Sunday Special – Varanasi, India


India is a large country and quite varied at that. Although I spent nearly a month in India, mainly in the north and in Goa, I have longed to return to this place that brings a wonderful influx of sensations. The abundance of colours, the ongoing din of the streets, and the assault of smells and aromas give it an energy all its own. At times India is not easy yet it is worth it. It would appear from my research that Varanasi is one such place. Having not yet experienced this northern city on the Ganges River I imagine that this revered sight will keep me rapt and enticed while testing my travel endurance. 

The religious history of Varanasi is vital to Hinduism and Jain, considered the holiest of places. It is also credited as the birthplace of Buddhism. Those of the Hindu faith consider dying in Varanasi to bring about their salvation and many make the trek here when they are close to their end. Cremation services are common along the Ganges at ghats (steps built along the river) reserved strictly for that service.  Other ones observe different uses and significance such as the washing away of sins by bathing in the river. Since this is a city of religious significance there is an abundance of temples with Kashi Vishwanath Temple being of the highest importance. Many are Hindu though others are of various systems of belief.  It would seem that the two best ways to see this intriguing city is by boat along the Ganges and by simply wandering around by foot. Who knows what you will see and learn?

Ahilya_Ghat_by_the_Ganges,_Varanasi

Ahilya Ghat as seen from the waters of the Ganges River – Photo credit:  Ken WielandAhilya Ghat by the Ganges, VaranasiCC BY-SA 2.0

512px-Evening_aarti,_Varanasi

Evening worship (aarti) in Varanasi – Photo credit: Eric Laurent from Le Havre, FRANCE, Evening aarti, VaranasiCC BY 2.0

Vista_de_Varanassi._Ciudad_Sagrada._Rio_Ganges

Ceremony along the Ganges in Varanasi, India –  Photo credit: Davi1974dVista de Varanassi. Ciudad Sagrada. Rio GangesCC BY-SA 3.0

 

 

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Sunday Special – Rock Garden of Chandigarh, India


While in India, D and I were told that we should see the Rock Garden of Chandigarh. When I first heard of it I immediately thought of a flower-related rock garden since that is what is in my mom’s front yard. This rock garden is nothing of the sort. Rather, it is a very cool and interesting 10 hectare/25 acre outdoor sculpture museum. The garden and its artwork work was created solely by Nek Chand, a self-taught artist. He began to make sculptures in secret beginning in 1957. He found inspiration in the debris found during the construction of the city of Chandigarh. He utilized objects such as tiles, glass, ceramics, wires and the like. He scoured demolition sites and steadily formed art from all these recyclable items. Since the location he chose for his garden was on a protected conservatory (near Sukhna Lake), what he was doing was illegal. As a result,  he created his art at night for almost 20 years. When local authorities found out about the then 12 acre garden its future was uncertain.  In hopes of saving his art, Nek Chand turned to the public to garner support and it worked. And then in 1986 it was designated a public space. Today it is one of India’s most visited sites and I am very grateful and glad I had a chance to see this unique place. Nek Chand who, sadly passed away in 2015, shows us that art can be make from just about anything.

All photos taken and owned by Eeva Valiharju/Wanders The World

Sunday Special – Goa, India


Beaches, waves and a hippie-esque laid back vibe gives this former Portuguese colony a unique flair. The smallest Indian state but one that attracts people from all over to enjoy the mix of its former culture with that of its present one. I was in Goa in June which was the start of the rains. And rain it did!  Although much of the beaches were not suitable for lounging it was great to see waves crash and watch magnificent cloud formations while the rains were at bay. Despite that and long power outages due to the long and heavy downpours I am keen to return to Goa, however that will be in the drier months of November to February.

Located in Western India, facing the Arabian Sea this area sees an influx of over 2 million tourists yearly. A very lush area that is dotted with hotels, villas and hostels it has something for all beach lovers. The largest city is Vasco de Gama and Panaji is the state capital. My familiarity with Goa is definitely the beach “towns” as I visited a few of them including Anjuna, Baga and Vagator, the latter being one I stayed in. The following photos of mine will show a bit of it.

