A Travellerspoint blog

India - Northern Part

India, holy cow!

sunny 33 °C

India… Holy cow!

Where to start? India for me is rather indescribable… How do you describe a country where you go from smelling urine and (human) faeces to smelling the sweetest sandalwood incense, all within a span of 10 meters? How do you describe a country with extraordinarily beautiful temples and forts that are only a neighbourhood away from slums where people live in ramshackle tents? How do you describe a country where for the average tourist, the water can be source of extreme illness but where the food is so varied, tasty and delicious? How do you describe a country where there are some extremely beautiful people but also a high rate of deformities (particularly eyes and legs)? How do you describe a country where you can stay in a private room for anywhere between 3 and 600$ a night? How do you describe a country where cows are holy, but other animals that die in the middle of the street are not removed and left to rot?

For me, it is virtually impossible to describe the impressions I've been feeling. Really, to get an impression of India, more so than for any other place I have visited, you really have to visit it yourself.

So, unfortunately, there really isn't all that much of a way to avoid using the cliché of "India is a land of contrasts". It may be cliché, but it certainly is true!

I guess I could compare it to… Egypt. Many people I met on their first day in Delhi where overwhelmed. For me, after Cairo, it was not so much of a shock. Sure, it is poorer, it is overcrowded, polluted, chaotic, noisy… Just like Cairo. If anything, the traffic is way less chaotic in Delhi and Rajasthan than it is in Cairo… Though it moves slower.

(Usual disclaimer, I tend to post pictures of monuments and smiling people rather than slums and people in misery… Therefore don't assume that I'm giving a proper impression of India through my pictures… For something a little closer to reality, read the text, or better still, ask me questions!)

In a sense, I was lucky to have found the Mystique Moments hostel in Rani Bagh. Rani Bagh is close to the Kohat Enclave metro station and is an Indian neighbourhood with virtually no tourists. Sure, the hostel's dorm was rather "so-so" (and I was expecting to see mosquito nets, but haven't seen a single one in any of the places I have seen (finally did in Udaipur)), but Manu (Dr. C.M. Malik) was extremely helpful and insightful and loves to play travel agent, spending hours setting up my itinerary for Rajasthan without any cost, but simply because he wants his guests to have a good time. Anyhow, back to the neighbourhood. I will say that it was a posher than usual neighbourhood. By all standards it was the poorest neighbourhood I'd ever stayed in, but having seen other neighbourhoods from the subway (that is above ground in certain parts of the city), I realized that it was above average as neighbourhoods go.

As a whole, Delhi is overwhelming from the standpoint of pretty much everything, but underwhelming with respect to the things to see. There are some very nice temples, but the Red Fort ins't as impressive as pretty much every fort I've visited in Rajasthan. I do have a few more temples to check out that are supposed to be nice.

I had several first experiences in Delhi. My first hindu temple, for example. They welcome everyone in (which wasn't the case in islamic Cairo) and they have many shrines, all to the different hindu divinities, where you are supposed to give offerings to the divinity or divinities that you worship. It was quite interesting, really.

I also had my first cycle rickshaw experience. It was heading over to the Pitampura subway stop. Many indians don't speak English, so in many cases, negotiating for a cycle rickshaw is difficult, more so if you don't know the name of the neighbourhood you are staying in or a landmark nearby. Haggling is the order of the day. Though to be honest, I didn't accept the first price (100, for example) but didn't insist on the rate of 30 which would be a normal rate but accepted 50. The cycle rickshaw owners are so poor, many of which sleep on their rickshaws at night to make sure they don't get stolen. It isn't a particularly comfortable method of travel, but it is both economical and environmentally friendly.

The Delhi subway is way cleaner and modern than the one in Cairo. But this makes sense as it is only approx. 8 years old. What does take a lot of getting use to is the stares of the people. They will stare at you. They will also whip out their cameras or cell phones and take your picture or film you. Sometimes if they see you with a camera, they want you to take their picture (at no charge) or want your picture taken with them… I can only imagine how many Facebook profiles now have my picture next to a smiling Indian… Oh well!…

As a whole, the Indians seem to be fairly friendly and helpful. I made a point of traveling in local traditional clothes that are very discreet which is probably why I didn't get hassled much compared to some other stories I've been getting. There are scams though, as one of the residents of the hostel found out on his first day, getting his camera stolen by and Indian that "befriended" him.

So after a few days of rest in Delhi where a sore throat I'd had since Egypt developed into a full blown cold, I headed off to visit Rajasthan by car with a private driver.

Qutub Minar
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Lotus Temple
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Near India Gate
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Red Fort
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Bazaar and Red Fort
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Rajasthan - Jaipur

The first destination was Jaipur, the Pink City. It is referred to as the Pink City as the walls of the old city are painted pink and a wall surrounds the entire old city. The old city doors are still closed every evening. Rajasthan dress differs from Delhi dress in that it is more colourful (for the women) and also, many of the men sport nice long curled moustaches. In certain areas, turbans are also "de rigueur".

On the first afternoon there, I got to visit the Laxmi Narayan temple which was beautiful and ornate. Lovely detail work!

I visited the Amber (pronounced Amer) fort in the morning with a ride up to the fort on the back of an elephant. It was on a sort of platform and with my legs to the left of the elephant. It wasn't a particularly comfortable ride, but it was an interesting experience. Amber fort is magnificent and is the nicest fort I've seen so far in India. There are several sections that are open that most of the visitors don't find, so you can walk around the fort for 15-30 minutes without seeing anyone. It is a great feeling and I can only imagine that it would be the perfect place to play hide-and-seek as a kid.

In the evening, I visited Chowky Dhany, a sort of carnival representative of traditional Rajasthan, where I had a wonderful thali followed by the opportunity to watch dances, magic shows and puppet shows.

Rajasthan being a desert state, fresh vegetables are rarer, so a lot of the dishes contains less vegetables, more cheese curds and meats (though I'm visiting India as a vegetarian… I can't think of a better place to go "vegetarian") and the food is invariably very spicy/hot. I had a really good thali, which is typically rice or bread accompanied with several small dishes containing, for example, a salad, a pannier (cottage cheese) dish, dal (lentils), raita (a yoghurt-vegetable mix that is cooling after the spices of the other dishes) and a sweet. One place had 12 different little dishes. They tend to be fairly reasonable price wise, with the prices between 85 and 120 rupees (2-3 dollars).

