Friday, March 30, 2012

BOOK REVIEW - A Boy in a Suitcase - Kaaberbol & Friis

Nina is a women with a passion to save those less fortunate for himself, even if this means that her own family incurrs a huge cost, monetarily or personally. She is asked to do a favour for an old friend which she finds difficult to refuse. Unfortunately, this leads to deadly consequences and the discovery of a small boy in a place where the title of the book suggests. Where did he come from? Should she go straight to the police? Nina has worked in Africa and in refugee camps and has seen how children returned to the very parents who sold them in the first place, for rich childless couples in the west, or for other less palatable reasons, sell them once again for a higher bid. Thus, she is hell bent on saving this young boy from a simliar fate.

I have just finished reading A Boy in a Suitcase - by Lene Kaaberbol & Agnete Friis and can say that I was pleasantly surprised. I had not heard of these authors before and discovered them when reading several reviews on this book by other Nordic reviewers. Some commenters on those bloggers reviews felt that the authors had crossed a line when they wrote about abuse/crime involving children, however, the child is NOT the victim of sexual abuse in this story, and the actual crime comprises very little of what the story is about. 

"Socially aware,"Dorthe from says of the book, and it does have great descriptions to enhance the reader's viual imagery such as the detailed accounts of the gestures, grimaces and small movements of the characters, and the implications of them. 

More intriguing is the purpose and goal of this crime, and it was this that I found engaging, as the reader can early  on, ascertain the more likely suspects from the list of characters. The novel also gives readers an interesting insight into Eastern Europe and the lifestyle of the past generations. 

Certain elements of the ending confounded me, however, but perhaps I have watched too many American police or forensic shows where the crime is reconstructed to check the accuracy of the reports of those involved, to be wholly accepting of the dismissive actions of the women in the final scenes. 

I would ask the author why she chose to end the story that way. Did she have a limit on the size of the book, because I can see it taking a few more frustrating chapters to sort out the mess they had made.....

Summing up:
The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis

The Good: Wonderful descriptions and characters, great to find a new series with a new heroine.
The Bad:    The casual and somewhat abrupt ending and resolution - little irritating
The Ugly:   Reasons for a child trafficking/smuggling trade become all too salient.

Rating 3 out of 5


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Time for Decorative painting a.k.a. Folk Art

 The school needs some help with crafts  - could I help them out? I've dragged out my brushes and got inspired. Some of these items have been in my craft cupboard, I am ashamed to say, for five years! High time for them to have a new life, and this helps the school a little.

The little plaques read "Mum's cafe - Open 24 hours!"

These simple daisies and violets are a combination of drybrushing and stippling. No intensive stroke work needed here.The photo frame's backgroup is sponged with Green oxide and warm white tints.
I used Jo sonja's Gouache and Brilliant Violet, Ultramarine blue, Pine Green and Warm white. The roses were a combination of Red Violet Burgundy and Warm white. Green Oxide for the rose leaves.

A parent always needs a wooden spoon, for cooking, of course!

I have two free folk art and Rosemaling projects on my website:
 But I will upload a small pattern here if you are frightened of doing these patterns freehand.

Grab some paint and a brush and start decorating useful household objects. It will brighten your home and unleash your creativity. Set up can cost as little as $10.00.
 I use some paper towel dampened and wrapped in greaseproof paper  for a cheap disposable palette.

Copyright Amanda McLaughlin 2012
I will be pondering about how many of you will be tempted to try the above design... It is fairly simple. Breathe and Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fermented and sour milk products in Australia

The Confusing array of Fermented Milk products:
Fil milk

Can one find dairy products other than milk and yoghurts in Australia?  A big ask I think as these products can be confined to certain areas of the world, like Scandinavia, where they have been traditionally eaten.
For example: A -fil is commonly found in parts of Sweden and Norway. It is a little like a yoghurt drink, but less tarty and sour. It is beautiful on Muesli, and cereals, and as a dessert with berries. In Scandinavia, you can even get flavoured varieties, particularly berry flavoured a-Fil. 

Not only is this soured milk extremely good for you, because of its calcium content, it is also good for one's digestion, due to the beneficial bacteria it contains.Whilst trying to determine whether these products were available here, I was able to ascertain some interesting information coalesced in the following blog entry.

A food forum claims that if a recipe calls for sour milk, the translation of 'Fil' one could use buttermilk ( which although thought to be particularly fatty, is not). Alternatively, one can sour 3/4 cup ordinary milk with 1 tsp of apple vinegar or white vinegar, or lemon juice. Let stand for 5 minutes the writer claims.

 Wiki provides us with a different explanation:
Filmjölk (also known as fil or the older word surmjölk) is a Nordic dairy product, similar to yoghurt, but using different bacteria which give a different taste and texture.
It can also be described as a mesophilic fermented milk product that is made by fermenting cow's milk with a variety of bacteria from the species Lactococcus lactis and Leuconostoc mesenteroides.[2][3] The bacteria metabolize lactose, the sugar naturally found in milk, into lactic acid which means people who are lactose intolerant can consume filmjölk. The acid gives filmjölk a sour taste and causes proteins in the milk, mainly casein, to coagulate, thus thickening the final product. The bacteria also produce a limited amount of diacetyl, which gives filmjölk its characteristic taste.[4] Filmjölk is similar to cultured buttermilk, kefir, or yoghurt in consistency, but fermented by different bacteria and thus has a slightly different taste. Compared with yoghurt, filmjölk tastes less sour. In Sweden, it is normally sold in 1-liter packages with live bacteria.