Photos taken and owned by Eeva Valiharju/Wanders The World

It Made My Mouth Water


We must eat in life in order to survive. Sustenance is a requirement, so might as well enjoy what you eat. While on my big trip I did just that. Now of course there were times when the food was not so great – like the time I made a horrible pasta dish at my hostel. I don’t know how I mucked up pasta but I did. Then of course there were some dishes that just were not to my liking due to my taste buds. But then….oh then, there were some amazing dishes. Many were homemade and others were at restaurants. Below is a list of some of dishes that appeased my palette and made me want seconds. They are in no particular order, however, it bears mentioning that the food I loved the most was in India. Homemade vegetarian food in Punjab was the single best food moment of my life. True story. It rocked my mouth’s world.

So here is my list of fav foods and where I had them:

  • Halusky – potato dumplings with sheep’s milk cheese & bacon. Comfort food at its best! I went here 4 times.  Old Slovak Pub in Bratislava, Slovakiahalusky
  • Rasam Rice – My friend Vidya made this while I stayed with her in England. It’s a southern Indian dish that has kick and flavour. OMG it was good & spicy. Actually all her cooking was good!
  • Svickova – meat and dumplings in a yummy sauce/gravy. Again, comfort food that is great. Only problem was that it was so filling that I couldn’t finish it all. My friend Vilem took me to a traditional Czech restaurant in Prague for lunch and I tried this at his suggestion. It was so yummy.svickova
  • Lettu – So this one isn’t really part of my big trip but it is. Lettu are Finnish (buttermilk) pancakes. They are similar to crepes in that they are very thin however they kick those crepes’ butts. I add them to this list as I did have them, at home visiting my parents. My mom makes the world’s best lettuja (plural for pancakes) and I must include them.  And don’t argue with me who makes the best ones – my mom does. You won’t win this argument.
  • British Ham – forget what you know about ham. My sister and I went for a pub lunch with some friends while we were in Chester and it was suggested to me to try the ham and eggs. Wow – tender, not very salty and definitely not like processed ham that you can buy in the grocery store. The only ham that tastes better is a Finnish “Joulu kinkku” (Christmas ham that is brined and then cooked low ‘n slow).
  • Almost all the food in I had in Punjabb, India – okay so I don’t know the names of my fav dish, I think it’s Bhindi Masala (it’s made with okra) and then pretty much all the dahl recipes. And Roti…homemade roti. The family Dempy & I stayed with grew just about everything and it was so fresh that it made all the difference. I miss that food and it is what I remember most about my time there.
  • samosa

okra dish

  • Belgian Waffles & Frites – These 2 are a tie for this country. The waffles really are amazing – light yet crisp. I had mine with just a dusting of sugar and it melted in my mouth. The frites were equally good. Crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Add a side of spicy mayo and they may very well be the best fries you’ve ever tasted.wafflesfrites

 

  • Crepes – had sweet ones (nutella and banana) while in Paris at a cafe near the Notre Dame. It came with a sparkler. A perfect amount of sweet.

crepes

 

  • Shopska Salad – simple is best. This salad I enjoyed in both Macedonia and Bulgaria on a couple occassions. It is similar to a Greek salad but way better. I think it may be the sirene cheese that makes it so good. Cucumbers, tomatoes, onion and peppers tossed with the cheese. Add a splash of oil and it is heaven. I tried re-creating it here at home. It failed miserably (sad face).
    IMG_5568
  • Tarator – I had this cool yogurt soup while taking the free Balkan Bites tour in Sofia, Bulgaria. Wow! I loved it. I made it a home too as they share the recipe. Not bad at home but way better in Sofia! Actually, all the foods I tried on the Balkan Bites tour were fantastic.

tarator ms brown

 

  • Smoki – okay so not really a food but junk food. They are basically like cheese puffs but peanut flavoured – and so addicting. Love them.

smoki

 

  • Belgian chocolate – need I say more?
  • Beglian Chocolate

That is my list of fav foods while I was away. I wish I could describe to you the wonderfulness of it all. I hope the few pictures I have can give you an idea of how happy my mouth was. So, what are your favourite food memories from travelling?

Next up – best drinks…

All photos taken and owned by Wanders The World/Eeva Valiharju