Ek Balam Mayan ruins: Temple history and FriFotos from the PEAK

Having just returned from Playa Del Carmen, I have many wonderful photos from the PEAKS of Mayan temples and ruins. Thus, finding out that is the theme for this week’s FriFotos was a delight! While I visited Coba as well, today I will focus on Ek Balam Mayan ruins — one of the lesser-known Yucatán Mayan sites.

Ek Balam Mayan ruins panorama

Loved this viewpoint at Ek Balam!

Ek Balam Mayan ruins: Brief overview

Not only in Ek Balam, but throughout most (if not all) Mayan sites in the Yucatán, you will find that doorways have “peaks” — they are not perfect arches. They are called corbel arches.

The Canadian Museum of Civilization states that the Mayans created these type of arches, with 9 layered vaults, in order to represent what they believed to be the nine layers of the Underworld. The addition of a keystone, or 10th layer, would be a representation of a body outside the Mayan cosmos (Examiner.com).

Ek Balam Mayan ruins, doorway

Ek Balam Mayan ruins: Corbel arch

Ek Balam Mayan ruins is one of several sites built by the Yucatec Mayans. Located 32 miles (51 m) from its famous cousin Chichen Itzá and 30 km north of Valladolid. It is an easy day trip from several resort towns on the Riviera Maya.

As you know, I visited the Ek Balam Mayan ruins on a combo day trip (including Río Lagartos) from Playa Del Carmen. I felt I had plenty of time at the site and was not rushed at all. Thus, it is quite possible to combine a visit to other site on the same day you visit Ek Balam.

Ek Balam Mayan ruins, main temple

Ek Balam’s main temple

Ek Balam Mayan ruins: Climbing to the top of the main temple

Unlike Chichen Itzá, tourists are still allowed to climb to the very top of the main temple at Ek Balam Mayan ruins. The views from the jungle and other ruins throughout the site are amazing! A *little* scary to climb down, but I believe the steps are big enough for you to have plenty of room to step firmly and safely. I had doubts about climbing for a second or two, but went for it anyway! So glad I did 🙂

Ek Balam Mayan Temple climb

At the top of the Ek Balam Temple!

Ek Balam Mayan ruins top view

Me on top of the Ek Balam Temple! So glad I made it

Ek Balam view top


Ek Balam Mayan ruins jungle view

View of the jungle from Ek Balam temple top

Ek Balam jungle

Don’t forget to visit the Mayan burial temple on your way up —  or down!

The temple (tomb!) of Ukit Kan Le’k Tok’ was quite fascinating. Its entrance is shaped like the mouth of a jaguar, teeth and all. In fact, the name Ek Balam means “Black Jaguar” in Yucatec Maya language — thus the name of this Mayan ruins site.

I never thought I would see such beautiful carvings inside Mayan ruins before. Clearly, my knowledge about the civilization was very limited! I was like nothing I had ever seen before (i.e. Chichen Itzá). Thus, if you’re thinking about skipping the Ek Balam Mayan ruins because you are visiting Chichen Itza or Cobá, think twice before doing so! I’m sure these images will change your mind:

Ek Balam Mayan ruins, jaguar teeth

The “jaguar teeth” at Ek Balam temple’s

For a very cool interactive panorama of this Mayan temple, click here.

Ukit Kan Le'k Tok' temple, Ek Balam Mayan ruins

Ukit Kan Le’k Tok’ temple, also known as El Trono in Spanish (“The Throne”)

It is believed that Ukit Kan Le’k Tok’ was one of the rulers of Ek Balam. What I found the most fascinating about this character, and Mayans in general, though? The reason Ukit Kan Le’k Tok’ rose to power is because he was cross-sighted and possibly albino.

According to our tour guide, Mayans venerated anyone who was different — thus his rise to power. It is believed that certain objects were placed on the nose or the middle of the foreheads of children in order to try and make them cross-sighted. What for? In the hopes that they would become someone important one day. Oh, how have times changed!

