
Details about the food later. Like I said, instead of going into the water at Zahara we threw things at the bad ocean and then we drove a ways and stopped in a national park with an ocean view, then got in the water at Los Caños. But we're staying an extra afternoon in Zahara in hopes that the red flag goes away.
Pictures: Nelson's standard breakfast tostada at El Huesi; hating wind before having lunch; two kinds of tuna at El Refugio, maybe the best tuna of the trip: malígimo (cold tuna with sweetened lard and red pepper marmalade) and güenígimo (hot tuna with sweetened lard and onion marmelade); El Refugio's choco con tomate, squid with a spicy (like cinnamon and nutmeg) tomato sauce, really interesting; me throwing my shoes at the ocean and the ocean totally not caring; walking to the car; national park ocean view; protective eyewear.
Not the best photos I've ever taken, but I was unavoidably backlit.
So we joke about TripAdvisor ratings a good bit, but if pressed I would say this was a pretty 5 star experience. Maybe this should also be teaching us all something about 5 star experiences: the less time you have to build up expectations of how awesome something is going to be, the greater the chance it stands of actually approaching awesomeness.
Taberna Trasteo was a last minute replacement for El Refugio, and like Taberna El Sur a few days ago, delivered 5 starness via honest, friendly enthusiasm, an easy, festive atmosphere, and surprising cooking that was obviously full of care.
I ordered tacos de atún with guacamole, so was caught a bit off guard by this beet salad with wasabi that showed up. but no, that's tuna alright, with splooges of good guac, tiny hills of salsa, and crumbled toasted tortillas. Sounds a bit fussy but the tastes were great. Then Neslon (not a typo, my phone has renamed her) had an unexpectedly straightforward but delicious and very Italian homemade pasta pesto and we shared these impeccably fried artichokes with romesco, also very Italian, hooray for finally good vegetarian food in Spain.
The highlight was possibly dessert: that's "lemon pie with violet", something very key lime pie-ish but meltable, hidden by a layer of also rapidly melting violet-spiked meringue and toasted almonds. I've never had any one thing that was quite like it, totally worth trying at home.
I almost just said I'd be surprised if we didn't go back, but that would mean I hadn't learned anything about expectations and awesomeness, wouldn't it.
Córdoba is "the hottest city in Europe." Today wasn't so bad, only 102°F, but after 15 minutes in direct sunlight you kind of wanted to be somewhere else.
Luckily we first started walking at 11:30 or something, when it was still pretty tolerable. We had until 14:00 to have lunch, at which point Nelson would have to perform another physically impossible driving feat by getting the car out of a parking space which was smaller than the car itself.
So, since we'd only seen the southern rim of the city the night before, we took a 10 minute walk north, outside the city walls, to a taberna that was supposed to serve "real Cordobese food".
Of course, by this point in our journey I don't have to tell you that it was closed for summer vacation. So to maintain peaceful blood sugar levels Nelson and I walked 10 minutes back to our original departure point and she had the standard breakfast tostada: toasted bread, crushed tomatoes, olive oil, and salt. And cafe con leche.
And then we went to lunch at Taberna Luque, which was mwah, "just ok". The place was cute, everything was tasty, carefully prepared (I had bacalao, Nelson didn't get anything she thought she was ordering), the service was a bit obsessive-compulsive in a borderline endearing way, but compared to Madrid and San Sebastian it was kind of an overpriced tourist lunch.
Then we started to leave. Córdoba also features some of the smallest streets in Europe, especially if you're driving an Opel station wagon. But that wasn't why we couldn't leave. We couldn't leave because we had to see the Mosquito.
Which we, mmm, kind of saw. The outside of. This is not a picture of it. It was really hot. And we were supposed to be at the beach. The clock was ticking.
So we eventually got on the road.
And soon saw this, to which photos do not do justice. The setting was a rare hazy, semi-overcast moment near Seville, just before a weird-ass storm in fact, when we noticed this unnaturally bright light on the horizon, like, brighter than anything you've ever seen on Earth. Which of course you don't expect to see anywhere, much less out in the middle of nowhere, but then as you get closer you realize the light is coming from what looks like a lighthouse, and you see that it's bright enough to be casting what looks like a glowing ring of light on the ground that you can see in the daytime.
OK, well, it really looked alien. Some pretty quick Googling revealed that the source of the light is indeed not of this earth.
And then we went through this five-minute storm that was totally scary. It was also a bit "Hollywood/alien phenomenon", in that: I was driving, the road ahead looked ominously gray, and so Nelson took a look at the weather online, which probably used up most of her 30mb roaming data limit, and the following conversation occurred:
"That's weird," she murmured half to herself in that preoccupied, kind-of-Hollywood way that is followed by a long enough pause to where the listening person has to first keep doing what they've been doing for two or three seconds, then silently look over at the person who spoke, wait one whole second and then say: "What?"
Nelson: "Well...(frowning)...it says....it says the temperature here right now is 100°F (she was speaking in Celsius though), and...an hour from now it's going to be...80°F. That doesn't make any sense." Me: "Hmm. Verily, woman, that maketh no sense. Probably a computer problem."
And then, well, debris started blowing across the road. Not cows and tractors, but pretty big branches, and tumbleweeds, and big fat raindrops started splatting into the window, and suddenly we were in a Georgia or Florida style afternoon thunderstorm, complete with some impressive lightning. At some point when I wasn't squinting through the downpour, I looked down at the car's external temperature gauge and it said 65°F. Spooky.
Anyway, we survived, and eventually we saw this from our hotel room window in Zahara.
This is an often-NSFW, mostly gluten-free kitchen notebook that also occasionally threatens to turn into something else and fails, thus remaining its same old cryptic and superficial self. These posts begin to fail to explain (start at the bottom).