The blue cows of Latvia

blue cow

France24 reports that the once-ultra rare blue cows of Latvia are making a comeback:

The unique and hardy breed, driven to near extinction during the Soviet era, has made a comeback over the last few decades as an unlikely symbol of Latvian national identity.

“Their worst days are over,” said Arnis Bergmanis, head of the Ciruli animal park in the village of Kalvene, which serves as a breeding facility for the cattle.

“Blue cows are unique and wonderful. I’m glad we can help them thrive,” he told AFP while examining a baby calf.

In 2000 there were only 18 blue cows in Latvia, but today they number around 1,500 — thoroughbreds as well as hybrids.

Now imagining blue milk and blue chee-

Cow related: Daughters, milking cows, and etymological debates

The world's 10 oldest cities with people still living in them

From Web Urbanist, a list of the world’s 10 oldest still-inhabited cities. You’ll recognise a few, such as Jerusalem, Jericho, and Damascus, but a few others might not have entered your head, like Lisbon:

Due to its exceptional harbor situated where the Tagus river empties into the Atlantic Ocean, Lisbon has always been an ideal military and commercial location – incidentally attracting settlers to serve the soldiers and traders. Archaeologists have uncovered Phoenician objects at Lisbon dating back to 1200 BC; remnants of what was likely a Phoenician supply base for ships voyaging to and from the British Isles, an ancient source of tin.

Disaster struck Lisbon in 1755 when one of the most destructive earthquakes ever to strike Europe, accompanied by a massive tsunami and wildfires, leveled much of Lisbon and killed tens of thousands of residents.

Lisbon quickly bounced back from the disaster to regain her rank as one of Europe’s leading cities, a distinction she still holds today.

How many countries can you name in Europe? (QUIZ)

Can you name 47 of the European countries listed in this Sporcle quiz?

This will put your geography knowledge to the test, particularly some of the name changes of certain countries and how many of the tiny nations you can remember. Oh, and those pesky municipalities. I’ve said too much already…

I got 43/47, although (spoiler alert) I think Georgia not getting mentioned as a separate country was unfair.

For a bigger quiz, see how many countries you can name in 15 minutes.

What was François Mitterrand's final meal and why was it so controversial?

The ortolan is a small bird from the bunting family that lives in Europe and western Asia. It is also the last meal that former French president François Mitterrand ever ate, 8 days before his death. But eating ortolans is illegal in France (even though some chefs will still make it) and it comes with some… unique traditions:

[…] To prepare it, the ortolan is drowned in a glass of Armagnac. This is not a metaphor. It is actually drowned, and then it is cooked in a cassoulet.

[…]

You place a white cloth over your head and pick the bird up with your fingers, and then you eat it whole, wings, feet, organs, head, everything except the feet. The ortolan is supposed to represent the soul of France.

The white cloth is to create a closed sensory world of just taste and scent.

The cloth is also, traditionally, to hide the act from God.

via Interconnected

For more on Mitterand’s last meal and the ortolan, read Michael Paterniti’s 1998 piece for Esquire magazine. You can also read this Smithsonian article on the ortolan from 2018 and how it is/was eaten into extinction. (A note that while the ortolan’s global conservation listing is “Least Concern”, in France, it is “Endangered”.)

Bird-related: the 13 birds of Christmas

Did the Ancient Greeks not have a word for 'blue'? Or is it a myth?

Blue is a cool colour (badum-tish!). But apparently, the Ancient Greeks didn’t know about it—at least, they didn’t have a name for it, so claims AsapSCIENCE in its video entitled Why The Ancient Greeks Couldn’t See Blue. I found it via Open Culture who also blogged about it in June under the title Why Most Ancient Civilizations Had No Word for the Color Blue and thought “wow, interesting!” But it appears it might not be strictly true.

The first red flag was this line:

“[…] blue doesn’t appear much in nature,”

Have you looked up lately? Or seen any of the blue flowers available on the planet? Then the comments took hold and critiqued the video a bit more. This from “Tom Neff”:

The Greeks had several words for blue: Kyaneos was dark blue and glaukos was light blue.

