Dave's Photo & Travelblogue

Photo shoots. World travel advice. Tips on Munich & environs.

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Fugu at Zuboraya

If you’re looking for reviews/recommendations of a good restaurant in Osaka, Japan to try Fugu blowfish, read on! My recommendation is definitely for Zuboraya in Dotonbori…

Who hasn’t heard of Fugu, the poisonous blowfish? Japanese love to eat it, perhaps to prove they are masters of otherwise deadly sea creatures whose organs contain toxins that can paralyze our bodies. Yep, including the lungs… making it hard to live. In fact in my book Demon’s Bane, the characters used this poison as a weapon.

Fugu nigiri trio

Becoming a Fugu chef is not easy. One must practice for years before taking a test to be allowed to prepare this potentially fatal delicacy. On top of that, as I learned from reading some internet articles, Fugu doesn’t taste particularly great on its own; special recipes are needed to enhance its flavor. Guests won’t keep coming back just for the thrill if it tastes bad, and no one will pay the high prices Fugu commands for a bland strip of fish. So the chefs at Zuboraya have nice dishes with flavors that complement the Fugu, like spicy garnishes and lemony soy sauce with the nigiri.

Fugu sushi closeup

As I wasn’t expecting much flavor-wise, I went with a small nigiri set of three pieces for 800 yen ($10) rather than blow 3000+ yen on a big Fugu meal. I ordered some Unagi (sea eel) on the side, and cold sake (the best accompaniment).

Fugu and Unagi

The Fugu was lightly seared and was served with a lemony soy sauce, I guess designed to enhance the flavor (or give it some flavor). It was a bit chewy in texture, not soft like good tuna or salmon. Clearly a lot of work goes into making palatable Fugu dishes, because the fish doesn’t intrinsically taste good. But people do want to eat it for the thrill, and they’ll pay (really) good money for it, so… good work, Zuboraya chefs! Their location in Dotonbori, where I survived the ordeal treat:

Zuboraya Dotonbori Osaka

Overall, I’d recommend trying Fugu if you are at all curious. If you go to a known restaurant with licensed chefs (which is probably all of them in Japan), I wouldn’t have any concern about the safety. Your only choice then is whether you just want to say ”Yep, I tried it,” or you want a big, luxurious meal. For a multi-course banquet of sashimi, soup, and the trimmings you’re looking at 3000+ yen compared to under a thousand for a few pieces of nigiri. I’m saving my yens for Unagi, Ikura, and Ama-Ebi washed down with Nigori-Sake!

In parting, here’s a pufferfish in the Osaka Aquarium: this lucky guy is not for eating :-)

Pufferfish at Osaka Aquarium

Happy Fugu…

Posted 2 years, 9 months ago.

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Welcome to Japan!

Nothing says “Welcome to Japan” quite as well as the Osaka train signage in kanji. Okay, they do (briefly) switch to English for a few seconds. It’s similar with the announcements: 30 seconds straight of talking in Japanese, then one sentence of English. So far I am completely satisfied with that small percentage of English… after all, I am in Japan!

Osaka JR Train Signage

For lunch I visited this place, Ponpocotei near the Tsuruhashi station.

Ponpocotei Restaurant

First meal in Japan for this trip was Okonomiyaki! This is a thick, savory pancake about 6″ in diameter. I tried octopus & pork as my fillings. Those are fish flakes on top of the bbq sauce and mayonnaise.

Okonomiyaki in Osaka

The chef cooks it at a grill behind the counter, then serves it on your own personal in-table grill to keep it warm while you eat. Delicious!

Ponpocotei Okonomiyaki Closeup

I may have mentioned at some point: I love my Nikon 35mm f/2 for food closeups. :-)

Posted 2 years, 9 months ago.

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Troubling Signs in Greece

I don’t know why this struck me as funny. Yep, what she’s eating, that’s called bread. Any ideas on a caption?

Ah, that's what bread is for!

My favorite kind of restaurant. Free!

