Whether you are taking a short city break weekend, a longer vacation or just doing business in Span for a few days, one if thing is for certain, you will love Spanish food. During your stay, no matter how long it is, you will want to eat, and while for some, global fast food is easy, for many Spanish food is a must. But what are some of the best Spanish dishes you really must try? Here are 5.
Let’s start with something sweet and something that is consumed in astronomical amounts by many Spaniards. Turrón is a sweet almond Nougat that is extremely popular at Christmas. However, many do not know that it is a true sweet treat available any day of the year even when you have no reason to celebrate at all. The small town of Jijona in the province of Alicante is where most of these very tasty treats are made and there are two types. Made with honey, almonds and egg white the two versions of this sweet treat are Jijona which is soft and chewy and the hard Alicante Turrón that has pieces of almond in it.
Tortilla Española is a classic dish and one that is surprisingly tasty. Over the years there have been some variations on the Tortilla Española just to spice things up, but the traditionalist will have nothing of it. Nothing beats a traditional Tortilla Española that consists of Eggs, Potatoes and Onions, for some even the onion is extravagant, but it does give the meal a little more taste. Slow cooked in olive oil this simple dish is a very filling meal.
Perhaps the most well-known of all Spanish Dishes, Paella, is for some what Spain is known for. A traditional Paella includes chicken or rabbit, saffron, runner beans and butter beans. However, the Paella is not complete without rice and quite a lot of it. The rice is used to absorb the flavours not just to make the dish more filling. Try Paella with rabbit and you will be surprised just how tasty it is.
A simple fried chicken dish, known throughout Spain is Pollo al ajillo. Everyone says the Pollo al ajillo made by their mother or grandmother is the best and truth be told this may actually be so as every time I have had it, it tastes better. This really is a simple dish. Whole unpeeled garlic is fried in olive oil to flavour the oil then removed. Chicken is then fried in the oil and when cooked the garlic cloves, some rosemary and thyme as well as a dash of sherry are added to make a dish that is unbelievably tasty.
If you have not had a bowl of Gazpacho then you have not been to Spain. This blend of ripe red tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and garlic can be found, ice cold, in jugs in many Tapas bars throughout Spain. It is one of the most refreshing things to eat or drink anywhere in the entire country and is quintessentially Spanish!
These are just 5 of the must try dishes you can have in Spain. There are many more surprisingly good dishes and one or two house specialities you will stumble up. However, to really get the most out of any restaurant, being able to speak Spanish, will open up many gastronomic delights.
Spain is a popular tourist destination and if a person hasn’t visited, he or she probably wants to. Apart from some flamenco and some lounging on the beach, Spain has many attractions, but there are some that can only be done in Spain. Here are 7, with one special one at the end.
Travel on a Zip Line to Portugal: Limite Zero takes one minute to travel from the Andalucía village of Sanlúcar de Guadiana and over the border to Alcoutim in Portugal. This is the only international zip line in the world and is the only zip line that takes you forward by an hour due to the time difference between Spain and Portugal.
Eat a Gazpacho at McDonald’s: This is a fun thing that can only be done in Spain. Gazpacho is very popular in Spain and while many tourists are looking for slightly different dining experiences to McDonald’s, this is worth a try. Spain is the only country in the world that has Gazpacho on the McDonald’s menu. Come on, it is worth a try, at least for a selfie!
Eat in the world’s oldest restaurant: This is a step up from McDonalds and Madrid in Spain is the only place in the world this can be done. Sobrino de Botin in Madrid is around 300 years old and holds the world record for the oldest restaurant in the world. If you visit, you really must try the oven baked lamb… it is legendary!
Visit the Tomb of Christopher Columbus: Christopher Columbus is well known by many people. Without out him much of the world we know today may not actually have been found. It is a tough thing to consider. Maybe it is worthwhile saying a word of thanks by visiting his impressive tomb. Recent DNA tests prove that the Cathedral of Seville does really house the remains of Christopher Columbus. The tomb is ok but the Cathedral is magnificent
Near Death Experience: No, you don’t have to come close to death but you can attend the festival of the near death experience or La Fiesta de Santa Marta de Ribarteme that takes place every year in Las Nieves, Galicia. During this bizarre event people pretend to be dead and are carried through the streets in coffins.
