• Checked Off My Bucket List: Colonia del Sacramento

    Previously…
    Colonia del Sacramento or simply Colonia is the oldest town in Uruguay.

    Day tours to Colonia available for purchase in Argentina from a variety of sources such as Buquebus include a round-trip on a ferry, a dinner, a tour and transportation around the city. There is not much of a tour (luckily our guide was fluent in English), dinner is average and the transportation is hardly necessary – the historic part of town is perfectly walkable and is close enough to the port. The big difference is the ferry: a newer ferry can make the trip across the river in one hour and the older one takes 3 hours. Since we bought our trip the night before, the faster, more expensive boat was sold out so we took the three-hour tour. My suggestion would be to get on the faster ferry if possible, forgo the dinner and the tour, and explore the town and find food on your own.
    The ferry is nice and comfortable and due to a sell-out we were upgraded to the first class seats automatically and for free. Interestingly, at the passport control in both ports the Argentinian and Uruguayan border officials are sitting side-by-side, stamping your passport with both exit and entry stamps (no visa is required for the US citizens), so you don’t have to go through the procedure again upon arrival.

    If you have a free day in your itinerary, I would highly recommend a trip to Colonia. There is something charming (I am pretty sure this is the first and likely the last time the word charming  is used on this blog) about this town with old cobblestone streets leading to the river; with brightly painted ancient buildings; with a weird mix of trees lining the streets where palms, cacti, and aloes are just as common as European varieties; with numerous restaurants and souvenir shops; with antique cars parked on the streets just for looks, and even nicely preserved Soviet cars. Colonia beckons you to wonder around, explore, take photos, see the sunset, have a coffee at one of the outdoor tables near a restaurant, or just relax watching the boats on the river. On the day we visited Colonia the weather changed from overcast to rain to sunny and the following photos reflect that. Overall, it was probably the most enjoyable side-trip during our visit to Argentina.

    Argentinian Navy

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  • Russian Caricature Of The Day: Traditional Swedish Recipe

    Recent IKEA meatball news hit me hard. I’ve been a fan since the first time I’ve tried them years ago. And even though I stopped buying IKEA meatballs when my kid decided to stop eating pork, it’s still pretty sad. Not that I care about eating horse meat,  I am sure I unknowingly ate it more than once during my lifetime. If anything, this proves my long-held belief that we get too much information about the food we eat, with all the ingredient lists and nutrition tables. What we don’t know doesn’t hurt us.

    This caricature is by Sergei Yelkin – a Russian cartoonist whose blog I’ve been following for years. I just translated the labels to share with the English-speaking audience. If you would like to see the original Russian version, please click here.

    Traditional Swedish Recipe.

    Traditional Swedish Recipe.©Sergei Yelkin

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  • Jewish Music:Then And Now

    This may be of interest to my 3.5 Jewish readers.

    Few days ago Venus mentioned klezmer-punk band Golem in one of  her posts. I looked up few of their videos and one song sounded vaguely familiar:

    This is their take on the famous Yiddish song Rumania, Rumania originally composed and performed by Aaron Lebedeff. It just happened that the same day I was watching  “The Komediant”  – a documentary about a world famous Yiddish actor Pesachke Burstein. The movie mentioned that his son – Mike Burstyn grew up among famous Jewish performers and that Aaron Lebedeff himself taught Mike to sing “Rumania” while he was still in the stroller. The DVD included this version of “Rumania” performed by Mike Burstyn and Bruce Adler:

    You can pick your own favorite, personally I didn’t care for the punk version. Not everything can be punked up.

    If you made it this far, here is a bonus list of words that you may have heard before but didn’t know where they came from. By the way, the word “Shrek” means “monster” in Yiddish.

    But wait! If you made it this far you must really be a fan of Yiddish and Jewish music. Enjoy:

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  • The Podunk Effect

    A while ago I was driving through Williamsburg,KS and stopped just long enough to take few photos for my blog. I didn’t write anything especially mean or disparaging, just my usual semi-ironic travel remarks. Then I got a few comments like this:

    Wow! Do you get your jollies by going around and finding the worst in every place you go? How sad! Did you bother to look at our new Library or the nice Community building or our school or the many nice houses or the new museum building? I pity you if all you see when you go through a community is the worst – and every community has some. We do have a great community – sure we’re struggling to stay alive – What small town isn’t. But we take care of each other, oh, why am I trying to explain anything to someone like you?

    This is what I call a Podunk Effect. Every other town in this country has a library, a school and a great community. It’s the rest of the stuff that makes a place unique, even if it’s a rusty truck, broken-down gazebo or an old sign. Podunk Effect makes you want to prove that your town is much much better than some visiting idiot made it out to be, even though the visitor is long gone and will probably never be back. He didn’t do his research, didn’t shake hands, didn’t sign your museum’s guestbook, and now everyone will see your awesome town as a giant pile of rusted metal and construction trash. Podunk Effect makes you boil with anger and leave angry comments on the offender’s site to set him straight.

