In order to get the best photos when you visit the Taj Mahal you have to arrive before sunrise so that means about 6:15am. It’s worth it though as the crowds soon turn up afterwards. It’s never completely silent except now because of Coronavirus. I was lucky to go when everything was still relatively calm.
There is a lot of history associated with the Taj Mahal and some of it is much more recent than the rest. While you are there you will be shown the seat that is now famous as Princess Diana’s seat. There will also be professional photographers wanting to take a set of photos of you. We got some done and if you just want them digitally they can send them to your phone in seconds.
This is apparently Tom Cruises favourite shot of the Taj Mahal according to our guide. We had a different one for each place so they varied a lot in what they could tell us about each attraction.
Since I love series and Organization here is another one so you can easily go from one post to another.
This is an Audible book that I listened to recently while I was on holiday. Listening to an enjoyable story that is engaging makes long road journeys pass so much more quickly!
It’s alternative history based on the fact that Alan Turing wasn’t turned insane by taking oestrogen tablets to cure his homosexual urges. With this in mind we end up with a very different 1980’s. We have advanced sufficiently with AI to build completely life like humans that tests what it is to be human after all. They are an exercise in humanity as it teaches us whether we can accept machines into our lives as equals.
I loved the philosophical debates that Adam engages in with his housemates Charlie and Miranda. I also loved the technical, mathematical and physics details along with the anthropological studies. Adam raises a lot of interesting questions and provokes strong emotions which you wouldn’t expect a machine to be capable of. He is not really a machine though; but a conscious being capable of existing all by himself as along as he has the same comforts were used to like shelter, sleep and fuel.
This is essentially an exploration of the contradictions of being human. This is what every child has to learn and what autistics struggle with greatly. The same things that Adam can’t comprehend are also what we have difficulties with. There is however no real solution to these issues as life is such a messy business.
This is a movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch (yes him of the completely unpronounceable and unspellable name).
In this movie it seeks to understand the reasons behind the battle that took place between Edison’s Direct Current and Tesla’s/Westinghouse’s Alternative Current. Or as I explained to my husband, how the band AC/DC came to be;)
Ben plays Edison who we all know won the battle of who could light up America first. It was the first of the alternating technology battles (Betamax/VHS etc) that proved its not the best that wins but the one that is promoted the most and therefore more popular.
Social skills win over talent as people are much more willing to invest in a person who is like them selling them a dream rather than an engineer who can actually produce that idea. This is why Tesla loses out but it’s far more complex than that.
Of course in between the 2 remaining guys Westinghouse and Edison; they start to play dirty. They use underhand tactics to undermine the others reputation and products. Speed and efficiency are good but money is king in business. The Serbian immigrant is taken advantage of because all he has is his mind when he has sold his patents. As he is unable to communicate his ideas in a way that others understand they belittle him.
Watching a movie like this on a plane doesn’t do it justice. I couldn’t read the historical facts which are presented at the beginning and the end of the movie to separate the facts from the dramatization.
I definitely need to watch this again as the sound quality through the headphones was quite poor and in a movie that isn’t action based, you need to be able to hear the dialogue. I’m sorry I can’t give a very articulate review but I was only able to get the gist of the film.
The city is absolutely covered in fabulous buildings leading to it being a world UNESCO heritage site so you may be tempted to photograph every single building!
This is also a very cultural city which has a 9 museum pass amongst many others that are available which includes
New National Museum
Museum of Asian, African, American Art
Antonio Dvorak (composer) Museum (didn’t visit)
Bedrich Smetana (composer) Museum etc (didn’t visit)
to allow you to save even more money in this fairly cheap city. I only found out about on my last day overhearing some other English people who had also just discovered it. They had been to the zoo, the castle, the sex machines museum and the mini golf.
There is a big push after spending so much time being ruled by the Austrian Hungarian empire and then the communists to assert a Czech culture. The country has only existed for 30 years and you can watch many videos in the passage between the National Museum and the New National Museum as well as inside them.
The Astronomical Clock Tower is well renown as being a sight to see but unless you catch it on the hour you miss a lot of its beauty like we did. For a view over the city you can go into the Old Town Hall all the way up to the Tower but we didn’t feel like paying for that so we just climbed up to the third floor.
