Top 10 Dublin

  1. Temple Bar Pub in Temple Bar area with live music and Guinness beer;
  2. Getting lost on the South Circular Road amongst houses with colourful doors;
  3. The view from the Gravity Bar of Guinness Storehouse;
  4. Wandering the world of the Vikings and the Medieval era inhabitants of Dublin in Dublinia;
  5. Leprechauns and fairies stories in Leprechauns Museum;
  6. Whisky tasting in Jameson Distillery;
  7. The Emerald green you find all around Dublin and especially the Aran wool knitted clothing;
  8. The Double Decker buses;
  9. O’Neill’s Pub and their big plates of Irish food;
  10. El Bahia restaurant near Grafton Street.

Emerald Isle, Leprechuans and Guinness beer

I’ve been a wild rover for many a year /And I spent all my money on whiskey and beer,/And now I’m returning with gold in great store/ And I never will play the wild rover no more/And it’s no, nay, never,/No nay never no more,/Will I play the wild rover/No never no more.”, the Dubliners sing this so well with that typical Irish accent https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJwC9jPhuY4 to make one sit for just one more beer and one more gossip with friends in one of those traditional pubs spread all across Dublin.

Temple Bar Pub

Founded as a Viking settlement Dublin is the capital of the Emerald Isle better known as Ireland or the place of the green Shamrock, leprechauns, Irish Gaelic language, Irish music, pubs, Guinness beer, incredible landscapes and for us, Romanians, the home of Bram Stoker that guy that wrote Count Dracula and made us famous without even visiting our country. Ah yes, and the place of redheads…although statistics say only 9% of the Irish population are natural redheads :p.

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Arseways, too much talking let’s carry on with the trip.

What we did

Temple Bar and Trinity College

The lively part of Dublin resides in the areas of College Green and Temple Bar. Pubs, restaurants, museums, shops, souvenirs, the Irish House of Parliament, Trinity College, the loved Temple Bar Pub with live music, Auld Dubliner, O’Neill’s with their huge plates of Irish food, Quay Pub and so many more.

Trinity College

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Dublin Castle

The seat of UK’s administration in Ireland until 1922 is considered now a major Irish government complex. Not too many rooms but stylishly decorated and if you add the Christmas trees magic it’s worth a visit. Not to mention that is also a filming venue including for the Tudors (if you guys are fans).

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Guinness Storehouse

I’m sure you all know Guinness beer with that brown colour and distinct burnt flavour. Well, the father of Guinness beer, Arthur Guinness started brewing ales in 1759 at St. James’s Gate Brewery, Dublin.  Today over 850 million litres of Guinness are sold annually and the beer is brewed in almost 60 countries.

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The Storehouse that used to be a fermentation plant for Guinness covers seven floors surrounding a glass atrium shaped in the form of a pint of Guinness and takes visitors through the history of Guinness; you even get to pour your own Guinness and have a free glass in the Gravity Bar with view over Dublin. Ah, not to forget, the lease for St. James Gate Brewery (where Guinness Storehouse is also located) was signed by Arthur Guinness himself for a period of 9,000 years for an annual rent of £45. What a visionary right?

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Dublinia and Christ Church

Dublinia recreates life in Dublin in the Viking and Medieval period. It takes visitors to a cruise around Viking houses and day-to-day life, medieval fairs, warfare, crime and punishment, disease and primitive cures. It is interactive and educative with all types of games and questions to make the visit more fun.

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Christ Church Cathedral built sometime around 1028 well renovated with a welcoming interior and an underground opened for visits. It is also famous for its choir.

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Old Jameson Distillery

The Old Jameson Distillery is the original site where Jameson Irish Whiskey was distilled until 1971. John Jameson, a Scottish lawyer, and his son (also John Jameson) started the history of Jameson Whisky in 1810 after taking over ownership of the Bow Street Distillery in Dublin from his wife’s cousins. By 1866 the Jameson Distillery was so spread that it was called a “city within the city”.

 

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Old Jameson Distillery will offer an inside story on how whisky is made and finish with a whisky tasting session.

Leprechaun Museum

A leprechaun is a type of fairy in Irish folklore. Leprechauns are one third the size of a usual man, wear a beard, coat and hat, they are solitary creatures spending their time making and mending shoes for fairies and hiding their pots of gold at the end of the rainbow.