Ek Balam Mayan ruins, carvings

LOVED the well-preserved Mayan carvings

Ek Balam Mayan ruins carvings


Take your time to explore other ruins throughout Ek Balam

You’ll have to walk through other ruins before you reach the main temple at Ek Balam, so take the time to look at the intricacies and differences between all structures. I found it fun to draw comparisons between the structures I had seen at Chichen Itzá and Ek Balam. Additionally, trying to capture the nuances and different angles in photos is a game in itself 😉

Ek Balam Mayan arch

Mayan carvings at Ek Balam

The temple at Ek Balam is too wide to fully capture!

Definitely add the Ek Balam Mayan ruins to your travel bucket list!

Frog legs recipe with quinoa: French fusion dish (Hostel Cooking series)

Asian, Cajun or French — I really don’t know. But when I got home last Monday, the delicious, buttery aroma coming out of the kitchen called my name. I ate (ok, almost licked) everything that was put on my plate by my roommate. Amused, Josh said that he was glad I liked his frog legs recipe (scroll down to the bottom to see it).


French frog legs recipe


Frog legs. I ate frog legs. I was the guinea pig for my roommate’s frog legs recipe. I’ve had my fair share of quirky travel food, but never in a million years did I ever think I could ever possibly eat frog anything. Yes, as much of a hyperbole as the former sentence was — those were my feelings towards frogs. But oh, how things can change!

Don’t look at me like that.

If anything, you can always try this frog legs recipe, a French fusion dish according to Josh, on your friends and see what they think. But I kid you not, as you are cooking, you’ll be tempted to try the sauce. THEN, you’ll be hooked 😉

Plus, once cooked on a plate, they don’t look so much like little human legs

Be adventurous for once. YOLO!

(Gosh, I did not just say that)

fried frog legs recipe

Another simple frog legs recipe: Cover them in batter and deep fry them, just like chicken wings! (sorta). Photo: JaulaDeArdilla, Flickr

A bit of history: Frog legs in French cuisine

Frog legs have been eaten by the southern Chinese (since first century AD) and even the Aztecs. However, you will never guess how they became a well-known French delicacy (source: The Guardian UK)?

Hint: Monks and the Catholic Church. I see you laughing — just keep reading.

Apparently, monks were getting a little chubby back in 12th-century France. For this reason, the Catholic Church decided to put them on a diet — no meat for you! (Except for a few select days of the year).

Brilliantly (or not so much?), the monks could get away with classifying frogs as fish, so they could eat as many of their meaty legs as they wished. Whether they could still lose the weight or not, we don’t know (wouldn’t that be a brilliant fad diet though?!). What we do know is that religious, starving French peasants followed suit and the rest is history.

Now, let’s get you cookin’ mesdemoiselles and messieurs!

Hostel Cooking series: Amphibian recipe

Citrus-honey frog legs with quinoa


What you need:
Step 1
3 tablespoons honey

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup orange juice

2 habanero peppers, chopped (don't forget to wear gloves!)

1 pound frog legs

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoon olive oil

4 tablespoons thinly sliced onion

3 tablespoons of butter

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Get cookin
Step 2
Stir together the first 8 ingredients. Toss frog legs in marinade to coat evenly, then set aside. Marinate for about 1 hour.
Step 3
Drain the frog legs well, reserving marinade, and toss with cornstarch to coat.
Step 4
Heat the butter in a large iron skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the legs until golden brown and crispy, about 2 minutes per side.
Step 5
While the frog legs are cooking, bring the marinade to a simmer in a small saucepan. Simmer for 3 minutes.
Step 6
Cook quinoa (as directed in package). Serve hot frog legs over warm quinoa, pouring marinade over. Garnish with parsley.

French frog legs recipe with quinoa


Would you try this frog legs recipe?

Surprisingly easy to find and make!

Anticuchos de corazón recipe (beef heart skewers) and their history

As I promised on my quirky travel food post, today’s Hostel Cooking series will feature a simple anticuchos de corazón recipe. For my beloved gringos out there: Peruvian beef heart skewers! 😉 Additionally, I will tell you a little bit about their history. Hope you enjoy both the recipe and brief history lesson!

anticuchos de corazón recipe, beef heart skewers

Anticuchos de corazón at a street stall in Perú (Codilicious, Flickr)

Anticuchos de corazón history

As in all Spanish colonies, 16th-century Perú was full of conquistadors, living in haciendas and making a living out of the hard labor of their African slaves. Occasionally, the Spaniards slaughtered cows to eat. When they did so, they always discarded the innards (offal), giving them to their slaves. As they didn’t have much to eat, the Africans had to come up with a way to season the organs in order to make them edible.

