Hamburg – An Interesting City

Some cities in Europe are very well-known and talked about. So they become popular tourist destinations like, for instance, Rome, Paris, Berlin, Venice, Vienna, Florence, just to name a few. On the other hand there are quite a few cities which are little talked about in spite of the fact that they are interesting. They may have everything that is needed to attract tourists like great history, heritage structures, well-preserved historical architecture, museums etc. Still they do not capture the imagination of tourists. I will add Hamburg to this list. I never heard of this city as an attractive tourist place. So when I visited this place recently for a technical conference, I hardly had any intention to do any sight-seeing. Reluctantly, on the last day of my stay, I decided to explore the city for what it’s worth. Well, as you will see in this post, my experience was beyond expectations! In the limited time available, I could not explore much of the city. Luckily, though, I did not miss the most important tourist attraction of the city, the so-called Miniature Wonderland. In fact my post will be mostly about this place.

Hamburg is a port-city built around the river Alster which is a tributary of the famous river Elbe. The water canal networks form two huge lakes in central Hamburg. The lakes and the surrounding areas are the central attractions for tourists with several ferries taking visitors on rides. The ferries also double up as restaurants at dinner time. A stroll around the lake will take roughly 3 hours to complete as the total distance is 10km. The lake and the surrounding parks and walk-ways are easily the most relaxing places to hang around  with friends in the city.

The city-centre has modern buildings jostling with old architecture built on wooden piles. See the pictures below, for example. The third photo below is that of a grand philharmonic theatre which hosts music concerts.


The most interesting place for visitors, though, is the so-called MINIATURE WONDERLAND. It’s amazing and ambitious in concept and brilliant in execution. The name says it all. The place exhibits in miniature form several important landmark buildings, structures, natural & geographical wonders, historic places and so on. Under one roof, one gets to see the entire world so to speak – past and present. There are separate sections for each country. One gets impressed by sheer attention to details shown in each exhibit. What makes it a wonderful experience is that one can see the places in action too. Yes,  really! Push-buttons are provided at each exhibit and all you have to do is to push a green button to see the pieces in action. Not just that. All the exhibits are shown in day light for 15 minutes and under illuminated light of the night for the next 15 minutes. The huge railway networks of europe is shown in action. Even airports and planes taking-off  are exhibited. One can see grand canyon, Yosemite parks of the US which may be  just a stone’s throw away from the beautiful canal network of Venice or the famous Colosseum of Rome. Sample, for instance, the following pictures and videos which I have taken to capture the sheer brilliance of this place:

The first picture shows Saint Peters Church in Rome in the ambience of night under illuminated light while the second picture presents the same place as seen in broad day light:



The two photos below are of an airport in the night and day respectively.


Don’t miss the following action video showing a beautiful take-off  of an air-plane:


What you see below are the pictures of Venice with its canals.


I’m not sure what the picture below represents. I found this piece in the American Section. Could it be grand canyon. I would not know since I never saw grand canyon.



Talking of train networks, here are a couple of pictures:

Don’t miss the following two videos which shows a train in motion:


The photo below is perhaps a huge modern Football stadium:


Now, it’s time to see a bit of Rome – The famous Colosseum of Rome – the ancient amphitheatre used for entertainment sports.



Here’s yet another wonder – A huge giant wheel with around 4800 LEDs:


What I have shown in the post is just a few glimpses of the exhibition. It’s a great exhibition of human perseverance, creativity and engineering marvel. It’s largely based on imagination inspired by existing buildings, landscapes etc.

For those who may be interested in statistics and numbers, the real exhibition layout size is 1490m2. With future additions, it will be 2300m2.There are 9 sections, more than 1000 trains,and 10,000 carriages, 1300 signals, 50 computers, 385,000 lights, 130,000 trees, 260,000 figures and innumerable human forms. Construction time 760,000 hours and construction cost 20 million euros. Mind boggling, isn’t it!