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Walt Disney seems to be responsible for the green colour of today’s leprechaun’s costume (earlier it was brown) when he dressed their king in green to distinguish him from the rest in “Darby O’Gill and the Little People”. Incidentally the same movie released in 1959 brought Sean Connery the role in James Bond – small world.

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Where we ate

We tried to experience a variety of place while in Dublin so we went eating Irish food, Spanish food, Moroccan food.  Our favourite places for eating where Boxty House, El Bahia and Auld Dubliner. For more details on where and what we ate click here.

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Where we stayed

We stayed in two places in Dublin since we split our trip with a 2 days trip to Belfast. First hotel was Arlington O’Connell Bridge (www.arlington.ie/ ) – well located right across Temple Bar and near the Connelly Train Station, spacious room, clean. The second hotel was Maldron Hotel on Pearse Street (www.maldronhotels.com )– although is more near the Docklands and is a 15 minutes walk to Trinity Street there are busses to take you straight to Trinity College, the rooms are very spacious and recently renovated and there’s a supermarket 1 minute away opened until late.

What we think about the Irish

We felt the Irish as being nice people thanking the bus driver, handsome, most of them young (maybe this is why statistics say 50% of the Dubliners are under 30), most of the time surrounded by friends or family, proud of their roots, beer funs enjoying a good time in their traditional pubs singing out loud to Irish traditional folk, rather smiley shinny people despite or the rainy all year long weather.

Click here for some Tips & Tricks of Dublin.

Click here for our Top 10 experiences in Dublin.

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Visit to the Dachau Nazi Concentration Camp

Happy to be hosting a guest post from the Northern Voyager (http://www.northernvoyager.net/). This is a special post because it talks about an experience that most of us would consider twice before adding it to our travel list. It talks about the concentration camp in Dachau which stands as a reminder for humans to learn from past mistakes and plea for peace and freedom. Lee tells the story so much better than me so here it is:

Photo Credits - Northern Voyager

Photo Credits – Northern Voyager

“Every summer, for the last 4 years, my wife, two sons and I have been choosing small, sometimes off the beaten track destinations in Europe to explore and discover as a family.   Each of our summer adventures has included a tightly packed mid sized rental car, a list of pre-booked self catering accommodations, and of course, a bucket list of destinations and experiences meticulously researched in travel books, internet travel blogs and travel websites. Each of our GPS guided and sometimes bumpy cobblestone road trip adventures is usually about four weeks long.  Being a Canadian family from the prairies, each of our over seas excursions has exposed us to multiple world renowned historical sites and given us a taste for many of the diverse European cultures.  This past summer’s trip was no different. Our destination of choice was an area in the Alpine region of southern Germany.  During the logistical planning phase prior to our trip, we started looking for places to discover in and around the Bavarian city of Munich.   München (German translation) was our family’s designated rendezvous point as I was already in Europe for work and my wife and sons would be flying in from Canada. When most people think of a holiday in Munich, they envision enormous Oktoberfest Beer Gardens filled with drunken lederhosen clad gentlemen devouring freshly prepared wiener schnitzel, singing traditional folk songs while being served frosty steins of German beer by beautiful Bavarian women in traditional dirndl dresses.  However, our trip was starting at the end of July, two months premature to most of the traditional Oktoberfest festivities. A visit to the local Hofbräuhaus founded in 1589 could have possibly served as an Oktoberfest substitute but we figured our teen and preteen sons may not benefit  much from the experience so we continued our search for an alternative attraction. While surfing the net, we stumbled upon another experience not as celebratory as Oktoberfest but rather a place that serves as a reminder to one of the human races darkest moments – the WWII holocaust memorial of Dachau.

Northern Voyager

Photo Credits – Northern Voyager

Dachau was the first concentration camp established by the National Socialist German Worker’s Party or better known to most North Americans as the Nazi Party.  The camp was located on the southeast corner of the medieval Bavarian town of Dachau about 18 km northwest of the city of Munich.  Originally an old munitions factory, the camp opened its gates in March of 1933 and started detaining both ordinary German criminals as well as Nazi political prisoners. Dachau became a training and testing ground for the Nazi Party’s Final Solution.  Many of the first SS* guards received their training in Dachau.

