Prague, Music and Beauty.

Prague is indeed a beautiful place and well loved by tourists visiting this part of Europe. The architecture offers daily surprises, especially if you walk, interspersed with tram journeys to give the legs a break. Row upon row of elegant and ornate six story buildings twist and wind along the roads that make up the vast central district. Public buildings are ornate and grand, with huge over sized doorways, gold ornament catching the late afternoon sun on French Imperial capped buildings, and threatening black church spires spiking the sky. A castle to outdo all others appears on a nearby hill, oxidised green cones and onion domes add a Byzantine element to the skyline. Prague’s site, spreading out from both sides of the banks of the Vltava river, is spanned by a romantic bridge or two. It’s all too much at times. Did Walt Disney steal his fantasy land towers from Prague’s skyline?

Prague from above

In order to enter the Praghesian frame of mind, attending a classical recital is a good way to start. An evening performance is held weekly at the small 1,000 year old church of St Martin in the Wall. The concert began appropriately with a beautiful rendition of Smetana’s ‘Vltava’, a musical poem now synonymous with this city, which became my earworm for the entire visit. I’ll plant it here for you, dear reader, to remind you of this well-known Czech classic.

Ensemble in St Martin the Wall, Prague OPEN LINK TO SMETANA’s Vltava HERE.

Ancient churches have wonderful acoustics, the perfect setting for serious listening. St Martins is now a decommissioned Christian church devoid of all iconology, well restored with simple white washed walls. The well-known repertoire, one that would appeal to most visitors, included Dvorak, Czechoslovakia’s other great composer, Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, Pachelbel, and Albinoni’s famous Adagio in G minor, a piece that always draws tears when played sensitively. Many of Prague’s Catholic churches and Jewish synagogues are now used as classical music venues in the evening. In this way, the local musicians are supported, church restoration becomes possible, and tourists get a smattering of the culture that still runs deep through this touristy town. Unlike her Catholic neighbour, Poland, Czechoslovakia’s population is largely atheistic/agnostic (70%): with so few parishioners, the churches have been put to good use.

Prague Castle Cathedral

One way to approach the lay of the land in Prague is to take a hop on hop off tour. A 24 hour ticket also offers a one hour boat tour and is well worth the money. After the tour, your can revisit other parts of the town with a day’s tram ticket, costing around 100 CK/AU $6. Walking Prague, however, is the best option if you want to get away from the main tourist areas.

Around the back streets inside the Prague castle complex.
Detail of door in Prague
Charles Bridge. Busy with tourists and buskers, but great views of the Vtlava from the bridge.

Another activity, which is completely touristy but well worth it, is a sunset trip along the Vltava river. This is included in the price of the Hop on Hop off bus tour. With a glass of wine in hand as the sun sets over this beautiful and famous city, along with Smetana’s musical ode to the river running through your brain, it’s a lovely way to unwind and let go of any ambivalent feelings you might have about this well visited city.

Around the back streets inside the Prague castle complex.

Like a handsome man, Prague is very nice to look at, but the seduction, I feel, lies very much on the surface. This city didn’t steal my heart. I should have attended more recitals or gone to that green glowing Absinthe bar.

Roof tops, Prague
Around the back streets inside the Prague castle complex.
City views, Prague. Walt was here! Swarming tourists conveniently edited out.

Absinthe Bars of Prague

Absinthe bars are extremely common in Prague. I was drawn to these windows for their play on the myths and legends associated with this strong herbal based spirit. I really wanted to hang out late at night, to perch a sugar cube on top of a silver spoon and watch the ice-cold water drip onto the Absinthe, to don a Bohemian beret and talk to the ghosts of writers past, but my drinking companion, Mr Sensible T, showed no interest in la fée verte. Now I have these pictures of Absinthe Bars with no story to tell at all. 

Kraków the Brave

Kraków is a remarkably city. It’s the surprise card of a three-week trip through Central Europe. Elegant and stately 18th and 19th century buildings line the narrow streets while the huge market square dominates the center of the old city. The manageable size of the city, the ease of getting around on foot, and the palpable creative and youthful energy one senses makes Krakow a great place to visit.

Krakow. Market Square on a sunny Autumn day.

The main square, Rynek Główny in Polish, dates back to the 13th century: at 9.4 acres in size, it is one of the largest medieval squares in Europe. This space is overpowering, hypnotic and graceful. It is irresistible at any time of the day, and with this size, never gets too crowded. Often main squares in European cities are best avoided in peak times, especially in the tourist season.

