Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The All Saints Day (01.11.2008)

The atmosphere wasn't as nostalgic as it usually is in Poland. But a little bit of it was floating somewhere in the air...

The cemeteries weren't as crowded as in Poland. In fact not many people come there. And the graves weren't really decorated, only here and there a candle or two or some flowers appeared. But this is it. Zentralfriedhoff – one of the largest and most beautiful cemeteries in Europe – seems to be the favourite destination for Poles today. Many of them were walking through it, many of them came just to visit the cemetery. Because it's full of monuments. It's were the most famous Austrian composers rest, e.g. Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms. There are also graves of painters and singers. In the middle of the cemetery stands a huge secession church, which houses few gravestones underground.

There is a separate part for small children on the cemetery. The graves are decorated with flowers, toys (e.g. small windmills) and angels. The Zentralfriedhoff is full of eccentric and interesting graves, some are quite modern, others neglected and forgotten.
The area near the church and the Beethoven's grave seem to be the most popular, as the greatest number of people come there. And, of course, there are some food stands in front of the cemetery that attract many people, as well. On the contrary, the stalls with flowers and candles don't attract so many customers.

In the evening I visited the other cemetery, called Hietzinger Friedhoff. This time there were just a few people, maybe because of the time of the day. It's a place of rest for many secession artists, the graves and statues take the various shapes and the whole area is divided in several groups marked with signs. But the order is completely illogical. So if you want to find a grave in a particular group, you may fail to do it.
The candles were a rarity here, silence reigned all around, the day was plunged in darkness...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Details (31.10.08)

You can look at something and fail to see it. Admire, without perceiving...

Few weeks passed before the continuous admiration for the beauty and size of Vienna diminished to such an extent that it revealed a great number of tiny details that form a brilliant unity.

You only have to look up, separate single stimuli and this is it! Done! The city changes in the twinkling of an eye.

These are my discoveries:

More in the album Vienna 2.

26th of October (26.10.08)

... is the National Day in Austria. On this day, in 1955, the Austrian State Treaty was signed and the government declared permanent neutrality.
The main celebrations took place on Heldenplatz. Military equipment was presented, the President gave his speech and an orchestra performed, as well. The most impressive was a possibility to ride down a special line, hung 35 m above the ground, across the Heldenplatz. I really wanted to do it, but I had to give up because of the huge queue.

A lot of people took part in the celebrations and suddenly a large number of food stands appeared on the square. There were stands with Sturm, as well.
What’s the most attractive about this day are the museums. Many of them were free of charge or at reduced price. So, two weeks after the Museums’ Night we had a Museums’ Day.

We used the unique opportunity to visit the chancellor’s office, which was especially attractive because of its green room. That’s were the ministers debate. Each seat was signed with a name, so many visitors sat on the place of a famous politician and took plenty photos. We did it, too.
Then we headed towards the National Library. One of its rooms, the Prunksaal, has been very richly decorated – with columns, frescos, statues, old books. The spirit of history floats in the air. The rich decoration attracts visitors’ attention.
At the end we went to Museum of Technique. But to be honest, to visit its all rooms, you’d have to spend there at least two days. Because there’s everything. From engines of ships, vacuum cleaners, and toilets to food. Why not. It presented variety of interesting details, a lot of old machines, instruments and devices. But you really need a lot of energy to register each detail.

What struck me the most was the... chocolate show. We had a possibility to try various kinds of chocolate (e.g. with chili) and watch the complicated process of preparing sweets (e.g. truffles). Of course, there were plenty interactive exhibitions, but they were not so impressive as the ones I saw in the Museum of Science and Technique in Las Palmas. Anyway, the old telephones, cameras, coffee machines, coaches, cars and bikes alsohappen to be interesting...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Zelezny Brod (22.05.08)

The town is situated near Liberec, was built in XI century and it is modestly hidden in the shade of surrounding mountains. Walking through Zelezny Brod, you will come across slight rises and ascents.
The town is famous for the glass production and wonderful green areas. There’s gallery and theater in the center, there are also 2 schools, empty church, few shops. It’s a good idea to visit the Museum of the Town, which is situated near a historic rout “Travniky”, full of old wooden houses. The museum presents the history of the town and depicts it with various minerals, school furniture, models of a bakery and civil houses...

Zelezny Brod is especially charming in winter, when snow covers the serene town, the Old Market id decorated with a huge Christmas tree and the peace floats in the air...

Prague (16.05.08)

They say: the most beautiful! The most charming! It’s described in hundreds various magazines and guidebooks around the world. It attracts tourists from distant places.

Prague. I will always perceive it as silent, modest, not affected by mass tourism, full of charming and interesting spots. I discovered it about 10 years ago, spent there two weeks, living in a student house on a Petrin hill. I visited various places, less and more popular and I breathed the artistic atmosphere of the city. And I did go back there. This time only for few hours, to look at Prague from different point of view, from different height and perspective...

It’s the most beautiful when the sun rises, in a clear, winter morning...

It seems that 8am is not a painfully early hour, even if you need to climb a steep narrow lane and lean forward above the high wall to catch sight of a waking city...

And this is already after the sunrise, but still very charming...

And now my favourite fountain:

Kahlenberg (26.10.08)

That’s the hill (484m.a.s.), from which Sobieski gave instructions to his army in the battle with Turkey. Now there’s a church with an information board on it. It says that the king prayed here before the battle. The Pope Jon Paul II also visited this church, as the board informs.

The hill is situated on the outskirts of the city. The journey from the center took about 1 hour by underground and bus. But it was worth it. The view from the top is marvellous! The next place to admire the panorama of the city. Well, it is somehow affected by mass tourism – there’s a hotel, cafe and a souvenir shop on the hill. At least it wasn’t crowded, as it is not the most popular time of the year for visiting such places. It was quite cold, foggy and windy, but I enjoyed it.

On our way down from the hill, we visited an old cemetery, which was quite neglected, by the way. The autumn played for us a colorful, silent performance, showing its beauty and pride. But it failed to dispel the fog, so the panorama pics weren’t that impressing.
The path lead us to a winery, which presents a wonderful view on the Donau River. The nearby Heuriger (a special wine house that sells its own young wines, Heurigers are very popular in Austria) sells good wine and grape juice. We ordered a delicious apple cake, even two kinds of it.
Leading the path, we finally reached the sign with the writing „Wien”. So we entered the border of the city. Nice and charming homes stretched along the narrow street and the whole area was mysteriously silent. Then we arrived to Kahlenberger Strasse and discovered the statue of Beethoven from XIX century. Few meters further we found a composer’s home and then... the next composer’s home.

More and more Heurigers emerged on the street and finally we reached the 19th Bezirk (district) and got on a dreamy tram that took us back home...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mariahilferstrasse and Haus des Meeres (25.10.08)

Almost like in Oxford Street and almost under water...

Mariahilferstrasse is famous of the huge number of shops. You’ll find everything here, each brand that has its shops in other places in the city. Very often the street is described as an equivalent of Oxford Street in London. Well, it’s a bit too much, if you ask me, but whatever...
Of course, the shops attract crowds of tourists and the street is especially crowded at weekends and in afternoons. Near Mariahilferstrasse there’s Haus des Meeres (Oceanarium), which is situated in a very strange building. It’s a kind of high tower that was used to protect the city during Nazi times. There were rockets inside, too.

