Cusco: Temple of the Sun

This morning I let Tom sleep in a bit while I worked to catch up on my blogging. Our hostel only gives us free breakfast until 10:30 AM, so when he didn’t show up by 10:10 I started worrying that he was still cocooned in bed. Just after I packed up my gear and got up to wake the sleepyhead, he emerged up the stairs. Pushing it a little close don’t you think babe? Whew!

After a late start, our first stop was Qorikancha, which means gold enclosure (quri kancha) in Quechua. Quechua is an ancient Incan language that is still the most widely spoken language by the indigenous peoples of the Americas. There are about 8-10 million speakers worldwide and 13% of Peruvians speak Quechua. While our guide the previous day mentioned that it is not a formally taught language in school, it is commonly used at home and parents teach their children who continue to keep the language alive with their children. 

On the foundations of the original Qorikancha now rests the Church of Santo Domingo as the Spanish conquistadores demolished the original Incan building to make way for, you guessed it, more Catholic structures. Interestingly enough some of the original Incan masonry remains intact inside, which allows you to see how artful and intricate their stone working skills were.

The walls of the original temple of the sun were once covered in golden sheets, and the courtyard filled with statues. Unfortunately, the Incans themselves were forced to harvest from this richness when the Spanish demanded a gold ransom for the life of the 13th Incan emperor Atahualpa.

After leaving Qorikancha, we stopped by to visit the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco (CTTC) right next door. An organization established in 1996 by Andean weavers, it provides a free museum to the public to educate visitors on how the coat of an alpaca, lama, or sheep etc., is made into yarn and than transformed into a final product in the form of bags, clothing, and accessories. It’s main mission is to preserve cusuqueñan textile traditions and support the indigenous artisans. 


We then roamed through the local San Pedro Market before heading back to the Plaza de Armas to visit the Church of the Society of Jesus, once again a religious church (this time Jesuit) built on the remains of a former Incan temple. It is best known for a painting depicting the wedding of Martín García de Loyola, the nephew of Ignatius Loyola to Beatriz, the great-niece of the Inca ruler Tupac Amaru. (Tom was very grateful that no pictures were allowed).

After a brief reprieve in the hostel, we went to Kion, just off the main square to try some Chaufa, the Peruvian version of fried rice. It was very tasty and filling and we were both happy pandas. 🙂
 

We then took an evening stroll through San Blas and were able to successfully locate the infamous twelve angle stone. The stone is carved from diorite and it is the precision and finishing of the fit that make this rock a national heritage object. A passerby mentioned that it was 2 meters deep (about 6.5 ft) and that the 12 angles actually refer to the 12 Royal Incan families, 6 of which lived on the north side of the wall and 6 which lived on the south side. 

P.S. The Qorikancha had a fourteen angle stone! It was cut such that 3 sides of the stone served as the different faces of a door jamb. 

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Lima: Museo Larco and The Moches

Reader Beware: Sone of the pictures and text in this article will have references alluding to the act of copulation and are not for juvenile eyes.

All we had left on our Lima List after the last three days were the Larco Museum and the Museum of Anthropologie. Unfortunately they were put off until the last minute because the Municipal buses didn’t run there and we knew we didn’t want to risk taking any questionable taxis, so the coordination was a little more challenging. Thankfully, due to the use of some broken spanish, the Google Maps GPS, and some kind-hearted locals, we were able to find our way.

We ended up taking a local bus instead of a combi for which both Tom and myself were very grateful. The combis routes are discernible from the main streets written on the side of the vans, but the operator will literally hop out of the sliding door while the driver slows down, yell out the major avenues, wait briefly for the locals to hop on, and zoom off to the next stop almost immediately! We saw this happen regularly everywhere we walked and simply could not wrap our minds around it. Our takeaway from our time in Lima so far is that traffic and transportation is chaotic at best.

The local bus dropped us off about a 10-min walk away from Museo Larco in the Pueblo Libre district. While there were some discernible differences between this district and other two districts that we have spent time in (Miraflores and Barranco), it was clear that the area was well maintained and representative of a middle-class population. It is definitely nice to get away from the hubbub of the main tourist destinations!