Spanish imports such as garlic, cumin, vinegar, and salt were taken by those slaves with access to a kitchen, while the New-World hot pepper ají was borrowed from the Andean natives. With these ingredients, an explosive sauce was created, used to marinate the offal — and make them delicious.

And the skewers? Since the slaves didn’t have stoves, they had to cook everything over fire. How would they cook the small pieces of innards? Ah, by keeping them together with a sugarcane stick! Anticuchos de corazón were born.

Please note, anticuchos were in existence before Columbus discovered America! Different spices and meat (i.e. llama) were used. Offal skewers, however, were an African slave creation.

So yes, they are technically African, not Peruvian, anticuchos…

What does the word anticucho actually mean? It’s debatable. Local historians say the word comes from the Quechua antikuchu, meaning Andes – ají (anti – kuchu), the latter being a local hot pepper. Conversely, some linguists disagree, stating that it comes from the Quechua word antic-uchu, the name of a local ancient hot soup, instead. Could go either way, right?

Now, without further ado, let’s get cookin’! 😀 Once again, compliments of our excellent chef Joshua Snore. Follow him on Instagram!

Hostel Cooking: Beef offal recipe

Anticuchos de corazón with potatoes


Step 1
1.5 lb trimmed heart meat cut into ½ inch pieces
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon paprika
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 minced garlic cloves
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
12-10 inch bamboo skewers
Step 2
3 lbs chopped potatoes
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Cooking the anticuchos
Step 3
1. Combine first set of ingredients in a large pan, toss well, cover, and marinate in refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
2. Soak bamboo skewers in bowl of water for 30 minutes before cooking.
3. Preheat Grill to high heat.
4. Remove beef from bowl, saving marinade on side of dish. Thread beef chunks onto wooden bamboo skewers.
5. Place anticuchos on pre-heated grill for approximately 6 minutes. Flip and cook for an additional 6 minutes to. While cooking each side, continuously season anticuchos with the marinade. Beware of flame-ups.
6. Remove and Plate.
Cooking the potatoes
Step 4
1. Rinse potatoes, removing excess dirt.
2. Chop potatoes into evenly-sized chunks.
3. Preheat oven to 400 Degrees F.
4. Place potatoes on a pan and season them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and parsley.
5. Bake potatoes for 10 minutes or until tender.
6. Remove from oven, make sure to eat while still hot.

heart skewers, anticuchos de corazón with potatoes

Voilà! Can you tell they are beef innards? I can’t! Anticuchos de corazón recipe

Would you try this anticuchos de corazón recipe?

What other strange food have you tried?

Moroccan chicken recipe with couscous: Hostel Cooking travel series

Happy Travel Tuesday! Thankfully, this week is looking up. I even came up with Plan B in order to ease my student loan debt depression. Wish me luck 😉 And so! Back to your new favorite travel series Hostel Cooking with an authentic, simple North African dish. Get into the kitchen and try out this Moroccan chicken recipe with couscous today.

Moroccan spice cones, Moroccan chicken recipe

Towering cones of Moroccan spices. I always wondered how they remained erected! (Spacmonster, Flickr)

Moroccan food: Brief background

Yes, I have previously introduced you to Moroccan food and even couscous history. However, we will dig a little deeper today 😉

Moroccan dishes are typically savory and sweet. Spice mixes typically incorporate a healthy dose of some eastern spices (such as turmeric and cumin), in addition to cinnamon and even ginger. Nuts, raisins, and prunes are typically used as toppings as well. The result? A mix of delicate, subtle flavors and notes.

As the Moroccan Tourist Office states, “spice does not mean chili. Spices are beneficial and even possess qualities which help digestion.” So if you are used to chunky Indian curries and other ultra-spicy Eastern concoctions, Moroccan food will (pleasantly) surprise you.

