Saturday, April 27, 2019

Myths and Legends of Switzerland

Switzerland is a country known for its mountains and lakes. The magnificent Alpine range of mountains crosses thru this country and over 100 lakes are nestled in this land. The numerous mountains and lakes are replete with folklore on tails of the unseen and the mystery that these natural wonders hold.

Lake Dwellers

One of the famous lakes in Switzerland is Lake Zurich  situated in the city of Zurich itself.  The legend has that Zurich which is now considered one of the world's  most expensive, urban and high on happiness index cities was first home to people known as 'lake dwellers'. These people started  settling in Zurich around 4300 BC and built wooden houses which rested above the water level on wooden poles. Many artifacts confirming the existence of these people have been found from Lake Zurich and preserved in Meuseums. 

  1. Witch Craft

In Europe,  right from the classical era  (8-5BC) to the Medieval era (5-BC to 15 AD ) it was widely believed that witches existed. Anyone believed to be practicing witchcraft was persecuted with punishment as severe as execution of not just the women considered to be a witch but also of her rest of the family.

Witch-phobia and prosecutions for the crime of witchcraft reached a highpoint from 1580 to 1620 when an estimated 50,000 persons were burned at the stake or hanged of which roughly 80% were women, and most often over the age of 40. 

One such women was Michée Chauderon. She died  in 1652  and Swas the last person to be executed for sorcery in the city of Geneva.

She worked as a washerwoman and was accused of theft by her employer leading to an argument. The employer then reported her for having summoned a demon into the body of their daughter. Chauderon was arrested and interrogated. The so-called devil's mark was found on her body, and she was tortured. While undergoing the torture tecnique of strappado wherein the victim's hands are tied behind his or her back and suspended by a rope attached to the wrists, typically resulting in dislocated shoulders the she admitted that one day, she had met  the devil n her garden in the shape of a black man with the feet of a cow and he had promised her wealth if she denounced God, which she had done. She was then judged guilty of sorcery and sentenced to be hanged and burned.
The last person to be executed for practicing witchcraft in Switzerland was to be  Anna Goldi in 1782. Anna was 31 when she gave birth but her baby died the first night it was born She was pilloried which is a form of torture in which  the head and hand of a person are secured in holes of a device made of a wooden or metal framework erected on a postand. Following this she was sentenced to six years of house arrest.She  subsequently escaped and started working as a maid.

Göldi began working as a maid for the Tschudi family in 1780. Her employer reported her for having put needles in the bread and milk of one of his daughters, apparently through supernatural means.  Göldi was arrested and, under Torture admitted to entering in a pact with the Devil who had appeared to her as a black dog. She withdrew her confession after the torture ended, but was sentenced to execution by decapitation . 

Dragons of the Alps

The people of the villages rounder the Alps widely believed that Dragons lived in the alps. These were either serpents with a cat face or huge lizards with multiple tails. The people believed that whenever a dragon was spotted in the Alps, a storm followed.

Creatures of the lakes

It is widely believed that beneath the great lakes lie mystical creatures . These powerful beings can create havoc if disturbed.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Spain Sojourn -Part 1 :Madrid

September may not be the perfect month to be in most of Europe as summers are near about ending but in southern Spain the weather in this month is just perfect. I planned a trip to the Spanish cities of Madrid, Toledo, Cordoba , Seville, Granada and Barcelona  in September of 2018. The plan was to land in Madrid and then drive by road first to Toledo, then Cordoba, Seville , Granada and Barcelona in the same sequence and cover all these places in 2 weeks.

Mesmerised by MADRID

I flew in the Emirates Airbus to Spain via Dubai from Delhi. With ample amount of time during the halt at Dubai, I could scan the huge Dubai airport and all the shopping options that it had offer at a leisurely pace. Of course the edge Dubai airport has over other airports is not only it's world class amenities but also the innumerable gold shops selling best quailty gold ornaments, coins at a reasonable price. Additionally,  you can pick up  high quality electronics , gadgets and dry fruits on the go from here!

