Udaipur – the city where India becomes lovable

We arrived in Udaipur in the morning, after one long overnight journey with the train, coming from the south of India. And the first thing which stroke us was that everything seemed so much more quiet here… We crossed the Walking Bridge and, before even starting to look for accommodation, we stopped for a morning coffee, by the side of the lake. The sun was gently warming us, the air had a soft, spring-like note to it, the buildings were sending glittery reflections of themselves into the waters of the lake. While Indian women, sited by the edge of the water, undisturbed and apparently unaware of the people around, were doing their laundry.

There was more to discover of this “Indian Venice” – the streets, the people, the roof-top restaurants and handicraft shops, the wonderful lake that somehow manages to bring peace and serenity over Udaipur’s hundreds of years of life and history.

The city also reveals what the lives of the Maharajas used to be, these Indian princes who were governing rather small states, and who often retained some degree of autonomy even under the English domination. And we got to enter into the palaces which they build, and rebuild, over the centuries, for the court, for official business, for their own pleasure. Or for the exclusive use, and confinement, of their wives.

And, finally, I would like to show you the place where we stayed in Udaipur, one of the accommodations I liked best, so far, in India. Don’t miss the photos of its roof-top restaurant!

First taste of Thailand

Here I am, together with my brother, adjusting to the heat, the food and the people of Thailand. It’s only been 5 days since we arrived here, but it surely feels like we lived a lot more. I can now say that I am really happy that my brother liked the idea of us traveling together to this part of the world, when, back in Greece, I proposed him so: it makes the experience so much richer! And significantly diminishes the stress factor :)

Our first stop was Bangkok, with skyscrapers and street food, shopping malls and tuk-tuks, noisy, luxurious, dirty, surprising. Next, we headed for Ayutthaya, an ancient Thai capital, with temples and monasteries built in the 16th century. And a more chill feeling to it.

Enjoy the pictures and see you from northern Thailand!

Saying goodbye to the Mediterranean

It’s been awhile since my last post, I must admit. From Nice I set of to Aix-en-Provence and then Lyon, meeting old friends, getting to know new cities, listening to people’s stories, and sometimes telling my own, drinking warm cafe lattes in the morning, talking, smiling, catching up.

But I did not forget about my blog and I took many pictures which I want to share with you. For now though, I would like to show you some last pictures from Cote d’Azur: mostly Cannes, a cloudy first-day-of-the-festival, and a little bit of Nice, saying goodbye to our hosts and to the Mediterranean sea.

The story of Persian carpets

(written during my trip in Iran, 25 April – 12 May 2013)

This morning one of the cousins of my friend Sara proposed to accompany her to the Imam Square. I did not understand precisely what we were supposed to do there, but did not ask too many questions, as my (almost) nonexistent Persian and her little French did not give room for extensive dialogue. But all Sara’s family was so kind and welcoming, and her cousin showed, every time we met, a lot of warmth and willingness to communicate, that I could not say no.

On the way I understood that we were going to the carpet store owned by the husband of one of her friends. Well, I had already seen several carpet stores in the bazaar, but why not? When we arrived there, one of the people welcoming us asked me in English if I would like to know the story of Persian carpets. Well, of course, but just know that I am not going to buy any, I am on a long trip and I really don’t have any place for a carpet in my luggage.. No problem, was the answer.

So, here we go! First and foremost, there are two types of Persian carpets: the carpets woven by the nomadic tribes and the carpets woven in cities, following the Safavi tradition.


The carpets of the Safavi tradition (dynasty ruling Persia in the 1600s, during which the first patterns for carpets were created) is what one would generally call a “Persian carpet”. They are made by hand, following a specific pattern. So one woman would weave and another would, following the pattern, dictate to the first the exact color to be used for each thread of the warp. As you can imagine, a Persian carpet woven in this technique would even need up to several years to be completed, depending on its size and the complexity of the design. They are produced in several of the historical cities of Iran. Each city has its particularities, especially with respect to the materials being used: in Isfahan they use angora wool and silk, in other cities just silk, in others, different types of wool. I must admit that I like the Isfahan carpets more, because there are not all shinny and bright as the carpets woven entirely out of silk, but they rather have just some elements of the design, a spiral flower for instance, woven in silk, standing out from the rest of the design with a delicate shine.