World’s biggest nightclub: For those wanting something a little less macabre a visit to the island of Ibiza will get your heart racing. Here the world’s largest nightclub called Privilege has space for over 10,000 people to party the night away.
Tapas: Perhaps the best thing about Spain, and final thing you can only do in Spain is to enjoy real Tapas. This gastronomic part of Spanish life will come to life when you can converse with the locals in their mother tongue.
Spain has so much to offer tourists of all ages. However, these and many other hidden gems can be found in the country, famous for its rich history and culture, by speaking Spanish. Language opens up more doors than many could imagine, takes tourists down a road less travelled. To really experience Spain, find places that perhaps no one else has before; speaking Spanish will make a difference.
Oktoberfest began as the marriage ceremony between Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese on October 12, 1810. All of the townspeople were invited to attend the festival, which took place in the fields outside of the city gates. Following the wedding the fields were named Theresienwiese after the Princess, and the party was such a hit that the townspeople asked King Ludwig to continue the celebration the following year. This year's Oktoberfest (2019) will mark the 212th anniversary of the festivities.
Today the remnants of the gates still stand and the fields, known by locals as the Wies’n (world's largest fair), now host the largest beer festival in the world: Oktoberfest! What was a simple wedding celebration has transformed into a 17 or 18-day festival in which 7 million people from around the world participate in, consuming more than 6 million litres of Bavarian beer. That’s 1 million gallons of beer! Oktoberfest officially begins on the second to last Saturday in September at noon when the mayor of Munich taps the first barrel at the Schottenhamel Tent, crying “O’zapft is” (It’s open). The festival concludes the first Sunday of October following German reunification day.
There are 14 main beer tents at the Theresienwiese grounds serving brews by the Maß (1-liter stein). Of the 14 tents there are 6 large tents, which rotate up to 12,000 people per day! That is a whole lot of beer! Only six breweries are represented at the Oktoberfest grounds – Späten, Augustiner, Paulaner, Hacker-Poschorr, Hofbräu and Löwenbräu. Everyone has their preferred brew by the end, which one will be yours? Also, for those of you who fancy a break from the frothy brews there is a special wine tent called Weinzelt.
The 2018 Oktoberfest, its 211th appearance and commences in late September. Apparently, the Schottenhamel tent is the place to be, if you want to catch the official opening ceremonies. At noon, the Mayor of Munich will have the honour of tapping the first keg of Oktoberfest beer. Once the barrel has been tapped, all visitors will then be allowed to quench their thirst. It pays to arrive early in order to experience the festivities up close and personal and it's quite common for visitors to come around 9 am to secure good seats. Experience German culture to the fullest by learning German before you go!
Germany is an amazing country and yet for some reason many struggle to see it. The country is steeped in tradition and culture and the food is far more than just sausages and sauerkraut. Geographically, politically and economically Germany sits at the centre of Europe, it a powerhouse of business and commerce and a country that many people visit for leisure. Germany is the largest economy in Europe and the fifth largest in the world, so it has plenty of brag about.
The German people love to eat, however the stereotype of all Germans being fat is far from true. Yes, the German diet is rich and hearty with each region of Germany calling their cuisine “Traditional” or typically German. However, as times have progressed Germans have also adhered to healthier lifestyles and that includes their diet.
Pork is the most consumed meat in Germany and two of the most traditional dishes, and very popular too, are Schweinshaxe which is a superb braised pork hock dish and Saumagen. Many people turn their eyes at Saumagen once they realise what it is as Pork Stomach does not sound exactly appetising. Nevertheless, a German menu is full of many Pork delights and one way to navigate your way around this is to speak German, as in any country when you speak the language eating is easier and more enjoyable.
