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Archive for the ‘Something Lovely Caught My Eye’ Category

Not this post, ‘course. You can bet on that 😉

Sha La La, Full House OST

‘Coz how can you not listen to this and remember Song Hye Kyo posing around on her trip, and wish you could pose around and look as pretty on your trips?

Right after I made my first post about my recent trip, I planned to make another describing everything I didn’t in my mousy mood. Because it was also one of the best and most important event in my life, returning home after such a long time. Its something I’d wanted so much it hurt, and then when I was there it was suddenly so strange to be there, so unreal. Things usually hit me much later anyway…the cause and effect time line is somewhat skewed in my system…so for some time it was like I’d always been used to this. Hadn’t I? I had always jumped away from traffic threatening to run me over, walked while minding the potholes and sewage water, and tried to make my way through the crowds. I think, in essence, that was me getting used to being back to who I was. None of this was shocking, because I wasn’t a foreigner, it just took getting used to to get back in the rhythm.

The best part, of course, was to reconnect. Re-adjusting was part of the reconnecting, and I was surprised at how well I did. At one point, I managed to live without electricity, with mosquitoes, and in questionable hygienic situations, being sick all the while, without any signs of the reaction I would have expected. Eight years ago maybe it wouldn’t even be a matter of consideration, but I was still somewhat pleased with myself that I could adjust. However, re-connecting with the people was the best. Sure, we had our gaps, our moments of awkwardness or ‘um, now how do I move past this uncomfortable situation without treading on toes?’, but those were few and far between, and with very few people. Mostly, it felt like time had failed to create a rift between the people we cared for the most. Like my childhood bff, D, said, it was like no time had passed between us. Hadn’t we always laid around like this? Gossipped about old classmates? Discussed movies and food and the city and the torture of waxing, all in one conversation?

I won’t discuss the family part so much (this being a public blog and all), but enough is said to convey how beautiful it was to just see everyone we could, relive the memories, and just discuss and catch up on where we were. It wasn’t always perfect, and we didn’t get to see everyone (and managed to offend many, but isn’t that always how it goes? ;)), but it was good enough :). And of course, one of the most exciting parts of the trip, which will go undescribed, was the meeting of people you’d always wanted to meet, and welcoming in beautiful, new parts of the family.

And then there was just the sense of realizing I was back in my own country and appreciating that to the fullest. Where service and being served is just a given. It was strange to have people open doors, serve your food and water, do your laundry, having a waiter stand next to your table the entire time as you tried to hide your disconcernment and continue your casual conversation. It was strange to realize that you weren’t expected to cook, clean, do any of the chores you usually did (and yet there was so much to do, but thats different!). Some of it was difficult to get used to (esp the constant waiter! eek, i’ll serve myself!), but other stuff I was too happy to oblige with (you can guess which). It was relaxing, and it was kind of a reminder of how hard we work here. Its not marshmallow smores here…in fact, its more sweet and chocolatey when you have somebody doing all the mundane things so you can focus on the important things in life. Like shopping.

And shopping was…well, fun. Styles change with the flick of a celebrity’s wrist, but thats okay with me because everyone’s going to be out of style here 😉 After being embarassed (but refusing to be ashamed) after my outdated wardrobe at the wedding, I stocked up on suits and whatnots, and ran after and shouted and urged and pleased with tailors as they kept failing to get it right (I still don’t understand why…), and then finally did (and that was the really fun part). I didn’t get to shop as much as I wanted to (or ‘needed’ to), but shopping and getting stuff tailored is an experience in itself. Don’t miss it. And no matter what anyone tries to tell you: stuff isn’t really that expensive. Sure, prices have tripled, even quadrupled, from eight years ago, but if you know where to shop and if you know how not to act foreignerly (or if your skin gives you away, take someone brown in a sari ;)), because its the people who get phoreigned who lose out.

Touring? Who has time for that? Granted I’ve barely seen most of the country. I’ll say it outloud: I HAVEN’T SEEN THE TAJ MAHAL. There. But touring takes a back seat when everyone’s inviting you to dinner and feeding you and you’re trying to visit everybody so you can stay in their good books. Its a lillll bit difficult. I was lucky, however, to have excuses to be in a lot of different cities this time. And we did make a little byway to Mysore, the city of breathtaking temples and palaces. Just a sneak peek at a picture post I hope to make again later. And I’ll have to make a whole different pictures post for the fantastic trip I had with P’s AWESOME FAMILY 🙂 to Shivaji’s Fort in Pune. We had THE best time (probably the most fun I’ve had in ages), and we saw the most beautiful things…birds, flowers, the most beautiful sights of the rustic land…and had the yummiest fresh food under the shade of some trees. Yup, that was quite some day. (Thanks!)

