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How to experience Cappadocia, Turkey as Do-It-Yourself & in Limited Time

8 Feb

A trip to Turkey is incomplete without a visit to Cappadocia! Mention of this place immediately conjures an image of multiple hot air balloons floating over the unique landscape. However, as we were to realize during our trip, there is so much more to see and do here than just these hot air balloon rides and the typical Instagram shots.  Cappadocia boasts of multi shaped and colored natural rock formations (fairy chimneys), cave villages, underground cities and multiple archeological sites. These rocks were formed millions of years ago when ancient volcanic eruptions blanketed the region in thick ash, which solidified to form a soft rock called ‘tuff’. Over the years, erosion due to wind and water shaped these rocks to form the famous fairy chimneys we see today. Then during the Roman times, persecuted Christians fled to Cappadocia and realized that this tuff was a soft and malleable and could be dug to make dwellings. And it is these surviving structures that make Cappadocia so worth a visit.

Hiking through the Red & Rose Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey

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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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