Ooh Shiny: What summer means to me, the Sunflower fields

sunflower
What summer really means to me : Sunflower fields!

Ohhhh Sunflowers! 

William Blake – 
“Ah Sunflower, weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the sun,
Seeking after that sweet golden clime,
Where the traveller’s journey is done.
Where the youth pined away with desire,
And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,
Arise from their graves, and aspire,
Where my Sunflower wishes to go!

I have never seen sunflowers in my life for I think more than 8 years and seeing them once again brings back summer memories. Back then in my home country,  I saw them quite often but not in Kuwait. Yes, I saw some bulbs in flower shops, but not really the same wild sunflower fields that I knew.

The last few weeks here in Bavaria have been pretty toasty weather. Great time to stay outdoors, more water fun, and when its sunny, the sight of summer flowers can be refreshing. Fields of  blooming sunflower is what summer means to me here in Germany! These golden-yellow shiny beauties are my favorite summer flowers and here in the southern part where we are rewarded with more sunshine, they grew beautifully wild in many fields. I’m telling you, it’s such a beautiful sight. They are a complete distraction when we cycle along the countryside. I don’t know with you but the sight of them makes me happy, makes me somehow excited. Something about them  gives sunshine to my soul.

Standing in front of them, while you can hear the  sounds of nature, crisp winds,  buzzing of the bees, swaying of the golden glow of strong, fresh sunflowers against the blue sky is to die for. I love the peace and serenity it brings. So simple, so raw, a pure nature’s delight. They are the brightest replica image of the sun. They simply brings warmth!

sunflower fields-bavaria
Sunflower fields in Bavaria on a bright sunny day

For me summer is no summer without the bright, shiny , golden sunflower fields! Remember how I shared with you how I bursts out in excitement when I saw the tulip fields in Keukenhof, and gazing at those gazillions of multi-colored tulips?

Or my delight when we visited the Rapeseeds? almost as golden-yellow of goodness as the hundreds of sunflowers looking up through the sun. I actually cycled for many times going through the same fields, I can’t get enough  of them. I need to indulge in them before Fall comes and turn these fields into grey, empty and dullness of hibernating earth.

IMG_1131
Summer goodness

I guess this summer we explored so many fields, not only of summer blooms, but also of many different crops. Just beside every sunflower fields we drowned into the acres of sweet corns too. I noticed by now the certain crops that grow in each season. This sunflower fields is the same Rape seed fields that we’ve been ogling for months last Springtime!

sunflower blooms
My sunshine

You can see that my daughter was quite enamored of the big yellow sunflower. But hey, she is just as crazy as the wasps who flutters around it! She’s bent on chasing them! Brought her in many sunflower fields many times and she knows how to bring the sunshine home.

IMG_1461
Cycling with my most favorite travel Buddy along the Sunflower fields

A bike ride with this Little One makes it even more special and I can’t complain for anything. Visiting sunflower fields on hot,summer months gives us that holiday feeling for an ordinary day .Here in Bavaria, we have plentiful of these and you can pick them up by yourself and self-pay. The flower fields also have so many different kinds of lilies, and other summer flowers.

IMG_1129
Wandering in the sunflower fields

Sunflowers become one of my painting inspiration. Their image is left in my mind so I decided to paint and make some cards out of it, of course, I didn’t forget to get some bulbs to brighten up our living room.Wild sunflowers are often photographed with their tall stalks and bright petals stretched towards the sun. This interesting behavior, known as phototropism, inspired a motif that has appeared in many ancient works.

IMG_1257
Flower art therapy

Though they are a crop planted with a purpose, their bright colours spread an instant happiness and positive energies. They look pretty, they give us healthy seeds to eat and oil for our cars.  Sunflowers are the ultimate sign of summer and I love their simplicity and versatility.

IMG_1596
Some of the cards I’ve made  inspired by sunflower

Do you also have a sunflower story? I think for a flower that reflects so many of the sun’s positive characteristics, it isn’t surprising that people enjoy basking in the sunflower’s warming glow so much, just like I do.

How about you? How are you spending your summer?

What’s your favorite summer flower?

This post is inspired by this weeks’ photo Challenge |Ooh, Shiny!

Cruising along the Danube

IMG_0106
Sittin’ on the dock of the bay…

I guess everyone dreamed of  cruising along a river…I’m one of them.

The chance came and I just did! and it was a wonderful ! I remembered how I was enchanted by the beautiful Moselle river and by far, the Danube river has its own charm.This post is really special to me because this is something that I really enjoyed from our last trip. It was also the most exhausting one, but then, as the saying goes “when the going gets tough, the tough get going…”

IMG_0117

IMG_0109

I wrote many things about the mighty river “Danube” (or Donau) in this Blog. How can’t I?, the river is just 10 minutes away from where I live, I see it everyday, it has become my daily backdrop and a favorite subject for photos. Seeing its different faces through all seasons becomes so normal for me. But  then we discovered something else about its charm. We’ve seen another phase of this mighty river in Regensburg. Cruising through its magical waters is different, especially if you are traveling with a hyperactive toddler. Yes, she loved the boat idea, but to keep her calm through the whole boat ride is another innuendo!

IMG_0103
The boat is turning around…
IMG_0096
And off we go…! Germans adore the sun , lots and lots of sunshine, so they prefer to sit in the open deck for better views and winds, but my daughter wants to jump off the water!

So anyway, last Tuesday, while we are in Regensburg, we decided to take a cruising along the Danube trip to visit one of the most notable off -the-beaten path destination——- the German Parthenon, a replica of the one in Athens, Greece, the Walhalla Temple. Another hidden gem in Bavaria and I think it deserves more recognition because this place is both educational and not for the faint-hearted. It takes guts to be up there, but the views are totally worth it.  Bavarian King Ludwig I (reigned 1825-1848) ordered his great Architect Leo von Klenze to build this place to dedicate to all great German speakers and notable persons. Quite extraordinary tribute, right? Aren’t you curious whose on the list?