The Oceanarium consists of 11 floors. The top one is a viewing terrace that presents a wonderful panorama of the city. Next 3 floors house an exhibition of security towers in Vienna and then on 8 floor the real Oceanarium begins (well, it begins on ground floor, of course, but it’s recommended to visit the building from top to down and that’s the order in which I describe it). In fact, the decent number of floors doesn’t mean there is a huge number of animals. The floors are quite narrow and, for example, the biggest aquarium stretches through 2 floors. But it’s a home for many various fish. There are sharks, colorful small fish, huge turtle. Other floors are dwelled by colorful birds, butterflies, insects and reptiles. Not very “oceanic” as for an Oceanarium.

But it is worth visiting, even if it’s only to see how the animals approach people. We had a real close encounter with a bird with orange beak and a small monkey that was staring at us for a long time...
And one more interesting thing about shopping. Neubaugasse. It connects Mariahilferstrasse with our neighborhood. And it’s an Indian-Paradise: Indian shops, restaurants... but it lacks temples:) And the real Indian prices:)

Simultaneous interpreting (20.10.08)

...something that does not exist at my home university in Poland...

During my studies at University in Poznań all we found out about the simultaneous interpreting was that there is something like that. Of course, there was some theory as well, but that's it. Nothing more. Here, in Vienna, we have a possibility to do the real simultaneous interpreting .

First of all, the rooms are excellently well equipped. The interpreting is taught in one room only, which has 6 special cabins, each for 2 interpreters. As in real life situations. I thought it would be extremely difficult to listen and interpret at the same time. But our genius teacher does all to make it easier and harmless for us. Today, for example, we did shadowing all the time. It consists in simultaneous listening and repeating. In the same language, of course. At the beginning we shadowed very slow texts that were prepared for beginners. But then we did the real speeches, which was not so easy anymore. Especially, when it was in German and extremely fast.
Well, I must admit I like working in the cabin. All the technique, buttons, devices, no one watches me, no audience. The only disadvantage is that you really need thorough knowledge on variety of subjects. And the resilience to stress is important, too. Well, we’ll see. And maybe one day we’ll have similar equipment at our uni in Poznań...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Comparative analysis or why UW is better than UAM (20.10.08)

Vienna University is different than Poznań University... almost in every respect. I dare say that everything is better here. Well, maybe there is one little exception. The way the studies are being modernized (the division into BA and MA studies) is quite strange, seems to take a lot of time and it’s unnecessarily complicated. Maybe there are few more exceptions, can’t think of them now...
First of all – the building. The Vienna University resembles a museum. It’s richly decorated, with wonderful columns, pictures, marble, statues and, my favourite one, a huge courtyard with green grass and plenty deckchairs. The other buildings are impressing, too. Each has computer rooms with free Internet access, canteens, large libraries and self-service photocopiers. If you want to use them, you need to buy a special card first.
The building where we have our classes is also much better than the HCP (that’s the name of the building which houses the Applied Linguistics in Poznań). One of the entries is situated in a park. So, if you wish to, the way to the Uni can lead through the green and flowered area. The rooms inside are quite well marked, which is a good solution, because... they’re not logically numbered and situated and a lot of time passes since you finally find your way through this big chaotic maze.

As it comes to the library, I only visited the reading room. But it is fine. The only stupid thing about it, is that you need to leave all your belongings in a special locker, before coming in. And the lockers are on a floor beneath the library. The lazybones leave their jackets and bags in front of the entry, near the window.
Oh, and one more disadvantage. There’s really few Polish-German dictionaries in the reading room. In this respect our Polish library wins the competition. But there are plenty other languages here.
As I’ve already mentioned, the rooms are equipped very well, contrary to the interiors of the HCP building in Poznań. The lecture rooms are real lecture rooms, the multimedia rooms are much better, as well. I don’t know anything about other faculties in Vienna. Maybe the science faculties at UAM doesn’t fall behind the UW at all...
Oh yes, and the classes. UW teaches how to become a real translator/interpreter. I don’t claim that UAM fails to do that, but the classes at UW are much more interesting than the classes at my faculty in Poznań. Simultaneous interpreting, translation of subtitles, web sides and documents, project management, terminology connected with various area, translation memory tools, rhetoric and many other interesting subjects. And what’s the most important – our teachers are not only qualified lecturers but also experienced translators or interpreters, helpful and friendly. I don’t claim we lack such people in Poznań, it’s just more common here...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Heute (20.10.08)

... it'a a free newspaper, similar to Polish 'Metro' or 'Echo miasta':)

But it's not handed out. It just lays on special stands near underground stations. And it's off very quickly. About 11 a.m. there's usually none left.

In Austria tabloids belong to the most popular papers. Every day over 1 mln people read 'Kronen Zeitung' and it is said that it's the most often read newspaper in the world. And 'Heute' is the most popular free paper. At least in Vienna. If yuo really want to catch up on the latest world news, you won't find much in 'Heute'. It contains a lot of gossips and unimportant items. But it does inform a bit about the most important events in Austria and in other countries. For example since Joerg Heider's death (the president of Land Kaernten, leader of BZO union, very controversial politician, who opposed EU and spread nationalist ideas) 'Heute' publishes articles about him every day. About his accident, about all the mysteries and riddles connected with it (he was drunk and drove 170 km/h), about his funeral, about bequest, and so on and on... It seems it's a topic number 1 now. Oh, yes, there is some news about the recession, news from Vienna and a short discription of upcoming cultural events. And the other pages are all about gossips, ads and unimportant things. It's a kind of light reading, ideal for five-minute-travel by underground. That's exactly the distance we cover daily to get to our university...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Hundertwasserhaus and Donauturm (19.10.08)

or: magic of colours and shapes. And then 200 meters above the ground...

In a place where Kegelgasse and Lowengasse cross something strange towers above the ground. It's a house designed by Master Hundertwasser. But all we can do with it, is to admire the building from outside. This is now a normal living house so the entrance is restricted. Unless you live inside.

The house really is amazing with its crooked lines, intensive colours, various shapes of windows and balconies... There's a fountain, as well. And opposite the house there's a next Hundertwasser's miracle, Kalke-Village. The old Michellin factory. Now it's transformed into a typical tourist attraction: cafés, souvenir shops and a “modernistic toilet”. Quite an interesting place.

Hundertwasserhaus is of course constantly surrounded by crowds of tourists, photographers, guided tours... I do feel sorry for the people who live here. Their house is on thousands of photos and there's almost always someone staring at their windows...

We visited Donaturm, as well. It's a 252 meters high tower, the highest building in the city. The viewing terrace is at 152 meters and it offers a wonderful panorama of Vienna and tempts with bungee jumping. Fortunately, it was closed. I'm afraid I would be brave enough to jump...
20 meters above the viewing terrace there's a restaurant that moves around, very slowly, 1 meter per hour. Unfortunately, it was impossible to get inside. It's already booked for the next several months. But there's a cafe below it.

Our Sunday trip finished in a traditional way. In a restaurant. This time opposite the City Hall we ate delicious Knodle with eggs. An Austrian meal. It was so satiating that it was hard to get up and climb up few meters towards our student house.

Jaipur (28.02.08)

From Ajmer to Jaipur it's only 2 hours by train.
The very first thing we do after the arrival is the long search for some decent accommodation. Well, in fact we've already found it in the guidebook. Now we need to get there, which is not so easy. The map really sucks. We ask a policeman about the way. He tries to help us, but in vain. Crowds of people on the streets, noise, dust... The pure India.

