Sunday, 20 July 2014

MY LAST POST HERE...

Hello Everyone! 

This will be my last post here on blogspot. Easy Food Smith has shifted to a new 'home' J

The blog name remains the same and only the address has shifted.  I am hoping to seeing you all there.

So hop over to EFS's new domain www.easyfoodsmith.com 

Thursday, 22 May 2014

TRAVELOGUE - VIENNA

Next on our itinerary, from Istanbul, was Vienna. You can’t help falling in love with this beautiful city. The weather at the time of our visit was a lovely 19 degrees. After our check in at the hotel, we took a subway (local train – like the Delhi Metro or the London Tube) to St Stephen Square. The moment we came up the escalator, we let out a collective gasp at the sight of St Stephen’s Cathedral. I was mesmerised by its sheer size, high towers and richly coloured patterns on it's tiled roof. I was so enraptured by its beauty that I forgot to capture a single wide-ranging shot of the cathedral through my camera eye. But its grandeur and beauty sits pretty in a corner of my mind, bright and rich. 










Inside the Cathedral


Pulpit
At the square, we took the Fiaker i.e. horse drawn carriage. The tour pretty much helped us cover most of the significant landmarks in under an hours’ time; although, on hind sight I would prefer to walk through the streets of Vienna and soak it in slowlytaking my own sweet time to absorb the history of this culturally rich city. But the time crunch didn't let that happen. Here are a few sights of St Stephan Square and around. Some pics may be a little out of focus because of the motion of the carriage. I tried to click as much as I could! (I think it is pretty evident from my Istanbul travelogue and now this one, that I was quite "trigger happy"!) 







Hofburg Palace


Entrance to Hofburg Palace

Ornate ceiling at the entrance of Hofburg Palace






Subway is an excellent way to travel within the city however you can take the 20 euro/person , 48 hrs ticket that will help you commute in subway, bus and tram (you can check with the concierge of your hotel for this). Our next stop was the Schönbrunn Palace, the summer residence of the Habsburg royal family. It is the most visited sight of Vienna and happens to be a World Cultural Heritage site. You will be charged an entry fee to step inside the palace. The Neptune Fountain and Gloriette (but you will be charged if you wish to perch atop the Gloriette for the panoramic view of the palace and Vienna - worth it!) are free to visit but you will be charged for the visit to other facilities such as the maze, zoo, etc. 

Entrance Courtyard & Schönbrunn Palace in the background 

Fountain at the Entrance Courtyard






Neptune Fountain at the Inner Courtyard


A slightly uphill walk will take you to the Gloriette (that lies behind the Neptune Fountain)






Panorama of the Schönbrunn Palace, Schönbrunn Gardens & the Vienna City 

We visited the Belvedere Palace under the impression that it was the winter home (which it is not) of the Hapsburg family. It was built as the summer residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy. Today it has pleasing gardens and the Belvedere Palace serves as a a museum and has two baroque palaces (the Upper and Lower Belvedere). It has masterpieces from the Middle ages besides works of Austrian artists. 'The Kiss' by Gustav Klimt became my favorite. Also, I was fascinated by the 'Character Heads' by Franz Xaver Messerschmidt. (photography isn't allowed inside)




view at the backside of the Belvedere Palace



Belvedere Palace (Back side view)
Now on to some gastronomic delights of Vienna. To enjoy the famous Viennese Sachertorte [and I was told also the Apple Strudel, though in my view their apple strudel was average] do not miss visiting the famous Demel Chocolatiers (since 1786) or Sacher Hotel (we didn't get time to visit this). Demel (near Hofburg Palace) is hardly 5 minutes walk from St Stephen Square. (Do not forget to check about the dispute between the Sacher Hotel and Demel over Sachertorte) I recommend you also try their Annatorte but my favorite turned out to be the Gerollte Mandeltorte...it was super yum! 