Srirangapatnam:

At Srirangapatnam

Mysore Palace (probably THE most beautiful palace I’ve EVER seen. It was just astounding)

Have you said hello to Mahishisura?

The famous Chamundeshwari Temple

(The Goddess Chamundi killed the wicked Mahishisura Rakshas (lovely pic above). The temple is in the Chamundi Hills)

The Goddess herself. Women (and Goddess) Power!

Last, but oh definitely not the least (how can it ever be the least), THE FOOD! Which is what everyone goes home for. Every foreigner. No matter what they tell you. Because can you get the same taste at any restaurant in the world? Can you get the same tandoori chicken, the same sweet corn soup, the same aloo tikki, the same saag and makki roti, the same peda and phetha and laddoo and gulabjamun? And the uncle chips, pudina flavor, which you’ve loved since you were about three? Can you get fed with the same love, care, pressurizing? Can you be filled to bursting point each meal, and then be offered some chai? Where else will your didi feed you sabji-roti with her hands, and where else will you eat the juiciest, sweetest, red carrots? Where else can mausis make your favorite foods and sweets and you almost cry because its just all so good and yummy and touching.

Now I’m hungry, and nostalgic and sad. And I didn’t take any pictures of the food. Oh darn.

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From Oswiecim the train to Krakow costs about 11 zlotys, and the ride is about and hour and a half. We reached Krakow around lunchtime and headed straight to our hostel. The hostel, which we reserved beforehand, was wonderful. Highly recommend it to anyone who’s planning to make a tourist stop at Krakow. Krakow, being a very popular tourist destination (probably one of the most popular in Eastern Europe) is home to many unique and comfortable, and very cheap hostels. We did some searching and came up with Kadetus, which was the most affordable for the time period we were there (29th December-30th December). Kadetus is right in the center of the city, minutes from the city square (which came as a pleasant surprise to us). It’s in a very safe location on the main street, snuggled in one of the buildings. You enter on the second floor to a comfortable lounge/kitchen area. The rooms range from 2-3 people to 6-10 people. Decoration is bright, cheerful, and the whole place has a homey feel to it. Our room was a six-bed room, with three beds booked for us. Luggage can be stored in lockers they provide, and small lockers are given inside the room for important stuff (leave your passport locked here!!). There’s free wireless internet, free breakfast, coffee/tea all day long, laundry services and many other amenities, all for the low, low price of 51 zlotys or $17/night (I know…wow!). There are also other themed and eccentric hostels around Krakow that are worth checking out online too.

K and I headed out for a quick tour of the city to use the couple hours of sunlight we had left. This was the second time the sun came out during my entire stay in Poland, and I was grateful to see Krakow by sunlight, although it was terribly cold. We took a quick walk around the city square (LOVELY) and walked into this building whose name I can’t remember anymore, which is lined with numerous souvenir stalls. It reminds me of little lanes in Paltan Bazaar in Doon and such. The souvenirs are mostly those hand-made by the mountain tribes in Poland, and it is beautiful work. My favorite were the small, light boxes with wonderful handiwork, that ranged from 5-35 zlotys. I also loved the hand-carved chess sets, and small wooden plates that had been decorated very carefully, and other unique gift pieces and jewellery.

krakow

(Ooh…I caught a pigeon in flight! There were pigeons everywhere, as seen below)

pigeonsinkrakow

By the end of our little excursion, our feet were getting numb with the cold and we were exhausted so we headed back to Kadetus for some re-energization with tea and cookies. Then, the three of us headed out to a little jazz bar for some dinner, where I had a traditional cabbage and kielbasa dish (very yum but heavy). We followed that with a delicious stop at the E. Wedel chocolate shop…and had hot and yummy chocolate (mine was gingerbread hot chocolate…mmm). Polish chocolate is AMAZING and there is just so much creativity and variety, and E. Wedel is one of the major chocolate companies. The store was a little like chocolate-lovers heaven, and just the perfect place to be on a cold winter night. Ahh…..