The Powder Tower is another place you can enter but I don’t think it’s possible in winter. The Municipal Building next door houses an art exhibition too but it wasn’t modern enough for hubby to want to go look at it.
The Museum of Miniatures is a place we looked high and low for but it’s not where Google says it is so we consoled ourselves with the Strahov Monastery at the top of the hill.
I went to the Castle as many others do but it’s quite a walk up the hill and if you pay to go up the tower it’s even more exercise as it’s 287 steps! Unfortunately all of the parts of the castle require you to pay to go in and since they mainly contain 15th century art we didn’t want to look at them. We had already been to the Borek Sipek Glass Museum in the bottom of the Dancing House so we knew the style of the renovated interior decor. You can instead look inside the St Vilnius Cathedral and marvel at the multicoloured windows
The oldestbridge Charles Bridge is nearby as is the John Lennon wall notable for its peace protests similar in nature to the Berlin Wall.
The oldest street in Prague, Celestna which is just before the Central Art Museum, Town Hall and clock contains a brewery which we went to of course, the Chocolate Museum, Steel Creatures Museum and Czech Cubist Museum. I wanted to go to the Cubist museum as well as the Franz Kafka museum and the Communist museum to compare that with Berlin but you have to make compromises based on your shared interests, energy levels and time.
If you like unusual art visit the Kampa Island Museum which has exhibitions by local artists. These are quite mind bending in what they cover and this seems to be a style of Czech art. There are also installations all around the city by a local artist which include Sigmund Freud hanging from a street side which many people think is a suicide waiting to happen.
Talking of Freud you can visit the Sex Machines Museum but we didn’t think it was worth entering as every museum is a paid ticket.
There is lots of illusion based museums in Prague but I believe the best one is the Museum of the Senses. This is suitable for children and is based on optical illusions and other tricks of the eye like perspective changes. It’s very hands on with lots of puzzles to solve.
When I went to the Central Museum I was able to learn about Salvador Dali and (Andrew Warhola) – Andy Warhol. These were both very famous artists in there time even though Dali was Spanish and Warhol was born in the United States to CzechSlovak parents later on found out to be Carpathian.
This means that the city also claims a link to Steve Jobs with the Apple Museum through Steve Wosniak. I didn’t manage to visit this one though as there is only so many art galleries and museums you can take in at once.
I visited the Wow Black Light Theatre show to see a style of theatre unique to Prague. This is suitable for children and since it’s practically language free suitable for all regardless of your linguistic background. It is like going to a neon ballet as it’s told through music, sounds, interpretive dance, costume and sets. It is also interactive too so watch out for the smoke, snow, bubbles, balls and Spiders!
Another treat for children is to take them to a puppet show as there quite a speciality here but we didn’t feel like indulging in that. Failing that take them to the Lego museum Museum of Steel Creatures, or buy them a chimney cake with ice cream inside.
In the Museum of Asian, African and American Art it’s Czech founder realised that if yousaved a language you saved a culture. Therefore he endeavored along with his contemporaries to get people speaking Czech, to write Czech and to perform using the language.
In the New National Museum there is an exhibition of playbills over the years documenting the change that took place from being based in the German style and just translated into Czech to original works and eventually newer styles as they became available.
Most of the identity of the Czech people was previously co opted from Germany due to its proximity. So the cuisine is very Bavarian in style. It’s not what I like pork knuckle/knee, sauerkraut and dumplings but they love it so much you get 3 different types in a meal. I avoided it as much as possible as even pork scratchings are completely different here.
The Czechs are not really into craft beer so when you go to places you quite often get very limited choices like you used to in the UK. Mostly you will come across a light beer which I often didn’t think much of but which is much better than the UK version proving Pilsner Urquell/Starpromen doesn’t travel well, dark which were quite tasty, an unfiltered light which was hazy and a mixed or half and half. This was a unique style where they pour in half of the light without the big head that they usually make from the fast pouring style and then half a dark. I didn’t try it but I’m told it’s good and my hubby had 3 one after the other so can’t be that bad.
We didn’t manage to go to the beer museum surprisingly but we did go to the Monastery by the castle which has the best beer and on a different day to U Fleku which is the oldest brewery. This last one is a bit of a tourist trap because apart from the fact they just hand you out one type of beer or you get introduced to Czech spirits which are like fire water there isn’t much going on. They are Becherovka which is either herbal or there is a cinnamon variety and Slivovice (Plum Brandy). In another pub nearby we tried a variety of beers not found elsewhere like Banana, Nettle, Sour Cherry, coffee and a dessert beer.