On landing in Madrid, I drove straight to my hotel  Hotel Courtyard Madrid which is very centrally located in the city. The biggest indigenous store of Spain ‘Corte ingles’ was right next to the hotel. In addition the metro station was at a walking distance from the store. The whole city of Madrid is very well connected by metro and I chose this mode of travel to explore the city.
The first place I decided to explore in Madrid was its business epicentre , the ‘ Gran Via’ which basically means the Great Road. This road runs right thru the heart of the city and is lined by upscale stores on either side. All big brands stores and eating joints were available on this road. This is an excellent place to pick up leather items, trendy clothes and home decor items. I was lucky because a number of stores were offering big sales during the time I visited. One shop that you don’t want to miss is Alihop. This store sells quirky stationary and daily use items and is a great place to pick up gifts for friends and family back home.

Next I decided to explore the creative site of the city. To do that I took the metro from Gran Via  to Calle de Alcazar where the 2 of the most popular meuseums exist very close by. The one I visited first was Reina Sofia which displays the Spanish artwork of the 20th century and displays artwork of famous artists such as Picasso. This building had 3 floors full of artwork. A portion of the meuseum is for free viewing by the visitors while the other portion can only be seen  after buying a entry pass. It was indeed a treat to see the beautiful artwork although as photography was not allowed in some portions,  memories could only be kept in the mind and not be captured in the camera. Another  meuseum worth visiting is the Museo del Prado.

After visiting both these places in the day , I headed to the another famous square called Plaza de Espana .This vibrant market place has innumerable eating joints ,shops and night clubs. Even at mid night the place teeming with locals and tourists. After tasting nick knacks from various outlets, I headed to the famous night club called Joy Elsava in the Plaza. The club opens up at Midnight and party continues till wee hours in the morning. The whole experience of being at this club,one of the first clubs to open in madrid, was indeed worthwhile.  I danced to a number of Spanish numbers in a dance floor loaded with people enjoying every bit of the nightlife at the club.

The nightclub was inaugurated the night February 24, 1981, the day of the "Golpe de Espado" in Spain. Soon this became one of the venues referenced in the capital of Spain, incorporating a new concept unknown in the country: macro-disco.. 

The next day, I decided to take a tour of the city to see the major tourist attractions around the city. The tour started with a visit to Madrid Palace. The beautiful place is the largest palace in Europe and is located at a hilltop with a view of the rest of city down below. The plush interiors of the palace and tastefully doneup rooms were a pleasure to see. Various architecture forms ranging from Gothic to Rococo were included in the palace architecture.

After leulisurely spending the morning at the palace I then moved to see the famous Madrid Bull ring. This Bull Ring, called Plaza de toros de Las Ventas opened in June 1931. Bull fights are still actively held in the Bull ring although killing the bull is prohibited following protests by animal activists. In various parts around Spain Bull breeding is an active occupation as the sport is very actively followed and encouraged. The magnificent Bull ring has a seating capacity of more than 20,000 people , a circular arena.

Next stop was made to the Madrid Football Stadium. The stadium is the official stadium of  the world renouned Real Madrid Football club. It is the mecca of football fans.

Another beautiful place we visited in Madrid was the temple of Debod. It is a temple gifted by the Greek to Madrid. 

Any trip to Madrid is incomplete without seeing the museums which have centuries of  beautiful artwork in them. The world renouned museums I saw in Madrid was Reina Sofia and Prado Meuseum .

A quick video on the 5 of my favourite places to visit in Madrid! 

Toledo, Spain Sojourn: Part 2

Nestled a bit on the outskirts of the humongous Madrid city is the small town of Toledo. The town maybe small but historically it's significance is massive. It was at one point the capital of whole of Spain i.e. ,  between 542 to 725 AD ,Toledo was the capital of Spain when the Visigothic kingdom  was ruling. The small township has been declared a Unesco world heritage site since the 1980's. It is known as the city of 3 cultures as it has been influenced by Christians,  Jews and Muslims. Toledo is built on the Tagus river and even as of today the anchient buildings remain intact , standing tall as a reminder of the years of history that influenced this town.

 The Toledo township from a distance.

The main attractions of the Town are the Alcazar and the cathedral

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Magical Monday

Mondays are full of madness! Mondays for most people brings out the colour blue (Monday Blues). But like so many things, is it just a figment of our imagination? So if we change our attitute, is it possible to change Manic Monday into Magic Monday? What if we feed it into our system that Monday will be a grand day? It will be a day when our energy levels will be the higest because we will be refreshed after a break and that we will start a new week with zest and high spirits! What if we tell ourselves at the start of the week that this week we will be unstoppable, be a powerhouse and race ahead,  could it change things? I believe it could :)

And believing is the first step towards changing things for good !! :)

This is another  post in the Magical Monday series of inspirational stories aimed at motivating us to bring out our best on the first day of the week! 

