The Mesmerising Topkapi Palace


So the first thing we did was we climbed up the path and up ahead of the Archaeological Museum. And then when we went up and saw the whole Imperial Courtyard lined with army men!!!! In Turkey, every young man Has to join the army for atleast a year. The logic is that this will make the Men a Little (=Read LOTS) smarter and sensitive (=:P) and also develop patriotic feelings. As well as get everyone to compulsorily do community service.

And just then we saw…!!!!???

What did we see?? That remains to be seen in another Story, Stay Tuned.

Now Continued!!!

The Topkapi Palace gate was large and imposing. I looked back on the crumbling palaces I’d seen in my travels and wished we would care about our history as much as we cared about money. India would have a lot more visitors then for we’ve got a cultural heritage worth the envy of any country.

The gate led us to the main courtyard where we looked at the huge grounds split up into a star. We walked into a room which in Indian Palaces is commonly known as Diwan-E-Khaas (or the room where the Sultan held meetings with the priests and noblemen). In Turkey though it was called the Imperial Council.

And as we entered..whoosh!! The ceiling stunned us. Such beautiful gilded paintings and maintained so well!! Plus there were spots demarcated as to where the Sultan sat and where the Council sat. We were 4 of us sharing one audio guide and so we had to pause for a while to catch on to all the information we were being told.

The council hall has multiple entrances both from inside the palace and from the courtyard. The porch consists of multiple marble and porphyry pillars, with an ornate green and white-coloured wooden ceiling decorated with gold. The floor is covered in marble. The entrances into the hall from outside are in the rococo style, with gilded grills to admit natural light. While the pillars are earlier Ottoman style, the wall paintings and decorations are from the later rococo period. Inside, the Imperial Council building consists of three adjoining main rooms. Two of the three domed chambers of this building open into the porch and the courtyard.

We do not have many photos from what we saw in other parts of Topkapi. The reason being, we passed the Imperial Treasury, The Jewellery Room, The Ancient Relic Room.

All these rooms had items precious to the National Heritage of Turkey which is why we were not allowed to click photographs.

The Imperial Treasury contained relics from the Byzantine Age. Also there were articles of daily use by the Ottoman Sultans. The collection we see now consist of gifts of ambassadors, enthronement gifts, and purchases of the Sultans themselves.

There were shields and armours encrusted with pearls and precious stones. There were fragrance holders and goblets made of gold with rubies and emeralds. Queens would be proud of their jewellery boxes so carefully preserved.

Even the Peacock Throne of Emperor Jehangir which was stolen by Nadir Shah and lost in time, was preserved. I don’t want to be biased to India but amongst the other jewels, our Indian throne shone through. The pearls were set so carefully and evenly. It was a delight to look at it. Of course i was happy it was preserved in Turkey and not in India.

 

This website was one that gave excellent descriptions of the Treasury Room relics.

http://www.ee.bilkent.edu.tr/~history/topkapi.html

 

There is a huge line getting into this exhibit. It is a hugely popular exhibit. At the entrance of the exhibit is the Ottoman Symbol for prosperity and money.

the huge rush for getting into the Treasury Exhibit

I’ve yet got the Room of Ancient Relics and other points to do. But that remains yet another part of the journey!!

Stay Tuned

Coorgi Tales-The Spice Plantation and Adventure Vallley part 1


14th April 2010: Karnataka Hinterland, India
Today we decided to go in for the Adventure Activity. They have 17 different types of activities which are clubbed into 2 different groups , Easy and Advanced, 5 activities each. You could opt for the clubbed activities or do any of the activities individually. So today we tried the elementary ones.
I was strapped first. Sachi decided to watch me first and then try her hand at them. I had a bengali fellow who was my instructor. The first activity was the ‘Shaking Bridge’ where the distance between 2 planks on 2 ropes keeps increasing. This was fairly easy. The second one was climbing across a big criss cross maze of ropes, the difficult part was climbing on the rope, the easy one was walking on the iron rope.
The third activity was walking through the tyres. the easy part was walking on the rope and the difficult one was walking thru the tyres. Trust me it is difficult when you have to walk suspended with a harness. The fourth activity was the easiest, you had to walk on one iron rope holding a rope above your head, i did that pretty fast. The next and last activity was climbing on a rope. There were knots at regular intervals and you had to hold the knots using your thumbs and then hoist yourself up (which is NOT a piece of cake) and finally the trainer would lower you down. Tiring job really. My hands were really paining. shows how us city folk fare when we meet with adventure sports 🙂
After i was done, it was Sachi’s turn. She had it fairly easy coz she’s thinner than i am. It was fun watching her do it.
we were really exhausted after the activity because holding on to the ropes and harness really asks a lot from your pampered and never been used muscles!!! After a lunch in ‘Arabica’ we rested in the room for a while.

