Cricket and IPL: A Passion in India

In India besides religion, and festivals, people feel a great passion for a sport so admired, respected and followed by millions of people. We are talking about cricket that without a doubt is the national sports par excellence and that drags millions of followers in this great country. The IPL matches can last between a few hours or a whole day. But despite how strenuous and long these can be, nobody wants to miss seeing their preferred team win. In the United States, baseball, in Europe, soccer and in India, cricket is the so-called king of sports. When traveling to India you can see how millions of people are attracted to this unique sport.

For a long time, specifically since the 18th century, there has been a reference to this sport. You could say that cricket is linked with the history of India. This is a sport, which although it seems like a simple game requires certain strategies to be able to like baseball place the ball in a place where none of the players of the opposing team can have access to the ball after being hit.

A similarity of baseball in cricket is players have a ball and a bat. In this specific case have a flattened bat and the field of play has an oval field. For further information, we will tell you that the test matches are played over several days. It is three or four for "first class" matches and five for an international match. It could happen after that time the match ends in a draw. Each day six hours are divided into three sessions of two hours (approximately 30 overs per session), with a break of 40 minutes for lunch and another 20 minutes for tea.

Each team alternately plays two innings, unless the batting team in second place fails to reach less than 200 runs from their opponent (150 in four-day matches). In which case, the opposing captain may force a follow-on. Usually, teams wear white. Although marketing has changed it to other colors. The ball is garnet red. As a general rule, we know that test matches are never played under artificial light.

India is one of the powers in cricket. The national team has won in several years the most important international championships of the specialty such as World Cup, Champions Trophy, among so many awards. Cricket players like those of other sports in the West such as basketball, football and baseball are treated like a true movie or rock stars. Their shirts, sporting goods, autographs, and photos are seen in large numbers as their millions of followers are those who acquire their products to show their admiration.

Seldom do you see kids getting together to play a soccer game like they do in the rest of the world? Instead, they all play the exotic game of cricket. Yes, cricket is much more famous than football! What should be a unique case? Therefore, it is logical that the best Indian professional cricketer and the most famous (of history), Sachi Tendulkar is considered as the "God of Cricket" in India.

Wherever the man goes, he is greeted with the cries of Sachin, Sachin! by compatriots who give applause and jump and take pictures with their phones. Applause, chants, excitement, and enthusiasm is what you can experience and feel if you dare to enjoy a cricket match in India.

If something stands out among the Indian population is his great passion for cricket. Such is the fervor felt by this sport that the entire country is paralyzed every time an important match is held, as it happened a few years ago with the semifinal of the Cricket World Cup that involved India and Pakistan. To discover the reason for this unconditional hobby we recommend you to live a cricket match in India.

Where to enjoy a good IPL cricket match in India?

There are dozens of good cricket stadiums all over India so it's quite easy to be close to one of them on your trip. We have chosen the best three to enjoy an entire experience:

Eden Gardens Stadium (Calcutta)

Built in 1865, it is the largest stadium in the country and second in the world after the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia and is located in Calcutta. In Eden Gardens play the Bengal Cricket Team and the Kolkata Knight Riders, both competitors of the Indian Premier League, but they also play in their matches of the Indian cricket team. Although there are no official figures, it is said that after the renovation of its facilities it went from having a capacity of about 100,000 spectators to about 66,000. According to the Indians themselves, it is one of the stadiums where you can best enjoy a match because it is the oldest and most consecrated.

Raipur International Cricket Stadium (Raipur)

Another of the most important stadiums in the country is located in Raipur, specifically Chhattisgarh. The Raipur International Cricket Stadium is one of the most modern stadiums in the country. It was built in 2008. It has the best facilities for both spectators and athletes and has a capacity of 65,000 spectators. The first match in its facilities was played between the Canadian national team and the Chhattisgarh Cricket Team in November 2010. Since then it is the official stadium of this team and hosts all kinds of international matches.

DY Patil Stadium (Mumbai)

The last of the most important and new stadiums in the country is found in Mumbai. The DY Patil Stadium was built in 2008 and up to 60,000 fans can gather in its stands. It has a peculiar design that resembles some of the best sports stadiums in the world and currently hosts the Pune Warriors India team for IPL matches.

Choose your stadium and enjoy cricket in India

The passion for this sport in India is comparable to that felt in other countries by football or basketball. For this reason, if you like sports and want to live the passion for cricket in its purest state, do not miss this opportunity. Choose a stadium and any IPL game and feel like a true Indian on your trip.

Ambubachi Mela: Fertility of Kamakhya

Kamakhya temple is a temple of the 16th century located on Nilachal hill in Guwahati, Assam. Kamakhya is a goddess of fertility and Tantrism that evolved in the Himalayan hills. The Tantric deity of the goddess Tara got worshiped by the tribals. The Vedic priests created the legend of Kam-e-kha in Garo hills.

The earliest manifestation of the sanctified goddess in the Garo Hills got destroyed. Kamakhya is in the form of a stone yoni, female generative organ, symbolic of the goddess. The temple remains one of the most important sites and Peethas among Hindu temples in the world.

Kam-e-kha was an important goddess of Khasi tribes. Another legend has it that the goddess got worshipped by Kamdev, the god of lust whom Shiva had reduced to ashes. Over the centuries the dominant theologies transform it to the tale of Shiva and Sati.

The temple darshan is through touch and there is no idol. There is a large crack in the bed rock dampened by water flowing upwards from an underground spring. It gets covered by fabrics and ornate clothes, flowers, and red sindoor powder. Pilgrims offer items for worship to the rock and then touch and drink the water from the spring.

After completing darshan, devotees light lamps and incense devotees outside the temple. Like other temples, worship is not considered complete until the temple gets circumambulated. There is also the prevalence of the custom of animal sacrifices here. Bulls, goats, and pigeons get sacrificed on the altar of the Goddess.

As an assembly line, as soon as the blood of a goat has escaped through the drain holes, here is ready the successor. Mother Earth must remain wet and drenched in blood and the reason is soon explained. The primordial deity, Kali is here seen as a figure of Mother Earth.

In the real ritual, the priests of the temple lie down on their back to enable women to take over them. With the feet to the side of the hips, they dive inside the erect priest that enters into the postulant. Tantrism provides that the ritual excludes ejaculation.

Ambubachi Mela is during July, celebrating her menstruation period during the 4 days. The blood of animal sacrifices offered to the goddess flows. While the crowd chants, Prithibi Rajashala Hoi, that means Mother Earth is menstruating.

During the first three days of the festival, the temple doors remain closed. On the fourth day finally open the doors of the temple, so that the faithful may offer their prayers.

When members leave the shrine, they carry with them the red fabric strips. These get used to cleanse the goddess and is thus stained with her menstrual blood.

Plynteria was an Athenian festival in honor of Athena. It was a purification ceremony of the sanctuary and the sacred image of the goddess. This festival took place in May. Kallynteria got celebrated on the 19th of the month and the Plynteria on the 29th. We see that these feasts included, in particular, the washing of the temple. There was also a ceremony in which the goddess was again displayed.

The day of the festival got counted by the Athenians as the impure days. The Temple of Athena got surrounded by a rope to prevent any communication with the interior. The women who were in charge of this ritual were praxiergidai.

The day of the Plynteria was a day of official leave when public affairs got stopped. The festival lasted five consecutive days. The legends about the origins of the festivals are not very clear. The absence of Athena is to last several days. We see that the figs play a part in the procession of the Plynteria. The procession begins, only to return in the evening. Athena received a sheep on the day of the Plynteria as an offering of purification. We know at what moment of the celebration this sacrifice got placed in. The bath of the goddess was at Phalereus. The statue of the goddess, purified, got replaced in the temple, and adorned again.

Jatra: Folktales from Bengal

Jatra is a popular form of folk theatre from the eastern region of India and is usually an enactment of epic four hour long plays with a cast and comprising music, dance, acting, singing, lighting and dramatic props played on giant outdoor open air stages.

Jericho - Travel to the Lowest Point on Earth

Jericho is a city with a reputation. It is the oldest city in the world. It is also at the lowest point on earth. Jericho in the West Bank is more than a 10000-year-old city. There is also the mount of temptation. These superlatives ignite a burning and expectant travel fever in me. My first trip to the West Bank is a steeplechase full of unexpected, and usually charming surprises.

So I decided to take the bus from Bethlehem to Jericho. I would like to look at the route on Google Maps. But Google does not offer a route. In Israel, maps were still uncomplicated. Here in Palestine, the online service provides no relevant information for travel planning. It simply means that the route from Bethlehem to Jericho could not be calculated.