Published in: on April 22, 2018 at 9:03 pm  Comments (1)  
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Prague – A Historic City

My office business took me to this beautiful city about 10 days back. This is a city built from stone and lime (the old town). As you walk around, you can experience the old-world charm.

Many would not know that Prague was the capital of the Holy Roman empire during the 14th century when Charles 4 the Czech prince was crowned as the Roman emperor. It was during this period that Prague was transformed into a beautiful city. The old 10th century castle was rebuilt and the famous cathedral St Vitus and other cathedrals were built in grand Gothic designs. You ask anyone in the city about the places of tourist attraction and pat comes the reply: “If you have time do visit Charles bridge and the Castle”. So, it was easy for me to decide what to do in the limited spare time.

The iconic Charles Bridge was built in late 14th century at the behest of the Roman emperor Charles 4 who literally laid the foundation stone. Yes, this is a stone bridge and the first stone was laid by the emperor himself! It’s a lovely walking bridge built across the river Vitava. The walking path is all built of stones & lime. As you can see in the picture below, at the entrance of the bridge, there’s a grand tower.



Charles bridge is a bow bridge supported by several arches which you can see in the photo below:



The picture below is another view of the bridge as seen in the night with the castle as the backdrop:



From the bridge, one can have an exquisite view of the famous castle which is even more ancient than the bridge (it dates back to 10th century). The river Vitava separates the castle from the old town of Prague. The bridge was built precisely to provide a land route to the castle from the old town.


Here are a few pictures of different portions of the Castle taken from the outside. I did not have time to visit inside the castle.


The castle saw several battles in the ancient past. There is an interesting story that Germany invaded Czechoslovakia and captured Prague during the second world war. Apparently, Adolf Hitler came and stayed in the castle overnight to experience and enjoy his prized possession.

There is a bell tower built inside a cathedral in the castle. I believe the bell in the tower is the biggest in all of Europe. There are several myths surrounding the bell. Apparently, it predicted the catastrophic flood disaster which occurred in Prague in 2002.  According to the myth, if any part of the bell gets cracked and falls, it signals an oncoming disaster. Yet another legend has it that when the emperor Charles 4 died, all the bells in the tower started ringing led by a funeral toll by the biggest bell. Well, true or false, myths are myths and one should not probe too much into them!

The old town square is famous for its astronomical clock. It has a huge astronomical dial showing the sun, the moon and various other astronomical details according to the primitive understanding of those times. The clock also has a Calender dial indicating months and a dial showing hours. The highlight of the clock is the “Procession of the Apostles”. At the beginning of each hour, the windows above the dial would open and one could see a procession of the apostles. A skeleton representing DEATH would strike every hour. This is interesting. As in many theologies the world over, Time is identified as the god of Death here too.




The trip was not without its surprises. On one occasion, during our lunch break, I was looking to grab a quick-lunch to get back to our meeting venue in time. I was ready to settle for a simple Italian restaurant to have some pasta. As I was looking around, in one corner of the road I seemed to see a display board  with Govinda written over it. For a while I thought I was hallucinating. Govinda in Prague? No way! I was very sure I read it wrong but had a good second look. It was indeed Govinda and when I approached the place to find out, it turned out to be a vegetarian eating place run by Hare Krishna devotees. Men & women dressed in traditional dhoti & saree respectively and  wearing their characteristic “tilak”(mark) on the foreheads were running the show. I found out they were indeed part of the Hare Krishna temple in Prague. Feeling at home, I bought myself a simple meal for 120 Czech kroner equal to six euros. The meal was very fairly priced, simple and tasty. That was a big pleasant surprise for me.


Published in: on December 3, 2017 at 12:17 am  Comments (1)  
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Vienna – An interesting City

Vienna means different things to different people.