Naya Plan The next plan was the Spice Plantation Tour. Club Mahindra takes you to a place which is 35 kms from the main resort and shows you around the spice plantation. The time for the spice plantation tour was 3:00 and we came a little late and my explanation was “For fashion show u have show stoppers, here in Coorg, we’re the BUS STOPPERS” (lol) The Club Mahindra Holiday Activities Co-ordinator coming with us was Punit and we teased him endlessly calling him ‘uncle’ and ‘grand-uncle’ and forced him to give us lessons in kannada. that was fun but i dont know how much of the kannada i remembered!!
We were delayed in reaching the spice plantation because there was a jeep stuck on the approach road. most of tese coffee estates have home sta facilities so one can enjoy the estate and stay there in the calm and fragrant atmosphere (estates smell soooo good!!)

We met the person who took care of the estates. It seems the estate has been passed down in his family for 150 yrs!! thats a long time!! This fellow it seems is a commerce graduate who stayed in bangalore but shifted here to madikeri to take care of the estate. The estate was a huge one, 225 acres!!! The first plant we saw was the Vanilla plant. It seems because of artificial substitutes for vanilla, the prices for vanilla had crashed so drastically it was not feasible to cultivate it anymore. The estate just cultivated vanilla on a small scale to show the people who visted the estate.
Then we proceeded to see the coffee plants. Coffee plants require so much of attention and labour, not to mention regular sprays of insecticide to protect them form the white stump borad. Also coffee plants especially ‘Arabica’ has to be cut in a special way so that the branches grow sideways and not straight ahead. We learnt a lot abt coffee in that tour. Arabica it seems is more labour intensive and its prices are sky high in international markets. Its also a more fragrant variety and makes better coffee. But because of high maintenance costs, ‘Robusta’ variety is preferred although it brews inferior coffee. There is one tree which is preferably grown with coffee because during summer when the sun rays are very strong, it spreads its canopy over the coffee plants and then during the rains when the sunlight does not reach the plants below due to the canopy, it sheds its leaves. We also saw a rosewood tree. it seems a rosewood tree matures in 150-200 years. It means the tree must have been planted when the estate was started and its still not grown fully. Thats what i call a ‘Late Bloomer’

We also saw cardamon plants from kerala and Karnataka. We also saw a pod of karnatak cardamon (=elaichi) and tasted it..it tasted sooo good, much better than the dried ones we get in the market and fresher. We also saw the silk cotton tree. The silk cotton pods burst out when the cotton is ready and the pod falls off. The cotton is so soft. Bu the owner said that harvesting these on a commercial basis was not feasible so the pods just wasted on the ground. I think the locals took them and used them to make blankets or some clothes.
It seems that the estate was facing a sever labour shortage, although the wages were higher than other estates. Coffee especially Arabica required a lot of attention, coz the branches had to be splintered and all the plants manually checked for attacks of the white borad. Very few skilled men knew the job which made it expensive.

Discovery: Coorg was very famous for its oranges upto 40 yrs ago when a deadly virus came and wiped out all the orange trees in Coorg. There are still resorts with the name ‘Orange County’. The resurrection of oranges here had been started recently. It seems Coorgi oranges are much bigger than the Nagpur oranges and much juicier.