Walhalla is a temple built high above the mountains, I thought, how are we going to make it there with a 3-year old plus a bulky stroller? Can we climb the hilly terrain plus  the 358 steps ?

From the cruising to hiking? Possible? YES!

But first, we relaxed and enjoyed the comfortable cruise ride to go to our main destination.

IMG_0075
We have some company in the river, so many ships and barges crossing over.

The Charm of the Danube

The river Danube seen from the Old Stone Bridge (Steinerne Brücke) in Regensburg looks so calm, graceful and deep. I spent quite sometime just admiring the view in front of me, with all the boats,  ships, museum, and cruise ships passing by me, and of course, a mass of people. Everyone just love to lounge in the banks of the river.

IMG_0044 (1)
Took this photo from above the Walhalla, the route where the ships go crossing the Danube.

Napoleon once referred to the Danube River as the “Queen of Europe’s Rivers,” a fitting title for Europe’s second-longest river. It measures 1,775 miles long and up to nearly 1 mile wide and touches 10 countries — Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, GermanyHungary, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine — and four capitals. That alone has made the Danube a vital transportation route for more than 2,000 years. The Danube cycling path is also well-known for cycling enthusiasts and wanderers. It is my dream also to cycle on one of its paths, maybe someday when  my toddler can also join this type of adventure.

IMG_0053

Today, ships can navigate 87 percent of the waterway’s length, meaning Danube River cruises can sail from the North Sea to the Black Sea. The Main-Danube Canal, which got its major start in the 18th century, was completed in 2002 when the final piece was put in place for the 106 mile, 16-lock waterway.

IMG_0065

The cruise experience from Regensburg to Walhalla

We got our ticket from the Regensburger Schifffahrt ( Klinger) and by 10:30 a.m, the boat docked in front of us and off we go.There was quite a crowd already but I am impressed that even strollers, pets, and persons with wheelchair can join this trip. The staffs are both helpful and mindful.

We found a place near the window but we often go to the open deck to have better views and took photos. There is an audio tour both in German and English so that was very handy for me. At the beginning, my daughter was so excited but then after 10 minutes or so, she started to get whiny and cranky. It was time for her midday nap.She crashed into her nap and woke up when we are already in the foot of the temple.

IMG_0072
Beautiful nature sights during the trip.

Cruising along the Danube is wonderful , especially for families. If you want to explore from what is beyond the norm then it’s a great break from the claustrophobic and touristy streets in Regensburg . The views along the river is very scenic, enough to put you in a trance. We passed by  some notable arches, bridges, and castle ruins in the hills surrounding the Danube. The atmosphere inside the boat is very cozy, the bathrooms are clean and you can order food & drinks as you like.

The trip lasts for more than 45 mins, from which my daughter just sleep through out the whole time. The drop off was easy and the guests are allowed to wander &  explore Walhalla for 75 minutes, after this, the boat comes back for the trip going back to Regensburg.

IMG_0048
The striking Walhalla Temple

Finally, we’ve reached our destination.We stood on this spot for quite sometime trying to figure out how to navigate this place, pushing the stroller, I thought, how are we going to be on top?

I’ll tell you more about the rest of our adventure in my post about this mighty Walhalla temple.Until then, thank you for reading my friends.

If you are visiting Regensburg, make sure not to miss this. The information about this trip is available in the Tourist Information in the Old Town of Regensburg and the ticket booth is just beside the Old Stone Bridge and the Wurstkuchl. It’s a hotspot location and you won’t miss it!

 

 

 

 

 

The Streets of Nuremberg

IMG_0254
Wandering in the streets of Nuremberg, Germany

Isn’t it  good to be out and have a short trip once in a while? There’s something about getting lost in a new city. Wandering through the unknown alleys, skimpy streets , clueless, and  eager is a feeling that is familiar to all travelers, backpackers and curious wanderers. There is always the mixture of excitement and ardent anticipation to see what is beyond over there, maybe on the look for a surprise, or even wishing for your imaginations to be real. Can you relate?

IMG_5820

Let me share with you our wanderings in Nürnberg, the second largest city in Bavaria. Nuremberg is a 950-year-old city with romantic flair, drawing in heritage buffs, foodies and artistic souls alike and yes, a haven for the little ones as well.

IMG_0396
Street sightings, intricate details

We decided to skip the museums since my daughter will surely get bored in it and since its a nice weather, we opt for more outdoor activities. But walking through the streets of Nuremberg ( or Nürnberg as the locals referred to ) offers anyone a great kaleidoscope of history, arts, and charm. It is impossible not to stop and take a closer look because there is so much detail to ponder about, making me think what is it all about. For the record, Nuremberg was once one of the most important residences of the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire and has an almost completely intact city wall. The distinctive pink stone gives the city a fairy tale atmosphere.Its not everyday that I see a city with a palace on a hill, the Kaiserburg, or the Imperial Palace looms in the view the moment you start to wander in the Haupmarket,so that must be very distinctive.

IMG_0397
Local art gallery

Do you also find  it fascinating to follow the current of the river while sightseeing? I find it so relaxing to have a few moments of peace while admiring the Pegnitz river , and when I turn my head around, I see the rows of cafes, filled with chattering tourists, and the streets filled with clash of cultures. There are two bridges, Museumsbrücke  and Fleischbrücke , crossing the Pegnitz river to the Hauptmarket .The main street north from here, Burgstrasse, runs up to the skirts of the beautiful castle which we managed to climb – the Kaiserburg. This is something we never regret despite the uphill part because we had lovely views up above the castle.

