A Travellerspoint blog

The Nomad Has Landed, sort of

Switzerland

I have lived in many rooms, homes, apartments and houses- stopped counting at house #19! My mother thinks I have always been nomadic in spirit. But now I think its time to find some roots. Just typing that is filling me with anxiety! The cliche is that men have commitment issues, but me thinks I suffer from a variant of it-- I need to explore, to fidget. At least once every couple of years. But may be now it's time for real life to happen, and perhaps, I should consider possibilities. 

I have been interviewing cities: Singapore could be good for another year or so, Australia (Melbourne?) is in the running, San Diego heads the list, and Miami just won't work. And then this summer I had the wonderful opportunity to speed-travel through a bit of Switzerland. I visited a friend, and his parents graciously hosted me: high up in the mountains, in the Italian side, in an old, old renovated 'farm' home. Spectacular countryside. Hate to say that it was Colorado-like, but it was! Just that the mountains were steeper, greener, and rainier. Everywhere it was breathtakingly beautiful. And perhaps, just perhaps, I could have a life there...

There is something special about seeing a country through the eyes of someone who knows their country so well...my friend's parents were really enthusiastic of showing me a slice of their life. They drove me to town just to show me the old cobblestones, and then past a waterfall that had just become a waterfall, we went to a quaint restaurant by a babbling brook, they had me hang up the bag for early morning fresh bread. It was my first experience of being in a tourist and having the "locals" so kindly show me around. It was very, very, special. Thank you, Arns!

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And some more really pretty pictures.

Posted by Goofy9 06:28 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)

Ayn Rand and Van Gogh: What they have in common

London and Edinburgh

Long many years ago, I had seen a Monet in the Kansas City Art Museum. Even got a post card of the painting because I couldn't quite get what it was all about. And I thought pondering over it would make me understand it. It stayed on the fridge door for many months but I still couldn't quite make sense of why it was such a big deal. 

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Similarly, a neighbor had a print of Van Gogh's  Starry Night. I looked at it everytime I went over to his place, but again, the beauty of it eluded me. 

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And now, this summer, at the National Gallery in London, I made a point to go see their Van Goghs and Monets and Manets. I stood in front of the Sunflowers and felt a surge of yellow happiness, I felt almost hopeful of the future. I wanted to stand there for long many minutes and hold on to the sunny feeling of goodness. And then it struck me, that appreciating art can be like reading Ayn Rand.

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I read Atlas Shrugged at 17, then again in my early twenties, and then yet again recently. And each time I related differently to the characters and I understood more nuances of their personalities. Same goes for art. The Monet meant nothing at 25 but 10 years later a Van Gogh has the ability to make me stop wearing black and bring loud, vibrant color back to my life. Next time I am in London, I will be having a date with The Sunflowers!

Quite the opposite of the sunniness of The Sunflowers was the dreariness of Edinburg. It rained, it was cold in June, and I swear to you the ghosts of past came sweeping in with the mists. Made me melancholic enough to write sad live poems of love lost and all that sort of thing. No wonder many greats of literature lived in damp Edinburg -- there's enough glorious starkness and painful beauty to write about!  

Pictures with captions, some not quite polite. 

Posted by Goofy9 21:59 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Incidental discoveries

Duesseldorf

I took German classes in India. I was fresh off of Alliance Française and had the urge to learn another language. At that time, my theory was that learning a language helped unlock parts of the brain, which helped me understand how people construct sentences, the origin of words or at the very least being able to pronounce 'Pour l'homme' when picking up cologne for my cousins.

A year ago, I felt the same urge bubble up-- to truly learn a language. Not just the grammar but to immerse myself in a language and a culture. I chose to revisit German in Germany, in Duesseldorf. This time in context, immersed, ordering food, holding simple conversations, buying a train ticket, all in-situ. The past month I have studied German 8 hour a day, forced myself to talk to strangers, and enforced discipline to read the newspaper in German. And the funny thing is that I have not only come away with a rudimentary use of the language but also many incidental learnings.

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Duesseldorf's Rheinturn and Frank Gehry's odd building.

I now get why Germans call me Gaetanjali. For them the 'i' sound is 'e' --sort of at least (And why Americans say Eye-raq and not E-raq!). Aside from this, I have a deeper appreciation for accents. When I say "Öffnungszeit" my German-speaking bud had no idea what I was saying and when he said a simple word like 'pan' he had to say it three times for me to understand him. It's not about patience but an appreciation for the various shades of diversity. And very stupidly, in India, as a young person, I would tease those who had an “odd” accent (full well knowing that I was the one with the accent). I guess that is what is called a micro-inequity.

