Along the Danube

According to an article in National Geographic Traveler the route of Tram #2 as it moves along the curve of the Danube is one of the top 10 tram rides in the world.  Having been on one I declare that to be true.

The Danube cuts Budapest into two – the Buda and the Pest.  It is remarkable how remnants of the ages of prosperity, cruelty and suffering all find  themselves mixed together like a potpourri.

You can choose to explore the early days of Budapest – the tribes of Magyar to the days of King and then Saint Stephan, or if you choose you can explore the incomprehensible blot on human history , the holocaust or wonder at how soon liberators become occupiers i.e that communist side of Budapest.

Here are a few pictures. Stories to follow soon.

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A page from history – Istanbul

Wedged in between Asia and Europe, Istanbul does not disappoint. Every two steps takes you through centuries of history.

It is believed that the first settlers came from Greece under the leadership of Byzas. He started the foundation of the city which he called Byzantium.

Following it’s flourishing trade and commerce owing to it’s strategic location Byzantium became a part of the Roman Empire. Emperor Constantine developed the city based on a Roman model.  He made Istanbul the capital of the Roman Empire and following the trend set by the first settler renamed the city as Constantinople after himself. Not surprisingly after it became the capital of the entire Roman empire Constantinople prospered.

However this surge in prosperity was checked by the division of the empire by the sons of Emperor Theodosis after his death and Constantinople was demoted from the capital of the entire Roman empire to the capital of the Byzantine Empire. This caused a cultural shift in the city. The Byzantine Empire was a predominantly Greek Orthodox as opposed to the Latin Catholic identity of the Roman Empire.   A revolt in the 532 AD almost destroyed the city. However the ever resilient city was rebuilt again. Many of its outstanding monuments namely the Hagia Sophia was constructed post this revolt.

The envied location of the city although favorable for trade and commerce was also the cause of many conquests. It was attacked by empires and troops from all over the middle east. For a short while it was under the hands of the fourth crusade. At this time the Greek Orthodox culture in the city declined giving rise to Latin Catholic ideologies and monuments.  How ever the Greeks were not the ones to give up without a fight. The constant struggle to maintain control drained the exchequer  and subsequently the Greek Orthodox and the Latin Catholic alike fell prey to the conquests of the Ottoman Turks led by Sultan Mehmed the second.

Constantinople then became the capital of the Ottoman Empire and unsurprisingly it’s name was changed to Istanbul.

Sultan Mehmed the second was a visionary. Unlike the Greeks and Romans before him , he did not believe that Istanbul could be dominated by a single religion or ideology. He encouraged settlements by Muslims and Jews along with the returning Greeks and Romans who had fled the city fearing captivity.The sultan built hospitals, schools, mosques and monuments.

The Ottoman ruled Istanbul till it was occupied by the allies in World war I. Following the Turkish War of Independence the Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923.   Ataturk the father of modern Turkey moved the capital  away from Istanbul which had witnessed hundreds of battles and been subject to the ups and downs of the different empires.

Today Istanbul is a vibrant city. It was rightly named as the European Capital of culture in 2010 by the EU.

A lit up Blue Mosque

A lit up Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque by day

Blue Mosque by day

The ware on display at the spice market.

The ware on display at the spice market.

The Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia

 

Photo Inspiration : The Isle of Skye

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Head to the northern Scotland,to the Isle of Skye where town centers are the size of a postage stamp. The grass is green and the sky is blue. At every knoll there is a story of one of the many tribes of the Scottish highlands. Fairy castles, morbid massacres and always at war with the English the Isle of Skye  has a  story for you. The hairy cows or the ‘hairy coos’ as the Scots call them adds to the charm of the landscape and occasionally to the taste of your meal.

 

[WAH] The whirling Dervishes

“Come, come, whoever you are.
Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. 
It doesn’t matter. 
Ours is not a caravan of despair. come,
even if you have broken your vows a thousand times.
Come, yet again , come , come.

– Rumi

 

Watching a whirling dervish ceremony is an experience. I would not necessarily classify it as a spiritual one. But it sure does make you wonder about God.

You can read my article on the Dervishes here.