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Highlights of Hyderabad

I was lucky to have a short diversion and land in Hyderabad for a week. With no further ado, allow me to introduce my favorite spots:

*Temples. The two that were both beautiful, interesting, and served as a quiet place to rest from the bustling city:

Jagannath Temple

Located in the somewhat affluent neighborhood of Banjara Hills, a quiet part of town. I recommend visiting in the afternoon, before sun sets, when the colorful sculptures and intricate marble carvings are complimented by the lighting system. Also visit mid-week, when it’s not crowded. Take your time to sit, watch people, maybe meditate, then walk around and adore the characters in the little shrines.

Jagannath Temple at night

Jagannath Temple at night

So many colorful figures at Jagannath Temple

So many colorful figures at Jagannath Temple

Birla Mandir Temple

Located in a scenic environment at the top of a hill, the glistening white temple surroundings offer the best scenery of Hyderabad, as well as air and good breeze. The temple is a white beauty, with many artistic designs for the eye to take in. Be aware, that like many other temples in India, you will need to remove your shoes before entering, and leave them outside. Also, in this temple, phones and cameras are not allowed, and they are very strict about it.

Birla

A view of Birla temple, built on top of a rocky hill, Hyderabad

*Architecture and views. Hyderabad is a city of contrasts. Full of old, magnificent buildings from different eras, up to the ultimate, up-to-date modern architecture. That is why, even by driving around the city, one’s eyes simply can’t rest but devour the sights of old and new, marble and glass, domes and geometrical designs.

Charminar

One of Hyderabad’s musts, Charminar (stands for the “four towers) is a monument built in 1591 by Mohammed Qutub Shah, the fifth sultan of the Qutub Shahi dynasty of India. A climb up the narrow, winding, uneven steps is quite the experience: awkward as you’re squeezed between people, and climbing very, very slow. Yet, the views from the tower, as well as the many architectural details that the structure presents, are well worth it (and the money they’re collecting).

charm5

Charminar= the “four towers” are clearly seen from afar, high above

Charminar, Hyderabad

curves and arches at Charminar

Charminar

Islamic arches

Golkonda Fort

Somewhat of a drive from city center, this old fort (approx. 800 years) is the epitome of engineering. Be sure to take the full english tour to learn the many secretes that the fort holds with the interesting bits of historical information. Do it during  the day and don’t be tempted to stay for the lights show during evening, which was meant as a gimmick, but not a very good one for a non-Indian.

gol2

Stepping on 800 years old stones

gol1

The famous acoustic effect: A hand clap below the dome can be heard clearly almost a kilometer away

gol3

Arches corridor

HITEC City

A few years ago, a new, modern city emerged on the flat prairie near Hyderabad, all clean shaped, glass and steel, built for the world leading technology, pharma, and financial companies. With those, came residential buildings, campuses, and all the rest. I recommend driving around and noting the amazing differences, and the contrast that is still evolving between the old city and the contemporary landscape.

640px-Cyber_Towers_Madhapur_Hyderabad

An example of the modern new buildings in HITEC City, photo by Veera.sj.

*Shopping and food. Oh, where do I start? Shopping is all around. Shops and bazaars seem to be the arteries and veins that connect and make the city a whole. Each sari and fabric store is filled with gorgeous colors and patterns. Restaurants and food carts all looked equally inviting. My suggestions are these:

Laad bazaar right next to Charminar, for all the bangles you could dream of. Allow time to wonder around and view people and sellers.

laad bazaar

Glass, metal, fabric wrapped bangles. You ask, they have it. I’m in there somewhere…

Shopper’s Stop at GVK One mallFor ethnic clothes, there are the markets, and the endless shops everywhere, but I found it easy to eventually shop at one of the local malls, where I could try the kurta on, and the prices were very decent.

street

Of course there’s plenty of other stuff everywhere in the street

Bawarchi. Perhaps ze’ (french accent please) most tastiest Hyderabadi chicken biryani in Hyderabad.

chicken

I asked for a fork, but I’ve learned to use my hand since then.