In Nordic countries, filmjölk is commonly eaten during breakfast or as a snack between meals in the same manner as yoghurt, usually from a bowl with a spoon. It can be drunk but is not normally done so since the liquid is fairly thick. Filmjölk is often eaten with breakfast cereal, muesli or crushed crisp bread on top. Since plain filmjölk tastes somewhat sour, many people add sugar, jam, apple sauce, cinnamon, ginger, fruits, and/or berries. In Norwegian it is called surmelk (new Norwegian: surmjølk) (sourmilk) but the official name is kulturmelk (new Norwegian: kulturmjølk).

Manufactured filmjölk is made from pasteurised, homogenised, and standardised cow's milk. Although home made filmjölk has been around for a long time (written records from the 18th century speak of filmjölk-like products, but it has probably been around since the Viking Age or longer),[5] it was first introduced to the Swedish market as a consumer product in 1931 by the Swedish dairy cooperative Arla, who have a large factory in below pictured Danish town of Christiansfeld. From here, they freight these milk products far and wide, even to America.

IN 1984, Arla produced A-Fil, (the product in question), a Filmjölk with Lactobacillus acidophilus, a commonly used probiotic bacteria. Comes unflavoured and flavoured. Strawberry appears to be the most popular flavour.

To make filmjölk, a small amount of bacteria from an active batch of filmjölk is normally transferred to pasteurised milk and then left one to two days to ferment at room temperature or in a cool cellar. The fil culture is needed when using pasteurised milk because the bacteria occurring naturally in milk are killed during the pasteurization process.
A variant of filmjölk called tätmjölk, filtäte, täte or långmjölk is made by rubbing the inside of a container with leaves of certain plants: sundew (Drosera, Swedish: sileshår)[65] or butterwort (Pinguicula, Swedish: tätört).[66][67][68] Lukewarm milk is added to the container and left to ferment for one to two days. More tätmjölk can then be made by adding completed tätmjölk to milk. In Flora Lapponica (1737), Carl von Linné described a recipe for tätmjölk and wrote that any species of butterwort could be used to make tätmjölk.[66]Sundew and butterwort are carnivorous plants that have enzymes that degrade proteins,[69] which make the milk thick. How butterwort influences the production of tätmjölk is not completely understood

Then there is Quark, which is rather like Cottage or Ricotta cheese but made from Soured milk. To clear up the distinctions between all these interesting dairy products, I called on Wikipedia and the source product and location appear to be fundamental in the end product produced! Does this mean that sour milk would not be sour milk if made in Australia? 

Wikipedia states that Quark is:

Quark is a type of fresh cheese, also known as tvorog (from the Russian творог), topfen (from the Austrian name), biezpiens (from Latvian), and varškė (from Lithuanian). It is made by warming soured milk until the desired degree of denaturation of milk proteins is met, and then strained. Dictionaries usually translate it as curd cheese or cottage cheese, although most commercial varieties of cottage cheese are made with rennet, whereas traditional quark is not. It is soft, white and unaged, similar to some types of fromage frais. It is distinct from ricotta because ricotta (Italian: recooked) is made from scalded whey. Quark usually has much lower fat content (about the same as yoghurt) than cream cheeses and has no salt added.

Quark is a member of the acid set cheese group, meaning it is traditionally made without the aid of rennet.[2] In most German dairies today, it is made with rennet.[3] Lactic acid bacteria are added in the form of mesophilic Lactococcus starter cultures. In Germany, the curd is continuously stirred to prevent it from getting hard, resulting in a thick, creamy texture. It has the firmness of sour cream but is slightly drier, resulting in a somewhat crumbly texture (like Italian ricotta), and contains in its basic form about 0.2 % fat. Quark with higher fat content is made by adding cream, and is often sold flavored with herbs, spices, or fruit. It has a very smooth and creamy texture and is slightly sweet (unlike sour cream).
To make the firmer eastern European version, a small amount of rennet may be added to make the curd firmer. Some or most of the whey is removed to standardize the quark to the desired thickness. Traditionally, this is done by hanging the cheese in loosely woven cotton gauze called cheesecloth and letting the whey drip off, which gives quark its distinctive shape of a wedge with rounded edges. In industrial production, however, cheese is separated from whey in a centrifuge and later formed into blocks. The Polish, Lithuanian and Austrian varieties contain less whey and are therefore drier and more solid than varieties common in other countries.
Quark consists of 60% to 80% water. Dry mass has 1% to 40% fat; most of the rest is protein (80% of which is casein), calcium, and phosphate.

Quark is often used in cakes, cheesecakes, and strudels in continental northern Europe. Topfen strudel, found in Austria, and Munich, tastes quite distinctive in this part of the world, and is extremely rich. I could not even finish one slice of the following Topfen strudel cheesecake (with sultanas) sampled recently in Munich.

There there is Kefir, which is found in Norway. Rather unusual, it can be purchased in a starter pack and you can gestate it making Kefir babies!!!
Wiki again helps us out here:

Kefir (pronounced /kəˈfɪər/ kə-feer [2]) (alternately kefīrs, keefir, kephir, kewra, talai, mudu kekiya, milkkefir, búlgaros) is a Probiotic fermented milk drink made with Kefir Grains that originated with shepherds of the North Caucasus region, who discovered that fresh milk carried in leather pouches would occasionally ferment into an effervescent beverage. It is prepared by inoculating cow, goat, or sheep's milk with kefir grains. Traditional kefir was made in skin bags that were hung near a doorway; the bag would be knocked by anyone passing through the doorway to help keep the milk and kefir grains well mixed.[3]
Marco Polo mentions kefir in recounting his travels.[4]
Production of traditional kefir requires a starter community of kefir grains which are added to the liquid one wishes to ferment. Kefir grains cannot be produced from scratch, but the grains grow during fermentation, and additional grains are produced. Kefir grains can be bought from or donated by other growers.
The traditional, or artisanal, method of making kefir is achieved by directly adding kefir grains (2–10%) to milk in a loosely covered acid proof container which is traditionally agitated once or more times a day. It is not filled to capacity, allowing room for some expansion as the kefiran and carbon dioxide gas produced causes the liquid level to rise. If the container is not light proof it should be stored in the dark to prevent degradation of vitamins and inhibition of the culture. After a period of fermentation lasting around 24 hours, ideally at 20–25 °C (68–77 °F), the grains are removed from the liquid by sieving and reserved as the starter for a fresh amount of liquid. The temperature during fermentation is not critical as long as it is not above one that will kill the culture (about 40 °C / 104 °F), or much below 4 °C (39 °F) where the process will cease.
The fermented liquid which contains live microflora from the grain, may now be consumed as a beverage, used in recipes, or kept aside for several days to undergo a slower secondary fermentation which further thickens and sours the liquid. Without refrigeration the shelf life is two to three days. The grains will enlarge in the process of kefir production, and eventually split. Grains can be dried at room temperature or lyophilized (freeze-dried) or frozen.
Kefir can be produced using lyophilized cultures commonly available as a powder from health food shops. A portion of the resulting kefir can be saved to be used a number of times to propagate further fermentations but ultimately does not form grains, and a fresh culture must be obtained.
Kefir grains will successfully ferment the milk from most mammals, and will continue to grow in such milk. Typical milks used include cow, goat, and sheep, each with varying organoleptic and nutritional qualities. Raw milk has been traditionally used.
In addition, kefir grains will ferment milk substitutes such as soy milk, rice milk, and coconut milk, as well as other sugary liquids including fruit juice, coconut water, beer wort and ginger beer. However, the kefir grains may cease growing if the medium used does not contain all the growth factors required by the bacteria.
As it contains yeasts, kefir can be used to make a sourdough bread. It is also useful as a buttermilk substitute in baking. Kefir is one of the main ingredients in Lithuanian cold beet soup šaltibarščiai (Polish chłodnik), commonly known as cold borscht

Which one appeals to you?
Which one can you obtain in your locality?
Which one is best for you?
Something to ponder about.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Kurt Nilsen - Skyfri Himmel - Early performance for Norwegian Idol

Found at
This is what I was listening to this evening and it was a shame that I could not hear the full song, nor understand the full lyrics. This was the start of Kurt Nilsen's career as a singer and my goodness his voice was so round, and full and developed, even at that stage. It is a shame that we don't get to hear more of this incredible voice in my part of the world. If anyone knows what this song is about, beside the basic about a nice carefree time with friends, please let me know, as I will be pondering about it....

Monday, March 19, 2012



The Devil's star  by the Wonderful JO NESBO - Harry HOLE ( hoola) series

 There is a serial killer on the loose in Oslo, but the murders are not sexually motivated. Harry Hole is the only detective with serial killer expertise in the Norwegian police force,  having brought down a killer in Sydney,in what was the first book of the series. ("Bat" published in Norwegian) With Harry Hole on  a downhill spiral of drinking too much booze and insomnia due to his own mental torture of recurring nightmares, arch enemy Tom Waaler heads up the investigative team, however Hole's boss asks unofficially for Harry's help, even though Harry's services are to be terminated in 3 weeks time, because of his failure to turn up for duty on more than one occasion due to his inebriated state.

In true, Harry style, he pursues this killer unofficially, a puzzling crime by someone who has left a trademark red diamond in the shape of a star on each of his victims. Harry has to find the Question to 'why' and not 'how' or 'who', in order to crack the cryptic code the killer has left. Time is running short and Harry is under pressure to find the killer before the fifth victim dies, but is forced to work alongside Waaler.... can he cope?

Touted as the next Stieg Larson, which is in itself, ironic, as Jo was writing and publishing books many years prior to Larson's Millenium trilogy, the reader can expect a  multitude of plot twists and turns in Nesbo's book, and likewise, should expect to be intrigued when the crime is solved only part way through the book. Therefore, one is not surprized when events suddenly take a different turn, and the reader is then led to believe that all that meets the eye is not real.... Nesbo will give you clues, but highly doubtful that most ordinary readers will pick them up. I certainly didn't.

Loved the Devils' Star even though I hated the title. I look forward to the next instalment of Harry's adventure. I could not fault Harry interpretation of events unofficial investigation; Unlike Camilla Lackberg's series, where the detective often bungles the investigation, to this reader's total frustration!)

The good: Fantasticly woven crime thriller story that keeps you guessing
The bad:   The Title - a bit unimaginative I think.....
The Ugly: the severed fingers and what is under the fingernails...
Rating: 4.5 out of 5, only because I find it difficult to give a 5 out of 5 for anything.

Can't wait to start the Redeemer, next in this series.

A few weeks ago, Jo Nesbo was touring Australia and quite openly admitted to taking some scenes in the Leopard "too far. He "regrets this", he said.  He also mentioned that he has a plan to eventuallly kill/retire the Harry Hole character. He knows how he will do it, but not yet when....

Chronology of Harry Hole series translated to English
1. The Redbreast- reviewed here;postID=7000598131250317883
2. Nemesis 
3.The Devil's star
4. Rhe Redeemer - TBR
5. The Snowman - TBR
6. The Leopard   - TBR
7. The Phantom  - TBR

( the "Bat" is the first book in the Harry Hole series but is only now in translation to English)

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Merle' s best recipe so far....

