28 December 2010

Jana kahaan tha, pahunch gaye kahan!

We had about half a day in Åndalsnes and the visitor center had several leaflets outlining the best hiking trails through the Romsdalen Alps, a string of mountains enveloping Åndalsnes. It seems there are 200 hiking trails there, unfortunately not very well marked! I guess Finland had spoilt me as in Rukka the variants of the trails were so well marked.

The peak we wanted to climb!There was a “city peak” …the Nesaksla (715m above sea level) which starts in the center of town and has spectacular views over the Romsdals fjord and is supposed to peak after only one hour hiking. As I looked up to the peak, I was like this is going to be very steep since they say it peaks quite fast. I was a little hesitant, but my friend was we’ll go till we can. This is a picture of the peak we climbed…or at least attempted to climb!!!

Norway 730Every time we go for hikes or in the forests my friend is is looking for trees to climb on. We jokingly call her ‘Jane’. And this trail was her fantasy…we would stop every few minutes to climb trees. The blue berries on the way too kept us occupied. I think we would have easily eaten 1/2 kg each that day!

After about 2.5 hrs of trekking, the peak still didn’t seem to be in sight.  And the trail also didn’t seem very steep. An old couple with their son had crossed us on the way when we were on top of a tree.

When we caught up with them again, we asked how far till the trail finishes. Norway 761And he was like another 30 mins…but when we mentioned Nesaksla, he couldn’t stop his smile. We were on the wrong trail!!!!

We wanted to go to trail no 7….and we were on 8…not much difference in number but….:-)

We decided to return from there…while going we were so occupied climbing trees and eating berries that we didn’t keep any landmarks. So while returning there was this V and we didn’t know which way to go. And we had a train to catch at 4:00!!! We tried the right side…after few minutes I was like, this doesn’t seem to be where we came from. So back we went and started walking on the left side of the V. Again I felt that this was not where we came from!!!!

Confusion….when suddenly P noticed the orange mushroom that we had seen on the way. Whew…relief! But its so funny, when returning we just seemed to think that we hadn't crossed that place before…it looked different and we couldn’t seem to find many of the things that we had stopped to look at earlier….like my HIDEOUT!

As we returned I had no regret that we were on the were trail, we enjoyed this one quite a lot! And it wasn’t steep at all so we didn’t tire out also. And imagine if we had got lost on the steeper trail, going back and forth wouldn’t have been very nice when one has a train to catch!

So for once I was glad we lost our way!

23 December 2010

Trollstigen Mountain Road and Geirangerfjord- Norway

For search, I am a Google fan. But I definitely visit Bing once a day…to check out the beautiful home page. They do pick up the most tempting pictures!!! The Trollstigen Mountain Road was added to our Norway itinerary thanks to Bing…it had the most awesome picture, coincidentally when I was planning this trip!

Hurtigruten cruises are another very popular way to experience the Norway fjords. They have a several day cruise from Bergen in the South all the way up to Kirkenes in the North. Though we didn’t have the time (and money!) for that, there is an option to join the cruise for a day in between.

So the plan was to get from Molde to Geiranger via the Trollstigen, from where we could join the cruise and experience the Geirangerfjord, which is famous for ‘The seven sisters’ waterfalls and the fact that is is on UNESCO’s world heritage sites list. From there cruise goes to Ålesund and back to Molde.

Trollstigen Mountain RoadThe Molde tourism office runs a bus trip from Molde to Geiranger and you can get an all inclusive trip which would includes the Hurtigruten leg also. Purrrfect!

What is Trollstigen and what is so special about it. You have to see it to believe it… its steep…very steep with an incline of 9% and 11 hair pin bends up a mountain side!!! And encircling this are the mountains I mentioned earlier also -The King(Kongen), the Queen(Dronningen) and the Bishop(Bispen), now easier to recognize from the bus. The road winds all the way up to Stigrøra (858 metres above sea level).

At the top of the mountain, there is a viewpoint. On the way to the viewpoint and all over in Norway we noticed these piles of stone…(even in my earlier trip to Nordkapp I had noticed and wondered what they were). It seems that this is Local Graffiti….’WE WERE HERE!!!’. Honestly we didn’t make one of our own…there were already so many and some were really artistic!

Stigrøra We were there!

There is a wired mesh…strong one on which can walk above a gushing Stigfossen waterfall. As you stand on it and look below, it feels you are going to get swept with the water, Nice effect!

Children selling berriesFrom there the bus goes through Valldal, know as the strawberry village. Strawberry farms on both sides of the road and it was peak season so we caught many people picking strawberries. At several places, children were selling these fresh strawberries and cherries.

Children will be the same all over the world. They love getting their snap clicked, whether they get the snap in the end or not. So as I was about to click a snap of one boy selling the berries,  and suddenly a girl from the other site, just dumped her basket and came charging to get into the snap!

