Freshened up to kick start our day and decided to go through past of Germany. Took metro and got off at Potsdamer platz. Had coffee at Starbucks just outside the metro exit as it was too cold.
From here we walked to Checkpoint Charlie - a crossing point between East and West Germany during the Cold War and Berlin Wall Memorial. The scenes blur as present dissolves into the past. Images flash through our mind of 1989 when news flashed with headlines of demolition of Berlin wall. The wall no longer divides east and west instead the city straddles past and future.
As this is close to Friedrichstrasse known for upmarket shopping area like Lafayette; strolled there on our return towards metro station of postdamer platz we visited Helmut john’s Sony centre - skyline is a mixture of buildings marked by WWII shrapnel and glass-steel giants - a symbol of new Berlin office-cum–shopping centre.
In Berlin, the past is everywhere like Gendarmenmarkt - a classical square in Berlin whose name dates back when city was occupied by Napoleon. This square is bordered by two cathedrals - the French Cathedral and German Cathedral with Konzerthaus (Concert Hall) - home of the Berlin Symphony Orchestra between the two cathedrals.
Then we visited darling of berlin - bust of Nefertiti which was adorned at the Exhibition Hall of Kulturforum (culture forum - This museum often houses temporary exhibitions during which the permanent collection is usually not on display) near to Potsdamer Platz as Egyptian museum was closed.
On way to Brandenburg we went to see Siegessäule (Victory Column) close to Tiergarten which stands in centre where five roads meet.
After having late light meal, we once again set off to see the past which expresses the euphoria and great hopes for a better future for all people of the world. This city’s divider was also the world’s longest canvas that stretched for miles covered with graffiti painted on east side - open air Gallery close to station Ostbahnhof.
Came back to Zoologischer Garten took some night mode shots of Kaiser Wilhelm church and after all sight seeing it was time to eat; had awesome Portuguese dinner at one small restaurant nearby and then headed towards our hotel.
Today while leafing through the pages of our album found yet another trip waiting to be jotted down before it gets erased from our memory. A trip to Berlin where present and past are in sync once again.
We went there for 3days- 2 nights stay by train on Easter weekend when sky was gloomy and mercury dropped to almost freezing point but didn’t deter our enthu to explore city as much possible. We took overnight train from Paris which reached at very early hours. We bought metro (u – Bahn) day pass tickets before going to our pre-booked Novotel hotel.
After taking our room key we left to meet Berliners, no longer East or West Berliners but just Berliners. Had a takeaway breakfast on a way from one of the bakery shop at metro station and got off at Zoologischer Garten Bahnhof to visit Kudamm. It is here that the KaDeWe the largest departmental store in all of continental Europe stands. If you don't have a lot of time to browse the whole store at least pay a visit to the top floor which is Mecca for foodies. We also checked both BMW and Mercedes showrooms where you find designer items other than car designed by those famous engineering and designer with perfections.
We walked to Berlin’s famous landmark Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche rebuild itself but not at the cost of wiping its past. The ruins of Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church stand as reminder of the suffering of the war, right next to its hexagonal bell tower very much building of the present. The church is a reinforced concrete structure with blue-colored glass bricks while Memorial hall has still some of the mosaic decoration that survived the bombing.
From here we hopped onto double-decker bus line no 100 famous among tourists as it crosses most of historic Berlin.
Tip: Sit at top as it's easier to get a view of most top sights like Reichstag, as well as the many other historic buildings on Unter den Linden.
Got down at Alexanderplatz to see Berlin’s 365 metre high TV tower. Next to the TV tower is located the gothic Marienkirche, the second oldest church (built in late 13th century) of the historical centre of Berlin. It is close to river spree and surrounded by few notable buildings with red-brick roof and right across the street was Starbucks – had coffee there. I do not drink coffee but those chilly winds outside we took shelters few times where Santanu tried to give quick dégustation class on coffee. From here we walked to Berlin Cathedral built between 1895 and 1905. We even climbed to the top of dome to take panoramic view. It faces the Lustgarten (pleasure garden) and the Berliner Stadtschloss (berlin city palace). Lustgarten is a park on Museum Island. It houses Altes museum (old museum) which we visited later.
