By the way, did you know that unlike in East Asia, chopsticks are generally not used in Thailand, or in the rest of South-East Asia? Until I arrived here, I wasn't aware of this; but after having now spent a month in Thailand, and having barely used a pair of chopsticks, I'm pretty clear about it. Apparently, chopsticks are the traditional eating utensil only in China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam. In Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Burma, Tibet and Nepal, chopsticks are used in a limited context, and even that is merely as a result of Chinese influence. In Thailand, a spoon and fork is the preferred utensil set when eating all kinds of foods; except in the case of noodles, when chopsticks may be used. So if you're chopstick-challenged (which, incidentally, I'm not), then don't worry: it's not a required skill when visiting Thailand.
Americans don't have Boxing Day: WTF? According to our American friend Margaret, there's nothing at all special about the 26th of December, if you're residing in the USA. It's simply "the day after Christmas". I always assumed that it was more-or-less a worldwide thing, celebrated by most Christian countries. Or by most protestant countries; or at least by most English-speaking countries. But no: apparently, Boxing Day is only recognised and celebrated in England, and in a few countries in the British Commonwealth — Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa, to be precise. Just goes to show: you learn something every day. Especially when you travel.
During our tour of Munich today, Ozzie shared with us some interesting if alarming facts about beer and Bavaria. Bavaria is officially the beer capital of the world: not just by reputation, but also by the irrefutable weight of statistics. Have a look at some of these hair-raising facts, and you'll see what I mean.
I've been "doing the hostel thing" for almost 10 months now: and for the most part, I've really enjoyed it. Most of my hostelling experience has been in the areas I've travelled the longest this year: that is, Mexico and South America. Down there, hostels are super-cheap, super-friendly, and super-casual. Wherever you go in Latin America, you'll always find somewhere that has a free bed (and it's usually somewhere good): this means that you can rock up in a new town, wander into one of the local hostels, and stay there until you decide to move on. You have total flexibility as to where you want to go, and how long you want to stay there. That's backpacking, the way it should be. I can count on one hand the number of times I had to book a hostel in Latin America, or the number of times I was turned away due to lack of space there. But here in Europe, it's a different story: around here, true blue backpacking simply ain't possible anymore.
Written by world-renowned environmentalist and UCLA professor Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed is a brilliant and eye-opening book, that analyses the reasons (particularly the environmental reasons) why various past and present societies have collapsed (or are collapsing), and that presents some conclusions about how humanity's current global society can avoid a similar such tragedy. Seeing as how I've been stripped even of my reading material this weekend, I couldn't resist buying this book in Rome: and already, it's proving to be an amazing read.
Just a quick note about the unbelievable, too-good-to-be-true wine situation here in Argentina. I was talking to someone on the bus today, and they told me that apparently Argentina produces 5% of the world's wine, and that it consumes 5.2% thereof! That is, despite producing a colossal amount of wine, Argentinians nevertheless drink more wine than they make. This would explain why you don't see that much Argentinian wine anywhere else in the world. It doesn't make it out of the country, and into the global export market. It's too good to let the rest of the world get it's hands on — the locals drink the lot! And considering how even the most basic, US$2 supermarket bottle of red tastes absolutely divine around here, I can believe that fact, despite how economically crazy it may sound.