Monday, 15 December 2014

French League Twototoulouse

Well three actually. Francoise Nina and I took to the road on Friday via the picturesque "Centre" of France. Four if you include Elliot.

Eliot du Domaine de l'Etang Rond

We did not take the most direct route partly because of my assumptions and we all know what they can often lead to. I planned to stop at some supermarket or newsagent for a prepaid SIM, available in most countries just about anywhere. Failing that surely any phone shop would have one. Not in France. I ended up buying a map but since maps and road signs don't necessarily match up here we took the scenic route.

We eventually got to Toulouse, met up with our team.

Judging by the uniforms worn by WIM Rike Wohlers-Armas (no relation) and IM Jules Armas this must be the Doubleroo France team. Currently we are still called Naujac :-)

Yours truly. I kept my shirt on in the opening, uniform underneath.

The team in action.

Now lets get to the games. I was playing on board three against a higher rated player with black so according to match rules my job was not to lose. I decided against hippo's and moderns and chose the Cozio defense. Everything went quite smoothly and I got a winning position with natural moves and some minor calculation. I nearly blew it with 32...Qd2 trying to finish the game off instead of just regrouping patiently and queening my b pawn. I missed 33.Rb1 expecting only Re1.  Then I completely panicked hallucinating that my opponent could play 40.Qh7+

Luckily I noticed just in time that I was winning again and did not try to avoid the winning line. A nervous end but alls well.... And the team won 4-1. Draws don't count in the French interclub competition.

And now a game you will enjoy. A crush starting with a pawn sack followed by a piece and then eschewing a queen offer by my opponent who was desperate to get rid of my Larsen/Hjorth bishop.

If you don't delve too deep you wont notice that my opponent could have avoided it all in the opening by playing his bishop to d7 or c8  instead of 9...Be6. My knight on h4 then looks a bit stupid.

Also I could have played the less thematic 20.Rh5 which is technically stronger (+14). I did see it but didn't fully appreciate how strong it was, Also 20.Ba1 was cuter. At least I didn't go for 20.Rd7?? Bb2 21.Rd8 Rad8 and although the black queen is gone so is my beautiful bishop and the game could have gone on for quite a while longer.

This game was also played as a "special request" by a friend who didn't like my opponent and asked me to crush without mercy. Avec plaisir :-)

Naujac (doubleroo france?) won this match too and convincingly 5-1. We are now midfield and should avoid relegation for another season. Yayy!

I left early because we had a long drive home, this time taking a different road, the A75 otherwise known as the Autoroute Francois Mitterrand, a revered former French President which is toll free and passes some of France's most picturesque and historic locations.

Rodez, according to the sign a centre of art and history.

Another castle on a hill. forgot the name of the town, like I said, we were in a bit of a hurry unfortunately. No matter, driving in France in any direction you can find great food, historic architecture, museums and other reasons to stop. If you haven't been you have missed a lot. Just make sure you plan on getting a SIM for your electronic device well before arriving :-)

Friday, 5 December 2014

Polar bears and Death caps.

Few things make me as happy as collecting mushrooms in the forest. Francoise suggested going the morning after I arrived and I jumped at the idea. Almost as enticing are markets. As we drove through town ( Gueugnon ) we noticed the markets were on. Lets have a look.

A little Xmas display

The market circles the church in the middle of town.

Lots of farm fresh vegetables were on display. The dutch nieuwe haring stand was a bit of a surprise. We bought two and then went to the fresh goat cheese stand. After a tub of Faisselle, an aged crotten and a tub of cream we headed to the secret spot. 

We parked next to the forest and had this nice horse saunter over to check us out. Francoise apologised for not bringing a piece of bread. They were obviously old friends. Of course I cannot share the location with you. If I did the locals would kill me.

The first surprise was seeing this Chanterelle. In French they are called Girolles and in German, Pfifferlinge. Normally they grow in the summer, sometimes as late as October but nobody has ever seen one in December. It can't be because of Global warming of course because as we all know that is Commie propaganda.

As you can see they were all over the place.

The one we came for was the Winter Chanterelle or Yellowfoot. They absolutely covered the forest floor and we were busy the next half hour filling up our baskets. In the end we collected 5 kg but could have collected 50 kg without walking too far. Even they are usually not around this time of year any more.