After the tour and seeing many such plants which included a wild plant with fruits which looked like lemons, we made our way back to the van. there we were served some of the estate’s home grown coffee which was so tasty. Pure and unadulterated coffee na so it tasted much much better than the ones in metros. There was also a cute dog there in a cage . He was kept in the cage because he got so excited seeing visiotrs and jumped on them (trust me he was huge but very cute, he even licked my fingers)
There was also a huge christmas tree with some cactii growing on it. Sounds hard to believe but i’ve got evidence!! We parted with very good memories and a lot more knowledge of how to run an estate.
wE kept bugging Punit on our way back. he also took us on a tour of the town and showed us a place where we could get authentic Coorgi cuisine. Coorg it seems is very famous for its pork.

After we went to the resort, Sachi, Medha and me went to play while the parents chatted. It was all in all a very fun evening.

Special Note: I really wanna thank Medha,Jayant and Mira Luthra for the amazing time that we spent together in the spice plantations. It was totally out of this world!!!

Agla Sthaan:Dubare Elephant Club and exploring Madikeri. Stay tuned!!!!The 3rd activity, the ‘Tyring one’Sachi with her instructorfresh cardamom, tastes awesome and smells out of this worldCoffee beans being dried!!The christmas tree with cactii

Vitthal and the Journey to Coorg-The traveller continues the journey


12th April 2010, Karnatak Hinterland, India
I continue with the journey
Most hotels in South India and also our hotel at Kolhapur give the guests a complimentary breakfast if they stay in the hotel. As we soon discovered that, we helped ourselves to the same yet tasty breakfast of dosas,idli vada and kesaribhat. We checked out after that and made our way to our next destination,
“CLUB MAHINDRA, Kodagu Valley,Coorg”
The road from Mangalore was not a smooth one because the Govt was in the process of expansion so it was a bumpy ride. But we saw a lot of bungalows on the way. Most of the bungalows are painted in bright almost horrifying colours like bright green and baby pink but these ones were painted in stately combinations like white and navy blue, white and gray etc.
We decided to go and see the temple at Vitthal so we took a detour from NH-48 and made our way to Vitthal. The landscape was changing, more like a tropical forest types, wet with very fresh air blowing at our faces. The Vitthal Math was being renovated and the bit of the new Math we saw looked very nice. At almost all the Maths in South India, they give you sandal paste which smells totally out of the world. There was also a temple dedicated to the Naags. As you would know, Naags depict our elders who we pray to so that we have their blessings for the present and future generations.
We met one of our acquaintances and we went to their house where we saw an enormous beehive. i’ve never seen a beehive so closely before and it was mesmerising…so many bees!!!

After Vitthal we made our way to Madikeri,Coorg. Coorg is actually the name of the district. Its very famous for spices so we’ve heard. While leaving Vitthal, we were stuck in a traffic jam and we could only make our way out of it because Vitthal unlike Mumbai, does not have any open drains!!!
Our first halt was at a place called Shuliya and we kept asking for that whenever we met people. The people in South India are generally quite knowledgeable they know routes to explore entire karnatak at the back of their minds!! quite an amazing feat!!

A special encounter:
At Shuliya, we encountered Karnatak’s biggest specialit, “Gobhi Manchurian” which could be found in every Nukkad and gully of Karnatak. The journey to Shuliya was uneventful, except that the road was winding and made veryscenic landscape because it was so lush and green!!
By the time we reached Shuliya, we could feel the heat beat down on us ..it was noon. So we stopped at Hotel Surabhi. Let me tell you, this place looks small but the food is totally awesome and very tasty. Here we tasted the famous ‘Gadbag’ and ‘Gobhi Manchurian’ both extremely delicious.

After lunch, we made our way to Club Mahindra. There were more and more plantations and lots of nurseries selling rubber spalings. A lot of areca nut trees and pepper creepers on them. It was pleasant to watch. Also i notcied right from Shuliya onwards, lot of stalls selling ‘Neera’, a drink from which toddy is derived, and that almost all street lights had solar panels on them, which was very nice to see that atleast our rural counterparts were making an effort to be environment friendly.

As we approached Coorg, the scenery was breathtaking. Lush green forests and the constant chirping of birds and c\insects. It was out of this world.!!
Also we passed a lot of estates with the home stay options available. Small cottages looked very inviting. we even stopped the car for some time to take in the environment. We passed a road which led to the ‘Indian Institute of Spices’ and then made our way to club mahindra. Here also in this small town of Madikeri,all street lights had solar panels and trust me at night, they glowed brighter than the other thermal electricity powered lights.