Finally we get to the hotel. Evergreen Guest House. But there's something wrong. It's 300 rupees for a room. No, thank you. It's not worth it. So we walk along narrow streets, asking for another rooms. 400 rupees – they must be kidding!
Ashiyana Hotel. Phew, we're back to the decent prices. 200 without bathroom, 250 – with it. We haggle with the owner and he lets us stay in the room with a bathroom for 200 r. It's not as good as in Pushkar (well, nothing will be as good as Pushkar to be honest), but it's not too lousy. The walls are dirty, there's no hot water. But we have 2 beds, a chair, table... Do we need anything more?
Well, maybe a bit of calm. But there's no time to relax. We set off to discover the charms of Jaipur.

First the Old City, called also the Pink City. We get there after 15 minutes, struggling through the dusty and crowded streets, trying not to get angry at annoying vendors.
Finally, the gate. Should be pink. Everything should be pink here. Am I blind or is it really orange? Or orange-ish. The walls of the Old City are decorated with white ornaments.
There are some fruit stalls next to the gate, so we buy some mandarins and something like plums. Few beggars are preparing their mobile beds near the gate. We head towards the main street, walking along narrow streets, towards the famous bazaars. Well, either it's too late or we're too tired... but it seems that this city is really overrated. The bazaars are not impressive at all – there are just usual products, saris, scarfs, nothing special. Maybe we've got to the wrong place. We''ll come back here tomorrow to find the real charm of the city. It must be somewhere, we must have missed it.
Streets in Jaipur make me feel extremely exhausted. Especially in the evening. Horns are on all the time, dust pushes into my tired eyes. Now we're looking for a restaurant. But the main street offers only the posh ones. There's also a lot of jewellery shops, fashion shops, luxurious hotels. No place for typical cheap Indian bars. Finally we find one. But there's lassi only. Well, it seems there's only McDonald with veg meals left. Yes, I'm not a fan of McDonald (to be honest I dislike it strongly) but... seems I have no choice. At least it offers plenty vegetarian items. And a normal toilet. And a shelter from ever-watching Indians.
At the end of the day we visit an Internet Café. Quite expensive but at least the connection is not as slow as in Delhi.
Back in hotel I try to relax and forget about the noise, get rid of the dust. Plans for tonight? Sure: cure my cough and fever. And get ready for the cold night...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Karlskirche, flea market and colourful houses (19.10.08)

Although we've been here for 3 weeks only, we already have our Sunday tradition. Each week we attend the Holy Mass in a different church. And then we eat a traditional Austrian dish in a restaurant. Of course – each time it's a different one.

Today we went to Karlskirche (St. Charles's Church). So far it's our favourite. We like it more than the Cathedral and the Church in our district (Piaristenkirche). And I mean here both aspects – the Mass and the interior. The latter is really interesting. Baroque. With colourful frescos on the ceiling, huge statue of St. Charles above the altar surrounded by golden rays. When the sun shines, the rays reflect its light and the altar looks amazing.

In front of the church there is a water basin with the statue of Henry Moore in it. And next to it there is a strange red kiosk with the writing “the room of the night” on it. The idea is that you have to go inside and look through the dark windows. And that's how the Karlskirche and Karlsplatz look at night. Night view during a day. Why not.

Then we headed towards Naschmarkt to see what we failed to notice last time: colourful and original buildings constructed by Otto Wagner in XIX century. One of them is called Majolikahaus. The other has no name. And both are situated on the Linke Wienzeile Street, number 40 and 38.

We met a woman that attends the same classes as we do and found out that there's a flea market few subway stations from where we were. So we went there.
But it wasn't that impressive... Antiques, books, cups, dishes, jewellery, various unnecessary things. I heard that flea markets are very popular in Vienna and sometimes you can even get a bike for 10 Euro! I need to check it.

And afterwards we finally visited a house constructed by Hundertwasser. But that's in the next post:)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Opera (18.10.08)

Vienna is a real concert city. And an opera city. That's why a visit to the opera is a must...

and we did it today. The price was only 3 Euro, because we bought standing places. Otherwise we would have to pay at least 50 times more. But to save this money you need to spend a lot of time in a queue and then fight for the best place. Endurance and patience are indispensable.
Maybe it is quite tiring to stand almost 3 hours, but it is worth it.

The interior of opera house is even more amazing than the building from outside. Unfortunately, I didn't take my camera with me, but soon I'll upload some pics in the albums below. Cos' we're goinr there again! Asap!

Standing places are normally occupied by students, tourists, and those who didn't manage to buy the seating ones. The way people are dressed is really diversified. From smart, elegant dresses (usually in the seating area) to jeans or sportswear (standing area).
It's really good that there is a standing area at all. With special bars and screens with subtitles.
Now, the play itself:
it was in Italian, of course, “La Traviatta” by Verdi and each seat was equipped with a small screen with subtitles. There were to languages to choose from – German or English. We saw the English subtitles in the row in before us and the German – just in front of us. So I could compare the translation in these two languages. The German was quite complicated – with difficult, old words. The English was much clearer.
Of course I did like the play – the singers, the decoration, everything was just perfect.
The only disadvantage was the lack of air-condition, so it was quite hot. But I know it's becaouse of the singers, well, because of their voice. And one more thing – there was a guy with a terrible breath behind us... Completely unadequate the the opera...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ajmer (27.02.08)

It's 14.02.08, Pushkar.
We're leaving our hotel in the morning, say goodbye to our Czech and Slovakian friends and we're heading towards the bus stop. It's already waiting. So we get in. But suddenly Paula finds out she left her glasses in the hotel. So she goes back. I'm seating in the bus, unsure when it leaves. Should I get off and wait for her outside or will she manage to come back soon?
Suddenly, the driver starts the engine. The ticket controller gets off. I'm quickly leaving the board. Everyone's staring at me. I drop several things on the floor. Manage to jump out in the last second. Nice.
Paula's back soon. Her glasses wasn't there. Anyway. We get on the next bus and we cast a last look on Pushkar, the white temple, dirty cows, staring Indians. It's getting tighter and tighter on the bus. We're leaving.
Ajmer. Again the annoying sound of horns. Vendors, dirty streets, surprised people. As usual. We're walking bravely ahead. It's getting hot. And I think I'm ill. Never mind. We saw a little lake from the bus window, so now we want to reach it. It seems to be far away, there are no tourists around, everyone's staring at us. As usual.
Finally. Of course we did miss the way and we did have some problems with the stupid map. Anyway. We're walking in a park. It's peaceful, clean. Marble pavilions stretch along the shore. Arches, columns, marble tiles. Some rubbish here and there. A small red boat floats on the lake surface. Ana Sagar. That's the name of the lake. It's not natural. It was created in XII century. When we sit down to relax, a lot Indians are gathering around us. Yes, I already got used to that. There's no way to relax in India.
We're walking along the shore, taking some pics. Finally, completely weak because of the sun (both of us) and fever (me), we sit down on the grass. Indians arrive again, asking for a photo with us.
After few minutes we're heading towards Nasiana Temple that illustrates the Jain interpretation of the world. It's red. We have to take off the shoes and pay 5 rupees for the entrance. Taking pictures – 25 rupees. No, thanks.
Narrow and dark stairs lead us upstairs. First floor. Floral motives on the walls, in the middle, behind the glass is the most important part of the temple. Gold, gold, gold. Golden boats, golden temples... It's an illustration of Jain mythology. Well, I would like it more, if I felt better... but anyway. I'm looking through the window – next to the temple grey, there are neglected buildings, laundry hanging on the roof... I cast a look inside again and I'm dazzled with ubiquitous gold. The golden boats moving across the sky.

