Monday, March 29, 2010


The Pink City is a magical place. I love the splashes of color, the interesting patterns, and of course the shopping. It was painted pink to represent hospitality for the Prince of Wales that visited in 1853. I can only imagine what a journey that was. The pepto pink and those lovely hanging lights make it feel like a movie set.

The initial shock of India started to wear off - the poverty, the dust and dirt, everyone wanting something, and the guilt for having more than others. These qualities linger with me and give me a lot to continually think about.

Unfortunately the heat isn't something I'd ever get used to, but it's part of India. Thankfully there were a lot of distractions.

Random notes + photos: - Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds) is one of the most famous sites here. It's very ornate and distinctive.

-Our guide told use how the cow is such a sacred piece of the Hindu culture and that they use all of its byproducts in ayurvedic medicine. We noticed dung patties drying and he told us they were delicious... still not sure what to make of that.

- We kept seeing men with large silver jugs. In these jugs they had milk and would dip their hands in the milk to determine how concentrated it was, which would determine the price it sold for.

- The city is one of the best planned in the world, which piqued my interest, because I love urban planning. Interestingly, we heard multiple times how they hold horoscopes and gemstones in high regards. Jaipur is a prized city since it is set up according to 6 sectors with 9 blocks, which were based off the planets. Every street is 111" feet wide and all streets are on a 90 degree angle. Our guide said that religion and profession dictate where people would live.

- Astronomy is a long standing part of Jaipur, which is evident at Jantar Mantar - a sophisticated observatory that holds the world's largest sundial (Samrat Yantra). You can literally watch time pass and most impressively there's an accuracy of 2 seconds. (You can read more about it at the WebUrbanist)

- Supposedly 70% of the world's gem stones are cut and polished here. Then again, maybe that's a sales ploy. We were told multiple times that Indians invest their money in jewelry and land. It wasn't the first time there were plenty of things I would have loved to buy, but baggage space didn't allow for it. Instead I bought several custom made tunics, which arrived at our hotel several hours later.

- The Amber Fort was particularly astounding due to the architecture, view, and artistic details. It had some impressive vegetable dyes in vibrant colors that have withstood both time and weather.

- We were particularly interested in the elephants, so we asked what it takes to own one and how the owners can afford them. We found out they are traditional for grooms to ride for 1km when they get married and they cost 11,000 rupees ($230 USD) for weddings and a minimum of 1 million ($20,800 USD) to buy one.

- Our first introduction to double standard pricing... we noticed the neighboring table at dinner was given another menu with local prices and our bottled water was seriously inflated from what we paid in Delhi. It also doesn't help that we haven't exactly figured out how to tip without thinking of Western standards and being overly generous... wouldn't you know that waiter was waiting on us hand and foot at breakfast the next morning.

- There were monkeys running around on city walls. Unfortunately they were too fast for me to catch on camera. stop Agra - and the Taj Mahal!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

city updates

As much as I'm sure you'd love a play by play of each day of our trip it's frankly a bit boring and will take forever. I am bored writing it, and I know that it can never precisely capture our experiences or the excitement. If it's boring for me, it's surely boring for you.

Instead, I think I will post a more concise reaction to each place with plenty of photos. If you have questions about places, experiences, or something else I'm more than happy to answer them, just leave them in a comment below.

There's so much going on that will hopefully be more inspiring to write about and plenty more trips around the corner. I need to enjoy the downtime while I have it and get our apartment settled, because we're back to exploring foreign lands in early April.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Road to Jaipur: Day 3

We spent the greater part of the day traveling by car from New Delhi to Jaipur.

It was a bit of a surprise that the tour company owner wanted to meet with us since he was out of town when we arrived. He lived slightly outside of New Delhi in a place called Dwartha. One thing he said really resonated with me - he tells his children how much he appreciates living a little outside of the the New Delhi chaos, because they can see the stars at night. Isn't that sweet?

The drive to Jaipur was long - insanely long. At each tiny village that we encountered there was traffic, not to mention there aren't really any rules for the road. 3 lanes of traffic turn into 5, and they are shared with people pushing goods on bikes, scooters, the occasional animal and often also pedestrians. Stefan particularly liked the trucks that were so festive.