The most popular Moroccan spice mix is known as ras el-hanout. It is used for making most tajine and couscous dishes. Contents vary from household to household, so some ras el-hanout mixes may include up to 35 different spices!

Ras el-hanout, Moroccan chicken recipe with couscous

Sample of Moroccan ras el-hanout by linecook, Flickr

Please note, our Moroccan chicken recipe with couscous is traditional — and not. How so? A formal meal in Morocco usually starts with hot and cold salads (analogous to Arab mezzes), followed by lamb or chicken (by themselves). Then, on the third course, the big couscous plate makes an appearance, topped with even more meat and vegetables.

However, since this is the Hostel Cooking travel series, we thrive to make even the most complicated dishes simple. For this reason, we have marinated the chicken with Moroccan-like spices and cooked boxed couscous within minutes. The taste though, I assure you, took me back back to Morocco instantly! So yes, by trying Josh’s Moroccan chicken recipe, your taste buds will have a little piece of North Africa — no matter where you are 😉

Hostel cooking: Chicken

Serves: 6

Total cost per plate: US $4.00 (based off Tampa, FL)

Total Cooking Time: 6 – 10 hrs for marinade; 30 mins prep and cooking time.

Moroccan chicken recipe with couscous (by Josh Snore)


Chicken, marinade ingredients
Step 1
Moroccan chicken recipe, marinade
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup fresh mint
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 teaspoons paprika
3 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Couscous ingredients
Step 2
Moroccan couscous box
1 cup of instant couscous
1 green pepper, diced
1 sweet onion, diced
1 plum tomato, diced
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 oz honey
1/2 cup mint
1/4 cup parsley
salt and pepper to taste
Cooking directions: Chicken
Step 3
Mix the marinade ingredients together in a medium sized bowl. Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and thoroughly coat with the marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator from 6 to 10 hours.

Then, either cook in black iron skillet or grill the chicken breasts a few minutes on each side, until cooked through. About 5 mins each side. Take care not to overcook, as chicken breasts can easily dry out.
Cooking directions: Couscous
Step 4
Take minced garlic and olive oil and heat up saucepan until garlic is browned. Then add paprika, salt and pepper, and diced green peppers. Be careful not to let the peppers sit too long, stirring occasionally. When the peppers have browned, add the onions until browned.

Separately follow directions to cook couscous, according to your box. Typically though, it will involve the following:

Boil water with 1 teaspoon of salt, and one tablespoon of butter. Add couscous to boiling water, stir quickly, remove from heat, cover quickly, and allow to sit for five minutes.)

Back in the saucepan, when onions are browned add honey, turn off heat, and allow the honey and peppers to suck it up. Then add diced tomatoes, chopped mint and parsley, and stir into mixture.

Add saucepan contents to fluffed couscous. Mix evenly.
Final touches
Step 5
Plate couscous with chicken on top. Garnish with mint leaves and parsley. Bessaha! 😉

Moroccan chicken recipe couscous, simple hostel cooking

The final product! Never thought you could cook Moroccan chicken with couscous in a hostel, did you?

Got a different Moroccan chicken recipe? Share it with us below!

Chairs around the world: FriFotos Photo Essay

I’m very excited to be co-hosting FriFotos on its second year anniversary, specially as my suggested topic was selected as this week’s theme! I decided to put together a cultural photo essay, showing you different chairs around the world. Please take the time to read the blurbs in order to learn about the history behind them. Enjoy!

FriFotos: CHAIRS Around the World

Chairs in China: According to several sources, the chair model we know today was invented in ancient China. Early evidence was found in royal tombs, especially in the form of folding chairs. Interestingly though, chairs are not part of modern Chinese culture. Nowadays, many traditional Chinese sit on the floor or on mats. Fascinating eh?