There's a Christian Church opposite the temple. Finally. Peace, silence... It's time to think about our own religion.
After few minutes we say goodbye to friendly guards and we're heading towards Fort Akbar's Palace. Accidentally, we're walking into a very narrow street. It's a bike repairing area. All the Indian men are watching us carefully. I don't care. Finally, we get to the fort. But no. It's not impressing at all. So we visit it from outside only. I really don't feel like spending several dozens rupees, although it's not much. Ajmer is not a nice town. I want to run away from here. As soon as possible. Of course, there are some nice places here, like the lake for example. But moving around the town is extremely tiring, paralysing.
So we're coming back to the railway station. But we miss the way again. A narrow street is completely blocked. Too many cars, too many people, too many cows. No one wants to give the way. Horns are not enough now. The dust is getting into my weak body.
Finally, the station. In few minutes there's a train to Jaipur. We buy something to eat and get on the train. It's calm, no sun. Time to relax. In two hours we'll be in Jaipur.

Naschmarkt (16.10.08)

Paradise for gourmets, fans of exotic dishes and oriental scents...

It stretches along Linke and Rechte Wienzeile. And attracts a lot of people, especially on Saturdays, when a flea market appears here, too.

Huge olives with cheese and pepper, various kinds of cheese, exotic fruit, colorfoul spices, bread form Italy, Chinese delicacies, sea fruit, wines, various kinds of nuts, tee, clothes from India, jewellery from India, bars and cafés with food from around the world... Irresistible temptation.

Jogging (12.10.08)

Vienna is always in the run...

Any time, day or night, someone is jogging... Or exercising in the open air. Usually in the centre or in the parks. For example near the Palace Schoenbrunn or Belvedere, in front of the Parliament, around the University Campus, down the silent streets. Today I met a guy who was making push-ups just a few meters from the Belvedere walls. Then another guy, drenched with sweat, was jogging up the Parliament stairs. And it's normal. Happens often.
Bikes are everywhere, too. And the cyclists' rights are respected here, unlike in Poland. The bicycle paths are BYCICLE PATHS, not pedestrian areas.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Belvedere (12.10.08)

This time the building wasn't constructed at Habsburgs times. But it is somehow connected with them...

The palace was built at Prince's Eugen von Savoyen request in XVIII century. It consists of the Upper and Lower Belvedere and is surrounded by beautiful gardens.

For a very long time Belvedere was thought to be decorated in a more sophisticated way than Hofburg. That's why Maria Theresia was glad to buy the Palace after the Prince's death. So Belvedere became the next residency of the famous Austrian dynasty.
Now it houses a huge collection of paintings and sculptures. The combiticket with entry to both Upper and Lower Belvedere costs 8,5 Euro (with student discount).
If you wish to visit each room and examine each work very precisely, then you'll need at least 5 hours. We managed to spend there less time, but still we were completely overwhelmed by the excess of art, beauty, abundance, absurd, ugliness...

The exhibitions show works from medieval times, romanticism, classicism, impressionism, sculptures from various periods. The most impressing are paintings of Monet, Friedrich, Klimt and List. Some rooms maintained their initial decoration, so there are huge frescos, golden lamps, beautiful stairs...

But the most amazing is Belvedere from outside...

Vienna by night (12.10.08)

... is even more amazing.
The light underlines the shape of old buildings, the streets become peaceful, tourists are wandering in the city centre, from time to time groups of party lovers appear. Each monument emits soft golden light...
And here are some proofs of this unique atmosphere:

The fountain in front of the Parliament

The Parliament:

The Graben Street

Friday, November 28, 2008

Schönbrunn 2 (10.10.08)

Sisi and Franz don't leave us. Today Maria Theresia joined them. In the Schönbrunn Palace – a Habsburg's summer residency,

The Palace was supposed to be larger, with its walls spreading towards the hill. But Maria Theresia objected to this project. The Habsburgs were thrifty, weren't they?
The way the rooms are built and decorated is very similar to Hofburg interiors. Well, there are some little exceptions. There are more colourful details in the Palace. The walls are decorated with outstanding golden ornaments, most of them are painted yellow, which was Maria's favourite colour. There's also a room which walls are covered with blue china... interesting.. There's also a room with huge golden red bed that belonged to Maria Theresia, a ballroom with three huge frescos on the ceiling, playing room, many bedrooms, workrooms, etc. And again we weren't allowed to take pictures inside.

The audioguide repeated many pieces of information that we have already heard in Hofburg. But we found out more facts about Maria. She loved her husband very much and disliked Sisi.

Our ticket (there are 4 kinds) included the entry in Kronzprinzgarten (the Garden of the Successors to the Throne), Labirynth, Glorietta and an apple pie show. The latter was the most delicious. We tasted a small portion of the pie and then we could see how a real apple pie is being prepared. It wasn't that complicated.

In Glorietta there's a huge view point, with the wonderful panorama of the whole city: churches, towers, buildings, castles, hills...

There was a small bonus booklet attached to the ticket, as well. We got a discount to many places in Vienna and we used the first one very soon. In the restaurant Tirolergarten, near the Palace. We ordered Kaiserschmarrn for less than 5 euro. Was delicious!

New pics in the album Vienna I

Hofburg (09.10.08)

We visited Hofburg today. It was a Habsburg's principal winter residence, now President of Austria lives there. It really is amazing...

Hofburg isn't symmetric, as it has only one wing. It is said that the Habsburgs didn't have enough money to build the second one. Well, no wonder – as our literature teacher said yesterday – the Habsburgs never had enough money, they had kids instead...
Well, if that's how lack of money looks like (richly decorated rooms, china, furniture, travels, pictures...) then I would really like to see the homes of those truly rich ones.

Ticket price includes: Sisi's Museum, Imperial Rooms, Silver Collection. And everyone gets an audioguide.

First, the Silver Collection. It blew me away completely. Golden trays, several china sets made in various countries, silver cutlery, glass collection, richly decorated dishes, pots, napkins formed in extraordinary shapes, flowers on the plates, mythology on the plates, panorama of the city on the plates... Angels in the candlesticks... Excess of welfare... And the Habsburgs where supposed to live very modestly...

Imperial rooms are equally outstanding. Simplicity, good taste, various utensils. There is for example an audience room, where the Emperor Franz Joseph I talked with his subordinates from around the Monarchy. Everyone had to welcome him in their national clothes and the meeting weren't longer than 10 minutes. During one day the Emperor would meet with more than 100 guests. He finished his audience with a nod. The next room is green and it's were the Emperor would meet with his ministries. Then there's a bedroom and workroom.

Franz Joseph's wife, Elisabeth, lived in a bigger room, which served both as a workroom and a bedroom. The funniest was her sport equipment made of wood. She exercised regularly, as she was very concerned about her figure. She used all these funny horizontal bars, rode horse, swam, fenced. And here are the effects: she weighted 50 kg, was 172 cm tall and her waist measured only 51 cm! The latter is always underlined on all her portraits and statues. It is said that from time to time Sisi used to live on veal juice only to lose weight. But she liked sweets, as well. She was concerned about her hair, so she washed it in cognac mixed with eggs! The washing procedure took the whole day, hairstyling 2 hours each day and she never cut her hair.

