July 2021 - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!
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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Why Dusseldorf is an Increasingly Popular Destination for Ex-Pats

Panoramic view of Dusseldorf, Germany

Dusseldorf has many perks that its inhabitants enjoy. So, whether you are an ex-pat looking for a new corner of the world to call home or you’re a German native looking for a new city, there are several reasons why you should consider Dusseldorf. Read on to find out more.

The Standard of Living


According to a recent Mercer survey, Dusseldorf has the 6th highest standard of living in the world, which means that it is ranked higher than many other more high profile cities. This due to several reasons but most notably health, education, crime rates and housing. Also, the cost of living is lower than in other European cities too.

Transport


The city has impressive transport links both internally and beyond to other neighbouring cities. There are buses, trams, metros, and commuter trains. Prices vary depending on the mode of travel and distance travelled, although there are deals and offers that can help commuters save. The city is also extremely bike-friendly, with many citizens choosing that as their preferred mode of transport.

Diverse Neighbourhoods


Lush canal neighborhoods at Dusseldorf, Germany

The city is divided into ten districts which consist of various neighbourhoods, although each one is uniquely charming. For families, there is D├╝sseltal or Flingern for foodies, Oberkassel is largely for the upper classes, and Bilk appeals to the younger crowd. There are many options when renting in Dusseldorf so you’d certainly be able to find something that fits your budget.

Nightlife


Dusseldorf is famed for its leisure options. From restaurants to clubs and bars, the nightlife scene is thriving. The Old Town is a popular nightlife destination for many, and it is even home to the longest bar in the world, which is comprised of more than 300 bars, many with adjoining doors. As a result, the weekends are a blur, young and old, from quiet drinks to lively hen parties.

Culture


Dusseldorf is home to 26 museums and over 100 galleries. You can see art from a number of amazing and influential artists such as Matisse, Picasso, and Warhol. If you are a big fan of art, as many citizens of Dusseldorf are, then consider investing in an art card which you can get online or from the tourism office. There is also some impressive post-modern architecture to marvel at, the most notable being by Frank Gehry. Dusseldorf has some truly outstanding cultural contributions on offer.

Leisure


Sunset colors at Dusseldorf, Germany

Firstly, Dusseldorf has enjoyed a reputation as the fashion capital of Germany for many years, so it has become a paradise for shoppers. As a result, there are a plethora of options to suit all budgets and preferences.

Dusseldorf also has plenty of choices for sports fans such as football, ice hockey and basketball. The Merkur Spiel-Arena is home to many of these sporting events as well as others throughout the year.

In Conclusion


After reading the above, is it any wonder that Dusseldorf is a popular choice for ex-pats? Dusseldorf represents a lifestyle upgrade for many of its citizens. However, there are many other advantages to relocating to this city; if you are considering your options, it is worth doing your research before deciding, as relocating is a tremendous upheaval, but it is worth it.

Note: The photographs in this article are courtesy of wikipedia.org and have been borrowed under the Creative Commons license. Each photograph has been linked to its host page on wikipedia.org.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Sonda: The Lush Temple Village located in the lap of the Western Ghats

Digambar temple near Sonda, Karnataka

It is the kind of place where peace, spirituality and lush nature go hand in hand. It is a place where prehistoric rock art, beautiful Hindu and Jain temples and a matha established by Sri Madhvacharya exist in close proximity to each other. It is the kind of place where life seems to move at a much slower pace. I am talking about Sonda or Sodhe, the lush temple village that is nestled amidst the Sahyadri mountains and is surrounded by the dense jungles of the Western Ghats.

As a thumb rule, most tourists visit this village for the 13th century Sodhe Matha (also known as Sri Vadiraja Matha), one of the Ashta Mathas established by Sri Madhvacharya, the famous Dvaita philosopher. The main deities worshipped here are Lord Bhuvaraha, Lord Hayagriva and Sri Bhuta Raja. The brindavana of Swami Vadiraja Tirtha can also be found here. But, there is more to Sonda, than the Sodhe Matha. There is the Rama Trivikrama temple and stone chariot, built in Vijayanagara style, the Shankarnarayana temple built in Chalukyan style, the many Digambar Jain temples located in and round Sonda, the Mundigekere bird sanctuary (a breeding ground for cattle egrets and some other waterfowl), the Sahasralinga on the river Shalmala and the many Jain monasteries.

Each of these places offer rustic charm, pristine nature and oodles of peace.

