You know, 2013 has been the best, the most amazing year of my life so far. Sadly, it is about to end in a horrible, awful way. Because people should never give promises they can’t or are not willing to keep. That’s why I’ve been feeling really sad lately – it’s a shame for such a wonderful year to end like this, no?
I’ve been told that whenever you’re sad, chocolate always helps. I’m not sure if this is really true, I believe that nature, water, sun and sex are the best remedies but chocolate certainly doesn’t hurt. That’s why I simply had to make something with chocolate. Lots of it. To boost my mood. And bananas. Because I was going bananas (geddit?). Anyways, more on that later, let me firs tell you about my year.
I knew that 2013 would be special from the very moment I opened my eyes on 1 January. I just had this feeling, the feeling that this was going to be my year and everything I did would be right. I was sure that I couldn’t really make a mistake. Not in 2013!
So, 2013 started for me with a proposal. Well, not that kind of proposal, but something close to it. It’s amazing, you know, if the first day of the new year starts with such good news, new plans, freshly baked homemade bread, a walk around the neighbourhood and a couple of gorgeous street cats.
Then I went to Germany in March – I had an entrance exam for the German course at Frankfurt University. I passed with flying colours, of course (here’s the thing about me, I might not be particularly good-looking or sociable but I’m smart, especially at exams). While waiting for the results, I spent two weeks hanging around Frankfurt and getting to know the place where I would spend the best four months of my life. Of course, I didn’t know that back then.
|Frankfurt am Main|
Then I went back to Bulgaria to finish some classes, see the family and pack the big suitcase. I was so excited and scared at the same time! And one day at the beginning of April things happened like in a movie strip – suitcase, taxi, Terminal 2, airplane, Bruce Dickinson in my earphones, Frankfurt International Airport. An hour later, thanks to a lovely, amazing red-haired German girl and a kind, wonderful Nepalese guy I was all settled in the dorms. So far, so good. From then on, it was ON!
I had the time of my life in Germany!
I got to know every inch of Frankfurt, I’m pretty sure, especially the parks. It’s green, so green, impossibly green in Germany – a real land of fairy-tales.
|The green, green grass of... Germany|
I visited Marburg – a beautiful old city not far from Frankfurt.
I went to Berlin. I saw the Wall. I passed through Checkpoint Charlie. I spent an afternoon having the most interesting conversation with a Moroccan guy I had just met – something I would have never, ever, dared do before. Travelling liberates your soul and challenges the universe to send you only positive things your way, I believe!
|The Berlin Wall|
I visited Mainz. Twice. Or three times, I can’t remember anymore – breathtaking view from the castle down towards the city and the river and the best Flohmarkt ever!
I went to Koblenz to see an acoustic guitar concert in a castle perched on top of a steep hill – the most romantic musical experience I have ever had!
I spent hours and hours with various people in Palmengarten, talking about life, the universe and everything.
I went to Sommerfest, Berger Strasse Fest, Bierfest, insert-a-random-word-here-Fest… them Germans know how to make their life enjoyable and it’s a complete lie that they can’t have fun!
I met the most amazing, wonderful, fun, caring, lovely, warm, interesting people in the whole world! Germans, Bulgarians, Moroccans, Cubans, Russians, Syrians… I would like to thank you all, guys, you made my life warmer and brighter and so much more colourful!
Then, all too soon, it was time to say goodbye. That’s why I made this cheesecake:
...and we celebrated with songs and guitar music on the lawn in the campus.
Then I got picked up from Frankfurt. Like a princess indeed. With the car I had fallen in love with – the same car Edward is driving in Twilight. And then I got driven all the way across Europe on the most thrilling two-week road trip ever!
We spent a couple of hours in Saarbruecken.
Then we headed to Paris where four days turned out to be completely insufficient to see anything from this huge, enormous, colourful city.
Then we headed South, stopping for an afternoon in Dijon, only to fall in love forever with this city and to promise ourselves we would be back again for more someday.
