Hello friends! No no … don’t take your coats off, for we are heading out on the Filomobile in just a second, as soon as I find my bloomin’ keys. JOLLY!!! Have you seen my keys?
Okay … c’mon gang … we’re going to visit some fun places today, for I am getting tired of sitting home and listening to depressing news, aren’t you? Yes, Hugh, I promise to get you back in time to shovel your snow!Hop aboard … sorry, but I don’t have a working heater in the Filomobile, and cannot afford to get this one fixed, but we’ll be where it’s warm in just a few minutes …
For our first stop, we’re heading to Mexico! It’s been some 40 years since I’ve been to Mexico, though I used to go several times a year. One of my favourite things when I was young was cabrito from street vendors … what? You never had cabrito? Roasted goat meat … they slow roast it over an open fire overnight, then sell it from carts on the streets … never has anything tasted so good!
Sigh … memories. But today we are heading to Hierve el Agua, located in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. Hierve el Agua is Spanish for “the water boils”, or “boil the water”, and the name comes from the bubbling natural mineral springs that are found here, that run into bathing pools on a spectacular cliff-top location. When you approach Hierve el Agua, from a distance, you see what appears to be a massive waterfall frozen on the side of the mountain. But ice is impossible in this hot climate. These are actually mineral deposits formed over thousands of years as a result of the mineral-laden water spilling over the edge of the cliff and trickling down the rocky mountain side. As the water runs down the rock face, it forms large stalactites like structures similar to those found in caves.Hierve el Agua consist of two waterfall-like rock formations. These are formed on cliffs that rise over fifty meters from the valley floor, with one “waterfall” reaching down twelve meters and the other reaching down thirty meters. The twelve meter one is called “cascada chica” (small waterfall) and “flows” off a base which is about sixty meters wide. The other is called “cascada grande” (large waterfall), and extends down from a base with which is about ninety meters wide and eighty meters above the valley floor. The more easily accessible and more often visited of the two waterfalls is the “cascada chica”. It is also called the Amphitheatre.The waters of the spring are over saturated with calcium carbonate, which is what gets deposited forming the waterfalls-like rock structures. The waters, with their high mineral content, are reputed to have healing qualities, and you will see tourists soaking in the waters in one of the natural pools at the top of the rock.
I want to run over to Austria in a minute, but while we’re on this side of the globe, let’s pop over to Mexico City, for there is something I want to show you …This, my friends, is Fuente de los Coyotes, or Coyote Fountain, a bronze statue fountain portraying a pair of beautiful coyotes surrounded by jets of water. Coyotes were once a common sight in this part of the Mexican valley. During the reign of the Aztec empire, what is now buildings and roads would have been covered in pine forest and scrubland where coyotes and other animals dwelt. What’s more, the coyote was an animal with much significance in the Aztec cosmovision.Okay, now let’s travel across the pond to Austria. Now, who else do you know that will take you halfway ‘round the globe to show you … traffic lights??? Bear with me now, whilst I tell you the story behind the lights …It all started with the Eurovision Song Contest. Held annually, the contest sees overs 50 countries battling in front of a live television audience of over 180 million to have their song proclaimed the Eurovsion winner. In return, the winning country gains the rather dubious honor of staging the next year’s contest, though the cost of this would, in actuality, bankrupt many of the tiny micro-nations that compete.
Several notable recording artists have begun their careers here, including ABBA and Celine Dion. Eurovision is also loved for its high-camp costumes and performances, making it a firm favorite with Europe’s LGBTQ community.The 2014 Contest was won for Austria by Conchita Wurst, a drag queen with a surname that means “sausage” in German. Thrilled by this success, and eager to welcome Europe to its capital in 2015, the Austrian authorities commissioned three new diversity pictograms for Vienna’s traffic lights.These Ampelparchen show three different paired figures (straight, gay, and lesbian), each holding hands and surrounded by hearts. Originally intended as temporary, a Facebook campaign led to them becoming permanent, and today they can be seen throughout the center of Vienna. Indeed, the Ampelparchen have been so well-received that cities as far afield as Salzburg, Utrecht, Munich, Cologne, Hamburg, and London have all installed their own versions.
I love the diversity … the recognition of diversity, don’t you?
We have, I think, time for one more stop before we head home. Are you hungry? Since we are already in Austria, it seems a shame to miss these rolls, which I hear are delicious. In Austria, pull-apart rolls known as buchteln often house a dollop of plum or apricot preserves. But throughout history, bakers have studded the center of these brioche-like buns with various ingredients, from squares of chocolate to poppyseed paste to lottery tickets! During the Biedermeier era of the 19th century, a time during which Europe’s middle class expanded considerably, buchteln were referred to as “lotteries” because of their play-to-win filling.
Though the yeasty treat originated in the Bohemia region of Czechia, today, Austrians consider the warm, fruit-filled style—often served fresh from the oven—a local classic. Bakers press jam in the middle, then place the dough side-by-side to create the finished bread’s pull-apart effect. Let’s try a few, shall we?
Home cooks also turn plain, unfilled buchteln into a decadent dessert by serving them in a pool of vanilla cream. The fluffy rolls absorb whatever sauce they touch, so it’s best to avoid attempting this style with the ticket-filled version.Well, folks, now that our bellies are full, we better head home so you guys can get on with your weekend plans. I’m so glad you made a bit of time to join me in this little jaunt here and there! I will be hibernating for the rest of the weekend, as we are supposed to have an ice storm, followed by up to 9 inches of snow, and with sub-zero temps! Have a safe and happy weekend, dear friends!