It was dusk when we were waiting in a long queue to visit Reichstag - German parliament near the Brandenburg gate building with large glass dome and access to top with a great view of Berlin. Although free entrance but extensive security check and at same time its worth visiting.
Then, we went to see Germany’s iconic landmark Brandenburg Gate at historical center and nucleus of former East Berlin district Mitte. This is where it’s all happening. It’s numéro one place to be seen and to see. Cafes, bars restaurants, theatres, designer shops selling everything from shoes to scarves; day or night places along with many other sites of historic interest are teeming with people. It is new hangout for young and restless. In the very heart of Berlin is a memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe which we didn’t visited as it was already dark.
Lastly, went to house of world culture centre for non European art whose floor was superbly decorated… no doubt. Had dinner at one of Chinese restaurant near Zoologischer Garten and left for our hotel.
Time to say Ciao, a presto (bye, see u soon) to Venice!!! Although we knew it might never be soon again. With happy mood we left for Milan from where we started our memorable journey. We boarded Euro-star for which we had to make advance reservation. Indisputably it was the best train we boarded in last seven days. On reaching Milan kept our luggage in lock room and set off to explore the business city as well fashion center of Italy.
Starting with Milan’s cathedral, the city’s centerpiece and third-largest church in Europe is worth visiting. Next to Cathedral Square “Galleria Vittorio Emanuele” – Milan’s great four-story-high, glass-domed arcade- place to shop for rich and famous. Milan’s famous opera house was closed for renovation. We skipped Leonardo’s “Last-supper” and his bronze horse which he never built.
We had pasta at lunch in small store which was really ambrosial - no doubt. Late afternoon, wandered through big brand stores for clothes and ultimately I bought one wrist watch for myself as souvenir which cost me dear.
Early evening, we headed towards a restaurant recommended by guide book in the business district which was very deserted being Sunday. Unexpectedly, we found the place and it was big restaurant with white table cloths. We were received with great affection and hospitality by owners which we can never forget. Service was excellent along with food. We started with Pasta and had fish as second serving oh! That was big fish as they served us; Pamela missed all those bones and head as they took away that trolley (as she is a big human cat who loves to chew bones be it fish or chicken). Well, slowly clock was ticking off giving us a reminder to say Ciao to Italy. Train to Paris came from Venice and we had a good night sleep after a long strenuous day.
Epilogue: Writing travelogue after 3 years was not easy. Had to refer various web site to get the details right. But the only person made it finish is Pamela as she wrote each pages and I just added few lines here and there. Yes, its worth remembering those eight days. This was great to immerse oneself with recollections of those lazy afternoon or vigorous morning for sure as I know I am not going to have this kind of break soon in my present life.
Next day, when we woke up, were very happy to see blue sky after two days of grey sky. Around 9.00 AM we came by boat to hot-spot St. Mark's Square. St. Mark's Basilica which is Byzantine influenced was too crowded to visit that time and unfortunately in evening we ran out of time and could not make it so satisfied ourselves from outside only. Doge's Palace is a gothic palace with bridge of sighs at rear end which is made of white limestone and has windows with stone bars. It connects the old prisons to the interrogation rooms in the Doge's Palace and last view point of Venice that convicts use to see before their imprisonment. Campanile bell tower is worth for city view only but we did not take the flight of stairs as we have lot more to explore. Visiting museum was big NO as we had enough (time was another constraint).
Did enjoyed trip along the Grand Canal with hopping on-off. Countless bridges lace together the neighborhoods of Venice. Amazed to see many historical buildings is slowly sinking into the marshy ground…getting tilted?