To lovers of western  of music, it’s the place to spend an evening listening to  classical music, orchestra or operas.To those interested in paintings, it’s the city where you’re sure to find museums with brilliant and unusual collections of Picasso, Monet and Braque. To those interested in architecture, this is the place where old Gothic style architecture mingles freely with daring modern innovations in architecture. To men of science, this city offers plenty of opportunities for learning. Historians and chroniclers of the city have a lot of stories to share of the past empires, monarchs and the palace intrigues while businessmen meet here to clinch deals.

What does it offer to me who is a mere casual tourist with just half a day to spare after a couple of days of mundane technical meetings? This is my second visit to this nice city and so had some idea of how to go about in the city. Like many European cities, this one too is tourist friendly. Moving around from place to place is easy, fast and more importantly cheap. One could buy a ticket for a dirt cheap price of 7 euros for traveling anywhere through the entire metro network for 24 hours. So, I first bought a one-day ticket after deciding on the places of interest. I took a metro to Stephenz Platz and as I stepped out of the station, I saw a magnificent cathedral ( Saint Stephenz Church) built during the 12th century. The Gothic style architecture presents eye-catching pointed arches and ribbed vaults. The grand architecture of this style can be seen clearly in the pictures below:


Published in: on October 29, 2017 at 12:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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On My Recent Trip to Europe

I was in Germany and Italy last week on a business trip. Was it hectic? No, far from it. We had just one meeting per day and the rest of the day was spent on travel, finding the hotel we were booked in and exploring for right places to eat for survival. All this, of course, takes a physical and mental toll.

Between the two countries Germany & Italy – the latter is easily the more likeable. In Italy, Indians would certainly feel at home. They are warm, friendly, chatty, and very lively people. In general, one finds lots of similarities between Indians and Italians. At times they are so noisy chatting, joking, laughing, giggling like school kids that it becomes difficult to conduct meetings. At one point of time,  the convener of our technical meeting had to intervene to bring them back to sanity. He said jokingly: “Our organization has a guideline for conducting meetings. Do not ever attempt to conduct a meeting if you find two Italians sitting side by side”. They got the message and it seemed to work at least for that session!

In Italy I travelled to Rome, Naples and Milan on business. I did not have the luxury of time to do any sight-seeing. However, only in Rome, we found time one evening to visit the famous Coliseum(pronounced as collaseo in Italian)which is part of ancient Roman ruins. This was constructed by Roman Engineers in the 1st century AD and is famous for its intricate engineering structure . It’s basically an amphitheatre built for the purpose of entertainment to Roman emperors and the public. Here are some pics of the place:






Can you see in the 4th picture above how wonderfully the stones are stabilized below the roof? The stones were set without mortar. They were held together and stabilized by an interesting interlocking mechanism.

The coliseum had a huge arena where the gladiators would play dangerous sports with wild animals like elephants, baby lions, leopards, rhinoceros etc. Battles & hunts were staged on the arena. The arena covered the elaborate underground structures where the animals were caged. The animals and the gladiators would get on to the arena from the tunnels underground before the show began. Criminals condemned to death were also thrown into the arena naked and without arms as the wild animals would literally tear them to pieces. The theatre had a capacity to seat  close to 80,000 spectators. (The coliseum, today, is a major tourist attraction in Rome. The last two pictures above are not part of coliseum. They are part of ancient ruins surrounding Coliseum).

On the last day of my trip, we went to Naples to meet a customer. We finished our business meeting in the morning and had plenty of time for lunch. In Naples do as the local Neapolitans do, right? What do they do? Eat pizzas – Neapolitan Pizzas, as they are called in Naples, are perhaps the most authentic. We managed to find one of the top 10 pizza places in Naples – Sorbillo Pizzeria. Pizza making is no ordinary art, as you would know. I believe the pizza making dough is prepared a day before to make sure the yeast does its job of making it fluffy overnight. This ensures the pizza is soft and light when cooked in special wood burning oven. For sure that place stood up to its reputation. That was easily the best Pizza experience I had. The soft Pizza base with the melted & mouth-watering mozzarella cheese on top and the special toppings of green peppers, onions, black olives – all made it a special experience. It was smooth, tasty and quite sumptuous. If you take one such pizza for lunch, you don’t need any other meal for the rest of the day. Sure, it packs a lot of calories. But who cares, especially when you are hungry and you know the place is famous for pizzas.