My driver was unhappy with me because I didn't buy anything at the carpet - sheet place he took me to and was asked not to go to anymore of those types of shops. Apparently the drivers get a 40% commission on the sales that these shops make (basically, you pay 40% more so that the driver gets his cut). Also, I commented to the driver that the meal places he would stop at on the way were too expensive. Food outside of Delhi (and Mumbai etc…) is supposed to be quite a bit cheaper and my experience in Jaipur and Jodhpur was that food was about 40% cheaper than in Delhi, so why is it that the places he would take me to, without being better, were about 30% more expensive than Delhi? It turns out that the drivers either get a commission or a free meal or both when he takes his passengers to one of those restaurants… Anyhow, I've now been eating light lunches (or snacking on a bag of chips) and heavier suppers as I don't really approve of the commission system. Anyhow… So now I'm stuck with a slightly rude driver… Oh well!

The roads here are entertaining in the sense that there are cows on the highways, there are people on the roofs of buses and the driver slows the car every time there is a pot hole. Admittedly some of them are pretty bad, but the main problem is that they drive the tires till they are completely worn here which explains why the potholes end up being dangerous as many of the tires end up tearing.

Laxmi Narayan Temple:
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Hawa Mahal:
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Amber Fort:
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Jaipur City Palace:
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Observatory:
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Me having a thali at Chowky Dhany village:
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Jodhpur

Jodhpur, the Blue City, called the Blue City because of the blue walls and roofs of the houses of the people of the Brahmin (religious) caste. Today anyone can paint their walls or roofs blue and it is amusing to see these groupings of blue houses in the city. The fort over the city was very impressive like the Amber fort in Jaipur. In Jodhpur, it was a specific tour where you had to follow arrows and couldn't "get lost" intentionally, unlike in Jaipur. From the outside, though, it was also magnificent. For me, the best part of the stay in Jodhpur was my first quiet evening on the (blue) roof of the Amar Niwas Guesthouse, which had rooms for 3$ a night (cheapest place so far in my travels). The view from the roof was nice, it was in the old city and was very quiet. It was my first truly relaxing outdoor moment since I arrived in India.

Mehrangarh Fort:
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Jaswant Thada:
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Blue roofs of Jodhpur:
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Ranakpur

Following Jodhpur, was a visit to Ranakpur (the road between the two was pretty bad) to visit one of the largest Jain temples in the world. It has 500 pillars all of which are different. An interesting temple, you are not allowed to enter with any leather articles. A tour was given by the high priest. A group of Indian men wanted me to take their pictures. My understanding (as they didn't speak English) was that they were from another part of India and were visiting the temple. So I took their picture… Not sure what I will do with it other than post it here?

Jain Temple in Ranakpur:
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Udaipur

The road from Ranakpur to Udaipur was also very relaxing. It was in a hilly and green area with lots of rural farming. Lots of very colourful saris and lots of nice bright red turbans and long moustaches. At Udaipur, I was staying at the Lake Shore Hotel which is a hostel on Lake Pichola, an old artificial lake that is really beautiful. The area as a whole (including the old city) is the most relaxing place I've found yet in India, such that I decided to stay an extra day to relax, ie, three nights. The city palace and local temple are very humdrum compared to those of Jaipur and Jodhpur, but it is a very romantic place with beautiful ghats surrounding the lake.

Following Udaipur, was a quick stop in Chittorgarh where there is a nice fort and temple complex. I got to take some good pictures of monkeys that were roaming around. They could also be spotted running and jumping along the rooftops in Jaipur but I wasn't able to take any pictures of them there.

Lake Pichola and the Palace, Udaipur
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Cenotaph, Udaipur
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Lake Pichola and the Palace, Udaipur
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Chittorgarh

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Pushkar

On to Pushkar where I was able to negotiate a reasonable rate for my first ever camel ride. Riding a camel is an interesting feeling. You are perched way higher up than on a horse and the walking and trotting (I found the trotting more comfortable) of the camel has a different feel. The fun part is when a camel either stands up or sits down. Hold on! (and don't forget to lean backwards unless you want to tumble forward…). The area I was riding in, when not during monsoon, is a desert. Got to see a wonderful sunset! On the way back, I had a discussion with the camel driver (or however he should be called). He mentioned that he wasn't married but that he was getting several offers of dowries, but that he wanted more money of his own before getting married (he was 25). He'd also been told by his parents that they couldn't afford to keep in him school and that he needed to get a job after only 5 years of schooling and had been working ever since. His younger siblings were currently in school, though. What bothered me immensely, is that the tour is organized by the owner of the camels who takes 500 rupees (11$) or so for 2 hours (I paid 400 for 3) yet pays the camel driver that actually does the work 1800 rupees a month (40$). So basically, he makes 60 rupees a day (1.40$), can be called at anytime of the day by his employer to make tours and doesn't get any days off or vacation and can be sent on 12 day treks across the desert. There is such a wealth pyramid in who gets the money, such that the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor. On the bright side, he makes 3 times more than 40% (or was it 20%?) of the population (imagine living on 45 cents a day…). Anyhow, I gave him the difference between what I'd manage to negotiate and the going rate as at least that way, the person doing the work got some money…

Camel ride near the desert:
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Agra

After Pushkar I left Rajasthan for Uttar Pradesh and the city of Agra. A quick stop at the Fatekpur Sikri (?) to see an old abandoned yet beautiful city ended up being a big pain as the hawkers and touts there were very aggressive. I guess part of the problem is that culturally, when you bargain, walking away is seen as a tool of negotiation, and they don't seem to know that as a foreigner, typically, when you say you aren't interested, you aren't interested, so they try and try and try and try… This was the first day that the hawkers and touts really really got on my nerves! But then, being close to Agra, Fatekpur Sikri gets buses of tourists that get the site added to the Taj Mahal, so there are lots of "targets" for the hawkers, and they're only trying to make a living. It is just a pain that they don't understand when a client really isn't interested and will follow you over a distance of 500m trying to sell you stuff you don't want.