We made our way slowly, not before we passed a JM Financial (work follows my dad here as well!!!) and then drove into the resort. All Club Mahindra properties are huge and excellently done up. After resting in our room, we made our way to the Conference Room where they had a presentation for us to explain the facilities at the resort and also to explain the tourist sites around. It was followed up with some Coorgi coffee!!

We had a quiet dinner at the Buffet restaurant which was called Arabica (=name of a coffee) and retired for the night

Coming up next-Coorgi Tales

A beehiveMe!! at the hotel at Shuliya

Chronicles of Manki-A hectic day, more Maths and lot of discoveries


8th April 2010: Karnataka Hinterland, India

So we set out to explore our roots and do a ‘Naag Pooja’ of our family deity. The ‘Naag Pooja'(=Naag means the snake deity) is a pooja where the past generations are worshipped and their blessings are sought for the well being of the present and future generations.

First Destination: Kumta
In Kumta, my grandfather’s cousin stays who had been taking care of the Mavinkurve deity for so long. The bhatmam who we met at Manki came with us to perform this holy ceremony. We also had an insight into how life is in a small town. Kumta is the education hub there as there are many schools and colleges. The bhatmam who accompanied us has sent both his daughters to Kumta to study.

Discovery: Cows and Calves eat banana peals, flowers and leaves and its so much fun to feed them. They even lick your fingers!!

 

Followed By: Mallapur
There is another Math at Mallapur so we made our way to Mallapur. There is a story of a bell at Mallapur. It is huge and when you ring it, the vibrations last for a long time, and sound line ‘Om’. So the story goes that one Swamiji wanted the bell shifted from Mallapur to Shirali. But he got a dream the following night that the bell was destined to stay there. And the bell stayed.
The bhatmam’s son at Mallapur also served us lunch, he is so cute. We played with him and sat on a swing there listening to his stories.

I’m Loving It: Food served on banana leaves has its own different taste!! Steel plates can never come close to that.

 

 

 

 

Next Destination Gokarn
The beach at Gokarn is in the shape of ‘om’ and is stunning when seen from a height. we visited Gokarn Math and had a special pooja of the Samadhis like in Mallapur and Shirali. Met an irage dog and a naughty cow who followed us into the Math and had to be shooed out.

Mavinkurve Island
Mavinkurve Island is located in the Sharawati river.
How to reach it?? Go into one lane after Honavar and before crossing the bridge to the banks of the river. Catch a boat and there it is.

The Sharawati river is sperb!! Its so placid and blue and clear. Our bhatmam who incidentally loves travelling, came with us to Mavinkurve as well. There are a lot of other islands in the Sharavati but i doubt if all of them are inhabited by humans.
Seeing a Syndicate Branch at Mavinkurve made me feel proud. It seems the land over there is marshy so we saw lot of rice planted. I learnt that one of the villagers could easily walk over the marshy land. i’m sure i’d fall, i’m a clumsy nut!!

 

 

Our ancestral land was far away, deep into the island and as sunset was approaching, we couldn’t explore. The temple there has one of the prettiest devis i have ever seen. and the island has an AC hall lol.
The bhatmam from the island invited us for ‘kasai’ which means a drink like masala milk. Nobody has much of tea there they all prefer kasai which is made with lot of garden herbs. While we were leaving the bhatmam from Mavinkurve asked our boat-driver to give us a longer ride so he took us through some islands and ahead below the freight train bridge. As it was dark by then, the river and islands looked mysterious and inviting and there was a certain glow about them.

 

 

After Mavinkurve, we made our way back home, totally connected with our roots and so proud to be an Amchi!!

our evening entertainment was always IPL as we had a set top box at Manki. Also, the Karnatak Govt faithfully cut power for 1 hour during the day, inexplicably at 7 at night. We felt bad for the students who had to study for their board exams as in Karnatak, board exams are in April.

Coming Up Next: The strip of wonder and more chronicles