Today the story is of a brave officer of the Indian army, Colonel M N Rai, who died fighting militants in  Jammu and Kashmir, a militancy-hit region of India 

Rai, a commanding officer of 42 Rashtriya Rifles,  was killed during an encounter in Tral in Pulawama district  while fighting militants. He was just 39.

 Colonel M N Rai

Rai along with being a brave soldier was a good leader and a motivator. He had taken a number of initiatives for the positive engagement of youth  (like organising cricket and football tournaments) in Tral, the distubed area where he was posted. He organized these matches to keep the youth positively and proactively engaged ensuring that the youth do not stray into the ranks of militancy.

Under his leadership, the narrative in Tral was changing. He earned the admiration of all the administration for his meticulous planning

Unfortunately Rai died a day after he was conferred a bravery award, the Yudh Seva medal, for outstanding contribution in planning and conduct of operations including a gun battle with militants in south Kashmir last year.

Even though he was at the rank of a commanding officer, very senior rank, he chose to fight from the front with their men at all times.

His status on a social media site stated his mindset clearly: "Play your role in life with such passion, that even after the curtains come down, the applause doesn't stop."

Another unfortunate incident has taken place in Kashmir. A young mislead kashmiri youth, a suicide bomber rammed his explosives laden car into a CRPF bus killing all 44 young aspiring soldiers in it. 

As the families grieve and the nation burns at the cruel act of savegery by which such brave youth of our country were lost, our heart and soul goes out to these soldiers who fight for us day and night .

This motivational post is for our brave soldiers fighting in Kashmir and to these 44 CRPF jawans. ..the applause will never stop for you.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Great Ocean Road Trip , Australia

On my Australia trip, I was satisfied to the core having seen the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns. However, another wonderful adventure awaited me on the trip as we headed to complete a road trip on the Great Ocean road.  The great ocean road has a lot of historical importance and is replete with interesting stops to be made throughout the stretch of the road.

The road is 243 kms long and stretches between the southeastern towns of Torquay and Allansford in the Australian state of Victoria. True to its name, most of the road has been built along the shore allowing a beautiful view of the Australian oceanside as you drive along this road.

Today it is a favourite route for Bikers in pursuit of long rides
Bikers on the Great Ocean road 

Bikers on great ocean road

Memorial Arch 

Memorial Arch , great ocean road. Starting point.

Historically the importance of the road lies in the fact that it was built by soldiers of the Australian army who hado fought the first world war and on returning back to their country were entrusted with the humongous task of constructing this road along the coast in state of Victoria. The road was built by about 3000 returned servicemen who built it as a memorial to their fellowmen who died in the first world war. 

Construction was done by hand by these ex servicemen using pick and shovels, explosives, wheel barrows  and small machinery at the time.Detonators were carried by these men on their knees as this was the softest ride possible for detonators at that time.

Driving along the great ocean road

Lorne,  Apollo bay and Port Campbell are the interesting stops along the way.

Making a pit stop along the Great Ocean road to soak in the beauty of the coast

Can't get enough of the shore

Lounging along the beachside

One of the main tourist attractions along the great ocean road are the 12 apostles. These are limestone stacks which are place close to one another off the Port Campbell National park off shore. Only 8 of these limestone stacks remain today as many have been eroded by the harsh southern ocean. These were formed as a result of constant erosion of the cliffs lining the ocean shore resulting in formation of caves initially and later these stacks.

12 Apostels

At 12 apostels

At the 12 Apostle site
It is possible to take a helicopter ride at the 12 Apostle site to get a birds eye view of the limestone stacks.
Beach sand 

The road is 2 way and the permissible speed limit varies between 50 kms per hour to 100 kms per hour along the way.

Beach side

Towards the end of the trip, the road meanders into rainforests leaving the shore behind. It is indeed a trip of a lifetime to be on this road and experience all the gorgeous stops first hand.

This trip was also special as I realised that this road is a haven for cyclists. It's smooth as butter, very scenic and thus loved by Bikers. I got to see many cyclist cycling with enthusiasm as we drove along the great ocean road. As a passionate cyclist, I myself take up long rides as far as possible in a week. As weekdays are a bit hectic as work responsibilities and every day chores need to be completed, I mostly try and do a 50-70 km ride on weekends. It is great exercise and a good time to bond with friends.