At afternoon after lunch we took a cruise to one of islands in the Venetian lagoon. We went to Murano where one gets chance to watch Venetian glass blowers fashion their delicate objects known for glassware, lamps, chandeliers and glass jewelry. We started with glass museum and visited few glass factories, they show you the art, but for them it is just part of work. We got few souvenirs for friends and family.
At evening we came back to Rialto Bridge. Rialto Bridge is famous for its shops. There are three bridges joined together which makes it special. Wandered around saw many taking gondola ride – it’s ‘expensive’. Best if you are a group of four to split the cost for those twenty minutes. Any way, we could not found another couple to share and decided against it. The route from the Rialto to the Academia (one of the famous museum) and back to piazza San Marco winds through ornate squares and is quite interesting.
TIPS: Get a travel pass to ride the elusive water bus – else single tickets are less economical if you plan to spend days touring in order to explore every nook and cranny. We missed few things at Venice; we did not visit the famous Opera house which underwent renovation. We stayed in Lido but we did not explore its beaches. Last but not least we missed to pick up those carnival masks for wall hanging.
It seems Venice is not the place for pasta. Rather, Cichetti (chee-keht-tee) are small portions of food served in bars all over the city, with small glass of wine. You eat while standing in a crowded room. Certain bars display all the Cichetti before you; Sorry, couldn’t enjoy that as I am not a wine-lover.
There are plenty of places to explore in Tuscan region from Florence as day trip. We decided to visit Siena which is only one hour. Reason for choosing Siena was for its medieval beauty; in that era Siena and Florence were at war when Florence defeated Siena.
Travel by road through Tuscan region is really amazing as you cross those post-card hills. But exhausted from yesterdays walking on the cobble stone roads of Florence I dozed as soon we hit the highway that made Santanu bit furious as he couldn’t share those moments.
Bus dropped us near to city center from where we visited top-sights – Piazza del campo square (city hall, museum, bell tower) and cathedral (with a baptistery, cathedral museum and viewpoint) of medieval town with twisting alleyways.
Siena’s city square (unique shell shaped piazza) is huge and it is the main landmark; only accessible by feet or taxi. There are lots of leather shops along Via di Citta (Main Street). Besides, there are numerous other shops and restaurants lined against the narrow lane which we found outrageously priced and too crowded with tourists. We walked along that street and had mouth-watering pizza for lunch in one resturant.
Siena’s cathedral is outstanding with black and white marble columns and dazzling mosaics on the floor. Do not miss the magnificent Bernini statue of Mary Magdalene (does this bell a ring from Da Vinci’s Code?) hidden away in a niche of marble. Duomo is unfinished as you can see the half constructed outer wall. inside every possible inch of wall, ceiling and floor has been decorated. Adjoining the cathedral is the Piccolomini library which is also must.
Later, we walked to San Domenico (Basilica Cateriniana) with delicate and soft gelatos in our hand. This is a huge gothic church with minimalistic design so there is no fancy marble works or any thing.
Finally, we walked back to the bus stop (to Florence) with my eyes wide open this time.
At morning we crossed famous open market of Florence. But unfortunately, in the morning we were too early and in evening we were too late.
Being exhausted from last evening we got up bit late and had very good breakfast before hitting the road. According to our itinerary, distance to be covered was long one as our hotel was booked at Florence.
We took train to La Spezia, it was a crowded, got packed with each passing stations of Cinque Terre but became empty as soon as we crossed Riomaggiore. We had to wait a bit at La Spezia as train was coming from north was late. We heard trains in Italy sometime get delayed by few minutes to hours.
On our way to Florence we planned to visit the amazing 180 feet high Leaning Tower of Pisa - stop for taking pictures as we were crunched with time for visiting top sights.
At Pisa, we left our luggage at locker room of railway station went to “Duomo” by local bus, which was a quick way to get a glimpse of this old city. Pisa is also known for its famous university. As soon as we got down from bus we found the entrance was packed with hawkers and souvenir shops. It is a pretty common site in Italy to find people from North African countries trying to lure tourist with fake designer bags to sunglass.
