Montreux

•July 13, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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A rally of ‘yes’ and no’s, months of planning and a lot of excitement led up to a bunch of cousins taking off for a Christmas in the majestic Suisse Alps. And most definitely the words Christmas and Switzerland couldn’t do without mentioning Montreux in the same sentence.

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Known for its jazz festivals and christmas markets, Montreux always held a spot in my to-do list. A picturesque lake town sprouting between the jagged alps and the surreal lake Geneva.

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A cruise on the lake, a stroll by the lake and castle on its shore seemed most attractive for a days visit to this charming place. The Chillon Castle painted the perfect image of Montreux’s medieval heritage as it stood with its modest footage along the expansive waters.

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Courtyards and  stairwells constructed a maze of gothic architectural chambers. The chambers overlooked the lake as rays of sunlight pierced inside lighting up the entertainment dressed in period attire. Local music of the region, guards in armour and wine chambers recreated a vintage charm.

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The slick motorway grew to be my favourite piece of the built environment with its slender piers elevating the ribbon like expressway over the slopes and around them too. Its crispness adjacent to the natural landscapes and the absence of any signs of footings and origins made it a pleasure to watch and capture.

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‘Picture perfect’ is what i would call Montreux to end this brief post !!

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p.s. thanks to the stranger for this picture !!

 

Copyright Abhimanyu Prakash

Pushkar_Rajasthan

•July 3, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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A drive on the surprisingly improved Rajasthan highways left me with glimpses of barren landscapes seldom dotted with bursts of colour lent by traditionally clad women and eclectically painted trucks. Mid-way to Pushkar, I finally managed to capture one of these frames while waiting at a tea stall where the aroma of local street food – vadas and kachoris made sure every passes by knew that they were in Rajasthan.

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Mythology positions Pushkar at a very important crux of Hinduism with its creation associated to have been by Brahma – the Creator and its ponds being courtesy the tears of Shiva – the destroyer. These associated religious significances have resulted in hundreds of temples having mushroomed across the city since the 14th century. Even today the temple town holds annual fairs and celebrations attracting millions of devotees and a number of tourists as well. The neighbouring islamic pilgrimage of Ajmer adds to local visitors and also to the holiness and sanctity of the region.

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My winter visits proved successful finding some water in these holy tanks which are largely dry or artificially irrigated given the desert like conditions arounds. White and beige temples, houses and havelis clamber down the steps/Ghats leading to these tanks almost generating a homogeneity in this organic growth. Women dressed in festive coloured sarees, men dressed in crisp white kurtas and flocks of pigeons add the life and activity to the place. Priests running up and down the stairs add to the commotion as they coax the pilgrims into performing extensive rituals towards the various deities, the sun and the water gods and often towards their spouses also.

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If the lake front is combed with temples, so is the inland with more elaborate religious complexes and organisations. The narrow streets, often not wide enough for even a four-wheeler are always alive with Rajasthani crafts and food. Polka dotted orange turbans, earthy leather bags, patterned printmaking blocks, piles of coloured powders and aromatic spices make up the Pushkar markets.

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The wrinkles on the old mans face, the crumbling facades and the musicians song, all have a story to tell. Singing folklores and religious hymns, the local artists lend a surreal charm to Pushkar and Rajasthan and successfully carry on the rich tradition of the region which we as urban residents have left behind in these places where we come from. My visits to Rajasthan tend to take a retrospective note and think about what I have left behind, a imaginative note on what these princely regions would have been like and an appreciative note as to how the heritage still prevails.

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A long due post, this brings back memories of cherished holidays and family celebrations with the hope for many more. Closing this one with a thank you note to a buddy for pushing me to keep working on these snippets from my travels.

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Copyright Abhimanyu Prakash

Miami

•June 26, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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A graduation trip, a family cruise, a much needed break after a crazy year……everything seemed to line up to get me to Miami, a city I had seen and pictured through movies and had long been waiting to visit, most importantly for my love of Art Deco. The endless South Beach combed in white sand and the warmth of sun felt almost heavenly after the never ending winter of New York. Miami felt so urban and yet so remote at the same time, with the beach and ocean drive transporting me to a completely different place, while the rest of the growing CITY seemed to be trying to hard to look like a CITY.

