Algeria – Misserghin, Home of the Clementine

Misserghin is a small town just south of Oran on the banks of the salt lake Sebkha. It’s most famous for the Clementine, named after abbot Father Clementine who bred it towards the end of the 19th century. My guide book said one could visit the remains of the abbey, so while my parents were over for a visit we took the opportunity to go exploring.

We hired a taxi for a day (6000 Dinar). The driver had never been to the place but was also curious, and after a bit of asking and some U-turns we eventually found the entrance to the property. I immediately fell in love with the gardens. No abbey to be seen anywhere though, at least nothing that I would have recognized as such.

Turns out, when the French Catholics were here, they made use of much older buildings of Ottoman origin. The people who run the place now have turned it into some kind of agricultural commune, and welcomed us warmly. Communicating was a wee bit tricky since none of us had more than a smattering of French or Arabic and our hosts next to no English or German, but our enthusiasm for gardening and history more than made up for this.

We got a tour of the old office buildings of the abbey plus the stables with very content looking cattle and then we ventured underground. Tunnels! Originally, those had been used to hide from whoever was the enemy of the day. Nowadays, they’re used for growing mushrooms.

Then we were taken for a tour around the fields and the flower garden. Along the way, our hosts explained about the different grains, vegetables and what most people would call weeds and how they’re used as spices or ingredients for a salad. And at every stage we were given some samples to taste or to take with us.

It was incredible. Of course, we also admired a field with young Clementine trees. Fruit growers from all over the world still come to Misserghin to learn about the plant and how to handle it.

clementines

church

 

Towards the end of our tour we visited the old abbey church too. These days, it’s used as a community centre. When we were there, about a dozen people were learning about apiary. It was fascinating to watch how they got the tiny larva out of the honey comb to put it into a nourishing solution – if I understood correctly this is done to produce queen larvae. Tell me in the comments if that makes sense as I know nothing about bee-keeping.

So, a day full of new discoveries and plenty of organically grown food. Many thanks again to our hosts at the now-farm former-abbey in Misserghin.

apiary

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Algeria – Oran’s beach at Les Andalouses

Oran’s coastline is mostly cliffs with some tiny sandy parts in between. But if you drive about an hour west (depending on traffic it can be faster or take a lot longer), you’ll eventually reach a zone of beaches reaching from Ain Turk via Cape Falcon to Les Andalouses.

All those beaches are extremely popular during summer. When we went there a handful of days ago however, the one we had picked was almost empty. The stroll we took was very pleasant, the food we had afterwards mostly too. It’s just so annoying that when you order vegetarian food (no fish, no meat) you still find chicken sprinkled over your salad – it’s not considered meat!

And a tip regarding transport: there are buses during summer to and from Oran. If you come by taxi, arrange with your driver beforehand to take you back. If you’ve got your own transport, parking is likely to be a problem during summer.

Surprises

Venturing on a bus through the Greek countryside is a rather pleasant enterprise. At this point, you will already have been able to decipher the schedule:

bus scheduleYou can also be sure, at least in winter, that any connecting services are in no way related to the one you’re on. All in all, very comfy nonetheless, lean back and enjoy the beautiful scenery passing by. At arrival, somebody will surely direct you to wherever you need to be, if necessary, by shouting GO GO GO at you, and then you jump on the next bus waiting in some obscure sidelane.

This is how we arrived at Olympia. All was indeed very well until … ‘No open today. We strike.’

Bloody hell! So this is what the fence of Olympia looks like, and then we move on to the much nicer events of that day.

fenced in olympiaShowing my enormous disappointment by turning on the waterworks, a Swiss uncle and his niece, Herbi and Sandra, took pity on me/us and offered a lift. And what a ride we got!

First stop was at the theatre of Olympia. Fab acoustics and great views.

teatro olympiaThen we took to the country roads. The next stop was at a sulphur spring, where we saw snakes, fish and turtles.

turtleLunch was had near a dilapidated railway station. The trains stopped several years ago, which I find a shame. The food, however, was excellent, including the home-made grape schnaps.railway station Unfortunately, I don’t know its proper Greek name.

Near Kyparissia, we had another little excursion into an old, but still working water mill. old millbaking equipment

The grounds also included a lovely garden with apiary equipment, fruit trees and a little creek running through. Thanks again to our two Swiss rescuers who made that a wonderful day!oranges

Dining

Being with my parents usually turns into an eating marathon . All of the following was served with 24 hours. We were particularly happy about the vegetarian sausages now available.

cakes dinner with veggie sausages eggsalad and raspberries mushrooms on pasta tea and sweets

Over the years, I’ve turned into an acceptable cook (me thinks).

Still, I prefer eating!