Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Iceland


I take in the sheer isolation & raw, rugged nature,  
Ensconced in my fleece sweater & my wind-breaker.

The fickle weather & howling wind,
My thoroughly useless umbrella…last, it didn’t!

Along the coast, we begin our amazing drive,
Face snowstorms, rain & an itinerary gone awry.

Braving the elements, we go on, we persist. 
The charms of this enchanting place, we can’t resist!

Armed with maps & GPS, in our 4-wheel drive,
Sometimes in super-jeeps, with wheels 3’ high!

Some twisty, some windy, some gravel roads,
Lead to overwhelmingly scenic & humbling fjords!

Picturesque villages & glorious sights,
Skies adorned with rainbows, stars & northern lights.

Turf roof buildings & farms strewn with hay bales,
Redolent of memories of Vikings & gruesome saga tales.

A tree-less land, with a geology that’s unique!         
Continental rifts & bubbling sulphurous vents that reek.

Exploding geysers that induce child-like glee,
Black sand beaches & lakes that are eerie.

Brooding volcanoes & vast lava fields,
Desolate light-houses & stormy seas,
                                      
Rock formations & strange lunar landscapes,
Waterfalls & Glaciers, for solitude-filled escapes.

Sunrises, sunsets & glowing full moons,
A boat ride on the ethereal glacial lagoon.

Pretty Icelandic Horses with ‘salon-styled’ manes,
Sheep-dotted verdure & seas filled with whales.       

Togged in waterproofs, photography in the rain,
The fun glacier hike over un-familiar terrain.

A winter spent in hot tubs & pools,
Bobbing around in the relaxing Blue Lagoon.

Art, Music, Fashion, Museums & Sculptures,
The Airwaves music festival, the live concerts.

Quirky churches abound, which one is my fave?
The one on the hillock or the one by the bay?

Shopping at ‘Bonus’ & ‘10-11’ for fruits & snacks,
Credit cards used everywhere, we were taken aback!

Endless cups of yummy ‘Skyr’ & Gas station meals,
Omnipresent French fries, for vegetarians like me.

A country without an army, that hosts the ‘Tower of peace’,
Friendliness & honesty, qualities that come to Icelanders with ease.

Someday, I hope to return. Maybe in summer, maybe autumn.
People ‘do Iceland’ in a week….. How? I can’t fathom!


Curious to know more about Iceland, our trip & our itinerary? Read on:
About Iceland & Our experience:

Itinerary, useful information & tips:

Friday, 15 April 2011

‘Ful(l)-filling’ layover at Copenhagen


Layovers, especially long ones, are always difficult to tide through. When I had an 8 hour layover at Copenhagen, it took me all of 5 minutes to decide to go out & explore. I already had a Schengen Visa & jumped at the chance to get out of the airport.  I wanted to ride a Gondola, window shop, relax at a plaza, eat some famous Danish pastry & was desperately craving some sunshine (This is what happens when you’ve spent the last 3 weeks in Iceland, in winter). Bags safely stowed in the luggage room, we went to the information counter and got ourselves some maps & suggestions. After buying our metro train tickets, we were off. A kind man in the train helped us get down at the right stop & we walked through the shopping area, to the square at Amagertorv. It was great to be in the sun & finally take off our heavy wind-proofs!

Having just landed after a 4 hour flight, we felt the hunger pangs soon enough. Spotting the nearest café with outdoor seating, we walked in; intending to grab a bite before we explored. Me & K (my partner in crime & travel buddy) studied the menu & made our choices. This is how it goes from here:

Friendly waitress: (smiling) May I help you?
Me: I’ll have a lemon juice, tomato soup & an aubergine sandwich.
K: I’ll have a Feta salad & another soup as well. Oh, and also a pint of beer.
Friendly waitress: (puzzled smile) that’s a lot of food. I suggest you order less.
Me & K: (more puzzled smiles, in unison) is that a lot of food?? It’s for 2 people!
Friendly waitress: (Not replying, but her look says it all….”yes, it is”).
Me & K: (silently dwelling) Maybe they eat very little here. That explains why so many people are reed thin! Gosh; how can 2 soups, a salad & a sandwich be too much for 2 hungry people?
K: (aloud) In that case, I won’t have any soup. You can get us the rest. (Turning to me) How about a bowl of Nachos to munch on while we wait?
Me: (still pondering over the waitress’s warning) No, thanks. We’ll order more food later, if we need it.
Friendly waitress: (smiling, but with a hint of a challenge) If you say so. That’ll be 70 Euros, please.