    Recently an enormous case of Podunk Effect hit Kansas City, when a snarky article about the life of a vegetarian New-Yorker in Midwest was published in the New York Times.

    But make no mistake: meat-loving is one stereotype that the region wears with pride. Lard still plays a starring role in many kitchens, bacon comes standard in salads, and perhaps the most important event on Kansas City social calendars is a barbecue contest.

    – blasphemed the alleged heretic (none of it untrue) inadvertently creating a tsunami of righteous outrage.

    “How dare he! What does he mean by “meat-loving stereotype”? Lettuce is a vegetable!”

    One chef and refuter wrote:

    My first reaction to the article was confusion. My second reaction was to laugh. My third reaction was anger.

    My first reaction to her post was doubt – do people really have three separate reactions in a row?
    My second reaction was to wonder – what was the length of time in which these three reactions occurred? Was it really fast like “I am confused! Ha-ha! Boo!” or did every stage take some time, maybe an hour or more?
    My third reaction was amazement – did I just have three reactions in a row? Awesome!

    The problem with the NYT article is not the lack of research, or the author taking an easy route of propagating old stereotypes instead of portraying Kansas City as an oasis of vegetarianism in Midwest. The problem is the Pavlovian defensive reaction the article prompted on twitter, blogs, Facebook and even in the local paper, reaction which  just like a hurricane in a glass of water is pretty irrelevant in the scheme of things.

    Because I went to college I will use a Venn diagram to illustrate my point.

    All the reactions, comments, blog posts and rebuttals are staying here, with an exception of maybe this short note on the New York Magazine’s site, where one succinct comment expressed how most New Yorkers feel about Kansas City.

    Here is one headline you will never see in print: “New Yorkers are outraged about an unfair article about New York City published in the KC Star“. New Yorkers don’t need our or anyone else’s approval and acknowledgement, so why do we have to get hysterical and make everyone love us just like a podunk Williamsburg,KS? Until we drop small town mentality and just do our thing whether it’s eating meat or tofu, we will always suffer from the lack of self-respect as the city.
    No one is flying in here for the local vegetarian smorgasbord, it exists mostly for the people who live here and their occasional meat-hating guest. And, to be fair, the meat-loving stereotype served this city well, financially as well as being known as the BBQ capital of the world in the rest of the world. Recently I watched a clip of a Russian show where a lady presented a host with several bottles of the Kansas City BBQ sauce (ironically with all-vegetarian ingredients). That’s not a bad thing to be famous for.
    One thing this city needs to learn from New York: when you say or do something that a New Yorker doesn’t like, he will show you a finger and move on.

    We just need to learn to move on. But not before showing the finger.

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  • Old Photos: St. Benedict’s Abbey

    These photos were taken in 1955 at the St. Benedict’s Abbey, Atchison, KS.

    The Rule of Saint Benedict (Regula Benedicti) is a book of precepts written by St. Benedict of Nursia for monks living communally under the authority of an abbot. Since about the 7th century it has also been adopted by communities of women. During the 1500 years of its existence, it has become the leading guide in Western Christianity for monastic living in community for many Catholic Orders, and in Orthodoxy (since The Great Schism), and the Anglican Church (since the time of the Reformation).
    The spirit of St Benedict’s Rule is summed up in the motto of the Benedictine Confederation: pax (“peace”) and the traditional ora et labora (“pray and work”).

    Praying hands of monk churchman resting on table during mass at St. Benedicts Abbey.

    Praying hands of monk churchman resting on table during mass at St. Benedict's Abbey.

    Holy water is sprinkled on praying monks by Father Theodore, the prior of St. Benedicts Abbey, at the days last service.

    Holy water is sprinkled on praying monks by Father Theodore, the prior of St. Benedict's Abbey, at the day's last service.

    Novices being received into the order at St. Benedict's Abbey where they will prepare to take vows for the priesthood.

    Novices being received into the order at St. Benedict's Abbey where they will prepare to take vows for the priesthood.

    Priest elevating host and performing other functions of mass at St. Benedicts Abbey.

    Priest elevating host and performing other functions of mass at St. Benedict's Abbey.

    Monks outside monastery, at St. Benedict's Abbey.

    Monks outside monastery, at St. Benedict's Abbey.

    Monks praying before meal, at St. Benedict's Abbey.

    Monks praying before meal, at St. Benedict's Abbey.

    Monks cleaning windows of the monastery's sacristy, two young clerics exemplify St. Benedict's ruling that all be employed in the work, and that then are the monks in truth if they live by the work of their hands.

    Monks cleaning windows of the monastery's sacristy, two young clerics exemplify St. Benedict's ruling that all be employed in the work, and that then are the monks in truth if they live by the work of their hands.

    Here is the rest of the set and a more contemporary set.

    Note: I will delete all comments I find offensive so don’t waste your time.

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