So many little things..

Prolific beauty..see for yourself

Candle lamps lit at the cemetery on All Saints Day (Poland)

Tulip souvenirs (Amsterdam)

Hearts on the street (Heidelberg)

Clay lamps ready for lighting up the homes on Diwali (India)

For more prolific pictures, visit here.

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Budapest in pictures

As I was getting down from the ferry relatively early on a Tuesday morning, hurriedly -for I had so little time left in the city, I  found this tree that looked like it was just waking up and stretching its arms after the night’s slumber. And that made me stop and take a look around me – to just soak in as much as possible the beauty of this enchanting city for the last time in this trip.

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The tree waking up and stretching

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Liberty Bridge in foreground and White Bridge behind

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Castle on the Hill

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The Parliament in the early morning

The story of the journey is coming next. Keep an eye on the blog to know more about this magnificent city and my experiences there.

Meanwhile, for some pictures on the interpretations of  “awakening”, you can look here.

Rameswaram – The Journey

The East Tower Entrance of the Ramnathswamy Temple

Rameswaram (joining of two words in Sanskrit – Ramah and Ishwaram – meaning the God of Rama), is a temple town at the Southernmost tip of Indian Peninsula on the Pamban Island. It’s significance is from the Hindu epic Ramayana (Story of Rama) – Rama had launched his army to Lanka from here to rescue his wife Sita who was abducted by Ravana, the king of Lanka. Why the name Rameswaram? Rama installed a Shivalinga here and worshipped Lord Shiva here. There are two stories about whether it was before the war to get Shiva’s blessings or after the war to get rid of the “paap” of killing Ravana who was the son of a Brahmin (killing a Brahmin is considered a big sin in Hinduism). I won’t be able to explain the complicated philosophies of “paap”, “punya”, “mukti” etc here. Whatever the story, today it is one of the four holy places that the devout Hindus want to visit in their lifetimes. The other three are – Badrinath in the North, Jagannathpuri in the East and Dwarika in the West. Interestingly, all four are associated with Lord Vishnu or his incarnations – Rama and Krishna. In the other three, the main deity of worship is Vishnu while at Rameswaram, the main deity is Shiva. The temple is therefore, accordingly called “Ramanathswamy” temple – the temple of the Lord of Lord Rama!

It is a very big temple compound today and hosts millions of pilgrims from all over India every year. The carvings are so beautiful and must have taken a long time to build. I wasn’t sure if photography was allowed inside or not – it is usually not allowed inside temples – so I refrained from it. Expand the pics to see the details on the entrances.

The people of all ages can be seen here – some chanting loudly the name of Shiva, some silently, some trying to find their way, some following the crowd, some admiring the architecture, some just trying to understand what’s going on. One of the interesting things for me was to see the brisk business that priests did to perform some special poojas for the pilgrims, which is a common site at all the big temples – irrespective of location. Please do not think of this as a judgmental statement if it appears to be that. It’s just another way of earning a living.

Another thing here which caught my attention was that the floor of the whole temple was wet. I got to know the reason later – when I visited it the second time in the morning – there are 22 places (kund / teertham) where the devout take a bath. The first teertham – Agneeteertham – is at the sea outside and the rest of them are either wells or ponds inside the temple.

In the sea, you can take a dip yourself and then walk to the temple. A man or two at each pond/well then pull out water in a bucket from those teerthams and drench the already soaked devotees. A purification ritual I believe, before meeting the God. So that explained the wet floors – dripping devotees walking from one teertham to the next.

The idols of the deities in the temple are beautiful – mostly of black stone which is what is used in the South in contrast to white stone, usually marble, used in the North. The whole ceiling is also adorned with beautiful colorful floral paintings – somehow reminded me of mandalas. There were also some areas with statues which were colorful but those looked a bit in disrepair.

Once done with the darshan and special pooja (Rudrabhishekam), we checked out from the hotel and went ahead to look at some other beautiful sites of Rameswaram. First stop was the Ramarpatham temple. There were stories from a part of Ramayana hanging around the temple. The location is believed to have the footprints of Rama. We had some refreshing tender coconut there which felt great in the summer heat (well technically it was not summer yet but the Sun didn’t care about those technicalities). There was a Shivalinga at the sea there and the devotees were paying their obeisances there.

The pilgrims

Shivalinga near Ramarpatham Temple

We then proceeded towards Dhanushkodi – which used to be a village but got destroyed in a Tsunami in 1964. At the end of the village, is the end of Indian border. The fantastic thing is to see the mixing of oceans there (of course, it’s difficult to make out the difference but the notion of it being the place where Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal would be mixing up makes it special for you :-)).

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Can you make out the colors of two oceans?

Then since it was getting hotter every minute, we decided to return. It would be a three and a half hour journey to Madurai in that heat when even the air-conditioner of the car would not have any effect.

On the way back, we also saw a temple of Hanuman – the Panchmukhi Hanuman Temple where apart from a huge statue of Hanuman with five faces, there were a few stones considered to be part of the Ramasetu – the bridge constructed by Rama’s army on the sea to reach Lanka. The stones were porous and could therefore explain why they floated instead of sinking in the sea when the bridge was to be constructed. (Satellite images today do show a stone structure like a bridge sunk now under water, connecting India with Srilanka from Dhanushkodi).

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A part of the Pamban Rail Bridge connecting the mainland to the Pamban Island where Rameswaram is located

Then we kept driving back until we reached the comfort of our hotel in Madurai, briefly stopping for lunch in between. We were exhausted but felt good after having seen what we had come this far to see.