Chairs around the world, China

In common neighborhoods throughout China, stools/chairs are primarily used to play games today (Photo: Elizabeth Thomsen)

Chairs in ancient Rome and Greece: The earliest form of chairs in the ancient empires were basic stools as well and they are estimated to date as far back as 2,000 BC! Thrones, however, were a different story:

chairs around the world, Roman throne

Roman throne from first century CE (Photo: Mary Harrsch)

Chairs in pre-Columbian America: As with other cultures we’ve discussed, Native Americans didn’t have chairs until later in their history. Typically, they were made of logs, with animals skins as cushions on the back. Earliest forms of Native American chairs, though, were more like rock pads (quite literally):

 chairs around the world, Native American

Chairs of the Pueblo peoples in Cliff Dwellings Museum, Colorado (Photo: Quinn Dombrowski)

Chairs in the Middle East: Did you know that chairs in the Middle East were very rare in ancient times? Even today, they are more like cushions than chairs by Western standards. Typically, Arabs sit on the floor or on top of a pillow-like “seat,” unless you visit more upscale establishments. I loved to sit in on said cushions though, known as sitting Bedouin style, while visiting Dahab, Egypt (my favorite place on earth, by the way!)

chairs around the world, Sinai

Bedouin-style sitting is typical in most restaurants throughout the Sinai Peninsula, particularly Dahab

That’s it for FriFotos this week! If you have any other interesting chairs around the world photos, please share them on a comment below.

*Special thanks to business chairs library for the fascinating history lesson

What’s the oddest CHAIR you’ve ever seen? Share your FriFotos!

Hostel cooking simple recipes: Salmon with honey citrus marmalade

I am very happy to introduce you my dear friend and excellent cook Mr. Joshua Snore, our first regular contributor! His new series will transport you through hostel cooking simple recipes, in order to not only stretch your budget, but also your palate!

The hostel recipes Josh will be featuring are very easy to make, budget-friendly, adventurous, and delicious. You will be surprised at how fast you’ll become a nomadic chef. Whether you want to make your travels more authentic and affordable or impress that cute blonde you saw at the dorms last night ( 😉 :D) — follow Josh & yours truly on our weekly Hostel Cooking series!

hostel cooking simple recipes, salmon marmalade

The finished product: Salmon with honey citrus marmalade over fresh spinach

In order to also celebrate Beach Thursday in style, I decided to feature one of Josh’s signature seafood dishes: A Miami-Caribbean fusion!

Hostel cooking simple recipe: Seafood

Salmon with honey citrus marmalade


  • 6oz salmon filet
  • 1 pinch rosemary (chopped)
  • 1 pinch thyme (chopped)
  • 1 dash sea salt
  • dash black pepper
  • dash red pepper
  • dash orange zest
  • dash lemon zest
  • 1/2 lemon (squeezed)
  • 1/2 juice orange (squeezed)
  • 1oz olive oil
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Raw honey (for the marmalade - from here on)
  • 1/2 lemon (squeezed)
  • 2 oranges (squeezed)
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 pinch rosemary (chopped)
  • 1 pinch thyme (chopped)
  • salt (to taste)
  • pepper (to taste)
  • 1 dash red pepper
  • 1oz olive oil
  • fresh spinach or salad


Step 1
PREPARATION: Wash and pat dry the salmon fillet. To season it, rub the olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and pepper on both sides. Sprinkle the dash of red pepper on filet, along with the orange zest, lemon zest, chopped rosemary and thyme as well. To top it off, pour the squeezed juices of the 1/2 lemon and 1/2 orange. Let the fillet sit for about 15 min., while you prep the marmalade.
Step 2
MARMALADE: Pour olive oil on frying pan. Brown the minced garlic slightly over low heat. Add the rest of the marmalade ingredients and bring to simmer. One simmering, allowed the marmalade to reduce, until it achieves desired thickness.
Step 3
SALMON: Pour olive oil on pan once again, browning the minced garlic slightly over low. Just before it starts browning, quickly turn the heat up too high. Place the salmon fillet (with skin down) and sear it. Then, turn heat down to medium and flip the fillet, cooking it for 3 min. Flip over again and add marmalade on top.
Step 4
Serve over fresh spinach or salad. VOILA!

hostel cooking, Florida beach

from Florida with love: Stay tuned for more simple recipes from Joshua via the Hostel Cooking travel series! (Photo: aoskilinn)

Any Hostel Cooking simple recipes you would like us to feature?

