Asperö

During the phenomenal summer of 2013, we went on a day trip to one of the islands in the  Göteborg’s archipelago, Asperö. 

We took a ferry and reached Asperö late one day. The sun was high up in the sky, the winds warm and life couldn’t have been better. We walked around the island for some time, ate lunch and met some locals who told us about a dance festival. Unfortunately, when we went looking for the dance festival, we got quite lost and didn’t find it.

So, I hope you enjoy the few pictures of our day there.

Enjoy!

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We head back to find the port when we saw a rather interesting sign for a cafe. But it wasnät meant to be our day. The cafe was shut. We plan on going there next summer.

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The entry to the cafe.. A carpet on a railway line. It was really charming.

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The view from the cafe.

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See you soon with more pictures of our summer.

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Midsommer.

Mid summer or Midsommer as it is called here, is one of the largest festivals in Sweden. It is celebrated during the summer solstice.  Although not big on expressions of nationalism, this festival seems to bring a new dimension of pride in the generally shy Swede.

Celebrated all over Europe, this festival is taken much more seriously in Sweden. Folk wear traditional clothes and crowns made of wild flowers on their head. A maypole, or a midsommarstång is raised around which people dance. There are particular dances such as the frog dance that are particularly popular.

According to Wikipedia,  Midsummer was  considered to be the most magical night. Traditionally, young boys and girls picked seven or nine different flowers and put them under their pillow in the hope of dreaming about their future spouse. The festival is also associated with  great food, snaps, beer and drinking games.

This year was my first midsommer, and well, it was a ruined by a sudden downpour of spring rain and I managed just a few pictures. Next year, I plan on going with someone more enthusiastic to dance around the pole (the husband was boring) and will keep my fingers crossed for brilliant sun shiny weather.

Enjoy!

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Berlin

What do I have to say about Berlin that hasn’t already been told a million times in hundreds of different travel websites? What information do I give you about a city that has such a significant history? such a terrible one? Berlin is so full of teeth-crunching anger, beautiful hope, resurrection,  war,  art, science, love, opulence, dreadful scary power and is by far the most vibrant and fantastically alive city that I have ever been to. The feelings that you feel in a short period of time makes you dizzy.

Berlin was one of the ‘must-dos’ on our list. So, when a free weekend made its available, we jumped at the chance. We went to Berlin without a plan in our head. We booked a hostel close to the center and hoped we could explore the city, as we usually do, by foot. But, we hadn’t accounted for the cold. Well, we had, but not really.

The first night, after we arrived there,  we head out to explore our surroundings. By the corners of certain roads, were golden bricks with the names of the Jews who had lived on the road, when they were born, which concentration camp they were taken and when they died. I found these golden drops of history very humbling. The sheer number of these bring you to tears.

Warning: This is going to be a rather long post. But I hope you enjoy the pictures!

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It is an instagram photo. Please pardon the quality.

The next day, we decided to explore the main street. We walked from Alexenderplatz till the Brandenburg gate.  Like I mentioned earlier, it was cold. But we took buses, bus numbers  100 and 200 cover all the major landmarks and are cheaper than the hop on and hop off buses.  They are double-decker and the front seats of the upper deck is awesome if you don’t want to get off too many times. 

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The iconic Brandenburg Gate

The next day we took one of the walking tours that start from the Brandenburg Gate. They are many such walking tours and is the best starting point when you are confused about where to begin. Our guide (I forget his name) was very entertaining and the tour, although a little long, was very informative.

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He walked us though most of the historical sites of Berlin.

The holocaust memorial

The holocaust memorial

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 The parking lot, which was Hitlers bunker.

On the island of Museums

On the island of Museums

The Berlin Cathedral

The Berlin Cathedral

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie

The Babelplatz memorial made me mourn the loss of knowledge and I thought of it often. It was in the same year, 1933, that Einstein moved from Berlin to the US.

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The place in Babelplatz where all the books were burnt.

After the walk we wondered around, took pictures, went aboard the bus 100 and explored more.

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The Parliament

If you have the time, you can go up to the glass dome. But you have to book for that online before you arrive there. We hadn’t. Sigh! So I took pictures of people and entertained myself.

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A couple dancing in the snow.

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German Star Wars! 

Berlin is beautiful! So crisp and full of life. The people there are fantastic and of course, the food! Currywurst, fries  and cheap beer at every corner. Yum.

Also, It had some of the most interesting buildings that I’d seen.