* SS abbreviated for Schutzstaffel.  The German word “Schutz” translates to protection or shield in English while “Staffel” translates to squadron.

Northern Voyager

Photo Credits – Northern Voyager

 After researching historical facts and viewing photographs of Dachau both past and present on the internet, we had to ask ourselves, “Is this a place we want to experience with our two sons who were 11 and 15 years old at the time?  Is this an experience appropriate for children of their age or would exposing them to these horrific historical acts of human violence only produce fear filled sleepless nights and feelings of anxiety?  Over the course of a few months before the trip, my wife and I discussed the topic periodically. It was incredible how such a topic could open so many different thoughts and feelings associated with parenting in todays fast pace high tech world.  Thanks to today’s modern video games, our sons had already been exposed to the violence of gunning down digital human figures on a TV screen.  Would this experience provide us as parents with proof that killing isn’t as glorious and detached as todays technology makes it out to be?  

Northern Voyager

Photo Credits – Northern Voyager

My grandfather served with the Canadian Military during WWII so my family has always marked November 11th as an important date to remember those that paid the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom that we have today.  Would this experience at Dachau help reiterate for our family what we have learned over the years through my grandfather’s recollection of his battlefield  experiences?  Would it echo the atrocities of war as told by our local veterans and clergy at the annual Remembrance Day Services?  Would experiencing Dachau as it stands today provide our son’s with an educational experience that would assist with Social Study projects and provide helpful insight into the human condition in the years to come? While researching various websites about the camp, I came across a site stating that the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site receives on average 800 000 visitors each year.  A vast majority of these visitors are Germans, especially German students who typically visit at least one former concentration camp during the course of their High School studies. My wife and I finally decided that even though it wouldn’t be a joyous experience, it would be an educational opportunity for both ourselves and our boys that could provide valuable insight into how corruption and violence plague the human race even today.

Northern Voyager

Photo Credits – Northern Voyager

Our tour of the camp started by passing through a prison like iron gate in a building known as the Jourhaus.  Skillfully crafted at the top of the gate was the infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei”  a German phrase notorious to many of the Nazi Concentration Camps meaning  “Work Will Make You Free”.  It was a first hand reminder of the propaganda used by the Nazi’s to inflict a false sense of hope for many of its prisoners. The prisoners were told that if they worked hard and collaborated with the camp rules, their lives would be spared when in actuality, the forced labor was designed to torture them to the point of death.  With the help of historical photographs and first hand written accounts by surviving prisoners, we as a family experienced our first glimpse of what prisoners saw years ago as they entered into a living hell.

Photo Credits - Northern Voyager

Photo Credits – Northern Voyager

We continued walking along a wide path between the barrack foundations and the camp’s perimeter fence in an area once know as no-man’s land.  This area was heavily guarded by the Waffen SS soldiers in nearby guard towers. As a way of deterring escape from the minds of prisoners, guards would immediately gun down any prisoner who entered the designated no-man’s area.  I remember sharing a story with my wife and son’s about how many of the psychologically and spiritually broken prisoners would voluntarily and at will enter no-mans land as a way of committing suicide.  As we neared the end of the barracks, we came across a winding narrow gravelled pathway leading away from the camps perimeter walls and in the direction of the crematorium.  As we crossed through a once electrified barbed-wire gate, I remember looking down the perimeter wall and seeing the guard towers thinking how horrific life must have been for so many living under these hostile conditions.  As we ventured further, we crossed over a deep concrete ditch formerly known as the Würm Canal and passed into what is today, a neatly manicured garden. This beautiful garden setting that leads to the crematorium is now home to numerous memorials that serve as a place of healing and remembrance for the camps victims and their families.  Originally in 1933 when the camp opened, most of the camp’s inmates were German and Austrian political prisoners.  After the Nuremberg Laws were passed in 1935, homosexuals, emigrants and Jehovah’s Witnesses were incarcerated along with the political prisoners.  Jewish populations began arriving at the camp in November 1938 after Kristallnacht was carried out by the German Army’s assault detachment known as  the Sturmabteilung.  As the camp grew, so did the demographics of other prisoners.  Detainees also included Czechs, Poles, French, Yugoslavs, Roma Gypsies, Sinti Gypsies, Russian POW’s, German Catholic Church Clergy denounced by the Nazi Party and many other European ethnic groups.  Many of these individual groups are recognized and mourned by having their own distinct memorials erected in the vicinity of the camp crematorium.

