Mexico lindo y querido

31 Aug

Another reason to love Mexico is that Mexico loves and protectsDSCN4373

animals, especially endangered species. See the turtle farm and hatchery on Isla Mujeres.  Small turtlesDSCN4383

big turtles


future turtles


and iguanas


iguanas iguanas iguanas


I thought the “island of women” (Isla Mujeres), Mexico’s eastern most point, was somewhat a slight concession to femminism, as tiny as the island itself, but I got it all wrong as did the conquistadores when they saw all those mysterious female idols on the island.  Then I came across this modern representation of the most important Mayan goddess Ixchel, the goddess of the rainbow, of water, fertility, abundance, the moon, love and medicine (maybe something like a midwife).  That’s what it says on the pedestal.


Later I found drawings of the original, much fiercer looking version of this idealized, modern, European influenced representation. I bought  a Mayan calender with this picture of the goddess in the middle.

Ixchel_DresdenNow, she is one to be respected, a warrior woman, has nothing to do with that sailor-conquistador-dirty-old-man fantasy above.  Hey guys, she’s gonna eat you alive before you even say “hi” to her.

Talking about eating: now everybody knows Mexican food. I have always liked it, even before going to where you get the real real yummies. There I had it already for breakfast


Geee, I’m eating faster than my camera says click ….

….and this was my morning drink: piña, apio, nopal, perejil, sábila, chayote, pepino. Color: fresh green. I drank it even before translating the ingredients. What do you think, did it make me go psychedelic or did it cure my wrinkles? Easy! It says chayote and not payote. It might have contrasted my free radicals, had I persisted with the recipe: pineapple, celery, prickly pear cactus leaf, parsley, aloe vera, cucumber squash. Sounds like Doctor Oz gone green.

I know you are waiting to see the pyramids and ruins. I’ll get to them, sooner or later.




29 Aug


A Mariachi band playing Guantanamera makes you feel

2013-07-13 01.17.10

They are playing  “Guantanamera”, because people from all over the world know  the song; do the mariachi think that tourists think it’s a typical Mexican song?  Never mind, Guantanamo is really not so far away from Cancun, geographically.  While waiting for the bus that takes us from the airport to Cancun I kindly ask the band in tourist Spanish to play “Cielito Lindo”. That’s Mexican (!) and I love that song. I have known it since high school times where our English teacher (a sturdy, short, quite unhandsome chap)had taught us the song in a bout of cosmopolitanism. He didn’t teach us much English but he certainly opened up our minds for the differences in human kind. For all my life I had believed that Cielito Lindo  is a name, like Cielito being the first and Lindo the family name.  How unromantic of me, it means something like “sweetheart”.  Before I could request “Cucurrucucù Paloma”, my other favourite Mexican song,  the bus came. (Actually I only know these two songs, but the lyrics almost by heart)

There are about a thousand (mas o menos 1000) good reasons to come to Mexico for holiday.  Bear with me for a couple of letters and you’ll know them all. 1st  The country is well prepared for tourism. In the airport  the employees speak English fluently, they explain to you how to get to town by bus. Everything is calm and orderly, no harassment of false helpers who want to lure you into their taxis and to their hotels. And don’t let any “Lonely Planet” tell you about Cancun’s chaotic traffic and reckless drivers.  It’s not true, that’s  reason no. 2: On the whole peninsula of Yucatan driversDSCN4428 are rather orderly, respectful and calm .

See you soon for the next 998 reasons

Cheers Gerburg

Highlight Bagan! … or is it a dream?

28 Oct

First of all, let me give credit to my special Italian ties:

Marco Polo said/wrote about Bagan before it was succumbed to its Mongolian conquerors: “The towers are built of fine stone, and one has been covered with gold a finger thick, so that the tower appears to be of solid gold. Another is covered with silver in a similar manner and appears to be made of solid silver. The King of Mien Guo [Myanmar called by the Chinese] caused these towers to be built as a monument to his magnificence and for the benefit of his soul. They make one of the finest sights in the world, being exquisitely finished, splendid and costly. When illuminated by the sun they are especially brilliant and can be seen from the great distance” …  a “gilded city alive with tinkling bells and the swishing sounds of monks robes”

A lot has changed since the 13th century but still today

Bagan is one of the most enchanting places in the world

My first sunset, near the hotel which is right on the archeological site

What you get to see is temples, temples, monasteries ………….. 11th – 13thcentury. Without thousands of temples destroyed in earthquakes there are still so many left you can’t count them, let alone see them all (there are three places to visit: Old Bagan, New Bagan and Nyaung U and there are the Plains, a huge archeological site). Rent a horse cart or a bike. The horse cart has the advantage that the driver takes you right away to the highlights, tells you their names and gives you a short history in his own words.

