Angkor Wat the model of universe

Cambodia Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat panorama

And so, tired but in good moods, we arrived in front of the magnificent Angkor Wat. When Frenchman Henri Mouhot discovered the complex in 1860, the natives of the Cambodian jungle were not sure who had built it. They thought that it could have been built by gods, or even by giants!

Behind the first gate we met the American couple from Cambodian border. Their trip was a nightmare. They were charged twice for the visa. First time by some men who met them before the border and second time at the border. They were very abusing and would not give the money back. The American went to Tourist Police and only then got the money back. When they were in Cambodia one of the taxi drivers took their luggage while they were bargaining the price (had ticket for the same bus as we did) and wanted to take off while the girl was inside and the guy outside almost driving over his feet. The girl was scared and wanted to jump out of the car when it stopped. So you see how careful you need to be. make sure you pass the border early afternoon.

Entrance to Angkor Wat
Entrance to Angkor Wat

The temple is just amazing, has several levels and different dimensions.  The temple complex is made of three successively raised, galleried temples. The five towers of Angkor Wat represent the five peaks of Mount Meru, the home of Vishnu. The towers are not the only symbolic elements of the complex. The whole site, in fact, may have been modeled after the Hindu vision of the universe. Moats, called barays, surround Angkor Wat and symbolize the primodial waters at the base of Mount Meru. The complex itself is almost perfectly symmetrical, and may be a kind of astronomy tool. Even the number of windows, pillars, and steps in various parts of the complex may be representative of the number of days in the solar and lunar calendars. The complex faces west unlike the rest of the temples that face east: in the direction of the afterlife in Hinduism.We came across two Buddha statues in robes which are treated as a place of peregrination. Several monks took pictures of themselves and Buddha and

Young monk in Angkor

I took pictures of them. The temple is most known for extensive storytelling decoration.

Wall cravings at Angkor Wat
Wall cravings at Angkor Wat

These decorations depict gods, apsaras, dancers, battle scenes, mythological events and adventures, stories from the Hindu epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, and war scenes featuring the king and the Khmer army.

The five towers can be reached by twelve very steep stairways, were once covered with stucco and gilded gold decorations; the bas relief carvings too were gold-coated. Only traces of these grand decorations remain.

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On your marks, get, set, ready, go! – Mushrooming in Poland

One of the most amazing customs in Poland is mushrooming. You get up really early and set off to a wood, forest or other wilderness. Our choice for years now is backwoods called “Blota” (Muds in translation). It’s located near Sierakow in Greater Poland.

Map of Sierakow
Map of Puszcza Notceka - wilderness

Necessary equipment:

ready for mashrooming
Team ready to conquer the forest
  1. Patience
  2. Good shoes (water resistant)
  3. Basket
  4. Sharp knife
  5. Second breakfast (tea recommended)
  6. Knowledge of mushrooms (which are poisonous which aren’t, we are not talking magic mushrooms here)
  7. Compass, just in case (although we never have one and got lost maybe two times in my whole life, anyway I don’t want to think you get lost because I said you don’t need to take a compass)
Matecznik Blota - Blota backwoods
Hostel we slept in

So we got up early and drove 2 hours to our favorite spot. A place we found when I was in elementary school and still went on summer camps. This one was tilted “Bike and horse riding camp”. We stayed for 10 or 14 days in backwood Blota and spend time horse riding and cycling. I think we had some English lessons as well. It was so long ago that I only have some snap shots in my memory. I remember mice running on the floor, how we crept out one early morning to collect some mushrooms and saw one of the most amazing sun rises with rays of light sparking in the drops of drew all around us. I don’t even think anyone noticed we were gone. This summer camp has been one of my favorites. Not sure if they do such camps anymore.

Our parents came to visit and liked this place so much that every autumn we went back there for

Penny bun
Penny bun, quite small just fit for vinegar as my grandpa used to say

mushrooming. Woodmen have changed but we remained faithful. From stories told by my parents I can tell you that sometimes there is so much mushrooms that you stay on your knees all the time, there is just no point to stand back up (unless you feel like doing extensive workout). I personally like just the right amount of mushrooms, when you are satisfied but still have time to enjoy the forest. Smell is amazing, you can feel the aroma of the moist soil, moss, maple and pines. Greenery gives your eyes well deserved rest after hours of sitting in front of the computer screen. And you do a lot of walking without even noticing it, as there is a point to it and a prize – mushroom.

Ok let’s get down to mushrooms, the most popular kinds that I know and collect are:

MushroomPenny bun, porcino or cep –  held in high regard in many cuisines, and is commonly prepared and eaten in soups, pasta, or risotto. We mostly dry it and add to dumplings (polish traditional dumplings for Christmas have filling made of sour cabbage and mushrooms) and bigos (Hunter’s Stew);

Xerocomus, Boletus – used by us for the same purposes;

Suillus – you can recognise it easily as it’s cap cuticle is slimy and sticky when moist, most commonly found near young coniferous trees;

To be honest with you the mushrooms that are poisonous can also be really beautiful. Golden cascades  streaming down the tree trunks, snow white polka dots of Amanita or incredibly symmetrical stripes underneath the cap take your breath away.