Museo Larco is said to be a must-see for all visitors to Lima (although Tom was not quite on board with my adamant desire to go). It is a privately owned museum that houses Pre-Colombian art purchased by Rafael Larco Hoyle around 1925. Rafael soon realized that Peruvian Archeaology was in its infancy and set out on a course for intense Anthropologie research thereby establishing a Peruvian chronology for ancient cultures that has remained valid to this day.

The biggest draw for visitors is the hall of erotic pottery. The vessels, or what we call art in the present, were created by the Moche Civilization who flourished in Northern Peru between 100 AD and 700 AD. To them, sex was not something to be rated-R, or blurred out on television, or even talked about behind closed doors. Sex was a celebration of joining, of life, and of death. This was exemplified by the various pieces of pottery depicting sexual intercourse, favors, and animal copulation.

The Moches placed an emphasis on the concept of circulation and flow. This is best exemplified by the adjacent piece. The woman’s body has been sculpted with an exaggeratedly large vulva, which allows liquids to both fill the orifice and flow from it. The position of the figure alludes to both childbirth and a sexual act, symbolizing a woman’s ability to act as a vessel to accept the insemination of life and likewise bring life into the world.

Personally I found the imagery and symbolism fascinating and got caught up in a photography blackhole! Tom lost interest quite a while before me, but since the museum had free-wifi, he used the chance to sit in the sun and catch up on emails and social media. Unfortunately we ended up not making it to the Museum of Anthropologie….


We finished off our day at, you guessed it! An artisan coffee shop called Origen Tostadores de Cafe where I enjoyed a Chocolate Affogato pick-me-up. ^_^

Oslo: Ashes of Vikings

The one thing Tom and I do every morning is to take some time to savor a good cup of coffee. We are both aficionados of this savory drink, and it’s a great way to to warm us up from the inside out before we venture off to galavant about a city blanketed in snow. 

Since our legs and feet were so tired from walking about 10 miles yesterday, we decided today would be a museum day. Specifically, we would pass our time by visiting the museums on the Bygdøy Peninsula, an area that still maintains its rural vibe, and houses the Oscharshall Palace, the summer home of the Norwegian Royal Family.

 Our first stop was the Norwegian Folk Museum, an open-air museum that has many traditional buildings on site that allow you to explore the daily lifestyles of Norwegians from the 16th century and onwards. They also had a few exhibit halls that displayed typical wardrobes and furniture from these eras. The primary reason I wanted to visit however, was to see the Gol Stave Church.

 This one is from 1212, meaning that its over 800 years old! Stave churches were medieval Christian churches that developed in Northern Europe. The name for this type of structure is derived from the Old Norse term “stafr,” meaning the type of timber framing where load-bearing ore-pine posts support lintels. It’s a descendent of palisades construction from the Viking Age. Logs were split into two halves, driven into the earth, and a roof erected over it. 

 The Gol Church falls under a smaller sub-category called the Borgund Group. The stability of the structure is further enhanced by cross-bracing that joins the upper and lower beams and posts. This essentially creates a truss which allows for the weight of the building to be transferred into the ground without the need for intermediate posts, creating a wider, more open, interior space. 

Next, we stopped by the Viking Ship Museum, because what visit to Norway would be complete without getting the chance to learn about Viking history? 

 

  

Travel: Beach Bummage 

I have nothing of consequence to note. Haha. As much as I love the backpacking culture of seeing and experiencing as much as possible within a limited timeframe I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it is EXHAUSTING. Traipsing around Central and Southern India with a friend that was native born-and-raised in Bombay has been uniquely authentic, but I am due for some serious R&R!

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The exciting think about today is that a group of us from the hostel spent the evening exploring the Arpora Night Market. For me, it was very remniscient of Taiwan’s night markets, with stalls offering anything you could possibly want, in addition to the quintessential souvenirs.

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The market sprawls over a large outdoor are and is only active and open during the main tourist season. Divided into a Lower, Central, and Upper Field, it is difficult not to get lost and overwhelmed by the crowds.

