The story in pictures of a trip to Rameswaram..
The story in pictures of a trip to Rameswaram..
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.
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 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!
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:
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!
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).
2. Public transport
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.
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:
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:
And now it is time to go – the flight is boarding :). Until next..
In the last post, I ended with the story of Isabella and Corrado but that’s not the end of my stories of Verona.
Continuing on our exploration of Verona, we came across a lovely square with Fra Costera – a monk standing on a pedestal above the arch with a stone ball in hand. The legend says that this ball will drop if an honest person passes by under the statue. It has of course not fallen down so far ever, for who is really honest in this world?
At the center of the square, Dante stands looking at everyone. Verona was the place where Dante seeked refuge when he was exiled from Florence. Probably as a gratitude, he dedicated the Paradise part of his masterpiece – Divine Comedy – to Verona, more specifically to the Cangrande – the library of Verona which is on the left hand side in the picture below.
At some places we saw the symbol of city – a dog with a ladder. And almost everywhere we could see the colors of the city – red and white. See the cathedral below with the red and white stones to get an idea.
We came across Emilio Salgari at the bibliothek, who was the creator of Sandokan – the 19th century fictional pirate
We passed by the Church of St. Thomas where Mozart played a concert while still a child, Porta Leoni, the church of St. Fermo and St. Rustico, a street going into the Veronetta – small Verona. On the hills, we could see the Medieval Military buildings.
Our tour ended at the oldest bridge of Verona – the Ponte Pietra. You can see the different colored stones there – the white ones are from the original bridge and had fallen into the river when the German army blew the bridge during the second world war. The locals pulled out those stones painstakingly from the river and rebuilt the bridge over a period of 10 years piece by piece.
Then our guide sat down to answer our queries and give suggestions on what we could do next depending upon our interests. We thanked her with tips and took our leave.
Since we had only about 2 hours left to return to our bus, we decided to do the touristy task of visiting Juliet. I wanted to see the Cathedral first so three of us took a different route than the other three co-passengers from the bus. The Cathedral was nice – not as magnificent as in Florence or Milan but serene. A service was ongoing inside as it was a Sunday, which felt so lovely.
Then we found our way towards Juliet. I couldn’t catch her alone for even one moment. So here she is with someone who also, probably like me, felt inappropriate to grab Juliet’s breast which is supposedly the thing one should do here. I wonder who came up with that stupid idea in the first place. A side note – the same statue of Juliet – albeit not golden – stands in Munich too!
Then we went to grab something to eat before heading back to the bus and call it a day.
It was a long journey back home but the beautiful sunny day in Verona somehow kept the heart warm when I had to step out into the freezing cold night to get to home…
After the tiring day at Venice, the tour came to the camping site and it was time to get some rest. The bus was supposed to start early morning so I tried to make the best of the time by sleeping as soon as possible. But I somehow woke up too early and couldn’t get back to sleep. Anyway, finally after everyone was ready, we started on our return journey. The great thing – we stopped at Verona. That was wonderful because of two reasons – a) the sun was out b) we’d left the mad crowd in Venice.
Once we got down, I rushed towards the place where the walking tour was supposed to start from. Having missed the opportunity in Venice, I was quite determined to not miss it here. So I reached the venue along with the two other girls that I had made friends with in the tour. We had some time to kill. The tea and some french fries at the McD there was not hurting anyone, so we sat down to get ourselves fuelled for the tour.
Then we started the tour, quite on time, when the guide and all the people who wanted to take the tour were assembled.
The guide told us Verona means “terrace on the river”. The city is on the river Adige and has a history of more than 2000 years! It was a Roman settlement in the 1st century BC. The most important ruling family was the Scaligeri family (also known as Scala) which ruled for around a 100 years between the 13th and 14th centuries. Then it came under the rule of Venice in 1405 AD. Later, it was taken over by Napoleon, then Austria before becoming part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1866. It is a Unesco world heritage site today. Quite a history!
So the first thing that the guide showed us was this huge arch with a clock on it. This is the entrance to the old city. It is called Portoni della Bra.
Then we made our way to the statue of the Bard who had chosen Verona as the setting of the romantic tragedy “Romeo and Juliet”.
We briefly passed from the Arena – which is like a mini colloseum. We got to know that the word “Arena” actually means “sand” which was spread in such theaters to absorb the blood of the fighters (men, animals..all the same).
