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Monthly Archives: December 2018

This is no. 10 in a series of posts that is about funny business names or signs that we captured on film. From time to time during our travels, we come across English name or signage that makes us smile.

Check out Hilarity in names #1, #2, #3#4#5, #6#7, #8, and #9.

Like Shoes in Amman, Jordan

Mall in Beijing

Uniqlo on Ginza, Tokyo, 4F – Womens Clean ?

And on 5F – Womens Bottoms

On the same street in Kiev, Ukraine – two eateries named after famous people …



“,” in ladies fashion

“super superficial” – we saw this in London, no idea what they do

Hope you smiled too, more to come …

In the last few years, we have been posting on various bookstores around the world. If you missed the blog entries, click here for a shortlist of the visited bookstores posted on this site. I(Chris) admits to like loitering in bookstores, browsing, and buying books.

Our interest is not just in the stores that display and sell them. We like books. But admittedly, for various reasons, not many books have been read cover to cover.

Anyway, to make books as a topic a bit more interesting, we will talk about pairs of non-fiction books with a similar theme. To start, we have:

The Shortest History of Europe by John Hirst


Europe: A History by Norman Davies

These two books actually inspired us to make this post. First, we are not history buffs.

Europe: A History by Norman Davies was bought initially for a reason. One advantage of living in Europe is that we have more opportunity to visit a rich diversity of churches, historical sites, and castles, etc. Although we use guide books and read descriptions onsite, the information is more often sketchy and does not provide the broader context. Usually, we get the “what” but not the “why”. And we soon forgot what we saw after we left the site. Knowing the history and the bigger picture would make the visits more meaningful and enjoyable.

We liked the idea of a panorama, from the Ice Age to the Cold War. This book does it. It is a hefty 3-pounds, 1400-pages tome.

In Munich’s airport, I (Chris) recently bought The Shortest History of Europe by John Hirst. I was impressed by the first 2 chapters – 50 some pages of an effective overview of the history of classical/medieval Europe (Greek & Roman learning, Christianity and German warriors) and the modern Europe (Renaissance, Enlightenment and Romanticism). The history was told by a focus on explaining the driving forces behind the social trends and events. The remaining chapters explore what made Europe unique.

The plan is to finish the short one and then go to the big book for specific events.

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Next up is a trio of books on languages – quick fix french grammar, Wicked Italian and Learn German in a Hurry. Judging by the titles, one can surmise that we want to learn at least two of these languages in the shortest possible time. All three are official languages of Switzerland (our host country).

We happen to live in a French speaking canton – Vaud. So the French book got the most use. We actually have quite a few more books on learning French but unfortunately the number of books is not a reflection of our competence in the language.

Wicked Italian is a collection of long-form (probably old fashioned and even cute) insults, and it contains some swear words. Vaffanculo! The book is for amusing our Italian friends.

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One of our favorite topics is food.

Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking – The Science and Lore of the Kitchen is a classic first published in 1984. The edition we have has been updated. The book is comprehensive and accurate on food science and practical cooking skills. The appendix has a primer on chemistry. We read it to improve our general culinary knowledge and for its simple explanation on why certain combination of things/techniques would work or not.

Arts & Foods – Rituals since 1851 is a catalogue of an exhibition we saw in the La Triennale di Milano in 2015 as a part of the World Expo. The following blurb sums it up nicely”

… an exhibition that brings attention to the theme of the event: ‘feeding the planet, energy for life’; creating an area for art in the center of the city, outside of the official expo venue. curated by Germano Celant, the exposition investigates the relationship between the arts and different food-related rituals around the world, offering: an historical view of the aesthetic and functional influences eating has had on the language of creativity; while exploring the way in which art in all its forms has dealt with themes of nourishment.

There are in this 960-page book, pictures of special forks used by the cannibals in New Caledonia, images of food in Italian neorealism cinema, as well as essays on design, autocracy, war, famine and migration. It is a smorsgabord.

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About Switzerland, our host country – we bought Swiss Watching by Diccon Bewes. Chris found a copy of Watching the English by Kate Fox at a book swap at work.

We enjoyed reading Diccon Bewes who is a travel writer from the UK and now living in the land of milk and honey (see tag line). The book is funny, insightful, and we can fact-check him.

We have just started with the book about the English. The tag line is The Hidden Rules of English Behavior. The writer herself a Brit and a social anthropologist takes a humorous look at and tries to explain Englishness.

“Every social situation is fraught with ambiguity, knee-deep in complication, hidden meanings, veiled power-struggles, passive-aggression and paranoid confusion.” 

Taken from a section of Goodreads which has a collection of quotes from the book.

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Last but not least, this pair of publications was probably the result of year-end shopping at airports, at least one was bought in the United States. According to the cover, the Onion’s Our Dumb World (Atlas of The Planet Earth) is the 73rd edition, hard cover and comes with 30% more Asia. If you do not know The Onion (America’s finest news source), click here to explore and enjoy.

