Happy New Year from Bangalore

Best wishes for a wonderful and happy 2014 to all of you, dear and loyal readers!

Although, we are already some days into the new year, I believe it is never too late to send you good wishes and share impressions from far away. So here we go. Enjoy the short video taken in the Mahatma Gandhi Road in crowded Bangalore.

It was amazing! I’d never expected it as the New Year as per Gregorian calendar is not the “real” new year here in India’s South.  Basically, they celebrated with the world and all of us 🙂

Some interesting observations in the streets:

  • At least 95% were men
  • Average age was max. 25
  • According to press release about 700 police officials were present
  • Several 10’000 people celebrating in the streets
  • Decibel record!

We got home safe with an auto rickshaw. It was a real rallye, amazing! Our driver was in his element and on the road people stuck their heads out of their cars to wishing us a happy new year. It was lots of fun, my best auto rickshaw drive ever 🙂

In Bangalore, I was also able to meet friends I haven’t seen for some years. I knew them from my former job. It was wonderful that they could make time so spontaneously to sharing wonderful moments and delicious food in great atmosphere. A warm thank you to Karthik, Supriya, Keerthi and her husband! Keep in touch 🙂

I hope you have all started well into the new year and I wish you wonderful moments with friends and family throughout 2014!

 

 

Merry X-mas from India

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Exactly one month ago, I arrived to colourful India and it has been an amazing experience so far. Everyday is intense in its own way. A good friend says “one thing a day, not more”. Completely opposite to what I often try back home where the motto is rather “as many things as possible in a day”. This is just one example for a 180 degrees change of logic. Everything here follows a different way of thinking, things definitely work but differently. It’s India. At the moment I think that no words can reflect the true experience.

But still, I would like to share the last night. It was wonderful. I’ve been in Udaipur for the last ten days and together with a new travel companion, we were invited from a new friend for dinner in his family’s home in the countryside. On the way, we stopped for a while in a beautiful hindu temple, then enjoyed a typical Indian dinner with the family (moslem) and on the way home stopped at a christian church. Isn’t it wonderful? All these religions in peace, there is room for all of them, there is freedom and liberty for everybody’s own beliefs. In the end, isn’t it about love and spiritual qualities in life?

May your X-mas days be filled with love and happiness!

I am grateful for the encounters and experience, off now to a xmas party…

Namaste from India

India-incredible-India

I made it! After almost three months on the road and on the tracks, I finally arrived in India. Incredible. Incredible in many ways; a dream come true, but also amazing and fascinating and at the beginning a confusing experience. Intense. Am I really here? Seeing this or that? Suddenly, questions about trust (in whom and what?) and taking full charge of any decision made and potential consequences. Negative news stories and warnings all over make me hesitate. At least for a moment when instead of a simple oneway train ticket from Delhi further north I book a seven-day-tour with a personal driver towards the south…two more times I meet up with the agent to convince myself that I can trust him. Which also leads to interesting discussions about human beings in general and Indian’s hospitality.

And finally: I was very happy and lucky with the tour and that I let myself go with the flow. I had a fantastic driver (traffic is really a challenge, you get trucks,cars,rikshaws,tuktuks,peatons,cows,dogs coming from everyside anytime and often all together…and even when I thought we were drinving against a wall, magically and smoothly we made our path) and advisor (on how to deal with the many sellers and guides and beggars, where too eat good food, when to go to the safari and the massage, where to buy a dress etc.) and DJ (listening to lively sounds from all over India while driving on the road and watching all the beautifully dressed women and villages and other people on their way).

I saw the “of-beauty-stunning” Taj Mahal, two tigers in the National Park, many beautiful palaces, camels on the streets and many different colours and faces and  tastes of this country. And, it is only the beginning.
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Nepal – Hiking in the Himalayas

Nepal is fascinating, it’s different! Kathmandu, its capital is  chaotic, dirty and busy but at the same time like a village or rather the fusion of villages. After sunset around 6.30pm things almost start slowing down already and at nine it is absolutely quite. With sunrise life comes back and prayers and incense blow through the air.

I had the chance to stay with local families twice which allowed for cultural insights on two different social levels. The hosts were so friendly and helpful in both places and the food was very good. it is called daal bhat and consists of rice,veggie curry,spinach and lentils and i really liked it.

After city and nearby city life it was time for nature again and time to meet up with my guide and the fellow hikers and finally our porters and cook. We were a great team, I was very happyand enjoyed their company,support and laughters. Our trek was in the Manaslu area, starting at about 600mum and we reached as high as up to around 3600mum. Originally, we were to cross a pass at 5170mum but snow came early and stormy and after having heard stories of porters frozen and probably lost fingers ,and overall uncertainty if crossing would be possible in a few days and considering our responsibility and one of our fellows acclimatisation issues, we have decided to return through the same valley. Everybody was finally happy with the decision and so we hiked “nepali way” (never flat,up or down, over many bridges).
The hike was beautiful from tropics up to the foot of a glaciar, very varied and the deeper into the valley the more tibetan the culture again. Every night it got a bit colder but we were staying in guest houses always and always found a place except for one night where our support team was so flexible to improvise for us and furnish a kind of cellar or storage roomm.