Cheap free style restaurant!

Maybe this guy is complaining ironically about Greek mafia policies. If you don’t pay them for protection, someone might just…

Jack the butcher!

It never occurred to me that this high hill in Athens (Lykavittos maybe?) looked like a breast. But now that you mention it…

Nipple Postcard?

What’s the strangest sign you’ve seen when traveling?

Posted 2 years, 9 months ago.

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Tenerife Sunsets

Here are a few sunset timelapses and other scenes from Tenerife’s west and north coasts. Tenerife is a beautiful island if you avoid the super-touristy parts. Enjoy!

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Taken with a Nikon D7000 using the built-in intervalometer, and an 18-200mm VR lens.

Tenerife Sunset

Posted 15 years ago.

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Mount Olympus Timelapse

In my post about hiking Mount Olympus in Greece, I promised a short timelapse & documentary video (Nikon D7000 + Canon pocket cam, try to guess which clips are which camera). Here it is…

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I’d love to go back to Olympus and spend more time there. Lots of other trails, huts, and peaks looked good. Unfortunately we had quite a limited amount of time – so we just headed for the highest peaks, Mytikas and Skolio!

Mount Olympus, Greece

Posted 3 years, 1 month ago.

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Extreme Hiking on Mount Olympus

There’s limited information (in English) on climbing Mount Olympus in Greece, the home of the ancient Greek gods. Here’s my Mount Olympus advice.
Mytikas - highest peak in Greece at 2917m

Dave’s tips for climbing Mount Olympus:

  • Fly into Thessaloniki. Relax for a night and drink some (not too much) Ouzo.
  • The next morning, take a bus to the main bus transfer station in Thessaloniki.
  • At the transfer station, take the bus to Litochoro – the town at the base of Mount Olympus.
  • The bus to Litochoro goes to another town first (you may have to transfer, or your bus may go directly like ours did).
  • In Litochoro, take a taxi to the Prionia parking lot (25 euro each way!) and get the driver’s number for the way back in case you can’t hitch a ride down after the hike.
  • From Prionia (1100m), hike up trail E4 to the hut called Refuge A (2100m), Spilios Agapitos. The hike takes about 2 ½ to 3 hours, 6.4km long gaining 1000m with very little downhill.
  • Refuge A is a great hut with food, (bottled) water, and blankets. You will want a sleeping bag or camping sheet. There are no showers or potable running water, but you can buy bottled water relatively cheaply. Sleep overnight and start rested the next morning.
  • Leave heavy items in the hut if you plan to come down by this same trail. After a breakfast of bread and coffee (yes, the €4.50 breakfast isn’t too impressive), start up to Skala. It’s a relatively short hike of under 3 hours, but the path is very steep.
  • From the peak of Skala at over 2800m, you have the choice of Mytikas (2917m) or Skolio (2911m). Mytikas, the highest point in Greece, is a difficult scramble with potentially fatal consequences if you slip and fall the wrong way. Don’t attempt Mytikas unless the peak is free of high winds, rain, snow, and fog. The alternative of Skolio is not the highest point in Greece, but it’s a safer walk to get there. And it’s still a peak on Mount Olympus.
  • The way down is tough because of loose  sand and rocks on the steep trail. Here you really want some good hiking boots. Walking poles wouldn’t hurt either.

Another possibility to make life easier would be to rent a car for the 2 days in Thessaloniki. I think this would be cheaper, because we paid €15 each for bus tickets and €25×2 for taxis. Renting a small car for 2d should be less than 80 euro. There is ample parking at Prionia (though it might get full on summer weekends). It would be a lot faster by car as well, without having to wait for so many taxis, buses, etc.

Our Greek hiking friend at the top of Mytikas
My impressions: this is a serious hike. It isn’t quite as technical as climbing Zugspitze in Germany (because no climbing gear is needed as it is on Zugspitze’s Hoellental route), but the overall energy needed is similar. The vistas are phenomenal! I shot several timelapse sequences with my Nikon D7000 during the climb… those will be in an upcoming post. Stay tuned!