IMG_5821
Admiring the architecture and intricate details of the old and restored buildings.
IMG_0351
Getting lost in Burgstrasse,one of the busiest  street of Nuremberg

As we continue to explore, we head straight to the Haupmarkt ( Central Market), which is famous for the Christmas Market and Christkindlmarkt during Christmas season. This is a huge square with tons of sights to enjoy. On normal days, you can see a huge stalls of different local produce such as fruits, veggies, sausages, cheeses, honey, garden plants, souvenirs and so much more. There are so many street food as well. We bought some grapes and it was really good. On the right side of the square situated is the Frauenkirche, a beautiful church and you can never miss to see the Beautiful Fountain ( Shöner Brunnen).Aptly named “The Beautiful Fountain”, this is a major  highlight of the central market square in Nürnberg. It was designed in the 1380s by Heinrich Beheim, a stonemason, and was intended to top the Frauenkirche.It stands at an impressive 19 meters (62 feet) high and is bedecked in gold. There are 42 stone statues surrounding the fountain that depict allegorical figures, churchmen, electors and heroes. This fountain is always full of tourists trying to rub the copper ring  believing that your wishes can come true!

IMG_0349
The Frauenkirche and the Schöner Brunnen
Nuernberg-Brunnen-640x426
Wish I may, Wish I might…

Do you spot the precious ring?

IMG_5905
Das Narrenschiff or the “The Ship of Fools”

It’s a sunny day and we are eager to cool down, but knowing there is not much shops with Air conditioning in Germany, we decided to walk further to get ice cream then we found this  statue called “Das Narrenschiff” or The Ship of Fools. Children loves to swing in here,even adults, a famous meeting place. My daughter played here for a while so we spent an ample time looking at this bronze statue of a boat carrying seven people, a skeleton and a dog . It is planted in a main road, in an intersection, and catches the eye of travelers. Based on a popular sixteenth century book by Sebastian Brant, this piece was sculpted by Juergen Weber off of woodcuts by favorite Albrecht Dürer. This artwork shows an expelled Adam and Eve, their murderous son Cain and other violent figures. It is a scene showing the destruction of the world. Another fascinating fountain that we saw along the way and everyone should not miss is the Ehekarussell, or the Bitter sweet Marriage Carousel.This is my favorite so far.

IMG_5896

As part of discovering the local culture, you’ve got to taste the local food as well. With all the walking that we’ve done, it is imperative to eat. As I wrote before that as a foreigner living in Germany, the amount of Sausages can be overwhelming! But then again, in a country known for its bratwurst, many German cities have their own specialty sausages, including Nuremberg. An authentic Nürnberger Rostbratwurst is made from low-fat pork enclosed in a lamb casing, twisted into sausages that measure from 7 to 9 centimeters long.Another must-see and must-try to do is shopping for some authentic Lebkuchen! Just going inside this store makes me hungry. I love everything about the dainty bakeshop of  Lebkuchen Schmidt.

IMG_5913
Delicious and authentic Lebkuchen and yummy goodies!
IMG_0356
Tourist’s mementos displayed in the Haupmarkt

If you love shopping, visiting Nürnberg won’t disappoint you. Wandering in the city center leads you to one busy shopping district line up with shops, and yes, it’s that time of the year to not miss the Summer Sales so you can give it a go.

IMG_5849
The busy streets with shops on both sides.

Once you get tired, you can always grab a bite and drink and sit in one of the cozy cafes alongside the road. Another wonderful pastime is just watching people and taste the local beer.There are plenty of restaurants, clean bathrooms, and even changing rooms for your little ones. One thing that disappoints me is that I didn’t find any play areas near the city proper. Maybe they are nearby but it seems that I haven’t seen any directions through it.

IMG_5826
Hustle and bustle in Nuremberg

 So much to see, so little time. I leave the rest for you to discover by yourself. If you love street art, you need patience. You need to explore further. To find good street art in Nuremberg is really hard. Best is to get lost completely then your chances are high to find some nice murals. If you are not the history and architecture buff, you can always hop on to other off-the beaten path attractions in this city.

Nuremberg, I will see you again sometime soon!

Have you seen Nuremberg? Do you think it’s a fascinating city?

If you’ve been there, what are the other cool things you can add to this list?

The Heat is ON in Bavaria

IMG_9945
32 degrees today! What Summer feels in Bavaria

This is the real thing now, the heat is ON in Bavaria !

What Summer fun are you engaging now?

Nevermind  the plague of Wasps and bee season, summertime is finally here and in Bavaria, in my old little city, everyone is just feeling ecstatic of the fine summer breeze, or rather, toasty winds since we have 32 degrees now!

IMG_0067
A very inviting Lake where we had picnic and splash. This is just one of our pit-stop from our cycling en-route (35kms) .

Have you seen summer flowers yet? They are blooming, giving us perfect backdrop for outdoors. From our garden to the nearby parks, summer flowers can be so exotic just like the Echinops Ritro!

I came to Germany last Summer, and I’m telling you, this season is probably the best season to enjoy Bavaria. To make the most of beautiful nature, lots of sun and water fun is essential. This week we have temperatures ranging from 18~32 degrees C . With this we have all the reason to spend time outside given the favors of so many holidays. Staying in when the weather  is perfect as this  is  definitely a S-I-N. Generally, Germans, or the typical Bavarians, adore the sun. Soaking up under the sunshine until the last ray of the sun until 9 o’clock at night. You can see them  sunbathing in the banks of the river Danube, lying in the grass in the parks, or just right in their balconies.

With the kick-off of the festival season, the Spring Pfingstenvolkfest,  Die Welt is bunt, Bürgerfest, and strawberry season, it feels like summer arrived early since we have a very sunny spring. I have written countless times that from the moment the day breaks, people here are out, (including US!) and ready to explore— and yes, with their dogs, clad in outdoor clothing, in their bicycles, with their walking sticks, off to the lake, and drinking beer in the bier garten promptly at 10 a.m on weekends!