My fellows were wonderful, i had the honour to join Markus who had done the trek 40 years ago already! And Dao, an adventurous lady with a great talent and passion for photography. I look forward to seeing them (pictures and the two) back in Switzerland. As well as our great guide Ram and his lovely wife.

In the eyes of a flower

‘In the eyes of a flower, the world appears as flower.

May my heart always be pure.

May my words always be enlightened.

May the sole of my feet never kill an insect.

In beautiful eyes the world appears beautiful.

May I see the greatness of the moon in the darkness night.

May I hear the music of life even in the driest leaves

In a pure heart, the world always appears pure.’

Ani Choyung Dolma – Phoolko Aakhama

Beijing-Lhasa-Kathmandu

After Mongolian steppes, I crossed the Gobi where I could spot some camels in the evening sun through the windows of the transmongolian train on the way to Beijing. The shadow of our train looked like a caravan. On the border, they changed our bogie, the rails have a slightly different size in China, originally to make sure, the enemy could not enter so easily into the country. in China, I could see so many infrastructure projects, in one go about 30 high rise buildings with apartments were being built, wow. If in Moskow things looked big to me, China’s dimensions were huge and all very fast growing!!!

A new city to explore, Beijing. Very interesting, lots of life in the streets, public parks turned into dancing, music or tai chi meeting spots where everyone was welcome to participate. I also met my friend Sonja who recently moved to this city and ate many very tasty dishes and chatted about life in such an enormous metropolis. People treated me very good and  were always to have for a spontaneous smile. After the training in body language in Mongolia, I could make myself understand in most cases also in this country.

This was also the place where I met my fellows for the trip to Kathmandu. We were five people in the group and were guided by John, our CEO (Chief Experience Officer). It was a nice group and we enjoyed the two-day train ride to the Tibetan High Plateau, the roof of the world. Our cars were provided with oxigene as soon as we reached high altitude (went over 5000mum).

The highlands were wide and high and the people live traditional culture and practice religion. Lhasa, the main city of the Tibet was beautifully located with views to high peaks, autumn colored trees. We were joined by a local guide and a driver who would show us more of their “country”. It was very interesting to learn more about Tibetan buddhism, history but also to see how controlled everything is and how the Chinese are building infrastructure and are imposing their culture. In the business world I would call it an unfriendly takeover…

After ten days of visiting most stunning monastries and passing through endless, dry and remote landscapes, we could finally spot the peak of the Mount Everest!!! Great!!! In fact, if weather would have permitted, we would have hiked  a bit to reach the base camp…unfortunately, this was not possible and so we had to take what we’ve got – a view in the evening and in the morning light of the highest peak of the world from about 60km distance. After that, we crossed the Himalayas and crossed the border into Nepal. Suddenly, from 5300mum we went down all the way to 700mum. What a difference! More life, more water, more trees, different faces, new music and dresses, different smells and tastes, yes we could smell the green leaves in the air, the tropics!

So much to discover again, everything was new again – amazing!

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With a nomad family in Mongolia

After the wonderful time on the island, I hopped on the train again with the next destination: Mongolia. A country that had a fascinating effect on me. This time, I really wanted to dive into the culture and thought that the best way to doing so was to live with a local nomad family. An organization called nomadic ways helped me to organize such a homestay.

It was such a great experience, I loved every moment of it. I had wonderful, friendly and happy hosts. For ten days, Dulmaa and Purwee shared with me their home, a traditional yurt (the most beautiful ones of all of the yurts I’ve seen), in the Mongolian steppes. Although, we didn’t speak the same language, we soon found a way of communication – with hand, feet, gestures, body language, drawings and searching words in the german/mongolian dictionary. This was a lot of fun! 🙂

Our day-to-day was very much about taking care of the herds – sheep and goats, cattle and horses – and processing the milk and preparing food. So whenever some animals got lost we went to get them, sometimes walking long distances in the steppe or on the back seat of Dulmaa’s motorbike (that was always funny). Her husband would take the horse and sometimes take me with him to bring the cattle to the place near the yurt to milk them. As it was dry season, we had to bring them to the water hole. It was always interesting to observe the animals’ behavior – a power game.

