How We Lived a Day in Istanbul… Food, Architecture & Its Inheritance

This sprawling metropolis with a huge cultural and architectural heritage is a melting pot of Eastern and Western history. The only city in the world which is transcontinental i.e located on two continents, Europe and Asia and has 3113 mosques! Isn’t that unbelievable? We had a a beautiful vacation in Turkey a few years back. We loved this beautiful city of Istanbul with its ample blue waters of the Bosphorus strait and the 7 hills with a mosque each.

Skyline of Istanbul

Skyline of Istanbul

While walking through its streets, it felt so much like being in India. The blaring car horns, the shrill sound of calling prayers from the majestic mosques, its busy streets where people seem all over and beautiful colourful spice filled markets. We experienced the lovely tram ride from the Gelata bridge to the Grand Bazaar.

Grand Bazaar

 

The Brightness and richness of the Grand Bazaar

The Brightness and richness of the Grand Bazaar

The Beautiful Grand Bazaar

The Beautiful Grand Bazaar

Constructed in 1461 Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is quite popular today. It has 3000 shops which store dainty Turkish artifacts in small tunnels which is a complete jumble once you enter. It was such a pleasure to see this labyrinth  complex with pushy merchants and colours which your eye would never know.

Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque

The Blue Mosque

IMG_5628

The most illustrious architecture I have ever seen till today is the Blue Mosque . The interiors are adorned with 20,000 blue tiles that fashion in fifty variations of tulip designs. It also has some extravagant resemblances of flowers, luscious fruits and perfectly grown cypresses.

Foooood!!

 

Street Food!

Street Food!

While walking through the Taksim square one chilly day of our stay in October we saw a man selling steaming muscles. This friendly vendor offered one to us and promised it would taste out of the world! It is called the Midye dolma, sort of a munchy that comprises of muscles stuffed with rice. He told us to eat it with using the shell as a spoon… and indeed, it was the most flavoursome eats I ever had!

Awesome Tradition to Relax and Cleanse

The Famous Hamams

The Famous Hamams

 The age old and popular Turkish baths play an important role in Turkish culture. These often beautiful buildings provide a place to relax, refresh and revitalize, but they are also a place for local people to socialize. These baths have long been considered a place to purify the body and give your overall health and well being a boost. I am not a big fan of massages yet I didn’t miss a chance to walk through these Hamams and feel its luxury.

The Bosphorus

Bosphorus Strait

Bosphorus Strait

On the Traditional Steamboat through the Bosphorus

On the Traditional Steamboat through the Bosphorus

Oh what a wonder this Boshphorus is! It is a straits that connects Asia and Europe, also connects the Maramara Sea to the Black Sea.  We took a lovely traditional steamboat ride to enjoy the array of colours and scented breezes, its balmy waters and admire the palaces and old mansions commonly called as ‘yalis’ that adorn the Bosphorus waters.

Sunset over Istanbul

Sunset over Istanbul

While steering through this city…Dusk fell and the setting sun illuminated the everything, gently bathing it in shimmering golds and crimsons. Lights were switched on and the silhouettes of the mosques rose, ready to greet the moon. It was time to go back to our hotel and look forward to the next wonderful day we decided to spend in Trabzon on the Black Sea.

In the Jumbles of Chandani Chowk – Delhi

Where people gaggle and lanes never end is the Chandani Chowk of Delhi! Walking through the dusty crowded alleys, smelling hot kababs and watching people shop for absolutely anything gives a feeling of how the olden times might have been. Jahanara the unwed princess of Shah Jahan & Mumtaz Mahal designed and shaped the Chandani Chowk in 1650. While in there… I tried to fabricate how life might have been with nobles, veiled Begums, intoxicated poets, the seductive courtesans and the busy markets…

Chandani Chowk Bylanes

Chandani Chowk Bylanes

The whole place was very engaging. A lane was full of shops which sold an entire wedding trousseau while the other one was overloaded with textiles and it wasn’t a surprising when a man selling stoles chased you until the end of the lane. The next you know is a bunch of devout namazis praying in between the streets. What amused me is so much happens within seconds in this old town.