Minerva Coffee Shop. Despite the name, these guys’ specialty is their amazing thali, that kept on refilling itself. My kind of heaven.

thali

GREAT thali at Minerva Coffee

Of course, other kinds of street food were absolutely a delish: samosas being my top choice.

street

Hyderabad street life

*indulgence. Make time for a good Ayurvedic massage, especially the scalp and head warm oil massage, or even a full body oil massage, completed with hot steam sauna. I’ve been to Senses, and after the massage I emerged as a new person. It was so good, that I made my husband take the massage the day after. Please remember though, this is India, so don’t expect any western style or standard.

*Thanks. It’s always wonderful to travel with a local, not to mention warm, generous people, who become friends. I’d like to thank you guys, for the wealth of information, guidance, and efforts: Sharma, Indira, Justine, Priya, Srihari, Vivek, Vamshi, Mapu and mostly to Amrutha. Shukriya!

door

Hyderabad, 2015

 

 

 

 

Kohlrabi Thins

Autumn season is here, and along with the other great root vegetables, kohlrabi is an excellent choice. Both bulb and green stem and leaves can be used in different ways. The texture feels like a crisp apple, the taste- like a broccoli stem, but a bit sweeter. Many people I’ve met are not familiar with kohlrabi, and are missing out, and that’s a shame!

fresh kolhrabi thins

fresh kohlrabi thins

Here’s a very easy way to prepare the bulb, and enjoy a healthy, tasty snack, or salad. I give you: raw, thin slices of kohlrabi, or kohlrabi carpaccio if you will.

First, you’ll need to peel it. I use my knife to cut the stems off, then cut the woody base, and peel the outer layer. You can use a vegetable peeler for that, but I really prefer my knife, as its quicker.  See demo here (used with a peeler).

Cut the kohlrabi bulb in half, and each half into thin slices. Prepare the slices on a plate, one layer first. Drizzle olive oil on top, sprinkle sea salt, and squeeze fresh lemon. Prepare the next layer, and again: drizzle olive oil, sea salt and lemon. Continue layer upon layer. Finally, leave for about 10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

*nice additions (all together or just some): sprinkle thyme or mint, small chunks of goat cheese or parmesan cheese, some balsamic vinegar, or- toss with lime juice and lime zest with some cilantro.

Enjoy !

Call it ice-cream, call it pudding, as long as it’s chocolaty, soft, and cool in my mouth, it’s one of the ultimate heat breakers for summer. The fact that it’s gluten, and dairy free, both paleo and vegan, elevates it to ideal. And, to top it all, it’s easy to make. Oh, it will be somewhat grainy, as I like to feel some chunks (dates, pecans). Now that’s pure awesomeness.

chilled chocolate banana date mousse

chilled chocolate banana date ice-cream

you’ll need:

How to:

  1. Pulse the coconut flakes in a food processor, for about 1-2 minutes. At first it will be powdered, and then it will start to stick to the container walls.
  2. Peel bananas and cut roughly into slices, and add to the coconut mixture in the food processor. Add cacao powder, medjool dates (make sure no pits), and pecans. Add any optional flavors*.
  3. Blend in food processor until thick and creamy. If you like it smoother (and not feel the date, or coconut chunks), keep blending even more.
  4. Transfer to a freezer-safe dish, and tuck in the freezer 30-60 minutes, yet not too long so it doesn’t harden too much. If you do leave it too long, that’s fine, just thaw it outside for a while, before serving. Alternatively, you can save in the fridge, covered, to have it as a soft mousse/pudding treat. All of the above, if you don’t finish it right away.

optional flavors to add:

  • 1/4 tsp cardamom powder + 1/8 tsp chili powder. YES, it’ll add pizzazz to your mouth;
  • 1/3 tsp cinnamon powder;
  • 1/3 tsp coffee powder + 1/8 tsp chili powder + 1 Tbs vanilla extract;
  • throw in some of your favorite nuts and berries (goji, mulberries, etc’);
  • throw in some mini chocolate nibs or chocolate chips.

What’s your favorite addition?

India is unique in so many levels. One of them is the liveliness and constant vibrance that grabs attention wherever one is. Colors, people, foods, smells, sounds, animals, buildings, all lure one’s gaze and awareness in all directions, that by the end of each day, I was dead tired. For good and bad. Not all images are jolly, not all scents are roses. Yet, all those make India a photographer’s heaven, as wherever the eye blinks, it blinks a postcard.