How and when to go to Rameswaram:

There are flight connections via Bangalore/Chennai to a temple town called Madurai. From there, one can go either by road or by train. There are three trains that ply between Rameswaram and Madurai. There are also buses that can be taken from Madurai. We took a taxi. The road is good. Best time would be to go in winter. It was already very hot in the beginning of March when we were there.

Where to stay:

There are lots of hotels of all price ranges and several lodges around the temple. Some of the hotels can be booked online but you can also find accommodation directly when you arrive there. Of course, online booking makes things easier. We took the TTDC (Tamil Nadu tourism department) hotel which was booked in advance via their website. It is not a luxury hotel but is very good and conveniently located. The food (all vegetarian) was quite good too.

The Eyes

As I was leisurely walking through the streets of the Castle region in Budapest, I became suddenly aware of a pair of eyes looking at me. I had seen similar eyes in the Saxony area a few months ago in Germany and was surprised to see them so far away in Budapest! See for yourself and smile – the eyes are watching you!

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The House with two eyes – Budapest

 

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The house with 3 eyes – Saxony

To see some more pictures to bring smiles to your faces, you can look here.

The artist in the skies

One evening when I was working in the kitchen, I saw a glimpse from my window of something enchanting in the skies. I immediately came out with the phone in hand and followed the skies till I reached near some fields. And there it was – one of the most magnificent sunsets I have seen and I didn’t even have to travel anywhere fancy for a vacation to see it..it was just there on an ordinary day making it special.

For more such pics of sunrises and sunsets, you can visit here.

Otherworldly

Sometimes when I see the temples in India, I get the feeling of seeing something that is not of this earth. Who are these Gods and Goddesses elaborately carved on the temples? Beings who look like humans but with multiple hands and multiple heads..Is it just the sculptor’s way of depicting something that is considered omnipotent and omniscient or was there some time when such other worldly beings really came and passed on some knowledge to the mankind? It all seems quite implausible and mind boggling if you start to think about it but then again, who can claim to know all the secrets of this universe?

For more such otherworldly images, look here.

In the Crowd but Different

There are times when you see someone who stands out from the crowd and then it feels great to have a camera!

While walking through some streets, I found this gem below. Although there was no crowd here, these “two” ladies would have stood out even in a sea of people!

And another time, one gets some pictures without working for it. Like this one in red jacket who kind of photo-bombed in my otherwise quite normal photo. I think at that time, I was a bit irritated as I’d been trying to take a picture of the palace with some difficulty as it had begun to rain. But later, I kept the picture for the contrast it provided. Reminded me of Matrix scene with the training video in which there is a woman in a red dress :).

For more such “standing out of the crowd” kind of pictures, take a look here.

Home

Home may signify many things but most of all it is the place where the wifi greets you with open arms, immediately, without complains, as soon as you are within the range, without the need of any words!

Jokes apart, I just realized, after coming back to my country after two years, that home is actually the place where I am able to speak with everyone in the language that I was first taught – the mother tongue. I had never felt that way because I was never away for so long. And it’s not that I cannot speak other languages but there is a warmth in speaking in one’s mother tongue that cannot be replaced. I am sure everyone feels that way about their native languages.

I don’t know if when I return from home, would it take some time to settle back into the feeling of acceptance for not being able to communicate with each and everyone around me, due to my lack of proficiency in the local language or it will just feel like the normal there. But that will be tackled when the time comes. Until then, I will just soak in the warmth – of home as well as of the sun!

Poland – Travel Help

I had been just procrastinating on this topic. But today while waiting for a flight for another journey, I thought that I could put the time to good use.

So here are the tips and some links that helped me.

1. The currency is Polish Zloty. You can take it out from the ATM at the airport or exchange at the currency exchange vendors. But be aware the exchange rates at the airport will be not so good. And in my experience, the ATM was even more expensive in that regard. So my tip – Exchange/Withdraw the minimum amount at the airport you might need to reach the city and a little more. Once in the city, you will find better rates.

2. Learning a few Polish phrases would be useful and also nice:

http://wikitravel.org/en/Polish_phrasebook

3. Do not make the one rookie kind of mistake I made. Check beforehand what is closed on which day so that you can plan your sightseeing accordingly. For example, on Mondays most museums are closed, on National holidays many places (even shops) are closed and so on. So – look up the details of attractions o whichever city you are visiting and make your sightseeing itinerary for a satisfying and “no disappointments later” kind of trip!

Krakow

1. Airport train: Very convenient. Ticket can be bought either at the station via the machine (cash/card) or in the train via the conductor (cash only).

http://www.krakowairport.pl/en/passenger,c70/transport,c313/how-to-get-to-krakow-airport,c314/train,a2727.html

2. Public transport

http://www.krakow-info.com/transpor.htm

3. If you want to take the tour of Auschwitz, do make the booking beforehand with a tour because it gets sold out. Tripadvisor will give you the details of the tour operators.

Gdansk

1. The airport bus is 210. You should keep some change with you. The machine at the airport may or may not work. It didn’t when I was there. So change the bills for coins at some shop at the airport. The people are really nice there and will help.

For returning from city to the airport, one helpful soul even made a video to help locate the bus stop as it can be confusing sometimes. Here is the link.

Here is the airport guide:

https://airmundo.com/en/airports/gdansk-airport/

2. You don’t need transport to move within the city for tourist areas as it’s not so big. I found a hotel close to the waterfront and the city center was also in walking distance.

I hope the information is useful for all those of you who wish to travel to Poland. It’s a lovely country with charming people. Do put it on your travel list it if not already been there.

Check out all my posts about my Poland trip here:

https://reflectionsontheriver.wordpress.com/tag/Poland/?orderby=date&order=asc

And now it is time to go – the flight is boarding :). Until next..