Saturday, 31 October 2015

14 fun and easy ways to #EndSlavery




About the problem

There are more than 36 gazillion slaves in the world today – more than at any other time in the 6000-year history of the Earth! And this is just the tip of the iceberg!!1!1



You may think slavery was abolished over 100 years ago but it actually still exists in every country and every region of the world, even in your own backyard!



It is the largest criminal enterprise in the world, second only to drug trafficking and arms trafficking, generating 150 billion US dollars annually – more than the GDP of Hungary!



Slavery has many forms and shapes – human trafficking, child trafficking, sex trafficking, labour trafficking, organ trafficking, begging trafficking, forced, early and sham marriage, domestic servitude, child labour, surrogacy, etc. etc. etc. - but only one size – XXXXXXXXL!



Modern slaves are everywhere around us – invisible, hidden in plain sight! Practically every aspect of our lives is affected by slavery!



Obviously this is outrageous and we MUST DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! It is time to #EndSlavery! NOW!



Now you might be tempted to think that to #EndSlavery governments around the world should work to end inequality, injustice and corruption, ensure access to education, social protection and employment for all their citizens, enforce labour laws and relax migration regimes.



But this sounds like a mindboggling task for boring people. Ending slavery should be something that we can all do together, share with friends and family and have fun in the process! And what better way than to chase it away with selfies and hashtags on social media!



What is being done about it?




And for those of us who are not athletic and don't like exercising but still want to F*CKING DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT and #EndSlavery, we can take a selfie with a hands-shaped heart and share it on social media with the hashtag #igivehope – to give victims of slavery what they have lost – hope! Or we can make a paper airplane, pledge to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT and share it on social media with the hashtag #FlyToFreedom.



But can we really #EndSlavery with one-off actions once or twice a year? NO! Raising awareness about this terrible injustice and ending the scourge of our times requires us to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT every day, all day! After all, it's the greatest human rights challenge of this century and deserves our full attention!



What can YOU do?

So here are a few ideas how you can incorporate ending slavery into your daily life with very little effort. I've prepared a list of 14 everyday activities that are sure to #EndSlavery (in no particular order of importance)! The list is by no means exclusive, so I welcome suggestions for more easy and fun daily activities we can all share with friends and family to #EndSlavery! After all, I'm just one guy and to #EndSlavery we must all take a stand! Immediately!



So, pull yourselves and your mobile phones together and let's #EndSlavery! And don't forget – sharing is caring! 

 

 



1. Write it on a piece of paper in a stern tone, take a photo (better yet, a selfie) and share it on your social media with the hashtag #EndSlaveryNow.










 
2. Sing to #EndSlavery. As a suggestion, some particular songs that you can sing, if they fit your music taste, can be George Michael's Freedom, Grace Jones' Slave to the Rhythm, Cher's Gypsies Tramps and Thieves, Paul Robeson's Let My People Go, or the Prologue (Look Down) from Les Miserables (and almost any other song from Les Mis). Take a selfie and share it on your social media with the hashtag #SingForFreedom.



 





3. Write a letter to Santa. You could write something like “Dear Santa, I've been nice all year long. Please #EndSlavery!” Don't take a photo, though, because it must be a secret, but when you put it in an envelope, stamp it, take a selfie and share it on your social media with the hashtag #StampItOut.






 



4. Do your laundry, take a selfie and share it on your social media with the hashtag #WashItOut and #LaundryForFreedom.










5. Pray, for example, like “Our Father, who art in Heaven, please #EndSlavery!” [Change to suit your deity of choice]. Take a selfie and share it on your social media with the hashtag #PrayTheSlaveryAway.












6. Throw out your trash, take a selfie and share it on your social media with the hashtag #DumpIt or #TrashIt.









 


7. Bake a bunch of (unappealing but tasty) pumpkin and cinnamon rolls (filled with jam and walnuts, if you like) for those whose freedom has been taken away from them and can't bake pumpkin and cinnamon rolls for themselves. Take a selfie and share it on your social media with the hashtag #BakeForFreedom.