This article appears to have been substantially copied from a 2015 Australian Business Insider article.

Uh oh. A quick Wiktionary search throws up etymologies for the words “kyaneos” and “glaukos“:

kyaneos (κυάνεος), from κῠ́ᾰνος (kúanos, “dark-blue enamel”) +‎ -εος (-eos). According to Beekes, probably from Hittite (kuwannan-, “precious stone, copper, blue”), likely from Proto-Indo-European *ḱwey– (“to shine, white, light”) (compare *ḱweytós (“white”)).

glaukós (γλαυκός, “blue-green, blue-grey”). Uncertain origin. Barber reconstructs Proto-Indo-European *gleh₂w-ko-, noting that the root only appears in Greek (Homer, Aeschylus), but Beekes finds an Indo-European origin unlikely.

The more you read, the more you see that blue had lots of names and was very prestigious in ancient civilizations. I’d have expected Open Culture to do a bit more fact-checking and the video shouldn’t have been made in the first place.

Really hoping I’ve not been a hypocrite and spewed nonsense here so please correct me if any of this or the referenced links are wrong because I like to learn!

I hope I can visit this Lisbon rooftop bar this year

Photography: Agata Grzaba, Couplet Photography (via The Spaces)

Seasonal ingredients are served alongside sunset views at Lisbon’s Java, which is laid out to make sure every diner gets the best seat in the house.

Studio PIM oversaw the interiors for the Lisbon restaurant and bar, which occupies a harbourside spot in the capital. It’s been carefully arranged to make sure no one has table envy, with diners stationed either on the terrace or close to a window to maximise views.

Java on Google Maps and the main website.

'Brutalist Paris' to explore post-war Brutalist architecture in the French capital

from the curved concrete balconies of ‘les choux de créteil’ to oscar niemeyer’s ‘bourse du travail’, ‘brutalist paris’ documents the movement’s most significant examples in and around the french capital. back in 2017, blue crow media commissioned robin wilson and nigel green of photolanguage to research, write and shoot photography for the brutalist paris map. since the map’s publication, through their research, writing and photography, photolanguage have continued to draw attention to brutalist architecture across the city and its suburbs.

See also: Souvenir d’un Futur and the forgotten brutalist estates of Paris

(via designboom)

African Americans in Soviet Russia

George Tynes, flanked by Soviet army cadets

Zakkiyah Job wrote an interesting piece on the great African American escape to Soviet Russia.

Under Stalin’s de facto policy of ethnic cleansing, it’s hard to picture the USSR as any kind of paradise for persecuted minorities, but in stark contrast to the trauma and systemic oppression that people of colour had long-faced in the many parts of the western world, Mother Russia poised itself as a beacon of equality, ahead of the historical curve.

The likes of Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, and Dorothy West found themselves in the USSR, much to the chagrin of the American federal government. But the history of Black people in Russia goes further back to include people such as Abram Petrovich Gannibal, a Cameroonian aristocrat who started an Afro-Russian dynasty in the 18th century.

After Ottoman forces kidnapped him as a boy from Cameroon, he was sold to a Russian diplomat and “gifted” to Peter the Great, who publicly adopted and freed him. Abram became a military engineer, a high-ranking general and a nobleman. He is also a maternal great-grandfather to the famed Russian poet Alexander Pushkin.

For more on the subject, check out the following list of texts:

The urban photography of Apo Genç

While I was watching Blade Runner 2049, I quickly browsed through Abduzeedo’s blog and found a piece on Apo Genc. The cinematic resemblance was striking.

Apo Genç was born in Turkey and became a professional videographer back in 2013. The above shots were taken last November in Hamburg as part of a series called Hamburg Noir.

You can find more of Apo’s work on his website, his Instagram, and his Behance portfolio.

Places I want to go when it's safe

A plane wing above clouds in the sky

COVID-19 has ruined a lot of things and while people are still travelling for their own reasons, holidays shouldn’t be one of them. And so I’m staying home until it’s safe to travel for that reason.

