Friday, 27 October 2006

Rendezvous with Delhi

I have been back in Delhi for a while. Here are a couple of pictures showing different aspects of the atmosphere here in India's capital city.

This is the idyllic 14th century Hauz Khas ruins by a lake which used to be a water reservoir for Delhi. It is a very idyllic area making you forget that you are in one of the largest metropols in the world.


Labourers clean the lake's surface, removing sludge from the surface. The reason for this less than delicate task is a recent epidemic scare in Delhi. Dengue and other nasty disease have been spread in large numbers by mosquitoes, which breed in still water. Thus the government has installed fountains such as the one you see above and hired people to clear the surfaces to keep the water in constant movement. The worst of the epidemic seems to be over now - thankfully!

A nice shady park near Hauz Khas once used by kings of Delhi, now open to the public. It's quite nice but very shameful with all the garbage being thrown around.

The motive of this picture is not so much the pavilion itself, but rather the man sleeping in it's shadow. This is so typically India!

A poor rickshaw driver transporting as many as 9 girls home from school in Paharganj - an older part of New Delhi.

A very typical formal and admonishing Indian signpost with the mandatory spelling error (gramopnones).

Tuesday, 24 October 2006

My Neighbours, the Bats

In the area in which I reside we are fortunate enough to have a major bat colony living with us. Last night they were all flocking around one of the nearby fruit trees,so I went down and took some pictures of them. Click on any of them to enlarge and see more detail.

A wonderful view of the bat's famous wing profile.

Just after take-off from the fruit tree.

The bats only stay in the tree for a few seconds, so I have no very clear pictures of that. This was my best attempt. If you cannot spot the bat picking up fruit, please enlarge the picture.

The bats you see are fairly big, compared to the ones you might see in Denmark. But we have a couple of much larger Giant Fruit Bats which can have a wing span of up to 1.65 metres! When they fly around over the park they look more like predatory birds such as eagles or falcons than bats. Only the characteristic shape of the wings give them away. It is a truly majestic sight, and if I do manage to get close enough to them to take a photo I will be sure to post it here.

Sunday, 22 October 2006

Diwali - Festival of Lights

Yesterday was the culmination of the festival of lights, also know as Diwali. This time of year is roughly to the Hindus what Christmas is to westerners.

All over India houses are being decorated with coloured lights, such as the ones seen here.


And inside the houses are decorated with candles, such as these lights floating in a bowl of water filled with rose petals. I was lucky enough to be invited to celebrate Diwali with Indian friends.

Here I am at the Diwali party with the hostess Kali, and one of the other guests, named Rajan. Of course there were more than than just the three of us, which is also required for the paradoxical main activity of this religious festival: Gambling! Every year at Diwali billions of rupees change hands, as people play a game called flush. It can best be described as a simplified form of poker played only with 3 cards rather than 5. During three play sessions this week I won 2,500 rupees (approx. DKK 330 or USD 55). Last year I won 4,500.

However, Diwali, is not all about gambling. It is also about eating and drinking well and then about fireworks. In this picture you can sense the chaos and smoke in the light filled streets.


As with Christmas, presents are also exchanged for Diwali. A popular, traditional gift consist of quality mixtures of nuts and dried fruit, such as the ones you see.

And of course shops are keen to take advantage of this holiday of spending, so they are all decorated for instance with flowers such as these. The level of hype and decoration is very comparable to Christmas in Europe. And the level of physical and mental hangover in the days after the festivities also.

HAPPY DIWALI!

Tuesday, 17 October 2006

Back in Delhi - meet the locals!

I have now been back in Delhi for almost two weeks and many interesting things have happened already. Before I tell you about these I would like to introduce you to some of the exotic locals here in the Indian capital:

This beauty I found sitting on my own terrace (which I will get back to). She didn't seem at all bothered about me photographing her. However most of the other non-human locals were not as cooperative as her so the pictures below are not of the same quality as this one.

A live, wild chameleon which I - despite his excellent camouflage - spotted sitting on an old rusty fence. The picture itself was taken through two layers of the same type of fence that the chameleon is sitting on, so it was quite a challenging shot.

I believe this to be a dwarf mongoose. I couldn't get very close to him so this is a low pixel enlargement of an already zoomed picture.

This may be hard to see, but this is an actual physical fight between two male deer, competing for the favour of the females. These guys did NOT stop to pose for the camera, so this was the best picture I could get. With or without picture this is a dramatic, exciting and brutal event to watch.

I don't know if these are wasps or bees, but they look quite a bit more dangerous than those we have back in Denmark. I made sure not to disturb them for too long and since they were constantly moving about in poor lighting, part of the image got a bit blurry.

The chameleon again. Here it is even easier to see how well he blends into his surroundings.

My friend the butterfly was kind enough to also unfold her wings for me. Interesting how different the pattern is on this side of the wings. Notice the two red/blue dots - I assume these are representations of predator eyes intended to scare potential enemies away.

Saturday, 14 October 2006

Leaving Denmark - Final Impressions (Jelling)

This will be my last post covering Europe for now, so I will finish it off with some pictures showing an idyllic and historical side of Denmark.