The Textile Lane

The Textile Lane

Us in the Cycle Rickshaw

Us in the Cycle Rickshaw

After a very long time our friend Tanu negotiated a good deal with a cycle rickshaw and we hoped on one to go to this famous and the most talked about restaurant called Karims! The legendary eatery for the Mughlai food. Slowly yet steady we tore through the crowds of the Chandani Chowk and reached the Jama Masjid where we had a sumptuous meal of kababs and bheja fry and rumali rotis! It is said that only sons in the family are allowed to enter the business. Daughters are not taught the complete recipes because they could reveal the secrets to outsiders after they marry… looks like its still the man’s world!

The Legendary Karims

The Legendary Karims

Us at Karims... our bellies rumbling!

Us at Karims… our bellies rumbling!

The seriously legendary Seekh Kababs

The seriously legendary Seekh Kababs

With our tummies full and despite the hot day we set off into the Jama Masjid. Huge and as grand as ever we must hold a thousand devotees. A yellow and red sandstone mosque is again a architectural extravaganza of the Emperor Shah Jahan. Wide staircases and arched gateways are the hallmark of this popular mosque so very suited to the area it is located in. We looked around and rested at one of the porches of the mosque which overlooked the Red Fort. The cool stone below us, the view of the Red Fort at our backs and grand minarets ahead of us was a compelling sight. Then I thought Chandni Chowk might not match the grandeur of these western cities but the truth is that the place with its monuments, places of worship, old buildings, and gallies (alleys) and their businesses has its own heritage, a world in its own.

Jama Masjid

Jama Masjid

The Archways carved from Yellow & Red Sandstone of the Jama Masjid

The Archways carved from Yellow & Red Sandstone of the Jama Masjid

On our way into the Jama Masjid

On our way into the Jama Masjid

The Inca Marvel of the Machu Picchu on the Ridge of the Peruvian Andes

Peru is a land of wonders! It stretches from the rocky sea cliffs of Lima inward to the deserts of Nazca, climbing high into the Andes and plunging deep into the Amazonia! Its wonderful to see a country have so much geographical richness! And yes, its wonderful to be able to experience all of it! From the treasures of the country, we had a chance to visit the one called the Machu Picchu at 2430 m above sea level. This archaeological ruin is perched atop a mountain, mysteriously abandoned more than four centuries ago. It is a symbol of the power and engineering prowess of the Inca.

The Machu Picchu

The Machu Picchu

This urban architecture and engineering of the Machu Picchu poses a lot of questions. How and why was this civilization built on such an inaccessible terrain? How did these people farm its emerald green terraces, and drank from its sophisticated aqueduct system? And why was it abandoned? In this post, I am going to tell you more about how wonderfully the city was planned and how everything made sense!

IMG_0518

The Holy Site
From what we were told, the Machu Picchu is located among the holy peaks. The surrounding peaks of the Wayna Picchu, Mount Yanantin & the peak of Putucusi are worshiped. Perhaps that is why the Machu Picchu was built where it was.

The Andes

The Andes

The Stone Work that with stood Earthquakes
The ancient wall of the Incas were made with blocks of stone which fit together tightly without mortar. They were so tightly interconnected that it is said that even a blade of grass was not penetrable.  These walls do not rise straight from bottom to top but are offset slightly from row to row. Peru is a highly seismic land, and when such disasters took place the stone walls moved slightly and resettled without the walls collapsing. Such was its perfection!

The Structure of the Walls

The Structure of the Walls

 Trapezoidal Doors & Windows
Doors and windows are trapezoidal and tilt inward at the top. This design detail help protect the houses from collapsing during an earthquake.

Trapezoidal Door of the Machu Picchu

Trapezoidal Door of the Machu Picchu

Homes & Mountain supervene
The roof tops of the homes and buildings match the mountains behind them. The slopes coincide exactly with the mountain.  What makes me think is if it had some significance because it does not seem like a coincidence!