Example: the Pahtothamya or Thamya Pahto was built during the reign of Kyanzittha around XI – XII Century or maybe by the less known King Taunghthugyi also known as Sawrahan (931 – 964) … inside typical of “pyu” influence … oldest frescoes …..

Now imagine dozens of such explanations, on a medium hot day of 32°C, with your brains getting churned thoroughly during the bumpy cart ride … no wonder all that’s left are the pictures. Just enjoy them, don’t bother about facts and names!

good horse!

… as far as the eye can see … in the back the Ayeyarwady River; problems with the pronunciation? Ok, Irrawady is fine, too

they come in all shapes and sizes

sometimes they resemble each other

big but not without charm

see the Buddha inside

Actually, go and have a look inside the temples

 reminders of the Hindu past

gilded buddha: too big for a normal photo

some statues  are really small

… they all resemble each other …. you never know whether you had already seen it

look outside

climb up the steepest stairs

have a look around

let your feet be the only nude part of the body

don’t forget, these are places of worship after all

That’s all for today

cheers Gerburg

Longyi, thanakha, and betel

7 Oct


Long trousers make you sweat? Shorts show too much leg?

Who wears the trousers here in Burma? The answer is: no one, they are one step ahead in gender equality.

Men are usually clad in shirts and dark, finely chequered longyis (“gy” pronounce like “j” in Jesus), a type of sarong folded over in front to be held in place. At first sight they may have a  confusing resemblance to skirts to you but give yourself two days and you will consider them the most masculine looking garment ever. No pockets, but so tight around the waist, men stick their wallets, cell phones, umbrellas in the waist band. Very practical. When they have to wade through high water or play sports they pass the back part of the cloth through the crotch and fix it in front. It then looks like an Indian dhoti and leaves the legs free to move. Women’s longyis are usually brighter in colour and with gold and silver thread (except the ones you wear in the monastery, they are brown).

Cool, isn’t it?

Longyis pulled up, youngsters play chinlone with a ball woven from rattan (0n the foto very small, yellow, on the left). No goals, no foul play. You only have to move beautifully like when you dance.

Curiosity: toilet stop on a long busride: men got off and squatted (impossible in trousers), women stayed on the bus, held back and pretended not to look. No photos of that one.


Forgot to bring your sun cream?                                                                                                                                                                              Don’ t worry, you can buy thanakha everywhere. That’s a powder made from tree root and bark, mixed with water. Women and children put it on their cheeks, nose, front, occasionally also men, to protect the skin from sunrays, to stay as clear skinned as possible and to decorate their faces. Youngsters use it to cover the notorious pimple. Take my word: as bizarre as the sometimes artfully and sometimes plainly pasted faces might seem to you at first, after a week or so, all you want is paint your face white. I did it and, awesome!, in the humidity and heat my face stayed dry and didn’t get burnt.  Of course, next day I had to get back to working on my suntan, otherwise who would believe I’d had a marvellous holiday?

Girl in Bagan with artfully painted leaves on her face. Very shy she bravely poses for photos to earn some money.

Baby’s skin gets extra protection


Forgot to bring your toothpaste?

After a while it becomes normal to talk to a white painted face with blood red lips and dark  stained teeth from betel chewing. Advice, just pretend not to be aware of the one or two lines of red spittle drooling down the chin, ignore the cheek pouch on one side of the face, get used to your vis-à-vis’ difficulty to talk to you with his lower jaw moved forward to keep the red liquid from running out of his mouth.

Apart from being an invigorating stimulant and a hunger suppressant  betel is supposed to help against bad breath(?!). And, don’t worry if you step on red blotches in the streets, it’s not blood-tinged sputum from someone really ill, it’s just betel spittle. Still prefer chewing gum against occasional halitosis? Consider that the red (betel) saliva on the ground gets washed away by the monsoon rains, chewing gum sticks and sticks and sticks.  In nice environments like museums and royal palaces you find signs that kindly ask people not to spit on the floor (with or without betel). People are so used to throat clearing and spitting “snark – chrrtsh – spit – splash” …                                  I cringe… scared I might get hit, inadvertently ….

One last thought on betel: Everybody’s got his own vice to keep him going: think of smokers, beer drinkers, coffee drinkers, they all leave unpleasant traces (ugh!).