(Love the presentation of this apple pie a la mode. And the heart gingerbread cookie. Mmm…ginger. Gingerbread was one of my favorite parts of the trip. So much, and so many different kinds!!)

wedel hotchoco

After sleeping in great comfort and warmth (and like logs) we proceeded to explore the Wawel Castle the next morning, which is also about 5-10 minutes from Kadetus. Wawel Castle served as the royal residence and the site of the kings of Poland from 1038 A.D. to 1596 A.D. People have lived in Wawel Hill as early as 50, 000 years ago. The place is bursting with its complex, lavish history. I love historical places, and I especially love castles. We walked through the tour of the Royal Apartments, which are decorated with wonderful pieces of tapestry and paintings that are ludicrously old, and furniture that dates to many centuries ago. The oldest item we saw was a sculpture of a Roman emperor, dating back to the 1st centure B.C. I get shivers of amazement and wonder in such places, where the walls could tell such fantastic stories, where the objects have survived centuries of human civilization, and where we walk in the same places where a young prince once did, where a king once plotted his wars, where greed and lust and religion controlled the lives of so many, where games of passion, pride, power were played…how wondrous to observe the beauty in the architecture, the loveliness of the designs, the uniqueness of everything. Especially amazing were the detailed tapestries and paintings, usually depicting scenes from the Old Testament or Greek mythology. There was one very interesting room where the ceiling was marked with sculptures of heads! Each had a angry or unhappy expression, and they were strange, almost cartoon-like heads, ranging from a blindfolded lady to a man with horns. We couldn’t figure out why they had been made and placed up there, staring down at you creepily. My theory is that they represent people beheaded by the royal peeps 😉

All my pictures of Wawel came out really white and bright, and none were very special, so I won’t bother posting any. It was a great visit, and strongly recommended. Maybe you can also catch the Crown Jewels, which we didn’t have time for. We walked around a bit and reached the square again, where we feasted on delicious pizza from a Pizza Dominion, and then headed to explore St. Mary’s cathedral. The cathedral is right in the center of the square, it is opulently lavish and beautiful inside, richly decorated and absolutely shining with gold plating. For about six zlotys you get to go right up the altar. I truly enjoyed it, and could easily have spent several hours just gaping at the ornate designs. Cathedrals and churches in Poland was clearly where all the money flowed through the centuries.

stmarys dsc03300.jpg

I realized in Poland that God is given a face, atleast in Catholicism. He’s an old bearded guy, resembling Jesus. I realize Jesus is the son of God, and so giving him an image is fine, but if you give God a face, isn’t that idol worship? I wasn’t sure how it was different from idol worship, and we had an interesting (marked with sardonic bits) discussion on that.

jesus

We walked back through the square, which was extremely busy (which is probably the case all year around) and lighted beautifully in preparation of the New Year’s Eve party stage and headed back to Kadetus. The concert was apparently going to be graced by Shakin’ Stevens (whose style is reminiscent, I read, of Elvis Presley’s style) and…wait for it….drumroll…Lou Bega! Because no New Year’s celebration can be complete without Mambo #5 and I Got A Girl (don’t deny it, you remember those classics, and I bet you still sing along :)). Krakow is beautiful by night. The old square, reminiscent of Poznan’s city square, is lined with lovely ancient buildings, restored well and used by shops, cafes, and restaurants. The streets are paved, just like in Poznan, and lined with little stores (we went into a little tea shop that has been at the same place since 1859–wow!). Krakow is beautifully preserved, especially since it served as Nazi headquarters during the war, and so was not wrought havoc on as other cities in Poland were. There are also very few of the ugly Communist style buildings. Overall, it is a city rich in history and absolutely lovely in its architecture and its overall aura, brimming with life and culture. I wish I had had more than a day to spend there, but that day was extremely pleasant, interesting, and beautiful! Dziekuje, Krakow! 🙂

krakowbynite

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I really don’t mean to have only picture posts, and I have a lot to write about, but being wickedly sick and sounding like Squeaky McSqueak doesn’t leave much energy for the computer (my cold turned into a chest cough which evolved into laryngitis-whee!). Hopefully later I’ll be able to write more about what I’ve done (apart from sitting on an armchair covered with a blanket and whining a whole lot in front of the tv, using hundreds of tissues ;)).

