Reflections of the lowest place of the Earth

On one of my early school trips to the south of Israel I noticed these buildings for the first time. It must have been in the mid 60s. I was a young boy and that place between the Dead Sea and the Sodom Mountain fascinated me as it was already then deserted. I later found out, that the village was Sodom`s working men’s camp. It was built in 1934 for the people who came to work in the mineral industry that started the same year in the region. The village was evacuated in 1948 (Israel`s independence war) for a short time, then reestablished and finally closed down in 1957.
Later in my teen years I chose to go south and further to Sinai via Dead Sea road and this location kept my imagination busy.
I recall an overnight camping in one of these buildings on one of my many hitchhiking trips.
Army service years took me again to this place and I could see the change and destruction time had brought.
That was 30 years ago and I keep driving by this deserted village every few years, always wanting to stop and take a closer look again. A few years ago as I drove from the Arava desert to Jerusalem I finally stopped to portray this fascinating place before it disappears completely together with the dying sea.
Our next assignment in Israel will take us to these harsh southern territories, the lowest place on earth that I always loved.

dead sea reflections dead sea reflections 1 dead sea reflections 2

Simple and good!

After coming back from Crete I have been cooking Cretan food and reading Cretan cooking books. Often simple but so good food! Why the food is so good there? It must be the high quality ingredients but also it has to do something about love. When you cook with love, you can feel it. When you cook in a hurry and without heart, you feel it too.  Look at this. So simple: olive oil and tapenade:  smashed black olives. Looks excellent! And so good with fresh bread! In Israel they say: Food you make with love or you don’t make at all! I SO agree! I am just getting prepared to my other favorite culinary destination… flying on Fri to Tel Aviv! Stay tuned 🙂

Olive oil and tapenade

 

More chocolate!

Greetings from Helsinki Chocolate festival!
As a serious chocolate lover, I couldn’t think of missing this chocolate happening in Wanha Satama today. 
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All I could see was chocolate… 
Macarons
Chocolate workshop
Top Chef Finland winner 2013 Kira Weckman offered chocolate dessert she had made especially for the festival. She combined Manjari-chocolate, Macadamia nuts and Ivoire-chocolate mousse with lime. So tasty!
Chocolate has many friends

 

One of my favorites was this Pâtisserie & Chocolatier Mayra, a small business founded by two women from Helsinki. They manufacture hand made pralines and chocolate pies in addition to chocolate bars. Confectioner Mira Katva offered  tastings of cinnamon-cardemon chocolate and bittersweet-chili chocolate. Yammy! mayra.fi
Stomach full of chocolate and a bag full of tastings to take home. 

Chocolate, chocolate…

 

Chocolate, chocolate…  Tomorrow this chocolate lover will head to Wanha Satama Chocolate festivalI am sure you will see some of my findings here. I decided to start my own festival already and made this easy chocolate cake which is really quick to make but has a  great taste. 
With this recipe from Helsingin Sanomat you can’t go wrong. They call it “sinful”, I rather go for “heavenly”. 🙂
Rich and moist chocolate cake
200 gr bittersweet chocolate (not milk chocolate!)
200 gr butter (no margarine!)
1,5 cups sugar
5 eggs
1 tablespoon flour (any flour is ok, also almond flour) use flour without gluten if you like)
 
Cut butter and chocolate into cubes. Melt slowly in a pan. Add sugar and mix. Remove from the heat. Add egg one by one mixing after each egg. Add flour.  Cover spingform cake pan with baking sheet. Butter the edges and pour the dough into the cake pan. Bake 20-30 min (depending on the size of the cake pan) in 200 degrees celsius. The smaller the cake pan is, the longer it will bake because the cake is thicker. Don’t overbake! The cake should be moist inside. Let the cake cool before eating in a fridge at least for a night (unless you can’t help yourself like me!). You can make the cake even 2-3 days before serving.   
 
 

People are the best

Encounters with the local people are the best souvenirs. When time flies the memories fade but some handshakes, hugs and glazes are something I can’t forget. Although these meetings are part of my work, they are still much more than just a passing moment. It is great to be invited to a private home, to hear stories and to be part of these people’s lives for a moment. Some of these people remain real friends. These people stay in my heart and I hope to meet them one day again.  These kind of “souvenirs” from Crete were for example these wonderful people.     Sfendourakis family from Sitia (soon in an article in Kaksplus). We spent two magnificent days with this funny and hospitable family. 

Dad Argiris takes Artemis to the kindergarten. 
. A promenade in the harbour after Giorgos’ (right) sailing lesson. 

Author, professor George Kamvysellis from Sfinari village. 

   We spent a really nice, long afternoon at the terrace of the stone house drinking tea and tasting grape syrup biscuits made by George’s wife. 
 The garden was simply a dream. We ate the whole week grapes we got from Kamvysellis’ wineyard. So tasty when you pick ripe from the tree! 

Journalist Leonidas Klontzas is also the president of Agios Nikolaos hiking club. We spent with him an unforgettable day walking on the Roman roads and looking at the views on the mountain. At the end of the day we ate in a small village which would require a post of its own. 

Leonidaksen kanssa kahvilla At cafe with Leonidas

Elina Mikroulea was our guide during couple of days in the surroundings of Sitia. Elina’s wonderfuld humor was something to remember! 

Elina never stopped smiling
Visiting Eleftherna village

We returned from Crete with heavy suitcases full of cheese, olive oil, thyme honey, cookies… all presents from our new friends.  Thank you Maria for coming to visit us in Sitia, Manolis for taking us to see your home village, priest George for inviting us to your raki making party… So many nice people who made Crete something we will never forget!  

Traveling with my Dad

 

20 month old Nina in Kenya

 My dad used to travel a lot. He went to Norway, the Sovien Union, Israel, Lebanon, Kenya, Uganda… Sometimes I and my mom followed him to these trips. I have seen a film from Kenya where a blond girl is surrounded by African kids. In my photo album there is a picture from Leningrad in which a Russian lady holds the little Ninusha.  A bit later my dad was forced to take me along because otherwise I would cry the whole time while he was gone (a bit of sentimentality is always good!). Later we traveled to Israel as a family. We drove the whole way from Finland by car. It was an adventure, as well as the whole year we spent in the Middle East. My dad often took me and my sisters to camp at the Lake of Galilee. In the evening we sat by the fire with the local people who played the guitar and sang Hebrew songs.  As a teenager I traveled to England with my dad. Also this journey we made by car. I studied English for three weeks in a language school. I ate Fish & Chips everyday (without Fish because I was vegetarian). I wondered what my mom would have thought if she knew my diet.  After the language school we toured around in Scotland. I saw the low tide and high tide. We climbed up Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Scotland.  Later my parents wondered where have I got this endless thirst for travelling, seeing new places, learning new languages. I don’t have to look far to find who to blame. Thanks to my dad and also to my mom I am doing now what I do.    Today we celebrate the Fathers’ day here in Finland. Happy Fathers’ day to my dad and to all the fathers in the world!

The best beaches in Crete

These pictures reflect my thoughts right now…. missing Crete and the sea! One of our missions in Crete was to search for the best beaches…

At dawn
Walking in the shallow waters towards the island with sand dunes

This may look like a heaven…
… but this was waiting just behind the corner. I was here just by myself. A real dream! 
Turquoise waters that change their color in different lights

What can one add to this? 
More about our findings next year in Matkaopas.