8. Flush the toilet after doing your thing, take a photo and 
share it on your social media with the hashtag #FluShItOut.









 





9. Masturbate compulsively – the surest way to #EndDemand for #sextrafficking. Don't take a selfie but you can still announce your tireless efforts to #EndSlavery with the hashtags #BeatIt and #EndDemand.











10. Gather your friends and watch together all 100 episodes of Escrava Isaura. Take a selfie (or a group photo) and share it on your social media with the hashtag #DamnYouLeoncio or just I <3 Isaura, to show enslaved girls all over the world that not all men are like Leôncio!










11. Smoke a cigarette for those whose freedom has been stolen from them and can't smoke a cigarette themselves. Take a selfie and share it on your social media with the hashtag #SmokeItOut, #BurnIt or #LetItBurn.








 



12. Ask the Universe to #EndSlavery by simply thinking about it. But think it positively (e.g. not “I wish there were no slaves in the world” but “I wish all people were free”!). Take a selfie and share it on your social media with the hashtag #WishTheSlaveryAway or #DearUniverse.










13. Clean your apartment (oven, shower, basement, room, whatever), take a selfie and share it on your social media with the hashtag #KeepItClean.









14. Play some Candy Crush Soda Saga, take a selfie and share it on your social media with the hashtag #CrushSlavery and #Sodalicious.








Feel free to share your selfies with me and to suggest more fun and easy ways to #EndSlavery!



***



Now on a more serious note. The aim of this little outburst of sarcasm was to mock the futility of some awareness-raising campaigns and actions out there. While undoubtedly, people need to be aware of exploitative labour situations, most campaigns and calls to action that I see just make me roll my eyes in exasperation of their simplistic story of it being about “bad people doing bad things to poor victims”. But exploitation doesn't happen in a vacuum and it is not even the problem – it's a symptom of deeper problems in society that cannot simply be wished away.



Consider, for example, this analysis from Prof. Chuang's article in the Anti-Trafficking Review:Depicting slavery as the product of individual deviant behaviour, modern-day slavery abolitionism creates a simple moral imperative with enormous popular appeal. And in so doing it depoliticises and absolves … the state for its role in creating the structures that permit, if not encourage, coercive exploitation of workers, especially migrants. The resulting prescriptions thus narrowly focus on punishing the enslavers and rescuing innocent victims. They further suggest that governments, corporations and individuals can eradicate slavery simply by engaging in more ethical consumption of goods and services. Any commitment to addressing the structural contributors to the problem thus becomes extraneous to the anti-slavery project.” And in practical terms, this “simple moral imperative”, these popular representations of "slavery" actually lead to policies and actions that often do more harm than good to real people.



So if you really want to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT, start by informing yourself properly and thinking critically. Take a look, for example, at Beyond Trafficking and Slavery, which offers such a critical analysis, and question awareness-raising. If you don't feel like it – that's fine, get involved in another cause or simply enjoy your life and try to be a good person. Or even follow my 14 ways and take selfies, but don't fool yourself that this will change anything.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Vienna-Bratislava or how I ended up undocumented for a day

Sitting with Miro in the University of Vienna
Now this is another one of my travel accounts, or rather about a specific part of my trip to Vienna and Bratislava. I don't want in any way to compare my short experience of losing my documents in a foreign country to the actual difficulties of the millions of undocumented migrants in the world, but I just thought it would be fun to frame it like this. This story, like some of my other stories, has important conclusions (well for me anyway), so keep reading :) 

So at the end of September 2008 my friend Miro invited me to join him for a short trip to Vienna. We were going to fly with a low-cost airline on Wednesday evening and return to Sofia on Monday morning around 8 am in order to go to work. The plane ticket for the return journey was something like 30 Euros, including luggage and we were going to couchsurf in Vienna. The whole trip was supposed to cost us not more than 150 Euros, food, transport and souvenirs included, which, considering our Bulgarian salaries, was a great deal! This was my first ever going abroad for a fun long weekend and I was super excited.