Then we spent two days in Lyon, visiting a nearby ancient stone village – Perouges. We had a picnic in the woods nearby, enjoying French cheeses, macaroons, tarts, you name it…
|Sweet Sugar Chocolate Magic|
Then we hit the road again, further South, towards Provence, but not before enjoying the most romantic village in the whole word – Balazuc.
|Lavender in Balazuc|
A dream came true in Provence – a visit to the L’Occitane factory in Manosque. Seriously, I don’t really like shopping but I could spend hours and a considerable amount of money in a L’Occitane shop! Oh, and we tried oysters for the first time, that was fun!
|L'Occitane factory in Manosque|
|L'Occitane factory in Manosque|
From then on it was Cannes, Monte Carlo, a crazy two-hour drive along the Mediterranean coast on the Autostrada dei Fiori (the Motorway of Flowers) and we got to Italy, enjoying day on the beach in Alessio near the border with France.
Then we were in Milan and Pavia, a small town nearby, famous with its ancient university.
Then we hit Croatia, passing through Slovenia, enjoying one of the most amazing sunsets ever.
|Sunset on the Croatian-Slovenian border|
|Sunset in Croatia|
Now let me get this straight – Croatian beaches are very beautiful but awful – full of them sharp white stones, hurting your feet and making it impossible to walk barefoot. Me not likes!
|Croatian Adriatic Coast|
Then we spent a day in Belgrade. And then we got back home.
But this was not everything that happened to me in 2013. There’s more to it. Things I’d never dreamed of happening to me! Things I’d never thought I’d experience.
I saw Robbie Williams live at San Siro.
I saw Leonard Cohen live in an ancient Roman amphitheatre by the sea in Pula.
|Leonard Cohen and his band|
I saw Roger Water live in Sofia.
I tried paragliding – it was breathtaking and I was drunk on the adrenaline for days after that.
|Paragliding over Sopot|
I met a baby who actually likes me and smiles when she sees me!
I (sort of) moved in with my boyfriend.
I let go of things and people that I finally realized no longer served me and that I had been desperately clinging to because I was scared.
I organized a surprise birthday party and managed to really keep it a secret so that is was a huge success.
In 2013 I smiled more, hugged more, trusted more, travelled more, relied more on my intuition.
I saw Tour de France live.
My Jack Daniel's collection is bigger than ever.
I even started my own blog… J
Life is good. It is.
And the cake I made yesterday is also good. I believe it sort of represents my year – turned out not perfectly shaped, just like life itself; moist – like the grass in Germany; summery from the brown sugar, bananas and rum – like the heat in France; rich and intoxicating from the chocolate ganache – like the overwhelming feeling of happiness when you travel or fly.
So, here’s the recipe:
½ cup (113 gr) butter, softened
½ cup (100 gr) sugar (I used a mixture of brown and white)
3 small or 2 large bananas, mashed
1 tsp vanilla
¼ cup (60 ml) buttermilk (or milk with half a teaspoon vinegar)
1 ½ cup (190 gr) flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ cup chocolate chips
For the syrup:
50 ml water
1 tbsp dark rum
1 tbsp dark brown Muscovado sugar
For the decoration:
150 gr chocolate, chopped
50 ml cream
2 tbsp rum
1. Heat oven to 170oC; butter and dust with flour a medium-sized baking pan, round or square.
2. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, soda and baking powder
3. In a large bowl, beat butter with a mixer until creamy. Add the sugar and eggs, one at a time. Beat for a couple of minutes, then add the mashed bananas and vanilla and stir well.
4. Add half of the flour mixture to the egg mixture and stir well, then beat in the buttermilk, then add the remaining flour and mix well.
5. Add the chocolate chips and stir.
6. Pour the mixture into the baking pan and bake for about 40-50 minutes or until you can insert a toothpick and it comes out dry. Take the cake out and leave it to cool for about 15 minutes, then transfer to a plate.
7. Make the syrup by mixing together the sugar, water and rum. Pierce the cake with a small knife or fork and carefully pour the syrup with a spoon. Leave to cool completely.
8. To prepare the ganache, put the chocolate and the cream in a bowl and microwave for a minute or two at medium heat, checking every 30 seconds. Do not let the cream boil! Take the bowl out and carefully stir with a silicone or wooden spoon until smooth and shiny. Add the rum and leave to cool for about 15 minutes.
9. Pour the ganache over the cake and sprinkle with additional decorations if desired.
This wonderful, moist banana chocolate cake is best enjoyed with good friends, especially if they can make such great photos of said cake. Or if they have a baby who smiles at you!