Photo Credits - Northern Voyager

Photo Credits – Northern Voyager

As my family respectfully walked past the memorials, I was curious to know, what does an eleven year old think about when touring a place like Dachau?  When I asked our youngest son, his  comment was “ if I ever invented a time machine, I would never want to come to this place.”   Eventually, our winding garden path led us to the crematoriums.  Visiting the crematoriums is similar to seeing white crosses in the ditch along North American  highways.  It leaves you with a sad and empty feeling knowing that a tragic event took place in that exact same spot at some point in time.  The only difference being white crosses in ditches are usually the result of human error, an accident.  The crematoriums were a reminder of the premeditated and systematic murder of thousands of human beings by other human beings – the difference being, Dachau was no accident.  The crematoria was used to dispose of the executed prisoner’s bodies.  While standing outside the buildings housing the ovens, my oldest son and I noticed a historical photograph showing a pile of human corpses.  Theses corpses were piled on one another some 71 years before in the exact same spot as where we were standing that day, a very grim reminder of the atrocities that had occurred in what is now a very peaceful and prosperous country.

Photo Credits - Northern Voyager

Photo Credits – Northern Voyager

As the camp continued to grow and more prisoners died, there was a need for a second larger more efficient crematorium.  Once we entered inside the crematorium, my family all felt the presence of the sinister acts that took place there during the 1930’s and 1940’s.  Barbaric descriptions of how dead bodies were loaded on to metal stretchers using large tongs before being rolled into the ovens and how workers inside the crematorium sometimes needed to smash the heads of some of the prisoners with a shovel before placing them in the ovens because they were still alive.  We saw hooks in the ceiling were prisoners were hung to watch as fellow prisoner’s corpses were systematically turned to ash.  Standing in that room made us feel as though we were witnessing proof of the darkest side of the human race’s capabilities.

Photo Credits - Northern Voyager

Photo Credits – Northern Voyager

As we left the crematoriums, we passed by a concrete wall now covered in vines, moss and other lush vegetation that could easily be mistaken for a carefully constructed botanical garden structure.  However, this wall was used for executing prisoners at close range by SS guards during the days of the camp’s operation. In front of the wall is a small ditch now over grown with small shrubs and ferns.  This ditch served as a drainage system to direct the flow of blood draining from the executed prisoners.  Most of the prisoners executed on the wall were Soviet POW’s and Gestapo prisoners.  This same area also serves as a cemetery .  Many of the ashes removed from the crematorium were buried in a nearby ditch.

Photo Credits - Northern Voyager

Photo Credits – Northern Voyager

Today’s Dachau is a very well kept, clean and organized reminder to the world of one of the greatest violations of human rights. An extensive collection of historical photographs, memorials,  historical documents and first hand prisoner accounts of what life was like in the camp before the 1945 American liberation can be viewed throughout the former concentration camp grounds and buildings.

 The Dachau experience for my family has become a valuable educational resource. Its been a  challenge to look beyond the graphic violence that occurred within the camps walls to truly understand how the human race  could fail so terribly.  For us, it has become the springboard for numerous conversations and discussions directed towards the human condition.  Human beings will continue to struggle with good and evil in the future as will our children.  Even in today’s society, we continue to buy into the “Arbeit Macht Frei” propaganda.  Many people today, chase a dream that hard work will someday make them free.  We can only hope that our children will never have to experience the horrors of a holocaust or war in their lifetime.  We hope that by learning from historical events in the past that they’ll be able to easily recognize when governing bodies become corrupt and society starts to travel down a familiar dead end road.  Unless we take the time to show and teach them the mistakes we’ve made in our past, we will always run the risk of history repeating itself.  One of the memorials at Dachau is inscribed with the phrase “Never Again” written in several different languages. We must never let those words fade away.”

You can find out more about Lee by click here Lee Mailer.

You can find more stories from Northern Voyager on their blog and more pictures on Facebook.