After that, to the hotel in Agra to get ready for a sunrise visit of the Taj Mahal. So… How is the Taj Mahal? Well, some say it is the most beautiful building in the world. I don't really have an opinion on that, but I can certainly say that it is the nicest looking burial memorial I have ever seen. The detailed marble work, the colourful inset stones… It really is a wonderful place and it is relaxing, though once again, Agra is infested with touts and there are some "helpful" people that suggest places from which you can get "a better photo" and then expect some form of reward… But it certainly is worth the trip. I was also supposed to see the Agra fort, but by then, I was "forted out" as I had reached a certain level of saturation. You can only see so many forts and temples before they all sort of blend into one another… No surprise then that my favourite fort was the first I saw (though objectively, it is considered one of the better ones), Amber fort of Jaipur, and one of my favourite temples was also in Jaipur, the Laxmi Narayan temple.

And… back to Delhi and the comforts of Mystic Moments bed and breakfast and the familiar Rani Bagh neighbourhood! So nice not to get stared at and not to be targeted by hawkers and touts!

Fatehpur Sikri:
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Taj Mahal:
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Varanasi

I got to Varanasi by flying with a low cost airline called Spice Jet. Varanasi is one of the holy city for the hindus. It is mostly seen as the best place to die and therefore many elderly and sick move to Varanasi and wait to die. It is considered auspicious to die here as it is said that it reduces the chances of coming back for another life (reincarnation) and increases the chances for self-realization. Varanasi is famous for its ghats where people bath and even drink the (highly polluted, mostly with faecal coliforms…) water from the Ganges. There are also the burning ghats where the dead get cremated before being placed (sometimes not completely cremated) into the Ganges.

Upon arriving there, I got my first very long auto-rickshaw ride where I got to filter about a pound of dust and dirt through my lungs… Really, if you come to India, bring breathing masks… :-) Anyhow, arriving late in the day, I decided to find the ghats, which I'd been inspired to visit from the time that I saw the movie Barraka (1992). I got lost in the dark alleys and ended up taking about 45 minutes of walking in dark (smelly) and dotted with cow patties alleys before finding a burning ghat that was really only 5 minutes from the hostel. Around the ghats, there are many "priests" that offer to let you get into a building for a better view in exchange for a "contribution". There are also "university students" that only want to talk to you to improve their English and offer to explain the ceremony, except when it is time to leave, they want you to visit their shop… Sigh!… Anyhow, it was eery and fascinating to see a cremation at the burning ghat in the darkness, surrounded by people, the sound of the Ganges, the boats on the Ganges and the smell of… um… burning.

I spent the next day zoning out in the various ghats. That evening, I went to watch the Ganga Aarti, a celebration with fire and dance in the main ghat. Next morning was a boat ride to see the ghats from the water, with people bathing and drinking the waters of the Ganges. All in all, I found Varanasi rather disappointing compared to other destinations, such that I decided to leave early and visit Sarnath, the place where Buddha gave his first speech. It was a peaceful place, though the auto-rickshaw driver wanted to make the ride appear long (from Sarnath to the airport) such that I would pay him more… He was saying that there was 20 minutes of ride left when I'd just seen a road sign saying the airport was 5 kilometres away. I mentioned this and he sped up and sure enough we were there a few minutes later… Honesty is not the strong point of rickshaw and taxi drivers in India...

Ghats and around Varanasi:
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Sarnath where Buddha gave his first speech:
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Rishikesh

Rishikesh… I decided to visit Rishikesh as it is considered the world capitol of yoga. It is also where the guru of the person who founded the yoga organization I go to founded his ashram and where they met. The trip to Rishikesh was my first opportunity to take a train in India. I chose an easy class, AC Chair class where you get reserved seats that are fairly comfortable and where food is sold at non-tourist prices. Like a 30 cent pizza that was decent. I realized about an hour into the 4 hour or so trip that they didn't announce stops. Apparently, you look out the winder to see where you are and that is when you get out. That is all fine, except after sunset with the train station unlit, you don't see the signs… Anyhow, I somehow managed to get off the train, then tried to take a bus. The buses don't follow a specific schedule. When the bus from Delhi gets there, it then continues on to Rishikesh, whenever that is. I waited for a while and then figured out that it would be easier to take an auto-rickshaw. I negotiated a good price, but the driver kept stopping and talking to other people. It turns out that he accepted my fare without ever having the intention of taking me to Rishikesh as the road had flooded and he couldn't make it. He was hoping to pass me on to somebody else and make a commission. I told him rather sternly to take me back to the train station. On the way, he kept stopping to ask others to take me, so I got out and walked off… I ended up taking the bus. For the whole 40 minute trip (as I inhaled another pound of dust) a half dozen guys at the back of the bus were singing. It was quite fun, really. Then arriving into Rishikesh, I got a rickshaw, but the crook took me to the wrong bridge, such that I had to call the hotel to find out how to get there and walk 3 kilometres in the dark withoutany street lights, but dogs, cows, monkeys and people sleeping along it. I'm quite happy that my "cheap" Egyptian cell phone has a built in flashlight!

Rishikesh is nice and at the foot of the Himalayas, though you can't really see them from here (as it is surrounded by green hills with the Ganges flowing through it). It is a peaceful place, by Indian standards. I visited the Sivananda ashram and then walked to a waterfall but got lost on the way… This morning for breakfast, I had a yak cheese sandwich in a German bakery… It was nice to go to (sort of) western food (the bread, at least) for a change.

Butterflies, butterflies, butterflies… For a country with such awful air quality and pollution, I am constantly amazed at the number of butterflies. I've seen them nearly everywhere on the roads between cities and so many of them in Rishikesh. I haven't seen any in Delhi, though, but perhaps I wasn't looking for them or I was scratching dust out of my eyes as they flew by… :-)

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Posted by CVMB2010 22:10 Archived in India Comments (0)

Egypt... Cairo, Sharm-el-Sheikh, Cairo

Culture shock! To put it mildly...

sunny 39 °C

Cairo

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The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Egypt is part of the first dialogue between Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly in the movie Blood Diamond:

...
Connelly: Unless… their smuggler gets caught…
DiCaprio: Well, what do you want from me? Hunh?
Connelly: You know all about Van de Kamp. Help me out. Off the record…
DiCaprio: Well off the record I like to get kissed before I get f*****, huhn!

That last line sums up my initial feeling about Egypt. Of course, that is a very limited view and a certain amount of insight (some of which was borrowed) has somewhat changed my initial feeling, though the feeling still remains quite strong.