Lake in front of Sonda Vadiraja Mutt

So, if you happen to be in the Uttara Kannada region for a day trip, weekend trip, monsoon holiday or for a longer trip, don’t forget to add Sonda and its many attractions into your itinerary. This temple village is also the kind of place where one can stay for a much longer duration if detox, meditation and rejuvenation are on your mind. And while you are here, do remember to pay a visit to the famous waterfalls of Uttara Kannada for a waterfall bath and natural massage.

Temple next to Sonda Vadiraj Mutt, Karnataka

How to reach there:

The nearest airport would be Hubli airport, about 110 kms away.

The nearest railway and bus station would be Sirsi, about 20 kms away. Regular buses ply from Sirsi to Yellapur and you can get share taxis or autorickshaws from the bus stop.

There are two to three routes to reach Sonda from Sirsi, but the easiest one is to head north on the Sirsi – Yellapur road and turn left at the Sonda deviation towards the Sodhe Mutt and then turn right at the Sodhe Vadiraja Mutt arch.

Where to stay:

There are a few simple places to stay at Sonda like the Yatrinivas at Sonda and the Sodhe Mutt. There are also many homestays in the region that can offer you a lush environment with a local experience. My personal favorite is Tavarumane homestay, a blissful rural holiday destination in Karnataka.

For something fancier, head to Sirsi.

Best season to visit:

Sonda is open all year round, but if you want to experience the lush atmosphere in all its glory, either head there during the rains or right after it/

Where to eat:

There are a few small shacks at Sonda where you can find a small bite to eat. For something more, try the restaurants on the Sirsi-Yellapur highway. For a wide variety of dining options, head to Sirsi.

If you don’t want to do the long commutes for food, it might be prudent to eat at your homestay or carry a picnic meal with you.

Other tourist attractions nearby:

1) Mundigekere bird sanctuary – great place for relaxed birdwatching

2) Shankarnarayana temple – Chalukya era temple hidden in the forest

3) Sahasralinga – home to thousands of Shiva lingas on the banks of the river Shalmala

4) Magod Falls – a colossal monsoon spectacle

5) Vibhooti Falls – Karnataka’s jungle waterfall with a natural swimming pool

6) Yana rocks and caves – magical place in the forests of Karnataka

7) Shivapura hanging bridge – a motorcyclist’s delight

8) Sathodi Falls – Karnataka’s prettiest jungle waterfall

9) Devimane ghat – monsoon beauty home to medicinal plants and herbs

10) Bilihole Falls – hidden waterfall amidst the untouched forests of Western Ghats in Karnataka

11) Unchalli Falls – stunning monsoon holiday destination of Karnataka

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Monday, July 19, 2021

13th Century Sadashiva Temple at Nuggehalli: Offbeat Sunday Getaway near Bangalore

The beautifully carved Shikhara of Sadashiva temple, Nuggehalli

This place is an ideal rural getaway just three hours from Bangalore city. It has rustic charm, lush scenery and rich culture in the form of two beautiful 13th century temples from the Hoysala era. One of the temples is the gorgeous Lakshmi Narasimha temple while the other is the Sadashiva temple. In this article, I am talking about the Sadashiva temple, a fine example of Hoysala nagara style of architecture with Bhumija type superstructure that is more popular in Northern and Western India.

Built in 1249 by Bommanna Dandanayaka, a commander in the Hoysala empire, the Sadashiva temple combines a ekakuta (one shrine) with a nagara (north Indian) styled tower. Unlike the other Hoysala temples, its shrine walls and mantapa are simple with no sculptural decorations. The temple is built on a jagati (raised platform) and it consists of a garbhagriha, a sukanasi, a navaranga with porches and a Nandi mantapa. The main deity of this temple is Lord Shiva and located right in front of his garbhagriha is a large and well carved Nandi statue. The other interesting statues of this temple are its life like statue of Goddess Parvati and the unique Navagraha statues. The sukanasi has beautiful carvings on its ceilings that include the different avatars of Parvati, Soorya Narayana, Kala Bhairava, Chamundeshwari, Ganesha and Subramanya.

The plain looking exterior walls of Sadashiva temple, Nuggehalli

A Sunday day trip from Bangalore not only allows you to experience the Sadashiva and the Lakshmi Narasimha temples, but it also allows you to soak in the quiet and laidback atmosphere of a pretty little village. A traditional local breakfast and may be lunch too at any of the nearby villages or towns, two very pretty 13th century temples, being surrounded by farms and trees and a perfect excuse to soak in the sun, the fresh air and relax – Nuggehalli’s Sadashiva temple offers you the perfect Sunday getaway from Bangalore that is not only offbeat and hidden, but that is rich in art and culture and steeped in rustic charm. I recommend it with multiple thumbs up!

