The Japanese Garden – A Book to Cure My Fernweh

When Fernweh strikes me and I cannot travel to a place I long for, I turn to books. In Japan, I loved going for walks through all those meticulously designed and well-tended gardens that are so typical for the country.  Back home I often long for their serenity and calm beauty. So, I was really thrilled when I found “The Japanese Garden” by Sophia Walker, a garden designer in her own right. I was even more thrilled when the boyfriend gave it to me for my birthday.

Thanks to the beautiful, ethereal photography in the book I now can go back to some of my happy places in Japan whenever I want. Also, with its green cover and the cut out circle that reveals the millennial pink first page, the book makes a great addition to any sideboard of coffee table. You can purchase the book via Amazon or check your local bookstore if they have it!

Some Outtakes from “The Japanese Garden”

Find some images from the book “The Japanese Garden” alongside some quotes by the author, Sophie Walker, from this interview with Phaidon Press down below.

Funda-in, Tōfuku-ji Complex, Rinzai Zen, Kyoto, 1460–68, Muromachi Period (restored in 1939, Shōwa Period), Sesshū Tōyō (original), Mirei Shigemori (restoration and East Garden). Picture credit: © John Lander (page 214)

«The Japanese garden has a very distinct visual character – so much so there can be no mistaking it as being ‘Japanese’ – the decoration and motifs are highly sophisticated and we come to recognise them. As a garden-maker I’m drawn to the Japanese garden because I am interested in how successful these gardens are at engaging their visitor.»

Shisen-dō, Sōtō Zen Buddhism, Kyoto, 1641, Edo Period, Ishikawa Jōzan. Picture credit: Photograph © Sophie Walker (page 178)

Tairyūsansō, Kyoto, 1896–99 and 1905, Meiji Period, Kanetsune Ijuin, and later Jihei Ogawa. Picture credit: Photograph © Sophie Walker (page 89)

Adachi Museum Garden, Yasugi, 1970, Shōwa Period, Zenkō Adachi. Picture credit: © Malcolm Raggett (page 133)

«Another particularly Japanese design tool is the set-up of the garden that cannot be entered – the gardens of Zen temples, or small residential courtyard gardens that are designed to be looked onto and not physically entered – again this is a completely foreign set up to most garden forms.»

Kennin-ji, Rinzai Zen Buddhism, Kyoto, 1202, Kamakura Period. Picture credit: Photograph © Sophie Walker (pages 170-171)

Genkō-an, Sōtō Zen Buddhism, Kyoto, Early Edo Period. Picture credit: © Akira Nakata (page 172)

Kahitsukan Kyoto Museum of Contemporary Art, Kyoto, 1981, Kajikawa Yoshitomo with Akenuki Atsushi. Picture credit: Photograph © Sophie Walker (page 235)

«What we see in the Japanese garden depends upon ourselves – depends upon the imagination we afford to the scene before us.»

Ise Jingū (Ise Grand Shrine), Ise, Third/fifth century, Kofun Period. Picture credit: Aurora Photos/Alamy Stock Photo (page 76)

Disclaimer: All images published with the kind permission of Phaidon Press Ltd. All quotes by Sophie Walker. This post might contain affiliate links.

One Night in Bergamo

We found out that it is most convenient to get from Zurich to Pantelleria via Bergamo. As we did not want to have to rush to the airport from Zurich in the early morning hours, we decided to arrive at Bergamo the night before and take a few hours to explore this beautiful town in Northern Italy.

We stayed at Antica Dimora, a charming B&B located inside an old palace in the Città Bassa. It’s in walking distance from one of the funicular stations that connects the lower parts of the city with the Città Alta – Bergamo’s old town and main attraction located up on a hill overlooking Lombardy. So, after arriving at the hotel, we quickly made our way there, already passing through arcane alleyways and stately villas on our way.