 

 

 

When a lake is your home, Tonlé Sap

There is water and vegetation everywhere the eye can see. The boat moves further and further into the heart of Tonlé Sap Lake towards the floating villages carrying with it our curiosity for life on water and flashbacks of the troubled Vietnamese and Cambodian history.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Tonlé Sap lake is definitely special; it is not only the largest fresh water in South East Asia with a flow changing its direction twice a year but is also home to many ethnic Vietnamese and Cham communities living in floating villages around the lake. More than 3 million people live around the bank of the lake 90% of which earn their living through fish catching and agriculture. Cambodia, Tonle Sap

The village we are in is home to 1,280 people most of which live under the poverty limit. The floating houses are small usually with one or two rooms. Three rooms are an exception. Bamboo pillars support the floating houses and make it easy for the house to be moved from one area to another during the rainy season.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

There is a sense of community in the floating villages. You can find the usual Asian floating markets with boats going from one house to the other carrying all types of supplies for the people in the floating houses, small floating shops, floating Catholic church, floating school and some bigger platforms with serving tables and snacks for the tourists. Although some floating houses are connected to electricity most of them have no electricity and use power batteries. You can even find floating platforms to charge batteries.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

People on the lake usually don’t pay taxes and eat what they can catch or grow. Crocodile and fish industry is developing as the people raise them around the floating houses to make money to survive. Tourist scams are also a way of making money.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

The water in the lake is used for drinking and cooking as well as for washing or sewage. Bottled water is a luxury.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Life expectancy on the lake is short; 54 years or so. There is no doctor in the floating villages and only very limite medical care. Child birth is high but more than 12% of the children die before the age of 5 and many of them drown afterwards on their way to school when their small row boats capsize.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Moving to the city is hard if not close to impossible since this people lack money or even citizenship to allow them to be properly integrated into society. Most of the people in the floating villages are stateless Vietnamese with no papers to account for their names or their origins. Targets of mass genocide during the Khmer Republic and Khmer Rouge governments like so many other Cambodian people, expelled from the country in the 1970s just to later return to a home that no longer had room for them, the story of the people around the Tonlé Sap Lake is not an easy one.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Sitting on the terrace of one of the floating houses tasting for the first time snake soup two small boys approach us to show off with their plastic toy guns. Innocent, playful and full of life just like the kids back home. Just that these ones live on small boat houses, learn how to row a boat before learning how to write, have no drinkable water or medical care, have crocodiles as house pets and are destined to live a nomad life floating on water.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

As our boat takes us into the sunset to Siem Reap leaving behind the floating villages we carry with us the small happy faces of the two little boys. We repeat in our minds that less is more, we dream of better times for these kids and pray for the lake to keep them safe and their inner happiness to provide shelter in the darkest of the storms.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

More picture from Cambodia on our Facebook page.

More on the history of the Vietnamese Cambodian people in this touching article Hope Floats.

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Cambodia, Tonle Sap

Romantic City of Lakes or the Venice of the East

Do you want to hear a story about that small island?” my friend asks as we cross over Pichola Lake in Udaipur. The small island with a courtyard is the keeper of a story about a tightrope walker (natani). It is said that Maharana Jawan Singh of Udaipur promised a natani half of his kingdom if she succeed in walking over the lake on a rope that was suspended above the water. When it was apparent that she was about to succeed one of the Maharana’s ministers cut the rope and the girl fell in the water and drowned. Before drowning she cast a spell on the Maharana’s family that of not having any direct descendants or heirs. Spell or no spell six out of seven of the Maharana’s descendants were adopted sons.

Udaipur - View from City Palace

Udaipur – View from City Palace

We reached Udaipur (also called Romantic City of Lakes or the Venice of the East) after more than 9 hour drive from Jaipur and landed right in the middle of a Muslim festival. The streets were more crowded than the usual crowd in India – cars, scooters, rickshaws of all sorts, pedestrians, flags, festival arrangements.

Udaipur

Udaipur

While sipping our coffee on the rooftop terrace of our hotel we absorbed the city that was unveiling in front of us. A labyrinth on hills, small streets intersecting even smaller streets, typical Indian houses tall with rooftop terraces put together like domino pieces, painted in light blue and white, Indian ladies appearing from a window or an a terrace here and there carrying about their normal chores and in the middle of it all the Jagdish Temple blissfully located inside the labyrinth like a sweet escape from the madness outside.