I also got to know a few Israelis, and what it meant to them to study in Germany. And about the “revolution” brewing in Israel. And how working-mothers in Germany have a stigma; they like them mammas to take home and take care of the kinder; and that the Qatar government pays 100% for it’s students to live in the embassy and study in the local Uni. My world view has yet again expanded, so I guess that’s what travel is all about.

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Alt bier - that's what you drink in Duesseldorf.

A few more pictures, of beer and food.

Posted by Goofy9 02:20 Archived in Germany Comments (2)

How old is old?

Roma

Here's the thing about Rome...The Eat, Pray, Love lady really knows her food! Tried some killer good honey gelato she mentions and to be cliched, when in Rome...drink Espresso, try a non-Starbucks Cappuccino, and drink yourself silly on grappa. Believe it or not, I have never had an espresso or a cappuccino ever before. I am a devout tea drinker. 

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Cappuccino, Espresso, and Grappa (and Limoncello)

Did the usual sights- Colosseum, Vatican, made a wish at the Trevi fountain. What amused me the most was the chatty tour guide at the Sistine Chapel, who referred to anything around a 1000 years old as Contemporary; For contemporary Romans, they live among 2000 and 3000 year old ruins, so what's just a thousand years!

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After a whole day of walking, my tired buddies grab some ZZZs at a piazza...Lots of people took pictures of them napping!

For me, I have come to realize that I can appreciate how hard it is to show folds on a toga on a marble statue and to paint a ceiling on ones back being half blind. But what I am truly awed by is the ancient world. To think that the Romans 'took' obelisks from Egypt because, back then, to them, the obelisks were already a respectable couple 1000 years old!

All this being said, Rome got on my nerves. For being a First World nation, their trains have graffiti and barely functioning air conditioning, their loos are filthy, and their traffic chaotic. They have had visitors from all over the ancient and the modern world for 1000s of years but they have no concept of tourism organization, let alone systematic queuing. Some context to this...London has a brilliant train system, Singapore is sparkly, Switzerland's quietly stylin'. I have been spoiled and I got this feeling that Rome is resting on Roman-era laurels. 

I don't know if I could even visit again. Oh well. Fewer than a handful of photos...

Posted by Goofy9 10:57 Archived in Italy Comments (3)

Hammams and Massages

Istanbul and Thailand

I am anti-massage. Over the past year, being in Asia, I have attempted a few. A friend reminds me often that a massage is a way of taking care of ones body. To keep it well maintained so that it can function for years to come.

I managed a foot massage, even tried a head massage for a horrid headache I had, and then graduated to a full massage a few months back. And then came the Thai massage...my big problem with massages is taking off my clothes and having some strangers hands on me- icky!

But the Thai massage was invented for someone like me. You wear these wonderfully loose pyjamas and a shirt...and the masseuse works muscles through the fabric. And the whole thing feels very athletic! Like it's a two-person sport. It's interactive almost. You don't just lie there and think about deep things. You participate. You stretch and bend and twist and move with the person. Kinda like a sporty-tango! So, if Bloomington IL or Reading UK has a Thai massage place, go and report back to me.

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Some pictures from a recent Thailand trip to Koh Racha

On the same note, I was in Istanbul and the Lonely planet said a local hammam is quite an experience. I spent the day thinking about it. I made excuses to avoid experiencing and finally toward the evening I talked myself into going to a hammam-- after all, traveling can be about making one do things one has never done before, it's about facing silly fears. So with that little pep talk I walked into a hammam and signed up for a scrub-foam-bath combo, not having a clue what that was.

Picture this giant room with a ceiling 3 stories high...hot and humid and this large slab of marble in the middle. Ancient sauna. Even more ancient taps and buckets and mugs to cool down with. And I was all alone in this gigantic bath--so really, I had not much to be concerned with privacy! An old, old lady came and made foam--throw a soap bar into a wet pillowcase and see how much foam it can make.

Bottom line, I am pleased that I faced my ickiness about massages but also realized that sometimes it's ok not to face stuff. It's ok not to try something. It's not always what it's made out to be. The trick lies is knowing when it's worth taking a leap and knowing when it's better to stay on to the safe side.

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Pictures from Istanbul.

Posted by Goofy9 04:26 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

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