In the morning I climb up to the old town. I pass the souk. There my trip is interrupted for the first time by a youthful barber! He thinks that my mustache needs a decent shape! Arab hairdressers find that the beard, the real jewel of the man requires elaborate care and a razor-sharp contour.

Nevertheless, I let myself be spread. So I sit down on the barber chair and try to fix, just a little bit here and there a bit. In addition, fragrant waters are rubbed into the beard, the neck kneaded with damp fingers, the face scrubbed with caustic essences and polished with a greasy pomade to a shine. Only when my face sparkles like linoleum and my beard are snow-covered, the beard trimmer leaves satisfied with me. After this pretended self-praise, he demands an adventurous fee.

I pull my hood deep in my face, sneak across Mangers Square like an aromatized scented candle, and turn into Falafel Street. So finally I reach the bus station. There, a friendly shopkeeper shows me the way down to B4, where the big taxis are waiting. When I arrive, only a boy sits in the minibus to Jericho. We wait about twenty minutes, then the taxi is full and it starts.

The drive out of Bethlehem is not that great. But after we pass Jerusalem and see the sprawling landscapes, it looks incredibly beautiful. There are rolling hills, in the desert of Judea. The roads are pretty well developed and freshly asphalted. There is illumination with state-of-the-art solar lights.

Suddenly the vehicle goes down steeply in steep serpentines. In the distance, I can see the shores of the Dead Sea. Immediately I think in stereotypes. It is so dry, so gray, without tree and shrub, so deserted and far, I imagined the Holy Land.

The taxi driver does not think so romantically. He revels in the rush of speed and bangs down the curves in generous arcs. Meanwhile, we also paid. The women in the back of the taxi knock the men on the shoulders in front of them, putting money in their hands, which they then push forward to the driver. As the change does not fit, drivers and passengers switch back and forth. The driver has his eyes more in the wallet than on the street. It's fine, we arrive safely in Jericho.

The big taxi stops in the middle of the city on the public square. The main square of Jericho consists of a large intersection with a park in the center. All around there are houses with lavish advertisements. It is already two o'clock in the afternoon. At five o'clock the sun goes down. What should I visit? How should I decide?

I find help surprisingly in the tourism center in the middle of the public square. I am greeted by a very friendly and attentive young man who, however, does not seem to be prepared for clientele. After all, he takes me to his office, offers me the most comfortable chair and explains in detail about the monuments worth seeing in the ancient city of Jericho.

This service goes far beyond the customs of Arabian hospitality. The young man jumps up, pushes information brochures back and forth, and spreads up a map of Jericho. He descends divinely onto a wheeled stool, shakes his dark flowing hair, and steers his leg close to mine. If eyes could spark, its fireworks ignited.

This performance is probably called the charming love. Everything is very well presented. Every gesture and every look perfectly rehearsed. The magic still misses its effect. The young man falls through my prey. The old box of history has lured me to Jericho, not the adolescent love. Nevertheless, I am surprised. There are lots of men in the middle of Palestine, in the middle of Jericho, in a public square.

Now I have a good two hours of daylight. I decide to visit Hisham's palace 3 kilometers north of Jericho. It's possible, I think, and I can look at the city a little bit more. However, I do not find much on my walk.

Jericho looks like a bunch of street villages growing together in public square. The city fringes for the manageable center in a rural periphery of nurseries, fallow land, and oil fields. Left hand there is the mount of temptation. Maybe I should have driven up there, I think. I'm almost alone on the road on foot anyway. But only a few cars drive.

Then I reach Hisham's Palace. It is the excavation of a winter palace from the Umayyad period built around the year 750 and inhabited only for a short time. Then the buildings were destroyed by an earthquake. A tiny museum introduces us the history of the palace. The most important works of art from the excavation are scattered in museums in all over the world. So I look at many fragments and read many explanatory panels. So I am perfectly prepared to understand the ruins of the palace properly.

Once upon a time, there was a magnificent and defensive gate. There are splendid chambers for the caliph Hisham and his successor al Walid. There is a luxurious bathhouse with fountain and running water and a big mosque. As always in an archaeological dig, it takes a lot of imagination to make something alive out of the dusty rubble of these inanimate walls.

But the Mediterranean becomes tangible as a huge melting pot of high cultures. The architecture of the bathhouse has a role model in Roman thermal architecture. In the construction technique and the forms of the magnificent mosaics, the handwriting of Byzantine craftsmen is recognizable. The imaginative stucco ornaments on the walls are influenced by Persia. What were those great times when the West and the East could still inspire each other, I think.

A call from Bethlehem catapults me back from the great times into the desolate presence of the Middle East. Above the mount of temptation, the sun sets as dramatically and romantically as if an artist had resorted to canvas and brush. I am depressed on the way back to public square.

There I get into a big taxi to take me back to Bethlehem. It will be a long drive. Just before Bethlehem, a checkpoint is closed. Nothing works anymore. The Palestinian riders react quite calmly. They are probably used to waiting in traffic. They get out, walk up and down between the cars, smoke, chat, and buy provisions. Somewhere in the distance, flares rise into the night sky. Is it a bonfire?

The Festival of Akshaya Tritiya in India

The Akshaya Tritiya festival is also known as Akha Teej and is a highly auspicious and holy day. The phenomenon of child marriages, which are celebrated in April on the occasion is still widespread in Indian rural areas. People believe that it brings benefits to agriculture by facilitating a good harvest.

The pagan ritual is related to the goddess Ostara of Germanic mythology who brought light and fertility after winter. That is why all the rituals of this day have to do with fertility and renewal. The Celtic ceremony of marriage has a deeper meaning than that given in other religions today. Like almost all Celtic customs, the complete rite is somewhat unknown.

As is traditional festivities of Celtic origin, marital unions used to be associated with the Beltane festivities. The festival was closely related to spring and fertility rites. In addition to Beltane, Lughnasadh was a time for weddings. It was even customary to hold weddings during the full moon. Lughnasadh marked the beginning of the harvest season, the maturation of the first fruits. It was traditionally a time of community gathering.

Honeymoon, for example, is a custom that originated with the Celts. Legend has it that its origin is due to the fact that the bride and groom observed the moon for several days only by drinking the honey liqueur or mead during the 30 days following the wedding. This was done as a ritual of an alliance between equals. It had to begin with the best omens, purification, and possible strength.

When a girl entered an age considered suitable for marriage a great feast was organized, inviting all the unmarried boys. Through a rapprochement and agreements between the families of the future spouses, the dowry was fixed, regardless of the social class to which they belong. Marriages were generally held for girls at the age of 12 and for boys at 14.

Girls through a ritualistic act chose the one that she had previously identified. Through reciprocal acts, she offered water to the young boy to wash his hands. This protocol was the open public commitment that they both loved each other and wanted to bond their lives forever. When the betrothal was celebrated, all the relatives of the couple would be present. The act of leaving one family to another was of paramount importance for all.

If the man entered into another relationship after marriage, he had to pay a symbolic price for his future wife. If it was the second marriage of the woman, her father only received 2/3 of the dowry and the remaining third appropriated for the intended one. For the third wedding, the father only received half and the bride the rest and so on. If the father had already died, this right fell on the older brother of the betrothed.

The veil, it seems to be, is a very old tradition that also goes back to late Celtic ceremonies. Before the bride put on her veil she was a maid. When placed, she became a goddess in her own right. She represented the mystery of everything that represents femininity. When the bridegroom removed the veil, she returned to this changed world, giving way to a new beginning.

Marriages at the time were a contract that lasted only for few months and could be renewed if things went well. This was called Handfasting because, while looking each other in the eye, the couple took their right and left hands together to form the symbol of infinity. A thread was tied around the hands in a knot. This action of joining hands comes from ancient Indo-European traditions on the fusion and harmonization between man and woman.

These handfastings or test marriages, generally lasted a year and one day. There was an option of finalizing the contract before the new year or the next Lughnasadh as a more permanent marriage. There are many variants of how the Handfastings have been made, which seem to change the course of times and regions. Some used only one string or ribbon, while the others used up to six.

In some versions, the rite of Handfasting was made only for the duration of the ceremony. In other cases, the practice remained in force until the marriage was physically consumed. The ancient Irish were well aware of the need for requirements and rights in such unions. In fact, they had 10 different forms and degrees of marriage. Any relationship that gave rise to the birth of a child was considered a marriage in order to ensure the rights of the child.

