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Budapest 1991

1.32

April 1991, Budapest

One sign of the times in Budapest was the dismantling of signs of the old regime. In this case it was done via the street signs, reverting to the pre-communist names (I suppose).
Budapest soviet communist street name

Another typical sign of the times was the sale of Soviet paraphernalia. Though by this time there was already an industry producing fake stuff, so you couldn't always be sure it was real.
Budapest soviet era souvenirs

Actually, if you look really hard in the right hand binocular, you can see me - dressed in my travel gear: leather jacket, jeans and walking boots.
binoculars budapest reflection


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The 15-minute blog post.
I like to blog, but I can't afford to spend a lot of time on it. Solution: limit myself to 15 minutes per post.
One link, one picture maximum [oops, not always then!].
All comments, critiques and corrections are welcome. Thank you.

Heaven and Hell in Antwerp

The Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp (Belgium) took one hundred and sixty-nine years to build (yes, 169 years!), and building stopped in 1521. In a modern city, its size and intricacy still impresses, so just imagine how it might have looked to a peasant arriving from a village, where a two storey house is already a significant achievement.

The point of the cathedral, just like huge skyscrapers and malls nowadays, was a reminder of the who has the power in the social system, and an invitation to come in and contribute towards the collective building of common value systems. Think of the Petronas Towers and how they are seen as representing Malaysia and the achievements of Mahathir's Barisan Nasional government.

Literacy was rare in those days, and masses were in Latin. So, you may ask, how did people learn about the religion then? Good question, and you can take it as a special assignment and come back tomorrow with an answer ;-P ...

OK - I don't know, I suppose there must have been some portion of the mass that was in the vernacular, the sermon I suppose. Which would leave it open for the priest to interpret the liturgy and the scriptures in whichever way he felt was most appropriate.

The tympanum is the hemispheric portion above the door; and for an illiterate looking closely at it, there are clear messages to take home. I read recently (can't remember where) that only 10% of European medieval children lived to the age of ten years old, death was omnipresent, and the promise of Heaven and the threat of Hell were probably the main tools of religious instruction. On this tympanum, the message is carved out clearly.
Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp tympanum

At the top sits the ruler, Jesus - who is also God according to Christians - sits at the top. On his right hand, you can see those who are chosen for eternal life and to the left are those consigned to damnation.
Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp tympanum

below him, the Archangel Michael (or Gabriel) holds the scales of justice and wields an unyielding sword. Below him is a monk with a skull, dunno who he is.

On the Archangel's left side, the despair and fear of those who were rejected is clear
Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp tympanum

and we even have Satan, or a demon, grabbing the hair of a condemned sinner
Continue reading "Heaven and Hell in Antwerp"

Chez Vincent - Brussels restaurant

Wow I haven't blogged for almost two weeks! Actually, I was in Belgium for a week - it was my mother's 70th birthday, and we surprised her by all turning up for lunch. There are six of us children in all, and she only knew that my sister was taking her out to lunch. I guess I was probably the biggest surprise of all, seeing as she thought I was in Malaysia :-) Anyway, thanks to my brother for paying for the ticket, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to go.

We had a very nice meal in a typical Belgian restaurant called Chez Vincent; it's located in the 'Rue des Bouchers' area near the Grand Place - this is a warren of small streets packed with restaurants and some bars. Chez Vincent itself is somewhat upmarket I think, but serving the standard dishes of steak, cod, waterzooi, mussels, and so on…

It has a very nice décor, in particular the murals that were done around 1920, using tiles
chez vincent brussels tile mural

The amount of work that must have gone into the tiling is huge, it has to be all planned in advance, then each colour has to be fired separately
chez vincent brussels tile mural

You enter the restaurant through the kitchen (I always find it reassuring to see the kitchen :-))
chez vincent brussels tile mural

The tiling was done by the Maison Helman, as you can see …
chez vincent brussels tile mural

It's been there for about 90 years now!