Generally, the design of these carpets is created around one central point, from which the rest of the design evolves – it is the symbol of God, the creator of all things existing. Life expands from this one central point into simpler or more complicated spirals or chains of flowers and leaves. Inevitably we reach the border of the carpet – it is the borderline between this life and the next. Various patterns from the design of the carpet are drawn on this border, as if to say that our deeds from this life will follows us into the next.

But in Iran you will also find another kind of carpets: the nomadic carpets. They are woven by the women of the various Iranian nomadic tribes. The main difference from the Safavi carpets is that these carpets do not follow a pre-designed pattern: the woman creating the carpet does not have a pattern to guide her, she weaves following a design she has created in her head. Again, tribes from different parts of Iran weave different carpets, especially in respect of the color used: in the north the colors are darker – brown, black, dark red; in the east they use more orange and bright red, while in the south you can find lighter colors, white, light yellow mingling with darker colors.

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Take this carpet, for instance, made in the east of Iran, close to Afghanistan. It symbolizes the tree of life, with each generation giving birth to another. Flowers, serpents (symbols of long life) and poppy flowers and seeds (as people in that region used this plant to cure various diseases) symbolize wishes of happiness, longevity and health.

Young girls would weave alongside their mothers until they would be 12-13 years old. At that point, they would start weaving their own carpet and when finishing it, they would show it to the whole family – as proof that they no longer were little girls, but that they had grown into young women.

Some of the patterns used by the Iranian nomads in their carpets reminded me of the carpets that my late grandmother used to weave. This thought makes me smile and reminds me of something my father told me before I left: the human spirit is everywhere the same, creating, loving, suffering in much the same way, irrespective if that person lives in the mountains of Peru or in the cities of France or on the bank of the Ganges.

Imam Square – the heart of Isfahan

(written during my trip in Iran, 25 April – 12 May 2013)

Isfahan rose

After my first encounter with Isfahan (Khaju Bridge by night, remember) the city opened to me, slowly, building by building, site by site, just like a rose bud opens into a flower and slowly lets the world discover its inner most hidden petals, its deep heart.

Isfahan is a city that at first did not tell me much. Of course, I was excited to arrive here and meet the family of my friend Sara, but the city itself, with it greyish sand-color buildings, not more than 2 or 3 floors in the center (restriction meant to protect the historical heritage of the city) did not speak to me. That is until, one day, Sara brought me to the Imam Square.

Build in the 1600s during the Safavi dynasty, the Imam Square (now officially called Naqsh-e Jahan) is a huge place, having on its sides the royal palace of Ali Qapu, the entry to the Bazar and two mosques, the bigger Shah Mosque and the Sheikh Lotfallah Mosque.

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The Sheikh Lotfallah Mosque is the first mosque I ever entered into in my life. A rather small mosque, it was initially built for the private use of the shah’s wives.

What I felt in this mosque … After going from the bright sun outside through a sinuous shadowy hallway, I found myself standing under a dome that was as grand and majestic, as soft and incredibly near, surrounding me form all sides like the arms of a mother. There was no space in that room that was separated from the dome, that was not under the force and the spell of the wonderfully entangled decoration of its walls. I walked slowly, very slowly, breathing and letting everything sink in. Opening. Opening my senses and opening myself to grasp all the beauty that was before me. I cannot pinpoint what impressed me so, I cannot tell you, this or that were the things that captured me – maybe another would even say that all this is nothing at all. But in that moment and in that place I was overwhelmed by the beauty, the magnificence, the colors, the never-ending circular shapes and lines in front of me. I whirled slowly a few times letting all the colors mingle – what an incredible experience should have been for the Sufi Dervishes to whirl under similar ceilings… High double-layer windows filtered the light and their shape seemed to change as I was walking around the room. As if to let you understand that in that moment you are no longer under the power of the omnipresent sun, but rather in another world, in another universe.

The other mosque in the square, far bigger and more eye-catching, as well as the royal palace Ali Qapu, unveil that Persia of the seventeenth century, that wonderfully rich and mysterious Orient about which I was reading during my school years. And the capital of this Persia was Isfahan. Isfahan – half of the world, as the Persian used to say.

In between visits, Sara took me for lunch to a traditional Persian restaurant, where we ate sitting on wooden beds covered with carpets and well equipped with pillows. But about food and traditional restaurants I will tell you more in another post!

Until then, as the Persian say, hoda hafez – may God be your guardian!

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