India – Udaipur

When we got here we stayed in the same place that Octopussy was filmed at. The interesting thing is that the Palace of the movie is in fact 2 different palaces that are very close to each other. They have patched it together so well that unless you have visited the 2 locations you wouldn’t know that they had done that. Roger Moore named the pond the Lily Pond when he was doing the filming.Pool with fountain

Pool with fountain
Hotel grounds
Hotel grounds
Hotel shrine
Hotel shrine
Sunset panorama
Sunset panorama
Local dancers and musicians
Local dancers and musicians

While we were staying in the Lake Palace we would get the boat over to the shore to visit another City Palace Study

Study
Inner courtyard
Inner Courtyard
Courtyard
Courtyard
View over Udaipur
View over Udaipur
Inner Courtyard decoration
Inner Courtyard decoration
Courtyard gate
Courtyard gate

and to attend a Hindu temple Hindu temple carvings

Hindu temple carvings
Hindu temple architecture
Hindu temple architecture
Hindu temple statues
Hindu temple statues

which had a service going on. We also visited the gardens that were very beautiful, shady and calming. Udaipur had a lot of construction work going on to build roads but it was still cleaner and quieter than Delhi. People didn’t tend to blow there horns anywhere near as much. Holi is celebrated over several days because there is the initial holiday then the policemen and so on so all members of society participate in all regions eventually.

There are always so many sellers of everything on the streets everywhere you go so its rather overwhelming trying to get anywhere or do anything. By being in a private tour you don’t get to see the real India but its close enough for my liking. I don’t like being hassled so India is not a place to go if your rather sensitive like I am. Which is why my parents had always told me not to go but my in-laws convinced my husband so we went.

This particular City Palace is all about coloured glass as its very vibrant. Its filled with many panels and designs through. Blue stained glass window over Udaipur

Blue stained glass window over Udaipur
Multicolored stained glass window
Multicolored stained glass window
Mosaic multicolored stained glass window
Mosaic multicolored stained glass window
Flower stained glass window
Flower stained glass window
Peacock stained glass window
Peacock stained glass window
Mirror stained glass window
Mirror stained glass window

There are lots of temples, palaces and tombs through India all created with marble and inlaid with precious stones which are magnificent to behold but the input gets too much. I was quite ill the day we arrived here.

There are also many fabric and clothes shops as well as those selling tourist souvenirs. There was a tour that we could have gone on to see the local women and the crafts that they make but we were getting rather tired after our extremely long bus journeys around India. The early mornings and the flights were getting to us.

As was the fact that despite staying in 5 star hotels you still get Delhi belly. We started to avoid milk in all forms, dairy, meat even fruit because you most certainly can’t drink the water. We were wary about ice in our drinks too as it was starting to get hot on the west coast of India. Curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner does take its toll.

Its better than the international options when they were around but you just want some plain food occasionally. You do however realise how unsatisfying pastries are for breakfast as its just carbs. Also nobody ever eats the cereal in hotels abroad regardless of whether its India, Prague, Berlin, Tenerife, Mexico or Morocco.

Time for a beach break in Goa which is the next stop.

To check out all of the adventures see here

India – Delhi (part 1)

India – Taj Mahal at Agra

India – Agra

Parsis and Zoroastrians

India – Jaipur

India – Goa

India – Mumbai

Mumbai airport

India – Delhi (part 1)

I have just been to the Indian subcontinent on a 2 week trip to take in many of the world renown cultural and historical sites that are spread around. I was extraordinarily lucky in that Covid 19 only affected the later part of my trip in Goa and Mumbai. I am now home having got what was perhaps one of the last planes out of India before they started to shut everything down.

I flew into Delhi to start my exploration. Our hotel was a heritage hotel (there called Haveli’s like ours was) in the centre of Old Delhi. Inside there was many pictures of the renovations that had taken place to turn the building from a wreck to the stunning place that it now was. Your greeted by refreshments, the red dot is applied to your forehead as a welcome and as a precaution due to Covid 19 you have your temperature taken. Then you have the forms and after being handed your key left to your own devices as the restaurant timings have already been explained to you. For yours and there entertainment in the evenings they fly kites which you can see being demonstrated on the roof at sunset. They also do pigeon racing which is explained to you. From the roof I got an excellent view of the city sprawl.

Later in the evening they have traditional music Life in Delhi is loud as you soon learn. The often repeated phrase, “In India you need 3 things, Good horn, good brakes and good luck.” is understood pretty quickly. On the back of every vehicle it says Horn Please! or Horn not OK to indicate the drivers preference. The streets of Delhi are narrow so walking is an art form as you have to dodge all many of transportation and people selling to you on the street. The roads are congested and there is no such thing as a bus stop or bus station. You just get on or off the bus at a traffic intersection. Pedestrians have little fear of death here as at every junction you will get children miming they want food for there younger siblings, people trying to sell you trinkets or most surprisingly lady boys trying to advertise there services. I didn’t think you would get groups of men dressed in Saris walking the streets. The guide told us that frequently European men who have had too much to drink can’t tell the difference until much later and then they have to pay to quickly get rid of them so it most be a thriving trade.