We browsed everything from traditional handicrafts to huge assortments of spices and teas. There were booths after booths brimming with Kashmiri carpets, Pashmina scarves, silver jewelry, and unique art creations. You name it and you can find it! There is also a food court centered around a stage that hosts an array of live music from Rock to Indian Classical.

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I was both overwhelmed and in awe. It is impossible to miss the fervor in the air, and although similar to previous night markets I experienced as a child, the Arpora Night Market had its own distinctive character. It offered the diversity of a global experience without overshadowing the unmistakeable hints of a typical Indian Bazaar.

 

Travel: Colorful India

Since Udaipur is a smaller city and Nick and I have already seen our fair share of ancient temples, palaces, and fortresses, we chose to experience the diversity of India by visiting Shilpgram.

Much like the Dilli Haat in New Delhi, Shilpgram is a heritage village composed of 5 west-zone states. Its purpose is to expose the diversity of tribal cultures to the general public and foster a spirit of collaboration between rural and urban artists. This cultural complex was incredibly large with a total square area of 70 acres!

Nick and I didn’t intend to stay for so long, but there was so much vibrancy to be seen amongst the artists. I’ve attached a brief collage below to illustrate the range of work.

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Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni and Myself (some are his and some are mine).

Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

 

 

One of the things I enjoyed the most were all of the regional dances that were performed. As someone who studied traditional chinese dance for over 8 years in my youth, folk dancing continues to fascinate me. It is such a rich part of one’s ingrained heritage and it would be a true pity if these arts got lost in the sands of time.

 

 

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Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

 

Some of the female dancers kept inviting me to join them! I didn’t, but I did pick up the rhythm and pattern of their movements. At the end of it all, they were really friendly and invited me to take a picture with them.

 

Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

 

Nick and I both hopped on Camels and went for a ride as well.

 

 

 

 

We finished our day with a sunset boat ride on the lake, followed by more famous dances from Rajasthan at the Bagore Ki Haveli.

Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

My favorite dance by far was the Teratali dance. Performed by the Kamar tribe while sitting down, the woman balance a pot on their heads and clench a sword between their teeth while they use Manjeeras (cymbals) to acoustically provide thirteen different beats. The sounds made vary by the angles at which the cymbals collide, making this dance one that requires technique and precision.

Unfortunately, the seating area was less than optimal, otherwise I would have provided a video. 😦

 

 

Travel: Modern Jaipur

Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

 

After our lunch break, we decided to cut through the Bazaar on our way to the Albert Hall Museum. I have never seen as much color as I have in Jaipur. Nick says that the handicrafts of Rajasthan are so vibrant to contrast the muted colors of the desert.

 

In truth, the aristocrats of Jaipur were avid patrons of the arts. They often coaxed skilled artisans from around India and abroad to settle in Jaipur and make it their home. I’ve included a few pictures below to illustrate the broadness of their crafts.

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Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

imageThe Albert Hall Museum was designed by Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob in 1887, and exemplifies Indo-Saracenic Architecture. This form of architecture originated in the late 19th century as a movement by British Architects to merge elements from native Indo-Islamic and Indian Architecture with the Gothic and Neo-Classic styles of Victorian Britain. Some of the typical characteristics you may see include: Onion Domes, Scalloped Arches, Minarets, and Domed Kiosks. We decided not to meander too long on the exhibits, because Nick isn’t a fan of museums, and I’m still a little museum-dead from my epic Eurotrip.

Our last stop of the day was the Birla Temple. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the preserver, and his consort Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth.

imageDespite being a “modern” structure, – completed in 1988 – symbolism is still rampantly prevalent in the architecture of the building. Each of the three huge domes of white marble represent the three different approaches to the religion, and intricately stained glass windows illustrate scenes from Hindu Scriptures. Something that is singularly iconic to Hinduism is the acceptance of all other religions. This is demonstrated by the carvings along the exterior walls that depict import figures from both history and other faiths.