  • On the way to Demel is a supermarket named Julius Meinl where you can pick up some good stuff at reasonable price. For instance, still water that was priced 2.50 euro elsewhere was available under 1 euro here. Beer to happened to be cheaper. 
  • And it just occured to me that I need to mention Freshii restaurant (located at Herrengasse 5, near Hofburg Palace) which serves not just non veg food but has many options for vegetarians and there is something for vegans too. They offer a decent range of salads, wraps, bowls, burritos (I especially liked their Smokehouse burrito) and there are breakfast options too. Do check out.
  • If possible, try visit the Naschmarket. It was a matter of chance that we happened to visit the market on Saturday, the day of the weekly flea market. There is something for everyone at that market. And in case you do not wish to shop there, go just for the fun of walking through the market, checking out the wares and goods being sold. 
  • In case you are interested in seeing the city while cruising the Danube, do check out the timings ahead and plan your itinerary accordingly. We wanted to wrap up our two days visit to Vienna by cruising on the Danube but missed out on it coz the timing was clashing with out travel schedule to Prague...our next and last destination.

Personally, I feel that I have not done justice to Vienna. The city has so much to offer and I haven't grabbed all that I should have. But with just two days in my hands that we dedicated to the city, that is all we could do. Vienna is still beckoning me and I will be back for sure, for more. 

Thanks for visiting and see you soon again!

Saturday, 17 May 2014

TRAVELOGUE - ISTANBUL

Back from my holiday abroad but not yet back home. Had a great time with family but I don't know why holidays tend to become so hectic and I some how always return tired rather than rejuvenated! I think I can blame, a little bit, the fact that I try to squeeze-in a lot of sight seeing. My mind thinks in ways like - "whether/ when/ if I will ever return to this place...so might as well make most of what I have now". But the bottom line remains that I had a blast and two relaxed days at home will wear off the exhaustion and jet lag. 

Today's post is not about food. My next few posts will be about the places I visited. So you guys feast your eyes on the sights and scenes of Istanbul. But first take a bird's eye view of the city that I captured from the Galata Tower built in 1348. (the quality of pics may not be that good coz, one, it was cloudy most of the time and second, it is the first time that I used my camera for outdoor shoot!)


The Galata Tower









I couldn't help clicking this pic for its facade 

Hit by jet lag and tired to the bone but allured by the beauty of the city, we couldn’t stop ourselves from hitting the streets of Istanbul as soon as we landed. My tour of the city began at the Grand Bazaar. The Grand Bazaar, located inside the walled city of Istanbul, is one of the oldest covered markets in the world. The centuries old bazaar has over 4000 shops that sell goods and crafts ranging from furniture to leather goods, jewellery, gold, antique shops, utensils, clothes and hand painted ceramic (the famous blue pottery). There are 18 gates to enter and exit the bazaar.

Nuruosmaniye Gate of the Grand Bazaar

The streets of the bazaar were packed with locals and travellers like me. The bazaar with its maze of roads and lanes can leave one totally lostyou may find yourself entering the bazaar through a particular gate but exiting through a completely different one! However, this was not to happen in my case since I had a guide to escort us out the same gate that we had entered. Being tired meant that I couldn’t devote much time exploring the market place. (The bazaar is open all days except Sundays and bank holidays) After purchasing a few things of my interest, we headed back to the hotel.


Road that leads to the Nuruosmaniye Gate of the Grand Bazaar




Next day we decided to visit the Hagia Sophia or Ayasofya and the Topkapi Palace. Erstwhile, Greek Orthodox patriarchal basilica (church) and later an imperial mosque, Hagia Sophia is now a museum and a splendid specimen of the Byzantine architecture. I would rather let the picture speak the thousand words







I could manage to take pics of only a part of the inside of the Hagia Sophia since there was some major restoration work going on and the area had been covered and left inaccessible to visitors. 