The Cobble Stone Streets of Bergamo’s Città Alta

The Città Alta is a beautiful maze of narrow streets, small squares, and churches. There are lots of little shops, cute cafés, and decent looking restaurants, as well as breathtaking views all the way to Milan. While Bergamo seems to offer many cultural and historical sights, there were significantly fewer tourists than in places like Venice, Florence or even Milan. We did spot some “Call Me By Your Name” fans, however, who seems to be on a pilgrimage to the locations where the Bergamo scenes between Elio and Oliver where filmed – and yes, we did spot some of those, too. Like the church doors where Oliver dances with a stranger.

La Dolce Vita around Piazza Vecchia

After a walk around town, we ended up at the stunning Piazza Vecchia – named one of the most picturesque squares in all of Italy. Here we sat down for an Aperitivo with Spritz, Italian beer and a rich offering of snacks at a place called Bar Flora. The boyfriend started raving about the proportions of the piazza, while I fell for the dolce vita spirit of the place.

For dinner, we spontaneously picked a nice looking restaurant across from Bar Flora, Caffe del Tasso 1476 . The food was delicious, so was the bottle of wine we shared. For dessert I tried, Polenta e Osei, a local cake that I had seen in many shop windows throughout the afternoon. Made of polenta, chocolate, marzipan, and nuts it’s sweet and delicious. After a nightcap at a bar called Il Dispensario, we went back to the hotel. We only had a few hours in Bergamo, but I think we made the most of them – and maybe one day we will be back.


Train Station Jingles in Tokyo

Did you know that every station in Tokyo has its own jingle? Whenever a train enters a station, an individually composed Tokyo train station jingle plays. Great Big Story made a short video about the artist who composed these melodies.

I especially love how he adapts them to the context of the stations: for stations that are frequented by students, he picked melodies that speak to young people, where as stations in the more traditional parts of Tokyo have melodies reminiscent of old Japanese music. Some jingles from subsequent stations even make up to longer melodies. See the full story here:


I am Still Here

I thought it was time for a little sign of life here on the blog. I have not forgotten about this place and you guys. I am just laying low in the spheres of social media and blogging. The sun is out and the days are long, so I am dedicating more of my free time to the outdoors, friends and the lake. And, I have to tell you, it feels really good, so I will keep on doing this for a little bit longer.

Have a great summer and see you soon,


Summer in a Jar: How to Make Preserved Lemons

Fresh lemons are one of my favorite ingredients. Their fresh, tangy taste is the epitome of summer. After finding a particularly lovely batch of organic lemons at the market, I decided to try and make some preserved lemons in order to store the taste and smell some for autumn and winter.

Summer in a Jar – How to Make Preserved Lemons | KTINKA

After browsing some recipes on the web, I realized that it is super easy to preserve lemons. The methods generally don’t vary that much and while many add spices like clover or cinnamon, I decided to try a very simple version using sea salt only. Learn how to make preserved lemons in this post.

How to make a Jar of Preserved Lemons

What you Need

For one jar of preserved lemons, you’ll only need these three things:

  • A bunch of very fresh, organic, unwaxed lemons (depending on size 4-5 should be enough)
  • Coarse or fine sea salt (approx 1/3 cup)
  • A clean, sterilized and sealable jar

How it’s done

Scrub the lemons under warm water and dry them off. Using a sharp knife, cut them into quarters. Fill some salt at the bottom of your jar and start adding the lemon quarters. Here you’ll want to work in layers, one layer lemons, one layer salt. Squeeze the lemons tightly into the jar so that they lose some of their juice.

When the jar is completely filled with lemons, add some more salt on top and seal the jar. Leave the jar at room temperature for about 2-3 weeks. You might want to shake the jar from time to time to dissolve the salt and lemon juice evenly. Afterward, store the lemons in your fridge. They will stay good for up to a year!

How to Use Preserved Lemons

There are many ways to use preserved lemons. You can take a quarter from the jar, slice it into tiny nubs and add them to a salad dressing, vinaigrette or a simple yogurt dip – they will add a tangy and salty taste at the same time. Or, you can make a simple pasta dish by just adding some olive oil, garlic and a couple of slices of preserved lemons. They also taste great in a marinade for grilled chicken, as an addition to home-made french fries and other roasted vegetables. Hell, you even put them on pizza, especially when you make one using feta instead of mozzarella.