Copenhagen’s street food heaven

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When we headed to Papiroen one afternoon to what is known as Copenhagen’s street food heaven, I didn’t have high expectations. really, what could I expect from such a place in Copenhagen?

welcome But when we went there, it was bustling with locals, out to enjoy their day in the summer sunshine. This mat welcomed us and this suspended cow greeted us as we entered the large street food enclosure.

It was a cheery, informal space – lots of benches scattered around, to be shared by people. You can also move from bench to bench, if you wanted to sit close to your vendor.

cow

Till as recently as end 2012, Papiroen – literally ‘Paper Island’ – used to be a newspaper warehouse, a part of the industrial spaces along the harbour. It was then transformed into an open, vibrant space, with a whole corner set aside for street food from all over the world. This opened in early 2014, first initiated on an experimental basis, but increasingly looks like this will stay on for a long time.

The place was made of a mix of stalls and food trucks, all neatly lined up to form narrow lanes. It was particularly interesting to see the way the trucks were parked inside a closed space like that. In all, there are 35 such stalls and trucks, and all the food was reasonably priced (especially by Scandinavian standards) around 40 – 70 Krone. you buy coupons at the beginning and use them at the individual stalls – any remaining coupons can be traded back for cash.

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Below, a glimpse of the wide variety on offer there – from gourmet burgers to Moroccan and Turkish food to Korean and Japanese to specialty Danish sausages, there was something for everyone.

burger

rolls

olives

sausage

Of course, as can be expected, Italian was one of the most popular cuisines there; tantalising pizza, fresh handmade pasta in a stall run by two Neapolitans and an antipasti place (see the truck above).

pizza

There was no dearth of vegetarian food here, with options ranging from wraps to pasta to more “exotic” choices – I opted for the latter and got myself this delicious stew and rice, accompanied by plantain fry, from the Colombian place. A bit like rajma chawal, this totally satiated my craving for somewhat familiar, somewhat spiced food.

colombian

And in true Copenhagen fashion – after all, it is the home of Carlsberg – visitors are expected to wash it all down with a tall mug of beer, any kind of beer you may be in the mood for. For those non- drinkers or seeking healthier options, there are also plenty of juices on offer.

beer

cake Of course, we had to end it all with a sweet extravaganza, an Oreo cheesecakes and a lemon cheesecake.

Street food heaven, it certainly was. Apart from the consistent good taste across stalls, one of the best things about the place is that all produce is sourced locally.

If you ever find yourself in Copenhagen, make sure to drop in for a bite – or three.

Kids in the Cologne Carnival

Kamelle! The cry rents the cold, crisp Cologne air. A few thousand kids are out in cute costumes, all bundled up against the cold, eager participants in the general colour and chaos.

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The official Carnival begins on Thursday with the Women’s Day, but Carnival Sunday is when families come out in full force. The streets are filled with children, accompanied by their parents, sometimes pushed around on strollers. Around 50 schools also participate, getting their kids to march in the parade in costumes created around a central theme.

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I particularly loved it when parents and kids wore matching costumes, like this father with his one-year-old daughter.

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The Carnival starts a few minutes past 11 in the morning, passing the street by my hotel just after noon. I got there early to watch the spectators and get some photographs. There were already hundreds of families out on the streets, the kids getting impatient by the minute.

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Participants in the parade throw small chocolates, toffees and candy to the crowds, and Kamelle! is the shout for “candy! I want candy!”

And to go with the demand, kids also stood with little bags to collect the goodies for the day.

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All in all, great fun. My first experience of the Cologne Carnival, also been my favourite.

Lunch at Comics Cafe Brussels

The website of Comics Cafe says, “Comics and fine dining, two pillars of Belgian culture, join forces here!” Indeed.

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If Brussels is comics city (see my photoessay on wall art in Brussels), then Comics Cafe is its crowning glory. This comics-themed cafe welcomes you with a life-size bronze statue of Tintin, Belgium’s favourite son. And then the ride begins, with posters and paintings covering every stairway, wall, every niche. Look out in particular for original signed sketches from the grandmasters of the comics world, from Hergé to Uderzo to Jacobs to Geluck.

Tintin
(source: Examiner.com)

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If you can manage it, head to the room devoted to Tintin – it is housed in a 17th century chapel. How can you not love, love this city?

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Try local specialities like the Flemish beef stew. Tuck into a healthy Popeye burger or skip breakfast for a hearty XXL Obelix burger here. Or like me, go all veggie.

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There is, of course, a comics shop attached to the cafe with countless Tintin comics (in dozens of languages), artefacts and memorabilia…

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Definitely my recommendation for a lunch or a beer when you visit Brussels – preferably at the end of a comics trail.

