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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

 

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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.

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

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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!

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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?!

 

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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! 🙂

Up the Tikona Fort

A small routine breaker was getting more and more essential for us. We decided to go camping for a night somewhere close to Pune yet far away from anything commercial. So camping and barbecue was decided and it happened to be at the foothill of Tikona fort overlooking the lovely backwater of the Pavna Dam. As soon as we reached the camp site and saw this strikingly triangular fort (hence called Tikona), we decided we needed a hike to the top. So… we started our climb at 6 am the next day.

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View of the Tikona Fort from Pavna Dam backwaters

A short trek up the fort was amazingly interesting because of so many esoteric odds and ends we saw on our way. Our hike didn’t seem too long for sure but we didn’t anticipate the steepness of the fort. It made it more fun because the trail was narrow and lofty, the incline was high and the view was enthralling!

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Tikona Fort at Dusk

While climbing and admiring the early summer morning, we suddenly came to the first interesting facet of the fort. The first entryway called the Bhuyari Darwaza.  A cave which served as an entrance to this fort is very commonly seen among all forts in Maharashtra. It  further led to the watch tower from which the view of the valley was spectacular. This was called the Vetal Darwaza.

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After this point we came across some very serendipitous things. It started with a huge stone wheel. Beautifully cut and enormous  it was, that we wondered who would have moved this. Later we found out that this was used to grind lime to build this fort and was moved with the help of bulls by the Maratha leaders.

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It wasn’t too long before the statue of “Chapat Maruti” (chapat meaning flat in Marathi language) arrived. It was a rock craved into the statue of Hanuman and painted bright orange. It was big and is said to protect all the people who climb this fort.

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While we were getting over the odds on our way, we came across to set of caves. There was a large cave which had a few smaller ones buried into it. These small caves were Taljai Goddess Temple and Ram Dhyan Mandir. In front of these temples was a small mysterious pond wreathed with thicket of trees and roots seeping into the green waters. In this profoundly mysterious setting was a hermit and when we asked him some questions, he just looked through us. Enchanting as it was, we were looking forward to what we would see next!

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A few minutes from the temples we realized we would not only see but feel the steepness of the this fort. The tall steps through the various gates made the climb fun. Looking down made us a bit dizzy but couldn’t help noticing the panoramic view of the valley. By the time we reached the 3rd gate, the climb was tough and gradient sharp. This gate was almost a narrow duct guarded with watch towers and water tanks and then came a view so spectacular that we decided to come back here again in the monsoons!

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We wondered if there was more in store for us. After admiring the view, we continues our climb to the summit. Like all other forts in Maharashtra, this one had a lovely Mahadev (Shiva) Temple on top. The Shivling was ancient and appealing.

 

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The last little climb took us to the flag post where we couldn’t take our eyes off the backdrop. We overlooked the Tung fort which stood tall reaching below to the Pavna Dam backwaters and how the Tikona was standing tall, all strategically located in the middle of the other Sahyadri mountains. We stood there gazing dreamily in to the panorama……And then we knew we had to go back. The sun was getting harsh and we were getting hungry yet leaving this place was difficult. We walked back to our campsite leaving behind the mighty Tikona.

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Grand Canyon from an Untrained Eye

A breathtaking copper paradise shines until the last of what your eyes see. This iconic gorge is a mixture of several ancient canyons of different ages woven by several erosion and climatic changes that happened over 6 million years. In this post, I won’t say much about this lovely place since a lot of information is available on the internet. It is just a small description of the canyon to my untrained eye!

The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon

My brother took some wonderful shots and I want this post to be all about it! He mesmerized me with the pictures he took…he is a wonderful photographer and has done huge justice to my post here!  Hope you enjoy…

It is said that almost 40 layers of sedimentary rock are exposed in the grand canyon. Here is a great picture to show how the layers make this place enchanting.

Various layers of the rock

Various layers of the rock

 

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Ripple marks are commonly seen in the canyon with a tinge of dark brown.

Dark brown colour of the rocks

Dark brown colour of the rocks

The red shale or the layer that appears on the rock is said to be an  indicative of a warm, shallow sea. It does look like a sea at sunset, doesn’t it?