After years of restoration leaning tower of Pisa now allows visitors to climb up 500 plus stairs to get a breath taking view and unique experience. But there was a small catch – we were told to wait for next five hours for our turn to come. With exhausted legs from yesterday’s hiking and dampened by the long queue we dropped the idea.
In the same campus there are three other key buildings which was also build around the same time. The bell tower only looks leaning once it is referenced against it surrounding. We started with the cathedral (duomo) influenced by Byzantine architecture with magnificent red tiles on the top.
After that we visited Baptistery- famous for its acoustics. And we were very fortunate to witness the same. There was a group visiting the same at the same time and one among them sang beautifully. Though we did not understand any words what that gentleman was singing but we experienced the power of music. It was a superb impromptu performance as every one inside stopped and made sure there was pin drop silence.
From there we went Camposanto (cemetery) which are guarded together by wall called as Field of Miracles. As we have nothing much to do we tried plenty of pictures where we tried to give a push or hold the tower
Back at station we picked luggage and boarded train to Florence. The view from the train was superb as we crossed the Arno River few times. The lush green of wheat fields with mountains at backdrop were very scenic with sun setting in west.
Arno river is very famous river as it flows through the famous Tuscany region. To some Arno divides Italy in north and south as there is vast political and socio-economical difference in those two parts.
TIP: European trains are very particular in time not fit for people following Indian stretchable time. It’s always better to have some time in hand as they close the doors of train 5 minutes before departure.
We got up early had a quick breakfast and dragged our bags to Milan Central Station; bought our ticket for next destination “Cinqueterre” - refers to five small villages (Corniglia, Manarola, Monterosso al Mare, Riomaggiore and Vernazza) - cling to the rugged mountains along Mediterranean coastline with breath taking view.
This UNSECO heritage site is not on the main train line or motor-way that connects Milan to Rome. To get there, we have to cross the mountain to reach the western side of Italy. Need to change train at Genoa- known for its pesto sauce and native place of Columbus. It is said that as the western side of the Liguria hills gets the best sun light which is perfect for tomato and basil. As we had to change train from main line to local line we could only get glimpse from train.
There are special trains from Levanto to La Spezia which stops in these five villages. As I write down about different trains lines I am sure you got an idea how remote these little villages are ; yes they are really small villages. Tourist attraction has not yet turned them into mini town.
Cost of hotels in those five small villages were enormous so we booked hotel at Levanto, north of Cinqueterre a small village with sandy beach, bustling day-time markets. Later, while exchanging travel notes with friends we found Levanto was a better choice in terms of food, spacious room and most importantly price and service.
After checking into the hotel in afternoon we rushed back to the rail-station to head towards the south most station Riomaggiore. We got one day “Cinque Terre Card” that allowed us to hike and ride public transport in Cinqueterre. This small amount helps to maintain this National Park.
The best way to explore Cinqueterre is to hike the trails between the 5 villages; there are other numerous trail which connects vineyards and sea. Of course, there are public transport or ferry to hop between villages.
We planned to hike south to north in one go; the distance between Riomaggiore to Monterosso al Mare is 12kms, a lot of the trail is steep and rocky. The hike started with steep stairs leading to famous Via dell’Amore, (which needs no translation I hope - Path of love). The walk from Riomaggiore to Manarola is the easiest which takes about 15-20 minutes depending on how long you stop to gaze at the view! It is paved all the way and fairly flat.
The next section of the walk is from Manarola to Corniglia ( 3km long and takes about 1 hour). Parts of this trail are pretty easy, but it is steeper at times, the ground is sometimes uneven. The most exhausting part of this section is at the end. As you arrive at Corniglia train station there are also signs to reach secluded or public beach along the way. That means you need to hike down to the sea. The station is located by the sea side, while the town of Corniglia is on top of the hill which is connected by long flight of stairs!!!