Sisi's biography is illustrated in the Sisi's Museum. There are fragments of her poems, her gloves, shoes, jewellery, portraits, various equipment. And the sad story of her life. She was born in Bavaria, and married Franz Joseph when she was 15. Her freedom was suddenly over and she had to get used to new life, full of new rules and etiquette. She suffered a lot, so soon she left the residency and spent some time in a sanatorium. When she came back, she wasn't a shy girl anymore, but a strong, independent woman. She travelled a lot and had her own train coach. Once she took her two daughters on a trip, and both of them got seriously ill. The younger one (aged 2) died. After few years her son, Rudolf committed a suicide with his friend. He didn't want to be the successor to the throne, he criticised his father in anonymous articles and was like a torn romantic. After his death Sisi wore black clothes only and wrote a lot of sad poems. She was murdered during one of her journeys. It happened when she was getting on a ship...
And then a myth of wonderful Sisi appeared, although she wasn't particularly popular when she lived.

At the end of the day, when we left Hofburg and the story of Franz and Sisi's life behind – the Habsburgs approached us again. In the history lecture. Our teacher described the history of Monarchy and talked about Sisi and Franz' life. Hm, it seems that they will follow us wherever we'll go... Tomorrow we're visiting Schoenbrunn – the summer residency. Again we'll meet the Habsburg family. Anyway, Franz is everywhere in Vienna. I mean – all the most beautiful buildings in Vienna were build at his time...

It wasn't allowed to take pics inside, pitty...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Schoenbrunn (07.10.08)

We've visited gardens of Palace Schoenbrunn today. We'll go inside the building on Sundays, because we didn't have enough time today...

It really is beautiful. Huge. I heard there's 1441 rooms inside, but only 40 of them are available for tourists. I hope we'll visit them soon and we'll need about 4 hours to do it. There's also a shorter tour that lasts about 50 minutes but we want to see as much as possible.
So, before we come in, have a look at the wonderful Palace and its gardens...

The main entrance. These two eagles weren't built at the time of Habsburgs but of Napoleon, who lived here for 4 years...

And now some details. View from the garden:

And the stairs:

Intensive week (05.10.08)

It has been a week now since I've come here. Well, I must admit it was quite intensive.
First all the formalities, then 3 sightseeing days. We came in our student house only to leave it after while, there was no time for anything. No time for uploading the pics, no time to tell my friends and family how and whether I really like it here.

My first impression of Vienna is very positive. We used each opportunity, spent each hour reasonably – we've already visited Prater, Parliament, city centre, Cathedral, few museums, Winery, our district, we've already eaten Sacher Tort, Keiserschmarrn (Austrian delicacy, similar to omelette, with sugar and marmalade), we've drunk Sturm (traditional Austrian alcohol, similar to wine), travelled by trams, metro...
And we've met a lot of people. Mostly non-Austrian and also from Erasmus Programme.
Our student house presents a huge mixture of cultures and nationalities. On our floor for example, there are people from China, Pakistan, Germany, Turkey, USA, Kosovo, Morocco... There are also students from India, Spain, France, Belgium, Russia... Well, the whole city is very multi-cultural. A vivid melting pot, mixture of subcultures, cultures, religions...
And that's what I like.

And there are also other reasons why I like Vienna. It's very cycle-friendly. It offers plenty of cycling paths and public bikes for a very low price. I need to use them soon.
And I need to upload my pics, maybe tomorrow after first classes. It might be quite extreme – we''ll jump in at the deep end. Because it's simultaneous interpreting. We've never done it before and heard that it is very difficult. We'll see.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Parliament (05.10.08)

On Saturday we finally had enough time for a real sightseeing. I mean inside. We decided to go to the Parliament first.
I must admit it really is amazing. Built in 1874-1884, inspired by acropolis. There's a statue of Athena in front of the building and some spiteful people joke that the wisdom has turned back from the politicians... Because the statue faces the street, not the building itself.
Anyway, we paid 2 E for a students' ticket and had to visit the Parliament with a guide.
First we went to the Columned Hall – this is where the deputies and the members of the House of Lords would gather in 19th century to listen to the speech of the Emperor. That was the vision of the architect but it was never realised. Now the room serves as a festive locations, there are some exhibitions, too.
The House of Commons has 192 seats, leather chairs, two galleries. The Federal Council Chamber looks more attractive. It's richly decorated with symbols of each province, there's a marble imitation, too, and some columns. Quite a nice place to work in.
And finally the breathtaking the House of the Federal Assembly. Huge, in a semi circle shape, decorated with columns, gold, marble (or its imitation), inspired by Greek and Roman architecture, full of various statues, mythological symbols... Well, it must be a pure pleasure to work here... And somehow I can't imagine how one can argue or fight here... But it happened several times...

Pics in Vienna I

Museums' Night (05.10.08)

There was a Museums' Night yesterday in the whole country. So it was obvious that we have to take part in it:) Of course we visited Museum in Vienna only. The city was completely besieged...

We bought the ticket for 11 E that was valid in all 97 Museums. All the attractions were spread along 7 routes - one for pedestrians, six connected with special free buses. We only managed to visit 6 museum, because the Night lasted only from 6pm to 1 am. But anyway – it was fun.
The only annoying thing were the huge queues to the most popular museums. But we survived!
First we visited Urania Sternwarte, the Astronomical Observatory. Well, it wasn't a good idea to go there before the dusk, but never mind. We saw no stars, only the building far away. And we found out that each of three telescopes serves different purpose. The first one – to watch the Earth, the second – to analyse phenomena in our galaxy, the third one – to look beyond our galaxy.

Then we went to Choco Wien, a chocolate fair. The queue was terribly long, but it was worth waiting to get inside. For 3 E we got a tasting ticket, so we could try various chocolates, cakes and sweets. It was like in paradise! Chocolate everywhere! Amazing tastes, interesting products. There was for example: poppy liqueur, lemon chocolate, chocolate crisps, colourful sweets, small chocolate, chocolates with nuts... abundance of chocolate! There was also a chocolate hair-dressing show:) Quite interesting.
We really ate a lot there and I felt a bit strange after devouring such a huge amount of sugar. But doesn't matter.  

Then we went to Butterfly House. And again we had to wait about 20 minutes to enter it. There were huge butterflies inside, but they hid somewhere and we really had to watch carefully to find them .

We went to the museum of marzipan, as well. It was a bit ridiculous to wait 30 minutes in a queue to spend inside 15 minutes only... But it was really small, overcrowded and there was just a few marzipan statues...

Finally we went to the more peaceful museums, situated in our district. The best one was the Museum of Huts connected with Winery. Each visitor was given a huge hut from the times of Franz Joseph and could visit the richly decorated rooms: tables covered with silver and glass service, old pictures, antique candlestick. And then there was a wine-testing in the cellar. We felt like important ladies wearing these huge colourful huts.
At the end we popped in the Museum of Shoes. Visitors could produce their own bracelet using the leather scraps and shoemaker tools. That was fun, too.
There were plenty of hilarious shoes inside, for example made of wools, or on extremely high heels or golden little ones...

Pics are in "Vienna I"

Bangla Sahib (29.02.08)

Still Saturday, 9th February.

When we finally met with Varun (Gaetton's friend), we headed of towards Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, a Sikh Temple. It's really impressing. The atmosphere - full of respect and honour.
To get inside, we have to take our shoes off and cover our heads. So it gets colder. There's a red carpet on the stairs. We enter the Temple in silence.
Wow. Soft carpet on the floor, religious Sikhs sitting in the corners... There's something like an altar in the middle – a square platform, decorated with gold. 2 men are sitting on it, singing holy texts from a Sikh's holy book, Guru Granth Sahib. Varun tells us that the book is of great importance, it's highly respected and has it's own richly decorated “room” in the other corner of the Temple.

