2015 Rewind

Rum chocolate, Hindi music playing on TV, gossiping friends, Skype calling for New Year wishes, Jaipur home away from home…

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Flying kites on the Jaipur sky…

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Goodbyes on repeat…

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Past midnight, no soul, no wind, no move…just footsteps and cheerful voices of three friends getting lost in the heart of Udaipur

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Window seat in a cosy little café in Copenhagen called Mormors or Grandma going through a memory book while surrounded by ancient furniture, porcelain and black and white pictures…

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Walking and walking to find Den lille havfrue just because it wouldn’t be good to leave Hans Christian Andersen’s “home” without a glimpse of the Little Mermaid…

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Belgian beer and fries in Bruges central square and bicycle rides getting lost on canals in search of colourful doors and small welcoming streets to wander…

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Bruges

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DCIM108GOPRO

Waffles and brunch time in La Morte Subite in Brussels to remember sweet times…

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Brussels

Hammock in my parents’ garden with that blissful noise a full house makes…

That carrot and cardamom muffin in a small café in Stockholm…

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Reindeers, old time Sweden houses and traditions and that great postcard with Carl, the Royal Prince…

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Old houses, stories from a different era, butter cookies at home…

Hot September day walking around the Grand Palace in Bangkok getting lost in the colours, the crowd, the buildings, the warm feeling around Buddha….

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Live music, Asian rain, strangers feeling like soul mates getting lost on Bangkok streets with no plan, no promises and no tomorrow just a vivid, crazy overwhelming today…

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Train rides, bus rides, hostels, guest houses, bicycle rides amongst Sri Lankan stupas, Oceans, Buddha, sand, sacred tooth, lotus flowers, Sri Lankan strong coffee, tuk-tuk drivers with no clue on how to read a map, tea plantations…

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Cheerful time spent with new friends met on the road with our feet in the sand gently bathe by the Indian Ocean in Mirissa exchanging views on the world and making plans for future encounters…

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That Scottish couple with their map and their happy shinny smiley faces wandering around Asia with an open heart and being the greatest company on a mesmerizing train ride from Kandy to Ella…

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Walking through the crowd of Mumbai with the distinct feeling of how small we are…

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Clubbing and partying with new friends in Mumbai just to discover a new side of India, a modern one, an open minded one…

Home Indian dinners, Diwali celebration, wedding plans, shopping, nights full of laughter and joy with words jumping around in Hindi, English, Spanish and Romanian to remind us that families don’t need to speak the same language to get close…

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One more sight of the Taj Mahal…

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That lady inviting us for coffee in Matera…

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Trulli houses and Italian liquor…

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Watching an Italian lady making Italian pasta, port side in Bari in the morning with the fish market and loud Italians to make you feel at home, mussels, potatoes and rice, olive trees, vineyards, small streets and colourful street numbers perfect to wander around in Puglia region

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Christmas tree, those carol singers that come every year, happy kids, mom’s homemade cookies, warm wine, puzzle madness…

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“We do not remember days, we remember moments” said Cesare Pavese and damn he was right. As we get ready for an Irish New Year we look back with wonder to a 2015 full of surprises and precious moments and wish you all an amazing 2016 living more in the present, sharing, dreaming, investing in family and friends, being kind with each other, challenging ourselves, experiencing, opening our hearts to new possibilities and trusting each other.

Happy New Year!

In Bruges

You are standing on the shore of a canal surrounded by medieval buildings all brown stone and red painted window frames, the May sun is warming you up and it smells like spring, there are yellow flowers in pots around you on walls and wood fences, you can hear the distinct sound of horses on the cobblestone streets around and the engine of the boat getting closer and closer to the shore. Are you ready to board a trip through fairytale land?

Where are we going?

There’s this magic place in Northwest Belgium with not more than 120k inhabitants which is said to have been founded in the 9th century by the Vikings and is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site with medieval buildings, romantic canals, cobblestone streets, beer, lace and swans. The place is Bruges and the name might very well derive from the old-Scandinavian word “Brygga” which means “harbour, or mooring place”. Curious? Than just sit down in the boat and let’s get lost In Bruges.

