Detour: Germany

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Guten Tag! Another June weekend brings another globetrotting detour to a country whose name begins with a G—in this case, Germany. And once again, we were making the detour because of a local festival: not Greek Fest but Wurstfest. I had the pleasure of touring Bavaria (the country’s largest state) in 2008 with the Brandeis University Chorus, where we visited the famous Neuschwanstein Castle that I photographed above.

Our adventures began on Friday night, when we took Jess’s brother to The Black Sheep, a restaurant on Buffalo’s West Side that features modern European cuisine. Among other things, we enjoyed a selection of fresh breads and international cheeses that we could imagine being served in a traditional German household. A couple of us also ordered dishes that featured pork, which we would learn is something of a German specialty. Continue reading

Detour: Greece

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Yassas!  This weekend found us globetrotting to Greece. We haven’t forgotten about France, or the five other “G” countries that alphabetically come before Greece. We’re taking our first detour ever since we moved to Buffalo (and first detour since November 2015), because the Greek Orthodox church in our neighborhood, Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, was hosting their annual Greek Fest this weekend.

I don’t think the expression “It’s all Greek to me” is very accurate for when people don’t understand something at all, because ancient Greek culture has had a lasting impact on Western cultures. Many people have had exposure to foods of Greek origin, like gyro and spanakopita (the spinach and cheese phyllo pie). We often see elements of ancient Greek architecture around us, like these Ionic columns (meant to evoke ruins) that are Derek’s favorite lunch-eating spot on his university campus. We use letters of the Greek alphabet in math, science, and for the names of fraternities and sororities–not to mention that there are words in the English language that have Greek origin.

I may be biased because I took two years of ancient Greek in high school–while I don’t remember that much of the language, what’s stayed with me is that you can still see many traces of ancient Greek culture today.

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Detour: Syria

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Like our detours to Iceland and Bulgaria earlier in the year, our detour to Syria came about because we had learned of a special cultural event happening nearby. This time, the event was a MusicUnitesUs concert at Brandeis University called Home Within: A Live Audiovisual Performance from Syria. (Our very first globetrotting detour, to Mali, was also occasioned by a concert in the MusicUnitesUs series.) But underlying the beauty of the Syrian concert program, as well as our weekend itself, was an awareness of the acute suffering that the Syrian people now face in a country torn apart by civil war. Continue reading

Detour: Bulgaria

Zdraveyte! We’re skipping ahead a bit this week to Bulgaria. In the past, it’s been pretty clear when to do detours: we hear about a cultural event, decide if the representative country is obscure enough (could this be the only cultural opportunity we’ll find for this country here in Boston?), and then start planning. With Bulgaria, though, we saw two possible weekends: last weekend, when there was both a 15th anniversary party for Divi Zheni, a Boston-based Bulgarian women’s chorus, and a benefit concert for the Bulgarian Center for New England, and this weekend’s Bulgarian Rose Festival. Maybe this is a sign that the Bulgarian community in Boston is active enough that we wouldn’t have to do a detour, but we didn’t want to take a chance and miss all of these opportunities.

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Detour: Iceland

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The snow is finally melting, and spring is in the air, but Jess and I decided to venture once more into the bleak winter with a globetrotting detour to one of the northernmost countries in the world, Iceland, in coordination with Boston’s annual Taste of Iceland festival. Geographically, this country is about the size of Maine, but has only one fourth the population. Lying in the North Atlantic on the continental divide between Europe and North America, Iceland was first inhabited by Norse settlers around the year 900. Continue reading

Detour: Barbados

Derek and I have been in New York City since last Friday, and we’re staying with my mom and brother up until the day after Christmas. In between various family engagements (who knew that everyone wanted to see a bunch of newlyweds?), we’ve had some free time, and decided to take advantage of New York’s many cultural offerings by globetrotting. While Bahrain is next on our list alphabetically, we decided to skip ahead a little bit and try to discover Barbados in New York. We’ve been to two Caribbean countries in our Boston globetrotting already, Antigua and Barbuda, and the Bahamas, and had we globetrotted to Barbados in Boston, it would probably look very similar to our experiences with those two countries.

New York has a large West Indian population in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, so we were looking forward to visiting it in search of some Bajan (the colloquial term for Barbadian) culture.

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Detour: Ethiopia

Rather than heading for the first of the “B” countries, the Bahamas, we took a detour to Ethiopia this weekend. Here in the Boston area, we’re lucky to have quite a few Ethiopian restaurants that we could pretty much go to anytime, but we found out that an Ethiopian-American pop group, Debo Band, was playing at Harvard University this Saturday, so globetrotting to Ethiopia made perfect sense.

I also like to think that visiting Ethiopia this weekend was appropriate because Derek and I had Ethiopian food together on our second date, and this is the final globetrotting weekend we’ll be able to do before we get married in less than two weeks. In a way, we’ve come full circle.

But more about Ethiopia: its roots can be traced far, far back–in fact, the earliest modern human remains were found there. The East African nation is very ethnically diverse, with about 80 ethnic groups, is the most populous land-locked country in the world, and is the second most-populated country in Africa. It was the second country to adopt Christianity as its state religion (you might remember that we already found out that Armenia was the first). Coffee drinkers may be interested to know that their beloved bean’s origins are in Ethiopia.

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Detour: Russia

Privyet! After often wondering how authentic our experience was in Andorra last weekend, I’m glad that the next place on our itinerary was a country with a lot of cultural resources to help inform our self-guided travels: Russia.

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Our weekend social activity seems to be picking up as the weather gets warmer, and this past Saturday Derek’s aunt and uncle had invited us to go to the Museum of Russian Icons with them. The plans to build our weekend around Russia then came together quite nicely.

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Detour: Mali

Timbuktu mapBefore you worry that we’ve forgotten the alphabet and jumped from “A” to “M,” we realize that we’ve gone out of order by visiting Mali right after Afghanistan. (Albania, we will get to you next, promise!) While we still plan on going in alphabetical order, we’ve decided to make exceptions when special cultural events come up, particularly when they represent cultures that may be more challenging to cover here in Boston.

Trio Da Kali, a musical trio from Mali, was performing a concert at Derek’s university, as part of the music department’s World Music Series this past Saturday.  We’ve enjoyed the other world music concerts we’ve attended in the past, so deciding to go to this one was a no-brainer. And since we’d just begun our Globetrotting project, why not devote the entire weekend to Mali? Continue reading