Also note that your mileage may vary. I visited Egypt on a tight budget by some standards, staying in a youth hostel/very cheap hotel (cockroaches included - oops! I meant to say breakfast included… Oh well, both were, though fortunately, separately ;-), traveling by public transportation (the subway system has cars for women only!) and mostly walking from site to site when possible - some walks over two hours in 38-39C temperature (summer!), car pollution etc. Rather than an a pre-planned package trip, this was a piecemeal construct. No five, four or three star hotel for me! It meant taking the subway to Old Cairo. It meant taking a taxi to Cairo Tower. It meant walking to the Salah ad-Din (Saladin) Citadel. It also meant eating in the shops or restaurants used by Cairenes. (though ultimately, as usual with me, the food aspect ended up being rather enjoyable ;-)

So for a change, rather than indicating what I did in Egypt, let's start with what I didn't like about it… (Don't worry, the post does not remain negative, I just want to get this out of the way and not rehash it in the description of my days…)

Cairo is… dirty (there is something you want to throw out? Simply drop it on the ground, or better yet, into the Nile), polluted, overcrowded, excessively chaotic and seems to have a lot of "chacun pour soi" (everyone for himself). First impression, for example, is that nobody respects the lines on the road. This is not just an impression, this is fact. But the reason behind it is that Cairo with nearly 20 million people and nearly half as many cars is just too overcrowded for its road, so people drive where… they fit! So if you can fit 5 car widths in three lanes, then that is what happens. The astounding thing is the dexterity with which Cairenes manage to avoid hitting each other most of the time.

This also applies with the traffic in the city and pedestrians. Typically, the drivers don't respect the red and green lights at all which is why most intersections in the downtown core have police officers doing the traffic (and they are only slightly more respected than the traffic lights and lanes on the road). Crossing at an intersection or jaywalking brings back to mind a wonderful computer game dating back to the mid 80's. Frogger. Except in the bonus "Cairo" level of Frogger, the cars will also change lanes while you try to dodge them. I hear this is sort of what it is like in Bangkok. I look forward to comparing the experiences!

And… the haggling or systematic institutionalized tourist price gauging. Sigh! Ok, basically, I suck at haggling, so no big surprise that mostly always ending up on the loosing side of a transaction might leave me slightly bitter. The only time I did really well, lowering the price by a factor of 12 was when a guy tried to sell me papyrus that I didn't really want. It could be seen that he still won with me buying them when I don't really know what to do with them (ie, how to send them to Canada…), though ultimately, he didn't seem thrilled with the way the deal went. So if the secret to haggling is not caring about getting the object, that is a problem for me, because I usually only approach a vendor when it is something that I need or really want. Ok, ok… So are they really out to fleece all tourists? Partially, yes. But then put into perspective the unofficial unemployment rate of 40%, the fact that the average income is 70$ a month when the cost of living in Cairo is closer to 150$ a month. Can you really blame them? So a wealthy tourist who pays 21.50$ for 5 papyrus on his one week all inclusive trip where he is spending a couple of 1000s probably isn't suffering all that much and that money will go a long way to make a Cairene's month better. On the other hand, when you are traveling on a budget, paying 1.80$ for the same 5 is a better deal… And I'm assuming that he still made some money, or else he could have simply walked away…

And the taxi drivers… I won't even start. That being said, I intend to read a book about the plight of being a taxi driver in Cairo before expressing an opinion.

So was the experience entirely negative? Certainly not! On my first night in Cairo, I got invited to iftar, the evening breaking of fast during Ramadan (for free) by the staff of the hostel. I then got to meet some great people that eased me into the whole Egyptian experience (many thanks to Alison, Harry, Tharwat and Mahmoud "Steven"!).

Guess what time it is based on this picture of a Cairo subway station?
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Iftar! (breaking of the fast during Ramadan... They are all home eating!)

So what did I do? Visit the pyramids and Dashur, Saqqara and Giza (Giza is impressive, but the touts are irritating! But once again, they are just trying to make a living and like spam, if only one person in 500 accepts their offers, they've done well! My first reaction was to the trip to Dashur (admittedly I splurged the first day with a private driver as to visit all three sites is impossible by public transportation and a taxi would have cost the same but without giving me insight on the historical facts from a tour guide) where we drove in a serious traffic jam (including smog) then through the farm land where, I have to admit, I saw the poorest people I've ever seen. It was a big eye opener and I was so shocked I couldn't bring out my camera… Then, I fell in love with the date trees (it always comes back to food with me, apparently…)… So many of them and it was date season! Some of the beautiful mansions by the side of the street apparently belong to farmers, so some are doing better than others.

I also got to spot some "carpet schools" and had a discussion with Yasser, my tour guide for the day. From his perspective, carpet schools, where young girls start to work (at an age between 12 and 14 - child labour!) is a good thing, as when the girl gets a bit older, she shouldn't be walking around, but rather stay at home until she gets a husband - and make some income at the same time. Hmm… Suffice it to say, I'm a guest in the country, so I felt it better to just acquire the information, rather than pass an opinion on it…

In Dashur, I was able to enter the Red Pyramid. You basically crawl (I'm tall, the tunnel is not! Plus I foolishly didn't trust my driver with my 20lbs pack sack so carried it in with me… The crouch walk used mostly unused muscles in my legs which ached for the next three days) down a 60m tunnel into what appears to be the dark. At the bottom, three empty chambers, but two of which have a corbel-vaulted ceiling. It was nice to be there, as I was in the pyramid alone. On the plus side, great place to be if World War 3 starts (from a protection perspective), but not that great otherwise. Huge pyramid - small rooms. I can understand people thinking that there are still rooms to be found as really, all of that work (220 meter base and 104 meter height) for an inner space smaller than my flat!

Upon exiting, a moment of disorientation. But oddly, it was nice and cool outside in the sun at 39C vs whatever the temperature was inside the pyramid.

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Then off to Saqqara. Nice stepped-pyramid, though being renovated at this point. Got to enter the Titi pyramid which had a thankfully shorter tunnel (10 meters or so) and had ornate walls on the inside. There also, nice to be alone with the ghost of Titi and her husband!

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Then got the mandatory stop in a Papyrus shop. Ok, so some of them were really beautiful. I got a demonstration on how they were done, then a guide to explain the story behind the pictograms. But the prices… Anywhere from 30$ for an A3 sized one up to 1500$ for an A1 sized one. Um… As mentioned early, I got five A3 sized ones for about 1.80$… My driver seemed unhappy that I didn't buy any as he would probably have obtained some for of kickback… This is how Egypt works… Everybody get's his cut (I use "his" intentionally here…)!