The section between Corniglia and Vernazza is most scenic part passing through vineyards, fragrant herb bushes and rocky outcrops with spectacular views. It took about 1.5 hours to complete, though we stopped quite a bit to admire the views and took some breathe.
Toughest section is between Vernazza and Monterosso with lots of ups and downs and steep stairs. It is a real bridle path which unwinds itself by the seaside.
From here, we returned back to Levanto by train full of sun-burned tourists.
TIP: Need good pair of shoes to avoid weary legs and hiking pole will save your knees. We hiked this part in late afternoon as we were crunched with time but will advice to start in the morning so that you take more frequent stops to admire the beauty and give rest to your legs and lungs.
At the end, we almost had to run as we were not prepared for hiking in dark and it was only us on that trail. You can spend few days in these villages to unwind and explore churches and other historic buildings if those interest you. </p
Weeklong journey of Italy takes us back to summer of 2004; due to various reasons never posted travelogues on time though pictures from the same were published on time. Please hang on as we try to recite detailed vacation from our faithful memory.
We had a night train from Bercy Station, Paris. For us, reaching Bercy was bit far from our Metro Station (Exelmans on M9) as there was no easy interchange; while on street-road map it looks closer from our apartment. This train is not a fast train (TGV) but fast enough to take you to Venice from Paris in one night. We started around 20:30 but due to summer it was still very bright day when we left Paris. We travelled by first class; the cabin was similar to AC 1st class compartment of Indian trains in size. No doubt, the spotless and punctual services are incomparable. Only down side of this night train is missing the beauty of Alps as we cross in the night.
After checking in pre-booked hotel at business centre of Italy, Milan and having our breakfast we left for Sforza Castle, rebuilt brick fortress and Parco Sempione. There is also “Arco della Pace” resembling Arc-de-Triumph of Paris to hail Napoleon’s entry into Milan. These are in the northern part of Milan and worth visiting.
Santanu had heard a lot about Lake Como from his old colleague Antonio about his home town. Those countless description aroused a curiosity to visit Lake Como. Como and other lakes of Northern Italy are very famous as they border with southern part of Switzerland. They are the tourist destination to relax in tranquillity for rich and famous. Rich bankers, fashion designers or Hollywood movie stars all want to grab a lake side property here. In old time, these lakes also meant reliable mode of transport to higher Alps from southern end.
Just half an hour from noisy, bustling Milan, Lake Como is a magical combination of lush Mediterranean foliage and snowy alpine peaks. We took a classic lakeside promenade, where roads are narrow, bit congested, and lined by old villas (some of which even converted into hotels) and from here we took a ferry ride to Bellagio on the southern shore known as the pearl of the lake.
Ferry ride is very enchanting leading to other small villages along lakeside which are hop away. Bellagio has narrow cobbled streets, breathtaking views, impeccable small homes and glorious villas with winding alleys, flowering balconies and lace-curtained windows which give a feeling of most captivating spot.
Tips: Instead of walking you can take a cab or bus from the train station to the lake front if your legs feel weak.
In recent time, two big ticket movies which I saw were shooted here - “STAR WAR –II” and “Ocean Twelve.”
Although, village is not animated by tourists but still we repented to leave this place as we had already booked hotel at Milan. Train journey from Milan to Como was nice but lost in our memory to the natural beauty of the lake and that magical afternoon on ferry. On returning had dinner at one of the restaurant near Galleria Vittorio Emanuele which was scrumptious.
Tips: As summer days are long, afternoon ferry ride is a better option that way you can use the first part for exploring something else. You may enjoy the afternoon sun on the ferry for a sun-tan. But too late in the afternoon means you might not be able to get an “aller-retour” ferry ride.
Black and yellow metered taxi’s made famous by Bollywood movies play a major role of public transport in Mumbai other then auto rickshaws, trains and buses. In New York they are yellow, in London they are Black and in Mumbai they’re both yellow and black. They are part of Mumbai heritage. Normally, they move in snail space at peak hours which may depend on the area traversed and the state of the roads. Truly, at times cannot help to mention their weird way of driving.