Bruges - Boat ride

Bruges – Boat ride

What to do

Markt and Burg

Markt and Burg are the most important squares in Bruges. Markt is located in the heart of the city and is a large square surrounded by historical buildings like the Belfry Tower (83 meter high) and Provincial Court and medieval looking houses (many of the houses are just modern reconstructions of the medieval styles).

Bruges Markt

Bruges Markt

The Markt was freed from traffic in 1996 and is the place where the carriage rides around Bruges also start.

Bruges Markt

Bruges Markt

If Markt was the commercial heart of medieval Bruges Burg was the administrative heart. The Burg square is the house of the Town Hall (House de Ville) and of the Chapel of the Holy Blood. The last one seems to be the more famous one being the house of the bottle of rock crystal containing Christ’s blood and the place of the yearly Procession of the Holy Blood.

Bruges Burg

Bruges Burg

Minnewater

If you are taking a train to Bruges what you will most likely notice first while walking towards the city centre is Minnewater or the lake of love (the Dutch word “Minne” meaning love). Minnewater is a canalized lake with plenty of swans. The legend says that in 1488 the people of Bruges had executed one of the town administrators belonging to the court of Maximilian of Austria called Pieter Lanchals (long neck). Maximilian punished Bruges by obliging the population to keep swans on their lakes and canals till eternity.

Minewater

Minewater

Begijnhof

Right there next to Minnewater lies Beguinage De Wijngaard (the Vineyard). A group of houses around a garden with large trees and flowers which became a monastery and the home for the Benedictine sisters since 1937 until today.

Begijnhof

Begijnhof

In the 13th century a mystical form of religion was born as reaction to the growing material and formal aspirations of the regular clergy, one that apostle poverty, simplicity and preaching. The female followers of such movement were tolerated in the form of the Beguine movement and were allowed to live in separate parts of the cities called Beguinages. The beguines lived like regular nuns but with less stringent vows than the regular ones. Although most of them made the vows of obedience and chastity they did not make the vow of poverty and they could break their vows at any time and leave the beguine community.

Begijnhof

Begijnhof

Canal rides

In the Middle Ages, the canals in Bruges were used by ships to deliver goods to the city and to take exports from local merchants. Today the canals are exclusively used for tourist boats. There are five families that are allowed to organize tourist boat rides on the canals with 4 boats for each family. The boat ride takes around 30 minutes and offers a great view of the city, with medieval buildings on the shores, small bridges, nice gardens and swans swimming all around.

Bruges Canals

Bruges Canals

Bicycle rides

Central Bruges has a couple of shops where you can rent a bike for an hour or more to wander around the city. If you have more time and you start in the morning you can even take a bicycle and ride to the windmills, the nearby Flemish countryside, the North Sea or even go to the Netherlands. We choose the streets and parks of Bruges and it was all worth it. For the trip from Bruges to the Netherlands check out the stories from Avem Diacritice.

Bruges

Street wandering

The streets of Bruges have plenty to offer. From small hidden streets along canals, to private gardens along the shores, medieval look like houses..

Bruges

Bruges

Bruges

colourful doors, souvenir shops, lace shops, parks with colourful tulips and open air concerts, carriage rides, windmills…

Bruges

Bruges

Brugesand if you get tired just stop of any of the restaurants or canal side terraces you see on route for waffles, Belgian beer, frites or the local gem – moules.

Bruges

Bruges

Bruges

Bruges

Where to crush

We stayed in Lybeer Hostel Bruges just 10 minutes away from the city centre and easy to reach from the train station. Great private room with private bathroom, good prices and very nice staff. The hostel has also a shared area downstairs with a bar and a piano.

What are people in Bruges famous for?

The Bobbin Lace, a very expensive type of lace to make, is a speciality of Bruges and is a technique that requires that each thread is wound around a separate wooden bobbins. Lacemaking is an industry which nowadays employs in Belgium about one thousand lace works, all of them ladies aged between fifty and ninety years of age.

Bruges

Bruges

Click here for our Top 10 experiences in Bruges.

For more photos from Bruges just click here for our Facebook page.

For what to experience in the close neighbouring city of Brussels, waffles, frites and Belgian beer check out our post on What do Manneken Pis, exquisite chocolates, French fries, dark beer and BDs have in common?