Then off to Giza. My driver suggested a camel ride as this would avoid the "dangerous" touts. Um, no thanks! I walked around and was fine, though I was approached by several touts, including those that try to hand you something for "free" and then end up wanting money for it. They redefine the term free! :-)

After that, a few picture opportunities behind the pyramids and back to Cairo. It is really funny how the demarcation between the deserts, both east and west and the green of Cairo is so small. You go from lush green to nothing over a distance of a meter.

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The next day, I visited the Egyptian Museum. Somehow, it strikes me odd to see all of the artefacts in the museum rather than in the pyramids or their original location. But then I guess it would be hard to organize proper security in the pyramids not to mention, it wouldn't leave much space to fit cohorts of tourists… Yes, the museum is nice, but Egypt never was my favourite part of history class, though some small obsidian pyramids didn't leave me cold. BTW, if ever any of you want to visit the Egyptian Museum, please note that cameras aren't allowed (you have to give them to the reception) and it isn't air conditioned (therefore, early in the day is best) though they do air condition the Treasury room and the Tutankhamun room on the second floor.

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Next day, I started by visiting Old Cairo or Coptic Cairo. I saw what I considered the first beauty of my trip to Egypt, beauty which I found at the Hanging Church. Funny that I'd be struck by its beauty like that. When I arrived at the church, a service was in progress and people were getting communion. They gave out big pieces of bread. One lady, upon exiting the church noticed me, split her communion bread in two and gave me half. So nice!

I wandered around more of Coptic Cairo which has several other beautiful churches. What is striking, though, is that on the other side of the train tracks, it is a slum...

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I then had an evening cruise on the Nile. Sat next to 5 iraqi engineers. They were rather funny as they spent more time trying to take pictures of all of the guests than doing anything else. I assumed that they would only take pictures of the women (and they did a lot of that - not all that much revealing clothing in Iraq?) but they also took lots of pictures of the men, me included, which felt odd, but anyhow. As the evening progressed, what started out rather lame got better…

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The day after that, I tried my first meal in a standard Egyptian restaurant called Gad. It was fairly close to the hotel which was convenient, but upon getting there, I noticed that the menus, posted up on the wall, were exclusively in arabic… The cooks worked behind panels so there was nothing to point to… Sigh… Went to the cash, asked for Falafel (as I knew they had it) and then presented the tickets to the cook. Unfortunately, falafels in Egypt have sesame seeds on the outside of them… 1.25 EGP or 22 cents.

I wandered around, and made it to the Cairo Tower. Nice view on Cairo, and found my first really moment of peace in Cairo. It was quiet up there with few people and the view onto the Nile was beautiful!

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The next day, I started my day by having my second meal, and it was foul. (pun intended) I would describe "foul" as a tomatoless chili that is put in a pita bread. Excellent! And at a very reasonable price of 18 cents.

Then I decided I would walk to the souk. Wow! The crowds and piles of useless (to me) stuff. But then I'm not in the market for anything! Then, I walked to the Salah ad-Din citadel (I wouldn't recommend walking from one to the other as it is a long walk… At least I wouldn't recommend it in the Summer because of the heat!) And make sure you have a good map or even better, an iPhone with GPS having preloaded the map! The Citadel was very nice and I got to experience my first Egyptian official asking for a bribe. And here I would have thought the "tourism police" would be there to protect tourists… Oh, naive me! Nice place, the Citadel, though not sure it is worth its entrance fee!

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Second truly Egyptian meal at Felfela with Koshary Top Foil. Basically, it is a bed of pasta covered by a layer of rice-lentil-fried onions, covered by a layer of tasty tomato sauce covered by yet another layer of fried (hard) onions. It was really good, for 4.25EGP or 80 cents and it was more than enough as a meal!

Then… Off to Sharm!

Hmm… Sharm. I made a strategical mistake. I accepted Tharwat's offer for organizing an apartment for me in Sharm. There was nothing wrong with either the price of the quality of the apartment, just that I tend to like things more central and really, without taking a micro-bus, you can't really walk anywhere… But then Sharm is very spread out and is basically a jungle of hotels… I don't have much to say about Sharm, other than not really liking it (seems to be a common theme for Egypt, but I guess I can't like every place on Earth…), but then on the positive side, a great restaurant and the Old Market (Fares - try the seafood soup, the mixed shrimp platter and also their mezes are good…

Second mistake - not reserving my tours before arriving (though it might not have been easy and would have cost more, as Tharwat's influence managed to not only get me reduced room rates, but also reduced activity rates… Thanks Tharwat!!) but the problem was that I wanted to both dive and climb Mount Sinai (referred to as Mount Moses here). Anyhow, the restrictions between diving and altitude made it such that it was impractical for me to dive, so I chose Mt-Sinai and then snorkelling the next day.

I also got to swim a little on my first day in the public beach at Naa-ma beach. First time I'd found healthy plentiful coral within 40 meters of shore, teaming with fish including lion fish and stone fish (watch your step!)

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Mount-Sinai… Imagine taking a small van-bus at 11 pm and driving for 2.5 hours in the desert, with nothing but the stars (with little light pollution, so the stars were very clear and plentiful), the outline of hills and mountains and Egyptian music to keep you awake. So around 2am (after the mandatory stop in a souvenir shop…) we start the climb following our bedouin guide, Mustafa up the path in the dark using flashlights. Six km up (and later 6 km down), plus the goal of arriving there before sunrise. It was quite a climb, quite an adventure! I rate it easier than the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in NZ, but the challenge for me is the physical exertion when in really, I should be sleeping. I also kept wondering why I was hungry as I had a plentiful supper. But then realized that was many hours ago! Anyhow, just a little before the top, before sunrise, a bit of ambient light appears and the mountain looks magical like something out of a movie. Made it just in time, rushing up the last 750 steps. Elation!

And then the climb down… It is even more beautiful in the day when we could see where we were going. The only irritation was the constant (on the way up and down) "Camel?!?" "Camel?!?" "Do you want a camel?!?" "Camel, good price!"… Every 30 meters… Hey, this is Egypt! ;-) On the way down, a quick visit to St-Katharine's monastery.

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The next day, I went snorkelling to the Tiran islands. Beautiful healthy coral full of fish. It was exquisite, and with so much of it close to the surface, snorkelling was more than good enough! A nice quiet relaxing day on the slowest boat I've ever been on. Sigh! Finally found a reason to return to Egypt, and Sharm no less… The Red Sea!

