Saturday, August 19, 2017

Halasuru Someshwara temple, Bengaluru

While I travelled to various places to visit architecturally beautiful temples, there was one in Bengaluru that I completely missed. I had once stayed in Halasuru where the temple within few minutes of walking distance but I did not visit this place!!

Someshwara temple, Halasuru
Now that I am staying in other side of Bengaluru, the prospect of facing traffic did not encourage me to visit this place. Thanks to metro connection, the eastern part of Bengaluru is much more “accessible” to me!!

Carvings on the wall
Situated amidst the crowded narrow lanes of Halasuru is the Someshwara Temple. It is said to be dated to Chola period but most of the structures have Vijayanagara Empire influence.

There was some renovation going on during my visit. The gopura was covered which did not look nice.

The pillar stands in front of the entrance.

The carvings in the gopura resembles typical architecture during Hoysala and Vijaynagar days. 

Carvings in gopura
Once you cross the gopura, you will see the large temple area. The open space in front of the hall gives a nice feeling though the new constructions might change that in the coming days.

Temple entrance
The hall consists of several pillars with some nice carvings. The sanctum is surrounded by a narrow passageway.

Main hall os the temple
The pillars are very typical to Vijayanagar architecture.

Pillars in the hall
Overall, a nice place to visit if you are interested in temple architecture. The temple opens from morning 6:30 to 12:30 and evening 5:30 to 8:30. Four wheeler parking is a challenge in this area. You can either park at some of the malls nearby. A better way is to take a metro to Halasuru station.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Vintage cars of Prague

At a high level, all cities look similar but deep inside they have their unique identity and differentiators. One of the interesting thing about Prague was the vintage car tours. As I walked from location to another, I spent some time in looking at these vintage cars and photographing them.

They are mostly suited for families and couples who want to give a different feel to their visit.

There are horse drawn carriages too.

Oops!! This has nothing to do with tours!!!! The battle tank was just placed in front of a museum.

I was curious about the cost of the tour. While I hesitated to ask the driver for the fear that they may pester me to get into the vehicle. But finally, I got the answer!! 

There was also a limo.

Finally, my mode of transport!! The tram that is part of the public transport in Prague!!

Saturday, August 05, 2017

My travel to Prague

During my childhood we use to ask our friends to spell “Czechoslovakia”, one of the difficult words in English. All I knew during that time was that it was a country in Europe. Later the country was split into two and they also divided the name of their country!! The two countries were “Czech” and “Slovakia”!! Prague, the capital city became part of Czech Republic.

Prague castle

Well, this was a post long overdue. I visited Prague in April this year. But the New Zealand trip and monsoon travels took most of my time in writing. Before I forget, I thought that I must put this in writing.

Charles bridge
During my official visit to Netherlands, I had a weekend to spare. Prague was in my backlog for sometime. The cheaper tickets to Prague helped to quickly decide on the destination. It was an early morning flight from Eindhoven on Saturday and late evening flight to Amsterdam on Sunday.   Indeed it was a very short visit and I utilized every possible minute of my stay in Prague.
Church of Our Lady before Týn

Here are some of tips with resect to time utilization and budget.
  • No check-in luggage. Saved time in both Prague and in Amsterdam. Directly head to exit after getting down the plane.
  • Euro is not the currency of Czech Republic. Exchange centers in airports offer very bad rates. It makes sense to just exchange what is required for using public transport to the center of the city. There are many exchange centers in the town that provides competitive rates. Just ensure that the currency you get is legal!! 
  • There is no need to use taxis in Prague. Public transport is very efficient.
  • Prague has 30 and 90 minutes, 1 and 3 day pass that gives access to all forms of public transport. For me two day pass would have been ideal but it was not available. 
  • I purchased 24 hour pass on the first day at airport. I decided to visit Prague castle for the second day and reached the castle before the 24 hour expiry. Prague castle takes a long time to see. So, on the second day, I just used 90 minute pass to travel from the center to the airport.
Ticket counter at airport

  • There is no direct metro from Airport to center. You need to take a bus (No. 119) that drops to a metro station. Works very well.
  • Be prepared to walk. I walked more than 30 km in two days. The city is too beautiful.
  • Food was not a problem in Prague. I am a vegetarian and I could find many Vegan restaurants. Vegan restaurants were expensive when compared to fast food chain.
  • Trdelník is a sweet roll found at many places. One must eat it though it can be very heavy for stomach!! Rolled dough is grilled and topped with sugar and walnut mix.
  • For the first time, I stayed in AirBnB apartment. It was near to a metro station and very convenient. It had a kitchen where I cooked noodles in the morning.
Area where I stayed

  • Only place where you need to pass security is Prague castle. The wait can be frustrating. More on that in later posts.
  • Language is not a problem though the official language is Czech as Prague is very touristy place.
  • Summer gives a longer time to see the city. On the flip side, you need to wait for a long time for evening or night photography.

Let me try to put some details on the places I visited in the next posts.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Windmills of Zaanse Schans, Netherlands

Netherlands is known for windmills. Windmills were mainly used to generate energy needed to turn raw material into a tradable product. It was also used for reclaim land from sea. Most part of Netherlands is below sea level. 

Windmills seen from the watchtower
The two places that has large number of windmills are Kinderdijk and Zaanse Schans. I had visited Kinderdijk before; it was a difficult place to reach by public transport. This time I decided to go to Zaanse Schans. It is near to Amsterdam and hence more popular with tourists.