Their specialty is mussels - but I'm not such a fan of mussels. As it was the hunting season, there was some game available – “Râble de lièvre, sauce crème ou sauce poivrade” (hare stew, I think) and “Suprême de faisan fine Champagne, pommes pins” (pheasant). I chose the pheasant, with a sauce ‘fine Champagne’. It was very tasty, I had a recollection of pheasant as being somewhat gamey, but this was nice – more like turkey than chicken, but along those lines. It came with a baked apple topped with some berries.
chez vincent brussels pheasant

I dunno if it had anything to do with the game, but the knife I was given was a La Guiole knife; these are very good clasp knives, often used by hunters (those who can afford it, otherwise they get an Opinel). This one is not a clasp knife, but one made for the table, it looks the same but you can't close it.

It was not cheap, expect your dishes to start at 20 euros and go up from there, but it was good quality, very tasty, and in a unique environment. The service was fine, but the waiter got a tad confused with the orders after we changed places – I think he remembered the order by seating place, not by the person.

Indulge in the Uniquely Singapore experience

I love travelling, and have blogged about hitchhiking to Romania, drinking coffee in Laos, a room with a view in Provence, beers in Belgium, being a tourist in KL, shop signs in Kuching, a sunrise in Kelantan, clouds over Phuket, and a cute devil in Tasmania.

Somehow, although I've been to Singapore a number of times, I've never blogged about it :-| Maybe because my trips were normally work-related, or quick day trips?

Nuffnang & Uniquely Singapore are offering tickets to the Nuffnang Asia-Pacific Blog Awards ceremony, and an "exclusive Uniquely Singapore experience", which sounds intriguing :-). But they want to know why I should be given this special opportunity to experience Singapore: for me, I would like to have the chance to discover more of its history and hidden secrets, and blog about what makes Singapore truly unique.

Singapore is a 21st century multicultural metropolis, steeped in the trading history of ancient Asian and colonial empires - it is discovered slowly, its different shades revealing themselves in the rich nuances that make up the character of this hidden gem of Asian culture and history. Inhabited for at least 1800 years, from the 7th to the 13th century it was part of the great Srivijaya Empire, and from 1819 onwards it grew rapidly under the British Empire. Known as an island city, it is sometimes difficult to see the history amongst the skyscrapers and the shopping malls, and to forget that it has natural areas of natural beauty too.

For my dream day in Singapore, I would want to start early with a Peranakan breakfast - perhaps Otak toast. While it’s still cool, I would explore the park around the MacRitchie Reservoir, established in 1860...
macritchie reservoir singapore

check out the Treetop Walk, enjoy the nature...
fauna flora macritchie reservoir singapore

and dream of finding the elusive Yamashita Gold :-)

For lunch, the 19th century Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, now a marvelously restored national heritage site known as 'Chimes', would give me a choice of fusion dining venues. To digest my light lunch, I could stroll around the cloisters, and view the stained glass windows in the restored chapel.
chijmes singapore

In the afternoon, tired of walking, the Singapore Sightseeing Pass which has unlimited access to hop-on, hop-off bus and boat tours looks ideal. I think I'd focus on the HiPPO River Cruise: Singapore was always first and foremost a naval city, which breathed the monsoon wind. A global city before globalisation was heard of.

Seeing Singapore from the river would bring back the perspective that the sailors and weary travellers would have seen, welcoming them from around the world
singapore river scenes

Followed by dinner at one of the relaxed riverside cafés of Boat Quay, and an evening of cocktails and jazz
boat quay singapore

To finish a perfect day, I would luxuriate in the sumptuous comfort of the Golden Chersonese Suite of Raffles Hotel,
raffles hotel singapore

drifting into happy dreams and fond memories of the day when I was truly able to...



Pictures under CreativeCommons licenses, credits to: arti47, Eustaquio Santimano, mgrenner57, mjmyap, madaboutasia, Rojina, RWM, The Shopping Sherpa, tuis

Australia - 'England-upon-Mediterranean'?