Some Celtic wedding accessories have survived the times and are still used today. The wedding ring signifies the ultimate loyalty in the marriage. This ancient Celtic rite was performed outdoors, where nature could bless the union. Presumably, given the love that the Celts professed to nature, the principal place of marriage was in the woods. They were probably surrounded by their sacred and most representative trees.

It was customary for the bride and groom to have a crown made of twigs of ivy and other herbs on their heads to symbolize love and good wishes. Next, a circle was created around the couple decorated with flowers, stones, and tree branches. This is a custom that still persists in many current weddings. Then the druid blessed and consecrated the circle.

The gods or spirits of nature were honored. The offerings were deposited in the place that the druid had fixed. The bride and groom's parents exchanged gifts honoring their bloodlines. They blessed the new union that almost always led to requests for fertility and prosperity toward the couple. Once the rite was over, the banquet took place. It was a custom that has reached our days and the fertility parties where the newlyweds were honored with different dances and rituals.

The eve of the Akha Teej is a date of good omen according to the Indian calendar. Traditionally, thousands of young boys marry girls of their same age. Akshaya Tritiya is also the largest gold festival, which takes place in India, after the Dhanteras which is held in November.

In this way, and as it is traditional in the festivities of Celtic origin, most marital unions were celebrated in the heat of the festivals that were celebrated between April and September. According to the few chronicles that have reached to our days, marriages were held during Litha and Lughnasadh, the festival that marks the beginning of the harvest season and the maturation of the first fruits. Beltane was also a favorable time for marriages.

During the Buidhe Bealtaine, bonfires were lit in honor of Belenos to celebrate the union of God and the Goddess. The couples gathered with other members of their communities and taking advantage of the celebrations, united their souls under the sacred union of the Gods.

Traveling to Vienna in Austria during Autumn

Traveling to Vienna has allowed me to experience the colorful autumn. We discover this beautiful imperial city calmly, in our style. Our flight is direct to Vienna.

Day 1

For the arrival we choose the simple option and we take the CAT. To move by public transport we have purchased the ticket valid for 72 hours. They can be purchased at the machines of any metro station. They are validated the first time of use and serve for the following 72 hours.

There are tourist cards such as the Vienna Card or the Vienna Pass that can include public transport and discounts or tickets for various attractions and visits to the city. But as always, we do not pay for it, because to get to pay the price of the card we have to visit a lot of things.

Our apartment was located four metro stops from the city center, in a quiet residential neighborhood. The apartment is spacious, clean and well equipped. Nearby there is a supermarket. In the afternoon we visit the Karlskirche. At the ticket office they only accept cash, not credit cards.

It is something that we are not used to and we find it in several bars and restaurants as well. The church, a mixture of classic baroque and Rococo, has the peculiarity of having an elevator installed inside. It allows the ascent to the interior of the large dome, where I can see in detail the beautiful frescoes.

We continue our walk crossing the Ringstrasse (literally, circular street). The set of avenues that surround the district is called Innere Stadt, which is the center of Vienna. We pass in front of the opera theater, the Staatsoper, a majestic Neo-Renaissance style building.

Along the Spiegelgasse, a wide and lively commercial and pedestrian street, we come to Stephansdom, the symbol of Vienna. The cathedral is perhaps more spectacular on the outside than on the inside, with a mix of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque styles. Its size stands out among the low houses in the city center.

Our walk continues through the pedestrian streets of downtown. We leave the map because the streets do not follow any kind of order and we discover the city adrift. By chance we found a good place to dine, that is a restaurant. The extensive menu offers typical Viennese food at a good price and several types of beer.

We rejected a couple of bars that looked good on the outside. When we entered one, we find the smell of tobacco, because smoking is allowed inside Vienna in many establishments.

Day 2

In Vienna there are three imperial palaces, the Hofburg, in the center of the city, the Belvedere palace, now an art museum and the Schonbrunn palace, the summer residence of the Habsburgs.

We start our day with the Schonbrunn palace. The palace is about 40 minutes by metro from the center of Vienna. There are several tickets that include a more or less long route. Others are combined with the private parts of the gardens or with the Hofburg Palace.

We bought the pass, which includes the rooms of the palace with audioguide, the entrance to the Labyrinth, the Glorieta, the Privy Garden and the Orangerie. Built in Baroque style, this former Hapsburg summer residence from the 17th century shows the opulence in which the Austrian emperors lived. The site includes huge gardens and even the Vienna Zoo.

We were just over 4 hours, as it takes around one hour to to visit the interior of the palace and just over two hours to visit the outside. The audio guide take us through the different rooms and bedrooms of the family of Maria Teresa I of Austria. She is a very important figure of the Habsburg house of the eighteenth century.

We see the private rooms of Francisco Jose I of Austria, who reigned during the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century and his wife, the famous Empress Sisi. The Labyrinth is a fun area that includes some games. The Glorieta is the building that is at the end of the garden and from its terrace we get beautiful views of the site. We then enter the Privy Garden, a small garden also very well cared for. The Orangerie currently is a kind of greenhouse where they keep the trees in winter.

What I enjoyed most of the park was the labyrinth and its games, because without a doubt the orangerie, at least in autumn, is dispensable. What we later realized is that there are maps of the enclosure at the ticket offices, which would have been useful for us to place ourselves in the garden.

The whole visit represents a history lesson that covers one of the largest empires in Europe and the rooms to visit are not long. We return to the center of Vienna and find a very welcoming cafe. Unfortunately we could not smoke inside and this bothered us a bit, but the food is good and the price acceptable. Once again, they did not accept credit cards. It also seems to be Viennese custom of slow service, but friendly.

Then we took the tram and admired the majestic buildings that surround the Ringstrasse, including the Gothic-style town hall Rathaus, the Parliament, which is right next to it, the Votive church, the Burgtheater theater, the University and the Borsa. We went up and down the trams as we wanted. As it was a little late we could not visit the interior of any building.

Then we lost ourselves once again through the center, passing the Cafe Central, an institution of Vienna culture at the end of the 19th century. We pass by the Goldenes Quartier, the golden quarter, and see a number of luxury shops. We reach the area of ​​the Donau Kanal, the Danube Canal, at the end of the Ringstrasse. Here we see old streets are replaced by bland modern buildings, at least in the area that the canal passes through the central district.

We also went a little way into the Stadtpark, the downtown park, but it's already dark and the park is dimly lit so we go backwards. For dinner we stop at a restaurant from the medieval period with a traditional menu and great beers. I chose a goulash, Hungarian steak soup.

Traveling to Vienna in Austria during Autumn

Day 3

Today as is our custom in travel, we sign up for a guided tour. We usually do the free tours but in Vienna there are not any. We did not reserve but we were able to do the tour anyway. The meeting point is in Albertina, an art gallery behind the Opera. During the first hour the guide takes us on a tour of the exterior of the Hofburg palace. He tells us the history of the building and with it, the history of the last three centuries of the nation.

After the break, he takes us around the center of the city. We see St. Stephen's Cathedral, the Mozart House museum, the Capuchin church, the Jewish quarter and the church of St. Rupert (Ruprechtskirche) between several things from the outside. The tour is short and enjoyable. The guide speak English well and with the help of an ipad shows us images to illustrate his explanations.

We eat something fast at the bakery chain where they have a variety of sandwiches and sweets. We order a glass of tap water and they serve it for free, a custom we have seen in several places in Vienna. The next visit is the Belvedere palace. This Baroque palace consists of several buildings. Highlights include the Alteres Belvedere (high) and the Unteres Belvedere (low). The two buildings are at both ends of a garden. The Lower Belvedere has temporary exhibitions.

We decided to visit the Upper Belvedere for its collection of ancient and modern art. In this building that was the residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy, it houses works from the Middle Ages to the expressionism of the early twentieth century. We see the section dedicated to Gustav Klimt and the jewel of the museum, the famous painting called The Kiss. Other contemporary Austrian artists such as Kokoschka and Schiele also stand out.

With a couple of hours, including a walk through the gardens, which, like Schonbrunn, are free , we complete the visit. We spend the rest of the afternoon at the Prater amusement park, on the outskirts of the city. It is well connected by subway or commuter train. The entrance to the park is free and we pay to ride the attractions.

The star attraction is the great ferris wheel, Riesenrad, which is more than 100 years old. It takes about 10 minutes to go around, so we enjoy the views quietly. At the base of the Ferris wheel there is a small and beautiful exhibition of automata dioramas that tell the story of Vienna.