Fields and the windmills
It was easy to reach Zaanse Schans. Bus number 391 from Amsterdam Central dropped me directly in front of Zaanse Schans. The popularity of the place was clearly seen with the number of cars parked. And there were buses dropping people in big numbers!!

It is said that there were 1100 industrial windmills before industrial revolution. Today there are only 5-6 windmills. And most of them are literally taken out from their original site and put here. In that way, the place can be considered as open air museum.

View from the canal
There is a watch tower that gives a nice view of the surrounding areas. The path next to the watch tower is used less by tourists but it provides some good opportunity to photograph.

Another view
The main path was crowded with visitors. While it is possible to enter into the windmill, the entrance is not free. For each windmill, you need to pay separately!!

You can also cross the bridge to get a full view of all windmills.

The bridge opens up when a boat has to pass. It is a sight to watch!!

Zaanse Schans is a very touristy place. Two hours is sufficient for this place. There is also a museum which I did not visit. Boat rides also available to see the windmills from water.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A day in Texel island, Netherlands

My official travel to Netherlands was suddenly extended by another week. That allowed me a weekend to spend. Since I have visited most places in Netherlands, I usually try to go for a longer destination on flights. But last minute flights were expensive and I did not find it reasonable to spend lot of money for weekend trip.

Long stretch of sand in Texel
My colleague Adriaan suggested Texel, the island in North Holland. That sounded like a nice idea.  But Friday was a busy day and I could not spend any time to plan the trip. All I did was to put the destination in google maps and get the approximate time to travel.

Light house in Texel

So it was in the train, I started digesting the information about Texel. While looking at the map of Netherlands, the chain of islands on the northern coast always intrigued me. I was wondering whether anyone was staying there!! And I was visiting the one of those islands!! By the time I got out of the train station of Den Helder, I was an armchair expert on Texel!!

Texel ferry terminal
A short bus ride brought me to the ferry terminal. I expected some small boats but a big ship was waiting. My earlier experience was with small cruise ships carrying 100-200 people. But this was considerably large with large dining area and kitchen. Two decks were dedicated for parking vehicles!!

Inside the ship
It looked like sea gulls were “attached” to the ship. Apparently, the food given by passengers was their main attraction. I enjoyed watching them play. Managed to take a close up shot of the birds using my mobile camera.

Sea gulls
20 minute of ride and I was in Texel island. I was fascinated how the ship nicely docked into the harbor and cars popping out of the ship and zooming away. 

Ship docking in the harbour

Vehicles coming out of the ship
My destination was the lighthouse on the other side of the island. Since there was some time for the bus, I walked along the sea for some time.

Walk along the sea
It took about 45 mins to reach the light house. Built on top of a sand dune, it provide a panoramic view of the sea and it surroundings. Tourists are allowed to climb up after paying for the ticket (4.5 euros).

Light house
The lighthouse built in 1864 was damaged heavily during Georgian uprising of 1945. Repair was done by building a new wall around the original lighthouse.

Light house
The beach in front of the light house is wide and nice. It is a great place to spend time. I roamed around for a long time before it was time to catch the bus back to ferry terminal.

The beach side
Travel to Texel on public transport requires multiple hops. 
  • Train from Amsterdam to Den Helder
  • Den Helder station to Ferry terminal. Bus number 33
  • Ferry - runs once in an hour or every 30 mins during tourist season
  • Travel in Texel: Regular buses ply only on few roads. For rest of the places(including lighthouse), texelhopper service is available. It provides service to more than 100 points in the island. One need to purchase the ticket online or get it at the bus or at Den Helder bus stop. One need to call 0222 784 000 at least an hour before to reserve. It looks cumbersome but works well once you understand the system. Something similar to shared cab service but with fixed points. Tickets cost 3 euros per journey per person.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Mookana Mane falls

I like to visit waterfalls during rainy season. While it may not be the best time to get into water, but the falls look absolutely beautiful in rains. 

Mookana mane abbi
Stopping at the place where a hand written sign on a bus stop mentioned “falls”, I wondered whether we should park our car there or drive further on the mud road. The empty nice space next to the bus stop was inviting for the car. Not wanting to take any risk on unknown mud roads, we parked the car and started walking.

"Falls" stop
A nice walk of 10-15 minutes brought us to a small settlement of few houses. They turned out to be facilities constructed for tourists. All of them were empty at that point of time!! Very shortly we reached the stream that formed the falls.

Near the falls
There was some confusion here. In the downstream there was the waterfall but we could not find a way to reach that place. A path led to the pile of rocks which we felt was not the right track. Crossing the stream we tried to find a way to get down but that did not provide any result. It looked like the rocky path was the only way out. It was bit tricky but nevertheless we managed to move and very soon we were in front of the falls.

Bridge across the stream
It may not break any record with respect to height but the falls had its own beauty. It was wide and had enough water to give its majesty. 

Mookana mane abbi

The sad part was the broken alcohol bottles in the area. Being popular, the falls attracts lot of people. There is no shortage of senseless people in our country. No point in ranting about it.

A "normal" shot!!
There was a small team of four people when we reached the falls. They seemed to have plans to take bath in the stream but were disappointed with the high water levels and rains. They silently returned back as Sankara and me opened our cameras and tripods. The entire place was ours for few hours!! 

Side view of the falls
We spent a long time in waterfalls. With rains playing hide and seek, it was a challenge to take photos but we tried our best to get some shots. 

Struggling to move
While coming back, we saw a tempo traveller stuck in loose mud. I was surprised how a driver could blindly drive vehicle in such difficult areas. The group of about 8-10 people were struggling to push the vehicle. We gave some suggestions but it did not work. With nothing much to contribute, we walked away.