Westwards 2014 – the year in review

Women in front of the Beldersoy Petroglyphs

2014 was a very productive year for us, as many of you will already have read in our seasonal mail (New Year’s / Christmas greetings). Here’s the 2014 review of what we did and where we travelled!

Travel-work balance

We revised the new editions of the Baedeker Japan, the DDI Mecklenburgische Seenplatte and the Stefan Loose guidebook Japan. And we also finished work on the first edition of our new Uzbekistan guidebook (the latter three books will be available from February – stay informed on our Publications page). This meant a lot of writing and researching work at home and in libraries in Berlin with far less time for writing newspaper or magazine articles, but it also meant research trips to Japan and Central Asia. So last year’s private travels were few and far between. We went to Romania in summer andwhile we were somewhat disappointed by Transylvania and the Carpathian mountains, we absolutely loved the painted monasteries of Bucovina. Our hiking trip on the Cami de Cavalls in Menorca was also quite fabulous and after so much work it was very relaxing. And our trip to the Hermitage Silk Road Exhibition in Amsterdam was a work-related luxury: we would have loved to go in any case.

So, overall: a good year with a bit too much work. Well, we have to work on that….

Culinary tops and flops

One of our favourites was Beni-imo, a purple variety of sweet potato used in Okinawa for an array of dishes: Fried as Beni-imo Chips in a local pub, as Pretz-Stick snack or as a topping over soy yoghurt. We once had a Beni-imo Mochi, a chewy rice cake sweet, from a small restaurant near Ikema Bridge on Miyakojima, which was tremendously delicious. And isn’t that a stunning colour?

20140514 Naha Hateruma Restaurant Tofuyoo P1060885

There were also culinary flaws – at least for Natascha one of the most „well I think that one needs getting used to“ food was a small fermented tofu cube called yo that we also tried in a traditional Okinawan pub. It consists of tofu soaked in malted rice pomace from awamori-making during a several month long fermentation process. Red yeast is added to get the distinctive colour. It smells and tastes very strong and is only served in small portions (and quite expensive, around 500 Yen for one small cube). But if you have the chance, of course you should try it nevertheless. And then there was the Goya beer….

vegetarian Vietnamese dish Pho Xao

As the vegan boom in Berlin unfolded we also got interested in a more dairy-free nutrition and began exploring the ever-growing vegan restaurant scene in Berlin (and wrote several restaurant reviews on the blog). We have also experimented a bit at home, not least because Dr Pogo’s vegan food shop is situated conveniently close to us. We did significantly reduce cheese, eggs and milk products, but for the time being we are not going to be vegan, and in any case we prefer real vegetarian or vegan food to the many variations of mock meat, mock cheese and mock milk so popular with most vegans. In line with our main travel destinations, our favourite recipe book in this year’ review was oriental: Veggiestan by Sally Butcher (gibt’s auch auf Deutsch).

The movies!

As some of you might know, we love watching movies. Unfortunately we usually do not have time to go to the cinema or watch DVDs when we travel, but we try to make up for that when we are at home in Berlin. In 2014 we even managed to see some movies at the Berlinale – Berlin’s big cinema festival. An unexpected but singular highlight that never made it to the German cinemas was the film „52 Tuesdays“, a debut by the Australian director Sophie Hyde: The mother of 16 year old Billy is planning an ftm transition. Billy has to move to her father and only gets to meet her mother once a week on Tuesdays. The filmmakers went with the same rule, only shooting on Tuesday over the course of one year. They also developed the story along the way.

Other highlights were „Pom Poko“, a lovely animated movie by Isao Takahata, the well-crafted thriller „Inside Man“ by Spike Lee and the “Grand Budapest Hotel” by Wes Anderson.

What else happened 2014?

After a long break we started going to the climbing gym again and are looking forward to the mountains and outdoor climbing next summer (insh’Allah!).