I must make a special mention of Italian coffee too. The coffee I got in Italy was far superior to that in Germany or the famous filter coffee we get back in India. Everything about the coffee was perfect. The aroma, the taste, the appearance of smooth, thick & shiny foam added up to one of the finest  experiences with coffee. Note that there should be no visible bubbles as one sees in a typical south indian coffee. It’s a combination of technique and coffee formulation, I suppose. I would rank Italian coffee among the best in the world. So, coffee lovers, if ever you get an opportunity to taste Italian coffee, do not miss it.

My idea of a perfect day would be a traditional South Indian breakfast with Italian coffee and for lunch a super sized Neapolitan pizza . One can then skip dinner or have some simple soup and go to bed.

Published in: on June 25, 2017 at 10:56 pm  Comments (2)  

A Holiday in Horsley Hills

Have you ever heard of this charming little hill station in Andhra Pradesh? It’s​ unlikely unless you’re​ living in Tirupati or Chittore district.  I never heard about this hill resort till I googled for info on hill stations in Andhra Pradesh. I was planning a summer get-away with my folks and considered the usual places like Ooty and Kodai at first. I soon realised that these popular tourist destinations are crowded and too far away from Tirupati requiring good planning well in advance. Therefore I decided in favour of a lesser known place Horsley Hills and made an online booking without even making enquiries about the place. When I later read the reviews, they were not encouraging at all. I gathered that May end is the very fag-end of the tourist season for this hill station . Desperately looking for some favorable news about the place we were going to visit, I inquired with a neighbour who knows the place well. But he didn’t say anything different. He said it’s as warm as Tirupati in summer.  I, therefore, forewarned my folks not to expect any great hill-station experience. I let them understand that we should be happy if there is no heat wave on the hills as in Tirupati or Chennai. With this background and toning down our expectations, we set out on our journey on one not so fine, warm day. We booked a well maintained Innova for our journey making sure the AC of the vehicle is in good working condition. That was a relief as we had a comfortable journey in spite of heat wave conditions on the way.

Travel always brings surprises – some pleasant and some unpleasant. In fact this unpredictability is what drives people to travel, I suppose. The first surprise was our stopover for tea. We stopped at a Rajasthani Dhaba for a much-needed tea break. Looking at the place and the ambiance, we did not expect the tea to be of any quality. To our pleasant surprise, though, the tea was excellent and beyond expectations. I would rank that tea on par or even better than what one would get in a decent 3-star hotel.

More surprises were in store for us as we reached our destination well before sunset. The place, it turned out, was much cooler than we expected. It was heavenly indeed. The guesthouse which is named as the Governor bungalow lived up to its name. Everything about the bungalow is posh – the size, the greenery around, huge corridors, clean & spacious rooms etc. I would highly recommend this bungalow for anyone planning a trip to this place. The huge corridors and a spacious sit-out made sure there was enough space to move around. This is especially important when one is travelling with kids. Besides, to our luck, there were hardly any other guests in the Bungalow which meant that we had the entire building at our disposal with an attender to take care of us. The only complaint we had for the bungalow was that the maintenance of the place was not up to the mark.

The sit-out was extremely cool as there was incessant breeze blowing across.  This was accompanied by a constant roar of the whistling wild winds making us wonder whether we were anywhere close to a seashore. It was an exhilarating experience especially because we were coming from Tirupati which was like a hot oven during this time of the year.

The following day we visited all the splendid view points. Here are a few pictures of the viewpoints:

I would venture to say that the view of the valleys and mountains around are comparable in their majesty with what one sees in Ooty or Kodai.