Then the guide took us to the Castel Veccio also called Castello Scaligero. The walls of the fort were great overlooking the river and seemed quite popular for photos.
There were two rulers from the Scaligero family with the same name – Cangrande – first one was good and the second one as cruel as they come (nicknamed – Can Rabbioso – Angry Dog). He was assassinated by his brother. The rule of the Scaligero family didn’t last for too long after that. Within 25 years or so, Verona was part of the Venetian rule.
In 1805, the castle was used as the Barracks for Napoleon’s army.
On the road close to the castle, we saw some embedded white marble pieces and our guide asked us to make a note of them. Then we reached a beautiful stone arch overlooking the river. It was Arc de Gavia – Gavia being an influential Roman family in 1st century. Napoleon’s army had dismantled the arch to make way for advancing easily. 100 years later, the people of Verona collected the pieces and resurrected the arch in front of the river. The marble pieces seen earlier were at the original location of the arch.
We reached the Jupiter Gate which must have had the temples of Roman Gods in the past. The San Seno Gate was where the Roman soldiers holding bags collected tax there – hence the name Porta Borsa (Gate of Bag). Once we went through that gate, we also saw a small piece of wall which had the Head of Medusa, thereby confirming that there must have been some Roman temples in that area.
Then the guide showed us the place of origin of something very Italian – the Pandorro – which is the traditional Italian Christmas Cake! Domingo Meligati made the first Pandorro in 1894 in his bakery on this street.
We passed Piazza Herbe which was the ancient Roman city center and the market for spices, the column of San Marco which shows the Lion with open book indicating it was constructed in the time of peace, the Justice Square – with a statue of a lady pointing a sword towards the skies asking for justice for the 14000 people killed in 1915 by Austrian armies in the WWI (in the old time, there used to be executions of convicts here).
We also saw the Rib of a whale hanging between two buildings on a street. It was actually the advertisement for the pharmacy that has been there since the 1700s when the whale bones were supposed to have medicinal properties!
Since we were in the city of the romantic tragedy, we came across another symbol of doomed lovers. It was a well. The protagonists of this story were Corrado and Isabella from the 16th century. The story goes that Corrado pursued Isabella incessantly but Isabella played hard to get. Then one day a fed up Corrado accused her of being as cold as the water in that well. Isabella asked him to jump into the well and see for himself if the water was indeed as cold as he thought. She was probably indicating to him that she wasn’t as cold but as the young men in love in the world of stories do, he took it literally and jumped into the well. Isabella, overcome by this turn of events, jumped into the well, to be forever with Corrado.
At this story, I should probably stop and continue in my next post with the remaining things I want to write about Verona. Until next, arrivederci!
I had been to Venice a really long time ago. It is an interesting city but all I recall is that I was just too exhausted and the weather was too grey for my liking.
As fate would have it, I was there again recently and – believe it or not, with the same conditions – I was exhausted and the weather was again – GREY.
Somehow Venice doesn’t seem to even try to impress me :-).
I don’t know what can I say has changed in the city between my first trip and now. I saw the same canals, the same gondoliers, the same crowds, and the same pigeons…
Coincidentally, this fits the theme of the photo-challenge.
But at least one thing was different – this time I saw the Carnival madness in town.
Anyway, the dressed up people graciously posed for photos.
It’s kudos to the management there that there was no stampede and nothing untoward seemed to occur. The crowd was so huge that it reminded me of some of the famous pilgrimage places in India! If you don’t know how it is, then consider yourself lucky. You are not missing anything.
I don’t know if Venice would call me again but if it does, then I do hope that it would be in better conditions. As they say, “third time is a charm”!
So the millenium turns 18! First of all a very Happy New Year to everyone. It is still January – so giving a new year wish is permissible :). Hope that it will bring new experiences and be fulfilling.
I have been wondering what to focus myself on in this year. There are so many things I could do. But a bad bout of lethargy – which for me is one word for “when at home, binge watch television, play games on the mobile phone, spend all your waking hours on the internet and do nothing meaningful”, had kind of taken over me in the last couple of weeks. It is as if there is no motivation anymore. Earlier, there used to be surges of creativity and then a period of lull and thus went the cycle. But now, it seems that even the tiniest spark of creativity doesn’t get out anymore. I think that I need to somehow push myself and do something, however trivial it may seem. Enough rest – the journey must continue. I’ll be back with the next post soon :).