2018 is a complicated year, a rich time for history writers. It will be interesting to see how much of the observations and prospects discussed in The World in 2018 panned out in reality. Judging by our daily world news, things will get even more unpredictable in 2019.

We encourage all to read more in the new year. We will.


Back in June, we spent one day in St. Gallen, on our way to Kiev from Lindau.

After seeing the Abby and its library (see the post here), we were looking for a place for dinner that was not far from the train station and our hotel. Not really expecting much, Lokal was the restaurant we chose from Google map.

Lokal, which is on the other side of tracks at the train station and it turns out to be a part of The Lokremise.

The Lokremise is a cultural center for St Gallen. It consists of a concert/theater/dance space, an outpost for the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, the cinema Kinok as well as our bar/restaurant Lokal.

The Lokremise was built between 1903 and 1911 at the time of the textile boom. It is the largest surviving locomotive ring depot in Switzerland.

I wondered what was the purpose of this tower. It looks mysterious.

The depot is a monument of national importance. The buildings were renovated in 2009/2010 and converted into the current complex.

The circular layout of the rail depot has been adapted to form a courtyard for having drinks outdoors.

Some train tracks remain visible under the pebbles. The space can be a really good lounge-y, party space.

Kinok moved into the new Lokremise cube, designed by the Zurich architects Isa Stürm Urs Wolf SA, featuring a cinema room, screening room and bar.

The art museum’s space is situated behind the cinema.

Sculptures and drinks.

The ambiance changed a little after dark.

The post-industrial, high-ceiling dining room is made less grungy by huge mirrors and warm color light fixtures.

Not sure what the idea is with these rows of chrome hemispheres … but they made the large otherwise stark wall a lot more interesting.

The food was overall quite good; the space is phenomenal. Location is super convenient. Highly recommended.


While we were in Kiev (Kyiv), we had a choice of visiting either Chernobyl (the site of the nuclear reactor accident) or Mezhyhirya (the residence of Ukraine’s ousted ex-president). They were both available as a day trip and one day was all we had. We took the safe option to view this monument of corruption.

We ordered a taxi from the hotel. It took us about 45 minutes to reach the residence outside Kiev.

The Mezhyhirya Residence (Межигір’я) is an estate where Viktor Yanukovych lived when he was prime minister and then president of Ukraine. It is now a museum displaying Yanukovych’s luxurious lifestyle at the people’s expense.

Yanukovych lived in the estate from 2002 to 21 February 2014, when he fled the country to Russia during the 2014 Ukrainian revolution (Euromaiden). He was one of the patrons of the now infamous Paul Manafort (ex-Trump campaign manager).

The estate is over 140 ha (350 acres) and is situated on the banks of the Dnieper river. It is packed with recreational facilities from a yacht pier, an equestrian club, a shooting range, a tennis court to hunting grounds. Unfortunately we did not see any of these facilities as they were quite spread out. We could have rented a golf cart but did not initially think we needed one.

The estate also has an automobile museum displaying Yanukovich’s exotic cars, a golf course, an ostrich farm, a dog kennel, numerous fountains and man-made lakes, a helicopter pad, and a small church. The entire complex is enclosed by a five-meter tall fence along the perimeter.

The grounds are beautifully maintained and we saw several couples in gown and tux taking wedding pictures at various scenic spots.

Gazebo with giant chairs

The main feature of the residence is the so-called “club house”, also known as Object Honka (Honka being the name of the Finnish company that built the log house).

Front of the House

Back of the House – only the top half is visible

He even built a fake Roman ruins next to the the House

On 21 February 2014, the police withdrew and Euromaiden protesters were able to enter the complex. There was no looting or vandalism. Activists later turned it into a public park.

Viktor Yanukovych served as President from February 2010 (defeating Yulia Tymoshenko) until his removal from power in February 2014. It started when Yanukovych rejected a pending EU association agreement, choosing instead to pursue a Russian loan bailout and closer ties with Russia. He is currently in exile in Russia and wanted by Ukraine for high treason.

Yanukovych has been widely criticized for “massive” corruption and cronyism with an estimated net worth of $12 billion.

Private zoo with many different kinds of birds and animals – ostrich

It was said “For most of [Yanukovych’s] career he was a public servant or parliament deputy, where his salary never exceeded 2000 US dollars per month. … In a country where 35% of the population live under poverty line, spending 100,000 dollars on each individual chandelier seems excessive, to say the least.” He was robbing his people.

Viktor Yanukovych hired and paid millions to Paul Manafort who was Donald Trump’s election campaign chairman for a period and has since been found guilty of five tax fraud charges, one charge of hiding foreign bank accounts and two counts of bank fraud. He recently lost his plea deal after being caught lying repeatedly to the FBI. Real crooks.