Trinity University Library, Dublin, Ireland

I felt I had to devote a separate entry to Trinity University Library in Dublin. This library is absolutely great – if you are not inspired by that library, you probably also don’t cast a shadow in the sun. It is absolutely worth the price of admission….if reading is your thing and you appreciate books. There are tons of beautifully leather-bound old books. I imagine lots of them hand-copied. I wonder what stories, knowledge and secret they keep. The light that comes in through the narrow, high windows as sharply defined rays creates wonderful shadows and only enhances the overall secretive mood in the room. There library is dominated by innumerable hues of brown and beige. I would have wanted to stay there with fewer people for a few days and nights just to browse through the shelves. Yes, this is the real deal, not a film set for the ninth Harry Potter movie.Every aspect of Trinity Library stunned me when we visited: size, architecture, smell, colors, craftsmanship, materials. I was just super impressed.

And I hope, you will be as impressed by the library and that this little short post made you want to go.

Cheers and stay sharp

Markus \m/

 

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47 3/4 (Supercalifragilisticexpialegocious) Hours In Dublin, Ireland

In June, I went to Dublin to meet for dinner with some of my new colleagues. Of course such a trip I can impossibly do by myself, so I took my wife along. Now, Ireland and Dublin in particular conjures up images and fantasies of pubs, the band Flogging Molly playing late into the night in a pub, and Guinness flowing endlessly and in general good times being had by all. Furthermore, images of extra green pastures with milkcows chewing happily to produce milk for the good butter….and rain, lots of it and frequently. What follows is absolutely true – we were in Dublin in June and there wasn’t a single rain cloud even in the remotest of vicinities. We have had 2 beautifully, balmy, sunny days, that left nothing to be desired.

Dublin has probably the highest pub density of any city on earth I have ever visited, followed by an incredible number of fantastic, independent book-stores, and an even lower number of Starbucks stores, but instead with an also incredible number of local and oh-so-exceptionally-good cafe-tea-and-chocolate places. We can honestly say, we have eaten the best chocolate of our lives in Dublin and I grew up in what I would call “Europe’s Chocolate Heaven”, “The Golden Oblique Rectangle Of Chocolate”. For completeness sake,I hear Whiskey is also quite popular in Ireland and Dublin, but we were served with the above mentioned diversions.

When we visit a new city, I usually like to get my hand on the pulse of that city quickly and one way I have figured out to take it is by looking for graffities and murals. And this is what I would like to share with you. Then you tell me what your impression is of Dublin and whether you think we had a good time or not.

When in Dublin, look everywhere, yes and especially up. These umbrellas were placed above a side alley that gave access to the cellar of a pub. This is he full view of the side alley in the morning.The kegs are testament to the eagerness of the previous nights patrons. In the same street where the above pub was were a bunch of other pubs all next to one another. The street facing fronts had great graffities and murals. It was great seeing all this art all over. The only time we used the bus was to get from the airport to the city. Once in the city, it is completely accessible on foot – and it is entertaining, because the city has a lot to offer…all the senses are tickled. On the way to our hostel (yes hostel, because hotels are freaking expensive in Dublin, that really is the only major drawback), we walked past this neighborhood, that was “fully decorated”.The next shot shows the front of the trash cans on the left – like pretty maids all in a row.The trash cans don’t measure up, do they? If your glass is half-full, you’d argue, that the trash cans provide “practice surfaces” for the artistically challenged. Others might call it vandalism. I’d challenge the “writers”, to up their game significantly, when “writing” in this neighborhood. We meandered on through Dublin, discovering more of this great city.A fixer-upper with a proper construction wall around it. In that neighborhood we stopped and had a drink on the sidewalk.We did not wander aimlessly through the city, we were headed for the Guinness brewery, which is on the North side of the river to the West of the city center. And we went there on foot, thus we had ample time to soak it all in.Despite the melancholy of classic Irish literature, there is a vibe of resilience and dark humor visible in the city. Eventually, we got to the brewery grounds. Let me tell you, it is a big brewery. And they charge a heavy dime for a brewery tour – so heavy, so we passed. We don’t drink beer, it would have been pearls before swines and a waste of good money. But I have this picture to show you of one of the main gates, which to some are the pearly-bubbly gates.The architecture reminded me of London’s Battersea Station – a very imposing “brick-catherdal-style”. I suppose the two buildings were probably built around the same time. We walked back to the center of Dublin and passed by many more citizen-art-pieces.This place draws up the shutter at night and turns into – you guessed it, a lively pub. This is a confidence instilling artwork for a barber-shop – a proud handlebar mustache. A gun toting cherub – Amor’s grandchild, traded the bow and arrow up.One of the many great cafés in Dublin at night. I am not sure what this was for, a boxing gym or a club, but the sign got my attention. See, this is a proper justification for the considerable consumption of beer in Ireland. Interesting fun fact. Per capita beer consumption for 2016 Germans consumed 104.2l (4), the Irish 98.2l (6), the Americans a measly 74.8l (21) and the biggest consumers by far were the Czechs with 143.3l (1). The water quality in the Czech Republic must be abysmal. Alright, so much for our introductory tour of Dublin. The city is absolutely worth a visit, no doubt.

