Jordan – Amman, Capital City

In the rush to Petra, Amman is often overlooked, but this is a pity because a day or two in Jordan’s capital reveals a wealth of historical sites, most of them dotted throughout the city, part of the daily life of the inhabitants.

The city has a well preserved Roman Theatre, a colonnaded street and a Nymphaeum: the juxtaposition of the very ancient and the modern looks perfect.  No painting in garish colours is allowed in Amman so the whole is soothing to the eye.

Entrance to Roman Theatre & Museum

Amman is built on seven hills and you should take a taxi to the most ancient part of the city, Jabal al-Qal’a which translates as ‘Citadel Hill’.  The most famous ruins here are the Roman Temple of Hercules, the Byzantine Church and the Umayyad Palace.  The gigantic sandstone blocks of this Roman Temple, part of a vast complex erected in 1200 BC by the Ammonites who gave Amman its name, are being put back together by a team of international archaeologists.  An extra bonus are the magnificent views across downtown Amman from the hill which is one of the highest points in the city.

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The Temple of Hercules

In the nearby Archeological Museum, you’ll find the 3rd century Dead Sea Scrolls, rectangles of kidskin sewn end to end only discovered in 1947 by some Bedouin shepherds.

Looking down from Citadel Hill
Downtown Amman from Citadel Hill

From a 3000 year old culture to modern nightlife, there’s something for everyone in Amman.  You’ll find that the vendors are busier with their worry beads than with their calculators, and whether you shop in ancient souks or state of the art shopping malls, you will find no pressure on you to buy anything – a delightful change from Cairo.

Brass and Copper shop

What you will find is a pocket of traditional Arab hospitality and a people who want to extend the hand of friendship, for Jordan is a peace-loving nation and welcomes all visitors.   Amman seems to be more of a collection of adjoining villages rather than one entity with downtown having a constant rumble of traffic, markets, and bustling people. Its highlight is the Roman Theatre where the seats are chiselled out of the mountain.

Amman from Citadel Hill
Roman Theatre viewed from Citadel Hill

And as for food, I can only say “Go try for yourself”.  I never had a bad meal in two weeks in Jordan and I tried many different restaurants.

Among my (Japanese) Souveneirs

Having decided that sentimentality has to give way to practicality when one has downsized and lacks room, I am making strenuous efforts to clear away the bits and bobs that one brings back from one’s travels.  I’m not talking the sort of souvenir that one puts on the sideboard or has pride of place in the hall, I’m talking about things like programmes, tickets and other ephemera.

And none that I have short-listed to be disposed of are causing me such a problem as these below.

The Menu on the right is not crumpled, it is the style of paper on which it is printed.

Hand-painted menus are a feature of most of Japan’s Ryokens (traditional Japanese-style hotels) and it was one of the pleasures of the meal to be presented with these delightful examples of Japanese art.  Not only were the delicate floral designs lovely to look at but the papers were all of a high quality, often marbled or embossed.  The smaller paper was usually the actual menu, folded and tucked inside the larger menu page.

The dishes on which the food was served were equally beautiful, dainty, thin porcelain bowls and plates on which the food was arranged so artistically it seemed wrong to disturb it just to satisfy hunger.  I will confess, I didn’t always enjoy the food.  There was an amazing amount of small dishes but the texture of so many seemed slimy (an overabundance of abalone in many cases), and when I did get a dish I could enjoy it was of minuscule proportions.

However, here are some pictures of the food.  Enjoy these while I try and decide whether I can throw away these lovely menus, or if I can think of another use for them.

All these pictures were taken by one of my travelling companions, Steve Moore, who enjoyed the food on every occasion.  I think it shows in his compositions.

There was usually one dish that had to be cooked personally, so a miniature barbecue or a dish of oil would be on the table (one for each person).  Nothing too difficult, small pieces of Kobe beef, fish fillets, that sort of thing.

As the menus were in Japanese we were never sure of what we were eating.  The waiter/waitress took great care to explain each dish but sometimes there was no translation for what we were faced with, something very pink turned out to be ginger, something that looked like a bean was a paste formed into the shape of a bean.

Imagine the time it took just to arrange these items on the plate.

And now, for something completely different.

The Best Salmon Restaurant in Sweden

Every once in a while one comes across a really superb restaurant in an unexpected place, sometimes on a main road, sometimes hidden away down a side street, and last week this happened to me.

On the long drive between Gothenburg and Oslo, I found Laxbutiken LJungskile by exiting off the main road to this “salmon house” recommended by my friend Kelly Andersson from Gothenburg, who spoke in very complimentary terms about the food.

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The self-serve coffee area.
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Cool, clean, Scandinavian decor

Situated beside a lake, with outdoor seating surrounding the elegantly designed restaurant, one could imagine the pleasure of dining in the outdoor space during a Swedish summer, but this was November, so it was inside for us.

The interior did not disappoint.  Elegant décor in grey and lime green set of the food which was arranged in a long glass cabinet behind which stood smiling waitresses with advice.

And advice was needed!   Here was more salmon than I’d ever seen served in more ways than I’d ever known.  Eight types of smoked salmon, from the basic Gravdlax to smoked salmon with different herbs and mixtures of herbs, there was poached salmon, grilled salmon, boiled salmon, salted salmon,

A salmon dish with sauces
A salmon dish with sauces
Salmon in every form
Salmon in every form
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A selection of salmon dishes

deep fried salmon, salmon pie, salmon cake and more.  To go with these were delicious sauces like caviar sauce, white sauce with dill, lobster butter sauce, Malibu sauce, and a deep green garlic and spinach sauce.

The choice was difficult so I eventually decided on the Large Salmon Platter which gave me five varieties of salmon, 2 sauces, salad and boiled potatoes (at an unbelievable 145 Kroner).  More than I could eat, I was relieved to be offered a “doggy bag” (a rather elegant box packed in another bag) to take away.

The simplicity of good ingredients well prepared and served
The simplicity of good ingredients well prepared and served