Traveling through a St Pete Beach Russian restaurant: What an experience!

If there’s one thing I love to do when not traveling is to still travel. That is, Travel Through Food! Of course, I’ve tried yet another new cuisine, despite the fact I haven’t traveled outside of Florida in about a month. Buckle up as I present a St Pete Beach Russian restaurant review and my first experience with Eastern European food!

St Pete Beach Russian restaurant, Florida

St Petersburg Nights in Florida?

Uninviting all-black building. Tacky decor. Odd vibe. Half-off discount coupon in hand. “What have I gotten ourselves into?” I thought, as I looked at my handsome date. Little did I know, 2 hours later, I would walk out thinking “This is the best date night we’ve had in a long time”

After having experienced it all, I can’t stop smiling. Even today: Two days later!

St. Petersburg Nights: St Pete Beach Russian restaurant review

What happened at this St Pete Beach Russian restaurant?! We waited more than hour and half for our food. Then, the food was just ok–spices so foreign to my palate. The Russian vodka had already hit me in the head. The entertainment was a cheesy Russian man, sax in hand, with auto-tune and midi-like karaoke songs. Oh, let’s not forget the Russian lady in the black lentejuelas dress, occasionally jumping in.

St Pete Beach Russian restaurant

Inside St. Petersburg Nights restaurant

Ahh, I’m traveling.

For 2 full hours, Blaine and I were transported outside of Florida and into Russia. According to other reviewers, this St Pete Beach Russian restaurant is as authentic as it gets. The ambiance includes a full bar, dance floor, hookah, and even belly dancing (every 2nd Tuesday of the month) and burlesque shows (every Thursday).

The menu: At a glance

What about the menu? Several varieties of the staple dish perogies, in addition to chicken, liver, kabobs, pastries, and other Eastern European favorites. An even greater selection of Soviet-era vodkas and beers. While we thought the food was bland, maybe we are just not used to it. Besides — the smooth vodka and tasty Oreshki more than made up for it.

Our apps and drinks

We ordered a round of Stolichnaya vodka shots and a Baltika 6 Porter to start. Not a minute passed before the shots went straight into our heads. Oh boy, this is the good stuff.

For our app, we chose the assorted cold cuts. The Russian smoked meats were not really what I was expecting. But then again, give me anything smoked and I’ll like it.

St Pete Beach Russian restaurant drinks

Apologies for the overexposure — bad camera, but good Russian drinks

The entertainment

Then it was time for Mr Boris and his sax. Boy, is he funny. In an all-white John Travolta suit he came out, trying to teach us Russian. Then, he was off, playing along Spanish cha-cha songs and ballads (but, of course, sung in Russian). I found this quite particular: Is Spanish music that popular in Russia? How were they influenced? All I can tell you is that Russians are, imho, are some of the best Latin-dance and ballroom dancers out there.

 The long food wait and our main courses

We waited for a good hour and half before getting our main entrees. Yes, this would be unacceptable to most Americans. However, we later learned that the reason food takes long to come out is because they want you to enjoy the surroundings, the music, your drinks. In short, it is a Russian tradition to truly enjoy your time with your friends or date when you go out to eat.

Ironically, the long food wait is the reason why we thought this was the best date night we’ve had in a very long time. We were not in a hurry. We took all the strangeness in. We went with an open mind. We laughed at the quirkiness. We talked about our future travel plans and how we both love being in “uncomfortable situations.” How happy they make us.

Ah, this is why we loved this St Pete Beach Russian restaurant so much!

St Pete Beach Russian restaurant, forester roast

Forester roast: My date’s pick

Eastern European Lobster pierogi

Eastern European lobster pierogi: My pick. An interesting cream sauce with caramelized onions, plus the perioges seemed to have been stuffed with crab too

Once the main entrees were placed on our table, my date couldn’t help but whisper “wow, I can taste the hardship.” I looked at him kind of angrily, but I know he didn’t mean to be offensive. Eastern European and Russian food can be quite foreign to the American palate. Even a well-traveled Puerto Rican like myself had a hard time processing the flavors. Oddly enough though, I still enjoyed my lobster pierogi. A “safe choice” at first glance, they were actually quite different from what I was expecting! (By the way, my date, ended up kind of liking the tamed spices of his Forester roast)

Our dessert? Oreshki! We ate those delicious cookies as we walked to the beach after dinner.