It was nice to take our time and walk around, sometimes sit and watch, and imagine, while listening to the audio tour in Jodhpur’s Maharaja’s palace.

Jodhpur, the blue city

Entering Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

You can see how grand life was, back in the days, if you were the Maharaja, of course.

Maharaja's palace, Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

Inside the walls of the Maharaja’s palace, Jodhpur

They don’t call Jodhpur “The Blue City” for nothin’. Indeed, it’s a spectacular view from Mehrangarh Fort, high above the city’s slopes.

seen from the Maharaja's palace

The Blue City, Jodhpur

And, like any other city that prides itself, Jodhpur, too, can boast a busy, find-it-all market, with anything from saris, to spices and tea, with cows roaming between stalls, and sweet chai being offered for a few cents.

Sardar Market, around the clocktower, Jodhpur

Sardar Market, around the clocktower, Jodhpur

Of course we had to buy tea, lots of it. And saffron, not so much…

By the end of that long day, we could peacefully go on and drive to our lodging for the night, in Chandelao. When I reserved the spot online, some months before, I wasn’t aware of two things:
One- it was damn far from Jodhpur, in the middle of nowhere. We arrived so late at night after a few wrong turns and endless driving. What was I thinking?
Two- what a quiet, tranquil place, located in a tiny cheerful village, where my kids interacted with the local kids, who hardly knew any English. The haveli where we slept was old and charming. I guess I knew exactly what I wanted when ordering online.

detail of Chandelao Garh, our Haveli in Chandelao village

detail of Chandelao Garh, our Haveli in Chandelao village

grand entrance to Chandelao Garh

grand entrance to Chandelao Garh

The best part: mingling with the locals, especially the kids, giggles and all.

bike riding with the local kids

bike riding with the local kids

Watching daily life

Beautiful girl drawing water

Beautiful girl drawing water

One of my favorites: Lior teaching the kids how to whistle with their hands

One of my favorites: Lior teaching the kids how to whistle with their hands

After many hours of driving through mustard colored, flat scenery of sands and villages, with the occasional Khejri tree and many more camels than cars, we arrived at the fort city of Jaisalmer. The city rises proud and high, elevated on top of a yellow sandstone hill, enclosed by old walls.

Lior: Jaisalmer reminds me a lot of Jerusalem- an ancient stone city, with markets, and warm weather. I really just loved walking through the old city, since it’s so easy to get lost.

Looking at beautiful Jaisalmer from outside the city walls

Looking at beautiful Jaisalmer from outside the city walls

A stroll in the complex, winding, narrow streets within the old city, that contains many Jain temples and others, tiny stores, restaurants that lead to rooftops, people wearing colorful outfits, cows and camels, and most of all, beautiful stone carvings embedded in the buildings, made me feel like it’s all part of an Aladdin movie set. We took a local guide to show us around, which was OK, but I wish I had more time to just sit and view street scenes. Next time, perhaps.

The view towards the main gate of the Golden City

The view towards the main gate of the Golden City

Hats vendor, adding splash of colors

Hats vendor, adding splash of colors

collage of texture, color, and shape

collage of texture, color, and shape

Lady in window

Lady in window

One of the best views we had, was from our hotel’s room window. We woke up early, just to watch and be in the moment of the sunrise at the desert horizon.

The Helsinki House sits on the very edge of Jaisalmer; beyond that is strictly desert for as far as the eye can see. It was amazing to wake up, watch the sunrise, then walk into the desert, not knowing what we would see or find. (We did end up seeing many stray dogs, an ox, and some sort of shrine). 

window to desert

a window to the desert

And after spending some “urban” time in Jaisalmer, we wanted to taste some solitude and desert life.

Not much solitude. People and camels as far as the eye can see

Not much solitude. People and camels as far as the eye can see

So it wasn’t as empty as we wished for, but hey, we got a taste of the desert. We slept in a tent, had a big party with food and dances, and sand.