The simple exterior look of Sadashiva temple, Nuggehalli

How to reach there:

The nearest airport would be Bangalore international airport, about 144 kms away.

The nearest large railways stations would be Bangalore (144 kms away), Hassan (50 kms) and/or Tumkur (109 kms). The nearest small railway stations would be Channarayapatna and Tiptur.

Channarayapatna or Tiptur would be your nearest bus station. From here, you either have to take a not so regular bus, many shared cabs or a full cab to Nuggehalli village.

If you are riding or driving from Bangalore, the route would be Bangalore –> Nelamangala –> Kunigal –> Yadiyur –> Hirisave –> Nuggehalli. The route from Bangalore to Hirisave would be a 4-lane highway, while the route post that would be a quieter 2 lane highway flanked by lush farms and water bodies on either side.

Best season to visit:

The Sadashiva temple at Nuggehalli is open all year round. The rains and the winter months are ideal if you care for lush surroundings and pleasant weather.

As the temple is located in the middle of a small village, rituals can be more elaborate during festivals and hence they are worth watching and attending.

Temple timings:

The temple opens at 8 AM and stays open till 11 AM. And it re-opens at 4 PM and stays open till 7 PM.

Certain festivals and village events can alter these timings a bit. It is best to check with locals, who in all probability will direct you to the temple priest, who will guide you with the exact timings.

Dvarapala and Enduristan backpack

Where to stay:

Channarayapatna and Tiptur would be the nearest cities in case you are looking for decent budget accommodation.

For luxurious accommodation, you might have to head to Bangalore.

If nature is your thing, head to the coffee estates in and around Chickmagalur or Sakleshpur.

Hassan has also some quality resorts in case that type of accommodation interests you.

Where to eat:

The nearest town to find some good food would be Channarayapatna.

If better quality restaurants are your preference, try the many restaurants located between Hirisave, Yediyur and Kunigal on the Hassan – Bangalore highway. Most of the places will be open longer hours, have ample parking facilities and have good quality restrooms.

If you don’t mind traveling a bit more, try Hotel Madihalli Naveen, located just outside of Tiptur for some quality local dishes and snacks.

It might be prudent to keep some drinking water and snacks with you at all times, especially if you plan on exploring the temple at leisure.

Sadashiva temple of Nuggehalli village on a monsoon morning

Other offbeat Hoysala era temples nearby:

1) Lakshmi Narasimha temple at Nuggehalli

2) Lakshmi Narasimha temple at Javagal

3) Veeranarayana temple at Belavadi

4) Lakshmi Devi temple at Doddagaddavalli

5) Brahmeshvara temple at Kikkeri

6) Panchalingeshwara temple at Govindanahalli

7) Lakshmi Narasimha temple at Hosaholalu

8) Chenna Keshava temple at Somnathpur

9) Chenna Keshava temple at Aralaguppe

10) Chenna Keshava temple at Turuvekere

11) Ishvara temple at Arsikere

12) Chenna Keshava temple at Anekere

13) Mallikarjuna temple at Basaralu

14) Lakshmi Narasimha temple at Haranhalli

Sadashiva temple of Nuggehalli and dark monsoon clouds

Other tourist attractions nearby:

1) Shettihalli rosary church ruins in the Hemavati reservoir

2) The hill station and coffee estates of Chickmagalur

3) The wide Hemagiri falls on the Hemavati river

4) The temple town of Melukote famous for its Iyengars and Puliyogare

5) The Jain pilgrimage site of Shravanabelagola that is home to the mighty Baahubali statue

6) The hill station of Kemmangundi

7) The beautiful Hebbe Falls surrounded by coffee estates

8) The absolutely photogenic Mysore palace

9) The butterfly forest of India called Bisle Ghat

10) Bhadra tiger reserve known for its tigers, river terns and leopards

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Monday, July 12, 2021

Odisha’s Sudarsan Pattnaik: India’s Sand Art Magician

India's Sand Art specialist Sudarshan Patnaik

If you happen to be strolling on Puri’s golden beach and come across a sand castle that is a work of beauty, you might have just stumbled across the work of India’s master sand artist and one of the best in the world. He is none other than Puri’s local boy, Sudarsan Pattnaik, who has been honoured with the Padma Shri and many other domestic and international awards and achievements. His work is so special that in itself it becomes a tourist attraction in Puri and one that you should experience on your Odisha holiday.