Houses of the Machu Picchu

Houses of the Machu Picchu

The Innumerable Terraces
The biggest problem here are landslides, unstable earth. Incas built more than 700 terraces which are fundamental to its longevity. Without terraces, the mountain would have slid and the city would have succumbed to disasters. The terraces which were not used to make houses served as farmland. This proves that the Incas  studied their site before building their civilization… most astonishingly without any writing.

Terraces close to the Guard House

Terraces close to the Guard House

 The Rocks Carved like Mountains
The Incas worshiped nature. Everything seemed like it came from what lay around the citadel. Most rocks have been carved exactly like the mountain behind it. The shape of the rock perfectly matches the mountain behind it. The Incas worshiped mountains, and perhaps visibility due to fog or cloud cover must have made them carve rocks to be able to worship them everyday.

Rock cut like the Mountain behind

Rock cut like the Mountain behind

 

IMG_0479

Sacred Waters
The Inca spring, in many ways, controlled the layout of Machu Picchu. The location of the spring was fixed, and the Inca engineers figured out the slope of the canals accordingly. There were 3 fountains and the first fountain was located next to the the Emperors residence who got the cleanest water.  We were also told that outside the walls of the Machu Picchu was a overhanging rock that catches the sound from the Urubamba River 1,600 feet below the citadel. This rock amplifies the sound of flowing water. All these little aspects ensure that water was certainly sacred.

Aqueducts  of the Machu Picchu

Aqueducts of the Machu Picchu

Nature & the Citadel
What we observed that through many windows and gates the Wayna Picchu made a perfect view. The houses were constructed in such a manner that it overlooked an aspect of nature… some could even see the Urubamba river. Even the terraces close to the guard house have been built in curves which makes this site looks mysteriously beautiful.

Door of a house overlooking the Peak of Wayna Picchu

Door of a house overlooking the Peak of Wayna Picchu

It just amazes me to know how Machu Picchu is… also known as the Lost City. We know so less about it yet the theories make this place a mysterious wonder.  According to me the Incas built this city of stone, without the aid of wheels or iron tools with eternity in mind.

View of the Machu Picchu from the Wayna Picchu

View of the Machu Picchu from the Wayna Picchu

 

The Chicago Architectonics

Everyday Chicago celebrates its life that runs through its restaurants, movies, music, people and its unique culture. But nothing defines the city more than its creative and technologically advanced architecture which is it’s identity.

5DM30216-2 - Copy

This post is a walk through Chicago’s boulevards exposing its architectural wonders and water ways which leave me mesmerized!

enhanced-buzz-wide-9907-1395774935-8

It is said that Chicago River was a key element in the rise of Chicago from a sleepy lakefront town to the metropolis and major transportation hub that it is today. The Chicago River flows backwards, away from Lake Michigan, and the river is actually higher than the lake. I keep wondering how does a city that has a population of nearly 3 million has 300 bridges out of which 37 are movable and yet life travels normal on roads!

5DM30240-Edit - Copy

While taking a river cruise through Chicago, you get to admire the great architecture of the skyscrapers. The view of the Wrigley Building, Tribune Tower and the striking Chicago skyline is lovely. But if you crane your neck a bit less, you might notice that you pass through 18 bridges in the heart of the city. Isn’t that something?!

 

5DM30198 (2) - Copy

The Cloud Gate designed by Anish Kapoor is an interactive sculpture that graces Chicago’s Millennium Park. It reflects the Chicago skyline. Not only does it play tricks with the light and the sky, but allows viewers to become a part of it due to its reflection. Its just fabulous!