Anzac Biscuits 

Quintessentially Aussie so I have to post the recipe here. Mind you, I cooked them at 180 degrees C... sorry Merle love, my oven is happier working at a higher temperature than yours. Feel free to post what temperature worked for you, if you try  the recipe...

Preheat Oven 170 c


1 cup plain flour,
2 ttsp ground ginger
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup dessicated coconut
1 cup white sugar
 1 tbsp golden syrup
2 tbsp boiling water
1 tsp bicarb soda
160 g butter, melted

1.Sift flour, ginger in a mixing bowl and add coconuts, oasts and sugar. Make a well in the centre
2. Stir in Golden syrup, boiling water and bicard in a small bowl until combined. Add to the dry ingredients, along with the melted butter. Mix well
3. Take heaped teaspoons of mix and roll into small balls. Place on trays and flatten gently. Bake 6-7 minutes ( I baked them for 10 mins)
4. Cool on tray 10 mins til they firm up slightly.

Anzac biscuits are named after the Australian and New Zealand army troops who fought on the side of Britain during WWI. They were slaughtered by the British ( Churchills ) incompetency in the Dardenelles against the Turkish forces and have since achieved saint like status in the minds of Australians and Kiwis. These biscuits keep well for an extended period of time and were sent in tins to the troops fighting in the filthy trenches at Lone Pine and Anzac Cove in Turkey, by the mothers and sweethearts of those brave young men. Mel Gibson immortalised the Anzac soldier's spirit in the 1981 film "Gallipoli".

Every year on 25 April, Australians remember the Anzacs in memorial services in every suburb, in every city in Australia, and it is a national holiday. I would venture to say a sacred day in the consciousness of all Australians.

The supreme sacrifice of those men is truly something to eternally ponder about. "Lest we Forget"

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Oberammagau - Oh my God!!

Statue of Ludwig 1 - the great builder of Munich architecture


Linderhof Palace

Munichers have a strong sense of nationalistic pride and a history buff like me can feel a haunting sadness in this city. Is it just me, or do I detect covert elements of of national socialist sentiments still present in  this very modern fast-paced workaholic environment?  The history of the city with its Greco-roman architecture – the legacy of King Ludwig’s father Maximilian. The son, Ludwig 1 had to abdicate because of Lola Montez 
Footnote from Wiki: Eliza Rosanna Gilbert, Countess of Landsfeld (17 February 1821 – 17 January 1861), better known by the stage name Lola Montez, was an Irish dancer and actress who became famous as a "Spanish dancer", courtesan and mistress of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, who made her Countess of Landsfeld. She used her influence to institute liberal reforms. At the start of the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states, she was forced to flee. She proceeded to the United States via Switzerland, France and London, returning to her work as an entertainer and lecturer. For a time she visited Australia.
Her alleged affairs included not only a Russian Tzar, and Liszt, but also Australian miners, no less.­­ And Ludwig's son, and successor, Ludwig II, went mad and probably committed suicide... and it is his palace that we visit later today.  But first, The bus drove up Maximillian strasse ( with its designer schiki mikke stores) and then Ludwig Strasse (named after the first Ludwig) and saw the state Library, Ludwigs' church, and the University. Also Michael, the bestest bus driver, stopped briefly outside St Peter’s church where the bones of some Saint were venerated in Gold!!!
Dindl and accompanying scarf = 205 Euro

Traditions in Germany
Instead of speaking of Santa bearing gifts at Xmas time, they might ask, "What will the Christ child (Christkindl) bring you?" Krupesch is the helper who comes knocking at the door. In years gone by, he would ask the children if they had been good during the year, and if so, he would give them a gift, and if not, the children might be rewarded with a whack with Krumpesh’s stick on their behind. This Christmas tradition is also found in Austria, and some young children today, are scared witless, such that they hide under the table. 

Traditions are not forgotten as many women will attend Christmas or special events wearing the Dindl, but as with other national costumes, they are notoriously expensive: A dindl scarf costing 205 Euro but it will last forever!!

Deeply proud, righteously religious, abrupt, hardworking, food with lots of cream are some of the words used to generalize about these people. A sense of superiority pervades their mindset and this is no more apparent than in the  architecture, grandiose buildings reminiscent of Greco-Roman empires. Bavaria has been a separate state for 800 years. This trickles through the Bayern consciousness even now. In Victualmarkt, several group members had been reprimanded severely for touching items on display. The sign, in German, was too verbose to be clearly understood. A central maypole is usually seen here too, but this was taken down, due to rot!!! We saw the remnants sawn through, on our morning stroll the day before. Normally it is painted blue and white, the nationalistic colours of Bavaria. The German eagle watches suspiciously over all in his field of vision.

Allotments are a way of life here, especially for apartment dwellers. Surprisingly for Germany, Frankfurt allotments were rather untidy, but here in Bavaria, the have been maintained to a good standard. The famland around Munchen are clearly postcard picturesque. In efficient German style they are neat and tidy, and green rolling hills are a predominant feature. Swiss style housing can be seen in Bayern, surrounds as well as old barns ( still neat and tidy ) with a tiled roof. The Bayern/ typically swiss cantilever balcony in wood also feature heavily, with whitewashed walls and timber fretwork shutters and timber -framed top storeys.

Germans also love their meat, Leberkast ( Roast lamb on a bun) can be had for as little as 1.50 Euro. Order some Kartoffelsalat and Broet with a kaffee/cappuccino for only 3.90 Euro at the Hofbrauhaus!!!
Taverna del sud was the restaurant of choice in Munich, an Italian tavernetta, quite popular with locals. We were accompanied by two of the single ladies on our tour. One lady from Sydney, a corporate secretary, with a hilariously named poodle called Dave and the other lady from Melbourne, a nurse with a son who was an artist. Thin crust pizzas, lasagne and very good House wine ( Red ) was very reasonably priced, at 2.30 Euro and we had attentive service from an Italian waiter, but don’t ask him about his personal reasons for coming to Germancia.   Suddenly he does not know a lot of English!!!  