If you like a cocktail you can visit Crazy Daisy’s which is done in an 18th century style with fancy cocktails and bar equipment but they haven’t quite worked out there concept yet as they want to be all things to all people. An 18th century cocktail bar/club isn’t really a possibility.
We also went to The Alchemists bar (not the museum by the castle) which holds a competition to win about $4k if you get all 12 of the keys from around the city and solve the riddle within 24 hours. Nobody has solved it yet as you need to drink to get the keys so teams are required and since you pick a card you may get the same one.
With such a packed schedule we didn’t get time to shop for crystal or glass which is a famous Czech product, to visit the parks, radio tower, take a river cruise or go north of the river to places like the zoo.
One thing to beware of though is that weed is not legal even though you will see it in many shops and in many forms. This is CBD not THC so won’t get you high and may not even contain anything worth spending your money on. The shopkeeper will smile at you if you look interested in it thinking stupid naive tourist. There more than happy to take your money for what is essentially tourist tat.
It’s also odd that I didn’t hear that much Czech being spoken but I think that’s probably down to the fact that my ear was not accustomed to the sounds of the language. I learnt one word on the first evening I was here dik we (Thankyou) which the hotel waitress told us when we asked and then no more. I heard what seemed like Russian far more from tourists and even occasionally shop keepers. I heard German and French too.
I didn’t find Czech people particularly welcoming or friendly but then I couldn’t converse with them in anything but English so that’s always a barrier. English is usually the language of money not the heart even though English is not in itself a language known for its warmth. Neither are English people so I guess it shows how German we really are as that’s our origins too.
I have been to Athens and I wrote about it previously when I visited at New Year. I haven’t been back since as it took some getting used to.
I must not having been paying attention when this was on in September and just recently during the week and on at the weekend. As it’s an American show I can’t stream it and I can’t find it anywhere else but I have written about The Parthenon which is a major part of the history of Athens.
It may not surprise you to learn that I have visited this area of Greece too in addition to Lefkás. My reasons are generally not so virtuous as those of Dr Michael Scott or David Suchet though who does the narration in This is Greece. This is a 5 part series which they recently repeated on PBS so I got to watch the rest which mysteriously vanished from the scheduling before I could write about it.
I have been to Athens but not to the Cyclades or the Dodecanese.
Generally when we go on a road trip as well as history, it will take in at least one winery. This allows us to bring back a supply that is the freshest and since it is from the source it is the cheapest too. Considering how much we have to celebrate in our lives it is a worthwhile investment.
The Dodecanese (12) Islands contain Rhodes which is a fantastic historical island especially for someone like me who has an interest in the Durell family as Laurence lived there writing a book about the island which I’m yet to read. That one was called Reflections of a Marine Venus. You can visit his house Villa Kleobolus while your there too.
Rhodes was subject to many invasions over the years so it’s been fortified accordingly. It has been ruled by first the Romans then the British as part of the Crusades and the famous knights of St John or the knights hosiptaller, the Venetians spent some time here, it was owned by the Ottomans but they kept the locals ruling and it was later passed on to the Italians before finally gaining there independence.
Leros is the next stop on the tour but our guide is now an Athenian lady Elenor. There is Byzantine, medieval, Ottoman, Venetian and Italian history here just like Rhodes. Sunsets are of course a big selling point along with churches dating from the knights of St John. If your a film buff you will want to visit the island as it’s the inspiration for the film Guns of Navarone.
He also travels to Patmos famous for being the place where the biblical book of Revelations was written by St John with many churches dedicated to him, a monastery as well as its many windmills.
Symi turns up too. St Michael is the patron saint here with a magnificent church dedicated to himself as he is also patron saint of sailors in the Dodecanese.
As usual with American programs the first and the last are the most interesting with the ones in the middle being mainly composed on second grade material. He even gets other people to do tour guides for you!
This is the third program of this name but the one I’m referring to is the 2019 Turkish TV series Atiye not the 2000 or 2015 psychological thriller films.