One small corner of Market Square, Krakow

The square is surrounded by historic townhouses, churches and the central Cloth Hall, rebuilt in 1555 in the Renaissance style. The cloth hall today has small tourist shops selling Polish themed trinkets. The building is long, rectangular and graceful. Other buildings edging the square, include the Town Hall Tower, the 10th century Church of St Adalbert, and many restaurants covered by market umbrellas along with heavy-duty heaters.

Market Square, Krakow
Another beautiful building lining the Market Square, Krakow

Historically, Krakow has been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, cultural and artistic life. It enjoyed its golden era during the 15th century, with Renaissance artists and architects flocking to the city. Despite the horrors of WW2 and the Nazi occupation of Kraków, followed by Stalinist control of all intellectual life, Krakow has, in the 21st century, re-emerged as a place of culture and education. In 2000, Kraków was named European Capital of Culture. In 2013 Kraków was officially approved as a UNESCO City of Literature. There are 250, 000 tertiary students in the city. Music venues are thriving, as well as the arts and literature. You can feel the energy in the streets.

The central market square attracts excellent musicians and buskers at any hour of the day.

After the Nazi invasion of Poland at the start of  WW2, Kraków became the capital of Germany’s General Government. The Jewish population of the city was forced into a Ghetto, which was later walled in: from there, they were sent to German extermination camps, at the nearby Auschwitz  and Birkenau. During that short period, 65,000 Jews from Krakow were murdered. The reality of this horrendous evil is reinforced through a visit to Oscar Schindler’s Enamel Factory in Krakow, a museum and exhibition of life in Kraków under Nazi occupation 1939-45, housed on the former site of Schindler’s factory. A visit to this display, which will take around two to three hours, is a must. Catch a taxi to the factory and buy tickets there. There is no need to go with a group or a guide. Warning: the exhibition is deeply moving and disturbing. The following photo collage is a media file, which opens as a slide show, depicting a few images from this museum.

There are also tours of Nowa Huta, a separate district of Krakow, and one of only two planned Socialist realist settlements or districts ever built and “one of the most renowned examples of deliberate social engineering” in the entire world.¹ A tour with Walkative Tours of Krakow with a guide well versed in the history of Stalinism, and its application in Poland, was available. But in the end, we chose the food tour, a great way to learn more about the traditional foods of Krakow.

The gentle sound of clip clopping horses in the streets nearby the central square.

A UNESCO World Heritage site, modern Kraków is brave, proud, lively and welcoming.

East Wall Gallery, Berlin

The East Side Gallery, an open air gallery along a 1.3 kilometre stretch of the retained Berlin wall, is a wonderful expression of hope and optimism, painted in 1990 by artists from all over the world. Not only is it an historical record of the end of an era, but is also a symbol of open borders and the freedom of movement which European residents now enjoy.

The most famous panel: restored, repainted and admired.” My God, Help Me To Survive This Deadly Love.” Repainted from a photograph of the original panel. East Side Gallery, Berlin.

Most of the panels today have been repainted, layered over years of tagging, graffiti and vandalism. You would think that this preservation would be a logical step, yet the move has been met with major conflict. “Eight of the artists of 1990 refused to paint their own images again after they were completely destroyed by the renovation.”

In order to defend copyright, they founded ‘Founder Initiative East Side’ with other artists whose images were simply copied without permission. It just goes to show that the ego of some artists is bigger than this historical statement. Restore, re-paint, touch up, preserve, leave to vandalism, start again- where do you draw the line with street art?

East Side Gallery, Berlin.

Foods of Krakow Walking Tour, Poland

Let’s be honest about tours and their guides. Short tours can be either informative and enjoyable or drop dead boring. I’ve often noticed large, passive groups in city squares, churches and galleries huddled around a guide, and whispered surreptitiously how pleased I am not to be a part of them. A tour only works when the guide is not only knowledgeable but also engaging and open. A willing smile and a readiness to share a few jokes and inside stories also goes a long way.  The group needs to be small: dialogue is essential. The Food Walking Tour of Krakow, led by our guide, Nika, ticked all the boxes.

Nika, our guide who works for Free Walkative Tours in Krakow

Nika readily admits she loves her job and that’s pretty obvious from the outset. A graduate in Slavic languages and well versed in history, Nika grew up in the area. She’ll point our her primary school along the way, and often refers to her grandmother’s cooking, her love of pickles and her passion for Polish traditional food. With her love of language and travel and her passion for food, Nika makes a wonderful guide. As luck would have it, only three participants turned up on the day of our tour, and with Nika that made four in total, giving me plenty of opportunity to ask her lots of questions along the way. Most of her groups are much bigger but the company professes to keeping group numbers under 8.

