I’m all excited about the Luminale 2016 light exhibition all over Frankfurt this week

Abena at the bar

I only heard about this light/art at night event while I was scrolling through Meetup.com checking out who and what was happening in Frankfurt. I saw a photography group were meeting up at Luminale 2016 and as always were ready to welcome newbies so I signed up and charged my cam.

When I checked out the website (click here) for the event I was pretty overwhelmed with the sheer amount of exhibits around the city. The programme was over 100 pages!

The event kicked off on march 14 and, as is happens I had to send my apologies to the photography lot because (Lord only knows how this happened) the train was late and then cancelled! For those of you who know Germans and Germany, lateness is just not an option so I was totally baffled while standing, freezing me bits off at the station.

I was also meeting some new buddies, who were very understanding. One was also running late… Obviously this friend was not German 😉

I digress! ..The light show.

Luminale 2016 is a city-wide light exhibition, on until March 18, when as soon as it gets dark the whole city comes alive with light and sound art installations, projections and interactive art at various different venues.


I made another video! I think this is a slight improvement on the last one but still, I have a long way to go….. 😉

We wondered into the Trianon Light Show near Taunusanlage S-bahn.


In the S-bahn station we found a hologram of grafitti and artistic lighting.


After a while I was mesmorized by all of the city lights. There was something magical in the air.

Em and Varun1

Red light district

Even the red light district became art.

Naked sauna anyone? Read this first.

The cold weather is coming so you might want to go for a sauna…

I thought I could handle any social situation until my boyfriend invited me meet friends at a sauna in Germany. No problem, or so I thought.

I’ve been to spas and saunas all over the world but before this I had never been to one for mixed sexes and where nakedness is compulsory. This is the norm in Germany, Finland, Austria, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

I didn’t even believe it at first, in fact I slipped on my bikini in the changing room and announced I was ready to which he looked at me and said: “Those panties have to go.”

He didn’t even say it in his flirty teasing way either, but more in a way a doctor might tell a patient they had to stop smoking or die.

Who cares if I wear a bikini? Apparently people complain if you break the no-clothing rule and it can apply to the heated outdoor pool, the sauna and the steam room. The public areas, restaurants and relaxation areas are where people hang around in robes or wrapped in towels.

So many questions went through my mind before my first naked sauna. How is one supposed to feel relaxed in a group of new friends when everyone is stark bollock naked? Is there an etiquette one should follow? Do people hug and kiss to greet one another?’ Where do I point my gaze? Would it be like one of those weird naked dreams I had as a kid?

Since naked socialising was not something my mother taught me nor something I picked up at Girl Guides, I had to wing it. Now I would say I’ve become a natural at being naked in public. Who would have thought?!

Here are my 10 essential things you need to know before going for a naked sauna.

First things first – EVERYONE is naked so take a deep breath and go with it. Different saunas have different rules, which are usually posted up on walls. You can also check the sauna’s website or ring ahead. My guide concentrates on social nuances. So here we go…

Don’t just let it all hang, have some poise.

The sauna pose is something I picked up in an Italian spa. As I sat there legs crossed and slightly hunched over I noticed the other glamorous women were sitting with their backs straight and leaning slightly backwards with their arms behind them to prevent everything going south. Much more elegant.

Don’t eat garlic beforehand.

This is an obvious one. You will sweat so let’s keep odours to a minimum.

People are naked but style is still key.

Work with what you have by preening what will be on show. Go for a stylish bikini shaping, tanned torso and manicured nails. Whiten those teeth and extend those eyelashes. If you have a future sauna date planned. Get down the gym and tone up your muscles. It will give you a confidence boost.

On the subject of fashion…

There are so many stylish accessories I could write a whole blog post just on that. You might want to get an elegant robe or slippers. This robe by Missoni Home is on my wish list.


Pack your bag.

As my sauna trips became more frequent my sauna bag got bigger and bigger. You should take a shower gel, body scrub, body lotion, face mask, shampoo, conditioner, make-up, book/magazine, sleep mask, slippers, towel, robe and money.

Make your seat.

Take your own fresh towel into the sauna and use it to protect your body from the wood. This means every part of your body, feet, hands etc, should be on the towel. Towels are prohibited in the wet sauna so make sure you hose down your seat with water.

To join the crowd ot not?