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The 20th century Art Deco has always been a personal favourite, but when complimented with Cadillacs, great music and some slick restaurants, Miami felt like it was out of the movies. The piercing heat also couldn’t keep me off the streets as I straddled along these architectural beauties, while my family cribbed and cringed to go back into the comforts of an air-conditioned vehicle. Never had I seen so much Art Deco at once, and ‘Oh it was wonderful’ as I often repeat myself describing my visit. The industrial graphic like ornamentation on the buildings was regularly complimented by a swaying palm tree, that sometimes rather than pleasing was more of an eyesore in the frame of my camera.

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Little had I known about the other landscape that Miami boasts of through its sprawling Botanical Gardens. The avid nature lovers and gardening enthusiasts – my parents, insisted we visited. The sensitive landscaping and careful attention to detail made the experience worthwhile. The natural yet designed water pools almost reminded me of my favourite ‘water lilies’ by Monet. Other exotic species grabbed our eyeballs at every turn showcasing a whole other world of tropical flora, rarely found in my native land, India.

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Miami left me with memories, incomplete memories……….that I long to complete over visits that I cannot wait to plan soon.

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Copyright Abhimanyu Prakash

 

 

 

Cartagena

•March 6, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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After a series of freezing days in New York, the whiff of the warm and humid air at Cartagena airport felt almost like an out of body experience. Ok, maybe thats a bit too much, but it did feel great as the sunglasses came out and the puffy jackets went in. This beach city felt like the perfect start to my South American rendezvous, throwing much more at me than i was expecting.

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It was an eclectic mix of colourful homes mushroomed all over the older fabric, in contrast with the progressive skyline daunting the newer parts of the peninsula. The white towers(our hotel was one of these) almost seemed alien to the warm and cosy residential neighbourhoods. However, the historical fabric with all its charm couldn’t lured us into the walled city every single day and definitely every single night.

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This UNESCO world heritage site is definitely one of the best preserved pieces on that list that I have seen. It was extremely heartening to see owners and tenants touching up patches of luscious pink and earth mustards on barely off-coloured walls, to help make the place look impeccable round the clock. Balconies and bouganvillas adorned these facades to give them greater character and with stores and restaurants so seamlessly tucked into the walls. I could not help but click a picture of how even a Benetton store could look so pretty when in Cartagena.

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It wasn’t until a few hours that we felt the need to peek into every single courtyard we passed by, which furthered the mystery of the place. Often a time there was a swank little cafe nested in one of these and at times it was like a small dump yard. But the mosaics on the floors, chandeliers from the ceilings and the rustic ambience made each of them look intriguing. On our last night we did manage to find a table at one of these enchanting courtyard restaurants.

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But, in spite of the enticing shops and the decadent patisseries, the streets were the most amazing place to be. Every corner opened up 3 extremely inviting streets to enter, and we aimlessly roamed about witnessing hoards of people floating in one part and a quant walk in the other. Street artists, small vendors and food carts thronged plazas that would appear out of nowhere and coaxed us into halting a moment, and taking it all in before we moved on. And some of these plazas were the best places to be into the wee hours of the night entertained by local music and surprisingly mime artists.

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An extremely expensive cab ride to the fort seemed a rip off until I reached atop the structure. Breathtaking views of the city, further enhanced by the setting sun made for the perfect goodbye to the city. Watching the sun go down gave me time to take in these wonderful 3 days which I had no idea how they went by, and made me think of what would have I missed had we not made an error with our tickets and booked them for a day earlier than our planned date of departure.

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Signing off for Cartagena here, but not for Colombia. Medellin is up next, a whole new world of the latin landscape making sure that i keep coming back to Colombia and more of the continent.

Copyright Abhimanyu Prakash

Budapest

•October 4, 2013 • Leave a Comment

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My first dip into the world of Eastern Europe was a fascinating experience,  given the precedents that I was going in with and the physical reality that I was immersed in. The colors of the sky made up for the rain that painted the town wet as we touched base in the Buda part of Buda-Pest. This significant merger of two names was a merger of much more that just that. It was the bridging of two extremely varied landscapes and hence significantly differently styled architecture, laid out on the plains in Buda and the hills of Pest.

