Niffling

The fans of Harry Potter would know the magical creature – Niffler. The one which just gets pulled towards anything shiny. For me, that niffly characteristic comes to the surface upon seeing nicely done street art and quirky shop windows. The prettier, the wittier, the better. Then I forget where I was headed to and get busy collecting the “shiny stuff” (in my camera). Here is a glimpse of a few of those things. Enjoy :-).

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The lady with the mask..
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Alien Dinosaur?
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Danger ahead!
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That should start the day right…

For checking out what distracts other people, check out this page.

Elements of nature

It’s amazing how the same setting can evoke different emotions inside us. See for yourself.

The photo below was captured at night when the wind was howling, skies were overcast with clouds but the moon was able to peek out briefly. Makes you think of ghosts and werewolves I guess.

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And the picture below was taken the next morning when the sun was out, winds had calmed down and the skies had cleared a bit. Makes you think of serenity – doesn’t it?

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For getting some more visuals of elemental forces, you can go here.

 

Satisfaction

In our day to day lives, most of us are so busy just getting through each day that we forget what is it that really gives us satisfaction and thus, happiness. I don’t know if someone gets satisfaction out of getting up each morning after snoozing the alarm five times, sometimes getting breakfast and sometimes having to forego for fear of getting late, getting through traffic to reach the place of work, managing the work through the day, coming back exhausted, eating, sleeping and then starting all over again. Then add to it the responsibilities of the family and you won’t know where the day went. The things we accumulate in this process – are they satisfying us?

What gives each one of us satisfaction is very subjective.

For me, satisfaction comes out of creation. It could be the solution to a problem, an artwork, a piece of writing, a nice meal, and best of all, seeing the creation of mother nature.

For instance, after planting the seeds, watering the plants, protecting them from the pests, isn’t it extremely satisfying to see the flowers turning to fruits?

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So take a break, sit back and think..what gives You satisfaction? Then what’s stopping you from doing it?

For some more interpretations of satisfaction, check the posts here.

Out of the ordinary

Most days we just go by life and everything else, on a kind of auto-pilot mode. Wake up, get ready, go to wherever you are supposed to go, come back, sleep and start all over again the next day (breathing, eating and drinking – that’s kind of necessary).

But some times, while you are on autopilot, something just jumps out from background to foreground, making you take notice. Those are moments which make you think a little, before you again go on with your routine.

Sometimes, I get to capture those moments when I have the camera, at other times not. For the former, it’s great because I can show the object of my surprise also to others. The latter ones are nice, and leave behind this longing to see it once again (happens often when the night sky has interesting positions of moon, planets and stars and I don’t have the right gear to shoot those scenes)!

Here are some of those moments that I found unusual and also managed to take a photo of, of course.

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Have you seen a sleeping bird? I’d never seen one before this dude..
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The swan that turned into a pumpkin! Could it be a curse of the magician that the swan was bothering?
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The houses of this village had eyes! Some had one and some three..spooky

If you enjoyed this and want to see some more, then you can find other photographic interpretations of “unusual” here.

The Bridges

Bridges are fascinating. I wonder when was the first time humans created a bridge. But I’m sure that it must have been the day when the course of human history took a big turn. Humans were suddenly able to cross rivers and lakes for going from one place to another and returning back, thus making trading possible for everyone and not just the adventurous sailors! Bridges meant possibilities..

There is a reference to the construction of a bridge of stones in the Hindu epic – Ramayana – which is a story of around 12000 years ago! According to the legend, the bridge was made by the monkeys, to help Ram and the monkey army get across the sea to Lanka from the Southernmost tip of India to rescue his wife Sita who was abducted by Ravan, the king of Lanka. Believe it or not, in the satellite images, the remains of such a bridge can still be seen (immersed now), named Adam’s Bridge in English. You can read more details of the scientific analysis being done to determine the timelines here. So far, I didn’t have the chance to go there yet, but who knows, may be one day I will be there.

So coming back to the present, I’ve had the chance to see so many wonderful bridges. Some of them are world-famous and some are just serving the purpose – helping people get across from one point to the other.

Enjoy.

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A bridge connecting two villages in Switzerland
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An interesting road bridge in Eastern Germany
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A wooden bridge in Switzerland
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A brick bridge in Belgium
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The longest suspension bridge for pedestrians in the world, in Austria

For more interpretations and pictures of wonderful bridges, explore here.

Viennese Waltz – Routine 2

Starting now with the second part of my impressions of Vienna. Hope you enjoyed the first routine. I was very tired after the walking through the city on the first day. So decided to call it an early day.

