13
Dec 17

Tiger Safari Kanha India Part 1

Kanha National Park and Tiger Reserve was our next stop. We came to India to photograph tigers and so far we were having really good luck. Kanha was a larger park than Bandhavgarh, and with many more tigers. I also found the scenery at Kanha to be completely different. It was very diverse and beautiful.

Sunrise. Kanha, India. 2017

The forest was denser here with fountain like sprays of bamboo shooting out of the ground every few feet. There were broad swaths grasslands and dense forests of Sal trees. Some of the Sal trees were quite ancient and we saw one tree which may have been a thousand years old. There were also working elephants kept by families of Mahuut which are the traditional elephant owners and trainers in Indian society. They are very careful to treat their elephants humanely.

Mahaut. Kanha, India. 2017

I asked our naturalist Partha what the difference was between a forest and a jungle. He explained that it was controversial and while both seemed to be forests, jungles had denser undergrowth and thicker vegetation. I began to see the wisdom of this distinction as we traveled deeper into the older parts of the park that had been less disturbed. The sounds and the atmosphere changed and you felt as if you had entered another world.

Jungle Light. Kanha, India. 2017

Partha had two field guide sitting atop the dashboard of our jeep, one was “Birds of India” the other “Mammals”. As a biologist I was curious about the various species and habitats seen in the region so I chose “Mammals”. I saw that there were two species of bear, one being the sloth bear of Kipling’s “Jungle Book” fame. These sloth bears were extremely rare and sadly we did not see one in the wild, although we sat for quite a while at one location where we thought there was either a tiger or a leopard. Turns out, based on the tracks, it was a very shy bear.


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.


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.


28
Nov 16

Around the World. The Journey Begins

The overnight flight from the USA to Switzerland was relatively uneventful except for a patch of turbulence that set me on edge. We had a few hours to spend in Zurich so naturally we walked around the most active, vibrant and beautifully lit parts of the city. That’s one of the perks of rail travel, the main train stations are often located in the most interesting downtown areas.

Nocturne. Zurich, Switzerland. 2016

Nocturne. Zurich, Switzerland. 2016

After putting our luggage in lockers at the train station, we set off to explore and Zurich did not disappoint.The city was done up for the winter holidays as the misty air, lights, and architecture provided a feast for the eyes, so the street side smell of roasting nuts filled the nostrils and brought to mind music, celebration and joyous times.

After we walked for a while and saw the sights we settled down for a pizza Margherita and something to drink near the station.The train was on time and the trip continued without a hitch.


23
Nov 16

The Fog Drinkers, a Redwood Interlude

It’s difficult to capture the majesty of the forest. Forests feel different, magical, and the air makes you feel alive in a way that very few things can. Coastal Redwoods derive much of their water from fog droplets, may live as long as 1800 years and grow upwards of 350 feet. Stand among these ancient trees and you can almost feel them breath and hear their whispers in the wind.

Redwood. Arcata, California. 2015

Redwood. Arcata, California. 2015

Leaves. Arcata, California. 2015.

Leaves. Arcata, California. 2015.

Fronds. Arcata, California. 2015

Fronds. Arcata, California. 2015