Now, at the end of the day, the book is transported to its room. So, the procession starts. All the Sikhs gather in front of the altar, there are some strange rituals – the book is covered in golden cloth, the sound of drums and bells spreads throughout the temple. When a man dressed in white is carrying a book towards the room, the rest of Sikhs are throwing flowers towards it, singing songs, bowing down. Soon the book disappears behind golden doors, on the colourful bed. Now it's time to clean the temple. All the ritual dishes and the altar are washed in water mixed with milk, the carpets and floor are swept with a little brush and many Sikhs go upstairs, to a kind of inner balcony. That's a meditation and reading room. There are small books with Sikh texts on a cupboard, everyone can take it and read it.

Varun, who is a very religious man, explains us everything, tells about his religion. He claims it doesn't confine its followers – it's not compulsory to visit the temple, there's no particular day that you should celebrate, everyone can come here at any time.

When we leave the building, we get the blessing in form of a sweet delicacy made of semolina. It's distributed by a small stall – a man uses his hands only and put the pulp on our hands. Well, I'm not sure whether I should eat it... hygienic reasons...? oh, doesn't matter! I risk and I don't regret it, because it's really tasty

There's a holy water, like a small lake, near the Temple. It's said it has a healing power and a lot of Sikhs from around the world come here to take a sample with them and bring it home. Many Sikhs also bathe in the lake. Women can do the same but in a small basin, separated by high walls.

We're walking around the lake, passing many Sikhs in turbans. Varun explains that the head cover isn't compulsory either. The colour and shape of it says a lot about the social status. Young boys usually wear a kind of cup with a pompom and then, when their hair is cut, then can change it to a real turbans.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Red Fort (25.02.08)

Red Fort (25.02.08)
We visited Red Fort on Saturday, 9th February. So here's what I experienced:
After a short visit to New Dehli Railway station (crowds everywhere, people laying on the ground, on a piece of cardboard or a blanket, waiting for a train for hours) we head towards Red Ford. Our French friend is coming with us. Although he's been living here for 6 months, he has never been here before. Well, better too late than never. Because the Fort really is amazing.
It's the first huge building we visit in Dehli. Wow. I'm shivering and I don't know why. Maybe I'm so excited to discover India. The monument gradually shows its dignity. First the red, solid walls. There's the Indian flag on the top of the roof. And a lot of vendors around. They're selling postcards, hookahs, toys. We take plenty pics, before it gets dark. When we approach the main gate, the gourds ask us for a ticket. Well, we didn't even have time to think about it, but their quicker. They take money from us, run to the ticket office and come back with the tickets. Meanwhile I notice that he lied about the price. It's not 100 rupees, but 80. Well, seems we let them earn a bit. Anyway.
We're coming inside.
First we go through Chatta Chowk, full of shops with souvenirs. Finally, we get to the main part of the Fort. White and rich red walls, huge gardens... Damn it! We have only 15 minutes before they close the gate. Cool. So we hurry around the building. Some Indians want pics with us. Well ok, but quickly. Then we continue our hasty trip. A lot of columns, a lot of building, each served a different purpose. There's a separate room for complaints and arguments, called Diwan-i-Am. Concerts were played in the Drum House was Shah Jahan, Diwan-i-Khas was a room for private meetings, there is also a room with Shah Jahan's bathrooms, mosque... Everything decorated with marble and precious stones.
The gourd men start to whistle, that't how they announce that visit time is over. Well, we have no choice but to leave this magnificent building...
We take a bike-rickshaw and go through one of the poorest district in Dehli. Everyone is staring at us, only I seat on the back, Paula and Gaetton in a front, by the driver. Well, in fact it's a vehicle for two passengers, but nothing is impossible in India. So I watch the traffic, all the cars coming towards me, people pointing at me, horns, bikes everywhere...
We pass slums full of dirty kids, smelly air, shabby tents, small fires surrounded by several men. It's overwhelming, poverty in pure form...
Finally we get to Connaught Place. I'm neither hungry nor tired. I try to absorb the Indian contrasts, these huge discrepancies. We're passing a luxurious hotel, nearby a poor man is preparing his mobile bed – a blanket on a pavement.
We're looking for a good restaurant, no too expensive. Gaetton wants to meet his Indian friends, so finally we get to Banana Leaf, a pleasant restaurant.
There's a scent of sticks in the air and pictures of Indian gods on the walls. I order vegetable utappatam. All the meals are served on a silver tray covered with banana leaf, nice. The dish is really tasty.
Then we finally meet Gaetton's friend and he takes us to the Sikh Temple.

Pics (25.02.08)

I've uploaded pics from India. Slowly I'm getting used to the Polish reality. It's not easy, India is still inside me...

The end (22.02.08)

And this is it... It's over now. I've just come back from India. All I'm left with are my memories, pics, diary, new friends and... updating the Indian part of my blog. Oh, and of course – planning the next journey!!!

Double joy (19.02.08)

From Varanasi to Dehli (19.02.08)

We have just come back from Varanasi, after 13 hours on a train. It was full of snoring, spitting, staring and dirty Indians. Never mind. It's nothing extraordinary, it's standard. The most important is, that I've seen the holy river, holy rituals, incredible sunrise on the river Ganges and Sarnath – the most serene Indian town I've visited so far. Buddha gave his first sermon there and now a lot of pilgrims visit Sarnath each day.
On Thursday we're going back to Poland, such a pity, I really don't want to. I'd better go out now and absorb all the Indian peculiarities with all my senses to have some topics to write about. When I come back, I'll post more fascinating accounts of our unbelievable experiences:) My big dream has been coming true for a second week now, I can't waste my time sitting by the computer.

So happy to see Taj Mahal (16.02.08)

next journey (16.02.08)

Tonight we are going to Varanasi, then to Sarnath. I didn't have time today to describe Jaipur and Ajmer, but I'll do it soon. Seems that there's an Indian chaos on my blog now, but I can't help it.
Oh, and a few words about Sarosh, the cleaning lady. Few days ago she stole quite a lot of money from me. I know it was she, because she was sitting near my bag, behaving quite suspiciously. I was terribly angry and I asked Gaetton to talk to her in Hindi before we left to Pushkar. And when I've already accepted the great loss, she came back, very confused and embarrassed, holding my dollars in her hand. Said it was her son, not her and that she found it in a rubbish bin (!). Sure. Anyway, it's good I have my money back.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

About Pushkar (16.02.08)

We're back in Dehli. Finally, there's warm water and time to rest.
So, as I promised, here's the account of our visit to Pushkar:

We had a train at 22.40 and met 2 Czechs guys and a Slovakian girl in our compartment, so we joined them and now we're together in the same hotel.
Few words about the guys: they're amazing. Jan and Ladik are travelling around the whole world! They've already been to Mongolia and Mexico, Jan spent 2 years in Moscow as well. Now they're waiting for a visa to Pakistan. What really impressed me, is that Jan worked only for 4 years in UK and then half an year on a ship and, as he says, he earned enough to travel for 12 years! Wow! The Slovakian girl joined boys few days ago. They're so funny and nice.
We arrived at 7 am in Ajmer, then we took a bus to Pushkar. Wow. Our first time. It was crummy, walls made of metal, all the Indians staring at us. The view outside the window was amazing! Mountains everywhere! And few temples on the hills.

Pushkar is a little town, famous of unique fashion shops and the Brahma Temple. There are plenty of stalls and shops everywhere, many cows and their dungs here and there. We got a double room for 100 rupees, our friends live opposite us. The hotel is quite shabby and modest but all in all it's not so bad.