Cheers and stay sharp

Markus \m/

 

Day 18 – Extracurricular Activity: Boudhanath Stupa

If you were wondering, if this was really it. No, that wasn’t it. Naturally we had to drink a big gulp of culture….at Boudhanath. Boudhanath is a very large stupa, about thirty minutes outside of Thamel – Kathmandu’s central section.Boudhanath is highly revered among buddhist pigrims. During our visit there were preparations underway for a religious festival the following week. The place is arranged in circles. The inner circle is the stupa (see above). The second circle is a wider walkway, where the believers and visitors walk about. Naturally, there is plenty of room for people to socialize and chat, too.

Of course, where ever there are large areas and people gather, doves aren’t far away. Along the second circle are also holy-men, blessing others. And then of course on the third, the outer-most circle, there are the souvenir and prayer-accessories supply stores. There are large varieties of prayer beads and smokers available for continued or deferred good fortunes and for calm minds immediately.

To get from the second circle to the inner circle – the one closest to the stupa, the pilgrims walk through an area where they can pray and collect themselves in private.   The devout can ring bells and pray for good fortunes.   And that concludes this entry and our trip to Nepal in April 2018.

I hope, I have been able to relay a little bit of the fun and excitement we have had on this trip. I loved the experience and want to say thank you to the friendly and hospitable people of Nepal for being such great hosts to so many different people from all over the world.

Stay sharp gang.

Cheers Markus \m/

Day 18 – Kathmandu All Day Long

Unlike on previous trips to Nepal, we decided to stay an extra day at the end, to come down from the emotional and mental high of the trip. You see, life is stripped down to a very bare and simple rhythm, when you trek: Get up; Eat breakfast; Walk; Eat lunch; Walk; Arrive; Drink something hot; Nap; Explore; Eat dinner; Sleep. It’s almost the life of a tiger, it’s great – I understand they live a pretty simple life, too. Now, for full disclosure, as I have been pretty enthusiastic about this trip and since this is the last day of the trip, I thought, today I might as well go all out…a “himalayan-all-out-enthusiasm-extravanaganza”, although limited to Kathmandu, the Nepali capital.As you have seen in the previous entry, it had been raining in Kathmandu and thus the dirt roads cris-crossing the city had become muddy and slippery.

When we are traveling in cities, I always like it when I see graffities. Graffities give a quick sense  of the city and its citizens. Due to the narrow streets in Kathmandu, if one wants to go about town, one walks, rides the bike of one takes a rickshaw. 