We take a walk through the park, which combines the most modern attractions, such as some roller coasters, with the most basic, such as several bumper cars or frightening witch tunnels of various themes. The park is very big. There are several repeated attractions and there were hardly any people riding. So the show was quite pathetic, with the thundering music of the deserted attractions, the bored workers. Slowly they were closing and the streets were getting darker.

There are several restaurants, but only one was lively. It is the Schweizerhaus, a huge biergarten with interior and exterior space. Here we eat the famous schnitzel, what we would call a fillet of very thin meat fried and fried. The restaurant has an air of a typical German bar, where long tables are shared with other diners. Maybe it's also typical of Austria, to share tables, but it hits us.

Once again, they do not accept cards, but they do have an ATM inside the restaurant. At 9 o'clock at night the park look very gloomy. There were young people walking or even families, but many establishments were closed. The lighting of the park is not even nice to enjoy the walk looking at the facades or lamps. It was also very cold, so we return.

Romance of Train Journey

Memories of the golden days of train journey beckon, reminiscing the relaxing pace and breathtaking hospitality presented by the great train journeys of the modern era. The vacation sets in the moment we step on board. As the train gets on track, we before long become conscious that no hotel on world can present with the kaleidoscope of colours and scenery which flash past our cabin windows.

A train journey is by and large defined by intrigue, chance, possibility, camaraderie, romance, and travelling rather than arriving and we all think how amorous it all is, but wouldn't enlighten another living being that we think so. There's an anecdote to the train journey that has certainly not been fully captured by any other means of transport.

Trains are theaters, cafes, bazaars. The only talk show that knows no crisis is the one that replicates everyday on the rails. Trains help thinking. All great journeys from pilgrimages to the the first ride with friends to the honeymoon, they are, after all, a self-discovery with the view that interests us is within us. The train exempts from liability, allows you to remain passive without feeling lazy. We can work and rest. We can talk, when we are tired of reading. And dream, when we are tired of talking.

Travelling by train is a touch which is worth its experience traversing from city to city all the way through the mountains, the interiors of the forests crossing the small water bodies inside the woods and those intermittent trenches between the hills.

A one and the same enticement is also to observe populace of different parts of the country and spend time trying to work out traits and way of life that classified the diaspora into the places of their basis.

Travelling by rail is part of the escapade which gets going the very moment you step into the station watching who comes, who goes, what they carry, what they utter, how they move with tête-à-têtes in different lingo’s.

Train journeys are a sort of milieu. Every family has train chronicles to recount where marriages get fixed, strangers become friends, or long-lost friends find each other by chance.

When you spend two days with a group of people, one tends to exchange so much delicate information that everyone is soon on gracious terms where meals and snacks are started to be generously shared.

Delicious food and train journeys are part of each other. Sometimes it gives the impression of a pursuit between the food and the journey - which would end first. At every station, lads selling tea or coffee would pass by, with each station the train passes through having its own food specialties as well.

Train journeys have always been an enthralling experience. There is beyond doubt something soothing about the movement of a train and the din of the wheels on the track. The swaying movement of the train is the gentle rocking of the cradle when we lay down to sleep.

Going from one bogie to another through the coupling area is another quest and excitement in itself with the swaying action always seem to intensifying there, with the sound level multiplied and an interesting obstacle course when we want to stroll through the train.

We look forward to each bridge the train passes over, count each tunnel and hang out of the windows to see the whole length of the train whenever it goes on a curving track, gradually running through the meadows and the mountains staring on either side and as they came closer and enter the foothills, the train slows.

Crossing the colossal luxuriant mélange farmlands of the countryside with sheep and cattle abounding in the fields and as the autumn sun decants down on the landscape, abundant streams and small rivers glisten.

The train winds its way over gigantic lakes through spectacular gorges and river dales before tracking across the mountain ranges, following brooks and skirting lochs, descends through lush rainforests and numerous mysterious settlements.

It’s impressive to watch the vast expanse of nature taking myriad forms of splendour with a little drizzle here and a little sunshine there and airstreams whizzes by giving rise to a wilful wish to take a plunge in that loch or to occupy yourself with the breeze.

An elegant countrified splendour about it as the striking weather shows it off at its finest with a few steely grey clouds creep athwart the skies, hills and rivers clad in the reds, yellows and gold’s of the autumn and splash of foliage far and wide, lofty coconut trees, massive plantations, flocks of birds, meadows and shallow lakes, vast lagoons with charming water shrubbery, bustling small towns, kids playing by the train tracks, with the wavering harvests.

Travelling through the countryside from farmers in fields with petite red-roofed huts to small swarming towns where whole families precariously alight onto one small luna, jungles - baffling and desolate, streams rushing zealously from one place to the other, small, simple little temples and mosques, you could see the topography changing as you go from one prefecture to another which all became our associates in the course of crossing them to reach our destination.

As we wind our way up one side of a mountain and down the next we would all of a sudden find moving at a pace that is almost snail like and this is when you become conscious that, yes, there is something romantic about train journeys.

Not in the time-honoured sense of two strangers getting together or anything like that, but all of a sudden being transported to a time where folks aren't dashing around trying to shove too much into a day that is already too full.

It is absolute ecstasy until a big shot points out that it is a long way down and that the track appears to be floating on emaciated space!

The saga of rail journey never fades. Waking on board a sleeper and looking out at misty sidings in the depths of countryside, hugging knees with barely containable exhilaration of what more is to come.

An early daybreak train rattling through the summer sun-kissed fields, a bewildered dialogue with an unknown being, a late night feast on a train, the promise of a passionate long weekend and a life-changing declaration of love in the door alley...

The tune of the songs with the darkness adjacent brings back to the instance the whisper of uniting souls riding the wind in the rising dawn gradually revealing frost and snow-capped peaks and the promise of more snow…

When you travel by train, the journey itself is part of the pleasure.

Republic Day in New Delhi

We have scheduled an early morning pick-up at the airport by our driver. We wait outside the airport. At the main exit was among the crowd a little boy with my name on a sheet. It was cold, and a haze that more than India seemed like in London. Nor did I notice that smell that I have been used to in India. As a welcome our driver presents us with flower necklaces, very fresh they seem, although the next day we had to throw them away.

On the way to Paharganj, the neighborhood where we would stay, we asked our driver how to get a local SIM card for our mobile phone. Normally travelers usually get it at the airport, but at the time we arrived it was closed, and he asks us for what kind of mobile. Mine is an iPhone. He frowns and tells us that the cards in India have a lot of problems in the iPhone.

First he tries to convince us to buy a mobile phone and after our refusal he tells us that he will get us a SIM card. The first impression we got with our driver was a bit unpleasant. Maybe he just tried to help us. We go for breakfast at the hotel restaurant. It is well priced and we eat very well with a chicken sandwich and another egg and cheese sandwich.

On January 26, Republic Day is celebrated and as it is a holiday, all shops and businesses are closed and the streets are empty. In the morning taking advantage of the fact that it is Republic Day, we go to Rajpath to see the military parade and floats that are mounted in the main cities of the country this day.

The country stops, with the metro does not work as also most of the public transport. Almost all shops are closed (at least in the morning). Only the autorickshaws move. Once in the vicinity of the streets where the parade passes, we notice that there is a lot of security and a lot of soldiers.

We try to pass and the security tell us that we cannot enter with cameras or bags. We walked through the surrounding streets. At the end we got to see it from a distance, although not very well, and with some bars in between, as well as embedded in a local crowd.

We set off for the Swaminarayan Akshardham. The thing was that we visited another temple thinking that it was that (but that it was actually the Birla Mandir), and the worst thing is that we did not realize it. I do not know if there was a communication problem or if the driver decided to take us to any temple so as not to have to take us to the outskirts.

The streets of Delhi were deserted and in the few open monuments there were hardly any visitors inside. So the journey from one monument to another were very fast, but we had the feeling of being in a somewhat unreal city. We tried to enter the Lotus temple but the queues were huge. We also left for another time the Qutb Minar complex, where a security lady took pictures of us.

In the afternoon we first visited with our driver to Humayun's Tomb. We feel the sea of ​​good for its beauty and the tranquility that is breathed. It is worth paying the entry fee to enjoy an early Mughal architecture reminiscent of the Taj Mahal. There were few people there and it was calmer than in the lotus temple. Even so, people kept coming up to us to ask us if they could take pictures of us or if they could take one with us. That was a constant of the trip that reached its maximum in the Jama Masjid.

