12
Dec 16

Exploring Delhi India

It’s taken me a few days to wrap my head around India so I’m going to take a deep breath and begin. We flew into New Delhi from Rome. Our takeoff had been delayed for 3 hours due to Delhi’s “fog” and as our plane descended, visibility was really poor with a veil of yellow hanging over the city. Clearing passport control, we greeted our guide, grabbed our luggage and headed outside.

India Arch. New Delhi, India. 2016

India Arch. New Delhi, India. 2016

I expected it to be humid but it was cool and pleasant, however that doesn’t begin to describe the air quality which was chokingly thick smog flavored with exhaust and wood fire smoke. Leaving the airport, the traffic stopped almost immediately and it was bumper to bumper, blaring horns all the way to the hotel. Rawboned women in ragged sari’s stood at our car windows, tapping on them and begging for food or money. This was a tough introduction to what is perhaps the most beautiful, spiritual and friendly country in the world.

Street. Delhi, India. 2016

Street. Delhi, India. 2016

The next morning we saw the sights of New Delhi. It was built by the British over a twenty year span from 1911 to 1931. It is the location where India gained it’s independence in 1947 and where Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1948. It now serves as the nation’s capital. We visited the India Arch, government buildings and universities. We went to where Gandhi spent the last days of his life, fasting and spinning thread in his little room. Around New Delhi monkeys were everywhere, large ferocious monkeys and we were told not to make eye contact or they might cause us serious injuries.

Gandhi's Path. New Delhi, India. 2016

Gandhi’s Path. New Delhi, India. 2016

As the day wore on we moved to the older section of town simply called Delhi. Delhi has a rich history with the narrow streets, stalls, shops, and deep stacked buildings you’d expect to find in an old city. In many ways Delhi is reminiscent of Fes in Morocco, but Delhi is so much more lively. The people are friendly and this is where I learned my first lesson. I began to understand that the Indian soul is a joyous soul.

Barefoot. Delhi, India. 2016

Barefoot. Delhi, India. 2016

We traveled through the old market in bicycle rickshaws which was a great time and allowed us to see much more of the district than we could have on foot. We stopped at the spice market and it was bristling with activity. Spices hung heavily in the air, some people had cloth masks covering their nose and mouth, probably a good idea. We climbed, explored, chatted and photographed. We’ve been to so many city markets, spice markets and bazars that we’ve lost count. None of them have left so remarkable an impression on us as the one in Delhi.

Vegetables. Delhi, India. 2016

Vegetables. Delhi, India. 2016


06
Dec 16

A Day at the Vatican

Vatican Mass. Vatican City, Rome, Italy. 2016

Vatican Mass. Vatican City, Rome, Italy. 2016

We spent the day at the Vatican and as a history nerd, I was in heaven. It wasn’t just the art but the architecture and context. It was overwhelming, beautiful, gorgeous, magnificent. I loved the work by Raphael and Michelangelo particularly the Last judgement in the Sistine Chapel. St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world but it’s difficult to appreciate just how big until you’re standing in the middle of it. Also, it was a little weird to see real pope mummies in some of the side chapels but I understand that these are holy christian relics. I’ve seen body parts in reliquaries before, most notable at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.

I couldn’t help but compare Rome and the Vatican with Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) and Hagia Sophia. After the Emperor Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to Constantinople in 330 A.D., his new city surpassed the glory of Rome becoming the wealthiest and most powerful city in the western world.

Hagia Sophia was built by the Roman Emperor Justinian in 537 after rioting in the city led to the deaths of thousands of citizens and the destruction of a significant part of the city. It remained the largest and most important church in the christian world for centuries until Constantinople was captured by the Ottoman Turks in 1453.

Byzantine Mosaic. Hagia Sophia. Istanbul. 2012

Byzantine Mosaic. Hagia Sophia. Istanbul. 2012

In St. Peter’s, there is a circle on the floor of porphyry marble just inside the entrance that was reused from an earlier church which was demolished to make way for the current Basilica. It was on this exact deep purple circle that Charlemagne knelt and was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by the pope during Christmas mass in 800 A.D. Thus the rivalry was established between the Byzantine Romans and the newly created Holy Roman Empire. Ironically the porphyry marble sarcophagi that once held St. Helena, the mother of Constantine as well as that of their daughter are both on display in the Vatican Museum.


03
Dec 16

Spectacular Venetian Sunset

Sunset over Lagoon. Venice, Italy. 2016

Sunset over Lagoon. Venice, Italy. 2016

Our friends in Venice told us this was a once in a lifetime sunset and we were fortunate enough to be on a boat in the lagoon when it happened. For me Venice is like a dream, an ancient city floating on the sea, beautiful and unique.