Yes, so this might be perceived as one of these instances, where my enthusiasm comes through a bit strong, because – why show four pictures of rickshaw riders. And the answer is twofold. Firstly, because rickshaws are a very uncommon sight for westerners in their local habitats. Secondly, because it is three different rickshaw riders at three different times of the day.

And just like in most Asian cities, motorcycles make for great all-purpose transportation, such as the school run with one’s daughter on the gas tank.

But not all of Kathmandu is busy at all times of the day. In fact, unlike Bangkok, Kathmandu sleeps at night. The mornings are a great time of the day until about 10:00, when the streets get more lively. However, if you are a dog, you just can’t be bothered. These three dogs demonstrate perfectly the three levels of not caring – Sleeping through it all (why bother at all), snoozing through it with one eye open (why bother) and the semi-interested glance (before going back to sleep).

But of course, there is nightlife in Kathmandu, too. The Shop-Right has the wishes of even the most discerning and demanding tourists covered.

And that closes the last day of our trek.

Cheers and Stay Sharp

Markus \m/

 

Day 17 – Lukla – Kathmandu

We got up early, had a small breakfast and went the few meters to the Lukla airport. The process from entering the airport building until one is on the plane, is unique to Lukla. It is more of a ritual for which a guide is extremely helpful. A competent local guide gets the client (us) on the first plane out of Lukla, makes sure that all luggage will be loaded on the plane and that it arrives at the destination. Our guide Yuba was such a guide (Madan, as well in previous years). And so, we found ourselves after the ticket check and the safety check at a door, that led out to the parking zone of the airfield, anxious to board the first plane. Once the planes start coming in, the mood switches quickly and it feels more like you are in the pit stop lane at Le Mans. From plane touch-down to plane take-off it is less than 20 minutes. That means, the plane comes to a full stop at one of the four parking positions, gets deboarded, unloaded, loaded and boarded again in 20 minutes maximum. That is quite an achievement. And thus we found ourselves aboard the plane, too.And a few minutes later in, above and surrounded by clouds. As we moved closer to Kathmandu, we got into some pretty heavy turbulence, which apparently was part of the rainfall we landed in at Kathmandu airport.There it is – Kathmandu. just another Asian city, densely populated and polluted. An hour after we looked down on Kathmandu, we were in it, wading through muddy, rain-soaked roads – and a different reality had us again. You know you are not in the mountains anymore when the prayer rocks have been replaced by graffities. When the doors you pass re not open anymore but closed and locked with chains.In the mountains you have a fair chance of reaching and touching prayer flags. In the city you need to bring a ladder.In the mountains on the trek you say a quick hello or you have a conversation with fellow trekkers you encounter, in the city you make sure you don’t get hit by the oncoming traffic and consider it a success, if you only get splashed, instead of hit.On the trek we climbed mountains and passes, while in Kathmandu people climb on chairs. Adapting from the serenity and quietness on the trek to city life in Kathmandu, posed quite a challenge for us. But Kathmandu still has a few spots of peace and quiet. The attentive visitor can still find spirit trees and small shrines throughout the city, where the business of the city is shut out from. And some of these spots we explored on the last day and which you will see in te next entry.

Until then, stay sharp and try to find joy in the changes in pace, smell, mood throughout your day, week and month.

Cheers Markus \m/

Day 16 – Namche Bazar – Lukla

Let me start by clarifying some thing. You have noticed, that I used to add altitudes of the start and endpoint of each day and now I don’t. Your observation is true, but as I relived out great trek, I also realized, that ascending is a lot more challenging and fun than descending. I loved seeing how high we would go and how I my body would cope. The descending part is quite a bit of work. Because on most descends you are relatively close to the day’s destination. When I descended I was and still am just contemplating the many alternatives I can come up with to walking down. Clearly, the most obvious choice would be a paragliding chute. But I do not have the physical fitness to carry all my stuff including the heavy photo equipment plus the paragliding equipment. And I do absolutely want to stick to my principle of carrying ALL my own stuff. We saw a lot of people being flown out this year, so I could just opt to fly down. But then I could not live with myself. So, for now, until there are quiet, solar-powered, electric jet-packs available that weight 2kg maximum, I will need to continue to descend on foot. To cut this rambling tangent short, I stopped adding altitudes from the day we started to descend overall, because the challenge of gaining altitude was gone – no more higher and higher. Now on to the last hiking day, as we walked from Namche to Lukla.