- These metered taxis ply throughout Mumbai otherwise only mode of hired transport in proper Mumbai as auto-rickshaws are not allowed. Bandra on western and Sion on central line marks the demarcation point. This is a big bliss as there is not much noise pollution, no mad driving and not much squeezing on road for space.
- They are quaint vehicles which are quite reasonable in price to hire, even if short on leg room, seat comfort, ceiling height, and window space.
- They also run in share mode, maximum of four person can share the ride but routes are fixed for this kind. Mostly Mumbai-ans uses them to reach office from station or vice versa.
- All most 99% black and yellow cabs are Premier Padmini by FIAT
- FIAT does not produce these car any more so all cars on the road are 20/30 years old.
- They run on CNG (that is the only reason taxi fair did not got a hike in last few years).
- Fixing the car is easy, not much electronic like new car. Each driver knows his car’s technical fine points like his palm.
- Taxi drivers in Mumbai are still OK; not as honest like old times but better off from their counterparts in any other major cities in India.
Though there are new air conditioned taxi on the road which are yet to become mainstream. These will be air conditioned and fitted with GPS, cordless phones, electronic meters with printers. These new taxis will charge a little extra than the traditional black and yellow taxis because of the luxury frills.
Even recently one Cab Company has decided to employ ladies driver catering mainly to ladies passenger and this service will be started by this November.
Monsoon is about to end. So begins the celebrations and festivals across India. Any Indian festival is incomplete without the typical Indian festivities, the gatherings, celebrations, exchange of sweets and gifts, lots of noise, singing and dancing. Festivals are the celebration of not only togetherness but also being part of the family.
In India, monsoon follows FIFO (first in first out) model so the festivals. As the fields look brilliant with a bountiful harvest; the beautiful landscape of greenery can be seen in its full radiance at this time. Starting with Onam - the harvest festival of Kerala (the southern most state) where monsoon was first to arrive. Almost in same time, in other parts of India month of Shravan is considered to be the holiest month of the year which begins with festival of Naga-Panchami. When each Monday of this month, known as Shravana Somvar, is devoted to the worship of Shiva as this day is sacred to Lord Shiva and is specially observed with austerity. Thus, it marks the begin of festivals one after another.
Basically, festival for Indians means its time to get new clothes, to get their house painted or everything else they asked for or thought of. Time for family get-together where numerous uncles, aunts and grandmas grace their wishes with delight. It is also a time for homecoming for people staying away from the families. Their arrival multiples the joy of the festival several folds. Observing and following the festivals from childhood gets so much in blood that every Indian tries his best to observe the festival in customary way even if they are settled abroad. Thus, passing it from generation to generation.
People of all religions, castes and communities celebrate their festival with equal joy and verve. Peculiarity of this land is where unity had always coexisted with diversity, especially during festivals when people come together to celebrate life’s unlimited joys.
Despite rejoicing and gaiety, thanks to the string of festivals we celebrate in name of numerous Gods and Goddesses other then those anniversaries (birthday-deathday) of great men of India. Thus, providing us with numerous holidays if not “bundh” without longing much for weekends as yet in India the concept of 5 working days is not there in majority of work-place.
Looking at Ballard Pier at south Bombay from my office window. Bombay port is one of the busiest port in India if not the most. I am sure looking at the picture you can figure out it is a old picture as the weather is still gloomy with dark clouds here. It is one of the very first pictures from our Canon G7 camera. I really like the way light and shadow on the tree brunch, it is quite well center balanced shoot to me.
Naah….this is a not a post on my office window nor on camera just wanted to find an short escape from gruelling work for few minutes and update you all. Best part is Pamela has work hard to gain aesthetic (appearances), ergonomics (actual human usage) and accessibility in our blog. She tried to categorize each post; big kudos to her - look out on the sidebar.
I would be going to Bangalore next week for three days on official trip; it is almost certain that we have to move to Bangalore but that should happen next year. Anyways, in meantime I will try to meet relatives and friends at b’glore but that depends on their calender as well. Till next…bonne weekend!!!
