Sunday, November 30, 2008
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.
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.
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
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...
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 Graben Street
Friday, November 28, 2008
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 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
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:
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
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
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"
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
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.
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.
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
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...
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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...
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.
Funny thing – we used gestures and single English or Hindi word to communicate. She doesn't understand English, I can't speak Hindi. But we managed. Oh, and the most important thing. Sarosh made some chapati with spicy spinach filling for me. Wow, I liked the way she prepared it. It had nth to do with hygiene but doesn't really matter. It was delicious and Sarosh is nice indeed.
I'm amazed at how they can cope with these severe condition, how they survive having so little, being so smart...
Today is the first sunny day. Finally, there was hot water under the shower and I'm not shivering anymore. The night was very cold, as usual. But now it's fine. I'm full of energy and I'm setting of to find some nice places in this chaotic and noisy city.
It's enough to take a few minutes walk to get a rather clear image of the city. Chaos, noise, dirt, annoying salesmen, overwhelming size, multitude of questions. Why, where, what, when, how...?!
After a long story about his life in Delhi, Gaetton gets us into a rickshaw. He haggles about the price and tells the driver to take us to Canaught Place. City center. Then he lives us and goes to work.
Disorientation, consternation, destabilization.
From now on we're gonna discover the city alone. No problem.
The streets are: “oh my God, how come I'm still alive...”. Everyone could drive here. It seems there are no rules, at least no one follows them. Winkers, right of way, lights - what for?! A horn replaces everything. If you want to drive in India you need to learn to use your horn properly.
We're sitting on the back seat in the rickshaw and ... we're still amazed. The driver rushes stubbornly, drives through little spaces between large lorries, almost crashes with cars and motorbikes. There's no safety belt, no window, just a piece of cloth between my face and the street. Wind is blowing strongly, whenever we turn I feel like falling out.
Crowds, horns, similar buildings, no map, no orientation.
We're looking for an exchange office.
Rule nr 1: never talk to hucksters, never show your interest, never let somebody guide you.
We break this rule as soon as we make our first steps in the city center.
A young Hindu approaches us.
What are you looking for?
I'm not working here!
He shows us a little market. We want an exchange office! So he guides us in a mysterious place. We try to escape but in vain. Then we cross a street. Wow! That's a pure extreme sport. Meanwhile a Turkish guy approaches us. Says he would show us the office. But he guides us to a tourist office. Well, yes, no they're gonna try to sell us something. Already annoyed we just ask for a map and escape quickly. But we can't go alone. Again and again some man offer us to be our guide. No thank you. We'll manage. Finally, a guard (there's plenty of them here, near every shop) shows us a strange exchange office. Looks suspicious. Shabby. Whatever. I'm coming first, Paula keeps on saying it can't be a safe place. Finally, we reach the second floor. Two men look at us with big smile. There's plenty of cigarette smoke inside. The man says we'll get the receipt. Ok, so let's risk. There are 2 computers, but they don't use them. Counting money on a paper sheet. They take our passports and say they need to copy it. Hm, cool. Should I be worried?
We check the money several times, ok. Seems, they haven't cheated us. And after a while we have our passports back. Phew.
Ok, now we need some rest, some food. Need to look around, discover the city.
Hucksters everywhere. Watching us all the time. When we sit down on a bench, to look peacefully at the map, a guard approaches us and says we shouldn't stay here. Asks what are we looking for. But can't help us. Keeps on saying we should go somewhere else. Ok, no problem. Arrivederci.
So we end up wandering around the Canaught Place. It's awful. Extremely chaotic, all the streets look similar, we give up.
Polluted air makes me feel week, noise makes me feel dizzy, my mind stops working. Food! That's what I need. But there are mainly Chinese restaurants around and Indian food in a little kiosks on a street. I'm still not brave enough to try it. Finally we end up in a place that I hate strongly. McDonalds. With Indian menu. Not bad.
There are plenty of people here, mainly those rich ones. We meet two Polish girls that are finishing their 3 weeks journay today. Talk for a while and get back to Mahilpapur. All I need is some rest...
We got on a taxi and soon arrived in Mahilpapur. That's a district in Delhi, close to the airport. One of the poorest. Our French friend lives here. There's no pavement, only one proper road, the main one. All the people kept staring at us. Watched our every move.
The place where we're staying is quite shabby but nice. Gaetton (our friend) lives with a Dutch guy. There's a cleaning lady, too. Lives about 30 meters from their house. She comes everyday. When she saw us, she took our luggage and carried it into the room. That made me feel awkward.
The boys said she earns about 7 Euro a month. And this is quite a good money. Strange.
Her husband doesn't work, she barely speaks English. Gaetton talks with her in Hindi. I know only several words so it may be difficult to communicate with her.
Finally, we could take a shower. Water is dirty but I don't really care. I heard that a lot of people visiting India use special pills that disinfect water. Well, I took it, too. But I don't feel like using it every time I wash. We'll use it only to brush our teeth. Gaetton says he doesn't care about the water, it never made him feel sick and he's been living here for six months now.