Schönbrun Palace
Our couchsurfing host in Vienna was great and left the next day for the Oktoberfest in Munich, so we were alone in her apartment in the city centre. In the next three days we walked around in Vienna like crazy, went to the Schönbrun palace, the Freud museum, Belvedere, gay bars and discos, the Prater and what not. We had a great time and I loved Vienna. On Sunday, our last day, we decided to go for a day to Bratislava (or as it advertised itself - Bratislover:) - it was one hour and ten Euros away by train. We were supposed to come back in the evening and leave for Sofia the next morning. "Supposed to" being the operative word here. 

We arrived at Petrzalka station in Bratislava around 10-11 am and headed towards the city centre. Not even ten minutes down the road, however, I realised that I don't have anymore my wallet with me - along with my credit and debit cards, my last 20 Euros and my ID card. Now I should mention that part of the fun of being recently accepted in the EU was the ability to travel abroad with our ID cards and not passports, so out of principle I hadn't taken my passport with me. And so I found myself undocumented in a foreign country. Luckily, Miro was always more ... composed and experienced in strange situations than me, so he dragged my sorry panicking ass back to the train station and we found a police station there. The plan was to report that I've lost my ID card and ... well take it from there and see where it goes. But reporting a problem at a police station at a train station in Bratislava on Sunday turned out to be a challenge. We tried to speak English to the first police officer we saw, who then started fretting and going around every possible room to find someone who actually speaks English. After about half an hour of sitting and waiting, I started losing my patience, went to the police officer and explained in what can only be described as a "Slavic language" (so no particular language) that maybe if we use Russian, Bulgarian, Slovakian and hand gestures, we would understand each other. So using such (para-)linguistic mediums, I explained that I've lost my wallet with my ID card. He kept suggesting that it was probably stolen and finally I agreed, considering that you don't pay a fine for a stolen ID card but you do, when you lose it... He gave me a paper stating that I've reported this to the police and told me to go to the Bulgarian embassy, where they can help me. We found a map from a travel agency at the station and headed there. 
Miserable in the centre of Bratislava

I'm not sure what exactly I was expecting from the Bulgarian embassy - I think I had seen too many Hollywood movies where the American hero runs towards the embassy chased by hundreds of baddies shooting at him/her, the embassy opens the gates and he/she then receives care, nourishment and a helicopter to take him/her back home the next day. The harsh reality was that the embassy guard came to the gates and after hearing my story said "I'm sorry but I can't help you, it's Sunday, the consul isn't here, she'll be back tomorrow, so come back at 9 am". So this was a bit of a disappointment but ... better than nothing. Miro and I went to the centre, called the banks to cancel my credit and debit cards, sat on a bench and made a plan - we'd walk around to see Bratislava, he'd give me 100 Euro and go back to Vienna to catch his flight the next day and I would find a hostel to spend the night and go to the embassy in the morning, get a temporary identity document (like those I knew they issue to victims of human trafficking) and take a bus back to Bulgaria. 


Sucker for statues
Now that there was a plan I could finally relax a little (yeah I'm one of those people). Bratislava is a small city, which can be described as "cute". It has a little Czech, Austrian and German spirit but also its own post-communist, recently-EU face. In the early evening Miro took the train back to Vienna and I found a little hostel to spend the night. Then I went to an internet café to check what buses to Sofia there were on the next day and to inform my colleagues at Animus about my predicament and that I won't be able to come to work as planned. I told them that I'd go to the embassy in the morning and hope to travel in the afternoon and be back at work on Tuesday. I checked in my hostel and went for a drink in a gay bar called Apollon. I had a couple of beers and chatted with some guys there and then went to check out a club/disco also called Apollon. To my surprise, a little person opened the door of the club and told me they were having a naked party and I had to undress in order to get in. Or I could stay in my underwear but pay 200 crowns (about 7 Euro) entrance fee. Needless to say, naked Slovakian boys were not my priority at the moment, so I went back to my hostel, had another beer, socialised a little with other hostel visitors and went to bed. 


