Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sunny Sunday in London...

This morning, we went to see people running Flora London 2009 marathon and to cheer our friend, but unless you are a banana-man or beerbottle-man... you run as anonymous! According to the statistics, there were about ~34,500 people running and if you consider the width of London streets...
After watching people sweating their life out, we went to London bridge to meet with friends, have a well deserved lunch (we had to wake up early to watch people running) and wander through Wapping. Coincidently, we have discovered the “Wapping Project”. It is an old power station converted to a alternative coffee/restaurant place with exhibition and performance space. The setting and the exhibition itself were very original and different from the “usual” modern art (as far as modern art can be usual).
At 5PM, we had a choice of walking back to London Bridge (approximately 1 hour), or walk by the river to Greenwich (approximately 3 hours) and catch a train home from there. Guess what we choose...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter in St. Goarshausen by Coach

Yes, there is no typo in the title, it was by coach (bus). Isn't it exciting? NO!
Let's go 3 month back: I was on a business trip to Reading and while sitting on a bus I saw an advertisement of that trip. Since Alyona was moaning about living in Europe and not visiting Germany, I thought it is a perfect present for her birthday: a long weekend in Germany. And since the trip is going to be by coach, we will have a chance to see landscapes of Rhine valley rather than airport lounges, or so I thought...
Fast forward to the present: we were picked up on the streets of Eltham (15 minutes on a bus from where we live) at 6:30AM by a shuttle full of pensioners. At first, the driver did not want to let us in, and my guess is because we were too young compared to the rest of the passengers. Anyway, after 45 minutes drive to Dartfort, we changed to a main coach service (from New Castle). Now, don't get me wrong, going with pensioners is not as bad as it may sound. Actually, I was afraid that it will be with a bunch of drunken football hooligans or hooded yobs. Anyway, older generation tend to be more punctual, polite and intelligent, and if you play by the rules (their rule, including sing along 50s songs on a way back to UK) you could have a time of your lifetime. Anyway, to cut the story shorter, that day (14 hours) we crossed 5 countries: UK, ferry to France, then Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany. And after all that, we ended up on the wrong side of the Rhine river...
St. Goarshausen is a gorgeous, tiny medieval town on a bank of Rhine river. On arrival, we checked in to a traditional Bavarian hotel (Hotel Pohl's Rheinhotel Adler), our home for the next 3 days. The hotel is based opposite the ferry, which can take you to St. Goar, but that is quite irrelevant as the whole town can be crossed in 10-15 minutes. For those who do not know, that area (middle/lower Rhine) is famous for its wine; vineyards are literal everywhere! The town is between two hills (or mountains) where Burg Katz (some say that twin Burg Katz towers resemble ears of a cat) and Burg Maus castles are. There are hiking trails around both of castles and I suggest to pop in to the tourist information centre located next to the ferry (or the police station) for a free map, information and guidance. We opted to climb the route to Burg Maus, have a walk around it and then through a potato field to an even smaller village of Nochern.
On the next (and the last full day in Germany), we took an organised full day tour to Boppard which included boat trip on the Rhine and half a day in Rudesheim am Rhein. The first town, although beautiful, is a tourist trap. I guess it is mainly because it is large enough to appear on a map (something that can not be said about St. Goarshausen) and frequent Kohl boat service which links it to a Koblenz and Mainz. The second, although beautiful, is a tourist trap as well. There is a statue of Germania on a nearby hill, which I recommend visiting (there is a breathtaking views from there). You can get there using a cable lift from the centre of Rudesheim. Couple of hours later, on a way back, we stopped on the Loreley cliff. The legend goes that Loreley was a lovely German maid who used to comb her long, golden hair, sing and lure shipmen to their fates with her hypnotizing voice. That evening, we went to a small vine cellar in the old part of the St. Goarshausen with Fred and Florence (thank you guys for a great company!) to try local Rieslings.
The way back was even longer! Since the tour agency had to make some money, we made a stop at the Belgian chocolate “factory” and French wine “warehouse”, both run by British. As Fred said “time is a great healer and memory short”, so looking back it was not that bad (although I didn't think that when sitting on a coach with 12 hour ahead of us). Well, maybe next time we will either drive there ourselfs or take a train (both St. Goar and St. Goarshausen are well connected).
Check out our photo album at


Friday, April 10, 2009

Recipe: Creamy Tomato Soup

Couple of months ago, I have discovered a wonderful “Creamy Tomato Soup” (Check out the photo album at recipe on the BBC website ( and it was a huge success! I've made some “improvements” to suit my taste, so let's cook a little bit more...

For this recipe. we will need:
  • 1 kg of ripe tomatoes
  • 1 large potato
  • 1-2 small/medium carrots
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 1 litre of vegetarian stock
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 100 ml double cream
  • Spices (salt, peper, paprika and 1-2 bay leave)
First of all, if you don't have vegetarian stock ready, boil 1 litre of water, add 2-3 stock cubes and let it stand. Meanwhile, chop everything into even pieces...
Now, heat olive oil in cooking pan. Make sure you don't burn it as it will loose all the taste and healthy qualities it has (the trick is to heat it on the medium heat for longer period). Add spices and all vegetables, except tomatoes, and cook them on a medium/low heat for about 5-10 minutes. When they are soft, add tomatoes and cook for additional 10-15 minutes. I used to shake the cooking pot every now and then to make sure everything cooked evenly. When all the vegetables are soft, add the stock, bring it to boil, reduce the heat to medium/low, cover and cook for about 30 minutes, stiring from time to time. At the end of cooking the tomatoes will have broken down and be very slushy looking.
Uncover the soup (careful with the steam) and let it stand for 10-15 minutes to cool. Now, ladle the soup into the blender until it is about ¼ full (fill it with a mixture of cooked vegetables and the stock). Do not shorten the process by filling in more as you will burn yourself with the hot soup and then spend the next hour cleaning the walls (I did)! Blitz until the soup is smooth (about 20-30 seconds). Carefully pour the purée from the blender into a separate dish and repeat the process with the rest of the soup.
Now, to the last bit. Pour the puréed soup back into the pan and reheat it over a medium heat for a few minutes, add double cream and stirring occasionally until you can see bubbles breaking gently on the surface.
Bonn Appetite!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Recipe: Dad Leon's Chicken in a Bag

Today, we will try to recreate a magnificent Dad Leon's Chicken in the Bag recipe. It is a very healthy and aromatic dish as it is baked in its own juices (no oil or butter required). As before, you can check out the slideshow before we start to have an idea what the dish will be.
For that we will need:
  • 5-6 Chicken Legs
  • 4-5 Large Potatoes
  • 2 Celery Sticks
  • 2 Small/Medium Carrots
  • 1 Small Red Onion
  • Spices (Red and Black Pepper, Salt, Garlic Powder and Bay Leaves)
The recipe is as easy as it is tasty. Dice everything (well, except chicken and the spices), stuff it in the oven bag (also known as roasting bag) and put in the preheated oven (200C) for 1 hour. A word of advice, don't get shy with red pepper (paprika).
Carefully, remove the roasting bag from the oven, untie it and let it stand for a minute or two to let the steam escape. That's it!
Bonn Appetite!