We decided to visit the Raj Ghat, the place where Mahatma Gandhi was incinerated on January 31, 1948. The monument is quite simple. The memorial is in huge gardens where we saw many families enjoying a festive afternoon. After the visit, we asked the driver if he could take us somewhere to eat. We ended up in the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib in the Connaught Place area. This complex was really what we liked most during the day.

Thanks to our driver we got into the big langar where men and women cooked thousands of free meals a day. This is where I tried my first masala chai. We were invited by some of the people who cooked there. They invited us to eat (accompanied by hundreds of people), and we have a sumptuous meal with roti, dal and vegetable curry and we appreciated their offer.

A good while later, we get our shoes and go back to the hotel. At night, Paharganj becomes a steppe for street bulls to fight each other. There is no trace of the bustle during the day. The worst of Delhi sits on its streets to smoke bad hashish. We see hippies experienced in bargaining, punks as placed as finished rock stars, modernites having a little worse than they had thought in their first trip to India.

We see half-Indian whites who have been so long in the country that they have forgotten they belonged to another country. They have forgotten how to return. We see solo women traveling alone. Shopkeepers who only see us enter through the door already know which place we are from and how much we are willing to pay. There's cheap beer, luminous signs, an old man who makes me free henna tattoos and tourists.

There is a small supermarket on the street of the hotel, so we bought juices, lassis and cookies for breakfast tomorrow. We went up to dinner at the terrace of the hotel. It is a free buffet that has a mixture of Indian food and more western food.

Republic Day in New Delhi

Day 2

We got up a little late and after breakfast, we packed our bags, put them in the Ambassador and set off for the New Delhi Railway Station for our first train of this trip in the Amritsar Shatabdi express. We arrive at the station and we look in the huge panel. It tells us that our train leaves from platform 1. We also note that where we access, we can go to the subway that goes to the airport and that we will take at the end of the trip.

Once in the platform everything is very well marked (it will not be like this in our whole trip), with the coach number visible on panels. When we arrive at the platform the train is not there yet, but it will not be long in coming. Besides, this train leaves from this station, and it does not come from anywhere. Our AC Chair Car has two rows with aisle. In addition, this class includes breakfast.

Something strange is that the seats are oriented backwards from the direction in which the train is heading. It will be the most expensive train that we had booked, in addition to the most comfortable class we took in the whole trip. At the exit of Delhi, the train goes through a very crowded area.

We arrived in Amritsar 15 minutes late. We caught an autorickshaw at the exit of the train station and we have our first accident against a cart pulled by a horse (or mule), but it is nothing serious. We reach the hostel (expensive for what we could see later, as we were not yet trained in the noble art of bargaining).

Once the check-in is done, the manager explains where the transport can be taken to go to see the at the Attari-Wagah border ceremony. The vendors are together at the entrance to Jallianwala Bagh park, on the corner of the street in front of the monument. The manager seeing us half lost accompanies us to look for a car. In fact it was easy, but he himself looked for us at a good price. We got a shared transport.

We arrived at the border between India and Pakistan. The security frisked us, so much that they wanted to remove even the wet wipes that I was wearing because I was still tired. I also see everyone with cameras. I made a mistake of not bringing mine. Once we entered the venue, which was like a stadium, we sit where from we could see best, since it was late. The show was worth seeing.

As the afternoon gives way to dusk it gets quite cold (it's winter and we're in the north). The return was terrible. We felt the gutsy winds with half a body outside. We end the day with a night visit to the Golden Temple. After a few beers around the neighborhood we decided to sit quietly to smoke a cigarette and watch life go by while we plan where to go tomorrow.

Poila Baishakh - Celebration of the Bengali New Year

From Madras to Kathmandu there are more than 2,500 kilometers. I choose the route that passes through Calcutta. I'm still in tropical India. Palm trees escort my trip. Palms and rice fields that mirror. It would be delicious if it were not because I cannot distract myself for a moment.

All the coast of the East is broken by the mouth of great rivers that open enormous sandy estuaries. On this fluvial sand of very wide beaches, the cows walk towards the water. Fortunately, there are built long bridges. Otherwise, this trip would be completely impossible.

Another 250 kilometers to Calcutta. I am tired and hungry. I dream of a beer and a good plate of hot food. But nothing is around me except a raging traffic that in the dark is crazy, delirious, and impossible. But these guys survive, so I do too. My eyes are squeezed. My brain is sharpened. I only think of driving, of dodging, of sensing reactions and threats.

After a couple of harrowing hours in which I am in a trance, the sign of 100 kilometers appears. The last hundred. The longest. With the thickest traffic and the most impatient people. But there we go, towards the famous city of joy.

Poila Baishakh - Celebration of the Bengali New Year

Calcutta, renamed as Kolkata, is huge, divided by the Hugli River. I cross the Howrah bridge. I locate a cheap hotel and leave the backpack. Our next destination is Kalighat, where I witnessed a very curious religious ritual. It turns out that during the last month of the year according to the Bengali calendar, a group of men and women undergoes certain voluntary hardships. It is a kind of purification of body and soul, dedicated to Shiva. In addition, some (men) also pass demanding physical tests.

On the last day of the month, when their fasting ends, they gather around a Shiva temple. They distribute fruit that is considered sacred among the faithful. They go up to a structure of, more or less, a high floor, to throw themselves into a kind of straw-filled bag that acts as a mat, which the crowd holds. On the sack, in the center, there is a wood with nicked knives.

Although at first when they described the scene it seemed dangerous to me, it is not at all (as long as they do not fall off the mat). Then, with metal torches tied to their bodies, they run around the temple, and dance to the sound of the drums. People cheer and try to approach the fire to "put" its warmth on their heads, as a blessing.

Depending on the place, they will do more or less things, but this festival, it seems, takes place all over West Bengal. It's a very old festival, of which there are hardly any records, but which continues to be done in spite of everything. The people who follow that month of deprivation come from families that follow the custom, which passes from generation to generation.

There are several families for each community, and the elders choose among the volunteers, who will do them every year. In addition, there is usually a leader, a person with more experience, who has already done it several times, while the others are usually young people from 18 to 25 years old. Women can also do it, but not the toughest physical tests, like jumps,

People were crazy trying to touch these people, trying to catch the fruits they threw. They almost even threw the babies on them to touch them, believing that if they take those fruits, or if they touch the child, they will be free of the diseases.

Anything that fell on the ground, they fought for it. After jumping, the men went among the crowd with the woods with knives on which they threw themselves. People fought to get closer and that they barely touched their foreheads with these objects, simply because those men who had spent a month eating fruit were gods.

I go for dinner at a restaurant where they serve beer. I return to the hotel somewhat intoxicated with the beer. The hotel receptionist informs me that the next day is the Bengali New Year.

At dawn, I discover that my street is a perfect portrait of Calcutta. Within two hundred meters I have everything that this city can offer. There are beautiful colonial buildings, shops, restaurants, a fruit market, pastry shops, temples, and traffic. It is chaos. I do not need to move from here. I can see the entire city just by walking out the door of the hotel.

In addition, near I have the citizens park and the Victoria Memorial. The festive day began with people in a park enjoying a concert of songs by Rabindranath Tagore, an event that began with the piece to welcome Poila Boishakh.

Men wore the traditional red and white kurta, while women wore the typical saris and flowers in their hair. The Maidan nearby is a magnificent green belt within this polluted chaos. The white palace is reflected in the waters of the pond and the impression is of the virtual decoration of as perfect as it turns out.

The Rongali Bihu Festival in Assam

I admit with all honesty of having left from my place of origin with a scarce knowledge of the culture of the land that would host me. I only had a great desire to learn new things from such a different culture. I can say today that my expectations have materialized. In my experience, I had the pleasure of approaching a reality that seemed to me like one mosaic of different cultures and religions.

Assam really has a lot to offer. Just thinking of the experiences that I actually lived, such as pilgrimages, safaris, cruises on the mighty Brahmaputra, visits to vast tea gardens and the oldest refinery in Asia. It is synonymous with natural beauty, wildlife, tea gardens, river cruises, and revered temples.

Day 1 - Guwahati

I remember the departure trip with great emotion. It was January 1. What better way to start the new year! I had to change two flights to take me to Guwahati. At the airport my host immediately welcomed me with great warmth, giving me one gamocha. The latter is a sort of traditional Assamese scarf given to a guest in a sign of respect and welcome.