Oscypek cheese from the Tatra mountains. Salty, smoky and very addictive.

The tour begins at the Old Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of Kazimierz. The streets bordering this area aren’t as busy or as touristy as the centre of Krakow, which makes this tour more authentic. The tour includes visits to small businesses, a hidden farmer’s market, eateries and local vodka pubs, without the tourist markup. We start with a small sample of red and white Borscht, the latter called Zurek. Zurek is made from a starter (similar to a sourdough starter) made by fermenting rye bread, or rye flour with water for three days. The soup includes potatoes and hard-boiled eggs, with optional meat, and then the starter is added towards the end.

Fermented Rye and sourdough bread, the sour starter for white Bortsch. This is a commercial batch. Home made ferments are easy to make and were also on sale at the market.

At the farmer’s market we sampled generous portions of pickles and salted, cured cabbage. At the traditional sausage and smoked meats shop, the lone carnivore in our group sampled kabana made from horse meat, as well as a slice of fat sausage made from blood studded with barley. The local cheese, Oscypek, was my favourite, a smoked cheese made of salted sheep milk from the Tatra Mountains  of Poland. The cheese is pressed into beautiful wooden molds and is often served with cranberry sauce. It is a bright yellow semi-soft cheese, with the salty flavour and texture of Haloumi and the addition of smoking from forest woods.

At some point we stopped for a little Polish plum drink and then it was off to the famous Przystanek Pierogarnia corner shop, home of Krakow’s best Pierogi. People queue to eat here, though there are only a few stools inside and some wooden tables and chairs outside. We tried three types of savoury Pierogi, one sweet one stuffed with fresh blueberries and cream, and an apple pancake. I had eaten Peirogi  in fine restaurants in central Krakow before this food tour. The delicate little pierogi ruski at Prystanek were by far the best.

Beautiful woman in the Peirogi shop
The team at Przystanek. Smile!

Following Nika through the suburbs, we then land in a glittering cake shop with tempting displays of sumptious layered cakes, reminding me of my first taste of layered Polish cake as a six year old child, a very vivid food memory. We sampled some rolled poppy-seed cake: the key to a successful poppy-seed cake is the delicate flavour and  moistness of the black centre.

Polish rolled poppy-seed cake.
Lovely girl in Polish cake shop. What a great tour.
Polish cakes. Cheesecakes too.

By late afternoon, the cold was setting in, a perfect time to sample a vodka or two. We visit two bars, both very different in style. At the first stop, we downed our Vodka, after learning the most important Polish word of the tour- Na zdrowìe ( pronounced Naz- droh- vee- ay ), followed by the traditional accompaniment, a small slice of rye bread with a slice of pickled herring, onion and dill cucumber. Nika stressed the importance of clinking of glasses, whilst toasting- Na-zdrowie- and simultaneously looking directly in the eyes of all drinkers. Failing to do this will incur seven years bad luck.

Inside Bar Trojkat, Krakow. Organic Vodka in many flavours. Try the quince one.

Glowing inside and feeling more bonded, we marched on to bar number two, a great place offering organic Vodka with delicate flavours of elderflower, lemon, quince and caramel, to name a few.

Remember the toast!

Reaching for my third sample, a heavenly quince Vodka, my mind searched for that key Polish toast, but oddly, all I could think of was Perestroika or Lubie jezdzić na słoniu ( I like to ride on an elephant), crazy random words that seemed to suit the occasion, whilst meeting the direct gaze of all!

This walking tour of Crakow was run by Free Walkative Tour of Krakow. The Foods of Krakow Walking tour costs 50 PLN (13 Euro) which includes samples. Private tours can also be arranged. The tour lasts for around 2½ hours. You’ll learn a lot about Krakow, history and Polish traditions along the way. After all, food opens the door to a country’s culture.

Bruges the Beautiful and Bicycles

It’s hard to sit still when you first arrive in Bruges. The Flemish guild buildings lining the Market Square, the towering 12th century belfry, the fairy tale horse and carriages, the canals circling the old centre and the sweet smell of waffles in the air, it’s all too beautiful.

After the initial foray in and around the main tourist quarter, one thing becomes very clear – the importance of the bicycle to city life.