Sudarsan Pattnaik builds such sand castles and art work on important festival dates and/or to celebrate an important person, landmark or event. The one in this article was built to highlight the rich culture of Odisha, an important campaign being run by Odisha tourism at that time. If you happen to in Puri on these days, you might be lucky to see the magic unfold up close and in real. And if you happen to be in Puri on other days, you could head to the open air Sudarsan Sand Art institute in Puri and see the live sand art sessions.

Rich Culture of Odisha through its Sand Art

Born into a simple family in Marchikote lane in Puri district, Sudarsan Pattnaik began his creative art at a very young age. In 2017, he broke the Guinness world record for the world’s largest sand castle and held this record for two years, before it was broken by Skluptura projects of Germany. He has represented India in over 60 international sand sculpture championships and festivals across the world and has won 27 of those. In spite of all these awards, felicitations and recognition, this man from Odisha remains as humble as ever and may be that is the reason his work keeps getting better and better with time. I would recommend that you see his work and/or meet the man himself on your next trip to Odisha’s Puri.

An evening walk at Puri's Golden Beach

How to reach there:

The nearest airport would be Bhubaneshwar international airport. From there, it is a two hour car drive to Puri.

The nearest railway station would be Puri railway station. Puri railway station is well connected with the rest of the country. For much more options, look for trains going to Khurda road and then you could take a connecting train from there.

The nearest bus station would be Puri bus station. Puri is well connected by road with the rest of the country. Buses ply daily between Puri, Bhubaneshwar, Cuttack and Konark.

Sand Art on Puri Beach, Odisha

Best season to visit:

The best season to visit Puri would be from October through February when the weather is pleasant and the days are bright. Summers can get a bit stifling during the day, but evenings are better thanks to the sea breeze. Monsoons completely change the look of this city and make for great photographs, but you will not find any sand art during the monsoon season.

Sunset moment from golden beach, puri, Odisha

Where to stay:

Most places to stay are either located by the Golden beach or near the Puri Jagannath temple. A few larger properties are located in the business district. The hotels near the beaches cater to a wide range of budgets and most of them have their own in-house restaurants. Puri has a weird 8 AM checkout time. Do keep that in mind.

Extremely popular golden beach of Puri, Odisha

Where to eat:

Puri has many restaurants and street side shops to cater to your eating requirements. There are many hotels with roof top restaurants offering gorgeous views of the Bay of Bengal while serving you delicious food. If you wish to eat some authentic food, most of them can be found in the many small lanes leading to the Puri Jagannath temple. Such shops serve you misti doi, sweets, tea, puri bhaaji, etc. There are many restaurants on the road next to the Golden beach. These places also offer a wide variety of cuisines.

Sand Art created by Padma Shree Sudarshan Patnaik at Puri beach, Odisha

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Puri Jagannath temple – an iconic temple and considered one of the Char Dhams for followers of Lord Vishnu

2) 13th century Konark Sun temple – UNESCO World Heritage Site and the sign of a once sexually liberal India

3) Raghurajpur PattaChitra – India’s miniature art honed for over 2500 years

4) Pipili Chandua Artisans – traditionally decorating everything from gods to wedding to products

5) Ravana Chhaya – 6000 year old shadow puppet play of Odisha

6) Gotipua dance of Odisha at Raghurajpur – ancient dance form from the state of Odisha

7) Dhauli Stupa – a peaceful location offering a panoramic view of the Kalinga battlefield

8) Bhubaneshwar Heritage and Temple Walk – lose yourself in 1300 years of temple and cultural magic

9) Tarakasi Silver Filigree work – 500 year old heritage of Odisha

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Monday, July 05, 2021

Mardin: Gateway to Mesopotamia

Mardin view from the citadel

This historical city located in south eastern Turkey is the gateway to Mesopotamia. It lies at the center of the homeland of the Syriacs, an ancient race who trace their origin to the Akkadian empire, established in Mesopotamia around 2200 BCE. It also served as the capital of the Turkic Artuqid dynasty between the 12th and the 15th centuries. I am talking about the offbeat cultural gem of Mardin that lies on the southern slopes of a 3,450 feet tall highland and that overlooks extensive limestone plateaus.

Tobacco Store in Bazaar of Mardin, Turkey

A lot of you might not have heard of Mardin as it was unofficially closed for tourism throughout the 1990s due to long lasting Turkey-PKK conflict in the surrounding countryside. Things are still iffy at the borders, but Mardin is welcoming tourists these days. It is the kind of place that rewards fearless travelers with a keen sense of discovery. And this holds especially true for the Mardin old town that is officially under the protection of UNESCO. This old town is known for its fascinating architecture with forts, churches, mosques and narrow alleyways all decorated in a wide variety of stonework. Add to this its diversity in people who form a beautiful mix of Turks, Kuds, Arabs and Syriacs. And you have one charming setup.