So here I wanna share with you some of the fascinating things  about ‘Summer Feels ‘ here in our region. Whether you are just visiting tourist or a local, sure thing that you don’t wanna miss out on these activities!

IMG_9835
We do BBQ like the German way!

Grillsaison ( or Grilling season)

Summer is not complete without BBQ and Germans really take their grilling to the highest level! You know its summer when you breathe in the smell of BBQ in almost every house on a fine weekend. Since we have 9pm sunsets, this is a perfect way to bond. Be it in an open park, garden or in the tiny balconies of apartments, German take their grilling time seriously. Months before summer starts, we are flooded with different kinds of grill paraphernalia, from the garden tents, lounging seats, and yes, ‘the meat and wurst‘. About 70% of Germans have BBQ every  weekend and its typical to see a grill machine in every garden. Pack a picnic, a mat and  head to the lake, throw a piece of sausages ( wurst) and meat cuts into the charcoal grill and drink beer. This spells the perfect “Gemutlichkeit “or what the Dutch called “Gezelligheid” .

IMG_9837 (2)
The Grillsaison has finally begun!

Poppy fields  and wild flowers everywhere!

When summer time comes, in between wheat fields and every single empty space is filled with this fragile reddish-orange wild Poppy flowers. When I run and cycle, I can’t help but to stop and just be amazed by how  these simple wild bulbs can change the whole neighborhood and the way I feel. Sure, Tulips are my favorite flowers , but then there’s something about a field covered in Summer poppy blooms. It looks so calm, peaceful and so pretty!

IMG_9751
Close up encounter with red Poppy flowers last week when I was cycling.

 Eis Eis Baby! 

Who doesn’t like Ice Cream?

Ice cream parlors and shops are finally open here since late Spring. On warm, sunny days, there’s even a huge line outside. You really need to sweat out first before you enjoy their wide selection of Eis ( ice cream). My daughter is crazy about the richly flavored popsicles and ice pops which comes out in watermelon, kaktus, and yogurt ice cream. One is not enough, eating ice cream is definitely a threat we always enjoy during summer especially after we are all sweaty from cycling around.

IMG_9548
Eis Eis Baby!

Make sure to eat “spaghetti eis”: We promise it’s only a stupid name. This concoction is really just a strawberry ice cream sundae with vanilla “noodles” and strawberry sauce with white chocolate flakes standing in for the cheese. Guten Appetit!

Sunbathing in a make-believe beach!

This is the photo of the Donaustrand, a place made to look like a beach beside the river. It is the platform located in front of the river Danube and facing the New Castle. During summer, this place is a magnet for Germans and all outdoor lovers to enjoy a relaxing time, especially during sunset. This is a place a for  open-air concerts and the ” Live Orchestra Nights” where you can enjoy live music, drinking with friends, and lounging in recliners and sunbathing like you are in the beach .This is such a cozy place.

IMG_9122
A shot I took while lounging in the Donaustrand and enjoying sunset drinks.

Hanging out your clean laundry outside

There is nothing like the smell of clean laundry, hung out to soak up the fresh air. Hang out your sheets before the drying racks take over your apartment for the winter.We have a huge space in the garden and I just love how the sun do wonders on the sheets! I love this since it really saves time from tedious long cycles of drying. Natural is always better!

IMG_9184
Skinny dipping in some lake

Skinny dipping and baring it All !

Oh yes, Germans are very liberal and no-nonsense people when it comes to nudity. In some lakes, there are areas which are particularly allotted for “nudist”. Here, people are no hang-ups in baring it all and soaking up the sun from dawn to dusk.Germans think nothing of stripping to sunbathe. They do it on beaches, by lakes, and in heavily frequented urban parks. It’s very common to see unclothed people on regular park lawns or topless on balconies. Germany is one of the few places in the world where naturism occurs not just in secluded areas, but in the heart of major cities. German-style public nudity, known as Freikörperkultur (or “free body culture,” and usually shortened to FKK), dates back to the 19th century; it’s not just an activity, but a culture intended to reshape behavior.

IMG_0054
Pack a picnic and your mat and head on to the secluded fresh lakes!

For some people who are not into this and for families with children, there are lots of areas in the lakes for them to swim.We love to discover lakes where my daughter loves to play and here, they are just plentiful!

IMG_9308
Running through the Lake with this view.

Fitness everyday

In summer, I see a lot more people getting active and staying fit. People do things “manually” and live more. They love to do things by themselves. Mowing the lawn, tidying up their garden, people here loves to do things—no maids or house helpers! People run and cycle no matter what the time and temperature. They walk more and use the car less as much as possible. With abundant jogging areas, nature can be best enjoyed while getting fit. Germans adore the  “pig”and heavy pork-lovers, but even if they sit in the Biergarten everyday and eat sausages, seems that they don’t get fat! Everyone looks so impeccably fit.

Summer Cocktail Drinks

IMG_9812
PROST!!!

It is very typical to see bunch of people hanging around in the lake, or in the park enjoying a nice picnic and sharing summer cocktails. Of course, the beer is always the easiest way to create a cozy gathering but cool drinks and smoothies are always something pretty special. When it comes to picnics, Germans can be proud of their lifestyle!

What about you, what do you love to do during summer?

There are more on this post so I think I will make a post #2! Stay tuned.

Bangui Windmills in Ilocos

 

DSC00722

Another highlight of my Backpacking series is the visit to Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur, the Northern part of the Philippines. With only a backpack and full spirit, I explored the Ilocandia region with my friend  hopping from Pagudpod ,Laoag, then finally head to Vigan.One thing that is so fascinating about this trip is how the location are close to each other that you can literally explore it within 3 days!