Germans are best known for their sausages and there are many different types. The traditional Bratwurst sausage is one many will be familiar with but head to any butcher or restaurant and you may find up to a dozen different types available to tempt you. Again, speaking the language will help you ask what each Sausage is and some will either make you squirm and little but most will make your mouth water.
Pretty much every traditional German meal is complemented by root vegetables. Potatoes, turnips and beet are often part of the main meal or are made into soup. Today, thankfully, the Germans don’t just boil them they have become a lot more creative as many tourists to Germany will confirm. Of course, the one thing you cannot ignore when it comes to German food is Sauerkraut. This cabbage dish does not come with everything as one may imagine but it is still hugely popular and there are a handful of variances in the dish throughout the country.
And what would a meal be in Germany without a glass of beer? Like their meat, the Germans love their beer. German beer is considered one of the best in the world and the strict brewing laws or “purity laws” laid down in the 16th century are partly the reason why. The beers are brewed to perfection and when you speak to a brew master he or she will explain in great detail how and why the beer you are drinking is as it is. This is another good reason to speak German.
Finally, to end any meal you need that little shot of Schnapps and German Schnapps is something to be enjoyed. Schnapps is the perfect end to a good and filling meal, and of course, will result in making lifelong friends.
Germans love rich, hearty cuisine, though each area of Germany has its own definition of what a traditional meal looks like. What can you expect on the menu when you go to a traditional German restaurant or pub? More often than not, classic dishes like Wiener Schnitzel, Würstchen mit Sauerkraut, and, of course, potato-based dishes in various forms, like in Bratkartoffeln (Roasted Potatoes), Pommes Frites (French Fries), or Kartoffelauflauf (potato casseroles). I have outlined a few of the common recipes below, just so you know what you are eating!
Funny enough, but the most famous German dish, Spätzle, is completely vegetarian. Spätzle are a kind of pasta, but the dough only consists of eggs, flour, salt and a hint of fizzy water (in order to fluff up the dough). Swabians are very proud of their Spätzle, so better not call them German pasta. Traditionally Spätzle are served as a side dish to meaty dishes (like Schnitzel) or can even be a main dish themselves. The most famous way of preparing Spätzle is to top it with a huge amount of cheese (mountain cheese for the taste and some Limburger for the consistency) which is called Käsespätzle. Spätzle originally come from the area around Stuttgart and are part of most Swabian dishes.
It is not surprising that another popular dish is made of pork. Bratwürste are part of every German barbecue and also differ from area to area. The most famous Bratwürste are for sure the short and thin ones coming from Nürnberg. Grill your Bratwurst for 2 minutes on each side, put it in a bun, add some ketchup or mustard and ready is this iconic German dish called Bratwurstsemmel.Outside of Nürnberg Bratwürste are bigger and contain more fat. But no matter which size, Bratwürste are part of every German barbeque party. Potato Casserole: Kartoffleauflaut - The German generic term for baked "casserole" is "Auflauf" which literally means "piling up".
Germans sometimes are referred to as ‘Kartoffeln’ as a joke, because it seems that everyday a German is having at least one dish which contains Kartoffeln. While this stereotype is not true, it is true that Bratkartoffeln are an excellent way of eating your portion of Kartoffeln in Germany. Slice up some boiled potatoes, slice them thinly, put them in a frying pan with a lot of oil, bacon and onions and fry them until they turn dark and crispy. Not the healthiest option of things to eat in Germany but definitely not the worst as well.
The most famous version of Schnitzel is definitely the Wiener Schnitzel, which is a thinly sliced piece of veal-meat, covered with flour, egg and bread crumbs and then deep fried in oil or a lot of butter until it turn golden on the outside. Also very tasty is the Schnitzel Wiener Art, which is basically the same but with pork meat. But there are many more options on how to prepare a Schnitzel which range from chicken breast to soja to blocks of cheese.