Top 10 Bruges

Top 10 Bruges

  1. Charming houses and colourful doors;
  2. Canal rides;
  3. Bicycle rides on the streets of Bruges;
  4. Belgian beer;
  5. Chocolate and bananas Belgian waffles;
  6. Breakfast time in a restaurant in Markt;
  7. Minnewater and especially the swans;
  8. Begijnhof;
  9. Open air concerts in a park in Bruges;
  10. Chilling beside the windmills.

2014 Rewind

Are you happy?®

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…

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meeting up friends in India…

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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…

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

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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…

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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.

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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.

Happiest people on Earth and the hygge feeling

To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,/To gain all while you give,/To roam the roads of lands remote,/To travel is to live.”, this is what Hans Christian Andersen was saying in the Fairy Tale of My Life: An Autobiography and man he was so damn right.

Our first trips in the Northern countries started with Copenhagen. Well now, in figures, Denmark has a population of 5.4 million people, is made up of 406 islands, is a little bit larger than the Netherlands and could easily fit into Sweden 10 times. Hmmm, too much info? We agree. Let’s better leave this details for the science people and start an imaginary scroll down the streets of Copenhagen. We promise you will love it.

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What we did

It’s probably fair to say that most part of our 3 days escaped to Copenhagen was spent walking and getting lost on the streets blending with locals, tourists, kids, bikers and what not. We made no plans of what to see or do and just left it all to our feet to carry us around. Being a very compact city and not so big it was easy to actually bump in most of the attractions. Here’s what we’ve seen from the recommended attractions:

Nyhavn area

Most of the postcards and pictures of Copenhagen will either depict the Little Mermaid (more about this one later) or the Nyhavn area. Nyhavn is a 17th century waterfront, canal and entertainment district. It was a gateway from the sea to the old inner city where ships handled cargo and fishermen’s’ catch. In older times, it was notorious for beer, sailors and prostitution. Nowadays the area is notorious for its colourful buildings and great restaurants facing the harbour.

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Round Tower

The Round Tower is a 17th century tower located in the centre of Copenhagen built as an astronomical observatory. Walk the helical corridor leading to the top of the tower and you will have a great view from up above of Copenhagen.

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Amalienborg is the Royal Family’s main residence and consists of four similar palaces. The palaces have been built in the 18th century and represent a highlight of the Danish Rococo architecture. The Danish Royal Family enjoys remarkably high approval ratings in Denmark (somewhere between 82% and 92%). Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II has eight grandchildren – that must be fun!

Every day at noon you can see the changing of the Danish Royal Life guard in traditional uniforms. The route of the guards starts at 11:31 at the barracks and goes from Rosenborg to Amalienborg so if you are lucky you can actually catch them marching on the streets of Copenhagen towards Amalienborg.

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Rosenborg Palace

A renaissance castle and a former country summerhouse of the Danes Royals the Rosenborg Palace was built by King Christian IV in the 17th century and became his favoured residence. The Palace exhibits almost 300 years of the history of the Danish kings, valuable furniture, art treasures, well decorated rooms with impressive ceilings as well as an exhibition of the Crown Jewels and the Danish Crown Regalia (the symbols of the Danish monarchy – 3 crowns. Sceptre, an orb, a sword and an ampulla).

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Christiania

Christiania is located in Christianshavn and is walking distance from the port area of Nyhavn all you have to do is cross the bridge and walk some 10 minutes or so.

Also known as the Freetown Christiania it is a self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood of about 850 residents located on the area of a former military base. The spirit of Christiania developed in a hippie movement, collectivism and anarchism. People of Christiania have their own flag and even currency called Løn. Christiania it’s famous for Pusher Street where hash and weed were sold openly (and it seems that are still sold).

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Once you reach Christiania you are greeted by the words “You Are Now Leaving the European Union.” and by 3 main rules: “Have fun, Don’t run, No photos”. There’s a hippie look all around, barracks, some buildings that look more deserted than occupied, stalls covered up so you can’t see the faces of the sellers where you can most probably buy hash and weed, graffiti works, some sellers of artisan works. We’ve only seen part of Christiania but with all respect for free spirit we can’t say we liked it that much.

More about Christiania with pictures included in this interesting post http://www.littleobservationist.com/2014/01/27/colour-and-cannabis-in-christiania-copenhagen/ .

Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid (Danish: Den lille havfrue – still can’t properly read this one :p) is a statue by Edvard Eriksen, depicting a mermaid. Based on the fairy tale of Hans Christian Andersen, the small statue is a Copenhagen icon and has been a major tourist attraction since 1913. The statue is located in the Kastellet area and you can actually walk from the city centre to see it no need to spend money on a boat cruise or a Hop-on/Hop-off bus. Honest opinion about this one is that is more advertising than an actual attraction; it is small, it gets crowded around the statue with people anxious to touch the statue and click pictures and that’s kind of all to it.

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Where we ate

We tried to experience a variety of place while in Copenhagen so we went to restaurants in the Nyhavn area for breakfast, cafes in the city centre area near the Round Tower for late lunch or dinner and stopped for beer or coffee wherever it felt cosy enough. Our favourite places where Mormors and, although rather expensive, Geist.

DSCN4193_collageFor more details on where and what we ate click here – Food & Drinks Copenhagen.

Where we stayed

We stayed in Generator Hostel on Adelgade Street just 5 minutes away from the city centre and the Nyhavn area. Comfortable room, great location, good prices, cool shared area downstairs with music and bar with food, drinks and even a pool table, lockers downstairs to leave your luggage if you want to walk the city some more after check-out, helpful staff.

What we think about the Danes

It is said that the Danes are the happiest people on Earth. We don’t know about that but we can definitely share with you that we felt the Danes as being peaceful and nice people, handsome, tall, neat, family kind most of the time surrounded by kids, friends or family, lovers of nature and spending time outside irrespective of the weather, bicycle riders and lovers, health orientated people with the word organic being used often.

Interesting fact about the Danes is that they seem to have their own word for something that is cosy, comfortable, loving, and intimate all in one. And that word is “hygge”. To describe what hygge means is rather complicated but it seems to have something to do with people’s behaviour towards each other, the art of creating intimacy, the sense of comradeship, conviviality and contentment rolled into one.

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Click here for some Tips & Tricks of Copenhagen.

Click here for our Top 10 experiences in Copenhagen.

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Food & Drinks Copenhagen

Mormors

Our favourite spot in Copenhagen is definitely Mormors cafe which translates to “Grandma”. It’s a cosy little café with tables inside and outside and usual window stalls that you can find in most of Copenhagen cafes. The décor is a special one reminding you of a dream living room of anyone’s grandma, a place where you can find ancient furniture and old time memories, porcelain, old pictures, not matching chairs.

The staff is really nice and welcoming. They serve homemade sandwiches and Danish cookies, smoothies or all sorts, coffee and amazing warm chocolate to take the edge of any day. They even have two memories book where visitors have signed in from 2008 onwards; take time to read through them we promise it will be a fun ride.

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Geist Restaurant

Giest is a very fancy restaurant in Nyhavn area and rather expensive one. It has a simplistic décor, with diffuse light and candles and with everything just in the right place that you instantly fall in love with the atmosphere. The kitchen area is open so you can see the cooks preparing meals. The star and owner of the restaurant is the cook Bo Bech and the menu includes items like baked celeriac with condensed buttermilk, guail with chanterelles and chili, salted and dried young duck breast; the guy won a Michelin star in his fomer restaurant Paustian.

We enjoyed some wine at the window stalls, at candlelight overlooking the Nyhavn area and Geist definitely goes on our list for the next visit when we promise to try some of Bo Bech specialities.

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Spiserestaurant

Located in the Nyhavn area, good restaurant serving also breakfast and brunch for a fixed price (99DKK). The staff is really nice and the food is amazing.

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Café Norden

Located in the centre of Copenhagen on 2 floors it’s the perfect gateway from the city. It was incredibly crowded with locals enjoying dinner and drinks. We tried their Danish beer and their amazing chocolate cake.

Café Dalle Valle

Located near the Round Tower this is a spacious restaurant more than a café like the name indicates. It serves buffet dinner and lunch and it was thus crowded. We had late lunch for half price with pastas and Danish beer and all was very tasty. Prices are also very affordable.

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Café Sommersko

Fancy restaurant that seems to have also some live bands in certain evenings. We loved their steak and fries all together with some Hoegaarden beer.

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Emmerys Cafe

Organic bakery and coffee, light and elegant decor, the usual window stalls and a couple of tables and couches. They serve great coffee, juices and cookies.

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