At 9 am the next morning I was in front of the Bulgarian embassy. Just as I was explaining my situation to the consul and trying to figure out with her what to do next, an embassy officer came in and said someone called to say they found my wallet and will bring it to the embassy around 11. I felt more than relieved and went back to the city centre to take some more pictures, explore some more and kill two hours. I came back at 11, took my wallet with all my things still inside but soon it dawned on me I had another problem now. The bus I was planning to take in the afternoon passes through Serbia where I can't enter with my ID card - I needed a passport. The consul confirmed this and said I could take a bus on Wednesday, which passes through Romania, so I wouldn't need a passport. "But what am I supposed to do until Wednesday, I don't have enough money?", I asked. She said now that I had an ID card, I could call Bulgaria and ask someone to send me money via Western Union. I could use the embassy telephone to make a call, she offered. A PHONE CALL? Not a helicopter, not a bed and a warm meal - just a phone call... Such a banana country! I told them I'd be fine without their phone call and went off to find other ways to get home. 

By now the only way of getting back home seemed to be a flight from Vienna for 180 Euros - three time what we had paid for our return flight! But since my credit card was cancelled I couldn't even pay for it myself, so I had to text Miro again for help. Miro had lost his own credit card a week before but luckily found a friend who could buy my ticket. Finally there was a plan again, I took the train back to Vienna, spent the night at the airport and returned around 8.30 am in Sofia, so happy to be back, unlike all other Bulgarian travellers. Needless to say, after all this, I wasn't a Bratislover at all! 

Epilogue 
I thought it was also worth mentioning how my wallet actually found me. When my colleagues from Animus went to the office on Monday, they saw my email about being stuck without documents and then they saw this email from a certain Zdenek from Bratislava. 
With their long experience in coordinating the return of victims of human trafficking, my colleagues immediately called him and told him to take my passport to the Bulgarian embassy. Then they called the embassy to inform them to expect Zdenek. Once back home, of course I sent a thank you e-mail to him too. 

And finally, the promised conclusions. First and most importantly, I now always travel with as many identity documents as possible, and of course, I keep them in separate places. Second, I never choose the cheapest vacation options, out of fear that, like Vienna-Bratislava, it would end up costing me dearly (in the end, I had borrowed an additional 280 Euros!). If I book a cheap flight, I try to book a not-that-cheap hotel. If both are cheap, I just splurge on other things - kind of to appease the gods of travelling abroad. Third, I always keep a business card of my work place in my wallet - the business card of Animus, which was in my wallet for no particular reason, had saved me. Lastly, if in trouble, I would try to rely first on my friends and then, if absolutely necessary, on (Bulgarian) institutions. 

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Poland - Krakow and Warsaw

This is an account of my trip to Poland - Krakow and Warsaw - in 2011 and contains a couple of important conclusions (naah, not really!)   