Amanitus - toxic mushroom

This year we weren’t very lucky. Our first spot was mushroom-less and I was more concerned about spiders than anything else. It seemed they were everywhere. I have a way of passing between two trees that seem ideal to accommodate spider’s web. I take a long stick and wave it in front of me . Hahhaaa now when I think about it, someone might think I’m chanting the mushrooms. We came back with just enough for supper and Christmas dishes for one family.

Now a bit about drying the mushrooms. The string method – slice up the mushrooms

Toxic mushrooms
Toxic mushrooms

thinly, and use a needle and cotton to string all of the mushrooms together. Use real cotton rather than an artificial material as this is less likely to stick or melt during drying. Once you have the mushrooms threaded string them up in the airing cupboard, in the kitchen, or in any similar warm location. This year only one string survived as most of the slices just fell off the string. If it happens to you, you can use The tray method. Use ordinary baking trays lined with some newspaper.

Toxic mushroom
Toxic mushroom

Arrange your slices of mushroom around the tray, making sure that they’re not overlapping each other, and discarding any slices that are maggoty. The thing with this method (especially if you put the tray in the oven to shorten drying time) is that the newspaper can stick to the mushrooms and then you will have bothersome process of removing paper in front of you (before cooking). You know you have to soak them in water anyway but not always the newspaper comes off easily. The Skewer sticks method. Our new invention! Instead of stringing the mushrooms together you make mushroom skewers and stick them in styrofoam box. And it works!

Did I mention you need to clean the mushroom first, remove any snails, pine needles

Cleaning mushrooms
Cleaning mushrooms

or dirt? Check if they are not maggoty and only then dry them! You do not dry the Suillus. We eat them the same day fried with onion and cream. Yummy! (well I started to eat mushrooms when I was 18 so if you disagree I can understand) A lot of work and a lot of leftovers. I throw them into my garden in hope they will make a better start for mushrooms but this is useless. On the right you can see my share of last year crop. Check out the bowl as well! All of them now sorted and cleaned, some more on the table still before processing.

Now I hope you will go yourself and try mushrooming! I ensure you, even if you are too scared to eat them it’s still a lot of fun!

How to marinate mushrooms in vinegar (we don’t use wine just alcohol)


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Nature taking its toll – Temple of Ta Prohm, Angkor, Cambodia

Tony dropped us off at the gate, behind it was a path leading to the jungle and temple of Ta Prohm. We didn’t know what to expect so just in case decided not to wander around. You need to remember that in Band in ta ProhmCambodia  the land mines are littered all over the country, especially in the rural areas. Casualties have reached more than 2,000 annually in the beginning of ’90s, but since then have significantly dropped. So do not go off the path. On our way to Ta Prohm we saw a band consisting of people hurt by explosions. Some of them didn’t have legs or arms. They played music on traditional instruments but I can’t honestly say I enjoyed the music.

As we were approaching the temple we saw a green swamp and some stones lying around. It made me think: “Are there crocodiles here?” In fact there is a whole industry of crocodile farms in Cambodia. In 2010 they bred 283K small crocodiles. You can visit one of those farms just in the outskirts of Siem Reap. I never really wanted to go, not a big fan of zoo’s, farms and so on.

Swamp ta ProhmGoing further over a bridge we came across a young man drawing one of those popular pictures you can buy from the stalls in Angkor or night market in Siem Reap, defined colors and recognisable temples. It really is a nice souvenir and if you buy it straight from the artist you have a chance to get a better price.

I loved the temple with narrow corridors and open courtyards, with trees, roots and moss getting everywhere. Those trees were really magnificent, tall, thick and serving as a support for different types of creepers. At some point we came across chicken trying to eat a green chili pepper, now we know why the food is so spicy in Cambodia! ( a joke)Boy drawing sunset over Angkor

I can’t say I recognized the temple as being the scenery in Tomb Reider. Maybe this is because I have seen it long time ago.

Ta Prohm housed the deity Prajnaparamita, the ‘perfection of wisdom.’ It was consecrated in 1186. Like many Khmer kings, Jayavarman had it carved in the likeness of his mother. The Prajnaparamita statue was surrounded by 260 lesser divinities, housed in their own sanctuaries. Interestingly, the temple was also the headquarters of a vast hospital network created by the good king. From Ta Prohm, supplies filtered out to 102 hospitals located throughout the empire. The Khmer kings seem to have taken the Buddha’s call to mercy into their own hands.

Team meeting When we finished sightseeing and came back to the point where we started Tony was nowhere to be seen. On the opposite side of the road we saw some tables and decided to sit down and drink something different than water while waiting. When we got to one of the tables we saw Tony in a hammock waving at us to sit down. “I won’t be a minute!” (well this is at least my interpretation of his gestures!). We sat down and observed children discussing post cards and something that seemed an important business arrangements. As you can imagine they were carrying baskets of these post cards for trade.

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