5DM30079 - Copy

 

 

IMG_1062

While strolling in Chicago is one thing and admiring a view from the top is another. We had a chance to see this sweeping view of Chicago and the lakefront from the John Hancock Observatory. Apparently the building’s exterior is aluminum and glass with distinctive x-shaped external bracing which virtually eliminates the need for interior columns. It was simply sensational.

enhanced-buzz-wide-18190-1395776009-8

Parading through the city and looking at these beautiful steel giants rise high above you is really captivating. Skyscrapers all along the Michigan Avenue reaching taller and taller is among the aspects and qualities that make Chicago a unique city.

IMG_1088

Chicago is a true demonstration of architecture at its best. I feel it is a wonder city with new wonders rising everyday!

Thanks to my dear brother Kshiteej for taking such wonderful pictures of this beautiful City. He does justice to my writing! 🙂

This Town Named Annecy

Where do I start? A town with canals, flower-decked bridges, and cobbled streets sounds so much like any other city in Europe, right? Annecy, where every shade of red, blues and greens are seen, where the waters of its lake change shades during the day and where the tranquility flows in every winding lane makes this place wonderful! This medieval town came up in the 14th Century and is full of  small canals and streams running out of Lac d’Annecy. Its also called the Venice of Savoie in the north of the French Alps.

 

Lake-Annecy-France-wild-swimming-lake-annecy-tartiflette-beer-and-wild-swimming-the-perfect-start-to-summer-holiday-in-france-and-french-roadtrip-1

 

Image

I lived in Grenoble a city an hour and a half from Annecy. I loved this town so much that we traveled here very often. The winding streets, the flowers, the food and the beautiful lake brought so much peace within me. Wandering into these lanes and experiencing the beauty is all one can do and yet when you leave you haven’t got enough.

Image

 

Picture 027

 

The bluest, purest waters of the Lac Annecy is an expanse of paradise. They say that the waters of this lake are clean as ever! It seems the waters of the lake flow into the town feeding the town’s canals. Everything here is just mesmerizing!

view_of_lake_annecy

 

Amidst the town is a  Palais de l’Ile or the old prison from the 12th century. This chateau like structure is surprisingly beautiful and is the symbol of the town between the canals.

annecy

 

 

Picture 026

 

This place is just beautiful….I cannot recommend it enough!! 🙂

 

Puebla – Mole Poblano – Talavera & My Unlimited Memories!

When I think of Mexico, I think of Puebla and then unlimited things come rushing to my mind. Puebla was an experience where I saw, tasted and felt things for the first time in my life. You may be confused about what exactly I mean. Well it means I experienced this city in a very different way. All the things I did here in this beautiful colonial mountain city were the first time in my life! If you have visited this place perhaps you may agree with me.

Postcard from Puebla

Postcard from Puebla

While driving down from Mexico City with my dear friend Trinette whom I visited long time ago, we passed by the volcano of Popocateptl. I’d heard a lot of stories about it and couldn’t wait to see it with my own eyes. I’d never seen one in my life and she couldn’t stop telling me stories….I just wanted to see it and… really desperately! So..finally after a while, I see this imposing Popo as the locals call it! The sight of it was overwhelming. A stream of ash rose above the snow clad peak making it look magnificent and powerful. We waited by the highway and I watched it until my heart felt content. The best part was since it was seen from every part of Puebla since it stands tall at  17,802 feet. I’d decided to write a post on it because it also had a very heart-rending legend behind its stoicism. You can read up more about it on the “The Legend of Popo“.

Volcano Popocatepetl

Volcano Popocatepetl

So…this Popo, stole my heart and it was one of the best memories I carry until today about Puebla even before entering this lovely city!