The residential streets away from the central area are surprisingly quiet: walking around the black blocks, along narrow roads with low rise apartment buildings and alongside the canals is a breeze; the city is flat and the traffic is confined to one way streets. Older folk ride for their lunchtime shopping, groups of children whiz by on the way home from school, young and old ride with nonchalance – no helmets, no bike lanes and definitely no lycra!

The bike culture here is European, non competitive, and integral to the street scene. No one is racing: cyclists don’t display aggression towards pedestrians or motorists. They weave their way through pedestrianised streets or squares, passing parked cars without fear of being doored, without the need for self-righteousness. Common courtesy prevails on roads and walkways. Meanwhile, an excellent bus services the city, and the train station is only a brisk 30 minute walk away, with cheap fares to Ghent and Antwerp.

 

Marriage Equality Interlude

Last week I noticed a photo posted by my friend, Adam, on the day of his wedding anniversary. What a beautiful and romantic gift. Adam cross- stitched this tapestry to give to his husband of ten years: the pattern was digitally converted from a photo. The photo was taken at The Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road, Victoria. I forgot to ask Adam if this was the moment of their marriage proposal.

Cross stitched by Adam as a wedding anniversary gift.

Later that day, Barnadi made a cake to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. They enjoyed a beautiful meal together at their home in Melbourne, along with their cat and dog.

They’ve celebrated their wedding anniversary twice. Last January, they commemorated their Wedding Reception anniversary which was held in Melbourne, Australia, while this month, they’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of their ‘civil partnership’ held in Bath, Britain. At the time, the couple lived in Bath, but visited Melbourne annually to catch up with friends in Barnadi’s home town, hence the need for two weddings, two parties, and now two anniversaries.

Language, terminology and laws have never deterred them: they fondly refer to each other as ‘my husband’ in restaurants, airport border controls and all sorts of public places. I’ve never heard them use that modern equivalent, the oh so very politically correct, ‘my partner’. Of course they would have preferred a different set of words on their certificate back then: the word ‘marriage’, a simple word signifies a great deal when it comes to equality.

The following countries have legalised equal marriage rights: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Colombia, Denmark (and Greenland), Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, United States, Uruguay. Meanwhile, Australia, once a progressive country, has not yet done so. Starting this week, Australians will vote Yes or No in a plebiscite, a voluntary postal vote. At a cost of $122 million, this expensive opinion gauging exercise will do nothing to alter the opinions of those who oppose marriage equality. Is it possible that it might aid the Australian Prime Minister, the Machiavellian Prince who stays in power by doing very little to avoid disturbing his conservative allies, to finally make a principled stand?

Vote yes for equality, vote yes for love.
The following clip, while amusing, makes some excellent points.

 

The Edinburgh Sessions at Sandy Bell’s

Leaving that famous royal mile, the narrow ridge that defines the tourist heart of Edinburgh, with its wall to wall tartan and cashmere shops and sinister themed tours, we descend the steps in search of the real Edinburgh. Down the stairs of Castle Wynd which hug the old rampart walls to the first terrace, then further on to another level or two until we find Forrest Road. Looking back up at the narrow terraces as they climb that ancient mound gives one a better appreciation of Edinburgh’s architecture. We wander a little further along to the home of celtic music sessions, Sandy Bell’s pub. It’s a tiny single fronted place with a cluster of chairs here and there and a designated spot down the back for the musicians.

Waiting for the musicians. Sandy Bell’s, Edinburgh

A session in a pub refers to the music played by those who arrive to play celtic music, that is, jigs and reels, at a set time. A good session will go for four hours or more, improving along the way as the participants get to know each other. It is assumed that the musicians are competent in their chosen instrument. There will usually be a leader, often an older player, who sets the tone and keeps the session running smoothly. A good leader will open the set, determine the pace, and show, through a series of hand gestures, when a shift in a set is about to take place. In the session we attended at Sandy Bell’s, an older gentlemen playing two mouth organs at once set a rigorous pace. Other players included a guitarist, three fiddles, then later a uilleann piper and a pianist.

Musicians gather for a session, Sandy Bell’s, Edinburgh

Singing is not usually a feature of a session, though a song or slow lament might be sung by a single musician between sets. This was certainly the case in the many sessions I had the pleasure of hearing in the pubs along the West coast of Ireland some years ago and it was also the case here in Edinburgh. The guitarist quietly sang a solo of ‘Ranting, Roving, Robin‘, a most unusual Robbie Burns tune, during the break.