But when I can, I hope to visit these 5 cities at some point.

Lisbon, Portugal

I visited Lisbon for the first time in 2017 for my birthday and it was a revelation. I’ve never felt so comfortable in a new city in my life. The food was awesome, the architecture was breathtaking, and it cleansed my soul. I returned in 2018 but I’ve not been back since (I went to Nice to spend time with my parents for my 30th birthday).

It’s my mission to go back as soon as it’s safe and legal to fly.

Nice, France

It helps that my parents live there now but before that, I’d visited with my parents on holiday a few times, and my then-partner in 2015. Another Mediterranean city, it’s gorgeous in the summer, lovely food again, and more great architecture as well as a cool modern art museum featuring works by the likes of Yves Klein.

Leeds, UK

I was born in Bradford but never really spent time in Leeds besides the carnival as a kid. In my adult years, I’ve been a few times and it’s a really nice city. My last visit was last year for a solo Valentine’s vacay and my hotel was kind enough to do this:

Shout out Clayton Hotel. I will be back soon!

Chicago, USA

Last visit: July 2012. I went to see friends and, prior to Lisbon, it was my favourite city in the world. It still holds a place in my heart and I hope once it’s safe in all aspects of the word, I would like to go back and see my friends.

Tokyo, Japan

This is the only city on the list I’ve never visited but it’s on the proverbial bucket list. Besides experiencing the culture, trying the food, and taking lots of photos, I want all the Pokémon things and all the Game Boy things. And some vinyl. I’ll probably need £1000–£2000 spending money and an extra suitcase and I’m not joking.

Related: Photography by Liam Wong in Tokyo and Japan travel tips for first timers

Hungarian cuisine: 5 delicious dishes & recipes

Our article on Hungarian chess master Paul Charles Dozsa has been quite popular (although we now know the man from the meme was actually Cecil George Edwards). But regardless, it got me thinking—what are the best dishes in Hungarian cuisine?

In this list, I’ll be looking at 5 recipes and dishes from Hungary.

1. Goulash (gulyás)

Let’s get goulash out of the way. In the realms of Hungarian cuisine, this dish is the one everyone thinks of. The name originates from gulyás, a word for “herdsmen”. It still means that but it also takes the meaning of the actual stew. There’s also gulyásleves which is a thinner soup than goulash.

Most modern recipes include tomatoes but they were nowhere to be seen in the original recipes. Meats in goulash recipes include lamb, pork, beef, and veal and a wide variety of vegetables such as onions, garlic, carrots and peppers. To quote my friend, Tom: “Goulash in a bread basket is also beautiful.”

Beef Goulash - Hungarian Beef Goulash Recipe - Paprika Beef Stew

2. Chicken paprikash (paprikás csirke/csirkepaprikás)

I love to season my meat with paprika (keep your mind out of the gutter, please) and so do the Hungarians. They love the paprika peppers and spice so much, they have two museums dedicated to them. For chicken paprikash, the meat is cooked in a roux containing paprika, then simmered in a sauce for around 40 minutes.

Fun fact: Jonathan Harker ate chicken paprikash while he travelled to Dracula’s castle in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. (And in case you didn’t know, Transylvania was part of the Hungarian Empire until the 20th century.)

3. Pörkölt

It’s another meat stew. Pörkölt is similar to goulash in that it contains meat (boneless), paprika, and vegetables. But the main difference between pörkölt and goulash is the latter has more gravy and the meats can contain bones.

The most popular variant of this Hungarian dish contains beef and onion as detailed in this Daring Gourmet recipe. Pork is another popular choice, served with nokedli like the one in the Where Is My Spoon recipe.

4. Sour cherry soup (meggyleves)

Let me preface this by saying: I hate cherries. So the idea of a cold sour cherry soup is hell for me. But not for the Hungarian population so my opinion is invalid here.