Update on my ride today: 30 kms , completed in 2 hours. The weather was great and supported the good average we achieved. Four of us rode together and made only one pit stop on the way.
Photos being clicked mid way during the ride.

With my gang

The 4 of us together

Happy riding and happy traveling people! Make your life meaningful! 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Dragons of Slovenia

Slovenia might be a tiny country in the European continent but its rich in folklore and local legends. The confirmation of that can be seen in the fact that the dragon statue can be found atop a number of buildings,bridges ,coats of arms in the capital city of Slovenia i.e., Ljubljana. 

The local legend has that ,Slovenia was terrorised by a Dragon ,who had made the place inhabitable because of its  atrocities. A brave man from Greece,Jason, who was passing thru Slovenia killed this dragon by stuffing his nostrils with bones of people the dragon had killed and chaining his mouth so that he could not blow out his hot breath. The dragon was in a drowsy state when Jason did this to him and on awakening he was distraught on feeling suffocated  and not being able to blow out the his breath.

He then flew up in the sky and the hot fire inside of him made him blow up. This is supposed to be the first show of fireworks witnessed by people of Slovenia.

At the dragon bridge

The landmark point of Slovenia is the dragon bridge. Which has dragon statues on either side of the bridge. The legend goes that when a virgin crosses the bridge,the dragons wag their tails.

The beauty of European cities are the legends that are a part of the history. It is indeed a pleasure to dig deep and find out more about these interesting tales of valour and courage.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Day 3 in Australia : Cairns

After spending the first 2 days in Australia in the beautiful city of Sydney, we took a flight to a pretty small little tropical town called Cairns. We got to Cairns after a 2 hour flight from Sydney and moved into our beautiful seaside Holiday Inn resort.
In front of our hotel in Cairns 

Cairns is small seaside town, gets abundant rain throughout the year and is surrounded by tropical forrests.

Walking on the beautiful streets of Cairns lined by Gulmohar trees

The fact that the tropical forrests can be viewed in all their glory from a ropeway that starts from Cairns and goes all the way up to a town called Kuranda which rests on top of a surrounding mountain and also the fact that the Great Barrier reef can be reached by a 2 hour boat trip from Cairns, makes it a big tourist attraction.

Another spot of tourist attraction at Cairns is the Aborigine center called TJapukai. Here the aborigines hold shows to depict their history and lifestyle. 

We had all this on the itinerary for the trip to Cairns. 

Beautiful mountains in the backdrop our seaside hotel

The first evening at Cairns was spent at Tjapukai. The aborigines dressed up in theor traditional attire put up a great show that evening showing us the origins of all thier rituals and culture. The insides of the complex had multiple halls and an amphitheatre.  In the amphitheatre,   the aborigines depicted their Ancient rituals, hunting practices, dances etc  and encouraged the audience to join in with them in a show.

Dancing with the aborigines on stage

Aborigines in their traditional costumes

Next morning we took a cable car to mountain top town called Kuranda . Highlight of the cable car trip was the birds eulye view of the tropical forrests down below. Some of the trees in the forrests are hundreds of years old.

Cable car to Kuranda
View from the cable car

We made a few stops during the cable car journey and finally reached Kuranda 

Kuranda has a bearticulate buterfly park , Koala park and various restraunts , cafes and shopping center.

On our way back we took the train back to Cairns.

On a train back to Cairns
That evening we went around the central shopping center of Cairns called the Esplanade. It was buzzing with life and had a number of options for shopping and eating.

We then headed to a night club called Gilligans. Luckily they had a special ladies night at the club that day and free champagne was being offered to all the ladies in the club.

Next day was the highlight of the trip for me as we headed to the Great Barrier reef. We took a boat cruise to the reef. The boat docked at the reef and all passengers were allowed to snorkel or scuba dive in the pacific sea to see the beautiful corals in the  reef.

The great barrier reef is only living thing which is visible from space. It is one of the top 10 natural wonders ofor the world and it was a pleasure to be there.

Getting on the boat cruise to get to Great Barrier reef 
Getting ready to snorkel in the barrier reef

Snorkeling in the reef

On the boat