Firstly, we visit the holy lake, called Pushkar. Indians come here to cleanse their sins and perform some spiritual rituals. There are plenty of pigeons around and the stairs that lead to the lake are completely covered with birds droppings, there are some dogs, as well.

The town is devoted to Brahma, as it was him who dropped here his lotus and then the lake was created. The area near the ghats (stairs that lead to the water) is full of temples and yoga schools. Of course, we can't walk in shoes and it is forbidden to take pics on the ghats. But I partly break these both rules.
Almost all the streets have united to create one big market. I can't resist, I completely give up to the abundance of Indian specialties. I mean clothes now. We buy a lot of them. Because they're nice and extremely cheap. The only disadvantage of the market is the constant presence of hucksters. Well, we have no choice but to ignore them, although they tend to be very annoying.

But shopping is not all we do here. We visit the Brahma Temple, as well. It's quite large and white. Visited by crowds of faithful Hindus. A young boy guides me through the building. There's a main ceremony now, the Brahma's image is being revealed. It's silver, all the Hindus are throwing flowers and petals towards it.
Then we go downstairs. There's a place devoted to Shiva. The boy says I need to say a mantra three times, put the flower in a kind of bowl and ring the bell three times. Quite confused I follow his words. Now he says I should throw the rest of flowers to the lake. So we leave, but suddenly a guard tells me I need to pay for the flowers I was given near the entrance.
What? You must be kidding?
So we're arguing. Because that's unfair. I'd pay for it, if he had said that before, now it's too late.
They give up and we're going towards another temple, Pop Mochani. On the hill. It's getting hotter and it's quite difficult to climb the mountain. When we get there, it turns out that there are ruins only. And a lot of Indian boys watching us. Some of them are running behind us when we're walking down. And they're quite irritating.

Finally, we get to Om Shiva, a marvelous restaurant. You can eat as much as you want to paying 50 rupees only! A real feast. So I take a bit of all 8 dishes offered by the waiter. Chapati, rice, dhal, pasta, vegetables... And then a dessert. Bananas in vanilla pudding and something that looks and tastes like little donuts. Delicious!

Each evening there's a big ceremony by the lake. Many people gather here to watch the sunset, listen to the drums and some strange instruments. The colorful show attracts my eyes and enchants completely. Pushkar in an amazing place. And I don't want to leave it so quickly...

Jaipur (14.02.08)

We've found an internet cafe in terrible Jaipur. It seems that visit to Ajmer + Jaipur on the same day is much too much. I think these two cities are more tiring than Dehli. Horns, annoying rickshaw driver, noise, dust, heat. Or maybe our organisms rebel against leaving peaceful Pushkar. Maybe we've already got used to the calm and holy atmosphere of this little town and now we are very exhausted.

Anyway, we're both ill. It's nothing serious, just a cough and fever. Apart from that everything's fine, although I do feel it would be much safer and easier to travel with a male company. But we're very brave:)
I'll write more about Pushkar, Jaipur and Ajmer next time. We've just popped in here for couple of minutes.

Friday, November 14, 2008

wow (03.10.08)

Vienna is amazing. Breathtaking. Marvelous. Romantic. Etc.
Today we finally had an opportunity to walk leisurely along the streets. Just wander and admire. And take photos all the time. That's what I really enjoy.
I get the impression that every house is unique, every building bears a great mystery, there is some magic in every corner...
The closer to the city centre, the more amazed I am. I don't know where should I look, each piece utterly urges my attention. And asks for couple of pictures.

So I listen to their voices and keep on moving, admiring, shooting.

After 3 hours it starts to rain so we decide to get back. Well, I need to get back here to take some night shots. It must be even more attractive.

But before I capture Vienna by night I want to present Vienna at day. The pics are at the bottom of page – Vienna 1.

Indian expedition (12.02.08)

I forgot to describe what happened two days ago.
When we finally got all the tickets for all our journeys, we met with our Indian friend, Varun. He's Gaetton workmate, a very nice guy. And we spend almost the whole day with him and visited many interesting places.

Firstly, Parliament and President's house. The whole area is extremely clean and tidy. As if it wasn't India anymore. I'm impressed. A completely different world. Streets are empty and the drivers do follow the traffic rulers. The buildings seem to represent a power of land, proud and great, tremendous. At the end of the lane there's a President's residence. The gate is closed, guarded by serious looking guys. We shoot some pics and go towards a nearby park. Crowds everywhere. Indians are staring at us again, family with kids came here to do a picnic, playing, eating, watching us. Again some people want to have a photo with us. Well, ok. We should be more assertive.
Wow, and now Indian Gate. Looks a bit like the French triumphal arch. But just a bit.
I'm happy Varun is with us. At least it's safer, men are not so aggressive, I mean the way they observe us. Everything is easier, even haggling goes smoothly.
We visit Dehli Heart as well. It's a huge market. The entry costs 15 r. but it's worth it. All typical Indian products are sold here. The colours and scents create a different world. Joyful, quite peaceful. So we let them guide us and order few Indian dishes in an outdoor restaurant. No idea what their names are, but it's delicious. And spicy. Varun says it's what he eats every day and he admits he has never eaten pizza. Wow. Well, in fact there's nothing to regret. Indian food is so much better:)

Then we go to Shatur Bur. It's a complex of Indian temples. As Varun says – it's a Hinduism in a nutshell.
Woooooow! It's huge. Unbelievable. Many shrines, large statues, the largest one portrays the god Hanuman. Suddenly a woman stops us and says she's from Indian TV and would like to interview us. Ok. Sounds cool. She asks us about our impressions, what we think and feel when we're in such a holy place, whether we believe in God/gods and if we have any wishes to God. If yes, we should touch the holy tree, just behind us and say the prayer. Well, I tell her what I think and feel and I admit I do like it here. Then I follow her words. Turn around and touch the strange tree. This is weird. I do have “wishes” to God but now my head is empty...

There's a Shiva temple in the middle. People gather inside and honour him. They do some strange rituals involving flowers and gestures.
We visit another temples, too. There are plenty of Ganesha's images. Vishnu and Lakshmi are also popular. Some people bring offerings (fruit or milk) to gods and pray to them in silence. The air is full of holy and respectful atmosphere. I feel like an intruder...
We receive an Indian blessing, a red dot on the forehead and a white “cookie”. I do feel the presence of some major forces here.
And the Hanuman. It's at least 100 m high. Huge. We walk around the statue, taking some pics. Unfortunately, my battery goes flat. Varun laughs that it's the only way to keep me from taking photos. Well, maybe.
Soon we need to get back. Varun wants to go to his Sikh Temple as it's Sunday. And he usaully spends the whole day there. So we say goodbye and go back to Mahilpapur.

Continuation (12.02.08)

We're going to Ajmer tonight. I heard it would be very cold as it is a night train. Well, good to know. I'll take more warm clothes with me. From Ajmer we'll go to Pushkar, then we plan to visit Jaipur and back to Delhi on Saturday morning. So I won't be able to post anything new here. It seems it's our first long journey outside Delhi, I'm so excited. Oh, and then on Sunday we're going to Varanasi, yupeee! My next dream-city:) And then to Sarnath.

Finally, we made a huge shopping. Bought so much food, cheaply. Now we're gonna eat, eat and eat... :)
I tried to upload new pics, but the dvd drive isn't working in the cafe. So I'll do it later.
So this is it for now.