Meggyleves is made with sour cherries (which come in 2 variants: Morello cherries and Amarelle cherries). It’s traditionally served as a dinner course, either as a starter, main soup or a dessert and it works best served during the summer.

Random fact: Turkey produced 187,941 tonnes of sour cherries in 2012, compared to Hungary’s 53,425 tonnes.

5. Spätzle (nokedli)

Spätzle, or nokedli, is a type of pasta made with fresh eggs, bread flour, and salt. The geographic origin of spätzle is unknown, leading to many nations claiming it as theirs.

The pasta is best known as a German delicacy but Hungarians love it and serve it with soup or you could have it with cherries in kirschspätzle.

Honourable mentions

You should also try:

  • Palacsinta (a thin crêpe-like variety of pancake)
  • Halászlé (a hot, spicy paprika-based fish soup)
  • Főzelék (a thick Hungarian vegetable stew or soup)
  • Dobosh (a Hungarian sponge cake)
  • Lángos (a deep fried flatbread although my friend Tom recommends to have it at a restaurant rather than a takeaway)

Hungarian cookbooks to buy

Enjoyed all the food? Want to nose dive into the world of Hungarian cuisine? Check out the list of books below and experience Hungary without leaving the comfort of your sofa. Well, you’ll have to make the short journey from there to the kitchen but someone’s got to do it.

La California: Italy's home of unofficial US polling stations

In a small Italian village called La California, people set up fake polling stations every 4 years for US elections. Atlas Obscura published an article about the settlement and its origins on Tuesday.

With a population of just over 1,000, as a settlement it dates back to the Paleolithic, and reached a peak during the Etruscan civilization in the first millennium BC. But it wasn’t until around 1860, when Tuscany joined the Kingdom of Italy—just a decade after California became America’s 31st state—that Italy’s own California was born. Eventually it would come to feel a kinship with its much larger namesake half a world away.

There’s a debate over where the name came from—the most famous related to Italian conmen promising Sicilians the joy of California, only to take them to Tuscany and keeping their money.

Lost and bamboozled, it is said, the Southern migrants named the town after their hoped-for destination. But Andrenacci has proven this story wrong, with evidence that the village called La California before that time.

There’s also a story starring Buffalo Bill:

Another legend involves the 1890 European tour of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West circus, and a challenge to local cowboys, called butteri. Andrenacci throws cold water on this one as well, and in his book California, Oltre il mito (California, Behind the Myth) offers another solution to the mystery: a man named Leonetto Cipriani.

Whatever the origin, the genesis of the unofficial polling stations started in 2004 and they’ve been going ever since. I wonder whether Las Californians will vote for Trump or Biden.

Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948-1980

Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948-1980

Post-war Eastern Europe went through radical change at the hands of communism. Brutalism married up with the harshest sociopolitical conditions and defined many landscapes, particularly in countries like Yugoslavia.

Martino Stierli and Vladimir Kulić examined the nation’s architecture and how it shaped the state when they visited MoMA’s Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980 exhibition in 2019.

It was really an important contribution to create some kind of a life space for citizens in Yugoslavia. The end of World War II, there was a moment of destruction and trauma but then was transformed into a great source of energy for the reconstruction of the country. Hundreds of thousands of young people contributed to the construction of new railway lines, highways, dams, factories. The war really had left deep scars that produced an enormous forward-looking utopian vision of a better world. And architecture played a fundamental role.

HOW TO SEE | Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948-1980

A Love Letter to Lisbon

Breakwater Studios produced a short film in honour of Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal. Sofia Domingues read the poem “Viajar” by Fernando Pessoa which was really fitting:

Viajar! Perder países!
Ser outro constantemente,
Por a alma não ter raízes
De viver de ver somente!

Não pertencer nem a mim!
Ir em frente, ir a seguir
A ausência de ter um fim,
E da ânsia de o conseguir!

Viajar assim é viagem.
Mas faço-o sem ter de meu
Mais que o sonho da passagem.
O resto é só terra e céu.

This left me feeling a bit emotional as I love Lisbon and I really want to go back this year, providing it’s safe to do so.