It was early summer and yet the heat was already intense. This region is also known for its sunny and hot temps. I have always been curious how does a windmill look like, I know for a fact that they are big , at least from what I have seen from the photos in internet, but I did not expect that Its  gigantic as these. It takes 11 average adults to hug its body together! A visit to the Windmills Farm is indeed an exhilarating and yet wonderful! These Wind Turbine system stretches a whole length of 9 km along the shores of Bangui Bay. There are 20 of them-70 meters (230ft)V82 1.65 MW  high Vestas Wind Systems,all lined up along the shoreline…standing proud, beautiful & powerful against the strong winds facing from South China Sea.

One can never miss its extremely enormous blades waving in the sky.  They are tall, white,and silhouetted against the blue sky and sea and green mountains. I remember my astonishment when I first saw these giants stood firmly like giant electric blades protecting the Ilocandia shoreline. I have seen some windmills on our recent trip to Germany but seeing the Bangui windmills up close is totally different experience. The Bangui Wind Farm was quite a sight to behold. The trivalent sea as backdrop  adds to the nostalgic charm of this place. No wonder tourists flocked on this region constantly.

In Europe, people are tired of seeing windmills because they see them everywhere. It’s so common sight out there. Nobody bothers seeing them as if they are invisible. But in Philippines,  they talk about (them) with so much pride. It becomes a bucket list for every traveler to see them.Such national pride.

DSC00728

 This region is most prone to power shortages because Ilocos Norte is situated at the end of the power grid line coming from Bauang, La Union, another province away from Ilocos.

Based on the findings on the study conducted, it concluded that there are various areas in the Philippines that are amenable for wind power and that include Bangui and Burgos. Thus, this leads to the establishment of wind farm project. A Danish power firm, the NorthWind Power Development Corporation had supplied the power wind turbines which is similar to what has been in Denmark.

DSC00731

DSC00751

Expect to be harnessed with strong winds when you visit this place. Your face would literally feel like there’s a hairdryer and electric fan in front of you for hours. This place is surrounded with low,dusty dunes, with a quaint sea views.Its a perfect place to feast your eyes with something that is not so common in other urban areas. Just like here in Kuwait, if you like to take a look at different and interesting power lines & electrical towers, you just need to have a drive along the desert.There’s a bunch of power lines with herds of camels in the background.

Remember, these windmills are not for decorative purposes for the town of Bangui.They actually provide as much as 40 percent of the power needed by the entire province of Ilocos Norte, which has a population of 600,000. So that’s an iconic one.

DSC00736

One interesting fact I have learned from these windmills is that it came from worldwide effort & partnership. Bangui’s windmills are an indicator of how small the world has become. The towers were assembled in Vietnam, the rotors in the United Kingdom, the nacelles — the part that holds the blades — in Denmark. Local workers constructed the bases. The first in the Philippines & all throughout South East Asia.

If you wanna marvel on these windmills, this place can easily be reached through :

By Air Laoag International Airport serves as the main gateway to Ilocos Norte. Laoag is just a 45-minute flight from Manila; 55 minutes from Kaoshiung; 80 minutes from Guangzhou, Hongkong and Taipe; 2.5 hours from Shanghai.

By Land Various bus lines serve the Manila-Laoag route for an 8 hour drive. Ilocos Norte is just 477 kilometers north of Manila. 4 hours from Baguio.

If you wanna know more of the beauty of the North of Philippines, you can read more on my Ilocandia Backpacking adventures .

Safe travels!

Kuwait from A to Z

 

sURVIVING KUWAIT (3)
Kuwait from A to Z

 

As the time I leave Kuwait comes near, I thought it might be a great tribute to posts more about this fascinating country which has been my home for the last 8 fruitful years. If you want to know more about what’s it like to live here, you can also check out  how to survive Kuwait  and my top Expat tips to enjoy the hot summers here.

So, how can you describe Kuwait alphabetically  from A to Z?

The only way for you to enjoy living in a foreign country is to embrace its culture & open your mind for changes. It won’t be easy at first, but experiencing any culture is the best way of learning. I have come to know  many facets of this country and here I share with you the A to Z of Everything about Kuwait  alphabetically. Enjoy!

AAVENUES – The world-renowned super-mall in Kuwait. It has beautiful architecture, and wide ranges of restaurants and shops of worldwide brands for all taste preferences.  The Avenues is among Prestigious MEED Quality Awards for Projects 2013 for Leisure and Tourism Project of the Year and The Avenues Among Prestigious Arab Town Organization Award (ATO). This place has becoming the modern touristic icon in Kuwait. I love this place and everything in it. It totally revolutionize the whole mall concept!

story-talk-of-the-town_01_1024x576
The Avenues-designed by international  designer & Architectural London-based firm Gensler

A-AL-HAMRA TOWER – The Al Hamra Tower is a completed skyscraper in Kuwait City, Kuwait. Al Hamra is the tallest building in Kuwait and the 23rd tallest in the world. Another beautiful piece of architecture visible in Kuwait skyline.

 

200px-Alhamra_Tower
Al Hamra Tower

B BAKALA – The Arabic version of mini-stop or 711 convenience store in every corner of Kuwait neighborhoods.This is an original Kuwaiti thing.People just need to honk from their cars and the storekeeper will bring his order.Bakala always saves my day when I need boxes of water & eggs for my pancakes!

BAKLAVA-Kuwaitis loved sweets, so do I! It’s a part of their culture and Baklava is one comfort food in Kuwait that is present  in every corner, there is a nearby sweet shop selling this and this is the ultimate Ramadan dessert.