Geirangerfjord from Eagle RoadA wild river runs through the Valldal valley creating several nice waterfalls, many of which are next to the road, so that we could stop and see them close. Though small, the force of the water was too much and it’s a very quiet place, so that one can actually enjoy the sound of water.

We follow the Eagle road, which has the most awesome views of the Geirangerfjord before we reach Geiranger and get on to the Hurtigruten.

We had just settled down and the cruise people were announcing some names…when we said, “what if our names are announced?”. And next thing…’Ms Daxini and Ms Nurpuri….please report to the reception immediately!’.

:-) False alarm…they just wanted to give us the boarding cards.

The Seven Sisters Geirangerfjord

The Seven Sisters was a bit of a let down. It seemed not enough rainfall this year and so there were not the 7 distinguishable waterfalls. But the overall beauty of the fjord more than made up for it.

17 December 2010

Molde - Norway

Next destination – Molde …an overnight train journey from Bergen to Oslo and then another train journey from Oslo to Åndalsnes. The latter was divided into 2 parts…Oslo to Dombås, which was beautiful…as expected of Norway. But the Dombås to Åndalsnes journey on what is called the Rauma Railway was breathtakingly, mind-blowingly beautiful. Not only for the sights but also because it was like a guided tour with a recorded voice in the train pointing out sights and providing information. The train actually slows down at some places for us to enjoy the sights. So much so that we did same journey on the way back but there was no sense of boredom. As if that was not enough, they also handout these very pretty brochures with the highlights of the journey.

River RaumaDombås is at the highest point on the railway line so very soon into the journey we experienced such sheer mountain precipices. The River Rauma runs along the railway line and train crosses the river on quaint wooden,granite and stone bridges several times in order to cope with the huge change in altitude. At one place its like hair pin bends using both sides of the valley…now the river on your left and now on your right and me as usual jumping from one side to the other! The Kylling Bridge is quite spectacular in its height especially considering was built by the local people with only the help of bridge experts.

The whole line was quite impressive – especially the Stavem Turning Tunnel which is really an engineering feat. The train almost completes a circle inside the mountain within this1340 mt tunnel. Trolltindene It emerges out of the tunnel pointing in the other direction only 19 mts over the place from where it entered the tunnel!

And finally in the last leg of the journey…the impressive Troll peaks. Trolls are creatures from Norwegian fairy tales. Said to live in the forests and mountains, they are enormously large, ugly and stupid and turn to stone if they are exposed to sunlight. Trolltindene (Troll Peaks) are massive at 1800 mts above sea level and legend is that these are actually trolls that were turned to stone when caught in sunlight and so many of these peaks are named after Trolls. Bishop, King and QueenTrollveggen is next…Europe’s highest perpendicular mountain wall …total drop is 1800 mts and 1000 mts is a sheer precipice.

At Åndalsnes which is surrounded by peaks, we are asked to look for the Bishop, the Queen and the King! I honestly could not make out the King or Queen, though the Bishop was easily identifiable.

From there to Molde by bus - the town of Jazz and Roses. Guess we were visiting at the end of the season, so we didn't see as many Roses blooming everywhere as expected. But we did see the famous Rose Maiden – a bronze statue of a girl with a basket of roses!

The town itself was quite beautiful and we decided to just walk around using the map which showed 2 trails to follow to cover the sites of the town. Eating berries, playing on swings and posing among roses, we finally reached the Romsdal Open Museum…even though it was past closing hours a gentlemen said we were welcome to explore around inside!!!

Molde Panaroma Molde Panaroma
From there we climbed up to the Varden…initially we couldn’t find the way to go up, and nearly decided to give up…but eventually we went and it was so worth it  - the Molde panorama was awesome.What Glee! There are 222 mountain peaks in this panaroma…and using this map like thing one can point to and see each one. 

As we returned to town we saw this really nice statue. The sculptor had captured the glee on the child’s face so well. From there to the pier where I felt one can see one of the best  panorama-views in Norway… a large bay with hundreds of high mountains and various islands.

To end our day was ‘an eat all you can Pizza time’. Because we ordered vegetarian and I guess we were the only ones…so we didn’t get slices…just one HUGE pizza. We were so wrong when we thought we wouldn’t be able to finish even half. That’s what fresh, mountain air does to you…we cleaned it all up!

05 December 2010

Swami and Friends

An adaptation of R.K. Narayan’s Swami and Friends – I knew I had to go for this. I know not one Indian who is not a fan of Swami made particularly famous by the DD serial ‘Malgudi Days’. I can hear many of you humming ’taa na na nana ta na’

The brochure said…’faithful to the novel but adapted and directed with a fresh perspective’. I would so agree with that for this one time many will come out as fans of Mani.