Udaipur

Udaipur

We had less than 2 days in Udiapur so our plan included no plan. We left it all to our feet to carry us around and to the city to uncover its mysteries.

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Udaipur

We went wandering the streets amongst houses decorated with wall paintings displaying colourful and elaborated portraits of men, women, elephants and deities…

Udaipur

Udaipur

We mingled amongst the people praying in the Jagdish Temple – an impressive temple built in 1651 well decorated in a way that reminded me of the temples in Khajuraho and with an open air praying area resembling the Balinese Hindu temples..

Jagdish Temple

Jagdish Temple

We got lost in the rooms of the well conserved royal City Palace and admired the panoramic view overlooking the city and the Pichola Lake. Built in 1559, the palace is considered a fusion of Rajasthani and Mughal architectural styles. Legend says that the location of the palace was actually pointed out to the Maharana Udai Singh by a hermit that he found meditating while he was hunting in the Udaipur hills…

City Palace Udaipur

City Palace Udaipur

City Palace Udaipur

We chilled in a small coffee shop on the shore of Pichola Lake admiring the impressive Lake Palace. The formal royal summer palace a Taj hotel since 1971, the Lake Palace is both a royal abode and luxury hotel, loved by people like Vivien Leigh, Queen Elizabeth, the Shah of Iran, the King of Nepal or Jacqueline Kennedy and depicted in several movies amongst which the 1983 Octopussy – Bond series…

Lake Palace

Lake Palace

We watched traditional Rajasthani dances…

Udaipur

Udaipur

We took a boat ride to the Jag Mandir Island at the Lake Garden Palace. Currently a hotel and restaurant often used for royal weddings and parties the palace used to be a summer resort and pleasure palace for holding parties by the royal family. The palace served also as a refuge to asylum seekers amongst which the “father” of the Taj Mahal – Emperor Shahjahan when he rebelled against his father…

Jag Mandir

Jag Mandir

We shared memories and dreams, gossips, jokes, laughter, hidden tears on a rooftop terrace overlooking the Pichola Lake with small fires to warm the night and good wine to warm the hearts…

Udaipur - Rooftop

Udaipur – Rooftop

As we listen to the story of the natani our feet carry us through the small streets of Udaipur on a quiet January night. It’s well past midnight and there’s no tuk-tuk to take us to our hotel so we walk. No soul around, no bird, no wind, no move…just the footsteps and voices of three friends talking life. And as we get closer and closer to our hotel and to our imminent goodbyes we know that we are meant to meet again on the streets of Udaipur. Just like the legend says “See Venice and die, but see Udaipur and live to see it again and again”.

City Palace Udaipur

City Palace Udaipur

Click here for our Top 10 Udaipur.

For more pictures check out our Facebook page.

Top 10 Udaipur

  1. Wandering through the small streets between the decorated houses;
  2. City Palace;
  3. Jagdish Temple;
  4. Jag Mandir;
  5. The Lake Palace;
  6. Cruise on the Pichola Lake;
  7. Enjoying a nice dinner in one of the rooftop terraces overlooking the Pichola Lake;
  8. Seeing a show with traditional Rajasthani dances;
  9. Enjoying breakfast in the coffee shop on the shore of the Pichola Lake with butter sandwich and a good coffee;
  10. Panoramic views from the City Palace.

Flying Kites in Jaipur

Fact: the largest kite ever flown is 25,475 m long and 40 m wide. Curiosity: there is at least one Kite Festival every weekend of the year in some part of the world.

First day in Jaipur at the end of 2014 started with my first experience of flying kites.

DSCF9616_collageUp we were on the rooftop of my friends’ home which happened to be also the tallest house in the neighborhood. There is no age or gender for flying kites; everyone can do it. And on that particular sunny Sunday of the last week of December the entire neighborhood was out on the rooftops; parents, grandparents, children relaxing in the sun, watching the kites or indulging in the game of flying kites.

DSCF9614It was a good time to practice for the biggest Kite Festival in Jaipur happening on 14 January. On the Festival of Mankar Sankranti the Pink City turns all colorful with beautiful kites in the sky and people pray to the sun god to bless them with good health, wealth and good crops. Before the Kite Festival the market place of Jaipur is filled with kite makers and sellers. The kites are available and named according to different colors and size some of the common names being aadi, guddi, tukkal, addha, pauna, panni, etc.