10955294_1617574145141200_1157023375_n
B-Baklava,Kuwait’s favorite dessert during Ramadan

C-CARS – People in Kuwait loved Cars. I’m telling you, they have a serious love affair with cars here. SUV’s , Hummer,Maserati, and almost all brands of  luxury cars, you name it, its here.They are as common as people having 3 smartphones ! Cars like Porsche, Lamborghini & R&r are just parked out in the sun, out in the dust. Pink limousines parading in Gulf road is a typical sight. During New Year’s eve, people drive in their cars, into the desert, even into the shores of the beach. Unfortunately, Kuwait has  the highest accident rate in the world, because people drive like a maniac, once again topping global records.

porsche-accident-faheel-street-2
How to drive a Porsche Cayenne in Kuwait

D- DATES (Tamr ), this exquisite & delicious fruit from the palm tree which is abundant in the whole region. This is my favorite and I love bringing these to my  love ones in Ph & NL. An experience in Kuwait is not complete without eating this. During Ramadan, dates are usually the ones being eaten first after praying & breaking the fast.My daughter loved eating dates .This is for sure one of the things I will be missing from Kuwait.

E-EXPAT POPULATION -Did you know that Expats in Kuwait  make up 70% of the total population?Yes, from Westerners to neighboring GCC expats, they are here. There are so much cultural diversity in this tiny yet oil-rich country.

F-FAILAKA ISLAND– Failaka Island is  about 20km off the coast of Kuwait City, tiny Island that stands as a constant reminder of the Iraqi invasion a quarter-century ago.Prior to the Gulf War, Failaka was reportedly home to about 2,000 residents, but they fled when the Iraqis invaded and most did not return. Over the years, the homes and offices they left behind have crumbled, many still scarred with bullet holes from the war.Today, much of the island lies empty and in ruins, although a small tourism industry has emerged – with boat trips, overnight accommodations and cafes springing up on Failaka for curious sightseers. Failaka is also still used today for military exercises by the Kuwaiti army.

 

F-FRIDAY MARKET- or locally known as Harag.This is the famous Expats & local Flea market in Kuwait.The place to buy a secondhand dress, an Afghan coat or an illicit antique from Iran, this enormous semi-covered market is a shopping extravaganza – but, more importantly, it offers a look at contemporary Kuwaiti culture and cross-border relations. Five minutes shuffling between dusty textiles and sipping the coffee of a good-natured vendor delivers more in the way of insight into the complex web of Kuwaiti affairs, domestic and international, than you could absorb in a month of lectures on Arabic culture.

F-FAREEJ SOELEH-If you want to experience an authentic Kuwaiti dishes & dining ambiance then you need to go to Fareej Soeleh just before Marina mall in Salmiya. This place is so unique in its decor and seating arrangements. The restaurant’s entrance has an old Ford pickup as a permanent fixture and have become its landmark. First thing to make a note of is that dining area for bachelors is on the first floor and for families is on the second floor.

Freej-Swoleh-sweets
Logaymat-Kuwaiti sweet balls

They say you can tell how authentic a local cuisine restaurant is by the number of locals who dine there.  Freej Soeleh is packed on the weekends, especially on a Friday after prayer services.  They serve a sample portion of logaymat as soon as guests are seated which is a nice touch and always makes  you want to order more at the end of the meal.

G-GRAND MOSQUEThe 8th largest mosque in the world.On 27th Ramadan year 2008, around 180,000 worshippers attended the night prayer. With such a huge crowd, the mosque was overflowing with people praying in the streets.the architecture of this mosque is world renowned and the intricate details of the Islamic calligraphy is highlighted in this prominent structure. This mosque is open even for non-muslims to marvel through its arranged tours.I love this mosque so much that I visited it almost 4 times!

green-islands
Green Island in Kuwait– once before a reclamation area, now a beautiful island.

G-GREEN ISLAND is a man-made island right beside the Kuwait towers. It’s a haven for beautiful landscape & a home for migrating birds. The design of the Green island is unique and has been a famous place for family picnics, leisure spot and tourist destination.The Green Island is located along the coastline, extending from Al-Shuwaikh to Ras Al-Ard, spanning an area of 785,000 square meters. It is surrounded by natural rocks brought from Al-Fujairah Emirates. In fact, even the sands at the beaches of the Green Island is said to have been imported from other countries. Established on 22nd February 1988, and owned by T.E.C, the island includes about 50,000 coloured shrubs and seedlings planted here, and with all the colors and greenery, it doesn’t render the feel of being in a desert country.

H-HARRIS– Your second landlord in Kuwait. The good, the bad and the Ugly are typical face of a Harris (aka guard/janitor/caretaker).

I-INSHALLAH !  ( If Allah wills it ) You know you are in a Muslim country like Kuwait when you hear this word. Inshallah has no English equivalent; it just simply means “If God wills “. In the Quran S18.A23-24 it says “and never say of anything , “Indeed, I will do that tomorrow” unless adding “inshallah “. Since a person cannot predict the future,Inshallah is said even for something expected, like coming home for dinner.

J-JUICES – or locally called  Aseer is a daily staple here. There is a huge variety of juices available  in Kuwait that becomes handy especially during the hot summer months. there is a juice shop in every corner or even can be ordered online through Talabat or in some cases, the brochures just dropped in your doorsteps.What I love is the abundance of flavors. I didn’t expect to find even the tropical fruits  like coconut, soursop & pineapples , but you can see them here or even in supermarkets.

20140523-004034-2434993
Colorful, healthy world of Juices in local Kuwait.
kuwaittowers
Kuwait Towers

K-KUWAIT TOWERS – An iconic landmark of Kuwait. The face of Kuwait and its best Architectural heritage.After being closed for almost 5 years, it reopened again to public last March 8. This is a must-see for every visitor because the view from its viewing deck is magnificent.It has been closed for quite sometime but last March, it reopened again to public.