Few minutes ago the cleaning lady prepared a traditional Indian tea for us. Wow, that was sweet. Too sweet. There's more milk than tee in it, but it's quite good.
Soon we're going to the city center. I'm still shivering. And I'm not cold. Maybe I'm too excited. My big dream is coming true...
Friday, November 7, 2008
Firstly, we have an Austrian number. Yupiii! With a decent credit.
And we got plenty of papers at the "orientation". Some student discounts, booklet about sports at the Uni, drink bonuses in some clubs.
Then we had to buy a semester ticket for the public transport. Wow, that was quite a huge expense. 130 euro. For 4 months. But it should pay off.
I got the impression that all the students have chosen exactly the same time to get the ticket. The queues were quite long but fortunately after 2o minutes we received a colorful piece of plastic.
And finally we've chosen the classes. Well, I need to admit that this Uni is so much better than our. At least when it comes to education offer. There are so many interesting translation subjects that we didn't know what should we pick up. Everything seems worth attending. But well, we can't have it all. And still there are some obligatory subjects that we need to cover (history, literature, geography, business German). Anyway, we've decided to go to Translation of Law Texts, Tr. of Specialist Texts, Simultaneous Interpreting, Consecutive Interpreting, Culture Competance, Rhetoric, Quality Managment & Project Managment, Translation of Subtitles and Terminology Classes. Seems quite a lot but doesn't matter. Can't wait to learn sth new, sth that we couldn't learn in Poland...
Soon we'll have to go to another registration office - that's for people who are staying here longer than 3 months. And then we'll have to pay 29 euro. Well, yes. Anywhere we go someone wants some money from us.
We should finally choose classes we want to attend. Still didn't sign the learning agreement as we were supposed to do it upon arrival. Well, I hope that the registration process won't take long and that we'll find proper classes. I mean the one we would normally attend in Poland.
Tomorrow there's a so called "orientation" at the campus. Again we'll be given some extremely important info about the Uni and Studies and so on.
Oh, and one more thing. We're visiting the main building of our university today. There's a guided tour for newcomers. We need to see it all!:) Cos' it looks amazing.
Ok, all for now. It's time to cook our first dinner in the common kitchen. Pure magic...
We had to change in Frankfurt and Barcelona. First two flights were fine. Beautiful land below us, mountains, clouds... Nice. But then it happend. Our last flight was late. Very late. We knew we wouldn't make it till 10 p.m. We were said that somebody would pick us up from the airport if we arrive before 10. Quite desperate I phoned my mom and asked her to search for a phone number of our company. Well, I had one with me but no one answered. Finally I got it. Made a call. Somebody said we should not worry, there would be someone waiting for us...
But it didn't happen. Yeah, we met a man who said he was waiting for some people from Anfi (name of our company). But in the middle of this chaos he finally made us go by taxi. After half an hour we reached Anfi resort. And had to pay 50 euros. To make the matters worse, it turned out that the man in the reception didn't know about new employees. He made several calls but without any succes. So we had to wait the whole night in the reception, because the Customer Office opens at 9am.
In the morning we went to that office. Nothing new. It was even worse that we thought. The women knew nothing about new workers. Asked how come we were supposed to work here. When I explained her everything she took from me the phone number of our employer. And then it got bit clearer. We were taken to the wrong place. Our job is in Playa del Ingles, not here... So, again a taxi, again long way. Finally we got there. A macho-like gay approached us, payed for the taxi and introduced us to our team manager. But no, no one took us home. We were made to work the very same day. Well, it was more like a training, but anyway. No home, no rest, no sleep. Exhausted. Daryl (our manager) explained that the woman who recruited us doesn't work here anymore. That's why no one knew we were coming. Nice.
Anyway, somehow we managed to survive the first day. Completely unhappy with our future job. At 5 pm we arrived to Arinaga, our new hometown.
Paulina lives in an apartment with 2 English and 1 Portugese girl. I live opposite, with a Slovakian couple and a Slovakian gay.
I don't like it.
So, we booked the tickets, leaving on 16th July. Coming back 10th September. Hope it will all work out. Oh, yeah, and the job itself: we are to be Vacation Promotion Representatives. Sounds bit unclear. The main task is to promote a holiday resort, talk to customers etc. I can't imagine myself doing that, but I don't care. Accomodation is free, they'll pay back about 40% for the flight and it's possible to earn even 300 euro a week. Sounds cool, doesn't it?
Thursday, November 6, 2008
So, here's the story:
After 6 hours in a car we have finally arrived to Vienna. We = my parents, Magda and me. I can't imagine getting here on a train... We've taken so much stuff... It was really difficult to place it all in the car.
On the spot, it turned out that our room in a studenthouse is still occupied. Nice. Should be free. Whatever. We had to talk to that lady in the studenthouse office. After some time (about 3 hours) we could finally move in. Phew, that was not easy. Neither quick. But here we are. With all the bags and stuff on the floor, in a quite shabby room, with bathroom and kitchen on the corridor, in a completely new and strange situation... None of us has never lived in a studenhouse before. We'll see what comes next.
No I'm too tired...
We were lucky to find quite cheap tickets. We're flying with Lufthansa. Soon...