The Dome inside the Hagia Sophia

The vision of Christian and Islamic faith

Virgin and Child flanked by Justinian I and Constantine

Mosiac at the Gate

Adjoining to the Hagia Sophia is the Topkapi Palace. Now a museum, Topkapi Palace was the home to Ottoman’s for nearly 400 years. The palace occupies an area of 700,000 square meters and was used for administrative and residential purpose besides addition of the harem, which happened later. The museum holds a collection of weaponry, robes, porcelain, silver ware, glassware, manuscripts besides the exquisite jewellery section. In certain sections, photography wasn't allowed inside so I bring to you just a few glimpses of the palace. (I did notice people were taking pics even inside, but I couldn't bring myself to do that)

The Gate of Salutation

The entrance to the Imperial Divan



Columns of the hallway of the Conqueror's Pavillon

This pic is a personal favorite

Opposite to Hagia Sophia sits the Sultan Ahmed Mosque popularly known as the Blue Mosque. The famous mosque that happens to be the iconic symbol of Istanbul was built during the reign of Ahmed I.  It got its name, due to the blue paint used for the upper levels of its interiors and also the blue tiles that adorn the walls of its interior. Unfortunately we couldn't visit the interiors of the mosque as it was closed to the visitors for over two hours for the daily prayers. I strongly recommend you check the prayer timings beforehand. Here are a few shots that I took of the mosque. 







The Gateway to the Blue Mosque


The Courtyard


The Entrance door to the Prayer Hall

The Arcade of the inner courtyard



The Arcades of the inner courtyard

Near by these iconic monuments of Istanbul is the Basilica Cistern. (Cistern is a waterproof reservoir that holds the water.) The cistern, is located near the Hagia Sophia (It is at a walking distance) and was built in the 6th century. The reservoir has 336 marble columns arranged in 12 rows of 28 columns each. The reservoir was fed with water from the Belgrade forest 19 kilometres away. With a capacity to hold 100,000 tons of water, the reservoir currently has only a few feet of water. (Just for the feel, I have deliberately clicked the last two pics of the cistern in its natural environment)






A very interesting feature inside the reservoir are the two, upside down and side turned, faces of Medusa at the bases of two columns. Apparently no one has been able to figure out why the heads, that are believed to have been brought from a building of late Roman period, were kept that way. One belief is that the orientation of the faces was changed to negate the power of Medusa’s gaze. 






I am so glad that we saved the best for the last on our itinerary i.e. the magnificent Dolmabahçe Palace. The imposing palace was the home to the late Ottoman empire and later became the home of the founder and the first President of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who eventually breathed his last here. The spectacular and opulent palace is a complete contrast to the Topkapi Palace, the previous residence of the Ottomans, which lacked in luxury. The sheer size and opulence is awe striking. It is the home to Europe's largest chandelier. The Crystal Staircase, Ambassador Hall and especially the Ceremonial Hall will make your jaw drop! It is definitely something to be seen, so as to experience its grandeur. Unfortunately (again), photography isn't allowed inside and personally, I believe that no camera in the world can capture the beauty and opulence of the insides of the palace.


Clock Tower near the entrance


The Entrance Gate to the Palace









The Gate and in the background, the Palace


Fountain in the Garden and the Palace Facade in the background


Dolmabahçe Palace








For long, this beautiful city had been on my bucket list of places to visit and it goes without saying that after my tour of the city and being totally mesmerized by its beauty, I bade farewell to Istanbul with a very heavy heart. And its my belief that after a tour of the city (through this post) you too would have fallen in love with it J

As a footnote I will add just a few snippets. 

  • The locals are friendly and its a safe city(I speak from my experience and its my perception)
  • Language is a bit of problem; a translation app would be helpful. 
  • The weather was lovely but I recommend carrying light woollens. 
  • You may want to hone your bargaining skills before you hit the Grand Bazaar or the Spice Market (the place was packed and it was impossible to stand there and click pics hence you see none here). 
  • Lira is the local currency but euro is accepted as well. (but get an idea of the conversion rate)
  • You will find yourself many euros lighter when you are done visiting these places of tourist interest since ALL these places demand an entry fee.
  • Do try and visit both the sides of the Istanbul, European and Asian, but drive down one of the bridges to do that (even a cruise isn't a bad idea). 

Thanks for visiting and see you soon again!