Friday 27 April 2012

Support for Lady Travellers

Image from Vintage Printable
A few years ago I was working on a project with some nuns.  One of the themes we discussed was the formal habit they used to wear and the conversation (somehow, can't remember exactly how) got on to the topic of nun's underwear - nunderwear, you might say.

(Hey perverts!  If you've found this blog by googling 'nun's underwear' I'm afraid you're destined for disappointment.  HOWEVER, I can offer you multiple posts on pretty dresses, thick socks, nephews and cultural differences.  No?)

One of the nuns told the story of entering the convent and being given her habit to wear.  In lieu of a bra, she was issued with some strips of cloth for binding.  Not long afterwards, her mother wrote to this young nun and asked if she needed any new underthings.  The nun had to think carefully about how to respond because letters were censored and any mention of brassieres and suchlike came firmly under the heading of 'Not Things We Talk About Here, Sister'.  Eventually she replied to her mother: Dear Mother, My needs are fully supported here at the convent.

Which brings me on to the topic of today's hint.  (I know you were wondering.)  I would suggest to lady travellers that when flying long haul they consider ditching their underwire bras.  Two reasons.  First, those pesky underwires have a habit of triggering security detectors.  Second, wearing one for 24 hours at a go really isn't very comfortable.  Instead, I recommend that you invest in a support tank.  You won't be unsupported (see! there was a link) and generally will be much happier when you arrive at your destination.

Thursday 26 April 2012

A Big Fat Greek Baptism

Reader, have you ever been to a Greek baptism?  If not, I will do my best to describe it for you.  Imagine a wedding: special outfits, everybody dressed up in their best clothes, a solemn church service, reception and dancing afterwards, gifts.  Now imagine that the bride can't talk (or walk); that the bride is, in fact, nine months old and male; that there's no groom but there is full body immersion and you might start to get an idea of what my nephew Alex's baptism was like.

It was a beautiful spring day and we all gathered outside the small church.

 The to-be-baptised-one held court outside with his mama;

I took photos of icons inside.  (My little sister and I mused about why Saint Helen appears in all Greek icons with pink hair.  Can anyone enlighten us?)

The priest took up his position at the church door at noon precisely.  Alex's lovely nonna (that's godmother to you and me, but in Greece the godparents have an especially important place in the family) took him, affirmed her faith, rejected Satan and held Alex firmly as he was exorcised.  (Yes, that's right.)

The priest asked Nonna Nikki what the baby's name was and she told him ... at which point the baby's father threw money for the kids outside.  Apparently this tradition stems from the time when nobody knew the name until the christening so the father would pay local kids to go and find out at the baptism while he warmed a seat at the taverna.

Then we all went inside and Baby Alex had his clothes taken off him (he held up manfully and played with the smart white leather case containing his trousseau.)

The priest said many prayers and filled the baptismal font with water.

Then Baby Alex was stripped of his nappy and dunked ... at which point, I'm sad to say, he lost his sense of humour and yelled 'I hate you all' - at least that's how I interpreted the wailing.  Before and after the immersion, Alex was anointed in holy oil - Greek baptisms are a three-for-one deal: baptism, communion and confirmation all in one.  Efficient, those Greeks.

(The Adorable Nephew - Original Version - likes a good 'bloom', as he's taken to calling baptisms.)

After the oil, Nonna took Alex and with help from his mama, put him in the special underclothes and cap for soaking up the oil.  Then Alex was dressed in a very fine suit of clothes: the tradition is that these all have to be new, to celebrate the baby's newly cleansed status; further tradition is that the outfit should be lavish - I guess to symbolise the hope that the baby's future life will be full of good things.

After the redressing (and, I'm afraid, more wailing - Alex isn't keen on being dressed at the best of times) there were more prayers.  The mama kissed an icon and the nonna's hand and was then given her baby back.