When we were not sightseeing, we had plenty of entertainment. My  7-month old grandson was our chief entertainer. He kept us company during his entire wakeful hours. Inspired, perhaps, by the ambiance, he showed splendid perseverance and picked up the technique of crawling for the first time even as we kept applauding. Here are a few pics of him entertaining us:

On the whole, the trip was memorable​ in several respects –  majestic viewpoints typical of any hill-station, a pleasant ambience with green vegetation all  around, a great bungalow to stay and finally a great entertainment centred around my grandson.

On the flip side, food was not up to the mark. As there was very little choice, we had to completely depend on the food served by the restaurant managed by the AP Tourism department. Needless to add it was lousy.

Published in: on June 7, 2017 at 12:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Trip to Vienna

Last week I was away in Vienna on a business trip but managed to take some time off to explore the city. In the limited time available, how does one choose places to visit in a city which is completely unknown to you? The only connection I had with the city dates back to 1977. My Ph.D thesis was reviewed by a well-known professor from the University of Vienna then and today I have no clue about where he lives. Well, under the circumstances Google comes in handy. Google says that Vienna has an illustrious history. It has a rich cultural life thanks to famous music composers like Mozart and several well-known painters.

I’m told that Mozart gave his first performance at the imperial court at a tender age of six. So I decided to see the royal palace as a priority. That turned out to be a great visit thanks to an interesting story of a queen who lived in 19th century.

Well, before I write on the palace and the story, let me share with you about my visit to an amusement park known as Prater Park on one evening. It’s a great place to unwind and take a stroll  after a hard day’s work. I will describe here a couple of things that might interest many. As I entered the park, I saw a huge brightly lit advertisement for an eating place called Roller-coaster Restaurant. Well, I was not particularly hungry to get into the hotel. However, what attracted me to the restaurant was this advertisement. It said: “You cannot buy Happiness, but you can surely buy our Pizza!”  This Ad did it! It struck me as a profound statement differentiating at once between Happiness and mere Pleasure.

I went inside the hotel and decided to have one chocolate brownie for my little pleasure. This is a real fun place to go and eat. True to its name, as you sit in the restaurant and order food using a tablet, the food is served at your table, by a robot racing down a roller-coaster! See the picture below to get a feel of what I tried to describe. It was a wonderful experience indeed.




img_20170223_181558890 img_20170223_181550665


The following day, I decided to explore a couple of royal palaces belonging to late 18th and mid 19 the centuries.The Hofburg palace houses the famous Sisi museum. Sisi refers to the queen Elizabeth of Austria-Hungary. The museum is practically dedicated to the queen. Her sad story is worth narrating here. She was born into a Bavarian royalty and got married to the emperor of Austria Franz Joseph at a young age of 15. As a child she grew up in a completely carefree atmosphere and enjoyed complete freedom in her actions. The upshot of such an upbringing was that she was completely unprepared for her obligations as the first lady or even as a mother. Her duties as the queen involved rigid protocol of endless ceremonies and she hated it all from the day one and could not reconcile at all throughout her life. She would go through bouts of depression from time to time and write poetry eulogizing freedom and condemning rituals of the royalty. To cut a long story short, her life ended when she was finally assassinated by an Italian anarchist when she was traveling incognito in Geneva. Her story was like a typical fairy tale. A good fairy would bless her with all the good things in life while a bad fairy would appear next and deprive her of all the mental qualities and temperament required to get happiness out of the goodies.The question is: do we sympathize with her for losing her childhood freedom and getting trapped in a royal setting or do we blame her for not making the best out of her new situation? The queen’s story perhaps reflects a common human failing.