One could argue that Gulasch is not really a German invention, but nevertheless the Germans love their Gulasch and may have taken the original recipes and turned them into some variations of their own. Gulasch is made with thick pieces of beef meat that have been slow cooked in a rich sauce, sometimes made of red wine, which makes the meat very soft and tender. Gulasch can be eaten as a soup or with some side dishes like Spätzle.
The German food experience is amazing and can be appreciated in many places, but I don't think anything could be more exciting than experiencing German food in Germany.
Everyone loves to, or at least dreams of travel, but did you know travel can actually be good for you? Sure, travel can have its downsides, delays, lost baggage and other stresses, but for the vast majority of the billions of people who travel every year, this is not the case. The vast majority of travellers whether travelling for business of pleasure have few stresses if any at all.
So why is travel beneficial to your health? Travel can boost your immune system. It sounds bizarre, but travel helps your body fight infection and illness. Travel acts like a probiotic because your body is exposed to so much. Exposure to the dirt and germs of other countries is good for you and builds up stronger antibodies inside you. This, in turn, boosts your immune system.
An expanded mind improves brain health. Travelling introduces your brain to new experiences. New people, new cultures and new sites, sounds and smells. Hearing a new language and challenging yourself to learn and speak it is just an added boost to brain health. Studies have shown that there is a definite increase in creativity, cultural awareness and growth in a person generally. Good brain health leads to emotional stability, and in many cases, a more fulfilled life.
Lessen heart disease and increases fitness. Some people who have stressful trips may disagree with this, but in general, travel reduces stress in a person and everyone knows that reduced stress is good for the heart. Studies have shown that people who travel at least once a year on vacation to rest are less likely to have a heart attack. Sure, a lot of travelling means being sat on a Boeing at 39,000 feet for hours on end, or could mean just lounging on the beach soaking up the sun. But travelling to new places encourages people to explore, and exploration means getting up and getting active. Travel can provide an opportunity to try new things such as an extreme sport or it may just be that you walk around the city you are in more than you would at home. Travel is, for many, about exploring and doing new things, of course, there will be days of rest but it is getting to see the sites and sounds that really makes travel special.
Healing places. Some people travel for healing or at least upliftment, and there are many places around the world where people go just for this. Spas, springs and places of energy relax or uplift the body and soul. There are energy points that some believe in, such as Stonehenge in the UK or the pyramids of Egypt. Only by travelling can you find these healing places. Don’t forget certain foods found in some countries offer many health benefits, sometimes it is just the fact the fruit, for example, is picked off the tree by you and its freshness is what makes it better
Travel is really good for you. Most people enjoy it and to really gain more out of the experience, a language makes things even better. Speaking the language of the country you are visiting will make you feel more at ease and you will relax. A language can also help you communicate with locals and perhaps find out an age-old remedy, health boosting food or habit that could change your life forever. However you look at it, there is nothing wrong whatsoever with travelling, so, go on, get out there, explore and be healthy.
St Petersburg is one of my favourite cities - as many of you know my lovely husband is Russian and he has shown me his city through his eyes, which is why I might be slightly prejudiced!!
The first thing we do when we arrive in St Petersburg is walk through the city streets and reacquaint ourselves with the city. Many people don’t realise that St Petersburg is a city built on the delta of the River Neva (it is built on over 42 islands) and so is characterised by waterways and bridges. It is called Venice of the East, but in my opinion is more beautiful. To walk around the city and peer into courtyards can fill hours of time. Some buildings are spectacular, exuding history and some look like they are about to fall down. St Petersburg is a city full of contrasts. But the streets buzz with activity at all hours (especially during the summer months) and you can feel the energy pulsating in the air.
If you are in St Petersburg walk through the Mikhailovsky gardens towards the church on a summer’s day and then have a look through.
Another great thing to do in St Petersburg is to go on a boat trip around the canals. The canals in the city centre are the Moyka, Fontanka and Griboyedova. You can easily book a tour from the many sellers on Nevsky Prospekt but it is wise to ask what their itinerary is before paying. You will see a different side of the city on the water..