Celebrating the birth anniversary of blue boy with peacock feather in his wreath,
flute in one hand and making efforts to steal pots of butter, butter-milk or dahi (curd); well known for his mischievous acts and playing pranks on gopis (cow herding girls).
Based on his stealing efforts there is a very popular ceremony called dahi-handi celebrated with lot of enthusiasm and glee on this day or on the second day of Janmashtami. It is an enactment of Lord Krishna’s efforts to steal butter from Matka (earthen pot) suspended from the ceiling. It is not the rituals, customs and traditions that change over the time but the celebration styles and perspectives that become contemporary. Now a days this ceremony has taken its shape in form of money making competition participated by various groups “govinda” or “gopalas” of localities. Group which succeds in breaking pot gets hefty rewards.
Dahi Handi is celebrated with fervor, especially in the twin cities of Mathura - Vrindavan, Dwarka and Mumbai. In Mumbai with yelling of ‘Ala re ala, Govinda ala‘ this ceremony cum competition starts. Now, state-government is thinking on projecting this festival in-order to attract tourists. Basically, an earthen pot containing a mixture of milk, dry fruits, ghee is hung around 20-30 feet high in the air with the help of a rope. Enthusiastic young men (now women group), form a human pyramid by standing one on top of the other and tries to break the pot. Onlookers throw waters on the young men in order to prevent them from breaking the pot. Devotees believe that the broken pieces of earthen pot will keep away negative powers from their homes. Thus, rejoicing in lords glory…. Bol Hari !!!
It is a celebration of unconditional love between brother and sister in Hindu culture. This age old celebration tries to remind us of the beautiful and unique relationship between brother and sister celebrated since time immemorial. Sisters tie sacred threads on brothers wrist asking for longer & healthy life of brother and brothers in-turn vow to protect (to save her- Raksha) their sisters from any unpleasant situations of life on this day. It is not necessary that the rakhi can be given only to a blood brother but any male can be “adopted” as a brother by tying a rakhi to a cousin or friends.
Be it the people in echelons of power, the inmates of the much talked about Tihar Jail, the city’s high profile glitterati, the Generation X crowd or poor - Rakhi is celebrated by all with same faith and traditional gaiety. It is a festival that binds the whole Indian family living in India or abroad together. The joyous meeting, the rare family get-together, that erstwhile feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood calls for a massive celebration in todays busy life.
Time old symbol of love and faith, Rakhi thread has changed tremendously in its appearance and outlook in present times. Besides being an expression of love, Rakhi today, is a piece of art and a style statement for the fashion conscious generation of today. People of amchi Mumbai celebrate today Raksha Bandhan in style and festive grace.
Well, I am back to Bombay from my official visit after four weeks stay in Singapore. There are lots of pictures from the trip, but as I did not visit any vista-points or sight-seeing points as tourist rather which ever crossed my path got snapped. Will post them soon. Note: this picture is not from Mumbai Airport but from Kolkata(Calcutta)
Continuing from my last post I like to share a great experience I had. It was a sudden plan and I was tagged along with my instructor who in-turn was invited by a local Singaporean colleague after work for dinner. It was buffet for a fixed price at Marina Bay Shopping Mall. The crowd was very young far-eastern or North-Asians. Sorry guys, I could not figure out who is Chinese, Japanese, Koreans or just Singaporeans…as they all looked alike and age-wise they looked like high school or college students to me. Thankfully, our local guy made a reservation otherwise we might had to wait in long queue.
I started with some sea foods; I tried Oysterr for the first time. It was OK but did not found the delicacy as it is said in France - a key component of fruit-de-la-mer (fruits of the sea or sea food - in this except shrimps and prawns rest all like oysters, clams, mussels, whelks, and periwinkles come raw). If I am not wrong the concept is same in Kerala (south-most state in India) where any fish is treated almost the same. Being a Bong- I am a lover offresh river fish.