Narrow and Tall stone streets of Mardin

Located near the Tigris river, a walk through Mardin’s old town gives you great views of the Mesopotamian plains in the yonder. During its glorious past, Mardin, which used to grow wheat, barley and sesame, would also act a trade hub between today’s Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Kurdistan. You can imagine all of its rich past as you walk the alleys of the old city while soaking in the local atmosphere and architecture. The ideal place to start would be the main bazaar, where you can meet the ever smiling and hospitable people selling everything from carpets, tobacco, vegetables, fruits, clothes, meta work, day to day items and more.

Mardin Citadel view from a local cafe

From the main bazaar, you could head to the citadel, from where you can catch the majestic vistas of the town and the flat plains below. You can’t enter the citadel premises as it is inside a military zone, but you can walk all the way up to the barbed wire to catch the fascinating views of the Mesopotamian plains. On the way down from the citadel, you could drop by Zinciriye Medresesi, an Islamic school built by the Artuqids in the 14th century. This madrasah is known for its beautiful wall and ceiling decorations.

Fruit and Vegetable Market at Mardin

The other places to see in Mardin are Kirklar Kilisesi (Church of the Forties), a Syriac orthodox church dating back to the 10th century, the intricately decorated Abdul Latif mosque, Mardin museum, the 5th century Deyruz Zafran monastery (The Monastery of St Ananias) and the 6th century Mor Behnam church.

Mardin Museum

In between all your explorations, you can try some of Mardin’s specialties, which is getting a good shave at a local barber, taking a bath at a local hamam and having conversations with locals over some delicious Turkish and Kurdish food.

Zinciriye Medresesi, Mardin, Turkey

As Mardin is not on the main tourist map, you will not find a lot of tourists, which could also be a blessing in disguise as you might have the entire city to yourself . This means that locals will have more time to engage in conversations with you. And knowing them, they will invite you into their homes for tea or food. This is a great way to learn more about the local culture while sharing some stories from your country too.

Kirklar Kilesesi or Church of Forties, Mardin, Turkey

If you are a culture buff who like historical cities, then you will definitely find the stone architecture, bustling bazaars, narrow alleyways and Mesopotamian plain views to be very appealing. I recommend this hidden Turkish gem to all intrepid travelers. This south eastern part of Turkey is so very different from the rest of the country and is a certain treat to the senses.

Main Door to Abdul Latif Mosque, Mardin

How to reach there:

The nearest airport is Mardin airport, which is well connected to Istanbul by Turkish and Pegasus airlines. The airport is located about 30 minutes from the old town.

The nearest railway station is Gaziantep, located about 338 kms or 4 hours away.

The nearest bus station is Mardin. Mardin is well connected by road with the rest of the country. Regular buses ply between Mardin and Gaziantep/Sanliurfa.

Rugs being stitched at Mardin Bazaar

Best season to visit:

Mardin experiences hot summers with temperatures staying in the high 40s degree Celsius. The best season to visit would be October through February. However, this also happens to be the rainy season. Spring and Autumn months also make for a great time to visit. If heat is not a problem, then you can visit all year round.



Young boys pose for me at Mardin, Turkey

Where to stay:

There are quite a few hotels located in Mardin old town that cater to a wide range of budgets. Try to find a place close to the main bazaar so that you are close to all the action.

Garbage collection from on a donkey at Mardin, Turkey

Where to eat:

Most hotels serve food too, but if you wish for some authentic local dining experience, then, you should head close to the main Mardin bazaar. The top restaurants would be Seyr-i Merdin and Damak Sofrasi. And if you have a sweet tooth, then head to Sadik Kunefe.

The Mesopotamia Plains of Mardin, Turkey

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Sanliurfa – one of the top 10 experiences in Turkey

2) Gaziantep – the home of the baklava

3) Midyat – another offbeat gem known for its stonework architecture

4) Beyazsu – known for its waterfalls and greenery

5) Deyrulzafaran monastery – a 5th century monastery that was the seat of patriarchate of all Syrian orthodoxy until 1932.

6) Savur – a place where time stands still and that is known for its gorgeous stone houses

7) Killit – village known for its abandoned stone houses

8) Dara – an ancient Roman city

9) Tur Abdin monasteries – home to several Syriac – Orthodox (Assyrian) churches
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