The closer we got to Jaipur the more we saw wild life... cows, camels, goats, monkeys, and even elephants.

Seeing people working in the fields made me really feel as though we were stepping back in time, until we saw people on their cell phones on the sides of the road in the middle of nowhere. One thing is for sure - there is plenty of work to be done and the people here are very hard workers.

It seemed very misplaced to see billboards of jewelery companies along the way when the people working in the area would most likely not be able to afford things that luxurious. In India there truly is a market for anything. With so many people everything from the inexpensive street foods to the 5 star restaurants are filled.

Once we reached Jaipur I was thrilled to see such interesting architecture. This is nicknamed 'the Pink City' and the buildings demonstrate exactly why. It is a very striking place that most closely identifies with the India of my thoughts, although it's still sensory overload.

In the end our poor driver was on the road for nearly 7 hours - including arriving right when it was Jaipur's rush hour. We checked into our beautiful hotel, had an exorbitantly priced dinner, and then decided to call it a night.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

antique photos

One of my guilty pleasures is riffling through boxes of old photos at the antique stores. I love photos, so I find it very hard to imagine how someone could part with these. Surely they have many stories and a history behind them. There are babies, weddings, parties, and my favorite - vacations.

Some are the historical scenes of the lives that cities once lived, while others are people. I admit, I am the creepy person that has photos of people I don't even know.

My favorites are the kids at the zoo or people wearing lederhosen, just because they are funny. I'm not entirely sure what I will do with them - perhaps display them or introduce them to the 21st century and make them digital so I can share them here.

My city collection now consists of:
the Vatican

I think about how far digital cameras have come and how precious these snap shots and limited film supplies once were.

Now someone's memories are having a second life and making me wonder about the experiences that made them worthy of being captured for posterity... even if posterity means a random American girl living in Munich.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

absolutely beautiful

I've been loving Jamie Magazine since I was sent a copy by a friend.

Being a book lover I appreciate the luxurious feeling of the uncoated pukka paper mixed with the photos from David Loftus and the incredible fonts. It certainly makes for an insanely gorgeous magazine.

Unfortunately I haven't found the magazine here in Germany - even at the international booksellers. (I found this magazine here in Munich. You can purchase it at the Hauptbahnhof International Magazine shop for 10.50€)

Stefan enjoyed reading it too, and I'm all for anything that encourages him to cook with me! I may just have to get a subscription from the UK.

You can flip through some of the back issues here.

In case you are interested, here is a list of some fonts that are in the magazine:

Monte Carlo Script NF
woodtype URW D
Fedra Serif B
Quimby Mayoral, which I purchased today!
Soho Gothic
Meta Hairline

We'll be heading back to London in May and have already made reservations at the River Café, where he was a sous chef. I can't wait for a great meal and to pick up his newest magazine!

If you're in the US, you can even check out the Food Revolution and sign his petition for healthier school meals.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

New Delhi + Old Delhi: Day 2

Our second day in India was spent touring both New Delhi and Old Delhi.

We were promptly picked up by our guide, Lalit, and our driver. Lalit thanked us for coming to New Delhi, because it's really not much of a tourist city.

The first stop we made was to visit the Parliament House / Rajpath, which reminded me of a mix of Paris, Washington DC, and India. I'm sure it was due to the regal architecture, sprawling mall area, and the red sandstone.

We stood outside of Rashtrapati Bhavan (the President's house) and suddenly realized the school children that were surrounding us were more interested in us than the President's house. Clearly Lalit was right about the city not seeing many tourists.

Other important monuments in the area are the India gate and Humayun's Tomb, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Mughal architecture of Humayun's Tomb is what the Taj Mahal was modeled after. Supposedly, when the Taj Mahal was planned to be built 2,199 architects were asked for plans. Upon seeing Humayun's Tomb, Shah Jahan decided he wanted to model the Taj after it, which was built in honor of his wife that had passed away. Humayun's Tomb, interestingly enough, was commissioned by Humayun's wife.

As we walked around the grounds of Humayun's Tomb Lalit called the stray dogs lions. They were basking in the sun and scampering around. Being someone that really loves dogs it's always interesting to me to see how people treat them around the world.