We had stayed pretty high in Namche, just off the main “road”. So, to descend from Namche, means to parade down the main”road”, which is for me bitter-sweet. You realize you are on your last days. You are chock-full of fresh experiences, that have not become memories, yet, and you also don’t want it to end. Once outside Namche, we walked through the forest and descended steeply until we reached the iconic rope-bridge, that almost any Himalaya documentary shows.The bridge is very impressive, especially when you have an oncoming yak- or mule-train traffic. Here though, we did not have any – all good.We moved on descending further, day-dreaming as we found our rhythm and soaking up these last impressions of this great place. We crossed the Khumbu river many times more and we ran into many mule trains along the way.And we also passed many prayer rocks, prayer stones and prayer flags along the way. There is something to be said about the faith of the Nepalese mountain population regardless if they are sherpas or not. They are very devout Buddhists , yet, I have never experienced the religious zeal that can be found in other religions. Maybe that is because Buddhism is more of philosophy to live by than a religion. Oh, well, I will not delve into religion or organized religion. Eventually, after a nice, relaxing lunch in Phakding and a little celestial motivation in form of heavy rain-clouds moving in we arrived in the Buddha Lodge in Lukla , just in time to witness how everything came to stand-still as it started to rain.Looking out of the Khumbu valley  Looking across the Lukla airport and Lukla up the start of the Khumbu valley. After I had taken these photos I joined the other three and we went for dinner. All that’s left to say is, for you to stay sharp and then to get my self a cup of tea and hang on to my thoughts.

Stay sharp

Cheers Markus \m/

Day 15 – Thame – Namche Bazar

I told you in the Day 14 entry about the little kid. So let’s start with him. Cute as a button but all BOSS!! at a gentle 5 years old.

There he is Capt’n Cool, sporting extra dark shades as he stares down the Incense burner. The he proceeded to demonstrate “Nepalese Big Boy Hygiene” He was a little shy, but eventually I won hm over and we started rough-housing, where I would lift him up and throw him in the air – what ensued was a teeter-totter of high-pitched, innocent, but definitely insane laughter (the kind of laughter where panic and pleasure wrestle inside a person’s head – similar to the first time you rode a roller-coaster)  and begging for more, when ever I wanted/needed to recover.

Eventually we left and were on our way.Halfway in between Thame and Namche. We ran into a group from Germany that traveled with their own buddhist monk. They were ascending to spend a week together in a retreat. But these people were not looking “new-agey”. You know tie-dye shirts and surrounded by a sweet smell of the art teachers break room. They were my parents age and as it turned out, they had been doing this for years. As we strolled down – really that’s what we did – we walked past many prayer rocks. They usually all say the same:”Ohm Mani Padme Hum” one of those basic mantras.With about one hours to go, we crossed a bridge and stopped to admire the wall paintings.We kept walking and all of a sudden we literally came around the bend and Namche was laid out before us.Due to a certain lack of space, there are Yaks all over Namche, feeding and wondering what to do in this weird time, when they neither walk, not do they have loads to carry. Namche is the main trading post in the Solokhumbu region and thus the major village in the area.Some people are a little richer than the neighbors and so the old “Keeping up with the Joneses” applies here, too. Above is the entry door of the Joneses from Namche. And because of that front-door statement the Anderson’s – they are a bit “uppety” – well they had to keep up and surpass the Joneses and went all out on the carpentry and paintings of their new post-earthquake front gate.

And with that little “story “From The Book” we will close the chapter on Day 15.

Stay sharp and keep it real.

Cheers Markus \m/