Oh, yea, I forgot to mention about one very interesting spectacle I saw while I was at the amusement park. It is Indoor Skydiving which is a newly invented sport. I believe in 2015 the first world cup of indoor skydiving was held. Inside a flight chamber made of glass and with the help of wind speeds of up to 280km/hour, one can experience flight that is comparable to a jump from a height of 4000 metres. Here are a few photos of divers in action captured on my smart phone:





Published in: on February 26, 2017 at 11:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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On my recent Business Trip to Paris

Last week, as I was busying myself with packing stuff for my business trip to Paris, my granddaughter kept following me persistently with a couple of questions: Enna venum Thata; enna pannara?(what do you want, grandpa; what are you doing?). She found it funny to see me move from room to room picking things up for packing. I kept dodging her questions and at one point asked her mother exasperatingly to take her away from me and allow me to focus on my job.
I might have felt a little irritated to face the same set of questions repeatedly; however, I found it extremely useful to ask myself the same questions at every step in Paris. I used these questions as a mantra throughout my stay lest I should lose my way or forget my daily itinerary or miss out on important appointments and objectives of my visit. The value of this mantra, strangely coming from a 2 year-old kid, cannot be overstated in our daily lives. Don’t we often find ourselves doing things that have no relationship to what we want to achieve in life? These twin questions can indeed serve as a useful guide to do course correction in our lives.
Having started the blog on a philosophical note, let me now come down to earth and tell you something about the trip itself. Paris was exceptionally hot and dry last week. The delegates who attended the conference at the well-known palais des congress (place of meetings?)found it extremely difficult to keep themselves dressed up in their formal suits with temperatures soaring to an intolerable 36deg centigrade.
I had one evening free and was wondering what to do. My boss advised me to keep away from crowds while my niece told me not to venture into lonely or suspicious looking deserted lanes of Paris known for mugging. My sister said: You are safer in a 3-star hotel, not in posh hotels. A well-meaning friend of mine told me jokingly: keep away from the infamous Lido shows! I was also warned of the presence of Italian mafia in the city by another friend. With so many conflicting suggestions coming in, I decided to do my own thing. So, I defied my boss’s advice and went to see Eiffel tower by night which I missed seeing in illuminated light in my earlier visits to the city. It’s indeed a wonderful sight to watch in the night. Here are a couple of photographs of the illuminated tower.





The tiredness of standing in the long queues for security check, ticketing counters and elevators was forgotten once I got on to the tower.

On the topmost floor there was a surprise in store for the tourists. Besides the usual points such as the Seine river view or Champs- Elysees view and not to forget the several selfie points, there was a point for which several couples (married & unmarried) queued up laughing all the way. I was curious to see what it was. It turned out to be …… a point for kissing which is written in bold letters on the wall above. I must congratulate the tourism department for their great sense of humour.
On the penultimate day of the conference, we had a traditional cocktail party. Although there was nothing to look forward to in such parties for teetotalers like me, I still attended the party since the venue is a famous place in Paris. It’s called Cite de la mode et du design which is a City of Fashion and Design overlooking the Seine river. This is an old general Store-house converted into a new structure. It’s contemporary in design with a bold architecture. It houses a museum of contemporary art in comic books, live animation and video games.  I have taken a few pictures of this remarkable building from the other side of the river:




Published in: on August 28, 2016 at 1:16 am  Comments (2)  
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God, demigods and mini gods – A trip

In our culture we give equal importance to all three – God, demigods and mini-gods. We worship all. Hindu religious practices are loaded with symbolism and if one doesn’t understand the essence behind the symbols, one is likely to misinterpret the practices as paganism or polytheism.
Anyway, let me narrate our recent travel experience without being judgmental.
Last week, we made a 2-day trip to Shirdi, Shani Singanapore and Malshej Ghat. We reached Shirdi by 6pm and headed straight to the temple, finished our darshan and relaxed for the night in a lodge operated by Maharashtra Tourism. Shirdi Saibaba shrine is popular all over India as a sacred place of worship.
The following day we had to decide between Nashik,famous for Rama temple, and Shani Shinganapore. We decided to go to Shinganapore purely to satisfy our curiosity about this unique shrine. We left Shirdi at 9am and reached the shrine by 11am.The village is unique in several respects. This is perhaps the only temple completely dedicated to Shaneshwar, our mini-god associated with the planet Saturn. This is also perhaps the only place where the deity,in the form of a black stone, has no roof. It is completely open to the sky. Devotees worship by pouring Til oil on the deity. See picture below:

shani shinganapore

This place has a strange belief that Shani will punish those who commit crimes. Therefore none of the houses are provided with doors. I was told that there was not a single case of theft reported untill 2010. However, a number of thefts have been reported in the past 5 years completely shattering their belief. I’m also told that a branch of UCO bank was opened two years back without providing locks to its doors! How stupid! There has to be a limit to what one can do in the name of beliefs!

On our way back to Bombay, we stopped over for fresh sugar cane juice from a way-side vendor. Here we saw an interesting live demo of sugar juice being extracted using an ox to drive a mechanical device. See below the spectacle of an ox religiously moving round and round to do the job!

sugar cane juice extractor

It would automatically start circling the moment the owner sits inside the circle and would stop instantly the moment he signals making a hissing sound. While one could admire the innovative use of an animal as a substitute for electricity, look at it from the ox’s point of view. It is doomed to work like this mechanically throughout its life. It doesn’t know of any world outside its routine as it’s completely immersed in whatever it has to do for a living. Indeed it has no way of knowing that there is life beyond this mundane activity even as it toils hard day in and day out to satisfy its owner.
Well, if this description bears any resemblance to the lives of the common folks like us, it’s not surprising.

After the juice break, we kept driving towards Bombay on Kalyan route. We kept driving for over 2 to 3 hours without finding a single road-side dhaba for our lunch break. It was well past our lunch time and everyone was getting restless and critical of the driver’s choice of this route. In desperation we stopped at a point and inquired about a decent restaurant to eat. Lucky for us, we were directed to a nearby place and the food turned out to be much better than our expectations. Our lunch break turned out to be a lucky break too as we discovered a few more surprises on the way back. We were re-energized and were indeed lucky to reach the famous Malshej ghats at the right moment. It rained heavily before we reached the ghats. Thanks to heavy rains, dozens of water falls got activated. We stopped at a point where it was just drizzling and got out of our vehicle. It was an out-of-the-world experience! There were several water falls – big & small – everywhere! The fog and the mist added to the mystical experience. Excited, we roamed around the place like children and clicked several pictures to carry the experience back home!







Reluctantly, we got into our vehicle and started driving. The rain became heavy again and we could see some stones lying on the road giving us scary thoughts of a land slide. Soon the euphoria yielded place to a frightful feeling as our vehicle drove under a forceful water fall. For those ten seconds we did not know what was happening as plenty of water gushed into the vehicle completely wetting us. We were overwhelmed by thoughts of a possible landslide combined with water flooding our vehicle. Well, after those nail-biting 10 seconds, our driver skillfully manoeuvred the vehicle out of the water fall much to everyone’s relief. The rest of the journey to Bombay was uneventful.

Published in: on August 9, 2015 at 4:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A trip to Muir wood National Monument – A great experience

The Muir wood national Monument is 12 miles north of San francisco. It is named after the famous Scottish-American naturalist belonging to 20th century. We drove to the forest 2 weeks back to spend half a day. it is famous for its tall and imposing redwood trees. John Muir was a great conservation activist of the 20th century. He is today referred to as the “Father of the National Parks” in the US.

John Muir was an ecological thinker and had raised the environmental consciousness of Americans through his inspired writings. Here are a few quotable quotes from his writings:

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul”.

“God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools. Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away”.

“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

Inspired by these words of wisdom, we decided to explore the place. I’m told that the tallest tree here is about 260 feet high. The trees form an impressive canopy making the walking paths cool and comfortable. The maximum temperature even in summer time is not more than 20 degree centigrade.