Exhausted by all of this, Alex fell asleep in his pram afterwards ... but the party was just getting started.  The reception was held in a local winery and aside from excellent wine we had delicious salads and twelve or so kinds of meat.  Soutzoukakia!  Souvlakia!  Gyros!  (What is a party without gyros?)  There was ouzo, of course, for those that wanted it (not me, not a fan) and the baby was passed around to be cooed over.

One of the things I like most about Greek baptisms is the traditional wish that people make for the family: na sas zizei  - may he live for you.  That's not live in the literal sense but more in the sense of, I suppose, to be a credit to you, to lighten your lives.

So there you are: if ever you're invited to a Greek baptism, you'll know what to expect.  Na sas zizei.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Anzac Biccies

25th April is Anzac Day, when people in Australia and New Zealand commemorate the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who fought at Gallipoli - as well as more generally acting as a remembrance day for members of the armed forces.

I myself celebrate something else on 25th April - the Anzac biscuit.

The recipe below comes courtesy of Esther's Granny.


Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees.

2 cups flour
1 3/4 cups coconut
1 3/4 cups oats
2 cups sugar

225g butter
2tbsp honey or golden syrup
1tsp baking soda
4tbsp water

Mix together the dry ingredients.  In a small saucepan, melt the butter and honey or syrup and add the baking soda and water.

Slowly add the wet mixture to the dry.  Put in a baking tin and bake for about 12 minutes until golden brown.

The biscuits should be chewy rather than crisp ... and very extremely delicious.


Edited to say: following a batch of charred biscuits, I lowered the heat and shortened the cooking time & amended the original post accordingly.  Sorry!

Easter Eggs

It's traditional at Greek Easter to dye eggs.  Regular eggs are boiled, placed in dye, painted with shellac and then - well then comes the slightly mystifying egg-based version of conkers.  On Easter itself (or after the vigil service on Easter Saturday) people take it in turns to boff their eggs against each other.  The winner is he or she whose egg has fewest cracks.

I took the egg-dying as an opportunity to try for some arty egg shots.  See what you think ...

They look sort of unearthly, no?  Like miniature blue planets.  Strangely mesmerising but I don't think I could bring myself to eat them afterwards as some of the Greeks do.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Planet of the Greeks

My sister asked me to take this photo and suggested this title ... it's not really the only surviving fragment of Greek civilisation (if you can call a beach umbrella 'civilisation') but it is evidence of what a Greek beach bar looks like out of season.

Saturday 14 April 2012

Easter Treats

In Greece for Greek Easter, feeling slightly guilty because we've already had a week of eating chocolate and other post-Lenten delights. I took this photo of all these treats being readied for tomorrow and the woman in zacharoplasteio was so amused she gave me a hug.

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Gratuitous Cuteness

I had planned to post today about a Lady Traveller but when I reread what I'd written it was, I'm sorry to say, really boring.  So until I figure out how to fix it, I thought I'd upload some photos of Ollie my goddog.  (I have a goddaughter, a godson and a goddog.  Ollie pointed out - via his mammy - that he is the only one to be a palindrome.  I said, confused, 'Ollie isn't a palindrome.'  He had to explain it to me.)

Ollie came to lunch on Saturday but he had a sad, sore paw and had to wear a cone so was a bit blue.  (But still extremely cute.)  No this has nothing to do with travel, but better photos of a sweet doggie than no photos at all.

Monday 9 April 2012

Dirndls en Vogue

Did you know (I did not until my recent visit to Munich) that dirndls are back in style in a big way?

According to this article in the German news magazine Der Spiegel, 'Bavarian folk costume is experiencing a sales boom'.  All over Munich, we saw shops selling the traditional full-skirted dresses, to be worn over (extremely) low cut white blouses.  The aim seems to be to create a shelf of your bosom - handy for resting steins of beer on, I suppose.

My friend Wiebke confirmed that the locals all wear them for Oktoberfest and also at special occasions - she has two.  She also advised that the authentic look is the long dirndl - if you wear the mini skirt version, people will spot you for a foreigner instantly.