Footnote: German wines are apparently very good, as they should have had years of practice perfecting their skills and located between Italia and France, they must have picked up some hints!! The word is that the good wines are kept for consumption, and exporting only the wines that are crap…. Something that is also for home consumption and difficult to import ( at least into Australia) is the Lebkuchen, which can only be translated to Gingerbread, but is more akin to Cake than biscuit.   
As previously mentioned, in the Rothenburg**** post, they can keep their Snowballs, yuk yuk….but the Super Dickman ( super meaning large) will be gratefully accepted and purchased at will.

Road to Oberammagau
It is no surprise that dairying is the main industry here, butter, cheese, milk all contributes to the quality of the cakes here….!! Every few kilometres one sees a Romanesque or Baroque church, with the onion dome tower so typically seen in deeply catholic Bavaria!

Farmland around Munchen consists of rolling green fields, housing thought to be typically Swiss, consisting of White walls and timber framed upper storey, with timber fretwork cantilevered top  storey  verandahs, and painted facades on white walls with shuttered windows. firstly without painted adornments, neat old barns, with tiled roofs. Surrounded by vast tracks of coniferous forests. And all the while, the fantastic  backdrop of Alps, which stretch for 1600 kilometres through France Germany Australia Slovenia and of course Switzerland.  No wonder Hitler had his Eagles nest here, he must have felt like he was on top of the world and wanted to won it all…….­

Oberammagau is our lunch stop and besides the enormous and gob smacking range of painting on the houses, mostly religious in orientation, there is some wonderful shopping to be had here. The town itself is where the very famous Passion Play is held every 10 years. The history of which dates back to a promise the towns people made if the almighty spared their town from the Black death. And to this day, the people keep that promise alive. Hugely popular amongst tourists and pilgrims alike, Oberammagau is a delightful small village set in a picturesque part of the alpine region of Bavaria. 

Ettal Monastery
Inside Ettal

A wonderful extravaganza of Baroque art, the epitome of White and Gold perhaps as with a lot of Catholic churches, a perverse history of sexual abuse of young boys..
Gothic churches were designed to separate the general public from the monks by a central crosspiece (Division of the nave) but in the baroque style the altar is uninhibited and design streamlined.

Wiki tells  us: Ettal Abbey is a Benedictine monastery in the village of Ettal close to Oberammergau and Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria, Germany. With a community (as of 2005) of more than 50 monks, with another five at Wechselburg, the Abbey is one of the largest Benedictine houses and is a major attraction for visitors.  Also on a less tasteful note:
In early 2010 ten priests at the Ettal Abbey boarding school were accused of sadistic beatings, molestation, or making sexual advances on boys as well as sadism. In March, 2010, authorities raided the monastery as part of a probe into allegations that priests sexually abused children there [CNN: [1]. By an Apostolic Visitation and an independent investigation these allegations have been surveyed and consequences have been drafted. The major part of abuses have taken place in the late 60s, the 70s and the early 80s.

Linderhof Palace and King
Mad King Ludwig, himself


 Mad King Ludwigs reign began when his father died prematurely and so he became King at an early age. Known for his eccentricity, he built 3 fairy tale castles, the most notorious being Neuschswanstein, a magnet for tourists. However today we were to visit the smaller palance of Linderhof, where Ludwig was to spend the last 10 years of his life, in seclusion, prior to being admitted to a psychiatric facility.

Really he was an utter weirdo, but handsome and turned quite strange around ugly people, to the point where he made ugly servants wear masks! He did not finish his study and had no friends his age. The deaths of his tutor and Father at roughly the same time, affected him greatly and he would undertake no diplomatic duties much to the chagrin of his advisers. Homosexual and completely anti – social, his palace at Linderhof only has one bedroom and is the only palace he was to complete in his short and tortured existence.

Finally he was declared insane and was committed to an asylum outside Munich, where he was given to take long walks with his Doctor late at night and one night they were both found drowned in the lake, despite the fact that he was a good swimmer. The exact circumstances remain unknown to this day. It was commonly thought to be a joint suicide.  Politically, this coincided with the combination of Prussia with Bavaria, which ended Bayern isolation as a separate state and opened the door to Bismarck's German empire and the first German parliament in Frankfurt!!