Uilleann pipes in action, Sandy Bell’s

The aim of a session is to practice and share music; it is not a performance and so clapping is not usually appropriate. Posturing or grand standing by individuals is also frowned upon: personal musical virtuosity is less valued than the collective effort. Most participants in a session understand this etiquette.

Uelleann pipes, Sandy Bell’s

We stayed at the session at Sandy Bell’s for four hours and with each tune, the group became more cohesive and the music intensely enjoyable. It had nothing to do with the pints consumed, I swear.

https://www.sandybells.co.uk/

Skye Boats. Elgol to Loch Coruisk

For many years, I’ve dreamt about returning to Elgol, a remote village near the black Cuillins on the Isle of Skye. During a previous visit 17 years ago, Elgol became a fantasy village promising isolation, a place to write that novel or master the fiddle. During a recent return visit, this time for a longer look around and a boat trip across the sea from Elgol to Loch Coruisk, I finally put that fantasy to rest.

On the way to Elgol

The road to Elgol is a single lane narrow road with plenty of passing places: it can still be quite alarming during the high tourist season. Most side roads off the main route are similar: the combination of distracting scenery, concentrating on the hairpin bends and tourists who are unused to driving on the left hand side, makes for an ‘interesting’ journey at times. There are, fortunately, many wider verges for the obligatory photo snap.

Road to Elgol, Skye
Road to Elgol, Skye
Elgol’s shores.

There’s not much in Elgol itself, just extraordinary beauty. Most visitors come to take a boat across the water to walk around Loch  Coruisk. Two companies run boats which leave from the small harbour in Elgol. If you go in August, expect to book your place as these trips are popular. The trip takes around 30 minutes each way and includes 1½ hours stopover on the island for exploration. One boat has some covering for inclement weather, the other, run by Misty Boat Tours, the one we chose, has none. Be ready to get drenched en route if you choose the latter. There’s no shelter on the island, except for a small bothy used and paid for by trekkers, and no toilets or trees! The boat you travel on departs once you have disembarked. This is a journey for those who are happy to experience the wild and are prepared to rough it.

Nearby passengers on the way to Loch Coruisk. They were well prepared with wet weather coats and trousers. View on board the boat run by Misty Isle Boat trips. No concessions made for weather, and overcrowding on board can be the norm. 
The weather sets in en route from Elgol to Loch Coruisk.

If you don’t like walking on rocks and boggy grass, you would be better taking the tour minus the stopover. Grass and bog are an ever-present feature of walking in Skye, requiring waterproof walking shoes, waterproof jackets and a sense of adventure. The rocks, fortunately, are not slippery when wet, making walking up steep surfaces quite safe. Wild beauty comes at a price.

Walks around Loch Coruisk, Skye
Loch Coruisk, Skye
Seals near Loch Coruisk, Skye
Rugged Black Cuillins, Skye

 

In My Scottish Kitchen, September 2017

One of the most common complaints of the traveller is the dearth of vegetables served along the way in any type of eatery, cafe, restaurant or pub. Despite veggies being in vogue, we don’t see many on the plate, other than a token salad or a potato, the latter usually in the form of the dreaded chip. After 6 weeks on the road, we were longing for our own apartment or little house, just to be able to cook a pile of vegetables, a soup or vegetable bake, as well as catch up on some washing. It’s rather ironic really, that these simple domestic tasks become so overwhelmingly desirable when you no longer have them.

View from our York Kitchen. Had to pick some wild weeds along the way- purple buddlea is the local weed, growing out of walls and concrete paths. Adding a homely touch to the plastic ikea plants and slate tiled York roof tops.

Our first pot of soup, a leek and potato soup, seemed fitting for our little kitchen in Aberystwyth, Wales. Our York apartment, a spacious Ikea fitted out place in a converted office building, provided the means to cook, but as we were also visiting friends that week, we had little chance to use it. My dear friend JA made some wonderful salads and dishes loaded with veggies from her Lottie ( affectionate English name for an allotment garden), the most memorable dish being her Summer Pudding, filled with plump, ripe blackberries picked from verges, along with raspberries and blueberries cured inside a mold of organic white bread. Ecstasy. There’s an art to making these carmine concoctions that taste like berry velvet.

View from JA’s apartment, overlooking the Minster, York. JA’s Australian roots have given her a passion for freshly grown vegetables.