As a personal rule. I like a crowded dry sauna because there are so many bodies it doesn’t matter. It can be a little daunting for first-timers when it is just you and one other person. On the other hand I like an uncrowded wet sauna because vision is impaired by the steam and dim lights.

Show your gratitude after a sauna infusion – don’t clap!

A sauna infusion is a wonderful treatment where a sauna master adds scents to the coals and then uses and towel to waft the aromatic air around the room. After the session people show their appreciation by knocking on the wooden bench, rather than clapping and sending splatters of sweat everywhere.

Make friends in the relaxation areas.

Inside the sauna is for rest and meditation. People move slowly and quietly so having a conversation is frowned upon. If you want to have a chat go to the heated pools, restaurants and public areas and don’t worry, quiet areas are well signposted.

The eyes say it all.

You don’t have to walk around with your gaze firmly concentrated on your feet! Look people in the eyes when you talk to them and let your eyes scan the room if you wish. Treat it as if everyone is wearing clothes. Don’t stare. People don’t like being stared at even when they have their clothes on. No difference really.

And finally…

In Germany it is usual to kiss your friend on both cheeks when you greet them. I would say, greet your friends and acquaintances in a sauna in your usual way and shake hands with new people.

Foraging in the forest for a gourmet meal

Spot the mushrooms among the leaves

Spot the mushrooms among the leaves

Look very carefully among the leaves in the picture above. Can you see the mushrooms? There are four.

How about this one..

Forest mushrooms

There are five mushrooms in this picture.

It just goes to show how difficult it is to spot an edible mushroom growing in the forest.

I went out foraging for porcini mushrooms with some friends in a forest in the Hessen region of Germany.

We found about 100 euros worth of mushrooms in two hours one Sunday morning. As far as our location goes, I can only tell you it was in Hessen because it would be a huge faux pas for me to reveal the exact location – I have been sworn to secrecy. Good spots for collecting is information foragers keep close to their chests, in the same way a truffle-hunter would.

Porcini mushrooms are a delicacy. They have this gorgeous nutty flavour that is awesome in risotto, soup and pasta dishes. They are not as expensive as truffles so finding them is not going to get you rich quick or anything – 1kg costs 48 euros – but it is going to get you a damn good meal.

Late October is the best time of year to collect them because it’s late in the season and mushrooms develop slower and, as a result, have a deeper flavour. The problem is the forest floor is strewn with leaves, twigs and a plethora of other mushroom varieties, some of which can be poisonous, so finding porcnini mushrooms is a really difficult job.

A really difficult job….Each 100 square metre secret patch yielded an average of one mushroom. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Searching for porcnini mushrooms

There’s me looking flummoxed. I had been out searching for an hour and a half and hadn’t found a thing. My friends on the otherhand had spotted about 30 between them. Why? They had ‘an eye for it’ and also they had the knowledge.

The knowledge: What I learnt about finding porcini mushrooms.

The most important thing: Anything with a white top or a skinny bottom is not worth focussing on.

Porcini mushrooms have a light brown top with a fat, sometimes road stem. The Germans call them stone mushrooms and I would assume this is because they do look a bit like stones. Not all of them though. Some have really long stems than are great for breaded mushroom recipes.

stone mushroom harvest

2. There are signs:

If you see one of these red mushrooms, porcini mushrooms are nearby. Also if you see a mushroom that looks like a porcini mushroom but has red tint on its stem, it should be avoided.

Forest pigs also love porcini mushrooms so you have competition on your hands other than other foragers but if you see evidence of mushroom eating you know you may find some mushrooms that the pigs didn’t see.

Half eaten porcini mushroom in the forest

3. You must be at one with nature.

After a while I started to see patterns in the forest floor – types of bark that attract mushrooms, mushrooms that like open spaces, mushrooms that like big trees and mushrooms that hide under bushes. I had to ‘be the soil’ but in all honesty I got so obssessed with finding a mushroom I started feeling dizzy and seeing mushroom mirages.

4. You need a bit of luck.

These buggers are so hard to find you need a bit of luck so whenever you find a small perfectly formed porcini mushroom, it’s good luck to kiss it on the head.

I was super proud of myself when I found a tiny porcini mushroom on the forest floor. It was so small it was amazing that I even saw it and for this reason I was happy with it being my only contribution to the morning’s harvest.

We harvested about 40 mushrooms that weighed a hefty 2kg once cleaned. This was an awesome morning’s work.

Next: We take these babies home, clean them up and cook breaded mushrooms.