India – Agra

These are some pictures of the mini Taj that we went to the day before we went to the Taj Mahal. We also had to go to a marble cutting workshop as that’s usually part of the deal when you go on guided tours as not all guides are the same. In fact none of them matched up to the one in Delhi in terms of knowledge.

It happens in Turkey and many other places around the world that part of your tour is here look at this stuff that we have for sale “and I will get commission if you buy”.

We also went to the Red Fort which was very expansive. He had 3 wives, one Christian, 1 Hindu and 1 Muslim as he didn’t want to show favouritism between religions.

If you want to look at the other posts in my India series see here:

India – Delhi (part 1)

India – Taj Mahal at Agra

Parsis and Zoroastrians

India – Taj Mahal at Agra

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.Taj Mahal after sunrise

Taj Mahal after sunrise
Taj Mahal
Before sunrise
Before sunrise
Taj in the sun
Taj in the sun

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.

Babies on Netflix

This is an in-depth look at the differences in children caused by parenting styles. It also seeks to find out about the social development of a child. It looks to see how responsive they are initially and incrementally.

In the first of 6 episodes they analyse oxytocin (the love hormone involved in bonding) counts in both mothers and fathers to see how it differs across pregnancy, child rearing, culture and whether the child has 2 dads, is a 3 parent family so 2 dads and the surrogate mum or a mum and a dad. Additionally they scan the brains of the adults participating to see the sizes of there hippocampus and whether there activated or not. This area is responsible for learning and is bigger in children with more distant parents leading to the refrigerator theory of the 1960s. This is not what causes autism and has since been disproved.

They also measure the cortisol (stress hormone) levels using the still face test. This is where the mum plays with and talks to the child, then sits back unresponsive to see how the child copes with this. The children notice immediately that something is different and then try to figure out what has caused. Eventually they all start crying and self soothe by putting there fingers in there mouths. When the parent returns to normal behaviour the children may over react initially but they gradually return to their happy selves.

I thought this may be the origins of thumb sucking, pacifiers/dummies, nail biting, over eating and smoking as this is all self soothing behaviour by sticking things in our mouths.

They go on to look at the other major aspects of a child’s life like food, crawling, first words, sleep which I thought they would have covered earlier and first steps.

I think this is going to be a fascinating series to watch regardless of whether you have children or not as we were all once children ourselves.

Athens by Dr Michael Scott on This is Greece

This is part 2 of a five part series on PBS. Part 1 is Northern and Central Greece, Part 3 The Peloponnesus, Part 4 is the Cyclades Islands and Part 5 is the The Dodecanese Islands .

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.

Best wishes

Angela

The Peloponnesus area of Greece by Dr Michael Scott on This is Greece

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.

To recap he first went to Northern and Central Greece which I wrote about in This is Greece on PBS with Michael Scott. In the second episode he goes to Athens itself. In this episode he goes to the Peloponnesus area that surrounds Athens. Afterwards visits the Cyclades Islands (Circular) in the Aegean and then finishes in the The Dodecanese Islands.

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.

Best wishes

Angela

Cyclades Islands by Dr Michael Scott on This is Greece

This is part 4 of the series with him previously visiting North and Central Greece before moving on to Athens, The Peloponnesus area, and now The Cycladic (Circular) Islands in the Aegean Sea.

The Cyclades encompasses sacred Delos which is the centre, Syros which houses the capital Ermoupoli, tourist hotspots like Naxos, Mykonos and Santorini for the magnificent sunset, historic Milos and Tinos, religious Paros and out of the way places like peaceful Folegandros and Sifnos known for its many churches.

Our guide for these islands are 2 different Greek ladies, Cassandra and Sylvia as tourism is more prevalent here than history. Santorini is well known for producing the best wines in the area due to its volcanic soil. I personally know this having attended a wine tasting involving their wines. I’ve probably written about this years ago too.

The famous Venus de Milo statue was found on Milos.

He visits Tinos to talk about the islands dedication to Poseidon and to see the many dovecotes on the island. There is also the famous church where pilgrims crawl on their knees from the port to the entrance which is 700 metres. This is an island that is part Catholic due to its Venetian heritage and part Greek Orthodox.

For the last episode he visits the The Dodecanese Islands or 12 islands.

Best wishes

Angela

The Dodecanese Islands by Dr Michael Scott on This is Greece

This is the final part of This is Greece with Dr Michael Scott having first visited Northern and Central Greece, Athens, The Peloponnesus area of Greece, and, Cyclades Islands.

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!

Best wishes

Angela

What does Greek have against punctuation?

This is a clip that a friend of mine posted online with Greek and English plus an auto translation below.

What confuses me the most when trying to figure out the Greek language is where do you take a breath? There are no commas, semi colons or full stops. There isn’t even any speech marks, exclamation marks or question marks!

The Greeks also have a love of sentences that start with And. I think this maybe because they are trying to artificially add in punctuation in newspaper articles. It’s very confusing trying to figure out which words belong in which sentence since they run on forever!

Spanish I think may have the opposite problem of using exclamation marks at the beginning as well as the end. Kind of like the Spanish themselves being very enthusiastic.

