Food critic and lifestyle writer Erza S.T. turned a cafe in South Jakarta into a walk-in refrigerator on Thursday night, when he hosted the launch-party for his book “The Winter Traveler and Other Stories.”
Huge air conditioners were placed alongside the cafe and turned the event into a chilly affair. The party thus lived up to the essence of the book and the winter-chic dress code as requested by Erza.
The book itself is a compilation of Erza’s travel stories during winter.
Known to many as the founder of the Indonesia Opera Society, Erza started writing as a critic in 2000. His career as a lifestyle writer, however, did not begin until six years later.
When Erza got his first chance to visit Europe in 2007, his plan to only visit Istanbul quickly expanded to four other countries: Hungary, Germany, Austria and France. In 2010, he had another chance to visit Europe, and this time he visited Norway, Switzerland and Italy.
Born in Indonesia, Erza said he intentionally wanted to travel to Europe during winter. Since the humidity in Indonesia makes him sweat very easily, he was looking for a different feel during his journeys in Europe.
“I don’t want to travel just to experience another kind of heat,” he said. “Winter gives a more beautiful nuance that our country does not have.”
Erza’s stories vary from cake-tasting and metro train riding in Vienna, to sipping coffee in Milan, to getting lost in Venice, and enjoying a hike in Alpen, Germany.
He said his book was a compilation of stories, not reviews, and should not be mistaken for a travel guide, though he does shares his hotel and restaurant recommendations.
“I have the taste of a five-star hotel [visitor], but the budget of a backpacker,” Erza said. “[Luckily], my travels are usually sponsored, they are either media trips or invitations from tourism boards.”
Erza said his close connection to editors allows him to receive assignments for media trips, while his acquaintance with ambassadors has helped put him in contact with the tourism boards of their countries.
Other than the theme of winter destinations, Erza also included some fun stories he experienced during his travels. Among them are interviews with singer Natalie Cole and film director Baz Luhrmann. He also writes about meeting Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin in a high-end club in Singapore. His photo with Saverin ended up in the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper.
“Because I am a travel writer, I put memorable fragments in the book,” Erza said.
His editor, Windy Ariestanty, said she pushed Erza to write this travel book instead of a previous pitch, which was a compilation of food reviews.
“She told me to finish writing it in two weeks,” said Erza, with an expression on his face that suggested panic about the tight deadline.
Working as an opera producer at the same time, he thought it was an impossible task, but after many sleepless nights, Erza said he was proud to finish the book on time.
Erza revealed that he is a traveler that likes to plan every step of the trip.
“I’m not the type of person who can just go,” he said. “It’s scary to go somewhere without having plans, but if there’s something unique happening, I just take it as a bonus.”
One of his worst moments came when a pickpocket stole his wallet on Paris’ famous shopping avenue Champs-Elysees, but even then, he said, he managed to find the police office on his own, enjoying the sights along the way.
“When I saw Marni and Dior boutiques, I forgot about my wallet,” he said jokingly.