IMG_2912

K-KUBBAR ISLAND -Among nature’s best spectacles is the well-known Kubbar Island, relatively Small Sandy Island in the Persian Gulf located in close proximity to Fahaheel. Kubbar is located approximately 29 kilometres off the coast of Failaka and 30 kilometers off the southern coast of Kuwait.  Kubbar Island is a serene getaway that gives the nation of Kuwait its pride in picturesque locations. The island is nothing short of spectacular and is unspoiled in every way. The sparkling blue waters and grainy crystal sands make the beaches on the island so enticing for the tourists. Even though the island’s infrastructure remains yet to be developed,  Kubbar Island local tourist industry is beginning to flourish; it provides boating, sailing, swimming and water sports.

south-side
A trip to Kubbar island for fishing, snorkeling , boating & diving is one of the tourist attractions in Kuwait by westerners & other Expats.

K-KUWAITI DINAR – or KD  for short is the currency of Kuwait. Its one of the strongest in value in all world currency . 1 KD is equivalent to approx. 3.32 $ US.

K-KUBZ ARABI  – Kubz is a type of short bread, flat baked & is widely staple food in Kuwait. Kuwaitis and all other Muslim expats enjoy eating Kubz with their favorite dishes.Your experience in Kuwiat won’t be complete unless you eat grilled meat, lahem, shish tawok with tahini or hummus with a warm Kubz bread.Yum!

download (2)
Kubz or Flat bread in Kuwait

L-LINGERIE shop in the Basement Miya Miya stores. You won’t believe this but Kuwait has its own Red Light District Lingerie shop located mostly in the basements of a Miya- Miya stores (Dollar thrift shops).There are variety of sexy lingerie, costumes, and scantily clothes you could ever imagined displayed here that would makes you wonder what sort of fun the one who wears these are engaging. This is Victoria Secret & La Senza’s local rival.

M-MUTLA ‘A RIDGE located on the further north of Kuwait, this place is famous for its rather rugged desert terrain and if you are in for a real desert experience, you can have a glimpse of this place from the  360 virtual tour of Al-Mutla Ridge. Thank you Alex Dennis Bolado.

M-MUBARAKIYA – this is the country’s renowned market infused with traditional Kuwaiti & Arab culture & design. From clothing, perfumes, carpets, fruits & veggies to shoes,everything is ever-present in Mubarakiya. There are old restaurants inside that still baked their bread in the stone-ovens.This is a must-see for every visitor and Expat here.

M-MASHRABIYA – a type of projecting oriel window enclosed with carved wood latticework located on the second storey of a building or higher, often lined with stained glass. The mashrabiya (sometimes shanshool or rushan) is an element of traditional Arabic architecture used since the Middle Ages up to the mid-20th century. It is mostly used on the street side of the building; however, it may also be used internally on the sahn (courtyard) side.

N-NATIONAL MUSEUM – Kuwait boasts of a National Museum that houses various antiquities and ancient collection from the past of this country’s historical past. One of the interesting sights is the Failaka Antiquities Room which shows relics and archaeological finds from the island. Designed by French architect Michel Ecochard, visitors can enjoy this historical museum, which represent the Kuwaiti life in the past, their everyday activities, the rich trading history of Kuwait and its traditions.Kuwait National Museum also houses the adjacent Planetarium which have astronomical shows which I personally love.

national-museum

O-OIL RESERVES in Kuwait this is what  makes Kuwait where it is now.  Oil reserves in Kuwait make up 8% of the oil reserves in the world. Kuwait is OPEC’s third largest oil producer and claims to hold approximately 104 billion barrels (16.5×109 m3). This includes half of the 5 billion barrels (790×106 m3) in the Saudi-Kuwaiti neutral zone which Kuwait shares with Saudi Arabia. Most of Kuwait’s oil reserves are located in the 70 billion barrels (11×109 m3) Burgan field, the second largest conventional oil field in the world, which has been producing oil since 1938.

P-PEARL MARZOUK ( Al Marzouk Pearl ) One of the most prominent structure in Kuwait and one of the few who have been undergoing restoration .Recently, Kuwait Real Estate Co., have commissioned the rethinking and redevelopment of this significant modern housing complex to PAD10, an architecture and design firm known for their excellence in design and attention to detail. The team is headed by an amazing person which I personally knew, Mr. Naji Moujaes. The renovation began in 2011 and is slated to complete in 2013 .Pearl Marzouk is located along the green lawn & promenade of the Scientific Center overlooking the sea that gives the residents an outstanding view of the Arabian Gulf.

001
Pearl Marzouk in Kuwait

Q-QOUT MARKET – The travelling & hippest market trend happening in Kuwait. They are a very trendy group of artists, farmers, bakers & home-based artisans who gathers together to share their passion with the local community. They recently have their venue in Pearl Marzouk and I was personally impressed by their community.

R-RAMADAN – The Holy Month of Ramadan is one of the highlights of Muslim festivities celebrated every year.This is holy observance of Fasting & prayers of all Muslim worldwide. It is such a great experience to see & partake in this wonderful festival.I always love the atmosphere during Ramadan. The working hours are shorter, people are all friendly & the joys shared during Iftar & futoor. The delicious sweets during Ramadan is also not to be missed along with the spirit of giving.

S-SHAWARMA – Now if you’re in Kuwait, this yummy sandwich is not to be missed. You just need to try it because its delicious. They have so many shawarma shops in Kuwait, almost in every corner of the neighborhood. My personal favorite is the one in Wadi Rum, just in front of Marina Mall in Salmiya and the chicken shawarma of Kurdo. They come in a meal of fries & a drink and side veggies.

mo2armisha-shawarma-sandwich-shop-kuwait-10
Shawarma sandwich or roll

S-SADU HOUSE – Sadu House or Beit Al-Sadu is a very prominent Textile heritage cultural center of Kuwait.The Al-Sadu project started in 1978, as a private initiative by a group of concerned Kuwaitis with the aim of preserving the traditional art of Bedouin  weaving. In 1991, the project was transformed into a weaving Craft Co-operative Society whose shares are owned by the weavers and artisans themselves.