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Decoration in a Window

The next morning, the skies looked ominous and tried to put the idiomatic damper on my spirits. But I just borrowed an umbrella from the Pension and decided to make a trip to the famous Schoenbrunn Palace. It was a little far from the city center and so, I had to take a train. While waiting, I often find myself looking at advertisements at the underground stations when I am visiting a city and try to get an idea about what’s new.  I don’t know if the locals ever pay any attention to the posters!

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Metro Station Karlsplatz

Finally on reaching the palace, I found an Easter Market set up in the grounds despite the overcast skies.

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Easter at Schoenbrunn Palace

The Schoenbrunn Palace looked quite impressive in yellow color and as it was drizzling a bit, I decided to take a tour of the rooms inside the palace first instead of looking at the gardens.

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Schoennbrunn Palace

The rooms were interesting and as the rest of Vienna, had most stories about Maria Theresa and Sisi. Interesting to know was how much effort Sisi put in maintaining her figure (exercises and dieting) and ankle length hair (a full day every week dedicated to cleaning and conditioning the tresses).

After coming out, I wandered a bit into the gardens which looked quite pretty to stroll in but it was drizzling and the wind was too strong to keep the umbrella open. So I decided to move on.

Now, I was getting hungry and I had heard about the Naschmarkt. So I headed towards it. By the time I got out of the train at the stop nearest to the market, it was pouring. I managed to reach there and looked through the shops and restaurants but didn’t find anything that I could eat. So I searched for an Indian restaurant around as that is usually a safe bet if one is looking for a warm, vegetarian and gluten-free meal. And as luck would have it, I found myself at a restaurant whose owners were from the same part of India as I am! On the menu were two delicacies that I love but haven’t had in a really long time and so quite naturally, I asked for those two items. It was serendipity at work again :-).  I was not disappointed. The owner and I chatted away for some time about life back home and abroad. Looking out of the window, I found that it was hailing. So I stayed for some more time before venturing out again.

I went to the central railway station to get myself the tickets for the next day and then proceeded towards the Opera. Walking towards the Opera, I came across a beautiful church – Karlskirche. It was not possible to get inside as it was getting ready for a concert.

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Karlskirche

Moving on, upon reaching the Opera, I found an impressive 19th century building. Initially it was the place for royalty but then in 1920, after the removal of the Hofburg dynasty, it was named the State Opera. I wasn’t particularly interested in watching the performance (it was Parsifal by Wagner that evening). But I had read that one could get a chance to stand and watch for as little as 3 Euros. So I tried my luck but even the standing tickets were sold out. The lady at the counter told me that I could try again for a ticket post break and the break was at after 90 minutes. Since I was tired anyway of all the walking, I went to the adjoining Opera Cafe and ordered myself a coffee.

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Vienna State Opera

When I came out to try getting the ticket, I found that it was again sold out! So much for the waiting. Then I came out of another exit. And what do I see there? A big screen showing the performance from inside! There were also chairs. Why didn’t I come out earlier?

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Big Screen outside the Opera

Anyway, I didn’t find it engaging so I moved on. It was getting darker and the square was lit up.

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Haas Building

It was much more interesting to listen to the street musicians than watching the Opera. After spending some time listening to them and then having some dinner, I decided to call it a day.

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Street Musicians at Stephansplatz

 

Viennese Waltz – Routine 1

The first thought that came in my mind while writing this post was, “what can I write that has not already been written about this city?”.

But I guess everyone writes not about the place but their perception of the place. So let me write down mine.

First things first – how did I land there. If you are a follower of my blog, then you know it already from the post about Bratislava. I’ll state it briefly here – it was a matchmaking done by software. I gave the dates and cities I would be willing to go to and the airlines software informed me that I would be going to Vienna at the end of the booking.

Since I had not been there and everyone who had been there talked very highly of it, so I was quite looking forward to it. There were some change of plans due to unexpected circumstances and I won’t bore you with that. One interesting thing I learnt in this journey was the name of a country I didn’t know existed – Moldova. A friend commented just recently that he gets the feeling it’s an imaginary place :).

Anyway, so there I was at 9 am in the city after an early morning flight. The sun was shining and I could feel some humidity in the air. My trusted advisor – google – could not tell me the right public transport connection to my hotel. So once I reached the city from the airport, I walked as per the map directions given by the aforementioned advisor despite having the day pass for the city transport. It was not too long but not too short a distance either. But that gave me a chance to get the first impressions of the city. Like this one below.