This is an interesting looking series of 8 programs about an Ottoman era archeological dig in Anatolia based on a Turkish book and author that has been filmed for Netflix.
It’s Turkish originally of course but it’s available in English dubbed or you can have English subtitles. I personally find it jarring that when I was streaming it, the American voices are slightly out of sync with the actions. The actors and actresses are vibrant in their movements but since Turkish and English are such different languages it’s never going to look or sound exactly right. I tried turning the sound off and relying on the subtitles but then you lose so much of the program as your reading and not paying attention to what’s going on. If you however download it and put the subtitles on you can concentrate on what’s happening much easier.
It’s very modern and female forward which I’m surprised about but this is maybe Turkey trying to show to the world that it can live in the 21st century at least in a show that is about abstract art. If I didn’t know that they were speaking Turkish I would have figured it was perhaps another Middle Eastern nation like Israel who have participated in Eurovision each year since the 1980’s.
I can’t believe I’ve never written about one of my most favourite art movements before! I absolutely love Cubism. I have been a fan of this style since I first discovered this at college. I did an Access course to higher education which grants you entrance to university after one year instead of the usual 2 if you were not able to do your a levels for some reason.
I had a good Art History teacher Lorraine Monk who was also a bit of a feminist so we studied people like Frida Kahlo which is another one of my interests and one of the reasons why I was very happy when I got to visit Mexico. Anyways this is getting away from Picasso.
Picasso invented cubism with his seminal art work Demoisselles de Avignon in 1917. He was affected greatly by the First World War as was everyone else who served in it. Being Spanish Picasso was very emotional so the world was constantly recreated in an abstract way on his canvases. When a friend of his committed suicide he entered his blue period for the next couple of years until he had recovered. It was the Spanish Civil war which caused him to paint Guernica which is another era defining painting.
I think a certain amount of anguish is necessary for art to be created as we need to tap into that resource of feelings which are usually hidden behind logic. The best music is usually created by musicians when they are currently under going some kind of trauma like Rumours by Fleetwood Mac or the Winner takes it all by ABBA.
This is part of the new breed of historical programs on Netflix that are part dramatisation and part recitation of historical facts from learned professors in the area. I have watched some about Russian history too namely the Czars. I will write about this also in due course.
This series has 6 episodes covering the legendary siege of Constantinople in 1453. This was conducted by Mehmet the second against Roman Emperor Constantine the 11th. It is narrated by Charles Dance the man who voiced Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones.
I think this is a fascinating period of history starting with the astonishing takeover where 23 armies including his fathers had failed before him. Each episode covers a different bit of the siege from the initial plans, the artillery attack, naval attack to sneakier tactics and finally the success.
This follows on from previous posts I have written about the Ottoman Empire and when I eventually visit Istanbul there will be some more as the city is bound to yield many interesting things to write about.
The Byzantine Empire was much earlier and I have already written about that too in a couple of posts. Byzantines.
This was a race of people who lived in Byzantium. This is the city that the Romans founded called Constantinople and later become Istanbul . This was the subject of a BBC 4 program last winter called A city of 3 names – Constantinople, Byzantium and Istanbul.
The Byzantines were famous for their religious beliefs. They created a style of art that is unique and there many museums dedicated to it. There is an exhibition on Byzantine art in Lefkás town on top of the library that I have written about previously and I have seen an exhibit in London at a Hellenic centre too. There is also one in Berlin on Museum Island.
There is however only so much information that you can take in over the course of a holiday. This is why I haven’t been in that one yet but I hope to return to Berlin to check it out. I also want to go to Istanbul to see Hagia Sophia and all of the other treasures that are inside the city as I have previously mentioned when talking about the Ottoman Empire.
The Ottoman Empire ruled Greece from when the Byzantines finished in the 14th century until the end of the First World War. This was a considerable amount of time. There was a program on BBC 4 about this last year by Rageh Omar. It was titled The Ottoman Empire – Europe’s Muslim rulers. There is now also a Netflix program about the rise of the Ottoman Empire which I’m going to write about as well.
I found it a fascinating insight into a period of history that isn’t covered much in the UK. It’s a crucially important part of Europe’s history but since we seem to be so anti European it gets missed out of the history books. I think this is a grave error and I’m almost working on filling in the gaps of my knowledge.