The chapel at Linderhof

Gardens and fountains at Linderhof
 Here is what my an eleven year old wrote about today. I was so impressed by details I have missed that I wrote it here:
Then we were going up into the mountains today. We were going to a king’s palace. His name: King Ludwig. He became king at a young age of 18 years! He was very good at sport and lots of people knew him. But when he became king he became very sensitive and depressed. People said that he was an odd fellow and didn’t like to be seen so that was a problem of being king. He was very handsome but he wasn’t a very nice king. He never entertained only for himself and sometimes in the middle of the night he would wake up and say for example: I want to go sledding tonight. So all of his servants would have to get up and go sledding with him because that was his orders. He made a few castles, but we were going to the smallest one. He made it very hard for people in the public to find him so he put it up in the mountains so it was very hard to find. We walked up a long walk way but it was worth it. The castle only had 12 rooms. We first went into the living room which is the starting room. Before we went up the stairs we went through a second room which had 3 million dollar vases. One huge from Paris and 2 smaller ones from China, so if you broke one you would probably be broke. We went up to the first room. It had a peacock which was his favourite animal and instead of using a flag to symbolise that he was home he would put the peacock out the front which was different. The second room didn’t really have a name but it had a large wooden chair at the front and a velvet robe at the top. The next room we went into was his bedroom. He had a massive bed the colour of blue (which was his favourite colour) and 2 small vases from Paris. The room next to his bedroom was the dinner room. There was a lovely wooden trap door and there was a table that went with it and there were pulleys attached to it so because he never wanted anyone to see him they would pull the trap door down to put the food on and then when he wanted dinner they would pull it up. The next room was called “The room of mirrors” They had 2 mirrors reflecting off each other so it looked like the room went on forever. There was a bid couch which was blue and he would sit there and read his books. Then we walked out of the room and down some secret stairs. Then later on they said that the public was sick of him being king so they tried 2 times but he had two many guards so he was protected very well. One day he went for a walk with his doctor (they went on frequent walks) and he never returned. Later they found him and his doctor drowned in Lake Chiensee. The public was very surprised because Ludwig was a very good swimmer. Some people said that he slipped and fell and his doctor came in too. They also weighed his brain but it was very light. After Ludwig died there was no one to run the kingdom and he never married or had children Ludwig’s Grand farther took over and when he died it was a long time before a new king was chosen.

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Day 6 - Munich - the city and Xmas markets

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I think this is the first photo is the Museum of Folk art... but I neglected to label it, so am not sure. We are headed for the Marienplatz, to see the Glockenspiel - pictured here.

The heyday of King Ludwig's building program reliving the dreams of Ancient Greece at Konigsplatz - Glypotek.

Hotel Hilton Munich Park
Still feeling a bit of neck stiffness from the night flight from Singapore, and sitting in the bus for hours, I made a b-line for the Spa and Fitness centre, once I arrived at Hilton Munich Park, where I had a 15 minute massage with Antonia, for 15 euro. Sublime surroundings and the expert masseuse ensured I felt totally relaxed when time was up. Returning to the room, we reluctantly paid 8euros for 1  hour of internet time....Hilton does not offer free internet, at least not in Germany.

Come breakfast time, I had nothing to complain about. A magnificent feast awaited us: and we thought the hotel in Frankfurt was delicious. There were fresh pancakes, here, an incredible array of cheese and smoked salmon, hot dishes and pretzels and buns to die for... I was really exhausted just trying it all. I wanted to, but could not bring myself to try the white sausage wurst - it just looked wrong! Hot or cold.
Breakfast pancakes

Orientation tour of Munich 
Munich has 1.3 million people and is at 1800 feet or 540 metres. We saw the Chinese pagoda, and English garden from the bus,  Bavarian Museum of Folk art... How I wished I could have gone inside...The Haus der Kunst (Modern Art) which Hitler had used, and the Bavarian Chancellery. Then along Ludwigstrasse, we passed the Bavarian state library, Ludwigs church, the University and the Triumphal Arch which commemorates the Bavarian armies fighting against Napoleon during 1814-15. The irony is that it was at the Triumphal arch that Hitler was nearly assassinated in the 1920's 'Push'.

Ludwig statue near entrance to Marineplatz at Opera house

Propylean, Munich

We also passed the Music academy which was once the headquarters of the Nazi party. Munich housed more than 40 buildings  connected with the Nazis.

We also passed the eternal flame  to remember all those who suffered from fascism. The Hall of the General and the statue of Ludwig 1, on horseback, the instigator of all this massive building program, and finally stopping at the Opera House, next to the Residenz ( former home of the rulers of Bavaria, the Wittlesbachs. The Wittelsbachs ruled Bavaria for 900 years.

Munich- Ludwig strasse

On our way to Marienplatz

2.50 - 3 Euro Decorations
Our walking tour of the Marienplatz, (Main square) in Central Munich, with its Golden statue of Mary and the fabulous "New Town Hall" only finished in the 1920's. It was at this time that Hitler built the Haus der Kunst (Modern Art gallery) which was as a venue for all the art the Nazis stole from the occupied countries. Munich was after all, the centre of action for the National Socialists. A large Weinactsmarkt predominated in the square with decorations like these:


Marienplatz with view to Church
 The glockenspiel was a crowd pleaser and we all watched the display at 11 o'clock. The top figures represent a tournametn held during the wedding of Duke William V and Duchess Renate Lorraine in 1586. 7 Bavarian knights in the blue and white oclours of Bavaria fight Polish knights in red and white. The bottom tier shows the Cooper's dance. ( barrel makers). Later we continued on to St Peters' and the Viktaulienmarkt. ( Food market selling delicious Hinbaer from Italiensk, and fresh Christmas decorations.)  1 Euro for  a double sized punnet....yum....


 We were sorely tempted by the fresh decorations of cinnamon/chestnut/ flowers decorations at the Christkindlmarkt but preferred to spend our time eating torte and Topfen strudel at Rischarf's Bakery. Two cakes and two hot chocolates for 9 Euros... Bargain!!! But there was no plain water, typical of Germany, only mineral water and 50 cents to use the rest rooms is pretty common.So you are warned!
The view from Rischarfs Bakery

What was left of the torte and Topfen strudel after a few minutes.

Rischarfs delicious bakery treats

You can not say that you have been to Munich and not been to the Hofbrauhaus, even if you don't drink beer. While it is a place for beer drinkers, of which I am not one.... the food menu looked rather nice.


Kaffe/Capuccino was 1.70 euro and kartofflesalat 2.70 Euro, but the padlocked beer steins adorning the walls were for local customers only....