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Also, everywhere I looked in Berlin, something was being built. Blue and pink pipes diverting drinking water and drainage from construction sites were seen everywhere and so were the big bad cranes! The thing I remember noticing throughout our trip is the renovations and constructions that were happening everywhere in Berlin. No photo could be taken without a conspicuous crane jutting out in the background. It is amazing, how many of the buildings are new in Berlin with most of the city’s old buildings bombed down during the WW II.

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Pubs in Berlin are aweeesaaamm. But many of them allow smoking inside. So, if you are a non smoker or if you prefer your best threads not to smell like burnt-up pieces of crap, wear clothes you aren’t too attached to or, also you could not care and just enjoy the beer.  I didn’t take my camera out thinking my phone will work just fine. But guess which idiot forgot to charge the above mentioned phone! Ta dah!

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Cafe Bar: The only and last picture that I could take that night.

Which post about Berlin is complete without the mention of, you guessed it, the Berlin wall?

Although most of the wall has been broken down, you can still see parts of them in few parts of the city. The longest is the East Side gallery. It is a 1.3 km long section and contains 105 works from artists all over the world. The gallery sees a lot of tourists and although quite festive, patience may wear thin by the end.

 

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The Berlin wall had two walls with a space in between . The two parts of the wall are visible here

Another part of the wall, which we found near the topography of terror museum is without all the colour and it more stark.

 

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The pipe-like lining of the wall was to discourage climbers. So that they don’t find a hold to pull themselves up.

 

When I looked at The Wall, I thought that it didn’t look foreboding or even the least bit intimidating, but during the occupation, it was one of the most scary places. It decided your fate. The power that the no-so-tall wall wielded is amazing.

 

So there! I’m done!

Oh when you are in Berlin, don’t forget to keep your eye out for amazing graffiti and the traffic signals.

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And I leave you with some parting shots of Berlin.

Enjoy! Bye!

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Skagen

A bunch of our friends decided to go to Skagen, Denmark for a day-trip the beginning of this spring.

Skagen is the northern-most town of Denmark. To the north of this town exists a projection of land into the waters. Here, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea collide together in a place called Grenen. Also, of course, the famous Skagen watches takes its name after this city. Skagen is quite a tourist attraction for the people in Gothenburg. it is very easily accessible by ferry from the city of Gothenburg, and therefore is a popular destination for weekend trips.

Spectacularly unprepared for the trip, the husband and I head to the Stenaline ferry early in the morning. Thankfully, the friends that we traveled with were smart enough to have things under control.  Stenaline takes you by ferry to a place called Frederikshavn. You can either take the fast ferry that takes you there in 2 and half hours or the slow one that takes longer to get there, but is cheaper. Frederikshavn is known for the famous Palm beach. From Frederikshavn, you take a train north towards Skagen.

Skagen is a relatively small town and can be covered easily by foot if you have the time, or you can hire bikes at the conveniently located bike-hire located at the train station. We choose the bikes. I was bicycling after nine years, so I was rather excited. The tourist maps are easily accessible. Other then Grenen, you have a few lighthouses to see on the way.   The weather forecast called for bright skies, but it didn’t brighten up until much later in the afternoon.

Grenen is a large sandy beach,  and would have perhaps been fantastically warm to walk on, if the sun was shining.  Nonetheless, it had been a long time since I walked a sandy beach and no one was going to take that away from me, lest of all, the sun.

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The winds were strong, it was pretty overcast and although you could see the two seas meet, it wasn’t really clear.

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Can you tell the difference between the seas in the above picture? The green-coloured water is the North Sea and the dark brown, the Baltic Sea.

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Sandormen is a tourist bus that runs to the Grenen.  It starts at 9 am every morning and runs on demand. You can get more information here. On our way back, we stopped at the lighthouse. This lighthouse was built  during the 18th century and it is pretty large. You can also climb to the top. We, however, choose not to.

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We stopped at Vippefyret, a 17th century bascule, which was used before the lighthouses were built, to warn ships. It is lit only during mid-summers and tourists flock to see it. Although I didn’t get pictures of it, you can see what I’m talking about here. But the view from there was awesome and we spent a lot of time relaxing there. By this time, the sky had cleared up and we were able to appreciate the rest of Skagen in the light that it deserved to be appreciated in.

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One of the most popular attractions is the Tilsandede Kirke, or the buried church. It was built during the 14th century and was used up until the 17th century, when the sand drift buried the church and it was abandoned. We didn’t hang around here as long as we wanted to because we had to get back to Frederikshavn.