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Posted by CVMB2010 02:44 Archived in Egypt Tagged sea egypt red giza pyramids snorkeling saqqara dashur sharm-el-sheikh mount-sinai mount-moses st-katharine Comments (0)

Istanbul

"If the world were a country, Istanbul would be its capitol" - Napoleon

sunny 33 °C

"If the world were one country, Istanbul would be its capitol" - Napoleon

Istanbul… Where do I start? Perhaps by a summary? Lively, vibrant, exotic, chaotic and noisy… *

Ok, before I start, I'd like to thank Ishwari for providing me a great list of things to see and do in Istanbul, as well as information to help me navigate my first few days in Istanbul. Thank you Ishwari!!

  • I apologize in advance for any errors that may appear in my text or impressions that may not entirely reflect reality, but this is how I perceived this experience. :-)

2010-08-25

Arrival… After an uneventful flight with Turkish Airlines, except for developing a new addiction (sour-cherry juice…), I arrived mid-afternoon in Turkey. Oh, uneventful, but the Australian National Basketball team (the Boomers) was on the flight as the 2010 basketball championship is in Istanbul. Anyhow, after getting through the customs (note to self - take Swiss passport next time to avoid the 60$ visa fee for Canadians…), I took a bus to Taksim square close to my youth hostel (Arch-Ist). The first thing that struck me was the line of tankers and cargo ships waiting to cross the Bosphorus. Secondly, I was struck by the heat. It's hot! (not that I'm complaining…)

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After dropping stuff off in my hostel, I headed to Istiklal Caddesi which is a pedestrian street that is perpetually crowded. I was on it at odd hours between 7am and 4am and within that 21 hour span, it was always crowded and lively. Lots of shops and little covered alleyways that lead away from it. On it you find various palatial consulates (Holland, Russia and Sweden, for example), restaurants, stores and a tram. I grabbed a beer and some chips (fries) and then headed back to the hostel.

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2010-08-26

This morning was the first time I stepped foot in Asia. Ishwari offered to show me the Prince's Islands as well as part of the asian side of Istanbul, so I was to meet her in Kadiköy by taking a Dolmus across the bridge joining Europe to Asia. Dolmus in turkish means "full" or "stuffed". Well, these are sort of like taxis that do defined routes and people hop into them. They have about 8 places and as soon as they are full, they leave for the destination. You then pay the driver the fare. If you are sitting in the middle row, it is common for the people in the rear rows to hand you money to hand to the driver, and then you pass the change back. On the hot days, the side door (it sort of a van) is sometimes left open for cooling and there are no seats belts available. :-) Fun! So on my Dolmus, I headed off to the asian side and met up with Ishwari.

We then took a ferry to the largest of the Prince's Islands, Büyükada where we met one of her friends. On Büyükada, there are no cars, so if you want to get somewhere on the island and don't want to walk, you get to take horse drawn carriages. There is a carriage "terminal" close to the port and you get to queue to take one. The honking and car pollution is replaced by the quiet trotting of the horses, the creaking of the cart and the, um, aroma of the horses. That being said, it is a pleasant way to travel and sure beats a long climb on a hot day (and it was hot!). Some of the houses on the island are quite old and are lovely mansions. We headed up to the top of the island to see a small orthodox church (Aya Yorgi) and then walked back to the centre of town under high heat (perfect training for the Egyptian part of my trip).

From there, we took a ferry back to the asian side for a late lunch at the restaurant Sahan. I got to try a few local specialties: the lahmacun (sort of a pizza with minced meats, typically beef and lamb sprinkled with lemon juice that you roll around lettuce and onions - really good). [I figured that this trip was a bad time to try being vegetarian (except in India); I'm planning on trying that back home in January…] and an yoghurt kebab. For dessert I had Fistikli Tel Kadayif which is a form of vermicelli pastry (sort of like shredded filo) with pistachios in it and soaked in sweet syrup (really nice! Not particularly light, though…).

After that, it was time to go our separate ways and I took a ferry across to Kabatas and a funicular back up to Taksim… and made roesti for supper in the hostel from a pack I'd brought from Switzerland.

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2010-08-27

Sultanahmet… On the 27th, I visited several of the main sights in the older part of Istanbul. In particular the Galata Tower, a medieval tower dating back to the 14th century that provides a wonderful panorama of Istanbul.

Galata Tower:
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Galata Bridge:
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Topkapi Palace with the Prince's Islands in the background:
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Blue Mosque:
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Hagia Sophia
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After that, I headed to Sultanahmet to visit the Blue Mosque (more impressive from the outside than the inside) that dates back to the 1600s and can house 10000 worshippers. Honestly, other than the nice tiling inside, I found it a little hum drum. But it might be cultural and I might simply not be sensitive to that type of beauty. That being said, the blue tiling on the inside was rather nice, but the smell of feet (as all visitors had to remove their shoes) was rather pervasive. A guy was walking around spraying deodorant against the walls!

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I then visited Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) which was the world's largest cathedral from 360 till 1453 (an orthodox patriarchal basilica, to be precise) - at which point it became a mosque when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks is a beautiful building that has been a museum since 1935 when the state secularized it. It has many relics of both christian and muslim origin.

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I then visited the Basilica's cistern that was used to store water for the basilica and Sultanahmet. It was eerily beautiful and calm (and cool for a change) with fish currently in the reservoir and two medusa head columns of which one is upside down - nobody knows why for sure.

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I then headed off to the Grand Bazaar where I did not exercise my haggling skills as there was nothing there that interested me (buying stuff when you are limited to 20kg of luggage is impractical to say the least!)

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After this rather full day, I headed back to the hostel for a blissful yoga session which provided me with enough energy to join the hostel pub crawl (though it was mostly clubs - the first one was on a roof) till 4am. The pub/club/night scene in Istanbul is very lively and at 3-4 in the morning there are still plenty of people out there partying the night away on and around Istiklal Caddesi. The last club we were at had a live band that was very good.

My head hit the pillow at 4:36 and nine minutes later at 4:45, I heard the muslim call to prayer and contemplated the fact that people were waking up as I was going to bed.

2010-08-28

After a long 2 hours of sleep (what can I say, I wake up with the sun), I decided for a more relaxed day, had a breakfast of börek (filo pastry filled with cheese) and simply went to the Spice Market (nicer than the Grand Bazaar in my opinion - or perhaps it is just my interest in food that is manifesting itself) but ended up in the "animal market" where a variety of pets (I hope they were destined as pets as I am referring to cats and dogs), rabbits, birds and even leeches were for sale. I had been expecting to see the nicely shaped stacks of spices and I saw nicely shaped stacks of cat food, dog food and bird feed. I finally found the Spice Market and it was nice.