Autumn colours in Poland

In November 2011 we had a work meeting in Warsaw and I decided to take a few additional days to combine it with a private trip -  a weekend in Krakow and then travel back to Warsaw on Monday for the meeting. I left Amsterdam nervous and in a bad mood - these work meetings were always a bit annoying, I didn't know if Polish people speak English, if it's clear how to get around, if there are signs in English... And I hate airports and I was further annoyed at Schiphol from all the crowds, lines, waiting... But as soon as I landed at Warsaw Chopin airport, my annoyance started subsiding. It quickly became clear where to take the bus to the train station and how to buy a ticket. One thing that made my whole stay especially amusing was the Polish language - as a Slavic language it's both close enough to my native Bulgarian to be able to understand certain words and at the same time distant enough to not be able to understand it correctly.. One of the first bus stops after the airport was called "Zwirki i Wiguri" and I had to laugh because in Bulgarian this sounds like "Blowjobs and shapes". The idea that there is such a place/street in Warsaw was funny. Then I noticed the date written on the display in the bus - it was 4 listopad (November). I knew that most Slavic languages use Slavic names for the months of the year, but in Bulgarian we use the Latin names and to me listopad (which literally means "leaf fall") was a natural phenomenon, not a month and I had to laugh again. At the train station there were machines for buying train tickets (unlike in Bulgaria) with menus in English, so this part went well too. I boarded the train to Krakow, which was a bit dirty and full and I had to stay in the corridor for four hours but I just played some music on my phone and watched the nature outside. Outside was sunny and the listopad colours of the Polish landscape were captivating. I'm normally not a romantic person who even notices autumn but for some reason I couldn't get enough of the combination of yellow, red and green that I was seeing outside. 

Krakow
And so the four hours went by quickly. I arrived in Krakow and headed for the main square. I was going to stay with someone from Couchsurf - Robert - and we had agreed to meet there. It was around 5pm and getting dark and cold and Robert was running late but I was enjoying the main square. It seemed very aristocratic, well maintained and extremely cute. I thought that normally, after the crowds and the waiting at Schiphol, the four-hour train travel in the corridor and waiting for someone for two hours in the cold I would've been on the verge of a nervous breakdown and yet I was feeling completely calm and happy. So unexpected! 

Robert finally arrived and we headed off to his place. He was around my age, small and skinny, talking very fast, and gay (well, I found him in a gay group on Couchsurf). He told me he had been to Bulgaria and actually his first boyfriend was Bulgarian - a certain Danny. In the course of the conversation, he mentioned a few other things about Danny, like where he was born and what he was studying and ... it turned out I knew him too. Not only did I know Danny, he had been my boyfriend too, and in the same year, no less! [[There's a word in Bulgarian - badjanak - which in principle means "brother-in-law" but specifically the relationship between the husbands of two sisters. In slang it's used for two men who've slept with the same woman and, of course, in the gay world - two men who've slept with the same man]]. Now what are the odds that I'll go to Krakow, Poland, and the first guy a meet is my "badjanak"? I couldn't help but wonder, was the world really so small or was I really so ... experienced (let's say)? Perhaps a little of both but this coincidence continues to amuse me to this day. 


A monument of Joan Paula II ... 
I didn't do much touristy stuff in Krakow - I didn't go to Auschwitz or the Schindler factory - this is not for me. Instead I mostly just walked around, enjoying the unusually warm autumn days and laughing at the Polish language. Pope John Paul II, whose name in Polish is Jan Pawel, lived in Krakow and there were different places named after him - boulevards, squares... But when you decline his name in the genitive case (as in "boulevard of John Paul") it becomes Jana Pawla, which in Bulgarian would be a woman's name - like Joan Paula in English. In my silliness I imagined his gay buddies from the seminary calling him that :D In the interest of brevity, I'll just say that Krakow is a beautiful city and you should go see it for yourselves! 

Warsaw 
On Monday I took the train back to Warsaw for our meeting. Warsaw reminded me a bit of Sofia (Bulgaria) - mostly dirty, noisy, chaotic and crowded. But a bit worse - since it had been largely destroyed during Word War II and then "rebuilt" by the communists, in the city centre you could see one next to  the other classical buildings, Stalinist buildings, modern glass business buildings and shopping malls and 20-storey ugly communist blocks of flats - a real insult to the senses! Nevertheless, Warsaw is worth visiting too - this is where the democratic changes in Eastern Europe began with Solidarność, there were also monuments of Copernicus, Marie Curie, again Joan Paula II and the very cute old town (photo above). So on Friday, after our meeting had ended, my colleague and I, together with a colleague from the OSCE ODIHR - Astrid - decided to take a walk around and spent most of our time in the old town. My flight was on the next day because I wanted to spend one more day in Warsaw, which was the national holiday - Independence Day (11 November) - and stay again with a guy from Couchsurf - Pawel. My colleague eventually left for the airport and Astrid and I continued our walk through the city. I was supposed to meet with my Couchsurf host around 6 pm near Constitution square and we headed in that direction. Now I don't know why I was thinking it may be interesting to stay for Poland's national holiday - maybe I was expecting something like the Dutch national holiday in Amsterdam - a sea of people dressed in orange, drinking beer and partying. I was so naïve! 