The biggest challenge for me was probably the food and drinks…right at my arrival, we went to catch one sheep and it was killed in my honor and would be our main ingredient for the dishes during my stay. We ate every piece of it, it was always very carefully and very varied prepared. The day before I left the family, we also caught a few male sheep which immediately lost their intimate manhood and were released again…we had a doctor with us who showed me how this works…so careful guys..hahaha…apparently, this part offers plenty of vitamins…and was served in a soup during our last dinner together – vitamins, much different! 😉

Our main drink was milk tea which I liked very much. Then we had fermented mare’s milk, homemade schnapps (destilled fermented yoghourt) and Mongolian vodka that was often served when visiting neighboring (min. 1km away) yurts or when receiving visitors that came spontaneously and always found the door open and something warm to drink and eat. Great hospitality! And often, like on the weekend for example, you would go from yurt to yurt…vodka, vodka, vodka…  😉

They were a modern nomad family, after living some years in the city of Ulan Bataar, they had decided to live their life in the country side. Their kids however stayed in the city with the grandparents to enjoy the opportunities of better education. Apart from the animals (total of about 600), Dulmaa also managed the local mobile phone antenna and Purwee was helping with his mechanical engineering skills fixing cars of neighbors. They also had a solar panel that allowed us some light even after sunset. By the way, sunset was beautiful!

The ten days were so full of life and discoveries and action – so many wonderful, funny and very intense intercultural moments. I am so grateful for this unforgettable experience, grateful to Dulmaa and Purwee, you are wonderful people, I cannot thank you enough!

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Autumn on Olkhon Island (Lake Baikal)

After the 3.5 days on the train, I was ready for new adventures. I got off in Irkutsk, a city close to the shores of the Lake Baikal. It was an important city when it comes to trading, for example, the old tea route goes through this place and it can be discovered in the market. There were so many qualities and tastes of tea, in beautiful boxes (Christine, I saw some for you…but they don’t fit into my bag…) from all over the Asian continent. The city still has a lot of old traditional wooden houses, however, most of them would need investments for renovation, some of them seem to go under or have a falling roof.

Soon after arriving to the city, I went off to the Olkhon Island on the big Lake Baikal. The lake covers a surface of more than 31’000qkm – close to Switzerland’s surface – just imagine! The island is of stunning beauty, beautiful landscapes, wonderful autumn coloured forests, sandy beaches, rocks often with spiritual meanings for the shamans where they hold their rituals. Often, there was a very strong wind and some days it was already quite cold here, so I’ve put on all layers of my winter clothing already – I would say  – well prepared! I did a lot of walking and biking and the last evening, I did a banya (similar to sauna) at the beach and for cooling down I jumped into the into the lake – so nice!

Enjoy some images of the bike ride from the west to the east shore of the island:

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Transsib – from Moskow to Irkutsk

To travel on the Transsiberian Train from Moscow to Irkutsk (Lake Baikal) was lovely. For the more than 5000km it takes about 3.5 days. I was travelling second class which means sharing a compartment with another three travellers which was always interesting. Often I was joined by European tourists, but also by Russians (where the conversation was more difficult since my vocabulary of the local language was very limited).

It was very lively but also nice to travelling in the rythm of the rails and the train and to experience 3.5 days of flat surface – amazing size of the country and even more amazing – no mountains and rarely a little hill to see! 😉 But beautiful autumn forests in all colours, crossing rivers, small villages and growing cities. Hours just looking through the window, letting pass the landscapes. There was also time for reading (Claudia, I’ve read your book and it was the perfect read on this train, so thanks again), for reflections, for conversations and for coffee breaks in the board restaurant.  

I’ll take you for a few minutes to join me on my journey:…a video to follow as soon as I have resolved some technical issues…

“Ich halte mich still. Trotzdem zieht die Welt an mir vorbei.”

Berlin and Moskow

“Priwjet” from Moscow!

I have just started my first Russian language studies to hopefully soon being in a position to read the kyrillic letters and use some words in the day to day on the streets and on the train. People here have been very friendly and helpful, there was always someone who spontaneously offered his/her english knowledge and if not hand and feet and a smile helped, too 😉 Which was definitely worth a lot, I could even get tickets to the ballet. It was fantastic, moscow romance ballet accompanied by tschaikovsky music – what else?!

Moscow is definitely a megacity, everything is big and broad – buildings, streets, cars, metro stations. History and modern life are omnipresent and make it an interesting mix. At the same time it is quite straight forward to move around and find your way, it is always very lively and until late people walk in the streets or take the metro. I’ve seen some of the city attractions in these two days and will add some pictures.

Before getting to Russia, I spent some days in Berlin and Berlin area. First, I’ve met a friend in the Spreewald area, a beautiful lake and forest area and I could have a last swim in a lake and cycle through the forests before autumn weather hit Berlin. Then I checked out some places in the city – but there is soooo much to do and see…a three-day-visit is definitely to short to dive in but good enough to get a flavor and remind myself of the history again. Definitely, an interesting and inspiring place that also stimulated my philosophical side – big questions came up: What will my generation’s contribution to the world be? Or in other words, what kind of world are we creating today for tomorrow? Are we creating a peaceful world?

I had the chance to live in the home of artists and so also learned something about this scene in Berlin. All along the way, I’ve already met interesting and very friendly and open people and so it was already such a good start for my trip. Everybody encouraged me in my travel plans, how wonderful. Thanks to all the strangers who became friends or companions, even if it was for a short moment.

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