After a few photos, we left the airport directly towards the homestay. The trip by car lasted around forty-five minutes. The car trip also allowed me to make eye contact with the world out there. Around me is a hilly landscape, rich in vegetation, inhabited by countless numbers of people walking the streets. I remember the colors of their clothes, and the houses all close to each other. I was beginning to become aware of how that reality was so different from what I live every day. However, this awareness increased my curiosity to discover even more.

Once I got to my stay I had the opportunity to taste several typical dishes that the owner has thoughtfully prepared for me. They have reserved for me, a cozy room. In afternoon I was the protagonist of an unexpected welcome party. Around 10 am I leave my room and go downstairs to the dining room where I have a local breakfast with sira, doi, akhoi, cream, gur and many other fantastic dishes. I had the opportunity to watch a film and play billiards.

We did a tour around the city, stopping in several local shops and bars. Moving in the car, we crossed the hilly vegetation until we reach the highest part of the city. The view was spectacular! The dark sky in the evening allowed us to see only the lights of the city below immersed in nature. The cliff of those hills is also loaded with a deep mystical sense, as they house the Kamakhya temple.

Many pilgrims make their way to touch a black rock representing the vulva of the goddess. In the evening we gathered in the courtyard of the house and prepared an excellent barbecue with meat and vegetables. After having dinner, I left for the Guwahati railway station. We travel by train all night for about ten hours to Jorhat. It was a new and exciting experience for me!

Rongali Bihu Festival in Assam

Day 2 - Jorhat

During the morning we checked in to the hotel room in Jorhat. In the afternoon we visit the Tea Research Institute to know everything there is to know about tea plantations. Assam has over eight hundred plantations and produces the most volume of tea by a single region of the world. We visit some of the tea gardens that extend over two thousand acres! They offer breathtaking views of a lush green landscape.

We spent the evening attending the rongali Bihu dances held in every corner of the city. Rongali Bihu marks the agricultural New Year at the advent of seeding time. Marking the occasion young boys and girls don traditional dhoti, gamosa and mekhela saadar. They sing Bihugeets or folk Bihu songs in traditional bihutolis or Mukoli Bihu. In one of those performed Papon, a very popular artist here. So we also almost dance and enjoy his songs.

I eat that night some street food with the chicken momo.

Day 3 - Majuli

After a breakfast early morning, we boarded the boat for Majuli. Majuli is the largest fluvial island in the world and the largest island of water sweet of South Asia. It is located in the breast of the mighty Brahmaputra, only twenty kilometers from Jorhat. The trip on the boat in the early morning was an unforgettable experience!

We could admire the beauty of the natural heritage of the place. We were greeted by the chirp of many migratory birds. Once we reached the ground, we reached the resort, where we would stay that night and visit the island's cultural treasures: the Vaishnavite satras. Majuli is an enchanted place and the best way to experience its "secrets" is through its culture.

In the afternoon, we stopped in an isolated place, and as if by magic dozens of people appeared from nowhere, initially one by one, then in groups, men and boys first and then women with babies. They did not let go before sunset and even after the night fell they brought us green tea to drink immediately and Chira, a kind of dehydrated rice dish that we eat by putting in his tea, a kind of porridge. In the evening we have dinner and stay overnight at the guest house.

Day 4 - Kaziranga National Park

After breakfast, we took the ferry to Jorhat. We then headed to the Kaziranga National Park. We stay in an ideal resort amidst wilderness and nature. It is surrounded by immense woods. In the afternoon we explore the park through the first jeep safari of my life! Kaziranga is located on the banks of the mighty river Brahmaputra.

It hosts rhinos and also boasts the highest density of tigers between protected areas. The park is also home to large populations of elephants, wild buffaloes, and deer. In the evening we have a tasty outdoor dinner and enjoy once again some traditional Bihu dance performances by the locals.

Day 5 - Nameri National Park

We leave the Kaziranga National Park after drying our soaked tents at a very rainy night. Fortunately we had early morning sun. During the drying we were able to take a shower at the souvenir shop where we had a great welcome.

After breakfast with samosa and teas, we left for the Nameri National Park. On the road we follow the long stretch of national park. A little before noon, I stop to take pictures of some birds in the mangrove, when I see appear in the plain opposite, a rhino and her baby. We decided to stop for lunch and enjoy the show.

Even though they were far away, it was great. A little later other rhinos accompanied by babies came out of the woods just like deer. After having benefited greatly, we drove all afternoon. We reach the Nameri National Park. It is the most scenic nature reserve in the state of Assam.

Located at the foot of the eastern Himalayas and Jia Bhoroli River, Nameri is the ideal place to escape. Once we get there, we checked in at an eco-camp, a stay nestled in the jungle where the accommodations were tents with colorful fabrics, but equipped with a private bathroom, sturdy beds and thatched roof.

In the afternoon we trek through the jungle. We had fun in the river rafting. The park is a delight for bird lovers. I still remember with emotion the walk in the park and the show of breathtaking flight of birds and all that wildlife.

Chilled Mango Lassi Recipe with Yoghurt

Whether for the spicy curry or not, the Mango Lassi recipe is always a favorite in the Indian kitchens. To lessen the sharpness and stimulate digestion, a mango lassi is exactly the right thing. We will show you how to make the popular yogurt drink according to the original Indian recipe. Traditionally a drink from Punjab, Lassi is prepared with yogurt. If the mango lassi looks like a sweet dessert, it is traditionally served as a main dish.

When I think of my childhood, I always visualize the image of the summer holidays and stealing mangoes from trees of neighbors. My favorite drink already as a child was the Mango Lassi, a super delicious yogurt drink. For me, it was a small motivation aid. When I sat at the table with my homework and my mother noticed that I was losing my interest, she kept a glass of Mango Lassi next to my school books. And it always worked!

Later I began to make the Lassi myself. For this, I always kept ripe mangoes in my kitchen. The mango must be properly ripe, otherwise, the Lassi does not taste well. A mature mango can be pressed slightly with the thumb, but the shell must still be beautifully tight. Unripe fruits ripen in a few days.

This drink, consisting of yogurt and pureed fruit is available not only in Indian restaurants but also in neighboring countries. Now you get the Mango Lassi as a finished product in the refrigerated shelf of the Indian supermarkets and restaurants. Alternatively, you can also prepare the refreshing drink easily.

The basic recipe for Lassi is always the same. For a typical Lassi, you will need sour yogurt, which is mixed with milk or water in equal measure. Alternatively, you can also use buttermilk, so the Lassi is particularly refreshing. If you like it thicker, use a little more yogurt. For the vegan variation, simply take natural soy yogurt and a plant milk of your choice.

To give the Mango Lassi a nice yellow color, you can add some saffron. Many also add a pinch of salt, cardamom or cinnamon as supplements. A few mint leaves are suitable for decoration. Whether with banana, cherry or strawberry, you can vary your Lassi as you wish and develop your favorite recipe. If you have no fruit on your hands, you can use fruit syrup or juice.

And if you do not like it sweet and do not have the fruit, prepare the lassi with salt, spices, and herbs!

Mango Lassi Recipe images


1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup milk
1 cup water
1 cup mango pulp
1 cup crushed ice
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp pistachios
1 tsp cardamom
3 mint leaves

Recipe Method

In a blender, combine the yogurt, milk, water, mango pulp, sugar, and cardamom. Whisk briskly until completely mixed. Serve in tall glasses filled with crushed ice pieces.

Sprinkle ground pistachios and a little cardamom over the top. Serve chilled.

Trip to Benares during Makar Sankranti

Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti is the day the sun begins to travel north and enters the sign of capricorn. The festival on every January 14 celebrates the end of the harvest season. It also coincides with the rise in temperatures in the north of the country, which this time of the year in India reach minimum levels. One of the main features of the festival is the kite flying which takes place all over India and also in Nepal.

This ceremony is a way of saying goodbye to the month of Poush and inviting the month of Magh. Sweet meats and other vegetarian delights are prepared, shared and enjoyed on this day.

People of all ages climb the roofs of their homes to fly their kites to celebrate the festival. During these days, millions of people are at the same time on the roofs and terraces to fly kites. The goal is to cross the threads and shoot until one breaks. The sky is filled with kites. For me it was like a fairy tale, that's why I start like this.

In the Punjab region, the first day is called Lohri and in the night, the bonfires are lit. I South India the first day is called Bhogi when bonfires were lit in the morning and auspicious rangolis are drawn at the thresholds of the doors.