 

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Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

Taking one last glance at the temple as the sunset illuminated it in the background, Nick and I returned to the bazaar in search of a Saree for me. While I don’t typically buy ethnic clothes while I travel, I felt it necessary for this trip as I will be attending a traditional Indian Wedding when we reach Mumbai.

Unfortunately, as is often the case when I am shopping in Asia, we hit some roadblocks in the form of sizing. I found a color scheme and pattern that I loved, but, as Nick would put it, my broad,, manly shoulders made the top a bit too snug. T.T.

Travel: Ancient India

Today, Nick and I learned the true meaning of IST ‘Indian Standard Time.’ We went to Vodaphone with the intent of acquiring pre-paid SIM cards. Needless to say, 2.5 hours later, we finally had our SIM cards, however, neither of us have managed to get service.

imagePart of the challenge was that regulations for foreigners to acquire SIM cards are much more stringent than it has been previously due to the 2008 Mumbai Attacks – 12 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks lasting over four days by the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

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Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

With our errands over for the day, we were finally able to explore part of Delhi’s ancient past. Delhi has been home to a total of seven previous dynasties, and as a result, retains unique heritage structures that illustrate the diverse differences between each kingdom.

 

As we cut our way through the bazaar of Connaught Place, one of the largest commercial, financial, and business centers of New Delhi, we went from the Inner Circle, Rajiv Chowk, to the outer ring, Indira Chowk.

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Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

Nick managed adopt a little girl along the way. We were both confused and laughing at the time, because we simply did not know how to react. Truthfully, it was heartbreaking. She couldn’t have been more than 5 years old, and she just latched onto the corner of Nick’s polo, and followed us for a few blocks.

 

It was at this moment that I understood why some are proponents of Child Labor. While it may seem like a travesty against human rights, it does provide a means for children in developing countries to earn an income, and provide essentials for their survival. It’s a sad reality, but a necessary truth.

Outside the Rajiv Chowk, lies the Jantar Mantar complex. Built in 1724, it comprises 13 astronomical instruments. This site is one of five built by the Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur, after he was given the task of revising the calendar and astronomical tables by the Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah.

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The Mughal Empire lasted for over 300 years, and spans the timeline from 1526-1857. Babur, the founder, had turned to India to satisfy his political ambitions after being ousted from his ancestral domain in Central Asia.

 

The towering instrument that greets us as enter the grounds is the Samrat Yantra, a giant triangle that is essentially a massive sundial. The 128-ft long hypotenuse is parallel to the Earth’s axis and points toward the North Pole. Each side has a quadrant, with graduations that indicate hours, minutes, and seconds, turning the basic instrument, into a precision tool.

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Credit: Nikhil Kulkarni

We next came across the Jayaprakesh Yantra; A hollowed out hemisphere with cross-wires stretching out between points of the rim. An observer at the center, could align the position of a star with the various ribs.

 

 

Then, we came across the Misra Yantra, a tool used to determine the shortest and longest days of the year in addition to the exact moment of noon in cities and locations worldwide, regardless of geographical distance from Delhi.

imageDescending even deeper into time, the Qutab Minar is the 2nd tallest Minaret in the world at a total height of 73 meters. It is made of red sandstone and marble, and has a diameter gradient that begins at 14.3 meteers at its base before narrowing to 2.7 meters at its peak. This sprawling tower has five layers, and despite construction beginning in 1192, was not complete until 1368.

You will often see minarets as an iconic feature of muslim mosques. It is from these spires that Adhans, the call to prayer, are issued five times each day.

imageIf you look closer, you can see the islamic influence in the shape of the Muqarnas that encircle each tier of the tower. Remniscient of stalactites, they take the form of small pointed niches stacked in radially symmetric tiers that project outward. The number of unique tiles is limited by N-gonal symmetry, or the equation N = N/2 -1.

imageWe then stopped by the Dilli Haat, a market that hosts unique handicrafts from each of India’s 29 states, and snacked on some Momo’s, which are essentially dumplings. This makes sense, given that this ethnic food is from north-eastern India near the Chinese border.

 

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