It turned out there was a nationalistic march planned, precisely on and around Constitution square and, to make things worse, also an anarchistic counter-march to protest against the nationalists. Nothing good can come out of this and soon Astrid and I found ourselves in a horrifying place - there were nationalists dressed in black running around breaking car glasses and shop windows and riot police clashing with them and arresting them... This photo shows part of what was happening on that day and I had to wonder if I would get beaten up by Polish nationalists for no reason.. Eventually Astrid and I found shelter in a nearby café and waited there for my host to come and pick me up. 

Pawel, who presented himself as Paul, finally came. We walked to his car and then drove to his house, which was on the outskirts of Warsaw. Pawel was in his early twenties, also gay, very sexy and well groomed but it quickly became clear that we didn't really have much in common and had nothing to say to each other. Back at his place he mostly watched TV reports of the nationalist march and clashes with the police, which seemed almost like Poland was in a civil war. I was playing with my iPad and waiting for time to pass by. A couple of hours later Pawel went to a party with his boyfriend but told me that his brother and his brother's girlfriend are sleeping in the house and will probably wake up soon. And I'm glad they did. Pawel and his brother were fraternal twins and his brother's name was ... surprise surprise - Piotr (or Peter, in English - it figures in Catholic Poland). Piotr was straight and not as sexy and well groomed as Pawel, but actually much more interesting and chatty. When I told him I live in Amsterdam, he immediately took out some weed and we spent the evening smoking, chatting and laughing. I made a mental note to myself: the sexy gay twin is not necessarily more interesting than the not-so-sexy straight twin! 

On the next morning, I took a cab to the airport and returned to Amsterdam. 

All my photos from Poland can be seen on Facebook.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Dutch TV station apologises for interview with a "cured" gay man

This is more or less a translation of an article in the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant. I've included my own contribution where I thought was necessary and my own thoughts on the case afterwards. 


Thony. Photo from his Intagme profile
A week ago the Dutch TV channel EO (Evangelische Omroep - Evangelical Broadcast) published on its youth website BEAM an interview (in Dutch) with the 19-year-old Thony Kraamer, who says that God helped him put an end to his gay lifestyle. The interview caused a lot of reactions and a storm of criticism from individuals and organisations. 

In the interview Thony tells about his life in the gay scene: "Every weekend I was in the sleaziest bars and clubs. I would go up on the dance floor, dress up as a girl, use hard drugs, have one boyfriend after another and still cheat on them... I did literally everything that God has forbidden."

Then he says he decided never again to have gay relations: "Whether I'll live my life as a single man or maybe find a wife, I'm looking positively towards the future. I'm giving my life to God."

Apologies
EO received a storm of criticism after publishing the interview. Kraamer's statements were considered as reinforcing a stereotypical and negative image of homosexuality. 

Today (17 February) EO apologised for the interview. In its statement, the channel said that the aim of BEAM was to tell different stories and opinions and to think, together with its audience, what these stories mean to them: "But it didn't work. Thony's intense story brought to many homosexual readers associations with rejection, estrangement and grief. This should never be the consequence of a personal story, regardless of our good intentions... if we have hurt you, we are very sorry."

--- 
So this was the article and I have to say, hats off to the EO for the apology. I followed part of the Twitter storm that fell on them a few days ago and they were very careful to reply to most Tweets respectfully and say things like "this is just one personal story, we also have other stories, and we think they should be heard". And this is admirable for a Christian TV station and indeed the different stories of young people should be heard. If anything, I'm more angry at Thony and I want to share some thoughts about the whole debacle. 