The second day is Sankranti also called Pongal, but in fact Pongal is a sweet dish made of rice and spiced milk that people eat that day. Kites are flown into the sky in the early morning. On the third day, people eat Kanu, a rice dish with chicken or mutton.

One evening in November, an email announces that I am invited to participate in a kite event in Varanasi. After a moment of doubt and reflection I decided to go. I inquired about travel arrangements and received the booking confirmations right after Christmas.

Trip to Benares during Makar Sankranti

I arrived in Varanasi in the morning of Makar Sankranti in January at 5.30 am. After the formalities I met the agency guy at the airport who accompanied me to the hotel. I went to bed around 6:30 and woke up at 9:30. I was asked to go to one of the fields but postpone the visit by a few hours and go out at noon.

The very late breakfast consisted of idlis, upma, a kind of porridge with a cereal and vegetables, cooked rice and chutney. On the steps that overlook the River Ganges on almost every terrace there is a child with a kite. It is also one of the most special and magical days to take a bath.

In fact more than 2 million devotees come to the waters of the Ganges river in Benares to celebrate this festival. In addition, this year coincides with the beginning of the Maha Kumbh Mela, the largest religious congregation in the world that is celebrated every 12 years in Allahabad.

I visit a Krishna temple. Strolling the streets of Benares is like participating in an obstacle course. One of the reasons is the threads of kites that, at every step, get tangled in the feet. The boys and girls of the city were prepared for the Makar Sankranti.

The people were very shy, but at the same time very curious. I was asked a thousand questions with big smiles. The wind was moderately strong. I flew kites for the rest of the day. For me it was the most beautiful moment, full of emotions and very intense. Being able to be in the middle of hundreds of kites and being able to participate in this party was the pinnacle. I managed to cut five kites.

I then went to eat at the hotel. I sat on the floor and ate on coffee tables as we were served on banana leaf sets. A dozen waiters in local costumes always carried us an infinity of very good and particular specialties. I like the til ladoos. After dinner I experienced the local rickshaws to go to the kite market. I had fun with the eyes and finally we went to sleep.

Trip to Benares during Makar Sankranti

Easter in Bukovina in Romania

Upon leaving Transylvania during our trip in Romania we visited the few remains of the past splendor of Alba. We enter the hotel to see if we can have a drink and rest before dinner. We do not have any problem wandering around salons and corridors, but when we get to the bar we find it empty and badly lit. The truth is that it is almost scary, because it is a kind of medieval stone hall, with authentic armor and skins from animals everywhere.

We decided to leave immediately, and it's a shame because the hotel is set up in luxury. All we see are rooms and sumptuous gardens that do not lack detail. The only problem is that it looks like an enchanted palace. We do not see a soul outside the reception or in the outer doors. We finally found something open. It is not far from the main gate of the citadel. It is a tea room decorated in the same Viennese style.

The manager is a Romanian gypsy. He's a funny guy and he makes us laugh for a while until we get up to go to dinner. It is a kind of large winery fitted between the brick walls of the enclosure and is announced, which does not surprise us much, as a medieval restaurant. The kitchen is not exactly medieval. It is rather vulgar compared to what we have tried in other cities, but we appreciate the historical value of the place.

Our train to Suceava should pass around 11pm, so we did not take long to go to the pub where they keep our stuffed suitcases. This place is called La Poarta and at the moment it is full of young people but so full that we cannot enter or advance through it without using our elbows at every step. It's a shame because we would have loved to have a quiet drink, but we opted to ask for a taxi and leave.

In the station, a bar is still open, but nothing to do, the atmosphere is thick. It looks like a lupanar, so we did not even enter. We sit down to wait in one of the big benches in the room. There and also on the platform swarm more than one and more than two elements with a winnowing face. The worst thing is that we fear that the train arrives late and makes us wait until the many. But no, precisely today is timely. We went up with relief to the carriage in which we have reserved two double cabins.

The train leaves us at the Suceava station around 8:30 am. Before there is another station called Suceava Nord, but it is located in an industrial suburb. The station in which we got off has the appearance of having been important in the past. We can also see that it has a cafeteria and a grocery store where they also keep the luggage for a very cheap rate.

Nearby there are a couple of hotels, but in reality, the station is also far from downtown. So we take a taxi to the hotel we have reserved. It is the most expensive hotel in the center of Suceava, with breakfast included. It is elegant and the rooms are well equipped, but the days we were there gave us the impression that it is very abandoned.

When we used the shower cabin for the first time we did not realize that the water was going directly to the ground. So we caused a flood that came to soak the carpet in the bedroom. The girls at the reception seemed to be there to visit. They gave us another room on the same floor (the hotel was empty, of course) and they were unconcerned about the matter until Easter.

It is a pity that good hotels like this one deteriorate due to lack of maintenance. But I think that if I had to recommend an accommodation in Suceava I would opt for the cheapest options available in the center. We leave our hotel for the commercial center of the city and the first thing we do is buy supplies in a supermarket. We are on Saturday. The central Easter ceremony will be held tonight and almost everything will close within a few hours so as not to reopen until Tuesday.

So we carry a good amount of cheeses, sausages, fish preserves, bread, and beers. Then we went to see the city, which is not as ugly or as insubstantial as some travelers say. Right in front of the hotel rises one of the historical churches: Sfantul Dumitru, that is, San Demetrio. In it, we get an idea of ​what we are going to see in Bucovina in terms of famous monasteries. All date from the same time (mid-sixteenth century) and are quite similar.

We need to get a car to go out tomorrow to see the famous painted monasteries of the region. But that is going to be a difficulty since the travel agencies and car rental agencies are already closed. Going down the boulevards we arrive at the beautiful Central Park and we enter the Tourist Office. We collect some brochures and present our problem to the manager. He telephones some contact he has and offers us a car with a driver.

We appreciate the management, but the price seems very expensive and we still have an ace up our sleeve. A Romanian friend who lives in Zaragoza has called us by surprise to tell us that she is here on vacation and that by noon she will come to the center of Suceava. Meanwhile, we take a look at the other architectural gems of the city. We see the Domnitelor Church, the restored Mirauti Church and the most important of all, the Ioan Cel Nou Monastery.

The latter is a religious center of the first order since it houses the relics of the most revered martyr in the entire region. When our friend arrives we sit down with her to drink something in a bar that we find along the way. It will be very useful these days because it does not close and it is at the same time coffee, brewery, restaurant, and disco-bar. Besides giving us great joy with her presence, our friend does not disappoint us.

She immediately calls an acquaintance of her, who has just returned and is out of work. She has a car and tells her that she will be happy to walk around the region without discussing the price, so it seems good to us. Very satisfied with the result of the management, we let her go to solve her affairs. We go back to the hotel to eat some of what we have bought and to rest until the night.

Through the windows of our rooms, we see that the streets have remained empty. It also rains and the afternoon looks sad. We take the opportunity to go through the Romanian television channels, something that, strangely enough, we enjoy a lot. There are chains dedicated to the rural world that are explaining the peasant traditions linked to Easter.

There are also many that only broadcast videos of folk music, and sometimes we cannot contain the laughter seeing how simple these videos are. They always sing a soloist or a couple, but around them, there are many extras dressed in typical costumes that do nothing. They just shake a bit and provide color to the scene. Finally, we see the channel destined to the Roman public, with videos of style. Finally, towards 23h30 we decided to leave.

Suceava Ioan Cel Nou easter wallpaper

It has stopped raining and the streets are somewhat animated with groups that go to the churches. We, of course, have chosen to go to Ioan Cel Nou. Before entering, we buy candles in the street in plastic cylinders with a lid, which will serve to "receive the light". There are many people when we enter the courtyard of the venerable monastery, but they do not crowd or seem anxious. There is nothing to do with our "jump to the grid".

For us, it is a novelty and we want to see the event up close. So we enter the church and we get closer to the bottom to wait for the moment in front of the iconostasis. And the moment is not long in coming. The lights of the whole temple are extinguished and after a few seconds, the faint radiance of the new light in the sanctuary is sensed. The central door opens and the pope transmits the flame to the candles of the faithful who are closer.

They pass it behind and in a few seconds, the entire monastery is populated with llamas. Christ was resurrected! This is what everyone thinks, but at the moment they do not say it very loudly. The atmosphere is one of discreet recollection. We went back to the patio. Near the door of the enclosure, they have erected a great platform and the ecclesiastical dignitaries are already launching speeches to the congregation.