A dirndl won't come cheap: upwards of about €200 for a fairly basic version, with prices in the thousands for a hand-sewn dirndl made of silk.

If this seems too extreme, you can always make your own, using this handy-dandy Vogue pattern - I told you they were in Vogue.

Sunday 8 April 2012

Happy Easter!

[I found this card in one of my favourite Melbourne spots for picking up considered trifles: the Junk Company at 583 Elizabeth St, just around the corner from the Queen Victoria Market.  Check out their website here: - so many things you didn't realise you needed to own.]

May your Easter be filled with eggs / chocolate / lamb / spring / resurrection / generally good things.

Thursday 5 April 2012

Girls Go Wild in Munich (no, not really)

I spent the weekend in Munich with three girlfriends.  It was a somewhat unusual girls' weekend in that three of the girls are in their thirties ... and one of the girls is one, my delightful god-daughter Milly.

What are the sights of Munich?  I couldn't really say.  Apart from the pilgrimage to remember Sophie Scholl, mostly we wandered and ate and ate and wandered - oh, and took naps, as when they were needed.  (See if you can spot the napper in the photo below.)

I did like the Munich habit of lining up seats outside cafes to face the sun.  One place had wooden deck chairs arranged in rows, all facing the beautiful golden Theatinerkirche.

The effect (especially with the red blankets people draped around themselves) was a bit like being on an ocean liner.

I discovered a new aperitif: Aperol spritz - Aperol (a little like Campari but not quite so herbal) with sparkling wine and water.

We discovered that it's verboten to feed the ducks in the Englischer Garten.  (There was a classic moment of English - German cultural division when Milly tried but was gently admonished by the police.  That said, the police were on horses, the excitement of which which made up for any sting.)

And we all remembered how good German breakfasts are (my friend Wiebke's favourite cafe is Cafe Schwabing.  Tell them she sent you.)

And ... that was the kind of weekend it was.  Simple pleasures, shared with good friends.

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Sophie Scholl

In Munich at the weekend I made sure to pay my respects to Sophie Scholl (the sign below reads 'Scholl-Siblings Place'.)

Being a capricious, not to say precocious, young lady, I marched into my Leaving Cert German oral and talked to the examiner about Sophie Scholl.  The phrase that specifically sticks in my memory is 'sie ist hingerichtet worden' - German for 'she was executed'.  (No, I haven't had cause to use it since.)  So who was Sophie Scholl, why was she executed and why was I, aged 18, preoccupied with these things?

As a student at Munich University in the early 1940s, Sophie became a member of the White Rose, an anti-Nazi student group.  They clandestinely distributed leaflets urging Germans to passively resist the Nazis.  The group was caught distributing the sixth of these leaflets - Sophie herself flinging some from the top of a staircase in the university (I can see this so clearly in my mind's eye: the leaflets fluttering down, beautiful and liberating and terrifying, all at the same time.) For this crime Sophie, her brother and other members of the group were beheaded.  She was just 21 when she died.  

Her last words, to her cellmate - 

"Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?"

At 18, Sophie Scholl was my heroine.  You can draw a direct line from her to the Lady Travellers who feature in these pages: all possessors of a crusading spirit.

Tuesday 3 April 2012

View from the Black Cab

When newly arrived in London, whether as a tourist or a young Lady Traveller embarking on one's first Real Job, the temptation is to take the underground everywhere.  The advantage being that the stops are very clear and you don't have to struggle to navigate yourself around the mean streets.  A little experience teaches you that overground is much more interesting: I always felt (and feel) London is like a beautifully put-together shop window.  Always interesting things to catch your eye, no matter where you look.

Back in the day, I learned how the pieces of London fit together by walking everywhere.  A very rare treat was to take a black cab somewhere.  Yesterday though (and being slightly more solvent now than then), I indulged by getting a taxi from Chelsea to Tower Bridge.  It was a beautiful spring day and so I took some photos.