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Photo Essay: The Unique Ottoman Gravestones of Istanbul, Turkey

19 Jan

Walking around any old cemetery has always turned out to be a lesson for me – in terms of local customs, tombstones, designs, local history, culture, genealogy and design. With shortage of space and paucity of time, most modern cemeteries are built to to be completely utilitarian, but in many older cities you still stumble upon ancient cemeteries that were definitely more than just graveyards to bury the death. And on our recent trip to Istanbul, Turkey we came across the Ottoman culture of cemetery and tombstone design.

Ottoman tombstones at the Sulemaniye Mosue, Istanbul, Turkey

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The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane

7 Jan

I had discovered books by Robert Macfarlane (“Macfarlane”) quite by accident. I had attended a panel on travel writing in a Literature Festival and as part of the discussion, William Dalrymple (“Dalrymple”), one of my favorite authors, described  Macfarlane ’s writing as “Prose that he (i.e. Dalrymple) can only dream of writing”. It took me a while but I picked up  Macfarlane’s first book, Mountains of the Mind, and finally understood what  Dalrymple  meant by his statement. It was a beautiful prose combined with adventures, mountains and stories to create a sublime read.  Macfarlane’s “The Wild Places” was my second book and I loved it even more than his first one.

The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane

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Photo Essay & Guide – Visiting the ancient city of Ephesus, Turkey

4 Jan

A trip to Turkey is incomplete without a visit to the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus. Ephesus (Efes in Turkish) was once one of the most important cities of the Roman Empire and one of the grandest cities of the ancient world. While it was at its peak grandeur under the Romans, it has a much longer history with many great civilizations i.e. Greek, Persian, Roman and Christian. Though in ruins today, it is still a must visit to see the beautiful temples, baths, palaces, homes, markets, streets and imagine the everyday lives of the ancient Romans.

Ancient ruins of Ephesus, Turkey

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A Visit to a Christmas Market in a Cave in Valkenburg, Netherlands

21 Dec

I love festivals and everything associated with them – from the decorations & lighting, to the traditions followed, to the gifts exchanged and most importantly to all the very tasty food. While Diwali is a favorite time to be home in India, being in a place to which a festival is local, is a definite “cherry on top” for any trip. Last year I was in Netherlands in mid-November and as luck would have it, my friends P & J told me that the first Christmas market was opening in Valkenburg, Netherlands that weekend. Apart from being the first Christmas market to open, this market is truly unique as it is held inside a cave.

Very many Santas at the Christmas market, Valkenburg, The Netherlands

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Strolling Through Istanbul: The Classic Guide to the City

15 Nov

If you are planning a trip to Istanbul anytime soon and love history, culture and architecture; then you have to pick up a copy of “Strolling Through Istanbul: The Classic Guide to the City” by Hilary Summer-Boyd and John Freely. This is a not your standard guide book and nor does it talk about what to see, do or where to eat in Istanbul. Instead, through its 23 walking routes (strolls), it takes you on a journey through Istanbul’s history, its people, its battles, the rulers and their idiosyncrasies, the myths and folklore, the stories of various old structures that survive (at times for more than a century) to share their tales, and so much more.

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Celebrating the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas in Vaals, Netherlands

10 Nov

Travels introduce everyone to new places, people, food, culture and many more aspects. But if you are lucky and in the right place at the right time, you end-up getting a unique glimpse of local traditions, festivals, weddings that help you experience the local culture in a totally new way. Last year, I was lucky enough to be in The Netherlands on the second Saturday of November, to witness the annual arrival of Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas), patron saint for children, in a Dutch city from Spain.

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Spending a day in Ephesus and Selçuk, Turkey

2 Nov

While planning our trip to Turkey, our main aim was to include as many diverse activities and places as we could cover in the limited time we had. There were so many options to choose from that we were spoilt for choice and could not decide what to include in the current trip and what to keep for our next trip. Ultimately, we decided to make Ephesus (the most well preserved Roman ruin in the world) as the starting point of the trip; as we had not been to any Roman ruin yet.

Library of Celsus, Ephesus, Selcuk, Turkey

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