Our night in the desert tent camp was also fun. Although we came for solitude, of which there was none, we did enjoy a great feast and party in the camp. This ‘desert resort’ is apparently a popular venue for many Indian tourists! 

a desert friend

a desert friend

you can see more photos in instagram, or FB

Holy Pushkar Lake

I am so grateful to be able to travel with my family, collect memories, experience moments with them, share laughter, overcome hardships. It fills  and lifts me up. I am so happy that Lior, is sharing her thoughts in this blog. May we have many more travels and stories to share.

smiles and love

smiles and love

The town of Pushkar, is situated around Lake Pushkar, one of the holiest pilgrim sites for Hindus. The lake is surrounded by 52 ghats, and around it are many temples (some say over 400 temples, divided among different sects: Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, etc’). Pushkar is also a mecca to the many tourists who wanna feel spiritual, rest (and eat) at one of the many roof-top guest houses, play or listen to music, and shop shop shop.

After leaving Shekhawati, it was a bit hard for me to get used to the pushy, noisy, nosy, people, who want to always sell or market something, be it food, tours, or even a spiritual puja (which we finally did, read on).

What I did like about Pushkar:

*Getting up at 5:30 am to climb up the steep hill to Savitri Temple, to see the beautiful sunrise over the city of Pushkar. Indeed, the steps were decent at first, but then they started to be rocky, twisted and steep. Nevertheless, an hour later our award was well worth it. We got amazing views of the sunrise, had warm, sweet chai at the top, saw our first monkeys in India, and had a nice workout. Oh, and just so you know, Savitri was the first wife of Lord Brahma.

early in the morning, still semi dark, but beautiful

View from Savitri Temple early morning,  semi dark, but beautiful

morning has broken

morning has broken

*Walking barefoot around the lake, climbing down and up the ghats, sitting from afar and watching groups of pilgrims bathing in the holy water.

Walking barefoot around the lake

Walking barefoot around the lake

Ghats, stone steps descending to the lake edge, used for sacred bathing and ceremonies

Ghats, stone steps descending to the lake edge, used for sacred bathing and ceremonies

*Sitting in Sunset Cafe, sipping chai, watching the sunset, and watching and listening to the music players of the drums at Jaipur Ghat, on the eastern side of Lake Pushkar. Click photo to hear some of it.

View from Sunset Cafe. Drums and jugglers  start their act

View from Sunset Cafe. Drums and jugglers start their act. click photo for added sounds.

Feeling the groove, enjoying the sunset, talking to people. Ahhh

Feeling the groove, enjoying the sunset, talking to people. Ahhh

*Sitting at the Tibetan rooftop, eating momos and yak cheese.

We always have time for momo, chai, and relaxing Tibetean music

We always have time for momo, chai, and relaxing Tibetean music

  • Lior: If you find this place, make sure to taste their chocolate momos!

*Riding a took-took with my son, and seeing happiness and excitement on his face.

The simple things in life are so much fun. Tuk-tuks

The simple things in life are so much fun. Tuk-tuks

*Performing a family Puja ceremony, hearing the Brahmin priest bless us in hindi, and feeling blessed either way.

Puja is a multi-sensory experience. Chanting sacred words that we didnt understand, tasted blessed food, offered rose petals to the gods, got our bindi and red string

Puja is a multi-sensory experience. Chanting sacred words that we didnt understand, tasted blessed food, offered rose petals to the gods, got our bindi and red string.

*Staying at the Orchard, our lush, green sanctuary, with peacocks dotting the gardens, and our, ahem, maharaja tents, where we slept.

Lior: It’s a little weird that such a small place like Pushkar can feel so big once you are on the inside. If you take the main road, which is actually a bazaar, you will have to walk among cows, their poop, market vendors, carts, and potholes.If you go down to the ghats, you have the option of walking barefoot around the lake, and seeing several bathing ceremonies. Our first night there was Christmas, and we ate at a restaurant right on the lake, opposite the sunset. Music from street performers played in the background, and we were seated in a row to face the sun. It really seems perfect, but the only issue (or maybe not in your case) was that they catered to tourists, so that the menu was mostly comprised of Italian food. If you want better food, go into the bazaar, in one of the cheap rooftop restaurants. 

If you want to shop, do so here! Because there are a good amount of travelers in the area, and a big bazaar, there is competition between the shops, and it is easy to bargain with them. During your stay here, make sure to go to the ghat for a religious ceremony. Our family ceremony, led by a Brahman was very beautiful, we scattered rose petals in the water, and got a red dot on our foreheads. Many people may tell you to go the Brahma Temple, but there are several other beautiful temples. Try going to the quiet Jain temple, or the big Sikh temple~ both less touristic than the Brahman one.