Now that we’re in Skye, our little stone cottage by the sea has enabled some real cooking to take place. But first, before driving across to the island, we did a big veggie shop in Inverness. Vegetables are much cheaper in Britain than Australia, so long as you stick to seasonal ingredients that are locally grown. My big bag of vegetables, including a cute Wonky cabbage, cost very little, necessitating a few little add ons, such as box of raspberries, some odd looking flat peaches, French butter, lovely cheeses, some Scottish and others a bit too French, and of course, a bottle of single malt whisky. All in the name of keeping up with the locals, of course. Or as the late Angus Grant, fiddle player from Shooglenifty would say, in the only words I have ever heard him sing, ‘Suck that mother down,’ during his live solo on the tune ‘Whisky Kiss.’

On special for 16 Quid. Going down nicely. In memory of Ian Channing.

Wonky vegetables are NQR shaped produce, an idea that has also taking off in Australia. We don’t need perfectly shaped vegetables thankyou, and we definitely don’t need them wrapped in plastic. Most of my bargain veggies came pre -wrapped or bagged in acres of plastic. I’m wondering if the ‘War on Waste’ campaign is happening in Britain and Scotland. The other aspect I found unusual about the local supermarkets was the volume of pre-prepared foods. You name it, it’s available, pre-cooked and ready to ding. Fish cakes, fish pie ingredients, including the sauce, pre-cooked mussels, all sorts of meals, mash, even mashed swede. I’m not sure that Jamie Oliver has made much impression on the English diet.

Wonky Cabbage, 45 p

I was hoping to find a farmer’s market on Skye to supplement these goods. It turns out that farmers markets are quite rare, but then given the climate, I can understand why. We found one at Glendale in the north-west of Skye, a longish drive. We arrived early to find 7 stalls huddled together against the wind: one lady had a pile of fresh organic chicken carcasses for stock, another chap had one small bag of rainbow chard and black kale, nearby was the cucumber specialist, with two kinds on offer, on another table were a few carrots and apples and further down a lady with some sticky buns. And in the midst of all this I found the lady from Tinctoria, a specialist hand spinner and dyer from these parts. She has been hand dyeing since the 1980s and grows her own herbs to make the most extraordinary colours. Needless to say, I wanted them all.

Green ball, dyed from Brazilwood then over dyed with Indigo, the pink is Brazilwood and the blue is from Woad. Not quite kitchen goods but probably made in a kitchen. Dyewoods are woods providing  dyes for textiles. Some of the more important include: Brazilwood or Brazil from Brazil, producing a red dye. Catechu or cutch from Acacia wood, producing a dark brown dye. Old Fustic from India and Africa produces a yellow dye.

My vegetable stash is lasting well. In my Skye kitchen I’ve made lentil and vegetable soups, swede, onion and Orkney cheddar bake, pan scorched green beans with garlic and lemon, ( loving the very skinny beans here), caramelised whole shallots in olive oil, butter and beetroot glaze, Cullen Skink full of undyed smoked haddock, pasta with veggies, mushroom risotto, cauliflower cheese and loads of salads. My cooking has taken on a distinctive Scottish style- the view outside my kitchen window, the rain and the ever-changing Skye light having a profound effect on my cooking and pastimes. It’s odd, given my gypsy tendencies, how homely and settled I feel here.

Simple foods, just vegetables, some butter and cheese. The swede bake layered with onion and Orkney cheddar was a winner.
A bag of shallots become caramelised in olive oil, with some fleur de sel butter, and a reduction of balsamic and beetroot dressing.
Cullen Skink, with smoked haddock, potato, leek, and parsley. Crofter’s bread and French butter.

Fat Raspberries, sweet and seasonal, lead to the obvious choice of dessert- Cranachan- except that I was rather heavy-handed with the single malt and the toasted oats. It ended up more like an alcoholic breakfast. Mr T has promised to pick some neglected black berries along the verges, down near Maelrubha’s well; before we leave this special place, I’ll try to make a more restrained blackberry version.

A heavy-handed Cranachan. Too many oats and way too much single malt.
Crafting and Crofting. My travelling project, a bramble berry scarf, in memory of Skye.

I could go on and on about the wonders of Skye and how inspired I feel here, but I’ll save it for another time, another ramble into the mist. The media file below depicts views from our cottage. It’s hard to stay sane around such ever shifting beauty.

Thanks once again to Sherry from Sherry’s Pickings for hosting this monthly series.

Tidal cottage on Breakish. I could stay here for a few months or more. Celtic dreaming.