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I then headed off to Topkapi palace which was the residence of the sultans from 1465 till 1856. It is very interesting with nice architecture and is very big (housing up to 4000 people at one point). Of course, having been brought up in the a western country, my history of the life of sultans is sadly missing so a lot of it was lost on me - I should have taken a guided tour. But it was a nice and opulent palace.

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That evening, I went to see the Whirling Dervish ritual which was fascinating. The order of the Mevlevi was founded in memory of the poet Rumi and the Sema ceremony has four parts, the third of which is when the dervishes will spin upon themselves like it is said Rumi did when he heard, within the sounds of gold being beaten "la elaha ella'llah" (there is none worthy of worship but God). It was held in a former hamman. I then returned to the hostel and chatted with other hostel guests from Ireland and France till a little past midnight.

2010-08-29

Late start to the day, headed for a quick neighbourhood tour then off to a hamman. That was quite an experience. You change into a towel that you wrap around your waist. Your are then led into a room where you wash yourself and then lie down onto a large marble slab in the middle of the room. The room itself is probably around 45C and the slab is hotter still. The purpose of lying on the slab is to heat you up and open up your pores properly as you have to sweat quite a lot. 20 minutes later, your masseur enters and starts by rubbing you down with a hoarse wash-cloth which will literally strip layers of dead skin off. After that, you return to the slab and the masseur will then cover you in soap suds and then the torture starts… Imagine a sumo wrestler in a bad mood giving you a thai massage and you'll get a bit of an idea of the experience (except the guy wasn't in a bad mood and would even sing at times…). For the most part, the massage was good, but he insisted too much on two knots in my calves such that two days later, they still hurt. After that, rinse off profusely, cool off and then it is over.

On the positive side, lying in the beautiful room on the slab with the sound of running water is extremely relaxing and upon exiting the hamman you feel very clean and the sweltering heat outside actually feels cool after a half hour on the slab. Would do it again for sure, but minus the leg torture… :-)

Went back to the hostel to relax as I'd seen a lot the previous days and was a little tired. A few of us from the hostel went out for supper that evening which was pleasant. I got to taste a lentil soup, stuffed aubergine (excellent), circasian ravioli (excellent - I seem to be writing this a lot…), and a rice-lentil-fried onions mix.

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Then I finally found some postcards!

2010-08-30

Next morning, got up late, wrote my postcards and then went off to the Asian side of Istanbul to the Kadiköy district for a special meal (can you tell I'm a bit of a foodie?) in a restaurant called Ciya Sofrasi. It was, once again, excellent. The appetizers were varied (you served yourself at a buffet and the plate was weighed) though most I couldn't identify and as a main, I had a type of dish made with little meatballs, sour cherries, parsley and pide bread accompanied with a rice-lentil-fried onion mix. For dessert, it was a a pistachio pastry with a foam made from the sap of a root with a sprinkling of cinnamon. Once again… excellent!

After that, brief walk around Kadiköy. The prices seem lower than on the European side and there was also a nice food market with lots of very fresh fish, judging by the exposed gills.

Took a boat to the European side and walked by Dolmabahce Palace. I still have lots to see in Istanbul and could easily see myself returning for a week sometime in the future. I still need to do a Bosphorus evening cruise and there is an archaeological museum, a historical museum, the D. palace and several neighbourhoods I should see. I just really like the vibe in Istanbul.

Finished off my day with a long walk along Istiklal Caddesi followed by a supper of Iskender kebap which is a kebap where below the thinly sliced beef, there is a layer of pide bread in tomato sauce. They then pour melted butter on top and at the side there is yoghurt. It is also served with a chilli pepper and some tomato slices. Really good. I then had a sour cherry pudding (I really like visne) and then had Kadayif that is the baklava that looks like a mess of hair (thinly chopped filo?) soaked in a sweet syrup. A great end to my stay.

Posted by CVMB2010 07:45 Archived in Turkey Tagged city turkey istanbul Comments (2)

England...

"All the world's a stage,
 And all the men and women merely players;
 They have their exits and their entrances;
 And one man in his time plays many parts…" Shakespeare's As You Like It - 1600

all seasons in one day 25 °C

"All the world's a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts…"

Shakespeare's As You Like It - circa 1600

Day 1 - 2010-08-07

Where do I start? This was my first real trip to England. I'd flown through Heathrow a few times and was in London for a day when I was about 4-5 (all I remember is the Tower Bridge on a sunny day and a very bad hamburger) and felt that this was a good time to visit as well as ease myself into Youth Hostel type accommodations which I will be using extensively for the rest of my trip. Also, as an English speaking country, communicating with the "locals" would be easy…

My introduction to England was made even easier by the brilliant welcome I got from Caroline whom I'd met in New Zealand. She took me to Stratford-upon-Avon, birthplace of William Shakespeare where we toured the city, looked at the location of Shakespeare's house, his grave and then had fish & chips under the rain (...to make it a typical British experience). After that we saw the brilliant Shakespeare production As You Like It performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in the Courtyard Theatre which had an interesting configuration. I counted about 600 or so seats and apparently nobody is more than 12 metres from the stage, which extrudes into the room and is surrounded on 3 sides by spectators. The RSC performance was brilliant; one of the best theatre performances I have ever seen!

So the thing I learned that day that blew my mind, as a concept, is that all of the swans in open water in England… belong to Her Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. It just strikes me as so incredible that a whole species of animal in a country would de facto belong to anybody… Ah! The joys of Monarchy… I'm glad to say that the Queen of Canada doesn't de facto own any animal species… ;-)

Warning! Queen's property:
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Location of Shakespeare's house:
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Shakespeare's grave:
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The Avon:
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Day 2 - 2010-08-08
The next morning, I got a tour of (Royal) Leamington Spa which is known for the healing properties of it's spa water. Having tasted the water, I'd say that it is the closest thing I've ever tasted to sea water so far from the ocean. It was very salty!

After that, we went for a 6 mile hike through the countryside to the site of the Battle of Edgehill (1642) stopping halfway or so to get a typical Sunday roast (beef). The weather was warm and sunny which was really nice.