Betel chewing daddy with kid. You know it from the cheek pouch. I didn’t take any more drastic pictures of the  habit.

Had I stayed a bit longer, I would have bought myself a collection of nice ladies’ longyis, I would have painted my face white every day (even though when I did it, I looked like a ghost, white doesn’t go well with big noses!) and I would have tried betel for sure. If you brush your teeth afterwards, it doesn’t stain.

Cheers Gerburg

Yangon or Rangoon?

16 Sep

Continue reading

Greetings from the land of Aung San…..

11 Sep

… Suu Kyi (Don’t say “key”, “ky” is pronounced “ch” like in “cheese”!)

I expected tears to well up in my eyes when I would be standing in front of Shwedagon Paya thinking of Aung San Suu Kyi holding her mass rally here (1988) speaking to thousands of people and citing her father’s (Aung San’s) ideas on democracy and freedom. Instead no peace for nostalgic looking back on history or silent meditation. We approached the biggest, golden, bell-shaped pagoda (paya, zedi, stupa, it contains important relics) together with crowds of pilgrims that were flocking to and fro this most religious Buddhist site. The atmosphere was that of an amusement fair, with stalls  offering all types of souvenirs from religious paraphernalia to colourful children’s toys. August 2 was Full Moon Day, a holiday on which families visit renowned religious places. Shwe is the word for “golden” and Shwedagon Paya is the biggest of its kind, so big it doesn’t fit on a photo. If you can never get enough of gilded pagodas and buddhas go to Myanmar. They are everywhere. Travelling through the countryside you can see them sparkling in the middle of a field that is being ploughed by oxen as in the Buddha’s age. I wasn’t in time to shoot a photo. But needless to say, it’s not because of the golden pagodas, payas and Buddhas that the country is so utterly backward and poor.

Huge reclining Buddha at Chaukhtatgyi Paya

Huge reclining Buddha at Chaukhtatgyi Paya

Botataung Paya, we couldn't get in because our US$ were not new enough. They didn't take Kyad either.
Botataung Paya, we couldn’t get in because our US$ were not new enough. They didn’t take Kyad either.

Sitting Buddha at Ngahtatgyi Paya
Sitting Buddha at Ngahtatgyi Paya

around Shwedagon
around Shwedagon Paya

Shwedagon Paya
Shwedagon Paya

worshippers at Shwedagon Paya on August 2
worshippers at Shwedagon Paya on August 2

Sule Paya, the centre of downtown Yangon
Sule Paya, the centre of downtown Yangon[gallery orderby="ID"]


No weather for Mimosas

4 Feb

„Oh my God, oh my God, it’s gonna snow, it’s gonna snow,” Rome’s Mayor went in tilt even before the city did. He told all the school kids to stay home on Friday (and Saturday) and all the teachers to come to school, in case working parents wanted to go to work and didn’t know where to leave their offspring. The decree was clear. Nevertheless some principals kept their schools closed on Friday and left their teachers literally standing in the rain (!!!) looking in disbelief at the sign: Closed because of snow. A vice-principal of Naples origin was heard shouting (in her native dialect) at an unaware mother who tried to leave her daughter and friends at school, to “git de hll lost”. Saint Peter had pity on Rome’s first citizen (in retrospect) and sent snow in the afternoon. It didn’t stay and was almost gone by the time I started sloshing through the city to take pictures. Police cars (with snow chains on) were everywhere waiting for accidents to happen. Most people stayed home (except for those hopeless nutcases who wanted to take pictures). By morning the snow had reached my garden trying to crush my already blossoming mimosa tree or else lying picturesquely on the old plastic sheet with which I had wisely and foresightfully covered  my lemon tree.

Enjoy the picture show.

Cheers and a happy wintertime (or summer in case you are in the other hemisphere)


The slideshow refused to publish my comments, so here they are in the same order.

  1. enchanting view of the Colosseum under and surrounded by melting snow
  2. the Roman Forum under …. snow
  3. Marcus Aurelius greeting the snow
  4. The staircase leading to the Capitol under snow
  5. The snowman …. Guess where! And win a trip there…
  6. The Altar of the Motherland under melting snow
  7. Does this mean “celebrity” or “hunger”?
  8. Giordano Bruno in ice and snow (just to add to his tribulations); note the insensivity with which the surrounding restaurants heat up with flickering flames
  9. A café waiting under the snow
  10. My mimosa tree crushed by the snow
  11. A dwarf palm tree from Sicily covered by snow
  12. The swing waiting for spring (the snow is melting)

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