As we understand almost nothing, we soon get bored and take the road to the hotel. The streets are now full of people who return to their homes with their candles more or less protected from the air. There are also many groups of young people who seem to go to private parties or directly to "get a bottle", but yes, each with his paschal candle.

Mine is of such poor quality that the lid burns, and then I burn my fingers as well as trying to tear it off. Finally my flame goes out and I throw it away. Our friend has also disposed of her own and only a little nun, insists on keeping the light of faith until we arrive at the hotel. There we will leave it planted in the sink, so as not to cause a fire while we sleep.

Before arriving we enter the Catholic Cathedral, which is in the Central Park. There they also celebrate a nighttime ceremony in which the red-painted eggs that worshipers carry in wicker baskets are blessed.

Next day we had an early breakfast. Luckily there is a cook on duty at the hotel and breakfast is not bad. At 9 o'clock, our friend arrives promptly, with a somewhat old car, but suitable for all services. We are going to visit the region of Moldovița today.

Travel to Olympia in Greece - The Cradle of the Olympics Games

Today I continue in Greece but in the Peloponnese Peninsula. I travel to the cradle of the Olympic Games, in the famous Olympia. It is a beautiful valley crossed by the Alfeo River that was formerly the sanctuary of Gods. It is treated together with Delphi, Athens, Mycenae, Vergina, among others, as one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece.

According to mythology, the first time a sports competition was held in this place was thanks to Heracles, also called Hercules by the Romans, in honor of his father Zeus. But it was not until 776 BC when the Olympics took on an importance that was held every four years. In Roman times, the games acquired a universal importance.

Over the years, the Olympics were banned and many of the temples were destroyed because of clashes between emperors, earthquakes, and floods, leading to oblivion. Today, visiting Olympia has become one of the most requested excursions from Athens despite being 300 km away.

We did our road trip in Greece in our motorhome. So I was lucky enough to enjoy entire Greece without haste. I enjoy every magical and wonderful corner that this Mediterranean country offers. The first stage of the journey to Patras was almost alone by mountain road but curiously transits next to the sea. The views were nice but I did not enjoy them.

I leave behind the detour to Nafpaktos, a stop I wanted to do at first. Soon after we reached the Patras bridge, visible from the plane when we arrive in Athens. Its official name is Charilaos Trikoupis Bridge which with its 2250 meters is the longest suspension bridge in the world.

Today the weather had given us a truce and the sun looked without any cloud or wet roads. It helped me a lot to cover the total distance in just over three hours. At 2, I got out of the car and ran to the ticket offices where they gave me the great news that they will close at 5 o'clock in the afternoon. Once again I began the visit completely alone, no doubt another gift from the Gods who had given me their grace today. Surely something had to do with the bluish (or greenish) eagle that had once again accompanied us from the sky.

The visit to Olympia did not disappoint me. To be able to step on this place with so many years of antiquity and history on its back is a luxury. The day I reached was extremely hot. I recommend that if you go in summer take water to hydrate because the heat becomes unbearable. There will be nowhere to take it till the exit where there are some machines that did not even work well.

You can visit the archaeological site and the museum. It will take you a long time if you want to visit it well. The museum is located opposite the Olympia Sanctuary. It shows the pieces of ancient Greece that were found in the sanctuary and in the surroundings. Its most valuable pieces are Hermes with the child of Praxiteles, the metopes, and pediments of the Temple of Zeus, the cup of Phidias, the victory of Peonius and the collection of ancient bronze statues. The collections are arranged in twelve rooms.

For the archaeological site they do not give us a map but at the entrance, near the gym, there is one in the open. We photographed it to know where we were during the visit. We start the route and the first thing we find is the Gymnasium right at the entrance and on the right, built in the 2nd century BC and a place of training for the old athletes.

Just ahead, we see the Palaestra. It is a square stage where athletes who participated in wrestling and boxing trained and who at that time ended up in spectacular and brutal competitions. A few steps to the right we find the ruins of the Greek Baths in which we enjoy the views of a fantastic mosaic.

Few meters to the south we find one of the most important places, the workshop of Pheidias. There he made the statue of Zeus. The building had the same dimensions as the chamber of the Temple of Zeus, which allowed Fidias to better judge the appearance of the statue in its surroundings. The figure represents the God seated on a throne of gold and is believed to have been transported in pieces to the Temple of Zeus.

We continue our exploration by Olympia. We leave behind the Fidias Workshop and we can already see the ruins of the impressive Leonidaion. It served as a lodging for distinguished guests, welcoming official visitors and athletes. It was built between 330 and 320 BC

On the south side of the Temple of Zeus, we see the South Stoa and on the east side the Echo Stoa. The stoas were walkways or porticos with columns and open to the public that was usually built for the sale of products or meetings. It is believed that the Echo Stoa was built as a separation of the space occupied by the Stadium with the Sanctuary.

Behind, we finally reached the stadium. Still today you enter through the Krypté porch. To the south side was the racecourse, where the horse races took place. It is very typical to see tourists who take advantage of a race at the Stadium which has become a small tradition.

In the central space between the two Stoas, we see the Temple of Zeus. It is the most important of the archaeological site of Olympia along with the Temple of Hera, they are best preserved. The Temple of Zeus was built between 470 and 457 BC. It was a Doric building with six columns on the facade and thirteen on the sides. Inside it was the colossal statue of the God, a 12-meter high masterpiece of Phidias and one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The dimensions of the columns were incredible. It was 10.53 meters high and 2.25 meters in diameter.

After being amazed by the spectacular Temple of Zeus, we continue our visit. To the side, the Metroon was a small temple of Doric order. Above the Treasures was a set of small buildings in the form of a temple built to store the offerings that were made to the gods. In front of the Temple of Hera, there is the Olympic flame, the symbol of the Olympic Games.

For the Greeks, the fire had divine connotations and they believed that Prometheus had stolen it from the Gods. Today, months before the Olympic Games ceremony, the torch is lit in the place of the ancient games of Olympia through a celebration that begins with lighting the torch in the Temple of Hera. They hold a group of women representing the Vestagenes Vestales.

The Temple of Hera, built in the 6th century BC is also a Doric temple surrounded by columns on its four sides. This temple, also known as Hereo or Heraion, had a length of 50 meters long and 18.75 wide with a height of almost 8 meters. After leaving the enclosure, we see the Philippeion. In a circular way, he began to build Philip II in 338 BC, father of Alexander the Great. The building was Ionic and contained five gold and ivory statues of members of Alexander's family.

Near the exit, we see the Prytaneion, a place where the magistrates in charge of the economic administration lived. Inside was always the fire of Hestia, the goddess of the home. To conclude the tour you enter the room where the figures of the frontispieces and metopes of the temple of Zeus are exhibited.

We see the oriental on the right as you enter. It is dedicated to the myth of the car race between Oenomaus and Pelops for the hand of the daughter of the first, Hippodamia. It consists of twenty-one figures, representing the moments before the race, and are distributed symmetrically around the central figure representing Zeus, the referee of the race that takes place.

On his right is Oenomaus's side, which includes Oenomaus, his wife Asterope, his quadriga, servants, one of whom has been identified as Myrtilus, the charioteer of Oenomaus. Finally in the corner of the end is a representation of the Alfeios River. On the left is the camp of Pelops, followed by Hippodamia, his quadriga, servants and at the end a representation of the Kladeos River.

The pediment on the left is much better preserved than the previous one. It is dedicated to the myth of the struggle between the Lapiths and the centaurs of Eurytion. They are twenty-one figures distributed in groups of centaurs trying to kidnap the women while they try to resist, around the central figure that represents Apollo. At the ends, there are a series of women who attend the fight in horror.

The most important groups are those around Apollo that represent, on their right, the struggle between Eurytion and Laodameia, newly espoused with Peirithous. While he is behind them ready to hit Eurytion. On his left, there is another fight between a Centaur and a female pencil while behind is Theseus in a position similar to that of Peirithous.

We left the museum practically at its closing time and so hungry that we sat down to eat in the first place we saw. In the street that leads to the complex are the restaurants and also hotels and hostels. We took the opportunity to try something typical of the country that was the Mousaka!

With the coffee, we planned the rest of the itinerary with two possible options. We spend the night there and get up early to leave for Mycenae or drive there for the day to travel more. We decided on this option. 192 kilometers separated us from the destination and if it was too long the road would stop us to sleep where it was given to us. The visit ends and leaves a good taste in our mouths. We have stepped back thousands of years and stepped on a magical place of worship of the Gods. Olympia, the sanctuary of myths, magic, and history.