Now it was time for lunch so we headed back to the car. On the way I took another few pictures of non-edible mushroons. This one is ( probably ) a Amanita muscaria. Sometimes people confuse this one for a Caesars amanita which is a very rare but highly prized edible mushroom. I have never been fortunate enough to find one.

One is delicious, the other is highly toxic and can give severe hallucinations and stomach aches. That is the danger with collecting. Every edible mushroom has a dangerous doppelgaenger. 

Doesn't this little white on look pretty? Just like a tasty button mushroom that you can buy at any supermarket. Well it might look the same but instead of being a Champignon or Agaricus bisporus, it is in fact a Amanita phalloides or Deathcap. 

I've turned it over for you so you can see the difference. The underside is white instead of pink to brown. Also it has a bulb at the base which is ripped off here. This mushroom is so deadly that I dare not even touch it with bare hands. One of these little devils in a dish and you and your whole family and anybody you invited for dinner is DEAD.

It can also be coloured slightly differently depending on the soil and other variables. I have been a member of the Munich mushroom society for a decade. When I was living in Munich I went every week to listen to the experts and would still not think about eating any mushroom unless I was 100% certain of what it was. 

Do not go out to collect mushrooms without an expert. 

And now we come to the limits of my knowledge. I think it belongs to the Russula family. There are a few delicious ones and others which can make you very sick. Although I have been on many excursions and lectures featuring this family there is no way I would dare to collect them. Even mycologists get it wrong sometimes and spend hours vomiting into a bucket.
Pretty though :-)

That's it for now. Please do not go mushrooming based only on this post. It is a great hobby but requires a lot of knowledge otherwise you could kill not only yourself but also whoever you feed.

Mind you with all the news of impending war between the EU/US and Russia, it is a good idea to know how to live off the land in case civilization does collapse. Not saying it's going to happen but it's better to be too paranoid than not paranoid enough :-)

Monday, 1 December 2014

Bavarian Rhapsody

Munich is cool in more ways than one. When I left Queensland last Wednesday  we were experiencing a heatwave. 40c+ can be very sapping, especially combined with warm nights when its impossible to sleep without a fan. 

Imagine my relief when I arrived in Munich and was hit by a bracing cold breeze. Actually snow is not so uncommon this time of year but none has appeared yet. I am told that last winter there was none at all which I find most surprising. Munich was my base for about 10 years at the beginning of the millenium and snow was a constant feature every winter. 

Global warming? Climate change? Maybe but that is a debate I have no wish to engage in. It is a bit like discussing whether or not getting riddled with bullets leads to lead poisoning. If you wish to present the case that fossil fumes have no influence on climate, do it standing next to the exhaust of a bus.   

The cool weather was augmented by a warm welcome from my friends who I hadn't seen for too long and had missed terribly. After the best sleep I had had for weeks it was time for some sightseeing. Claudia, Pedi and Andrea invited me to join them on an excursion to one of the city's feature events. Tollwood! 

I had never heard of the Tollwood winter markets before. Apparently they start four weeks before Christmas and last until the new year. There are many things to see and buy of course not to mention food and entertainment. Well worth seeing if you are in town this time of year. 

Claudia, Pedi, Andrea

Naturally having expert guides is a bonus and these lovely ladies have all done it many times before. Thank you for a wonderful day :-)

I was quite taken by these plants growing out of what looks like coconuts. 

Food was everywhere from all parts of the globe but I was mainly fixated on the local fare.

Amazing how many great meals one can make out of potato.

Paper mache farm animals add a bit of colour to the venue.

I'll finish with a representation of Bavaria's favourite animal.

Tollwood is not the only place to experience Christmas cheer. There are stalls all over the city and the locals don't seem to mind the cold. Many years ago my neighbour in Munich told me there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothing.

Today I had the opportunity to try another local speciality, the "Feuerzangenbowle". It is a bit like "Gluewein" but with a twist or to be more precise, a shot of Rum and a flaming cube of sugar. There is nothing better to warm you up on a bracing day.

This innovation was recommended to me by another expert on German traditions, GM Thomas Luther. 
GM Thomas Luther
In a day or two I will make my way to France to see how the festive season is celebrated there, starting in Burgundy. It could involve wine :-)
Stay tuned.