I visited a Sikh temple (there are approx 10 across Delhi), while I was there and you have to keep your elbows and knees covered as well as your head. This applies to men as well as women so they sell coverings just for this purpose. Alternatively bring a scarf like I did. You have to be barefoot as well but there is water later on to clean the dust away. You can’t take pictures of the insides of the temple but its marvellous.

I found the kitchens amazing in that they cook for hundreds of thousands of on daily basis. The poor of the region get there 3 daily meals for free as well as being able to spend as much time there in quiet contemplation as they liked since there were no set services. You can volunteer to cook there as my mum did and its open to all regardless of colour, creed, race, heritage, religion, age, wealth. The rich sit with the poor cross legged on the floor eating the same food but its funded only by those that can afford to contribute. They feed you until you are full and Indian food is surprisingly filling, allowing you to take your leftovers home with you as its like the Indian Welfare State they are providing here. There were several sittings a day and it was never empty. They never ran out of food and only rested for a couple of hours at night to make sure that they could complete there never ending duty once again the next day. We didn’t eat there as we didn’t have time to wait but the goodness of these people is astonishing.

Talking of kindness we visited the Mohandas Gandhi memorial gardens and they have a flame there that is tended so that it never comes out. Mahatma is a title that is given to Gandhi to show reverence to all that he achieved for India peacefully. Its lovely and peaceful which is a complete contrast to the bustling metropolis that is New Delhi. They are side by side with Old Delhi also being referred to as Shahjahanabad. This is because the city was found by Shah Jahan. He was a Muslim so the city has abad appended onto the end to indicate that its not only his city but an Islamic one too. If it was Hindi it would be pur on the end like Jaipur which I will talk about later.

We also visited Humanyun’s tomb which is a magnificent building in the Taj Mahal (Crown palace) style. This is a striking contrast to the rest of the buildings that people live in on a daily basis. The mughuls that lived there are descended from the Mongolians and its where we get the phrase media mogul from to indicate how much wealth someone has accumulated. The palaces are full of marble and inlaid with precious stones. They have gardens and fountains to replicate the heavens as the word paradise comes from a walled garden. They had more wealth than the average person could gain in a thousand lifetimes as the average life time income after 50 years was £2.

Chandri Chowk is a street that you will pass by often if you are exploring the historical district and it means Moonlight street. This is connected with the daughter of the ruler at the time. There were 5 Shahs that you will hear about when you are driving between the different attractions and if your guide is anything like mine was, it will be information overload. I loved hearing all the history and the word origins as I’m a bit of a word nut as you may know.

There are many temples (Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist etc) in Delhi as you might have guessed and as we were walking about we came across a Jain temple. These are strict vegetarians and have rather odd rituals for their priests during celebrations. They are in fact not allowed to wear a stitch of clothing and therefore the family surround them so that nobody is embarrassed by this. This parade happens from the temple to the family home so it can go on for quite a while. Luckily I didn’t see this but I was reliably informed by my guide who was turning out to be extremely well informed on everything to do with Delhi’s monuments and history.

We passed by the India Gate which was built by Edward Lutyens (who also designed the gardens in Sandwich, UK amongst many other things). He also designed many buildings in Delhi which were beloved by William Dalrymple but sadly are gone now. I read some pages of an amazing book by him (A City of Djinns) provided by the hotel but I didn’t get very far and it didn’t seem right to take it with me. I wouldn’t have had time to read it much anyway as the time was so packed with places to see. I got to read more about the East India Company later in a hotel magazine in an article written by him.

The Red Fort that acted as barracks for the soldiers in Delhi has apparently been hollowed out by previous occupants so we saw the one in Agra which is amazing. More on that later as the next stop is Agra which is home of the Taj Mahal!

Best wishes

Angela

 

Parsis and Zoroastrians

This is a book I started reading in my hotel in Mumbai as there is a big population of them there and I was curious to find out more about them. As far as I know they don’t exists anywhere else in the world.

Freddie Mercury (Farrokh Balsara) was the most famous one as far as I can tell but I didn’t even know that myself until I had watched Bohemian Rhapsody which is an awesome movie. Zoroastrianism also turns up in Nietzsche as he wrote Thus spoke Zarathustra which is the name of their God. Although it’s a much changed version according to the book’s author which I’m afraid I don’t recall.