This stone is called Jellingestenen. It may not look like much, but it is actually one of Denmark's absolutely most significant artefacts in a historically very important place. This is nothing short of the baptismal certificate of Denmark! This stone was placed in almost this exact spot by King Harald Blåtand (Bluetooth) in the year 965 to commemorate his act of christening the Danes. The motive might be a little bit hard to make out, but you should be able to see a figure of Christ in a crucified pose.

Here you can see the Jelling stone right by the entrance of Jelling Church. Next to it is a smaller sister stone erected in 955, which is the first existing source in Denmark using the word Denmark. Jelling was the centre of power for the earliest Danish kings, and the Danish head of state today is a direct descendant of these kings. This arguably makes Denmark the oldest existing nation state in the world.


Nearby stands an example of how rune stones, such as the Jellingestenen, would have looked back in the day. The elaborate carvings would have been accentuated by wonderful colours such as these.


Finally an exceptionally idyllic example of an old Danish house, this one still inhabited. It is situated on a small villa road, where my sister lives. Today this is part of greater Århus, but back when this house was built it was still a separate village with lots of farming land lying between it and Århus City. According to my father several of our ancestors lived in this village.

Tuesday, 10 October 2006

Fantoft Stave Church

Near Bergen you will find the wonderful Fantoft Stavkirke (Stave Church), which is one of Norway's fantastic wooden churches. It was originally built around 1150 in Sognefjorden, and later moved to Bergen because it faced demolition. Unfortunately it burned to the ground at the hands of a crazed arsonist in 1992, so what you see here is an exact reconstruction.

The church seen from a nearby hill.


The inside of the church is also kept almost entirely in wood. The church is still in active use.


A wooden ornament in the church. Of course this one has a a very fresh rather than an old look, but that has a certain charm as well. It is possible to see how the original church must have looked a few years after it's completion in the 12th century.

A closer look at the roof showing the wonderful Norse ornamentation making this look uniquely different from other European churches of it's time.

Saturday, 7 October 2006

Bergen

Last stop in Norway was Bergen, the country's second largest city. It is an appealing city occupying a small strip of land between the fjord and the mountains.

This row of coloured houses called Bryggen, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site - one of just 4 in all Norway. It is the core of the old Bergen and the only surviving historical Hansa City in the world.

This is one of the back alleys between the houses of Bryggen. Here it is obvious to see what the function of these houses were: Warehouses for the powerful Hanseatic merchants elite. You can see the upper floor ramps meant for hoisting up all sorts of valuable goods.

For most of the stay in Bergen it rained - as it does most of the year. However the sun did peek through the clouds once in a while giving this magnificent view of the harbour where the bottom part of the fjord meets city and hills.

Bergen is a charming city filled with old wooden houses. Here is a small, cosy square outside the reach of the city's cars.

And finally a more grand flower decorated pavilion.

Tuesday, 3 October 2006

Sailing on Lysefjorden

I have realised that I left Lysefjorden behind a bit too quickly on my weblog. So I move backwards chronologically from Bergen to show some pictures showing the beautiful Lysefjorden and the Pulpit Rock from sea level (I will fix the order of my posts shortly, but for now Lysefjorden deserves to be top of the site).

Strange patterns of grass and and interesting lines in the rock combine to make this scene looks a bit like an abstract painting.


Lysefjorden is filled with strange rock formations. Look closely at the central rock and see if you can make out the death's head (dødningehoved) which I see there.

A house in a stunning setting. Might be trouble getting to the nearest store though.

And here a row of houses in front of an incredible backdrop

And a house which has a whole island to itself.


A local man takes a swim with his wife watching.

Pulpit Rock seen from below. If you enlarge the picture you might be able to spot some people up there peeking outover the edge.


Pulpit Rock again but zoomed out to give a sense of how far it really is up there (please ignore my unfortunate hair do - it was a windy trip).

Trekking to the Pulpit Rock

The Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen) is a big square piece of solid rock hanging out 600 metres over Lysefjorden (Fjord of Light) near Stavanger. It is perhaps the most amazing viewpoint in the world, and the trek up there is pretty damn fantastic as well. It pays to enlarge many of the photos below.

That is me standing on top of the Pulpit Rock

The view towards the bottom of the fjord, from Pulpit Rock. Pictures just cannot do this amazing site justice. I have been to 35 countries on 4 continents but never have I seen anything as breathtaking as this. It is truly beyond description.

People on the amazing trek towards Pulpit Rock. Notice the lakes to both sides of the rock, which people walk on. The landscape is varied and amazingly beautiful the entire way. You can only get there by walking 3-4 hours back and forth.

View of the Preikestolhytta, the guest house where the trail to Pulpit rock starts. In the background you can see the islands dotted around another of the area's fjords.

Heather growing in strange formations on funnily shaped boulders

Another view down to Lysefjorden. I don't think the picture captures the true size of this rift down. It is huge and stunning

Notice here the two lakes in the hollows on top of the hill and the one lake at the bottom

Wild berries grow everywhere, here on the edge of the cliff