In the second round, I opted for Japanese sushi and sashimi which I love and can have a lot. For many, it is raw fish (actually firm but melt-in-your-mouth when you bite it). To me it tastes delicious when dipped in Shoyu (Soya sauce), speck of Wasabi (very strong, hot flavoured green mustard) and with gari (thin-sliced sweet pickeled ginger). Ocassionally at end it is accompanied by sake-japanese liquor.
While I was enjoying the same my colleague’s girlfriend had turtle skin soup. It seems that it is very good for female skin according to Chinese belief. Well well… all big cats of Asia are almost extinct due to high demand from such Chinese myth. But I kept my WWF conservation “fundas” with me while my colleague enjoyed fish-head which has same realm of myth.
To conclude, I think I beat every one when it comes to desserts which were really yum. Unfortunately, I did not had enough room left for ice-creams which they had so many varieties to choose from. But, indeed it was a great dinner.
Singapore has so many ethnic cuisines to offer for its natives that you have to stay long to explore all the corners. Food is highly influenced by Malaysian, Chinese, Indonesian and none other but South Indian too. Even annually Singapore government organizes “Singapore Food Festival” in month of July. I was lucky enough to get a glimpse of it. When it is a matter of food I consider myself to be “not a typical desi” sticking only to one variety of food. I love to explore as much as I can. But of course at same time I try to avoid certain meat other then duck, chicken, turkey,lamb or goat. So, after that only sausages or bacons can make way to my plate with choice rest I do not like to taste due to various personal reasons. Well, please do not be surprised as I went very specific with meat. As, according to French there are so many delicious delicacies to taste ; that do not think only about Chinese or Korean if you are a vegetarian.
Recently, I had Red chilli chicken from a western wok at my lunch. For lunch, we have a food court opposite to our Singapore office. It is not specific to any company; it seems there are few others nearby as well. Variation ranges from Indian to Japanese to even cross-cultural fusion. So a lot to choose from if you can figure out. I am not sure sometime what they have as main-ingredients. But this dish was simple to order as it said red chili chicken with rice. But, astonishing part was the numbers of chilies it had. At first, I was bit skeptical about its spiciness with so many chillies in plate but later I took a bite of one of those and found they are not as hot as they looked. A Good experience indeed:D.
The second picture of Fish curry is from a food court eatery; the curry was excellent… very close to Indian kind but then the down hill journey started for me. They said - you can choose two veggies as side dish and I opted for Spinach and peanut sauce. I specifically asked about the Peanut one as they mentioned it will be melange of sweet and sour savour. When I was ordering my plate it looked like that sauce had some sprouts but thank god I am not a vegetarian - infact it had some dry fish. But, as a whole this side-dish was a big thumbs down which changed my taste-buds …yuck!!! :.(
A four letter word of our modern consumerism; like all other 4 letters words this is very commonly used.
The first time I was introduced to this was back in USA on Labor Day weekend (1st week of September-’98). In US, every long weekend brings a SALE. Size of weekend supplement of news-paper increases with advertisement from cars to toys. Not only that even you get constant reminder from Macy’s to Wal-mart on your radio while you drive your car.
In France or continental Europe, it is different; the retail store only has two sales in a year normally for cloths. In July, it is to clear spring and summer collections and get ready for autumn and winter while in February to make room for summer. But never happen to notice for car or computer; may be I was not looking for car.
Now, when I reached Singapore, two weeks before big summer sale was going on. One such place is Orchard Road which is known for its retail and entertainment centre. This Orchard Road is flanked by malls (houses brand boutiques), restaurants, cafe, nightclubs and hotels This picture was taken inside of Takashimaya -the famous Japanese super store.
Reading the article in Wikipedia it became clear why there are so many sign on the side-walk with fruits it seems it used to be fruit orchards in 1800s. Well, people say the same about bay area where there was Orchard once -around 1960ies before it became Silicon Valley.