One thing I often say when I am describing my impressions of Australia, is that it's kind of like 'England-upon-Mediterranean'. By that I mean that it feels kind of like England - the buildings, the language, the shops, the queues, and so on - but it's sunny! And there's good food and wine :-) The state assembly building is classic 'Empire English' architecture, but there are palm trees in front of it. You can do barbecues in the middle of 'Winter'. And they celebrate Christmas on the beach :-)

It's more than that though: other things happen that remind me I'm on a different continent altogether - I see a black and white bird and I think it's a magpie, but it let's out a melodious squawk and fans its tail feathers and it's most definitely not a magpie! The trees and plants are nearly all different, even an ant I saw yesterday at the bus stop looked different to any I've seen before. The sky is blue, the night sky is full of stars and you can see the clouds drifting off over a large land mass inland.

Talking of bus stops, another difference here (though this is somewhat like UK), is that the bus drivers are friendly. They say good morning to you, or 'G'day mate', when you get on the bus, and of course people respond; many people getting off the bus will call out "Thank you driver!", or some variety of that. People in shops, or wherever, are helpful and friendly, and will try to help you out.

OK it ain't perfect, no doubt if I lived here I would meet grumpy Aussies, and encounter dense bureaucrats as there are anywhere. But generally Australians do a good job of making a nice social environment to spend time in.

One thing that was not so nice was the Friday-night-when-everyone-is-pissed experience in town. That also reminded me of the UK but not in a good way. Anyone who has lived in the UK will surely know that feeling when you are going home late at night and there are loads of noisy drunk people around; of course most of them are just having a good time, but I've seen too many fights and problems happen in those situations to ever feel at ease - unless I'm drunk enough myself of course! :-P

Anyway, generally it's very nice here and, as they say 'No worries!' :-)

Brisbane, Internet studies, malls

I’m feeling a bit lost without my camera, which is interesting as it says something about how important pictures have become for my blogging. For most of my posts, the process is like this: I load pictures (of a blogmeet, a place I’ve been, food I’ve eaten...) onto my computer, delete the ones that are no good, then do a simultaneous process of choosing which ones to use for a blog post and how I will tie them together with words... So now, without pictures, I have change my way of writing posts.

Anyway, I’m still very busy so I’ll just do little stream-of-consciousness thing :-)

I’m in Brisbane right now - attending the OII Summer Doctoral Programme, hosted by the Creative Industries Faculty at Queensland University of Technology (QUT): basically, 30 PhD students from various disciplines who study the internet have been brought together, we are given seminars by luminaries from Internet Studies and explain our PhDs to each other. In other words, it’s perfect for me and I am thanking my lucky stars (maybe the Southern Cross? :-P) for being here. It’s tiring, but good.

Talking about lucky stars, the reason I don’t have a camera is that WW’s car was broken into and her bag stolen; and then I was loaned a camera to come here, but the card decided to die on me...

Brisbane is very nice! The public transport is great (the buses have their own roads!), people are friendly and helpful (though the Australians tend to mumble/swallow their words a bit - which I find difficult to follow), food is good, and you can even get a decent curry laksa! Another thing that struck me is that there are many local public libraries, and there was even one in a mall that I went to yesterday. Now that strikes me as a useful function for a mall! There was also a Post Office in the mall. I don’t think that happens in Malaysia: I think that every mall should be required to fund some public services too - they could have a post office, a health clinic, a police station (may be more complicated), a library, a children’s crèche, an arts centre... Not all of these necessarily, but at least a couple. When you think of it - all that money is spent on malls and for what? So people can spend money and give profits to (mostly) big shop owners and property developers. Not to say there isn’t a social benefit in that too, but malls have become such an important focus of life that is almost completely dedicated to one narrow realm of our social life - the buying of material goods.

I’m here for one more week and will try to update more frequently.
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