02
Dec 16

Christmas Card from Vienna

Christmas Card. Vienna, Austria. 2016

Christmas Card. Vienna, Austria. 2016

In Vienna, Christmas markets and crowds of people filled the town squares and this huge tree stood in the center of the city next to St. Stephen’s Cathedral.


01
Dec 16

Keeping a Travel Journal

As a traveler I aspire to keep a handwritten journal/sketch pad. It’s great fun to pull out my old journals and read all the goofy and sometimes awesome stuff I did on my adventures. It’s a place where I can write, scribble and store stuff in real time. I have pressed flowers, train tickets, attraction passes, coffee stains and all sorts of other goodies tucked into the nooks and crannies of my journals. It is a physical memento of life experience that will survive and outlive the trendy social media of the day. Remember Livejournal and Myspace?

My Pen and Journal. Fes, Morocco. 2015

My Pen and Journal. Fes, Morocco. 2015

Start with a quality notebook or sketchpad. There are lots at your local bookstore, the most common being Moleskine. Moleskine are easily available and come in a variety of sizes and configurations, each with a handy pocket inside the back cover. On the down side, their paper is thin and prone to feathering and bleed through. If you like the Moleskine form factor, a significant step up in quality can be found in the products of Rhodia and Quo Vadis.

The Rhodia Webnotebook comes with a black or classic orange cover and with either lined, blank or dot Rhodia paper. The dot paper is an interesting variation on traditional graph paper with dots where the vertical and horizontal lines would intersect, but the lines themselves have been removed. Rhodia writing paper is outstanding and among the finest in the world.

Quo Vadis Habana notebooks come in lots of colors although I prefer basic black and can be found in both blank and lined varieties. These are softer than other hardcover notebooks and feel really great in the hand. They are the only journal/notebooks of the Moleskine style to feature Clairefontaine paper, which in my opinion is the finest smooth writing paper in the world. I own several of these.

How about something a little different? Try the Midori Traveler’s Notebook. These great Japanese notebooks are beautiful, clever and absolutely ooze quality. They come in a few basic colors but have so many accessories that you’ll never run out of fun and interesting ways to configure and utilize them. The paper is superb and I believe it is Japanese Mulberry, one of the oldest, most durable and archival types of paper in the world.

Lots of people love basic marbled composition notebooks and the bamboo or sugarcane paper in these is pretty good. A lot of companies make fancy covers for composition books and they are a great option.

Something to be mindful of are all the leather bound travel journals  populating the internet and bookstores. The paper can be of poor quality, it is often rough bulk paper or really cheap paper, bleeding ink and feathering worse than an eiderdown goose.

The travel notebooks and journals I use are made by Innovative Journaling. I’ve been using them for several years and I love the quality, materials and craftsmanship.

What to write? Everything! I like to make notes about trip planning, why l chose to go to certain places and not others. I write about the people I’m traveling with, who I meet, where I’m staying and what I had for breakfast. I write about my expectations and if they were fulfilled. I write about how my experiences changed me and my perspective on life and the world.

So there you have it. Get a good journal and a good pen, take them with you everywhere and write.

I plan on writing a more detailed article on journals, inks, paper and travel in the near future.


28
Nov 16

Exploring Vienna

This was our first full day on our round the world adventure without jet lag so we decided to explore Vienna. Thankfully the old city center is small enough to be circumnavigated in a day. The morning was cold and after some wonderful local food and amazing Viennese coffee we headed for St. Stephen’s Cathedral and managed to sit in the pews for the last portion of the midday mass. Built in 1147 it is the spectacular crown jewel of the city and a must see.

St. Stephen's. Vienna, Austria. 2016

St. Stephen’s. Vienna, Austria. 2016

The weather had changed by the time we were back outside, much colder and snowflakes were tickling my nose. Many of the streets were lined with booths for local artisans selling holiday food and drink, arts and crafts. I bought Christy a small toy Squirrel and she was over the moon.

Garden Walk. Vienna, Austria. 2016

Garden Walk. Vienna, Austria. 2016

I wanted to see the area near the old city wall, which was demolished and replaced by the Ringstrade in 1857, where the Ottoman army of Kara Mustafa laid siege to the Vienna in 1683. It was hard to image looking at it, that the most ferocious carnage in European history prior to the 20th century took place in the location I was standing. It was now filled with happy holiday revelers, travelers, wide expanses of lawn, museums, shops and lovely little cafes.

Candlestick and Quiche. Vienna, Austria. 2016.

Candlestick and Quiche. Vienna, Austria. 2016.