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It appears Austria is more fond of beer than Germany..

Upon reaching the hotel, I realized it was in a residential building. It was my first experience of what is called a Pension (pronounced Pen-see-on and not Pention). While I was standing and wondering how to get in, a resident of the building came by after bringing coffee from outside. She rang the bell to her apartment and when the main door opened, she let me in and we chatted briefly in the lift. She was British and had been living in Vienna since a couple of years.

I reached my Pension on the second floor (or was it third?) and rang the door bell. I was greeted warmly by the host who showed me my room and let me relax a bit before the formalities of signing stuff. It actually felt like going to a relative’s home rather than a hotel. May be that’s how Pensions are – I have had no prior experience with that.

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Entrance of the Pension..

Then after restoring my energy, I came out and the owner explained everything about the place to me and gave me a map too. Then I hurried towards the place – Albertina –  from where a free walking tour would be beginning. Upon reaching there, I found a huge group already leaving and it looked like it was difficult to find my place in it. Another couple there was also wondering what to do. We got to chatting and thought that may be we should go with the paid one. Checked inside the tourist information center which around. The tour was due to start in some time. We were joined by another family of four. Then we started. We went through parts of the old city. Usually I like the walking tours but this one was quite boring for me. It felt like someone’s reading to you from a History book! I would recommend to take the free walking tour where you tip the guide at the end of the tour. I think they are more entertaining than the ones whom you pay upfront, as the former’s tips depend on how much the people enjoyed the trip!

Anyway, here are some glimpses of what I saw in the walking tour. The starting point was this “Monument Against War and Fascism”at the Albertinaplatz. The sculptor of this monument was Alfred Hrdlicka. It is there to remind people of the atrocities that were dealt on the people during the second world war, to keep the memory alive, so that the cruelty of that kind doesn’t take place ever again. It is pretty powerful, once you look carefully and understand what is represented by the different pieces of the monument.

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Monument Against War and Fascism
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Old Jewish Man – part of the Monument Against War and Fascism (the barbed wire was not part of the original sculpture but some insensitive tourists started sitting on this old man for photo opportunities – hence the wire was put on it)
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Imperial Hofburg Palace

The Imperial Hofburg palace was another stop – this was the place where so many generations of the Hapsburg dynasty lived and ruled from. But in the 20th century, it became the place (look at the balcony) from where the announcement of Anschluss (merging of Austria into Nazi Germany) was made by Hitler.

We had a lot of other interesting discussions – things that I didn’t know – on the way. For example, I didn’t know that Hitler was actually welcomed rather than opposed in Austria!

Let’s get to “sweeter” things. We reached the famous Demel Cafe which originally was a bakery that supplied to the royal kitchen. But then in the 1950s and 60s, it was in a legal battle with Sacher Hotel over the claim over the original “Sacher Torte” – a chocolate cake! Finally Sacher Hotel won and now sells pricier Sacher Torte than Demel Cafe. I stepped inside the cafe and found nice decorations for Easter.

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Inside Demel Bakery

The tour went on for some time and the impression that I got of the city was that how much of it revolved around Maria Theresa (18th century). At second place was Sisi – Empress Elisabeth of Austria (19th century) who was the wife of the Emperor Franz Joseph. For sure, there would be many more noteworthy people in Vienna but most of the stories that I heard in the tour were around these two ladies only. That says something about their influence and impact.

One interesting point mentioned by the tour guide was that in those days of Kings and Queens, the marriages were arranged for political gains, which everyone knows, but Maria Theresa allowed one daughter of  hers to marry for love. That was Maria Christina. She married Duke Albert of Saxon. They were big patrons of art. So it’s befitting that their residence is a big art museum today by the name of Albertina.

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Albertina

The tour guide showed us also a dig (quite small) from the Roman times. Based on the coins found there, it was concluded that it must have been the Red Light area outside the city walls hosting the Roman military camps. Of course, over the centuries the walls were broken and the city expanded. The Romans were forgotten and also their stories. But then many excavations in the 20th century brought out the history.

Every stone of the city seemed to be wanting to tell some story but sadly I didn’t have the interpreter. When I started writing this post, I thought I won’t have many things to write but now so many words are gushing forth that one post will not be sufficient. May be that’s what happens also when one starts to enjoy the Viennese Waltz. Pausing here and composing my thoughts, so as to bring the second routine of the Waltz with some more impressions of Vienna I brought home with me.