Rewind 2016

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There’s a sweet noise on the small crowded streets surrounded by flats in all colors of the rainbow and there’s a smell of pizza and oven baked goods coming from all around and all you can hear is Italian words and the face of Gianni, that Italian elderly owner of a traditional pizzeria makes you feel strangely at home. We celebrated the coming of 2017 in Naples, Capri and Procida and as we look forward with curiosity and anxiousness to the year to come we look back with wonder and we are grateful for an incredible 2016

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with leprechauns, Irish pubs and songs, Guinness beer and trips to the Titanic in Dublin and Belfast

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Scandinavian snow, perfect muffins, athletic people going out to ski by metro in Oslo

12744163_818590741602818_1679290715306204204_ntraditions, family time, colorful clothes, days of joy and celebrations at our best friend’s wedding in Jaipur, meeting up with old friends for precious stolen moments of happiness

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Milan Duomo, pizza and pasta with a heavenly taste, espresso, chilling in parks, polenta, discovery of the Navigli area

img_20160520_152111img_20160520_191659wandering the shores of Como Lake and enjoying breathtaking views of Brunate in Comoimg_20160521_095903unexpected trips to Sighisoara and Brasov

img_20160507_211445_edit_edit1beer gardens, charming coffee shops, Berlin wall, relaxing parks, strolls amongst restaurants and pubs of all nationalities just to charm any food lover in Berlin

img_20160815_180024_hdrbeach days and live music at the Black Sea

img_20160730_163533_editday trip to Negotin, Serbia just to have one Serbian beer

img_20160722_142418pagodas, Shan food, night markets and organized street quarters in Yangon

img_0518img_20160918_122523_editboat trips, traditional rowing fishermen, floating markets and lifetime friends in Inle Lake

img_20160920_084311img_0533sunset, sunrise, pagodas, temples and history in Bagan

img_0869img_0884gold leafs, temples, the best Shan food, monks, longest wooden bridge in Mandalay

img_20160924_141903img_20160924_172918the Grand Palace, new friends, live music, sweet memories, Same Same t-shirts and the best foot massage in Bangkok

img_20160926_135550_edit_editdays of shared thoughts, incredible views, swims, beach strolls, Rum Cola in the charming solitary Duli Beach resort in Philippines, El Nido

img_1254img_1294days of chilling and relaxing in Jaipur and Delhi making plans for future adventures

img_20161114_231850_editRoyal Palaces, Christmas trees, pierogi, beetroot soup, large café latte, Christmas markets in Warsaw

15349820_1019346348193922_3613498593471740022_nChristmas market madness in Bucharest with the view of the Parliament House, hot spiced wine and the best atmosphere to wish for

15380714_1020952261366664_6606025568305505877_n15492319_1025481797580377_6451251349531931751_nChristmas parties with memories of childhood and priceless friends

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family and friends time colored in green, flowery, sunny, snowy surroundings to adapt to the seasons but at all times packed with an overload of joy and happiness to last for a lifetime

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Past year has thought us that we are never alone as we carry with us all the family and friends, present or past, imprinted on our skin and it takes nothing more than closing our eyes for one second to feel them all around us. We’ve lost good friends and gained new friends and family just to remind us one more time of how precious every day we receive is and that it’s up to us to not let it waste and fully live every single second of it. We hope in a happy and peaceful 2017, a year of expressing less and feeling more, of being true to ourselves and the others, of taking leaps of faith without a net, of putting dreams into reality today rather than tomorrow, of carefully using the chance given at each and every new day, of still wondering at everything around, new or old, beautiful or less beautiful, of searching for more balance in life, of still believing.

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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Jaipur rickshaws

Do you remember me?” I’m looking at the man in front of me, Hindu, shorter than me and with a moustache. It is not the first time I hear this question in India but always the person saying that doesn’t really know me he just wants to find a way to start a conversation. This time it feels different. The man continues “I have driven you before miss”. I search in my mind for his face and I instantly remember that he is right. I must have taken the same auto rickshaw (tuk-tuk) at least 4 times during my previous travels in Jaipur while leaving from my friend’s hotel. His name is Bacchu Bhayia and his been sitting in front of my friends hotel driving tourists, businessmen, officers for over 30 years. A lifetime…I tell him I need to reach Hawa Mahal, I jump in the small rickshaw and our ride begins.

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10177310_491081034353792_1898744261_n_collageRickshaws’ drives in India (like in other Asian countries) are an attraction for the tourists and more of a necessity for the locals.

DSCF9650_collageThe ride is always bumpy and noisy but in the same time impressive. First time in an auto rickshaw you feel like holding yourself to something so that you don’t fall somehow or lose your bags. In time you start ignoring the bumpy road and the noise becomes familiar or you just don’t actually care anymore.

IMG-20140331-01746_collageI love rickshaws rides especially in Jaipur’s Old City area because I get to look around what’s happening in the day-to-day life of the people without getting noticed that much.

If you look closely on the road and the sidewalks you can see shoppers, buyers, people driving their cars, motorcycles, bicycles, Indian ladies dressed in colorful sari walking around shopping or just sitting on the road and talking, beggars, street sellers pushing carts with fruits or vegetable for sale, youngster buying books from street libraries mentioning on their walls that they have books for all types of high studies in India, families all together on a motorcycle or scooter topped up with some packages or bags, tourists looking around, monkeys, elephants, camels, cows, all walking together on the same land.

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There are all kind of rickshaws nowadays in India, auto rickshaws of different sizes, cycle rickshaws and the newly introduced electric rickshaw which is cheaper and more eco-friendly (running on batteries). Irrespective of the type of rickshaw you take I promise that the ride will be a worthy experience. Just make sure you negotiate the fare before you jump in.

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Rickshaws facts:

  • the story of the rickshaw seems to date back to 1887 and it was initially a two or three-wheeled passenger cart puled by one man with one passenger;
  • the origins of the rickshaw seems to be Japanese, and of Tokyo specifically;
  • the word rickshaw seems to originate from the Japanese word jinrikisha (jin = human, riki = power, sha = vehicle) which literally means “human-powered vehicle”;
  • you can fit many people in rickshaw just like you can fit many people on a scooter or motorcycle; you can see from one person to more than 8;
  • modern rickshaws can be seen on the streets of Europe; we’ve seen this in Amsterdam and Prague.

More about auto rickshaws in Jaipur here http://www.jaipur-travel-guide.com/Jaipur-travel/Jaipur-rickshaw-guide.php.

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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.