The light in India is beautiful and it's certainly a culture that loves color.

We quickly learned the school children weren't the only one that were interested in us. Lalit had no hesitations in asking us all kinds of questions - how we met, what we did for work... and then I asked if he was married. His response took me by surprise, but also summed up a bit of the Indian culture.

He responded that he and a young woman, who lives in Auckland, met and they fell in love, but due to arranged marriages he wasn't able to marry her. Without skipping a beat he said, 'perhaps in a next life'.

There are so many aspects of the culture in India that I find fascinating. The Hindu faith, the arranged marriages, caste systems, the transfer of jobs and the telecom boom, and why exactly is there so much poverty. What's interesting to note is that divorce in arranged marriage is substantially lower than average.

After seeing New Delhi it was time for Old Delhi including the Raj Ghat (cremation / memorial site for Mahatma Gandhi) and the largest mosque in India - the Jama Masjid.

The best way to tour Old Delhi is by taking a ricksaw/rishka. Our driver was a frail looking older man, who frankly I hated to have drive us around in the sweltering heat. I found myself wondering if his old bike would hold our weight. Our guide told us to put our feet on a ledge and that was our seat belt. I was a bit nervous to enter traffic on the busy main roads, but I had to remind myself they are accustomed to this. He plowed through the crowds and dodged motorcycles, tuktuks, cars, and everything else as he took us through the various streets.

The ride was exhilarating. We wove through the Old Chandni Chowk market passing the themed areas: silver, wedding, paper, and sari/saree. It was certainly sensory overload. There were so many things to see and once again the people were also watching us. Funny how we are all curious about one another.

As we approached the Jama Masjid there were plenty of hawkers who wanted us to purchase so many things. Some of them were rather odd... a kama sutra book, a huge leather bull whip, bindi stickers for my forehead, and many books about the city. Everyone seems to be some kind of salesman with something for you to purchase.

We made our way up the sandstone steps and left our shoes before entering the mosque. It's customary to give the man that watches over your shoes a small donation. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw young man from America making a scene. He was actually yelling at the man and saying that he would not give him a donation, because he wasn't told this beforehand. The whole situation seemed rather ridiculous to me, because we're talking pocket change, which sadly probably means a lot more to the Indian man.

I was surprised that I didn't need to wear a head scarf, yet even despite being very conservative dressed I was given a silk gown. We tried to find a bit of shade so we could hear more of the history of the area without standing in the intense heat and burning our feet on the warm pavement. The Islamic architecture was very beautiful.

After making our way back to our driver we thanked the rishka driver and I told him that we were sorry we weighed so much, but the food here is just too good to resist.

Lalit made reservations for us for lunch. Despite serving Indian food it was clear this was a restaurant that catered to tourists and Western tastes. He declined our invitation to join us, which we weren't sure if that was looked down upon or if he simply had other guides he'd rather join.

After lunch we visited the Laxminarayan Hindu temple, which was more interesting because we heard Lalit discuss his own faith. It's nice when someone welcomes you to look at their beliefs, how they practice, and to learn what it's about. This temple was built in 1622 and unfortunately cameras weren't permitted..

We stopped to take off our shoes and walked across the cold marble floor, stopping to touch the steps as we walked in.

Next we greeted Ganeesha (the elephant God) so that our prayers would be heard by the other Gods.

We again noticed the swastikas that we've seen throughout India. It's such a heavy symbol coming from Germany, although I know it's roots go back much further. In the Indian culture it represents wealth and prosperity. Unfortunately we were not able to take photos at the temple, but the various idols and colors were really striking. We left with our own red tilaka 'third eye'.

I loved one fresco image of a man and a dog. Lalit told us the story, which was about the Final Journey of Yudhisthira, who was a brave man on his journey to paradise. Along the way he crossed paths with a dog that was said to be thin and ugly. They were companions for the journey. Finally, at the gates Yudhisthira was told his mangey friend was not allowed to enter. The man decided if the dog could not enter nor could he after all that they had been through together. Just then the dog transformed into the god Dharma. That was Yudhisthira's final test and a bit of philosophy from ancient India.