Afternoon optional tour through the glorious German countryside, dotted with Churches with little onion domes every few kilometres. The population not only could see the churches easily from their house, but also could reach it within a half and hour. NO excuses not to attend really, here. At least I am sure that is what the local pastor thought!

This really was an incredible day of touring. After the  morning tour, we stopped at the Ettal monastery where I was gobsmacked by the beaty of the church. Before procedding on to Oberammagau and Linderhof... What an amazing day...
The pictures of this area are too beautiful to put here so I will make another entry... they deserve it....

But I will tell you how we spent our evening.....  once again finding ourselves in the....

Christmas Markets
As it was only just 6pm, and the night was still young, dark, very dark, but still young, we decided to venture to the nearby Englischer Garten, where the Xmas Markets was being held.
Avoiding the walk through the darkened park, because H. felt it was unsafe: we took the streets from the Hilton Munich Park, which is set back from the city and in close proximity to Englischer Garten
(English garden)  and ended up in the rather large Christmas market.
For reviews on this hotel see link here:

The stalls contain typical German Christmas items like Smokers soaps, decorations and trinkets, and typical German Christmas cuisine,like Gingerbread, and a few exotic dishes thrown in. We even managed to find some Pommes Frites, but it wasn't cheap. For 3 Euro 20 we requested a tray of Pommes frites as my youngster recoiled at the Wurst sausages and kebabs on offer. About some confused german english babbling, I was asked if I wanted Gluhwein with that.... Nein, only Pommes Frites danka.... I said... The attendant held up some Pommes Frites and I said "Ja"!!! I then had to pay 9 euro 20 cents, and received a cup of gluhwein and pommes frites.... well I don't really mind the gluhwein but it is the most expensive chips I have ever had.. By now is was after 6 pm and the markets became so busy, it was difficult to move around, so we made our way to the exit where we hoped to find a seat. A German women grabbed my arm and said something angry to me. ( But then, German for the most part, sounds angry anyway!!) When I feebly asked her if she could say it in English, she asked me Where did I get those? ( pointing to the silver plated Pommes frites!!!)  Now I know why they were so expensive, they threw in some free Gluhwein!!!! They are highly sought after!!!!!!

Joking aside, there was a wonderful atmosphere here but the temperature did plummet in the midst of the garten, especially when the wind picked up. The babies did need their little papooses tonight.  Upon returning the empty cup of gluhwein, and collecting my 1 euro deposit.. we strolled back along the side streets where large square roofed manor houses predominated. They looked like terrace houses, and were two storey, but had sloping roofs. I wondered how many had been divided up into apartments, and how few retained their original layout of the likes found in Clara's aristocrat's house in the book, Heidi.

Finding the way back to the hotel was easy as the location was adjacent to a little weir with the Isar river flowing at speed with black looking, very cold water!! Would not want to fall in that....that is something I do not want to ponder about..



Headhunters by Jo Nesbø The Movie

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 My previous review of this book is reproduced here so I can discuss the movie having just been to the cinema to see it.

The movie has kept true to the book, although frustratingly two scenes that I felt were important and hilarious were left out. And as such, one has a deeper understanding of the plot than those who haven't read the book. Isn't this always the way it goes? Roger Brown was not as strong a character as I imagined, but the Director had to transmit to the audience, in one and half hours, the impotentce he felt being small,  and what a "small " man metaphorically he turned out to be. Albeit damn clever!! I wished that the movie was longer, and we don't get to see enough of the beautiful countryside that is Norway. Still, all in all, I think that those unfamiliar with Nesbø will like it. The girlfriend that accompanied me liked it, and Roger did win her over part way through the movie, but she was a bit squeamish about some of the more graphic scenes. Of course, they did not bother me nor would they bother anyone who worked in the medical fields, or watched splatter/horror films... 

What they could have done better: Explained the twists and turns of the plot, which I think would help to build suspense.
What they did well: Perfect portrayal by the Clas Greve actor

Wow... it seems incredible, but each book I have read recently becomes my latest Favourite author/novel. This is a little ridculous, but true. Why is that? 
Well I can make this claim because I have read this book from Jo Nesbø.

Nesbo has departed from the Harry Hole series in this superbly written first person story.Those averse to novels written in the first person will find it hard going, but if you can cope with that, it is an excellent book and if you haven't read Nesbø before, I can assure you that you will again. 

Offering an insight to the world of economics and business recruitment. (no doubt Nesbø drew upon his former profession as a source for this book), this is not the usual murder mystery but a little bit of a love story, or at least besotted love, part art history/theft story and mostly  psychological thriller, as the reader is manipulated into different directions by the twists and turns of this story. 

The characters, particularly the protaganist Roger Brown, were utterly believable, and his background and mindset, so carefully woven in to the story. However the crowning glory of this book was the fact that you could never anticipate the ending, no matter what.  

Roger Brown, albeit a man of short stature, (which is the bane of his existence), is the epitome of business success with a perfect track record of recruitment, but has a dark secret that even his stunningly beautiful wife, ( who appears to be equally besotted with him) is unaware. Does she have secrets too? Why  is her heart so sad? Enter another man who intervenes in their lives in a most unexpected but equally manipulative way with deadly consequences.

The police are not present in this story, and this is in contrast to Nesbø's other Harry Hole's stories. You are Roger Brown and experience all that he experiences, even the black humour and dire situation he finds himself in when trying to elude his pursuer. This scene, which I won't detail as it will spoil it, is so completely original and hilarious at the same time and cemented my admiration for this writer. Who else could inject black humour in to the totally serious psychological thriller, but Nesbø?

Becoming a motion picture I hope will only add interest to Nesbø's work, and this work in particular. Released in Oslo 2011.