Streets of Puebla

Streets of Puebla

Then came the warmth and welcome from Trinettes family. Along with it came good food of course! Then suddenly my mind jumps to best lunch I had with my friend Trinette and her Dad of Mole Poblano. On the streets of this city, in a dainty restaurant, a special dish of Mole Poblano was ordered for me. Can you guess what it was? It was a thick, rich, chocolate-tinged sauce and certainly not sweet! I had the pollo en mole poblano which had a deep mixture of chocolate and chilli with chicken, two of the most characteristically Mexican ingredients. It also had a small side dish which I was unaware of. It was  sour-spicy-salty and asked my friend what was it. She said they are chapulines – grasshoppers! For a moment I couldn’t believe I was relishing them….but then..what the heck…I loved them! Food satisfies…Puebla certainly contributed! chapulines mole Until today, I have sweeping memories of this art which I love and still have it adorning my walls at home – the Talavera! This ceramic of Talavera, that garnishes practically every building, every patio, every square and even kitchens in this city! Here when I went to see potters make these beautiful pieces of art, I was told that a potter’s gild was formed and ordinances were laid down, that all of the potters that wished to produce Talavera had to follow. This was done so that the quality of the ceramics called Talavera was uniform and that this earthenware had a distinctive style and excellence. Until today, pottery from Puebla still holds a seal! I will really not do much justice writing about it, check out some of the pictures below…

The Original Sealed Talavera from Puebla

The Original Sealed Talavera from Puebla

more-talavera-frogs-23jan11 So…along the memory road, Puebla plays a very important part in my life. There was so much to experience here that until today I clearly remember every bit of it. Some day, I would love to travel back there and take in every moment slowly and embrace it once again!

Driving along the Streets of Puebla - Trinette & I

Driving along the Streets of Puebla – Trinette & I

Talavera Fountain

Talavera Fountain

PS: Talavera Pottery stills plays a very important part of my life. While I lived in Dayton, USA, a dear friend of mine owned a Talavera store and I still have it all displayed at home. Adding two more photos below to show my fondness towards it!

Delia & her Store called Little Bit of Mexico at the 2nd Street Public Market in Dayton, Ohio.

Delia & her Store called Little Bit of Mexico at the 2nd Street Public Market in Dayton, Ohio.

Life of River Ravi

May of 2013 was a fun time in Dalhousie. Every nook and corner of our journey from Punjab to Himachal we bumped into this river called Ravi. The Ravi river is what they referred to as Iravati during the Vedic times. It is one of those northern rivers of the Himalayas which is marked by its endless beauty. Rising from 14,000 ft from the Mid Himalayas, it streams through lithic boulders, lofty gorges and lush forests into the Indian Ocean. Hence, I thought lets gather some facts about it….and see if there is something worth sharing!

The Ravine of River Ravi

The Ravine of River Ravi

The Incredible Tributaries!

Can you believe how many tributaries does this river have? Imagine in its course of 720 kms the river collects water from 7 tributaries! Budhil and Nai are the first ones to join  at 13,390 ft followed by the Siawa from Jammu. Then joins the Seul along with its tributary called Baira Nalla from the Pir Panjal Range. Another one joins from the Pir Panjal as well which is called Tant Gari known for its scattered boulders and glacial moronic deposits. And the last one is its major tributary from the Kailash mountains at 14,100 ft called Ujh! The Ravi carries the charm of  so many mountains, forests and glaciers of the Himalayas!

Pir Panjal Range

Pir Panjal Range

The Chamera Lake

The Chamera Lake

The Unbound waters of the Chamera Lake

View of the Hydroelectric Power Station

View of the Hydroelectric Power Station

When so many little rivers join Ravi, it is bound to be deep and mysterious! The sea-green effect of the river buried in the ravine gives a spectacular look of the Chamera lake and its Hydroelectric project from the windy mountain road. When I say unbound, can you guess how deep the lake is? Water levels rise to a maximum of 763 meters while the minimum water level is 747 meters….that sounds quite unending right?

IMG_6011

This summer of 2013 was one of the most fascinating time for me….I spent a whole lot of time with my dear friends in Dalhousie amidst the Himalayas, in its pleasant weathers by this beautiful river. The gushing waters of the Ravi, the grandiosity of the Chamera, the Himachali culture and bowls of hot soupy Maggie just added to the enchantment of this place. Sometimes some history and facts make beautiful things even more appealing…thats how I thought the river Ravi was!

Terrain of the Himalayas

Terrain of the Himalayas