If you read the interview from the link above (e.g. with Google translate), it actually starts off quite nicely - Thony felt different all his life, played with dolls, dressed up in girls' clothes, didn't like his first kiss with a girl... Then (I don't know when - I guess 16-18 years old?) he came out as gay on Facebook and received very positive reactions from his friends and classmates. Something that many people don't have! Then apparently his "crazy gay life" began - going to bars and clubs, doing drugs, having sex with random guys, boyfriend after boyfriend, webcamming for money... Until he felt he had hit rock bottom.

So first of all, Thony seems to be rather transgender/gender-dysphoric than a gay boy. By his own admission, he dressed up in women's clothes, wanted to be a woman and even asked his house doctor for a referral to the "gender team". Perhaps the clubs, drugs and promiscuity were just an acting out of his anxiety over his gender dysphoria? Perhaps if he had had more support and understanding, both from himself and his family, he would've transitioned and lived a happy life as a woman? Instead of denying everything he is and "giving his life to God". As if gay/transgender is incompatible with God... 

But let's say he is a gay boy, since he considers his previous life to have been gay. In my opinion 18-19-year-olds are expected, or at least excused, to live a crazy life of promiscuity, drugs and clubs (always in moderation, boys!!). The realisation that this is not the life you want should come later. But at whatever age, this realisation should lead you to focus more on yourself, your personal development, education, career and improved relationships with people, in other words, find "the golden mean". Not go from one extreme - parties, drugs and sex, to the other - celibacy and denial of your sexual desires. Most of life, most of happiness, is somewhere in between the extremes. 

But figuring out where the "golden mean" is and how you can be happy there takes wisdom and maturity, which a 19-year-old typically doesn't have. And I have the feeling that Thony's "rebirth" as a God-fearing, law-abiding, hetero-wannabe was strongly encouraged, if not forced, by outside - family or church community. And to be honest, I also have the feeling it won't last forever... 

Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret.
You may drive out Nature with a pitchfork, yet she still will hurry back.
(Horace) 

Monday, 16 February 2015

Sachertorte

Photo: Wikipedia (duh!)
I love baking, especially when I'm bored in the weekend and Sacher is one of my favourite cakes to make. It's sweet and at the same time very slightly bitter and sour and not too complicated to make. I base my recipe, with slight changes, on one from a Russian website, which I'll translate here for those who don't speak Russian. 




Ingredients:  
250 gr. dark chocolate (I use 75% cocoa)
125 gr. unsalted butter, softened
125 gr. sugar (I use white - regular or caster) 
75 gr. plain flour
4 eggs, whites and yolk separated
2 tbs cocoa powder
1 tbs rum/cognac 
1 pack baking powder (16 gr) 
Apricot jam (I buy a 450-gram jar and it's enough). 

These quantities fit nicely into an 18-cm springform pan and can serve eight people. If you want more or have a bigger pan - adjust the quantities. 

Instructions: 
Melt 125 grams of the dark chocolate using water bath (or, if like me you don't know how to do it - using the microwave at low) and set aside. 

Beat the soft butter together with the sugar until fluffy, then add the melted chocolate and the four yolks and stir. Add the cocoa, rum, baking powder and flour and stir. 

Beat the egg whites to a foam and combine with the chocolate mix. 

Grease the pan and cover the bottom and sides with baking paper. Pour the batter in the form and bake 45-50 minutes at 180 degrees. To make sure it's ready - insert a toothpick in the middle and if it comes out clean - the cake is ready. Leave to cool. 

When the cake has cooled, cut it horizontally through the middle with a long knife or a thread and spread the apricot jam over the bottom layer, then place the top layer. Melt the remaining 125 gr of dark chocolate and spread evenly on the top and sides. Enjoy! 

And here is my, not so fancy, result