The good:  Enthralling, riveting, edge of your chair thriller, which CANNOT be put down, and this, always a hackneyed phrase, is more than accurate, in this instance. I had to finish this book in one session. Final plot twist, and all those before it as well.

The bad:   One particular scene, where the protaganist eludes his pursuer in the most unlikely of places.Hilarious, yet bad..

The ugly:  Description of a liasion gone wrong, with a female women who was not Roger's wife.

This really has to be read...... only wish I could write like this....what a talent....

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Day 5 A Munching we go… To Munich via Enchanting Rothenburg

Sunny and up to 9 degrees… sauna conditions in the front of the Insight bus…
Bring on the Gluhwein.....

A Munching we go… To Munich aka Munchen via Rothenburg
Sunny and up to 9 degrees… sauna-like conditions in the front of the bus…
Today's highlight started with a pleasant drive along the Romantic road's Autobahn to Rothenburg, the enchanted walled medieval city in South- Eastern Germany . Thankfully, this city was untouched during the war, and a Xmas market is found here from the first weekend of Advent onwards, a.k.a. four weekends before December 24. The atmosphere in the markets and city is magical, enchanting, and quite wonderful, even without any snow, but I was not impressed with the famed "snowballs"…. A baked piece of bland and tightly woven, hard crusty pastry strips with a tiny sprinkle of icing only the top. What was needed was some way for the sugar or salt even to stick to the whole of this traditional gastronomic disaster, which are about 4 inches in diameter, and about as full of flavour as a sweet biscuit without sugar…..needless to say, I threw it away…. Now if it had been dipped in chocolate maybe, it would have had potential, but the inner layers would still be completely devoid of flavour anyway. But the Mulled wine is good, very good. You will find these and other sausage delicacies in the main square, where you can witness the Glockenspiel display on the hour at the main clock. A variety of stalls selling overpriced Xmas decorations proliferate. Window shop is my recommendation.
Square with Rathaus and Glockenspiel at Xmas market time

Kathy Wohlfarts store
There is not one but 2 KATHY WOHLFART ‘s outlets here and the attendants remind adults and children “NO touching”blah blah blah at frequent intervals which detracts from the shopping experience and the jolly Xmas spirit, but the range of products is truly mind boggling. They will ship purchases home for an additional fee, if you are on tour and can’t carry fragile decorations around with you. Wander the narrow cobble stone streets and you will find all sorts of shops with knick-knacks, collectibles, and things that ladies like to buy and browse, hidden on every corner. An old style wooden trivet carved with an edelweiss which caught my attention. Waiting patiently in line to be served for over 20 minutes, I started panicking that I would be late back to the bus, and miss the departure, so politely requested “ Bitte” in German and offered the attendant the correct money and was happy to take the item without wrapping…. As the attendant was hell bent on putting sixteen layers of sticky tape on each purchase for each PERSON in the queue. Perhaps they had seen one too many American tourists pushing in, as she flatly refused to accept my purchase and money, held in my open hand. “NO MADAM” was all she Said. I dropped the trivet back on the counter, pocketed my money to my wallet and left the store. She just lost a purchase and a customer…. And I did make it back to the bus on time… finding a shortcut through the square, Delighted more that I then had time to scale the walls for a aerial look at the town. I would have liked to come back and stay within these walls one day in the future, in order to really soak up the atmosphere, but the abrupt German Fraulein did put me off that idea.
City Walls

Rothenburg's walls themselves are quite incredible… medieval history staring at you in the face. Unlike historic locations back home, you ARE allowed to touch and feel these walls, and climb the u shaped steps, so worn down with the treading of thousands of Rothenburg feet. One can imagine feeling like a Rothenburg citizen defending the city with bow and arrow through the narrow slits in the city walls. They are intact for quite a way and have the covered walkway on the entrance side of the city. A horse and cart ride is also possible at least when the Xmas markets are on.

Olympic stadium 1980


An afternoon drive to Munich was uneventful, except for the brief sight on the outskirts of the ginormous BMW (Bavarian Motor works) factory and some rather nice architecture like the Olympic stadium, which remains in my memory, for the mind-numbingly callous act of killing 11members of the Israeli Olympic team and one west German police officer by PLO's Black September group, way back in 1972. Such a tragedy, and in this location, which was once the stronghold of the National Socialists!!! 
Along the way the Insight guide gave us an abridged history lesson of the history of the Nazi party, which was given life in this area of Germany. Indeed, we even passed by Landsberg Prison, where Adolf Hitler was imprisoned in the 1920’s for inciting an uprising. It was  here he wrote the infamous”mystruggle” or “Mein Kampf”.Not only was Munich, the centre for the National Socialists,and we passed the road to the German concentration camp Dachau thankfully not visiting that, on this tour. For Trivia nights note that the Second Reich dated until 1870 (unification of Germany), Second Reich with Otto Von Bismarck till 1912 and Hitler was supposed to commence the Third Reich…  

Bavaria, apparently is considered in some quarters, still to be a country within Germany. Bavarians are different and consider themselves to be Bavarians first and Germans second. The Wittenbach family were the Bavarian royalty and controlled the state of Bayern for many years, starting the October fest, which was a Wedding feast for the Wiitenbachs where the entire population was invited.

I was puzzled by the meaning of this sign... it was frustrating having something like this to ponder about in light of history.

We arrived on time to our Hotel in Munich, which was located near to yet another Xmas market and the English garden. In 2010, they took 6 hours to make the same journey arriving well after dinnertime at around 8.30 pm due to heavy traffic and snow. We all wanted snow, but were kind of glad we had an easy run to hotel :
Hilton Munich Park hotel Am Tucherpark 7, Munich Germany 80538