St Pete Beach Russian restaurant review, oreshki

Oreshki (or walnut cookies) at this St Pete Beach Russian restaurant looked similar to these (Photo: su-lin, Flickr)

St. Petersburg Nights restaurant: In a nutshell

I’ll be the first to admit it: Most Americans would hate this place. “Slow service, bland food” are adjectives most have used to describe this St Pete Beach Russian restaurant in their online reviews. However, those that come with an open mind and understand they are taking a peek at a radically-different culture and cuisine will sure have a wonderful time at this establishment. Bonus: The beach is just a block away (perfect for a romantic post-dinner walk!).

Just remember: Only bring open-minded people, with whom you love to spend time with. Otherwise, your may feel like you’re in prison…

Have you ever been to a Russian restaurant? What was it like?

Indian superstitions: Part 2 of World Superstitions series

The superstitions of today’s country could, quite frankly, make up a book bigger than the Bhagavat Ghita. Still, on the second part of my new The World’s Superstitions series, I try to show you a glimpse of this long list. Ladies and gentlemen, it is Indian superstitions time today!

* As in many eastern countries, using your left hand to do pretty much anything is quite offensive. Why? Because it is typically used to, umm, wipe off after doing no.2 in the bathroom. Thus, you must refrain from eating, giving or taking anything with you left hand. Sorry, lefties!

* According to Indian superstitions, a sack full of rice will be “spoilt” if touched by a woman during her period. This also applies if the woman touches it after having sex. In fact, throughout different religions and other parts of the world, a woman on her period of after having sex is considered unclean.

* If a cat walks by you, STOP! Let it cross first. Otherwise, bad omen for you!

* But hey, not all cat events are created equal. Any pregnant cats around you? Make sure you are present during the birth of those cute little kittens! Why? According to Indian superstitions, it is good luck to see a cat giving birth!

* Many things are considered sacred in India, but here’s a mini list: Cows, Banyan, Ashoka, and Coconut trees

* For an unexplained reason, east is the preferred direction to face when performing virtually any activity, including sitting facing east at the office!

Indian superstitions photo

“Give Me My Arrows And Give Me My Bow” (Sheet music) by Samuel Lover, New York: Firth, Pond and Co. (1848)

* According to Indian superstitions, seeing someone yawning indicates that someone is thinking about you or remembering you. Aww 🙂

* Ladies and lads: No shaving on Mondays, no hair washing on Thursdays. Or else you’re doomed. Yes, bad omen for you again!

* Doing charity or volunteer work? Or you are simply starting a new business or wanting a fresh start on something? Don’t book Tuesdays or Saturdays. Yeah, no Saturdays! Or else…doomed!

* New moon tonight? Bad night! Ill omen! Ahhh!

* This one made me smile: According to Indian superstitions, walking under a ladder is bad omen, just like in Puerto Rico. My mother was right!

* Want good luck to dwell in your home forever? Then never sweep at night.

* Talking about Lakshmi (good luck), turn on all the lights in your home if you want it to pay a visit =)

* Right eye twitching is good for men, left eye twitching is good for women. Why? I honestly don’t know. Good luck in love life maybe?

* Want a sort of premonition when something bad is about to happen? A dog wailing is a sign.

* Tons of Indian superstitions associated with lizards. Heck, my fellow tropical islanders, seems like we are inevitably doomed!

Ok, long enough! Gotta keep it fair and more or less equal in length to those of other countries =) Stay tuned as tomorrow we are discovering the superstitions of a whole new country! By the by, if there is a particular country you would like me to research, tell me in your response so I take it into consideration! (Hint: I will probably write about every country I am provided *wink*)

Previous featured countries:
Puerto Rico

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Puerto Rican Superstitions: The World’s Superstitions Series

As I wrote about Puerto Rican traditions yesterday, I could not help but remember our superstitions. Then, I thought, whoa, that would be an all-around great series I could start on the blog! So, ladies and gentlemen, today I start a New Series, titled The World’s Superstitions, with the first entry about my home country, Puerto Rican superstitions today!

