Archive for 'Portugal'

The Forbidden City

During my time in Beijing, I was able to visit the Forbidden City.   It is an impressive, massive place; very busy with many tourists from all over China as well as the world.


The Forbidden City

Everything was well signposted, with good information.



You just can't get away from American Express...

3 gold pagodas

gold artifacts


Just imagine if Cortez, Pizarro and the Conquistadores had gotten here…

Pineapples & Portugal

As much as one might want to, escaping the wall to wall media cover about the Royal Wedding is nigh impossible.  Based on my democratic roots (one of my ancestors was a leading light in the German revolution of 1848), I have a highly developed ability to tune out most party political broadcasts related to Royalty, but one news item caught my attention.  Specifically, it was an analysis of what the then Princess Elisabeth received as wedding gifts that left me with my mouth open.  “Among the perishable items were 500 cases of tinned pineapple for distribution by the bride…”  The mind boggles. Who on earth would send pineapple as a gift? Why would this even be worth mentioning 64 years later?  I buy pineapples at my local greengrocer for $2.99 or $3.99 every week, all year round.  The tinned stuff typically gets thrown at you as supermarket specials.  Foodtown lists 440g cans of Homebrand pinapple slices in syrup for $1.58 this week.

Well, this just show how far we have come from a consumption perspective. Yesterday’s delicacy fit for Royalty and scarce for the rest of us has become today’s commodity.  It was not that long ago, 20 years or so, that all one could get in New Zealand were Queensland pineapple.  These used to sell for between $6.99 –  $8.99 at retail and buying one of these was akin to playing Russian roulette.  One did not know what one was going to get until one cut the fruit open.  Too often, the fruit was just about black and of very poor quality.  Marketers and retailers then started to make use of technology. Pineapple were peeled, cored and packed in transparent vacuum pouches in Australia and then airfreighted to New Zealand.  The price went up but at least consumers could buy the pouched fruit  and be certain that the product was fit for consumption.  The minute Dole pineapples from the Philippines became available in New Zealand, the Australian product in both packaged and natural form disappeared over night and our produce departments have never been the same since.  But that is a different story which will need to wait for another day.

And who gave the Queen pineapples in 1947 ?  It was Portugal, which not only had remained neutral in WWII but also had and still has control of the Azores, a group of islands where just about anything grows.  Given the state of the Portuguese economy, one does wonder what this year’s gift might be…

Lisbon Seed Merchant Caught in Time Warp?

In the middle of Lisbon’s city centre, just around the corner from the main promenade, I stumbled upon this somewhat dated horticultural seed retailer. 



Several Questions came to mind, such as

  1. What is he doing selling his wares in the middle of the capital?
  2. How can he afford to be there, given that he had no customers?
  3. When did the store last have a bit of money spent on maintenance?


Detailed View of the Brand Image

See for yourselves.


I tried to strike up a conversation with the proprietor – which was unsuccessful due to a total inability to find a common language.

ISHS Congress

Why visit a Conference or Congress?  This is not meant to be a trick question – but “because I need to develop my upper torso muscles” is probably not a standard answer either!

Upon registration every delegate – as long as he or she no longer qualified in the “uncleared situation”  – was issued with a satchel/backpack which weighed about 5kg.  It contained the Congress Programme and the presentation abstracts.

The only way to cope with the Congress programme was to withdraw to the nearest cafe for a cool beer

Anyone who was in doubt about the details printed in the programme, could refer to the Abstract documents of papers submitted which were also included in the satchel.

ISHS Abstracts

Back to the question of why one visits a Congress then. 
The answer is, of course, to learn.  Although in the case of Lisbon it would have been advantageous to come equipped with a wheelbarrow in order to cope with the mass of printed materials issued. 

International Horticultural Congress Lisbon

This congress, organised by the International Society for Horticultural Science takes place every four years – and happened to be in Lisbon this year.  To put this event into perspective – organisers were talking about 3,500 plus delegates having registered from all over the world and representing every conceivable branch of horticultural science. 

It had its moments – like when the bus driver refused to take us to our hotel after an evening function because he had been instructed to drop everyone off at one hotel hotel, rather than deliver all delegates to the actual hotel they were staying at – but hey, one can laugh about it today.

The congress programme consisted of both oral and poster presentations. A look at the size of the poster presentation area should assist in appreciating the scale of the congress.

Posters everywhere! Another way to get an appreciation for the scale of an event is usually the programme document and in this case also the published abstracts. Combined, these documents weighed about 5 kg and it took several hours to digest them and figure out which session one wanted to attend, where the session was being held, what one was therefore missing out on and how one could compensate for this situation. Not everyone is interested in every session. My key focus was on economics and value chain management whereas Massimo and Anne-Marie were concentrating on post harvest quality management and rotten fruit.    🙂

Posters, posters everywhere

But just in case one really did not know how to navigate through the documents on offer, the congress organisers had come up with a really new and innovative approach aimed at removing the guess work from the situation. How well they succeeded is another question all together – but have a look at this photo!  There goes the perception that scientists are ALWAYS very precise!