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It was then time to head back. We took the train back to Frederikshavn (tip: although you can buy tickets on the train, the machine only accepts cash, so always have some cash on you), grabbed a quick dinner and caught the ferry back. The ferry took about four hours to reach Gothenburg, but with all the duty free alcohol flowing, no one really cared.

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The bunch of us on rented bikes.

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Skagen port

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Run

The sun stretched his golden arms to the dark room. It was ‘THE’ day. He has painstakingly worked toward today. He had practiced often, given himself a thousand pep talks and thought and talked about only this for a few months and it was here. It was ‘THE’ day.

Every May, Gothenburg, Sweden organizes the largest half-marathon in the world. It sees a lot of participants from all across the world. It is called Göteborgsvarvet.

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The sun shone bright that day, it was much warmer than usual and it felt like the whole city was out either running or supporting the runners.The atmosphere seemed electric.  He hadn’t seen as many people in Sweden. EVER. He couldn’t wait now. As he arrived at the park, he saw the first few finish and all his legs wanted nothing more than to run.

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Ready steady GO

Ready steady GO

He found his friend, his start group and started stretching. Talked himself in the ‘zone’. His heart was racing and his adrenaline pumping.

The Göteborgsvarvet has been organized every year since 1980. It starts from the Slottskogen park , continues over the Ävlborgs bridge, follows the Göta Älv river , across the Göta Älv Bride, around the statue Poseidon back into the park: a total of 21 kms.

Somewhere close to the statue, he cramped. He saw many people faint.  It was too hot to run such a distance. He limped slowly, running a little, walking a little, pain throbbing in his leg. He was almost ready to give up. But, he came through. Finally, triumphant, bloody, messy, sweaty.

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His time was nowhere where he would have liked it to be.

Well, at least he saw a banana dance and a lion run.

Chalmers Cortège

Every year, on Walpurgis or Valborg,  Chalmers University, in Gothenburg, Sweden celebrates a parade. It starts at the Chalmers University and ends at the city center and back. According to Wikipedia, around 600 students and 50 trucks participate in the parade.

Traditionally, the students of Chalmers walked with one foot on the pavement and the other in the gutter and exchanged their traditional black caps with white ones. In 1909, horse drawn carriages were added and the Chalmers Cortège was born. The messages on the floats are usually filledd with political satire.

This year, the arrival of spring, Valborg wasn’t really warm and therefore the turnout wasn’t as great as last years. However, the enthusiasm and the floats were as good.

A few glimpses of this year’s Cortège.

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All pictures were shot with a 50mm 1.8 lens on a 550D Canon body.

Ashu and the kid

“It’s a door…” he whispered. Kids can be such killjoys in adventures. I rolled my eyes. “Yes, I know”

Five was a dumb age to be. “What is behind it?” he asked curiously. He had the widest eyes I’d ever seen on a five year old. “Do you know?”

Of course I didn’t. “Of course I do. I know what is behind every door in this whole world”

“Every door? In the whole world!??  Even Ajji’s secret room?”

Ajji, my maternal grandmother had a wardrobe in her room that she usually kept locked. I suppose this dumb kid thinks there was a room inside.My! God! This was one brainless fellow.

” Yes, you dumb kid, every means all means even Ajji’s door.”

I couldn’t be saddled by the weight of this kid’s non intelligence. I needed to go out and be adventurous. Imagine stopping at every door.

“Why are you wearing a bed sheet on your back?”

Man! This kid never shut up

“It’s my cape. I’m a super hero. I fight bad people and bring goodness to the world”

I was proud of the fact that I was a superhero. After all, not too many people were blessed with such powers.

“Tatha told me yesterday that ‘They were no superheroes, only humans with immense strength of will’ Do you know what ‘will’ means?”

“I told you I’m a superhero. Superheroes know everything. Will is like a well, only smaller”

“Wow! You do know everything!”

Well, I guess it wasn’t too bad to have someone around who understood how important I was. Amma didn’t respect my powers at all. I told her spiders were full of protein and we superheroes couldn’t sustain ourselves with rice and vegetables. But then she started screaming and scared all the spiders away. No respect.

Now, coming back to the kid, there had to be some ground rules.

“Ok Kid, you can follow me, but if aliens attack us, I can’t save you because I have to save myself. I am more intelligent and the world requires the intelligent people to save it. Got it? ”

The kid’s big eyes started to look scared now.

“Aliens!? Are they like Rakshasas?”

“Ha! Rakshasas are like squirrels compared to them. They are green, have big eyes and have guns that vaporize you!”

