All posts filed under: Culture

Umbria Italy

Living With An Italian Artist in Umbria.

I travel to discover schools of life that feature in no textbooks. On a warm spring day, I woke up to the rustling of olive trees and what sounded like Italian jazz. The delicate aroma of fine coffee wafted into my room, and blended into the warm smell of ceramics. From behind the wood and glass door, with garden tools in one hand and a cigar in the other, buongiorno chimed Enrico, and invited me to a breakfast of wood-fired hot bread, olive oil from his olive groves, fresh fruits from the garden and strawberry cake made with stone-ground flour! Thus began my rendezvous with the dreamy countryside of Umbria – and a lesson in the Italian way of life. We broke the ice in broken Italian, English, Spanish and the common love of good food, and I soon figured that we were on somewhat similar life paths: Enrico was a painter by passion, but decided to keep his 9-to-5 job to pay the bills; I had quit a 9-to-5 job to try to make my passion pay the bills. I journeyed through his vivid imagination …

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Culturally Intriguing Ways to Experience Europe.

Even before my first trip to Europe over four years ago, I imagined whiling away time in charming medieval villages, people-watching in quaint little cafes and soaking up gorgeous landscapes on long summer days. I was lucky enough to live that dream again and again, from falling irrevocably in love with Gargnano on Lake Garda (Italy) to a surreal alpine encounter in Chamonix (France). But it wasn’t until I was invited by iAmbassador and Visit Europe to experience Europe differently, that I started to see beyond the obvious charm of the continent, into its very heart. Meet the “Cultural Routes” – 24 themed trails across Europe, where along with the lure of country life, you can travel through time and learn about the continent’s fascinating history in unconventional ways. I’ve traversed only one cultural route so far, and shortlisted the others for future trips: Hiking: Camino de Santiago I’ve heard of the adventures of three women who’ve walked the Camino – alone – and while part of me wants to do it, part of me is not sure I’d survive! This 800km pilgrim trail, …

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Meeting The Real Nomads: The Bedouins of Wadi Finan in Jordan.

Under a million stars in the pitch-black sky and the occasional cry of the desert fox, I let the cool breeze lull me to sleep. Surrounding me are the stark, barren, make-your-eyes-sore mountains of Wadi Finan, and in the distance, a community of Bedouins have pitched their tents. The constellations above me are their compass, a half-dry stream their source of water, and nomadism the only way of life they know. It took us four sweaty hours in the old car of our Jordanian friend from the mountains of Orjan, then a bumpy four-wheel drive to arrive here. We left the last traces of civilization behind when we turned off the Dead Sea highway that connects the country from north to south, and were left awestruck by the lonely desert landscapes that these nomads choose to call home. Why would anyone choose to live here? That was the only thought swirling in my mind when we entered the earthy Feynan Ecolodge – an off-the-grid lodge managed and run entirely by the Bedouin people who live in this community. …

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Rüdesheim Wine Festival: Sneak a Peek Into Germany’s Wine Culture.

I had an unshakable image of Germany in my head – drinking freshly brewed craft beer at an open-air beer garden, hearing locals cheer “prost” with every chug and watching women dance in traditional dirndls. But two weeks ago, when I arrived in the Rhine Valley, an hour from Frankfurt, that image was shattered. The Rhine River flowed gently amid hills covered in steep vineyards, Rudesheim’s cobble-stoned streets brimmed with wine stalls, wine gardens tucked away under vines replaced beer gardens, and my first drink was not a Radler (like on every other trip to Germany) but a Riesling from a small family-run winery! I found myself in Rudesheim as part of the Must Love Festivals project, which has bloggers traveling across the world to showcase quirky traditional festivals! Here’s why the Rüdesheim Wine Festival is a great introduction to Germany’s lesser-known wine culture: Hiking meets wine-tasting in the vineyards My withdrawal symptoms of Georgia gradually dissipated on the first afternoon, when the festivities began with a hike through the vineyards of Rudesheim! Barring me and two other English-speakers, the forty odd people were all locals …

south africa culture, mamelodi south africa

Bittersweet Feelings in South Africa’s Mamelodi Township.

On a lazy Sunday afternoon, the whiff of gently spiced curries floats through the streets of Mamelodi. Men from the township chat jovially under a wooden shelter, drinking beer, taking turns to stir the large metal pots on the open fire. Cow heads, they tell me as I look curiously, reminded of open-air communal cooking in India, though you seldom find men taking charge here. From a narrow street ahead, reggae music pours out, calling me towards it, towards women chilling in the outdoors over beer and gossip, dancing, playing pool! This is no party, just their only day off work. And so what if most of them are domestic workers with meagre wages, they sure know how to have a good time. I awkwardly smile at first, wondering if I am intruding. But the awkwardness melts away quickly in their jokes, and turns to hugs when they hear I’m from India. Take a picture of us, they urge me, so you can show your people how we live here; I oblige, for we can sure learn a thing or two …

mopin festival, galo tribe

The Mystical Ways of Arunchal Pradesh’s Galo Tribe.

I will never forget that moment. In the house of the village pradhan, I sat with the who’s who of Arunachal Pradesh, sipping apong from a bamboo stem. My empty tummy grumbled as our gorgeous hostess appeared with a tray of starters. At first glimpse, the food looked gray, finely chopped, hairy. What is it? our troop asked in unison, all seven of us curious visitors, here to celebrate the biggest festival of the Galo tribe – the Mopin. RATS. My jaw dropped. Someone spilled their apong. Rats? RATS? Mopin is a time of delicacies, so rats were followed by flying squirrels, pig blood barbecued in a bamboo stem, and finally bear meat. I was glad my vegetarian taste buds had consumed enough apong, a mildly potent homemade rice brew, and were too intoxicated to react to the surprising menu. Also Read: In Photos: Hiking from Darjeeling to Sikkim Arunachal Pradesh, tucked away remotely in the northeastern Himalayas of India, surprised me in unfathomable ways. From the moment we crossed the mighty Brahmaputra on a ferry and drove across the nameless border from Assam into Arunachal, a raw, …

chocolate making costa rica, costa rica off the beaten path

The Secret Lives of Costa Rica’s Chocolate Farmers.

An old dug-out wooden canoe waited for me on the banks of Yorkin River. Two cowboy-like young boys, dressed in vests and gum boots, greeted me with wide smiles and is-be-shkena. Dusk was fast approaching, so I had little time to voice my apprehensions. For an hour, we manoeuvred rapids upriver with an old motor and a wooden stick, slowing down to a crawl at narrow bends, tilting almost 60 degrees when sharp rocks rose from the river bed, nothing but dense forests on either side. My pumping adrenalin washed off the nervousness of being somewhere so remote, alone, in a country I had set foot in only two days ago (Read: Costa Rica Wasn’t The Country I Imagined). As night descended and finally on land, I lugged my backpack and followed my new friends into the home of the Bribris – one of the last remaining indigenous communities in Costa Rica. Deep in the rainforest, without electricity or connectivity, far from civilization as we know it. The boys made way for Don Guillermo, the head of the clan, to receive me. I expected him …