I then got to visit Blenheim Palace, the former residence of Winston Churchill, on the way to Oxford.

I then made it to Oxford and after checking in to my backpackers, walked around till the towers of Christ Church College pulled me in their direction. I then spent a few hours sitting by a creek in Christ Church College Meadow as the College was closed to visitors. On the way back, I figured it was time to have a local ale; my first since arriving in England so I went to a pub where a kind local, somewhat inebriated, suggested several things I should see the next day (including CCC and the Turf Pub).

Leamington Spa town hall with the statue of Queen Victoria
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Leam river:
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Location of the Battle of Edgehill:
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Looking into the Quadrangle of Christ Church College, Oxford:
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Day 3 - 2010-08-09
Getting up bright and early the next morning, I decided to explore more of Oxford and found St-Mary's church which, at 9:00 would let me in for an elevated view of the city. After getting something to eat, I returned there and climbed the 127 or so steps of the smallest diameter spiral staircase I'd ever been up. Seen from above, the old city of Oxford really has many fantastic buildings. It reminds me of Venice which has so many picture opportunities.

I then visited Christ Church College which was grand, then had a cornish pasty for lunch. After that, I had a walking tour of Oxford where we visited the Bodleian Library, New College (ironically, the second oldest - and where a short scene of one of the Harry Potter's was filmed in the Quadrangle), part of St. Edmunds College, then All Saints. After that, quick ale at the Turf Pub for an "Education in Intoxication" then off by train to London.

One interesting statistic about Oxford is the student to professor ratio. There are about 23000 students at the University of Oxford and about 5000 professors. That is about a 5:1 rather which is very high and permits them to have a tutoring system which is supposed to be very effective in gauging the student's progress (and assigning him/her extra work).

I made it into London around 17:00, dropped my bags off at Palmer's Lodge near Swiss Cottage subway station (the best youth hostel/backpacker I've ever stayed at - Quiet rooms, lots of people but doesn't feel crowded, and great facilities that are well cleaned daily… I'll be returning there next time I'm in London!) and proceeded to London Bridge tube. I then walked to the Tower Bridge and from there walked to the Palace of Westminster taking way too many pictures along the way and finishing off my day's sunburn.

Christ Church College Meadow
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Bridge of Sighs (lookalike) with the Bodleian Library in the background:
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Turf pub where I had an ale:
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Radcliffe Camera with Brasenose College in the background:
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Radcliffe Camera with All Saints College in the background:
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All Saints College, notice the telescope shaped towers in homage to Sir Christopher Wren whose wonderful architecture adorns Oxford and London. He wasn't trained as an architect but as a physicist and astronomer. The two towers were built in the shape of telescopes with each lower section larger than the one above it. In later years, they added the spike in the centre to give it the shape of a W in his honour.
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Bodleian Library:
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All Saints College:
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Radcliffe Camera and Brasenose College:
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Christ Church College Cloister:
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Fan ceiling on the way up to the dining hall, Christ Church College:
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Dining hall, Christ Church College:
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Detail of Hermes fountain in the Quadrangle at Christ Church College: large__MG_8170.jpg
Christ Church College Quadrangle:
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Christ Church College:
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Bridge of Sighs (lookalike):
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New College (the second oldest in Oxford):
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New College Quadrangle where a scene of Harry Potter was filmed...
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Trinity College:
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Tower Bridge seen from London Bridge:
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Bit of a sunburn and need a shave...
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Tower Bridge:
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St-Paul's Cathedral:
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Big Ben:
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Palace of Westminster:
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Day 4 - 2010-08-10
Rainy day all day… I started my day by returning to the Tower of London which I visited having as guide Moira Cameron, the first female Beefeater. Her tales of the drama surrounding the Tower of London and the events that took there over the years made the tour very interesting as did her sense of humour. After that, I took the tube to Westminster Abbey which I visited. It is fascinating and certainly well worth a visit, though unfortunately we can't take pictures from the inside. I then walked to Buckingham Palace. Following that, I headed for Richmond to have tea with Jacqualene. Richmond is rather nice and surprisingly quiet considering it is technically part of London.

Grenadiers at the Tower of London:
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The White Tower, Tower of London:
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King George V statue with a pigeon as a guest on his head:
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Westminster Abbey:
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Day 5 - 2010-08-11
Next morning, I decided to get up later, and return to the Palace of Westminster for a few sunny day pictures, then proceeded to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard. I arrived a little late and it was really crowded and rushed to the airport halfway through as my flight was leaving shortly after.

Palace of Westminster:
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Eye of London:
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Buckingham Palace:
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Changing of the guard:
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In summary, Stratford and Leamington were great, Oxford was beautiful and I only saw enough of London to whet my appetite… That and I absolutely love the British... I need to go back someday!

Posted by CVMB2010 11:16 Archived in England Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Ansbach, Bavaria

My first experience of driving on the Autobahn...

overcast 22 °C

For my first experience of driving on the autobahn, I drove north then east to visit Lena in Ansbach. About four hours of the drive were in Germany on the Autobahn which was an interesting experience in itself, though as it was raining and a lot of the A5 between Basel and Karlsruhe was under construction (not to mention I was driving a Fiat station-wagon...), I didn't get to speed all that much... :-)

Lena gave me an great tour of the Ansbach area (Thank you Lena!) starting with showing me a castle at Colmberg that is on the "Castle Road" and then showing me Rothenburg which is on the "Romantic Road". Rothenburg was clearly a tourist destination with lots of Japanese and Americans (as well as a Canadian...), but it is easy to understand why. With beautiful colourful picture perfect buildings and cobblestone streets, all of the buildings with red tile roofs, an a town wall surrounding it all, it is very nice. We then proceeded to a small local brewery for a supper where I got to taste some good local beer and dishes.

The next morning, she showed me around the old town of Ansbach which is also picture perfect, but not being on the "Romantic Road", does not attract as many foreign tourists.

View from Colmberg Castle, which is on the highest hill in the area:
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Various view of Rothenburg:
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Photos of Ansbach:
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On my way back to Aubonne, I stopped off in Freiburg im Breisgau, which I'd wanted to visit for several years. It has an impressive medieval cathedral and a nice old town:
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And lastly, to my surprise, a gargoyle next to the cathedral that seems to be doing yoga (notice the foot behind the head...):
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I had a great time in Germany and it reawakens my urge to move there for a while some day...

Posted by CVMB2010 14:58 Archived in Germany Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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