The Hermitage is another must. Even if you are not interested in museums and art galleries – it will impress you. I couldn’t believe that I was standing directly in front of a Rembrandt painting. No crowds, just me and Rembrandt. I have been to the Hermitage twice and still feel that I have only seen a small amount of this beautiful palace/art gallery. You can only absorb so much beauty in one sitting. My advice is to wear comfortable shoes and go wherever you feel.
During the summer months St Petersburg experiences White Nights (Mid-June to the end of July). During this time, the night is like twilight and it only gets dark for one or two hours. Stay up one night and watch the bridges open from 2.30am to 5am to let the big ships come into the harbour. It is a spectacular sight.
I look forward to hearing if you’ve been to St Petersburg and your thoughts about my favourite city……
Russia is the largest country in the world and offers a broad range of travel experiences, from treks up the slopes of glacier-capped mountains to strolls along the shoreline of Earth’s oldest lake. Historical sites and cultural activities in the country’s great cities abound as well. Whether you’re exploring the grounds of Moscow’s Kremlin or wandering through the steppes of Mongolia, a visit to Russia is an adventure not soon forgotten. (www.touropia.com)
St Petersburg hosts many wonderful sites which include the Hermitage, with its baroque and rococo styles, Voltaire’s library, which was bought out by the educated Catherine, and the Kunstcamera museum is a must for visitors to St Petersburg. Palace Square is at its best at night, whereas the interiors of Saint Isaac’s and Kazan Cathedrals look better in daylight when rays of light play on the mosaics and paintings. However, the best mosaic collection is in the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood. For a true feeling of the city, you should try to see a ballet in Mariinsky Theatre.
Another interesting place to visit is Mount Elbrus which is in the Caucasus Mountain Range in Southern Russia. At 5,642 meters (18,510 ft), Elbrus is included as one of the Seven Summits, the highest summits on each of the planet’s seven continents, attracting both experienced and novice mountain climbers. While the mountain was formed from a volcano, it is considered dormant, with no recorded eruptions. A cable car system can take visitors as high as 3,800 meters (12,500 ft), facilitating ascents to the summit.
As the capital of Russia, Moscow is a very common place to visit. In contrast to St Petersburg, Moscow is a city of wide avenues and massive Soviet buildings – from the Lenin Russian State Library which has 275 km of shelves, to Stalin skyscrapers representing Stalin’s Empire style. All tourists, however, go to see the Kremlin and Red Square first. Having originally been a market and an execution yard (the place of bread and circuses), Red Square is now the first port of call for foreign and local tourists alike. Even today, it is the centre of Moscow life, allowing you to plunge into the history of the city quickly and easily.
If you are planning a trip to Russia, consider learning the language before you go! Contact VLLC to commence one of our individually tailored courses to suit you.
Indonesia is a country made up of islands, over 13,000 of them to be precise, and it is a country that has so much to offer any traveller. Whether you are travelling for business or leisure, whether you plan to stay in one place or intend exploring some of the many islands it makes little difference and many tourists will not get much further into the country than any other tourist and that is a real pity.
As the largest country in the world made up entirely of islands, one would expect a great deal of diversity and indeed there is, but few people go further than the capital Jakarta or the island of Bali or Sumatra. Why is this? Firstly, Jakarta is for business and Bali and Sumatra are very much tourist destinations with beaches and tropical forests, like few places on earth. Also, to go beyond the conventional tourist and business hubs, the barrier of language becomes a problem, and that puts people off.
By learning to speak Indonesian, all 13,000 of it's islands open up and for anyone on an extended holiday or young people exploring the world, accommodation can be booked locally, often at a very good rate because you have some grasp of the language. Getting into the villages where the Indonesian people live, work and play becomes part of the experience. Just because you speak the language, you can now get to know the people and get under the skin of a truly amazing country.
Tour guides that will take you places of interest are always available in your native language but, with the language, you can begin to explore places and ask questions and discover what makes Indonesia tick. Talking to locals about a place or something that is happening allows you to see things in a whole new way, a way in which many will miss out on without language.