Puerto Rican superstitions are very likely similar to those of other Latin American countries, as many of them were inherited from the Spanish Conquistadors that “discovered” our lands, Taíno indigenous tribes (among the first settlers of the Caribbean), and the African slaves brought by the Spanish. Together, they make up the rich heritage and of course, the interesting list of superstitions! And without any other preamble, I present to you the oh-so-random list of Puerto Rican superstitions. Enjoy!

Puerto Rican superstitions - Rabbit's foot

Rabbit’s foot, part of Puerto Rican superstitions – picture from Buzzle.com

* It is believed that carrying a rabbit’s foot attracts good luck and keeps the evil eye at bay. Many Puerto Ricans believe there is a certain aura, certain magic about it.

* Like in many other countries, according to Puerto Rican superstitions, the number 13 is feared so much that in the majority of buildings, you will never see a 13th floor. Yes, if you are in an old elevator in Puerto Rico, chances are it would go something like this: “10…11…12…14.” I know, technically, floor 14 is in fact the 13th floor, but they feel as if it is not written, its “bad omen” will not be present.

* And talking about 13th’s bad omen, Tuesday the 13th is in Puerto Rico what Friday the 13th is elsewhere. Furthermore, due to the “Americanization” of the island beginning full-throttle with the signing of Jones Act in 1917 by President Woodrow Wilson (making Puerto Ricans collectively U.S. citizens), these days many Boricuas consider both days to carry bad luck. Ay, as we didn’t have enough bad omens already!

* An odd, and rather comical, is how according to Puerto Rican superstitions, lefties are not allowed in heaven. Sure, not believed so much anymore, but still, it is very unlikely that a Puerto Rican mother will allow her child to be a lefty if she can help it. Yes, that means mom will teach you how to write with your right hand and force you to do so in her sight anyway. This is kind of a blessing in disguise though, as many Puerto Rican “lefties” end up being ambidextrous (able to  use both hands with equal skill). My Puerto Rican friend Claudia is a great example of this! =P

* Black cats are a universal bad omen, no matter how you put it. They bring bad luck, evil, all things dark to your life. Beware.

* There is a little-understood fear of walking under ladders. Apparently, it means really bad luck. To my Puerto Rican mother, I think it equaled death–quite literally. I remember mom yelling at me, freaking out senseless whenever I would walk under a ladder as a kid. It is as if she didn’t trust ladders! Yet, I remember her using them to clean all the time. So, she valued my life, but not hers? Ahh, the ironies of life…

* First showers of the month of May? RUN…TO THE WATER!! Haha indeed, if la primera llovizna de mayo (the first shower of May) is going on, drizzle drizzle! To many Puerto Ricans, this is a great mini-shower of luck =) I still find myself doing this abroad!

* If you have a farm or own animals that live outside, you wake up one morning and one (or several) of them are dead, they must have been eaten by the Chupacabra. Guaranteed.

* And now, we shall go to my favorite of the bunch!! Every New Year’s, right when the clock hits midnight, we throw a big bucket of water outside a window, door or a balcony with joyous energy. Location really depends on where you live. Why? This symbolizes the emptying of the Año Viejo’s (“Old Year”) bad things and a fresh start of the Año Nuevo (“New Year”) with a splash of great luck. I always have this vivid picture of my grandma and mom throwing this big bucket of water, each holding one of the handles, every single year without failure. Always brings a smile to my face and great memories. So I guess it does splashes good omen? 😉

That’s my good list of Puerto Rican superstitions to kick off this new series! On the next post, I shall have a [surprise] country and its nice list of superstitions! If there is a particular country you would like me to research, tell me in your response so I take it into consideration! (Hint: I will probably write about every country I am provided *wink*)

Know more Puerto Rican superstitions? What about some in your country?