Page 4 of Go where the pepper grows Travel Blog Posts

As my train pulls into Prague, I watch the thick, overhanging clouds looming above the historic Bohemian city with concern. They obstruct the sun, bring rain, potentially spoiling the mood for everybody. Not the best conditions for a three-day music festival. Music? Indeed. I'm on my way to the 14th annual Obscene Extreme Festival. As the name suggests, this is not gonna be your run-of-the-mill summer rock festival with the occasional hard rock or heavy metal band thrown into the equation. What awaits me is three days of aural assault and straight up brutality. A closer look at the running order reveals band names like Gutalax, Human Scum, Splattered Mermaids, Vomitory, Necromorph, Bowelfuck, Rottenness, Vulvectomy and Sublime Cadaveric Decomposition. The genre these bands belong to could be roughly described as grindcore, although there are a million ... read more
TOTT: Scream!
Jig-Ai pit

Asia » China » Jiangsu » Tongli March 18th 2012

The small town of Tongli is only about an hour away from Suzhou, easily accessible by bus. Well, actually it takes me longer to get to the bus station in Suzhou by local bus than it does to Tongli. Upon arrival, I buy a few baozi for breakfast and make my way to the centre. I grudgingly pay the hefty 90 yuan it costs to enter the old town; what's the use of complaining - it is a touristy little town and they wanna max out the profit, just like anywhere else. I can't help but wonder what it would be like were, say, the Heidelberg Altstadt fenced off and accessible only through a gate where tourists have to buy pricy tickets to enter. Visiting Tongli on a Sunday might not have been the brightest idea, ... read more
Tourists in boats and teahouses
Finally a decent sneaky shot
Chrysanthemum tea

Asia » China » Jiangsu » Suzhou March 17th 2012

Ah, Suzhou, pleasant little town, easy to navigate. I wish I could say that, but I don't wanna lie. In fact, though, most Chinese people would think of Suzhou as a small town, as it has only around four million inhabitants. Referring to the 2010 Census, that means there are still 20 (!) cities in China that are bigger than Suzhou. Probably only the Top 6-8 would be considered 'big cities' by most. This time I arrive by train, catch a local bus, which unfortunately again takes almost an hour to near my host's place. Slowly but surely I'm getting fed up by the time wasted using local transport. The sheer size of Chinese cities really takes it out of me. Once again I start pondering whether it wouldn't be easier to just stay in a ... read more
Master of the Nets
Small old ladies heading into the temple
There's something comforting about those canals...

Asia » China » Jiangsu » Nanjing March 14th 2012

In Nanjing, for the first time on this trip, I get the opportunity to stay with a Chinese family at their home. Getting there proves to be a bit tough, though. The bus ride from Jiangyin to Nanjing is a breeze, but then finding the right local bus isn't. There are several bus stops outside the main building of the bus station, but still inside the gated area. On the street outside, there are several more, so which one do I go to? And which direction? I see what I take to be my bus, no. 327, arriving at the stop outside, so I hop on and show the driver the slip of paper with the characters of the bus stop where I'm supposed to get off. He studies it for a moment, then nods almost ... read more
Prayer flags detail
Vegetarian temple food
Nanjing skyline from City Walls

Asia » China » Jiangsu » Jiangyin March 8th 2012

Catching a bus from Shanghai to Jiangyin turns out to be easier than I thought. They leave every 30 minutes from Shanghai's Long-Distance Bus Terminal, which is located within walking distance from the Shanghai Railway Station metro station. I copy the Chinese characters for 'Jiangyin' onto a piece of paper, show it to the lady selling the bus tickets, nod and smile when she asks me a question in Chinese, which prompts her to shoot me a weird look, but I just keep nodding and smiling bravely until she gives me a ticket. I have enough time to grab a bite before my bus leaves, so I check out a baozi stall to see if they have vegetarian ones. My standing around awkwardly, shifting from one foot to the other gets me some attention from the ... read more
Nice countryside around Jiangyin
Mapo doufu, Sichuan-style