One of the temples, also a place for yoga

One of the temples, also a place for yoga

Nawalgarh is one of small villages located in the heart of Shekhawati, off the beaten path for most travelers to Rajasthan. Visiting Nawalgarh gave us the chance to share some of the narrow lanes of the village with the rest of its inhabitants, aka, cows, sheep, motorcycles, tuk-tuks, and people, and feel the real, vibrant life of a village, right before tourism will change it forever.

However, the bigger attraction of visiting this village, is the amazingly colorful old mansions, Havelis, usually built between 18th and 20th centuries, decorated with wondergul intricate, detailed frescos. The more decorated, colorful the Haveli was, the more wealthy, and important the landlord was. The murals depict anything from the Hindu mythical stories, to animals, scenes from the British colonization, to the (then) new inventions, like cars or trains. Most of the Havelis are empty nowadays or are maintained by a watchman (typically an old man), while some turned into museums. Some, sadly, are slowly deteriorating.

I want a window like that

I want a window like that

Even the ceiling is beautifully decorated

Even the ceiling is beautifully decorated

Lior: Nawalgarh was my first glimpse of the India my parents had told me about, from twenty years ago. Everywhere we went, eyes followed; occasionally, a whistle followed too. I learned the most about Indian history and culture here, thanks to Krishna, our guide for the day. We learned how merchants used to live, and how to identify a water well from afar. Usually learning about those kinds of things can be a little boring (mainly for kids), but I really enjoyed this because it was a ‘real life’ setting, as oppose to behind a piece of glass in a museum. 

Gate keeper to one of the Havelis in Nawalgarh

Gate keeper to one of the Havelis in Nawalgarh

Hello there!

Hello there!

one of the old, unmaintained Havelis, still holds its beauty

one of the old, unmaintained Havelis, still holds its beauty

Back to street life:

Personal tailor, at your service

Personal tailor, at your service

Tuk-tuks add colors of their own to the bustling collage

Tuk-tuks add colors of their own to the bustling collage

Best samosa we had, was in this tiny corner of Nawalgarh baazar, Hot, spicy, and fresh

Best samosa we had, was in this tiny corner of Nawalgarh bazaar, Hot, spicy, and fresh

I would just like to point out that those samosas were hands down the best meal I had in India; they didn’t cater to our ‘American taste’, and gave it to us just like they would eat it. 

one is constantly surrounded by endless hues and colors

one is constantly surrounded by endless hues and colors

Our guesthouse in Nawalgarh was a little oasis after a long drive from Delhi. It also reminded us of our beloved Sinai.
Apani Dahni provided a comfortable, homey sensation of relaxation. Our youngest immediately found a friend in this family farm, and they spent time flying kites, the all time popular activity in India. We also learned how to tie-dye scarves in a traditional way, as well as try and cook a traditional Rajasthani dinner, which we later shared with this nice french couple that blog. We want to go back there. We will. Oh, and thank you Krishna, for your superb explanations and answers to our endless questions.

Charming little wall at Apani Dhani

Charming little wall at Apani Dhani

making Bandhani

Tie-dye scarves. First one has to tie everything. click photo for more

The painting part of the scarf. Click for more

The painting part of the scarf. Click photo for more

And here are the final scarves. Aren't they pretty?

And here are the final scarves. Aren’t they pretty?

After years of doing tie-dye experiments both at home and at camp over the summer, I finally learned the secret. The traditional Indian tie-and-dye method works so so well, and our scarves look like they were made by a professional! I also joined the cooking class, and the food was delicious! Our main course was Masala stuffed Aubergine Eggplants, and we also received a cookbook to take home. Apani Dhani is like a small slice of heaven, I would strongly recommend it to anyone. 

Meanwhile.. the boys are preparing dinner by first gathering the fresh ingredients from the organic garden

Meanwhile.. the boys are preparing dinner by first gathering the fresh ingredients from the organic garden

 Apani Dhani, Nawalgarh, India

Bye Bye Apani Dhani, we already miss you

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