The main trail is the centerpiece of the forest and people visit mainly to see this. There are a few other trails branching off at different points from the main trail. The walkway made with wooden boards makes it easy to stroll.
The photographs below were taken during our walk through the main trail:











There was a section in the trail which is called the cathedral groove.
The trees of Cathedral Grove form a multiple treetop canopy similar to the ceiling of a cathedral (see pics below). Beams of light filter down from the canopy of the Grove, giving an impression of being inside the main body of a church.
We tried to capture the beauty of this place in the photos below:

cathedral grove 1

cathedral grove -2


Overall, it was a great pleasure trip as well as an aesthetic experience.

John Muir used to say: The forests and each tree has a story to tell.
I wondered what story a tree could tell. As I kept watching an impressive grove, this is the story I seemed to gather from the trees:
“Hey, we are about 800 years old and 260 feet tall. You want to know how to cross-check my age? Just take a small cross-section of my core and measure the number of rings or bands(see the third picture from above). In the beginning, we fiercely competed with each other to grow in height. You may wonder what we were competing for. We were competing for sunlight which is a rich source of nutrition for our growth. The taller we grow, the more we get exposed to the sunlight. We all ended up growing to the heights that you are seeing today. As we kept growing further we realized that this stupid growth is affecting our other parts. Stems, branches and leaves started becoming weak due to lack of nutrition because entire energy was being used up for growing tall. Soon, we made a pact and stopped growing. We formed a canopy instead. This ensured that all of us got equal sunshine and our branches and stems began growing strong and healthy.”

Is there a lesson here for our politicians who put undue emphasis on unbridled growth neglecting redistribution?

Published in: on May 21, 2015 at 8:29 pm  Comments (1)  
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A trip to remember – The Lake Tahoe in California

Last weekend we made a 2-day trip to a place called Lake Tahoe which is located along the border between California and Nevada. It’s a four-hour drive from San francisco where we are holidaying with my daughter presently.
Lake Tahoe is the sixth largest lake by volume in the United States.

The lake was formed about 2 million years ago and the modern lake was shaped during the ice ages. The place is a major tourist attraction as it is home to several ski resorts and trekking trails.The Nevada side has a large number of casinos.
The cool and crystal clear water of the lake is surrounded by picturesque mountain ranges all around.
Our first stop was at Emerald bay which has several beautiful view points. Here are a few great sceneries:





Then we drove to a place called “Fallen leaf lake” nearby. It is serene and peaceful. Have a look at the place in the pictures below. Doesn’t it look like a huge nature-made amphitheatre?





I told my daughter – ‘look at the place. It has all the five elements in the right balance – the clear blue sky above, clear & cool water, gentle breeze, fire with just the right intensity of sun shine and finally the element earth represented by majestic hills on all 3 sides around us. I concluded: ‘This well balanced combination of the five elements, indeed, is the secret of the great experience we are having here’. My daughter said: ‘You’re missing the sixth element’. I asked her curiously what was it. She said: ‘The sixth element is the great Bissibela rice that we brought with us for our lunch’! I couldn’t agree more. Without a good lunch made by my wife, of what use is all this beauty of nature?

Then we went on a cable tram which took us to the high camp surrounded by snow mountains. Here are a few photographs taken from our cable tram and at high camp:





The place has a number of trekking possibilities too. We had a short trekking experience along a trail leading up to the lake. A photograph taken along the trekking path is here:


Finally, I must mention about our visit in the evening to a Casino on the Nevada side. It’s a world by itself. There is plenty of action all around. You can see the excitement of people as they make money. Drinks are being served continuously to celebrate winnings and to keep up the spirits of the losers. I played a few rounds of roulette and slot machine. I said to myself before playing: let me play this for the charity I’m supporting. Believe it or not, I made 300 dollars for an investment of mere 11 dollars! Here are a couple of photos of the casino we visited:


Published in: on April 26, 2015 at 7:34 am  Comments (1)