Asia » China » Shanghai March 4th 2012

Shanghai and I did not get off to a good start. First thing I do is buy a bottle of water at an airport shop, as I'm rather dehydrated and dizzy from the long flight. I ask the shopgirl if she can point me to the metro, but then I realize I'm in China now, and English doesn't get me very far. She calls another shopgirl, and I repeat what I said, but they just look at each other confusedly and then start discussing the finer aspects of my outward appearance, I'm guessing. A person at Shanghai Pudong International Airport who doesn't speak Chinese? Impossibru! Whoa, whoa, hold on a sec! Don't worry, you can continue reading. This is not gonna turn into a blog where I bitch about how nobody in China speaks English. I ... read more
Coloured pottery camel
Guardian lion seal
Greens in wok

Middle East » Qatar » Doha February 29th 2012

I'd already been to the Gulf a handful of times - but only for a few hours each time on a stopover to Australia or Southeast Asia, never leaving the airport. Since I'm a naturally curious guy, I couldn't let that slide. Hence I booked a three-day stopover in Doha before my onwards flight to Shanghai. I really needed to know what these small, rich countries are all about. Qatar has become somewhat of a regional global player, or at least, that's how it sees itself. In 2006, it hosted the Asian Games, in 2011 the Arab Games. Last year the FIFA shocked the world when they announced that Qatar will host the football World Cup in 2022. On the political side, Qatar has become synonymous with the TV-channel Al-Jazeera, "the world's best known - and ... read more
Star tile
Finally some decent hummus again
Pretty Persian cat with 'lion-shave'

Europe » Russia » Northwest » Moscow December 31st 2011

I'm very happy to say that on the second try, I finally made it to Russia. My ill-fated first attempt in 2008 was aborted after a desultory stay in Ukraine and a depressing few days in Belarus. Long story short, I think I wasn't quite ready yet. It's easy enough to buy a plane or train or bus ticket and travel to a foreign country, but to be adequately prepared for the experience and the almost inevitable culture shock continues to be a different story altogether. Of course, it also depends on the approach at travelling you take, but let's not go there now. This time everything was to be different. I get off the plane at Moscow's Domodedovo (a word with four o's, none of which are pronounced like /o/) Airport and set foot on ... read more
Gilded domes
Pirog filled with berries

Europe » Germany » Baden-Württemberg » Heidelberg September 6th 2011

What do I want? What will make me happy? Nothing, nothing, nothing Nothing! Hüsker Dü Heidelberg has something to offer for everyone: If you're a Chinese tourist, you don't have to go out of your way to experience the town's gorgeous two sights. Just stay in line, follow the group and listen to the tour guide's elaborate explanations. Try to take at least 700 photos in two hours. Locals are just there for decorative purposes, so stare and point at the ones that are either very tall or very hairy and shove your oversized lens in their faces. When the guide recommends a certain type of chocolate, you better buy lots to give him or her some face. To wrap up the visit, join the group at the town's best Chinese restaurant, where the owner will ... read more
View on the Old Town from the Castle
O sushi et al.
Minerva's shield

Europe » Germany » Rhineland-Palatinate » Worms August 21st 2011

Worms (pronounced as /voormz/, the -oo- in which being pronounced as in door) is one of those towns in the Southwest of Germany, which, despite having a colourful, troubled history and a rich cultural heritage, suffer from a lack of attention by tourists domestic and foreign. A cynic would probably argue that it only appeals to tour groups comprised of elderly Germans or those showing a keen interest in the ecclesiastical, which might not even be too far from the truth. Indeed, the town feels rather antiquated, almost as if an invisible layer of dust clings on to everything, including the silver-haired locals. Churches abound wherever you look, there are seven in the historical centre alone. There is a half-arsed war memorial at the end of a pretty little park lane lined with flowers and bushes. ... read more
War memorial

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