From Komodo Dragons and Orang-utans, speaking to a local in their mother tongue can create a whole new experience, making a trip to see these amazing wild animals very special indeed. Anyone can perhaps see these animals, but only a local will know the secrets to seeing them up close or seeing them where normal tourists cannot get to. Even food becomes better with language. With language, food itself can become an adventure and being able to ask for a dish with or without something more to your liking makes the exotically spiced or seriously fresh cuisine of Indonesia something you will never forget.
So, when you plan your trip to Indonesia why not take the opportunity to learn the language, instead of expecting everything to be done in your language. Step out and get under the covers of Indonesia and explore the many islands with greater confidence and showing respect the people you meet along the way. Language is the one thing you cannot pack into your suitcase but it is the one thing that will make your trip to Indonesia more enjoyable than you could ever imagine. Learn Indonesian at VLLC and expand your horizons.
Made up of over 13,000 islands of which just under half are inhabited, Indonesia is a fascinating country with its own wonders and local weirdness. It is a popular country to visit and Jakarta is a prominent business hub in Asia and, perhaps, the first weird thing about Indonesia is its name. Indonesia is actually Greek from the words Indos and nesos that literally mean “Indian Islands”. But what else makes Indonesia a wonderful place to visit?
Indonesia is home to the beautiful and serene Lake Toba that is the size of Singapore. In North Sumatra, Lake Toba is about 100km long and 30km wide and is a very popular tourist attraction. But don’t be too drawn into the beauty, the serenity and peace of the mountain lake hides a secret. Lake Toba is the largest Volcanic lake anywhere in the world. Like most countries in the world it is often not the country that is weird but the people and their traditions. Speaking to the locals in Indonesia will unearth some wonderful and strangely bizarre traditions, language always opens up a few hidden doors when traveling here are just a few.
Walking with the Dead. One of the weirdest Indonesian traditions is also among the creepiest anywhere in the world and is perhaps not one for those who are just a little bit sensitive. Tucked away among the mountains of Tana Toraja, the Toraja tribe have a bizarre ritual, a family reunion of sorts, that is said to bring blessings to those who take part. Every August, the Toraja tribe exhume the bodies of their long dead, and not so long dead, loved ones and relatives and spend some time with them. They dress and groom the corpses in new, clean clothes and then take them for a stroll around their village. If you are ever in the area in August and you see a man walking a dead person don’t be afraid, consider yourself lucky but remember these people are dead so even the most fluent Indonesian speaker won’t be able to communicate.
If the dead is just a little bit too much for you then why not head to Banten, West Java and watch, or try to watch the art of Debus. Debus is a rather freaky, dangerous and yet fascinating part of Martial Arts that is said to demonstrate the proof of invulnerability through faith in God. Participants practice a variety of self-harming techniques such as slicing with knives, eating fire or broken glass and sticking needles in cheeks and other parts of the body. The idea is to walk away unharmed. Try speaking some Indonesian and you may find out some of the secrets.
Buffalo in the Streets. No death, near death or blood on this weird and wonderful tradition performed by farmers in Banyuwangi, East Java. No real buffalos are used in the wonderful Kebo Keboan Ritual that is performed with people dressed up as the main work animal for many farmers in appreciation of a good harvest. Buffalo are regarded in high esteem by local farmers as they plough their fields and play an important part in local farming this event honours them. The ritual of Kebo Keboan is a fun filled event, full of laughter with some of the “buffalo” going completely crazy in the streets after one or two too many drinks.
This handful of Indonesian wonders are part of the real Indonesia that not many tourists get to see. However, if you learn to speak Indonesian these and many more weird, wonderful and even hidden gems will come your way, simply because you can speak, listen and understand. After all, understanding other cultures is very much a reason why different places are visited.
Travelling is an exciting opportunity which can be enhanced by learning the language before you go. This blog contains some interesting articles about language and travel.