Red rocks which make rocks look like sea at sunset

Red rocks which make rocks look like sea at sunset

A small water runoff which probably feeds the Colorado River. It is so mysterious to just imagine all this!

Water run-off

Water run-off

Small patches of sand accumulate between rocks which makes this inhibited place a wonderland.

Sand patches

Sand patches

The Desert of the Canyon

The Desert of the Canyon

According to me, one can imagine something and is sure to find its shape in the rocks of the canyon. The rocks have taken so many different shapes. My brother captured a few breath-taking pictures of such rocks.

The Sleepy Head

The Sleepy Head

The Spirals...

The Spirals…

By this point, you’ve heard all about how I saw this miraculous place…would love to hear about what you think…so.. shoot in some comments and share what you though the canyon made you feel.

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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.

 

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

 

Kutchchy Ethos

The charms of Kutch are embedded into its art. Against the backdrop of the white crystal deserts and the yellow grasslands, the Kutchchy people stride in grace with their bold colourful embroideries. We can see this in their clothes, over their walls, on their beds…almost any place around. Overall a fantastic mishmash!

White Desert of Kutch

White Desert of Kutch

There are two distinct forms of art which are typically seen in the interiors of Kutch – Lippan Art and Kutchy ‘Bharat’ meaning embroidery.

Lippan Art - Murals

Lippan Art – Murals

A Gleaming Amalgamation!

Lippan Art in the 'Bhungas' or circular mud houses

Lippan Art in the ‘Bhungas’ or circular mud houses

Among the many Jat communities in India, Kutchchy Jats are nomadic, separated from their fellow families in Pakistan. They rear cattle, breed camels and indulge in exceptional artwork. Through some family connections, we had a good chance to meet a Jat family deep into the Dhodro village. When we entered their courtyard, we noticed a cluster of round mud houses painted white with bright carved doors. They had thatched roofs and looked like the ones in fairy tales. We later learnt that all mud houses, commonly known as ‘Bhungas’ belonged to one extended family and each sub family had its own ‘Bhunga’. Wow…we were impressed because as soon as we entered one, it felt cool as if entering an air conditioning room. Not only that, it glistened with magnificent patterns and murals with mirrors embedded in them. The whole feeling of a warm welcome, the unruffled ambiance, freshness and the gorgeousness of these homes touched my heart. I couldn’t help writing about it.

Bhungas or Mud Houses of Dhodro Village

Bhungas or Mud Houses of Dhodro Village

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While trying to apprehend so much about how beautiful the ‘Bhungas’ are, I noticed how neatly everything was aligned and arranged. Looking at my baffled face the ‘sarpanch’ or the village head explained that murals on the wall are called Lippan. They make simple patterns with a generous use of mirrors and earthy colours. Usually mixture of donkey or camel dung and clay is used to make Lippan murals. It is hard to believe that donkey or camel dung can create such alluring work.

Lippan Art in a Bhunga

Lippan Art in a Bhunga

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Thread and Countless Mirrors

All over Kutch, we saw a spectrum of colours. Locals wear bright colours so that they can be spotted easily in the wide deserts. They have several types of embroideries like Kambari, Niran, Kherk belonging to different tribes in the region, etc. These patterns are known to be the most advanced and intricate. A lot of them indulge in skirt work and coverlets.

Embroidery of the Jats commonly called Kambri Bharat.

Embroidery of the Jats commonly called Kambri Bharat.

Typically, men set out with cattle while women embroider. These ladies prepare for tocher for their little girls. One such exclusive style of needlework that caught my eye was distinct from the rest. Apparently, it is known to be from Sind in Pakistan. There were rugs folded neatly which had small triangular pieces of coloured cloth stitched on the outer side with the actual embroidery being at the centre. This resulted in small and detached design from the interlaced woven fabric that stretched above the surface of the base cloth. I know it may be difficult to visualize what I just wrote but perhaps a picture might do some justice to my explanation.

A sculptor, a weaver and grandmother!

A sculptor, a weaver and grandmother!

I wondered how it must feel to have your entire life revolving around art. Its almost like you live, breathe, create and worship such a gift. I observed how women gossiped, took care of their children who chased goats while their hands moved swiftly over their needlework. Such incredible and perfected work was a boon! Hail to Kutch…inspiration unlimited!