At the end of the evening’s tour, I was tired – both physically and mentally, and very cold. It was interesting to have met some new people who had joined the tour – two from South Africa, a few from India are the ones I can recall. There was a girl from Brazil who walked with me towards the tram station. We were going in the same direction. She told me that the next day she was going to take a trip to the concentration camp. I never wanted to go there – having read about it is shocking enough – and because of the emotional toll that the tour had already taken on me, I am quite sure that my decision was right. So I thought that I would probably go to some museums etc. the next day.
But – as fate would have it – on the 1st of November, All Saint’s Day – almost everything in Poland is closed! I didn’t know that, else I would have planned my days differently. The concentration camp was open though – quite strange – isn’t it? Anyway, so my hopes of being able to go to the salt mines were shattered. Then I thought of climbing the Wawel Hill again because I read somewhere that in November, the castle museum is allowing free entrance. Did that and found that it being the All Saint’s Day – the museum was closed.
The day was getting colder and more difficult to pass. Then I looked up at google for some help. And like a good friend, it did. I found that the city zoo was open. Having nothing else to do, I descended the hill and made my way towards the bus that would take me to the zoo. It was a long journey – had to make a change in between – which was like a rural stop with no shelter but just a stone bench on which I sat. There seemed to be nobody around although there were many houses, the breeze was quite cold, the tree branches swayed and swished and except for the occasional cars passing by, it felt like something has happened and I am the only human being left on earth! Thankfully, a couple arrived and then the bus appeared as well. I reached the zoo and it was such a picturesque route through the hilly forests – all colored by the master strokes of the autumnal brush. I am sure if the sun would have been out, this would have been totally magical – justifying the name of the penultimate bus stop – Baba Jaga (the witch from the East European folk tales)! As probably it was a festival day, there were not too many people there. It is a big lovely zoo but that day the animals seemed to be lethargic with the cold weather in the same way that the people did. I was feeling kind of sorry for them to be trapped there. But probably they would have more survival challenges in the wild than in the zoo. Not justifying the captivity but just contemplating.
Anyway, so after spending the zoo and getting chilled to the bone, I decided to head back. The bus was already there and I went back to the city. Found a nice Indian restaurant to have some warm lunch and tea. Then went back to my room to take some rest. At around 6 pm, there was supposed to be a walking tour of the Macabre Krakow.
I had planned to meet a friend D – who lives in Krakow, but I didn’t know what time he would be back to the city as he had gone to spend the All Saints’ Day with his family. So I went to the tour, thinking that if D comes, then I would leave the tour midway. It was quite good for me that D sent a message just as I was listening to the guide and thinking that I don’t want to go on that tour else I would get nightmares later. So D kind of rescued me :-). Then we went to get a drink in the main square while waiting for his girlfriend A, who joined us in some time. I was curious about the tradition of going to the cemeteries on this day and asked if they could take me to one. They very graciously agreed and in the process, poor D had to let go of his plans for a dinner although he was hungry, for A mentioned that the cemeteries might close if we delayed. There were special tram services that day to take people from one cemetery to the other! Shows how important that festival is for the people there. Basically the day is about remembering the saints, martyrs and deceased members of your family. The cemeteries were lit up with thousands of candles and there were people everywhere, unlike my experience during the day while waiting for the bus.
I was given a candle by A to light as well. That was so kind and thoughtful of her! I really appreciate it when people include me in their traditions. Makes me feel welcome and not an aloof outsider! I lit it up on a grave that seemed like the candles there were about to go out.
Then D and A walked me back to my room while D had to satisfy his hunger with a doner on the way. It was late and super cold but the warm gesture of D and A made the day so much better! I had something to eat in my room and went to sleep.
The next day I had my flight back. The morning was a bit hectic as I couldn’t find the key of my suitcase anymore – but that’s another story. I managed to get out in time for my flight and all was fine. I went for my customary Indian food at the restaurant I like very much but it wasn’t up to the expectations that day. Then as the bus I had to take still had time, I went to a nearby mall and then some time later, was on my way home. That was the end of my first trip to Poland. Hope to be there once again, albeit in less cold weather :-).