I haven’t learnt sufficient about other languages like Russian yet, to be able to comment properly; but from what I’ve seen far they don’t seem to have the same issues.

Do you have any issues like this in languages you have learnt?

Best wishes

Angela

The Gift on Netflix (18)

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.

Best wishes

Angela

Art Deco

This is a style of art from the 1930s that was again a reaction to the harshness of world war 1. It took its name from a exhibition that took place in Crystal Palace show casing all of the new items for sale. Art Decoratif in French or Art Deco as it came to be known in English. Wikipedia has a very good article on this so I don’t need to go into too much detail here but it was fascinating when I went in the Design Museum in Berlin to see object from this era on display. I also love it when I come across examples in painting, architecture or tile.

I really like this as it’s angular and embodies the principles of form and function without redundancies. There is not superfluous lines there just to make it look good. It is streamlined and efficient. It is also aesthetically pleasing.

It was taking place not long after the Bauhaus movement in Germany. It also influenced many of the Greek poets that I have previously written about since they lived in Europe at the same time. I have also written about Bauhaus along with Picasso impact on Cubism.

Which art movements have spoken to you over the years?

Best wishes

Angela

Picasso and Cubism

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.

Best wishes

Angela

The Rise of Empires – Ottoman on Netflix

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.

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

The Matrix

To start to live life you need to find out how to unplug yourself. This will be lonely and you will have to learn a whole new way of being but it will be worth it. The world outside the Matrix is a fabulous place. It is inhabited by children, autistics and other neuro diverse individuals, eccentrics, the enlightened who have emancipated themselves, self employed and digital nomads. These are spread throughout the world so although it seems like many, there are likely to be only a few near you. They are increasing though with the current attitudes towards climate change, vegetarianism, sexual and gender identity as well as dress and nationality.

If you need help and encouragement to understand this watch the first 3 parts of the Matrix and look forward to the next instalment coming next year. It will be interesting to see how the fact the Wachowskis are both now women alters the storyline. Along with the progress that has happened in technology in the past 20 years. I’m extremely excited to see what they come up with as it’s my favourite movie that I gain something new from each time I watch it.

Best wishes

Angela

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.

Best wishes

Angela

Chasing the sun and my heritage

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.

Best wishes

Angela

Can you forget your native language?

Can you lose your native language as an adult?

I’ve been fascinated by adults in Greece who can speak both Greek and English to native levels yet as they get older they stop being able to do both. This has perplexed me in the UK too with people who learnt languages fluently at a young age yet can no longer speak the language.

This isn’t just related to an average person though. If you look at Ricky Martin’s career he speaks with his native accent in Spanish and English but then he moved to the US and gets married to an American. His accent changes so drastically that he can’t even sing his own back catalogue properly anymore!

Luckily this change can be reversed as on his most recent song he is back to sounding how he used to when he was younger.

As the article above suggests it’s all to do with emotions. If you associate positive emotions with a language and a specific purpose then you are more likely to remember it. If however you try to use a language for another purpose like your native language for work purposes in an English speaking country your likely to fail. Too much mental control is required for this to occur.

Best wishes

Angela

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat

Just like my earlier post In praise of wine, it sometimes takes a novice to learn all the necessary requisite skills of an activity, to be able to explain them to others in an easily digestible manner.

She has a 4 part Netflix series which I watched over Christmas as it gave me insights into Mexican cuisines use limes and sour oranges (acid), The Japanese obsession with the sea (salt), The Italian love of dried meats (fat) and her own life as an American immigrant from Iran. (heat).

There is also a Blinkist book which I read this afternoon that gives some scientific explanation for the use of different elements in cooking. She explains why

  • Middle Eastern cooks love salt to an unhealthy degree (not just the climate),
  • why vegetarian cooking takes some re-education (fat is flavour),
  • why white wine or tomatoes are counted as a cooking acid where as lemon juice is a garnishing acid
  • and why we love crispy food (heat).

I have just received her cookbook in the post from Amazon and it’s a veritable textbook! It’s at least an inch thick so it’s certainly a distillation of all other knowledge that she has gained while working as a professional chef in America.

I like cookbooks that go into depth about the why things happen rather than just assuming you know all of the kitchen tricks already. When girls left school during my parents era they were given a book that detailed how to do all the different dishes that were commonly eaten them as well as advice about the ingredients. This was to back up the domestic science lessons that they had received. It helped them to run the household a lot smoother. While this was patriarchal, gender equality wasn’t present then. It did however allow women the skills to perform to the best of their ability.

I think we have lost something essential by stopping teaching cooking in schools. I don’t have the innate knowledge that has been passed down from generations or a handy cookbook to assist me to run my own life. I think it would benefit all students if they had such a book. Good mental health comes from good food and the knowledge that you can look after yourself on a budget. With this in mind I have decided to make this a part of a series on things that an autistic adult needs to survive in the world. When there mind is calm then they can contribute there brilliance to the world whatever it may be.

Best wishes

Angela

The Parthenon

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.

Do you have any wonders if the world near you?

Best wishes

Angela