I want to visit Agia Sofia in Istanbul to see the magnificent shrine that was built by Sulliman the second. I want to see the Blue Palace and the Topkapi Palace as well as all the other delights that a city on the Bosphorus can offer. The Grand Bazaar is one of a kind.
This is a show that came out in 2018 based on the 2006 novel of the same name by the Spanish author and lawyer Ildelfonso Falcones.
He wrote about the building of a very famous cathedral Santa Maria del Mar that was built by the guild of stonemasons in Barcelona. They built it for the Virgin Mary hence the name Saint Mary of the Sea. This took place in the Middle Ages (14th century precisely) so it was a feudal society with no mechanisation. Most of the population were slaves and they lived in dire poverty as they had no property or money of there own. They were simply uneducated and illiterate labourers with no prospects of advancement. This also meant that women had no rights as they were property of first their father and then there husband. They were educated in the art of bringing up children and running a household as that’s all they were expected to do.
It’s originally in European Spanish but you can watch it with subtitles or dubbed into English. I prefer to watch shows in the original language with subtitles as I believe I get a more authentic experience then. I previously mentioned this as part of a much earlier post talking about using bilingual programs on Netflix to help further my progress in learning languages Netflix.
I love history, travel, culture as well as being overly enthusiastic about words. I also like architecture which is as much mathematics and design as well as art and I love reading!
The article on Wikipedia provides a little more insight if you wish to get to know the author, his work or the era better –The Cathedral of the Sea.
He is a famous author and chef who has written several books on the history of food that are on Blinkist and I’m working my way through them. He also has a four part series on Netflix – Cooked after the title of his book that it follows. The episodes deal with the effects of Fire, Water, Air and Earth. It comes as no surprise that he has worked closely with Samin Nosrat on her Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat cookbook. He taught her how to write while she taught him how to cook.
In Fire he ventures around America looking for the secrets to bbq and grilled meats. He compares traditional methods to the ones used to industry. He goes in for the science and analyses the proteins present in meat with the transformation they undergo when being cooked – denaturalisation. He also indulges in some male bonding too while learning the secrets of southern cooking in addition to the history which is rooted in slave culture.
In Water he looks into the changes that have taken place in the American food industry since the 1950’s. He also tackles the rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes. I’m shocked to find that there is no longer an adult onset diabetes as type 2 used to be called. It’s now often found in children. This is directly linked to the fact we spend less time the kitchen and more time working. Even in India, one of the poorest countries in the world, you can’t live off one income and processed food is becoming the norm.
In Air he looks at the importance of bread to the daily diet in Morocco. He gets political about what happens when the price of bread rises too much; and how these conflicts cause shortages all over the world. Due mostly to over reliance on imports from bad harvests because of changing climatic conditions. He also gets scientific examining the role that gluten performs and why it’s so difficult to get a good gluten free loaf.
In Earth heexamines the process of fermentation. Here he discovers that cacao beans are first fermented for a week before they are dried and then turned into chocolate etc. I didn’t know it was necessary to do this because the raw beans are so bitter as to be unpalatable. If you’ve ever eaten cooking chocolate you might know this taste. In contrast to chocolate, cheese is a another food that undergoes fermentation that we all know about. Here still there are more secrets to be discovered by looking into the science of the rind on cheeses. He also experiments by making his own beer to continue on from when he learnt to make bread.
I have found this series fascinating to watch to realise that there is a lot to learn from traditional methods of cooking that we can’t replicate in our modern high tech kitchens. The culture of disgust in relation to the French appreciation of stinky cheese is an amazing topic to have a discussion on. Our overuse of antibacterial sprays to clean with and antibiotics to cure to disease is causing a backlash in the health of our gut biome which is only just starting to be looked into seriously. I liked the anthropological look into ancient cultures and how they would pickle vegetables to get through the winter which is why vegans need to eat kimchi etc to remain healthy. Its a source of b vitamins and even vitamin c.
As you all no doubt know by now, I am a child of the British Empire and the Ancient Raj. Being an army child but not having the companionship of any of the army families around me is incredibly isolating.
You start out with all of these morals and ideas from a bygone era that immediately sets you apart from the rest of the civilian world. I had a very structured and disciplined upbringing which was good for me in general but it wasn’t when it came to socialization. This made me rather awkward as to properly socialize you need to both know yourself and be yourself. This requires you to be an individual and as part of the army mindset you are just another cog in the machine. You don’t think for yourself, you just do as your told, blindly and without question as that is the nature of hierarchical authority.