” Va.. pa.. ise?”

“It means kill you. Second rule, you don’t ask questions. Even if you don’t understand. Ok?”

“Oooo kaay”

“Most importantly, this is a secret mission. If you tell Amma or anyone at home, I’ll have to kill you. Understand?”

The kid nodded.

I smiled. Done!

Now, the world awaits. It waits to be saved.

“Aaaaaaaahhhh!” I scream and jump down from the wall of my fortress

“Can I at least eat something before we go to save the world?”

Seesh! This kid! Hunger!?

“Sigh! Ok. Make it fast.”

Sometimes, the world just has to wait.

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The paths we tread

The paths we tread

.. and she called out to me
In a loving whisper,
And stretched her arms open.

I heard her voice as I spoke.
Her laughter in my throat
and her sigh in my breath.

A path lit up,
and the air trembled.
‘I am right here’
‘I am expecting you’

…Travelling is an addiction.

As a friend once said, there are so many beautiful places to see and so many interesting people to meet and we have but one lifetime.

A single song…

The tune was stuck in his head. He shook his head to dislodge it, but it was stubborn. It wasn’t even a great tune. But it refused to leave.  ‘Oh come on!’ he said ‘Its been long enough! Get out!’. But the tune couldn’t hear. It could sing though. It sang louder than his Ipod even. Louder than the metal music in the Ipod. ‘Oh come on!’

When it did disappear, he sat in silence wondering if the world had always been this quiet? Had rain always sounded like this? Could everyone hear the paper rustle? He almost missed the tune. Although he didn’t want to think about it lest it came back. There was other music to compensate after all. Better music. Good music. He plugged his Ipod into his ear. Suddenly, every other music was noise. Loud, annoying, grating noise. He couldn’t stand it. He pulled at the earpiece but did not switch it off. He wondered what was happening to him.

The window next to his desk misted up. He stood up and looked out. The world was gray. ‘Where the fuck are all the colours?’ he screamed. But there was no one around. He ran out of the building. No cars! No people! No colours! He ran and ran and ran. Silence everywhere, except for muted noise from his still switched-on Ipod.

As he turned a corner near the station, he saw a man. A man with a guitar. As he walked closer to the guitar man, he recognized the tune that he was playing. He walked more confidently now, closer to the man, closer to the song. Could he dare say His song?  The guitar man had no ears, but he smiled when he saw him. ‘Welcome back, old friend!’ he sang in the old familiar tune.

Welcome back.

Strings…

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Lately I have been all over the place. I should have called her but apparently she did not want to talk anymore. A cat crossed the road now. What do you think? I’m in for some bad luck?

The kite was flying in the sky, lazily fluttering and waving about. It must know how I felt . But, oh it was so lucky to escape this world confine. Suddenly a bird screeched. Someone had thrown a stone at it. For no reason at all. Just when it was minding its own business.  It must know how I feel. I can hear all of them in my head. Hakuna Matata.

The winding cobblestone path took me to the house that I was looking for. A house that was haunted with memories. Old photographs on the wall announced the coming of the new generation and the going of the old. However, the dim blue of the interiors was gone. It had been painted bright yellow now. ‘To bring in the happy’, she had said. happy. It’s a feeling that was irrelevant in this house. Life went on. Happiness, Annoyance, Love, Sadness just came and went.

I walked ahead, around the yellow-walled house, to the small pond behind. The duck was missing. It had been missing for a few years now, but its absence was unyielding.  Someone about a hundred years ago had drowned in that pond. It was like their soulless sadness lingered on over it making the air around thick and gray. I sighed. I walked on though. I knew what I was looking for.

Did I, though? Through all the muddling and messing up I had done in the past few years, did I really know?  Something moved next to my leg. A lizard, maybe? Could it be Hanger? nah! he would have been long dead. Ah! there they were. In the trees. They hung down heavily, the strings. So many of them. I thought I had imagined it. But they surrounded me. they hung down from everywhere. ‘Every thought is a string’, she used to say. ‘Tie it up and Look! each of them had a beginning, middle and an end. No two strings were alike. Not in length, thickness or colour, but they crossed each others path. When that happened, a new string came out off it. Look! Look!!!’

I brought out the clippers from my pocket. I touched the string that was lowest. It was pink, thin and frail. It was hers. I said a silent prayer and cut it. Then I found the blue, cut that. green, red, yellow, gray, black, white. Cut cut cut.

Sleep my love, sleep little baby. Sleep.