Mani, with his curly hair and idiotic smile just stole the show. As the ‘sutradhar’, when he was telling the anecdotes to Rajam, the faraway, dreamy look in his eyes was so natural.

“What is the holy trinity?” Swami’s ‘Vishnu, Brahma and Shive’ bought out laughs in the audience, but Mani’s ‘Swami, Rajam and Mani’ along with that idiotic laugh, had the audience roaring.

This is not to say that Swami was not good. The helplessness and ‘I can’t understand the logic of the Arithmetic teacher’ came out brilliantly.

For the history teacher all I can say is my biggest regret is why I didn’t have him as my teacher - with his enacting classed would have been very interesting!!!

A well spent Saturday evening!

03 December 2010

Our Destiny, Life and Prayers

From Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Overall, an OK book, a one time read. But there were these 2 or 3 bits that I just loved …Simple words…but so profound.

Coincidentally, all are from the Pray section of the book….surprising because I wear this badge of being a very unspiritual person!!!


Better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody’s life with perfection. So now I have started living  my own life. Imperfect and clumsy as it may look, it is resembling me now, thoroughly.

God dwells within you as you yourself, exactly the way you are. God isn't interested in watching you enact some performance of personality in order to comply with some notion….


Richard found himself praying all the time. His prayer was always the same. He kept begging God, “Please, please, please open my heart.” That was all he wanted – an open heart. And he would always finish the prayer for an open heart by asking God, “And please send me a sign when the event has occurred.” After a few months of praying constantly for an open heart, what do you think Richard got?That’s right – emergency open-heart surgery. His chest was literally cracked open, his ribs cleaved away from each other to allow some daylight to finally reach into his heart, as though God were saying, “How’s that for a sign?” So now Richard is always cautious with his prayers, he tells me. “Whenever I pray for anything these days, I always wrap it up by saying, ‘Oh, and God? Please be gentle with me, OK?”

Of course God already knows what I need. The question is – do I know? Casting yourself at God’s feet in helpless desperation is all well and good – heaven knows, I’ve done it myself plenty of times – but ultimately you're likely to get more out of the experience  if you can take some action on your end. There’s a wonderful old Italian joke about a poor man who goes to church every day and prays before the statue of a great saint, begging, “Dear saint – please, please, please ….give me the grace to win the lottery.” This lament goes on for months. Finally the exasperated statue comes to life, looks down at the begging man and says in weary disgust, “My son – please, please, please…buy a ticket

01 December 2010

A Wedding Album

Maybe it would be unfair if I said that this play didn't meet my expectations, probably because  I had recently seen Miss Meena - a creative masterpiece and this set the benchmark quite high.

Moreover, just by virtue of it being a Girish Karnad play, directed by Lillete Dubey, boasting a star cast with Lillete Dubey, Ira Dubey, Suchitra Pillai, Utkarsh Mazumdar, Amar Talwar one really has some high expectations.

The acting was brilliant – no doubts about that. Guess the story line was not very intelligent and that’s why we didn't see  any of the expected sharp and witty humor one associates with Girish Karnad. In fact I think the story was more appropriate for a  B-class Bollywood movie than a play with such a brilliant cast!

It reminded me of one of those Govinda-Karisma Kapoor movies, which were a rage in the 90s. There were several of them, but I am sure no one remembers which one was which. There will definitely be confusions on which scene / dialog / song was in which movie. The movie made you laugh for a bit, but nothing that stayed with you for even a minute after the movie was over.

The theme is how the traditional Indian Wedding has changed in today's globalized, technologically advanced world…a subject which maybe could have been handled more innovatively. But the characters where stereotypes.

So we have this EDUCATED, LIBERAL, MODERN urban middle-class family – an elder daughter who lives abroad with her professional husband, a son who is a software designer BUT the younger daughter is willing to marry a suitable boy from the US whom she has never met. The play starts with the brother making a video of his younger sister to showcase her to the prospective groom. Not theatre material…I say… Bollywood material!

But not to take everything from the play …it does have some charming moments and witty dialogues. Utkarsh Mazumdar was brilliant – his portrayal as Appa who still lives in the past had everyone laughing, especially when he would repeat the dialog about ‘had his brother been alive…’

The prospective groom from the United States (not sure of his name) was super….his American twang was just out of the world. His talk, his body language, accent… everything was just so USA returned!

Maybe if the play stayed in this one theme, it would have done better…but me no expert. This is just my personal view, but the play tried to raise too many questions and in the end leaving some of them unanswered…as in what was with the dead uncle. And the most ominous one…did she find happiness getting married to that obnoxious creature or as advised by her siblings..that if things didn't work out, she could always come back, did she return?