DSCF9603_collageKites of all colors and shapes were flying all around (even kites with Bollywood actors J) while everyone was trying to catch the kites around his/her kite. My friends tell me that the point of the game is too fly your kite and cut the kites of the others around and catch them. Whoever cuts the kite of another has the right to take the cut kite. But see, here is another trick, you have to be able to reach the kite that you cut. You can see kids running around the houses picking-up the fallen kites or even people on rooftops with eagle eyes spotting the thread of the cut kite and just catching the kite either by hand or by using a wooden pole.

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DSCF9606Hmmm…now I wanted to get into this game and learn how to play right? The kites we were flying were the size of 2 A4 papers. The thread holding the kite is rolled on a wooden spool with handles on both sides. What you have to do? Pull the thread to one side or the other, roll it on the wooden spool or unroll it and just direct your kite up in the sky. All of this while paying attention to the other kites around you not to cut your kite and trying (of course J) to cut the kites of the others.

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I have to admit I am still very much of a beginner at flying kites but damn it was so fun. And watching a colorful sky makes a perfect day of any day.

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More kites facts:

  • the traditions of kite flying in Jaipur seem to date back to the times of Maharaja Ram Singh II (1835 – 1880), who was an ardent lover of flying kites;
  • the thread used for flying kites is known as “Manja” which is rolled into a wooden spool with handles on both sides called “Charkhi”; the thread is made of fine cotton which is then sharpened using very fine grinned glass powder coating, colors and chemicals;
  • the thread of the kites is actually very dangerous as it can easily slit even the neck of a person; birds are injured and sometimes even people if not enough attention is paid while flying kites;
  • there is a variety of kites or all colors, shapes and sizes; we’ve seen small kites in Jaipur and huge kites in Bali; just google Kite Festival if you are curious to see some designs; we promise you will be amazed by the imagination used to make kites;
  • more adults in the world fly kites than children;
  • large kites were banned in East Germany because of the possibility of man lifting over the Berlin Wall;
  • the world record for the longest ‘kite fly’ is 180 hours;
  • some Japanese kites weigh over 2 tons.

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2014 Rewind

If 2014 would have a nickname than that would be rollercoaster. This was the year when we lost old friends and gained new friends, lost lovers and gained opportunities for new beginnings, lost family members and gained family members, travelled a lot, worked a lot, learned a lot, smiled, cried, laughed as crazy, dreamed, learned to let go what we can’t change and fight for what we can change…

Started the year with Spanish Sangria and churros in Valencia…

Valencia

had an amazing spring drinking beer in Munich traditional beer gardens…

Munich

meeting up friends in India…

India

breathing in the Italian “dolce far niente” in Milan and gazing at amazing views in Lake Como…

Milano Como

enjoyed a summer of Cyprus beaches with girlfriends…

Cyprus

street wandering with soulmates on the streets of Prague and Amsterdam…

Prague

Amsterdam

chilling in Budapest…

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going with the flow with no plans in Gokceada, Turkey…

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had an autumn with Super Trees lighting up in Gardens by the Bay in Singapore

Singaporetrekking volcanos, walking rice fields and diving into an incredible culture in Indonesia

Indoneziasailed and partied with locals with our feet in the sand and San Miguel beer in the Philippines

Boracayhad great time with old friends and new friends at the WTM in London and dived in the world of Harry Potter; spent nights between flights in Doha and Abu Dhabi.

LondonEnding 2014 with an Indian New Year in Jaipur amongst friends and feeling incredibly blessed. 2014 has indeed been a year of constant change and surprises. And maybe there is no good or bad change there is only change…and if change is the core of evolution we say why not embrace it. And maybe sometimes you have to let go any plans and expectations and just let yourself be carried away by life and go with the flow.

As the days are getting fewer and fewer and we step into 2015 we wish you all to have an amazing 2015. Wishing for simple and pure happiness, more family time, more friends’ time, more traveling, more smiles, more exploration and adventure. May we all have the courage to challenge ourselves, push our limits, dream more, feel more, be open minded, let go of other people’s expectations and focus on our priorities, be safe, evolve.