But even while being sick prevents me from venturing outside much, the foodie in me keeps me delighted (once the appetite returned). Christmas Eve is the biggest night in Poland, and we had a wonderful Polish dinner (after which we opened many, many presents!), and Christmas Day we repeated the exercise at K’s parents’ house in Poznan. It was all wonderful. Not only did I have a variety of delicious dishes, but I loved observing the cultural uniqueness of Christmas here in Poland. Especially since this is a largely Roman Catholic country and has its own traditions and customs that I have never seen before. We also managed to go to midnight mass at two different churches (hopefully my touristy-ness did not upset too many people!), which was fascinating also (and two BEAUTIFUL churches in Poznan, one from 1148 A.D. which was absolutely incredible, I hope to go back in the daytime).

Anyway, since I am running out of fuel, and I can begin to feel the ache and fatigue of my throat and vocal cords (its actually not all that bad..anymore..but ive always loved being dramatic ;)), I will end here and leave you with pictures, and the names of the dishes we ate (which K has to help me with because there is no way I can remember them. Or spell them).

I hope everyone has had a wonderful, merry christmas! 🙂

This is the table set for dinner…A’s mom did EVERYTHING. K and I couldn’t even help much, on account of the sickness. She’s amazing. 🙂

candlelight

Mushroom soup (zupa grzybowa), Panga fish (baked), corn, pork (pieczen wieprzowa) with meat-grain stuffing (kasza z miesem).

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Rolls (pyzy), potato-vegetable salad (salatka jarzynowa), sauerkraut and mushroom pates, curry eggs, bread, poppy seed and bread dessert (makielki), dried fruit compote (kompot z suszu).

polishfood2

Yum yum! 🙂

At K’s parents house. Pierogis (with cottage cheese, potatoes and onions), mashed potatoes with butter, pork roll with kielbasa and cheese (zrazy), pate with sauerkraut and mushroom.

morefood

Dessert! Homemade cheesecake (sooo good), poppy seed bread, small cakes and gingerbread cookies…oh it was all so good.

dessert

Raspberry cheesecake!

cheesecake

Okay….tea time for my throat. 🙂

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Yay pictures!!

I just thought I’d upload a couple here. A bunch of other pics, including all the ones with people in them, are uploaded on my Flickr account. 🙂

Here is a picture of the Old Square in Poznan, at night. Its decorated for Christmas, with lovely lights and music, and a festive spirit prevailed the entire square the other night we were there.

poznansquare

The Old Square, again. K said the buildings are from the 15-16th century. Wowsa! We went to a pharmacy near this place which was built in 1564.

poznansq2

There was an ice-sculpture and art festival going on when we reached. Amazing ice sculptures, like this one below.

icesculpture

This is the gigantic Stary Browar, the mall I mentioned in my last post.

starbrowary

K and I are both sick…I’m guessing the change of weather…and so we’re just staying in and protecting ourselves from the chill today. Pity, because we were supposed to go shop in Poznan, but I can’t make myself move outside! Being sick on holiday: what luck! Hopefully we’ll be hearty and healthy by tomorrow!

More pics…Poznan by day and some of Puszsczykowo will be coming up soon. Stay warm everyone!

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I’d been planning to take some shots for a while, luckily I managed to finally do it just before the first snow fell.

(I really wish I could stream music now…my favorite tunes to match the mood…but the best I can do is upload em like this…Yay! thanks to merriwether I found another way 🙂 Click on the speaker. Let them play in the background for a calming, soothing effect, that should go hand in hand with nature-related pics :))

Ocean (April Snow) (I know its not fall-connected, but I love this piece when I go for walks)

Ha Yun Yun in Deul (Winter Sonata)

I love fall. It is the most beautiful, ethereal, lovely, graceful season, with vibrant colors yet a quiet magnificence everywhere. Anyone feel what I’m saying? I can never get over the symphony of colors…gold and green and red and violet and crimson, all these shades, in this naturally created blend….a feast for the eyes! I love New England for its gorgeous falls, and I’m really going to miss them!

Almost as much as I’m going to miss the first snow. The unexpectedness of it, the stillness, the quiet, the silent beauty as everything gets covered in a white powder. Wow.

Pictures can never do justice to how it looks, and feels, and smells. And not just because I’m a not-so-great photographer!

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theroad

Love roads like this. Wish there were no cars, and just the rich gold colors endorning the walk….

bridge

snowonredleaves

Snow on red leaves!

firstsnow

Snow! 🙂

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