We went outside & grabbed a table, to enjoy a view of the square. The atmosphere was lively, with musicians busking, vendors making fresh pancakes in carts, families out in the afternoon & people cycling about. Copenhagen seemed to be very multi-cultural…we could easily spot people of different origins; friends hanging out together & even multi-cultural families. And, I’ve never seen so many cyclists or cycle parking lots anywhere! Very soon, our food arrived.




Me: (jaw dropping) I’ve never seen a bowl of soup that large! (Tasting a spoonful) It’s so thick & filling…I think I’ll be done with the soup itself!
K: Don’t be silly! (And then, as if on cue, the sandwich & salad arrive & his jaw drops) Whoa! Look at that size!




Each of the dishes was almost as large as our table & heaped with food. We occupied two tables only so that all the food fits in. The table next to ours had ordered Nachos. It was served in a bowl as large as a dining-table fruit bowl. The dip was in a bowl as large as a ‘regular’ soup bowl!

Me: (recovering from the shock) Am I glad that we didn’t order the Nachos!!

Now, with the waitress watching us, we had no choice but to attempt to eat this…..we were determined to prove her wrong. We ate for what seemed like eternity. It’s a good thing the square had a lot going on to keep us entertained. A lot of musicians played & appreciated each other & it was heartening to see that people actually took the time out to stop, listen & encourage the musicians with their applause.




After 3 hours of trying hard, we finished the soup, the salad, the drinks & half the sandwich. We; two people with good appetites; hungry from a long flight; could not finish our food. We hung our heads in shame & wanted to slink away without the waitress noticing.

Me: Wait! I can’t leave Denmark without tasting some Danish pastry!
K: That’s ridiculous…..we’re too stuffed to eat. We’ll come back to Denmark another time.
Me: (like a kid throwing a tantrum) No way! Even if I can’t walk & have to roll to the airport, I will not leave Denmark without tasting a pastry!

So, we welcomed a new member to our ever-growing table….Not a traditional Danish pastry, but, a large slice of delectable Raspberry pie with fresh cream. I grinned & groaned my way through the pie. 


Mission accomplished, we heaved ourselves out of our chairs & walked around the square as much as we could; listening to the music. Any plans of a gondola ride were abandoned due to fear of sinking the gondola. We walked to the metro station & took the train back to the airport, without doing a lot of what we’d planned. On the brighter side, this was one layover where time flew! And, looks like we’ll have to go back to Denmark after all!




BR Hills | Kabini | Nagarhole


                                                                         
Blue canopy above me,
Feet sliding through earthy browns.
Green swathes as far as the eye can see;
Roads leading far, far away from towns.

A flash of colour flies here, a sound so mellifluous there;
I know not where to look as wonder after wonder reveals itself.
I seek & find unbridled joy everywhere;
Surely, this place is inhabited by fairies & elves!

Never is a silence so pregnant with melody;
In this silence, a thousand sounds take birth.
It feels criminal to talk; to be the bearer of noise.
Just hear, relish and cherish the voices of the earth. 







Link to BR Hills photos:
https://picasaweb.google.com/115593504608599417037/BRHillsApril2011?authkey=Gv1sRgCPPz9-GO8oX_1gE&feat=directlink 

Link to Kabini & Nagarhole photos:
https://picasaweb.google.com/115593504608599417037/KabiniNagarholeApril2011?authkey=Gv1sRgCKie4duxzJTmkgE&feat=directlink


Quick facts (BR Hills):
Distance & driving time: BR Hills (Biligiriranga Hills / BRT Wildlife sanctuary) is approx. 180 kms from South Bangalore. It’s 3.5 hrs away, with a short break.

Route: Kanakpura road (Bangalore)-Harohalli-Kanakpura-Yelandur-BR Hills. There is an alternate route via Maddur on the Bangalore-Mysore highway.

Accommodation: I stayed at Gorukana. http://gorukana.org/

Quick facts (Kabini / Nagarhole):
Distance & driving time: Kabini is approx. 230 kms from South Bangalore. It’s 5 hrs away, with a short break.

Route: NICE road (Bangalore)-Channapatna-Mandya-Srirangapatna-Mysore-Kabini. There are signboards by various resorts, once you reach Mysore’s ring road.