Ridge of peaks at Mount Olympus, Greece

Posted 3 years, 2 months ago.

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Beauty around Buda Castle

Buda Castle sits high atop a hill overlooking both sides of the city, Buda and Pest. In the evening you can find stunning nighttime panoramas. But under the castle is yet another world of caves and tunnels, used by man since prehistoric times. Unfortunately the Labyrinth of Buda Castle was misused during the Cold War, turned into a concrete-lined bunker. Since then it has been converted into an interesting artistic display of history.

In some caves are reproductions of prehistoric art, mostly copied from Lascaux in France.

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With a mini-tripod and a bit of patience you can get a nice naturally-lit shot like this without needing flash. You’ll need low ISO for a clean photo, and custom white balance. The hardest part was staying still for 15s…

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My favorite display was about a newly-discovered extinct race of hominids found in Hungary. You’ll have to visit the Labyrinth to learn more about Homo consumes.

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Outside Buda Castle it’s spring!

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I’ll leave you with this lovely sunset shot taken from near the castle.

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If you’re headed to Eastern Europe I highly recommend to make Budapest a priority on your itinerary. It’s well worth the trip!

Posted 3 years, 7 months ago.

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Getting dirty in Pest

Buda, Pest, and Old Buda merged in 1873 to form the modern Budapest. I took these shots while wandering around the streets of Pest.

Bus seat graffiti

Bus Seat Graffiti

Here’s the nostalgia tram, where (for 400 Forints) you can ride in style like they used to. Note: I don’t recommend trying to stand while this thing is moving – it’s not exactly as smooth as Munich’s S-Bahn. But it was free of graffiti, unlike the Pest buses.

Budapest Nostalgia Tram

This was floating in a small carnival by a children’s park for a few minutes before some thoughtful old man took it down. On the side, in Hungarian, it reads “Size does matter.”

Balloon Penis

This statue cracked me up. So regal in the last golden rays of the setting sun… except for his cap.

Horse, rider, pigeon decoration

Next post, back to the beautiful side of Budapest.

Posted 3 years, 7 months ago.

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Budapest Streets

Those long familiar with the blog might remember some prior posts about street photography. Candid photos of city denizens and visitors tell you a lot about what the place is like! Take this woman agonizing over what to buy in the farmers’ market:

Budapest Farmers' Market - Fruit

From afar it really looked like we were about to enter a field in the middle of the city. I guess a few hundred years ago this might have been the view.

Painted building in Budapest

The couple and the single… who is happier?

Couple and Single

We must have watched this dog playing in and around the fountain pool for half an hour. Finally I got the shot I’d been waiting for!

Dog in mid-dive

No comment required on this last one. All in all, it was a beautiful day of sun, photos, sights, and frisbee on the streets and in the parks of Budapest.

Non-still-life: boy with dog and tweeties

Posted 3 years, 7 months ago.

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Relaxing in Budapest

German holidays are great, as long as you can avoid the traffic. Leaving at 7am from Munich we missed most of it and made it to Budapest in the early afternoon. Our greeter was an enthusiastic howler in need of a toenail trim:

Budapest Doggie

Late lunch at the hotel restaurant. This fantastic dish of homemade smoked salmon and quail eggs was six euro. (The pumpkin soup was also up there with the best I’ve ever had, for 2.50).

Homemade Smoked Salmon and Quail Eggs

After wandering around the beautiful castle above the city at sunset…

Budapest Cathedral

…we had a coffee and enjoyed this great night view! I think this is officially the best view I ever had from a coffee shop. It was definitely worth the pricey cuppa. (Hungarian expensive = Munich standard price!).

Budapest Night View

I’m already looking forward to the next 2 days of sightseeing!

Budapest - Castle at Night

Happy Easter. Just to cover my bases, I’ll be pouring one out for JC… probably a real Czech Budweiser ;-)

Posted 3 years, 8 months ago.

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