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Unlike my past experiences in the so called ‘richer’ nations of Europe, this city came with something more and a little different along with the palaces, cobbled streets, charming downtown and stunning architectural marvels. Budapest spoke of much more than just a glorious past, but also stoically showed off troubled eras in history and their remnants. Their people spoke of not only how great their rulers and kings were, but also how valiant their warriors were and how tolerant and strong their ancestors were. Budapest started giving me a glimpse into the tumultuous past of the region, with much more in store for me in the latter part of my trip to Poland.

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The gentle cruise down the Danube was possibly the best tour across the city. The progression of bridges across the river and their architectural styles reflected an era each of them belonged to and gave a sense of floating through a timeline, representative of Hungarian History. Amidst all of this was the seat of the government, the Parliament Building on one bank, while the other showed off the historical seat of power- the Palace of Budapest, and the bridges seemed to just connect the past to the present.

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The charming city had more than just architecture to offer. Picturesque landscapes, a whole new world of food and interesting crafts and souvenirs make it a tourist’s paradise and to top it all off its reasonable. Jokes aside, the city gives much more than you can ask for and leaves you with an impression forever.

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Venice

•January 16, 2013 • Leave a Comment

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An impromptu trip to Venice, in lieu of the Architecture Biennale was just the apt thing to do after my stay in Kochi,India which is also known as Venice of the east. This trip had various agendas, the foremost being the Biennale, followed by comparisons to its so called Indian counterpart and reliving memories from a childhood visit to Venice, more than a decade ago. However, the city hasnt changed, not in the last 15 years and probably not even in the last century. The only change is in the numer of tourists, which has gone up to over 20 million a year.

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Boarding the Vaporetto / Water Taxi, i made my way through a choppy sea all huddled up and landed at Venice Port, with just a faint image of the clock tower in the distance. As I walked on the cobbled street leading up to the magnificent St Marks Square, the fog started to clear out and the historical facade started to give subtle glimpses. The magical mist and the prefect setting coaxed me into sitting down for dinner and Italian coffee, before I headed to my hotel.

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After a good nights sleep, I walked out into a clear morning. Light peeking in from the narrow openings at the end of the lanes, heavy movements of tour groups along the port and gondola riders pleading you to take a ride, was just the flavor of Venice I was looking for. This was to be my morning walk route for the next 4 days as I made way to the Biennale sites and pavilions.

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The biennale was an eye opener of sorts and a must visit for every person even remotely interested in Architecture. However, its scale and detail calls for a separate post and so getting back to Venice for now, the canals, streets and bridges created the most intriguing urban network. This fascinating fabric called me to surrender myself and allow it to take me wanderlusting through the streets for more. The ancient docks were a treat to the eyes as they represented Venezian skill and importance in the medieval times.

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The last morning, once again turned misty and surreal as Venice seemed to literally be sandwiched between the clouds and the sea. Felling privileged to have experienced this  heavenly atmostphere, i spent half the day meandering through the labyrinth aimlessly and drifted towards the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. A tiny Venetian Villa, with the most endearing character was home to some of the most notable works of Contemporary Art of the last century. A world of modernity housed within an mid century villa, amidst an ancient city was quite an experience.

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The sights of the moonlit Rialto Bridge, the old Venetian palaces and the masquerade costumes hanging in the shops were reminding me of ‘The Merchant of Venice’ and lessons at school. My mind started imaging the characters playing their parts on that very ground and re-assured me that I was an attentive student at school. The last night at Venice was spent consoling myself about the fact that I had to leave, but with the promise that I would try and attend more such Biennales and in turn visit Venice.

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Copyright Abhimanyu Prakash

Bilbao

•April 3, 2012 • Leave a Comment

A peaceful Basque town, once home to classical orders stands rejuvenated today under the influence of one of the worlds’ most modern architectural statements – the Guggenheim. Welcoming visitors into the city are sweeping shiny walls and a bright red gateway, built with a vision to give Bilbao a facelift, inspire its people and bring a spring in their step. Successfully this city has become a must visit destination for all those coming to Spain.

Enveloping all the contemporary juxtapositions is the quaint countryside, home to brick mansions overlooking gorgeous sunsets, highways leading to the french borders of St. Sebastian, fog laden foot hills and pristine beaches. Even the landscapes, like the architecture, showcase a seamless blend of varieties and contrasts.

 
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