DSC_0079

I love the whole ambiance of this center. Its full of creativity and Kuwaiti culture infused in their traditionally woven materials.they have an Arts & Crafts shop that displays a wide range of local artist’s  and artisan’s work inspired by traditional weaving. They offer a wide range of gifts from bags, wallets, & diaries to traditional camel bags, rugs, wall hangings & home furnishings.They also hosts workshops and weaving courses and has a Library where there is a digital records of all the traditional weaving textiles & traditions of Kuwait are available for researchers, artists, students, and cultural organizations.

S-SHEESHA –  (Hookah ) the only form of nightlife you can have in Kuwait.Sheesha Parlors are widely available in Kuwait but some restaurants have this service for costumers who wants to smoke  while dining . For Expats, trying out in a Sheesha Cafe might surprise you, there are various flavors to choose from and the crowd inside might just be what you need to kill time, play billiards, chat with friends or just watch Football game.

image

To smoke or not to smoke sheesha ?

kuwait-2011-g-souk-al-mubarakiya-arabic-figurine-smoking-shisha
Arabic figurine of smoking Sheesha spotted in Mubarakiya Souk in Kuwait

T-TAREQ RAJAB Museum-Another highlight in my stay in Kuwait was the visit to this beautiful privately-owned Museum. I have never imagined that this type of collection ever existed in Kuwait . To be able to see the vast amount of collection from antiquities to jewels  is really a beautiful experience.

The Tareq Rajab Museum houses a collection of over thirty thousand items collected over the last fifty years, of which approximately ten thousand are on permanent display. Tareq Sayed Rajab was the first Kuwaiti to be sent abroad to study art and archaeology.

11tareqrajabmuseum

T-TAXI – In Kuwait, Taxis have become so handy & affordable. Since there is no good public transportation Kuwait, having a Taxi so easily quite become a convenience. My observations though are; they don’t have meter ( or they choose not to operate it ) , they have fixed amount for every destination and the drivers tends to chat you up, otherwise they are just friendly. You can roam around in your favorite supermarket or to nearest mall by 500 fils or just 1kd fare. Taxi drivers like to give away their phone numbers and you can contact them the time you want to go out & they are waiting at your doorstep. Not like in Holland that Taxis are expensive and there are only designated place where they are located.Riding a taxi is one of the experience that every expats should have. You just need to choose wisely so you don’t end up inside a smelly car & crazy driver!

images
Expat Guide -How to survive your first Taxi ride in Kuwait

U-UBON– Ubon is a trendy  Thai bistro at the center of Kuwait City by architect Rashed Alfoudari. This place’s signature Pendant lamps , the black and white furniture and the small area kitchen is at the back of the restaurant covered by mirror wall. The space is a bit small , enough for 10 tables , but the food is brilliantly delicious as well as for the service by the owner himself Mr. Rashid , a vibrant young architect with his architect team , whom they’ve developed the whole concept of designing the bistro and bringing real Thai food to the market , the location is in the heart of Kuwait city , opposite Abdullah Takki store , no reservations , you have to show up.

V-VIMTO -This flavorful non-alcoholic drink is the flavor in every household in Kuwait purchased especially in the days of Holy month of  Ramadan.I have to try it for me to get convinced and surprisingly, it was good.

W-WAFRA FARMS – Kuwait is not all Desert. There are vegetations as well,just like in Wafra Farms. A trip to Wafra is a worthwhile drive.Wafra is the southernmost area in Kuwait. It is part of Ahmadi Governorate and is well known for its fertile soil andfarms. It is parallel with the Saudi border. Wafra and Abdali in the North, are the only two cities in Kuwait known for farming and the animal sector. Wafra Farms are fed by the underground lakes. The farms have a very original cone-shaped mud dovecotes with hundreds of birds. People tend to visit the Wafra Market to buy fresh vegetables.

45115017
Road to Wafra Farms

W-WASTA System – A colloquial term used in Kuwait for a “special sponsorship or backer system “. It is not what you can do that matters, but its actually who you are. This is very rampant in Ministry works and transactions. If you have a “WASTA”, then things are in favor in your way. It could be done in seconds while if you’re the unlucky one, you’ll wait for days, even to nothing. As an Expat, I don’t know if this is favorable or not, since its a real pain in the ass if you are the one needing the efficient service and you can’t get it in a legit manner. Wasta system sometimes just sucks!

X-X-CITE – One of the biggest Electronics shop in Kuwait which is under Alghanim group of companies. They sell almost everything from mobile phones, computers, electronics, and appliances up to cars & household items.

Y-YACHT SHOW– A popular annual event for yacht & marine enthusiasts in Kuwait.Where else would be the best venue to showcase the huge 15,000 +  private owned yachts & boats than in a prestigious show in Kuwait Yacht show held in Marina. I have written about life in the sea in Kuwait that shows how Kuwaitis love marine life and has been an integral part of their culture.

Z-ZUBAIDY FISH – Pampus argenteus, often called either the silver or white pomfret, is a species of butterfish that lives in coastal waters off the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. This is one of the common favorites for Fish in Kuwait along with Hamoor (Grouper).

 

GettyImages-484871888
Fish vendor selling Zubaidy fishes in Mubarakiya Fish Market

So, how do you well-know your own country in alphabetically speaking?

So,there you go, Everything Kuwait from A to Z. I hope this post helps you out if you are planning to start your Expat life in Kuwait.

Thank you for reading!

 

Follow my blog with Bloglovin