This probably explains all the trouble and problems people like Lord Byron caused. They were born with a different mindset so they had to go on extended tours of the continent to find themselves. When they had and realised they were never going to fit in to the closeted English society – they stayed abroad in the many outposts of the British Empire.
This is possibly why I’m attracted to people like Patrick Leigh Fermor and Lawrence Durrell as they echo the upbringing of my parents. They were both well travelled enjoying the benefits that living in foreign countries brings. This way of living compels you to always travel, think, research, to understand the meaning of things.
There is so much history out there that has been reported in a biased way. It was always to the benefit of the victors neglecting the other side of the conflict for wars are fought by 2 sides but only 1 is recorded. Even then it was only men who recalled their lives for prosperity.
So in order to correct this I have been watching The Rise of Empires – The Ottoman Empire on Netflix and I have been reading feminist retellings of classic books like the Odyssey and the Iliad. I have written about my findings and I hope in the not too distant future to go on holiday to places like Sicily, Rhodes and Cyprus to further explore my background.
I was astonished recently when watching a program on an American television channel about how well the Parthenon was constructed. They understood so many things to construct the perfect temple. What’s more is they did it without a plan and in 9 years. The current renovation which the program covers has taken at least 30 because they had to correct previous fixes which were done incorrectly. They also had to figure out how they built it in the first place because there is very little records bar other temples.
Each piece of the temple is unique so it’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Each piece can only fit in one place. Slotting it all together is a big task for anyone to complete. The team decided to put the temple back into order as it stands without trying to restore it to a previous era as that would destroy its beauty and make it look unbalanced.
Since I like to keep up with all things Greek while I’m not there I decided to watch this show. This is a series created so that Julia, who is half Greek on her mothers side from the island of Chios can explore the bounty contained on many Greek islands like Crete, Spinalonga and Corfu ending up in Chios. If you have ever watched her on antiques and art show you would have never guessed this in a million years. I in fact did not know myself until I watched the first episode. It’s nice watching her progress with the Greek language but I wonder why she didn’t take advantage of it in early life.
It’s good to discover your heritage though whatever it is which is why in 2 months time I’m going to India which is where my mother is from. Being English and part of the army she didn’t learn any foreign languages but I think this has more to do with her dyslexia. My dad was also part of the army and learned German but not any other language despite his varied postings. This probably explains my love of travel and culture. Also the fact I don’t stay in one place very long so I never really put down roots or get settled. I was just starting to do that last year and then I had to leave. As usually happens with me.
Do you feel that your life is sometimes so stop/start you struggle to achieve what you think you need out of life?
This was installed when I had my accident at 17 and they are very militant in not allowing words from one part of my brain to the other. I learn all the words of a language and retain them but they are not allowed to cross the divide between the conscious and unconscious minds.
My husband just made a joke in Greek which was quite funny. He was saying a bunch of stuff then he says vemata (steps) instead of psmeta (lies) excuse my spelling. So I’m thinking there not the same word and that’s not the word he means or even what he usually says. Then I get what it is he just said so the words are there, there just not allowed out of the fortress often.
I have to find my Reagan so he can say “Tear down this wall Mr Gorbachev!”
This is the Retelling of the story of Circe from her birth to her involvement in the Odyssey and beyond.
Circe here reminds me of myself as her company is unwanted by all who surround her as she is different from all the others. She is not interested in the great parties, the gossip or the other guests. Instead she is prone to wondering the great halls alone wanting her fathers attention while avoiding her mother.
This lack of attention causes great loneliness in herself as she has no purpose. She has great strength but doesn’t believe in herself because of the ridicule she has previously received from her loved ones. Her innocence and naïveté cause her to fall in love with the first man she sets eyes upon. This is unrequited love but she cannot see it until he falls in love with another. All she wanted was to help another because she cared for him but it wasn’t to be. She repeats the pattern as she cannot help the fact she has so much love to give it spills over. She needs an outlet but without children what is an Ancient Greek girl to do?
You can listen to a sample of this book if you are not too sure about buying it on Audible. It is alternative history as the female side of things tends not to survive. Hence we have history or his story.