Taj Mahal (11.02.08)

Wow! I´ve found an internet cafe in our shabby district! I'm already used to ubiquitous untidiness. Shops, streets, buildings... everything's in poor conditions... So, I'm not surprised with the cafe neither.

Now, the msot important:


Most-most important: I've visited TAJ MAHAL today!!!!!!! Amazing.

The whole day was full of emotions, new experiences, unexpected events. We travelled by train frist time. Wow, that was... undescribable. Our Taj Express was about 800 m long or maybe even more. How do I know that? Well, we have an unique possibility to walk past it several time, looking for the proper class and coach. We asked several times, everyone showed different direction... Finally, it turned out that Paula took the wrong ticket. To Varanasi. Thankfully, she also took the proper one, so we checked the class once more and everything was clear.
There's one funny thing about the trains. Before you get on, you should check your name on the list hang on the coach with your seat. If it's not there - you have a problem.

We travelled in the second class: tripple seats, opposite us another tripple seat, next - another. And so on. It was quite crummy, windows weren't tight and it got quite cold. Nice.
There was plenty of food salers on the train. Walking through the coaches, shouting the names of their products, spreading tempting scents.
Samosa! Tea! Coffee! Bread! - that's what I heard the whole way long.
Beggers were there, too. Wiping the floor beneath your foot, aksing for many...
Cripples tried the same tactics. Well, they didn't clean the floor, just walked near your seat and looking at you desperately.
And the most annoying thing - all the Indians watching us all the time... I'm getting used to it.. Opposite us there was a man with a turban on his head, old lady covered with large piece of clothe and a man with a cup. Looking at us curiously, asking plenty quetions, offering help...
Finally we arrived to Agra. The railway station was extremely crowded. We met two Canadian girls and decided to hire one rickshaw. After few metres the driver stopes. Says he would take us on a tour around the city only. We don't want it, so we get off. There will be another rickshaw passing the street soon. This time the man agrees to take us to Taj Mahal for 40 rupees.
On the way we'retalking with our new friends. They've just come back from Thailand, live here with their diplomat friend in New Delhi. In one month they're leaving India to continue studies in Canada.
Ok, finally Taj. My next dream is coming true. NExt surprise - the entry costs 750 rupees. Indians pay 20 only.
We need to leave our luggage and cover shoes with special bags.
Oh, yeah, and there's security controll as well. Seperate gate for men, seperate for women. A female guard chekcs my bag, checks my body and lets me through.
We're going along South and East Gate. Picture time! Again and again! Good that Canadians enjoy taking pics as well.

AAAAAA!!! First look on T.M. AMAZING!!! A lot of tourists everywhere, mainly Indians. Everyone's taking pics here, near the entrance with the view on the TM and beautiful fountaine in the middle. We're approaching this miracle slowly, taking hundreds of pics. Clear white walls, floral decorations made of precious stones, ideally symetric.
I come up with an idea to show our joy on the pics. So we start jumping, holding our hands. And so we're like hovering in the air on the pics:) The Canadian do the same. Other people wathing us with a smile. And then they follow us...

Coming closer and closer. I'm speachless. It really IS amazing, wonderfull, breathtaking...Absolutely perfect, power of love that creates miracles and brings pain. All the people that were hired to build Taj Mahal had their hands cut off when the work was finished. Thus Shah Jahan wanted to prevent the construction of similar building in the future.

We're gettin inside. Quite dark. Photos forbidden. A lot of guards around. White bars surrounding the grave of Mumtaz, Shah Jahan's wife. Well, the building looks better from outside...

We meet a lot of people, a lot of Indians want pictures with us. So the photo sessions start. Quite exciting at the beginnig, but then we get tired. The Indians very annoying. I feel like a celebrity hiding from paparazzis...

Oh, and the river Jamuna. There's a great view on it from TM. Pity it lacks water at this time of year, but there are still a lot of cows and birds in it.
We're walking around the building, watching all that's happenning around... I still can't believe my big dream has just come true... Well, in fact I already have another one - to come back to India for the whole month, to travel around the country...

When we're leaving after 3 hours, we meet a Polish couple. Buddists. Nice. We're going together to Red Fort and then we have to split. They're going to get ticket to the southern part of India. We'd rather eat something before going back to the railway station.

So we end up in an empty outdoor restaurant. Crummy. As usual. But the food is more then delicious. I order Thal, which consists of 3 souces, 2 chapatis, rice, a bit of cabbage ans something terribly spicy. And it's 40 rupees only, twice as cheap as in Delhi in Banana Cafe. Cool.

We get lost looking for the way towards railway station. Some rickshaw men stop and offer us a lift. No, thank you. We want to walk.
And it pays off. Wedding! Famous Indian wedding just opposite us! So we stop, take plenty of pics, mix in the crowd of guests, greet the groom. He has a string of flowers and money on his neck, a turban, smart clothes. A young woman stands in frotn of him and holds a tray with white "cookies". That's a blessing. She gives us a piece of it and an Indian guy takes a photo of us and the groom. Everyone is so nice, they're more interested in us than in the wedding itself. It would be foolish to spoil this great celebration so we leave soon. I hope I'll have a possibility to attend an Indian wedding one day... Heard so many interesting things about it...

This city is strange. Taj Mahal somehow doesn't suit here. It's too beautiful, the city so grimy and unfriendly. The huge contrast. India in an nutshell.

On the way back, on the train, we meet a very friendly couple. She's from Ukraine, he's from Argentina. They work in Mumbai as models. Wow. We talk about things we know about our countries, the guy is surprised that we know what Yerba Mate is. And he knows quite a lot about Poland as well.

Three hours pass extremely quickly and our journey ends soon. Well, that was an amazing day. So intensive, full of adventures...

P.S. I love the Internet in India. Terribly slow. Especially in a cafe.
During one hour I managed to read three mails only answer one and... the electricity went off. Standard. It happens at least 3 times a day. Quite dissapointed, we left the cafe and didn't even have to pay the 10 rupees.

P.S.2. I know it's all quite chaotic. The whole India is! So it's becoming a part of me:):)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bank account and sport classes (03.10.08)

Formalities-shitties... Thankfully, it's almost over.

We signed up for sport classes today. I wanted to choose swimming, but it overlapped with my classes at Uni. What a pity. So I chose Yoga. At least I won't have to look for a Yoga School. I wouldn't give up practicing it here, after so many years. And about the swimming – well, I don't need stupid classes to do it. As always – I'll do without it. I'll find a swimming pool and will go there each week. I regret only one thing – that I haven't taken my bike with me. There's so many bike routes here, and well, I used to cycle to the swimming pool in Poznan. Now it's over...
Anyway, the Sport Institute offers so many classes that it really might be difficult to decide on sth. There's for example Latin Fit, Indian Dance, Oriental Dance, martial arts, various kinds of yoga, meditation, zen, all the team games and so on and so on.
Oh, one more thing. My Yoga classes (advance level) takes place each Wed at 7.45. It's painfully early but I don't care... I hope, I don't...

Then we opened an account in Bank Austria. Finally. The guy that served was really nice, everything went smoothly and after few minutes we became new customers of the most popular Austrian Bank. Cool.
Now we can discover Vienna peacefully...

Studenthouse - pics (02.10.08)

That's where we live...

The first photography expedition has just finished! The aim: our studenthouse. And here are the result...

Our room shortly after we've arrived

And few hours later

And now advertisement time!
My sweet grandmas gave me so much food that we certainly won't starve;)

And now short trip around our room.
That's the common kitchen. It's clean only about middays...

And that's the common bathroom.

And our corridor. Our room is the last one on the right side.