Comics Cafe
Place du Grand Sablon 8, 1000 Brussels

Graffiti art in Ghent

If Flanders (a region within Belgium) itself is an overlooked destination within Western Europe, then think of Ghent as the neglected step-sister. Tourists stop to gawk at the grandeur of Brussels and moon over the picture postcard prettiness of Bruges – and who can blame them – but skip this University town altogether in their rush to get to the next big thing.

Lonely Planet, in writing of Ghent as one of its top destinations of 2011 — Here’s a secret within a secret: Ghent might just be the best European city you’ve never thought of visiting, in a country that continues to be criminally overlooked.

Ghent has many delights; among my favourites is the absolutely stunning Graffiti Lane, whose original name is quite a mouthful – Werregarenstraat. Some time in the 1990s, the local government declared it legal to paint graffiti inside this lane, in a bid to keep the rest of the town free of vandalism and to promote good quality street art. And from the looks of it, they have succeeded.

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There are all kinds of themes to be found on the walls, from absolute abstract art, to messages of love and peace…

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On a gloomy day as the one I was there on, it may seem a slightly dark and edgy place, but locals use the lane all day without any hesitation. Once the sun came out, graffiti lane was just like any of the narrow lanes scattered across the town connecting two main streets.

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The character of graffiti lane changes everyday. If you stop there for a few minutes, possible to see artists at work with a spray can in hand.

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Also read about graffiti lanes elsewhere: Prague, Melbourne

The crafts of Kutch

With the Rann Utsav on, I thought it was time to look back on my holiday in Kutch in the winter of 2012 – and what a long time ago it feels. We stayed at the lovely Devpur homestay and travelled around Kutch. And the highlight of the holiday for me was the time I spent at the villages, chatting with the locals, looking at the local craft – the Rann Utsav itself was nothing much to speak of.

Here then, some glimpses into the traditional craft of Kutch… Our first stop was at Nirona village, home to lacquerwork, bell and metal work, and the very unique Rogan art. Most of these are family occupations and are still carried out in the confines of a house. Men and women both participate in the activity, either in the actual production or the marketing (except the Rogan art, which is practised by Muslim families, where the women seemed to stay away from the public eye).

First stop, a home where lacquer craft was being produced. Currently there are 25 – 30 families in the Banni region who produce lacquerware, which means colouring hand-carved wooden items with resin obtained from trees. The lac is applied and polished to a smooth glazed finish on a variety of products, from kitchen ladles to little jewellery boxes. And of course, I wanted to buy them all, and had to dragged away kicking and screaming, by the husband. Ah, well.

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And next, the home of the copper bell maker. Our driver said that copper bells used to be tied to the necks of cattle – our own version of Swiss cowbells! The Lohar community, originally from Sindh, are the bell makers of Nirona (some also live in Zura village).

I bought a smiling sun here, with tiny bells hanging under it. And just as I stepped out of the home, I stopped the matriarch, who smiled and waved at me.

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The final stop at Nirona was the most fascinating: one of the few homes which practised the unique Rogan art. You will notice that all my photographs here are of hands painting these intricate designs – I just could not take my eyes off towards that”big picture.” The art is 400 years old and of Persian origin, in which pigments are mixed with castor oil to get a sticky paint. hat is applied on cloth using a thin metal stick called a ‘kalam’ (pen).

The motifs are motley floral, the most popular of them being the ‘tree of life.’ The Rogan art process is time-consuming and painstaking, therefore it is not surprising that it is in danger of dying. Read more about it here

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If you have time – why, make the time – to drop in at the Kala Raksha centre at Sumrasar Sheikh village, a museum built in the traditional manner of Kutchi homes, and dedicated to the preservation of local craft, especially hand embroidery.

From the museum website: To orient the viewer to embroidery traditions of Kutch, the exhibition panels are structured as a series of questions:

1. What did the embroideries express?
2. Why Did women Embroider?
3. The Wedding Ceremony
4. How did they Use Embroidered Pieces?
5. What are Embroidery Styles?
6. How Else Did Women Decorate Themselves?

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Or visit the Khamir Craft Resource Centre at Kukma village to see local block prints including the beautiful Ajrakh and Batik.

Finally, my absolute favourite, women embroidering – the most common scene across Kutchi villages. Any time of the day, women – and girls – seem to be at work with thread and needle, and bits of colourful cloth. heads bent, hands go up and down, even as a shy smile plays on their lips. Each community has a different kind of embroidery, detailed here on the Shrujan website.

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Also see: Portraits from Kutch and Inside a bhunga

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