I had a spare day since Covid 19 had cancelled my city tour so I settled down to read through a photographic journey of the life of the author so far. The writer grew up in the Parsi culture in Bombay but was educated elsewhere so that is why they were able to explain in English so well a religion that is not well known in the rest of the world.

Parsis is the cultural name given to Zoroastrians to separate them from anyone else that was living in India. The Parsis are originally from Persia but left due to persecution from Islamic forces long ago. However, they were followed much later on so became very insular. Where as before they were at the forefront of business and became very rich a bit like the Jews of Europe .This fear and persecution has contributed to their downfall in the eyes of the author since they will soon no longer be numerous enough to be considered a community (30,000+). At this point (25,000) they will now be labelled a tribe. There is a very big emphasis on staying within your community and they will provide for you that’s why this downgrading of their status is such a big deal to them.

I was unable to get more than half way through the book as I had to leave the next day but the information about the lives of the children who were becoming priests was fascinating. It is part of the culture for at least one boy in the family to learn how to be a priest even if they subsequently decide that is not the field that they want to go into.

India – Taj Mahal at Agra

India – Agra

India – Delhi (part 1)

Best wishes

Angela

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.

Best wishes

Angela

Cathedral of the Sea on Netflix

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.

This is Greece on PBS with Michael Scott

I have been to Northern and Central Greece on a road trip and I have seen some of the magnificent treasures that are contained within. It’s fabulous that we can still look at all of this architectural, natural and archaeological evidence starting from the influential reign of Philip II. It was one of many crucial milestones in the formation of Greece which will be covered in this series of 5 programs. It’s power still resonates for all to see and will continue to echo through the ages for all to witness for eons to come I hope.

He first of all mentions the tomb of Philip II of Macedon as it is certainly a sight to behold. The museum contains the results of the excavations done on the site and the artefacts are astonishing in their brilliance. It is not much to look at from the outside but it is certainly worth taking your time to visit.

During the course of the shows he is visiting the historic sites of Northern Greece starting with Thesonlaniki and its White Tower. While it may seem odd to start a program with reference to a Tomb that isn’t actually in the second city; it is the man himself and that of his son Alexander the Great that exerts such a great influence on the development of Greek history that they have to be addressed first.

I have wanted to visit the city for a while due to its historical and cultural pedigree but I haven’t quite been able to manage it yet. It’s a considerable distance from where I usually am in Greece so it’s still on the waiting list. When I will be able to cross it off is still up for debate.

Phillipi is his next stop on his grand tour. This is a place I don’t recall ever hearing about and it’s a set of ruins. It has a Roman amphitheater and many buildings congregated in the shape of a town. As you may have guessed by its name, it was founded by Philip II. It was on the great Roman Road, the Villa Egnatia. As the program explains it was the first Christian colony due to the time the apostle Paul spent incarcerated there. This was because he disagreed with aspects of the Roman way of life as detailed in the Bible in Philippians.

Kavala (Neopolis or new city as it was known) is the port of Philippi and where we must journey next in our odyssey. We are using the Villa Egnatia here as our guide and here you can walk upon it like many others have done before you. Sights to check out are the Acropolis, 10th century castle and 16th century Turkish aqueduct. This was built in the Roman style by Sulliman the Byzantine ruler of the time and was in operation until 1911. The rest of the old town is worth your attention too since there has been a settlement on this site since the 7th century. Sounds like I’m gaining a lot more places to visit in Greece.

He next has a whistle-stop tour of places that were staging posts on the the villa Egnatia that were also used by St Paul.

This being an American program means it has a religious slant to it in addition to the historical context. Another guy annotates all of the religious parts leaving Michael, (who I believe to be English), free to present the historical parts.

You can’t really study the history of Greece without becoming well versed in the religious significance as well. This means the history of the Byzantine empire and Istanbul/Constantinople as well as that of Rome. Hence this can be a tad distracting trying to focus on so many disparate yet connected ideas and areas.

I have stayed in Rome and visited the Vatican but Istanbul remains to be explored.

His path down the east coast of Greece now incorporates Mount Olympus home of the Greek gods and adds in a visit to Meteora. Meteroa (the middle of the sky) and origin of the science that is meteorology(weather); is another famous destination containing a well known Christian monastery. This should be on all travellers bucket lists but I haven’t got there yet. It is another place that may take quite some time before I finally get round to visiting. Too many places and not enough time 😉

Although I have been to his final destination Delphi. Delphi was the home of the world renown Oracle. I have visited the temple to learn more about the history of the place as it is not too far away from the tomb I mentioned at the beginning of this article. The Nekromantium is also in the vicinity of these attractions and should be checked out to complete any excursion to this area.

Best wishes

Angela

Linguistic insights into the shared Greek and Russian cultures

Since I love both history and language I thought this video was both amazing in giving new insights and intriguing as it makes you want to learn more.

What a love for the Russian language can do for you.