We passed through an underground walkway where several people were trying to avoid the heat. A disabled man pulled himself over to us asking for money. It's shocking and disturbing to see people not having the resources for wheelchairs or other medical devices that would greatly increase their quality of life. Unfortunately this wouldn't be the last time we saw people living like this.

After visiting the Hindu temple we went to the Sikh Temple, which was less colorful, but equally as lively. I can't say I knew much about the Sikh faith before we visited, however I recognized the men instantly. One of their five pillars requires never cutting their hair (kesh), thus they wear it wrapped up on their heads and enclosed in a turban.

While walking to the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib area a little guy approached Lalit and asked if he could join us for tea. We didn't quite know what was going on, because we didn't speak his language. Lalit told him he could join us for a meal and he declined, which I found puzzling. I quickly understood why.

We left our shoes with the shoe minder and received a head scarf before we entered the gurdwara. The area is quite enormous and houses the temple, an art gallery, a school, a kitchen, and the holy pond that is said to be blessed by one of their Gurus and cures aliments like cholera.

One of the most inspiring things that I saw was the enormous Langar (kitchen area), which is where this small boy knew we were going. In the Sikh faith they believe in equality, regardless of race, religion, caste, creed, age, gender or social status. Not only that, they believe in providing selfless service to mankind, so Sewadar (volunteers) offer their services to the community without asking for anything in return. It is very inspiring, especially when you see the scale at which they are working.

The dining area of the Langar is set up reflecting the equality - everyone sits on the floor next to one another and eats the same meal. Meals are served twice a day and amazingly 50,000 people or more are served each day. You don't even want to see the dishes. I wish I could have taken a photo of the metal plates stacked so high, but I didn't want to disturb the diners.

They definitely left me with Cherdi Kalaa (ever-rising high spirits), just knowing someone is working towards helping others.

We were understandably very tired at the end of our day. Thankfully we could settle in with room service. Things are very inexpensive in India. The most expensive item on the menu at our hotel was boneless chicken pakora for 300 rupees or roughly $6USD. We had also purchased 6 - 1 liter bottles of water and a bag of chips at a shop for only $2 USD.

The hotel also offered a day trip to the Taj Mahal for only 12€ a person. After we went to the Taj Mahal I cannot imagine going on a day trip, but the next day we were headed to Jaipur and it was one long haul.

Monday, March 8, 2010


Andi was the winner - lucky number 7!

Please contact me so I know where to send your gift card!

Unfortunately this giveaway was only open to German residents, however the next one will be open world wide.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Secret Society for Creative Philanthropy

I read about the Secret Society at the San Francisco Chronicle and it just made me so happy.

It's great to hear about people doing good things, just because.

A few days ago I met with some friends and we were discussing how in Germany it's not typical to say excuse me, I'm sorry, or to hold the door for others.

If you do, it's typically met with a 'nichts (or in Bavaria nix) passiert' - "nothing happened". One person mentioned she thought this summed up the German culture, while someone else went as far as to tell me once I lost my manners I would be integrated into the German way of life.

3.5 years and counting and I refuse to let that happen, even if it gives me away as a foreigner.

It's really interesting how hesitant people become when you offer to do something nice. They instantly think there must be a catch.

German readers - don't forget today is the last day to enter for the 50€ gift certificate! Just leave a comment on this post about your favorite ways to save when you travel!

Monday, March 1, 2010

A 30€ day in Munich + a giveaway!

The easiest way to save money in Munich is obviously by having a friend or family member living there... Yes, I'm talking to you friends and family who have yet to visit!

For the rest of you I composed a guide to a day in Munich on a budget of 30€.

As a special bonus to readers in Germany, the wonderful folks from are sponsoring a 50€ gift card giveaway.

You can use their site for instant savings on travel or photo prints from your latest trip, as well as everyday shopping.

The contest is open to those with a German mailing address and limited to one entry per person. All you have to do is leave a comment about your favorite money saving travel tip or favorite place to visit in Munich between now and 7 March 2010 at 23:59 (CET). The winner will be chosen using

Please make sure I am able to contact you if you win!

Viel Glück!

Below are some of my favorite places in and around the city center to enjoy on a budget. Munich is truly more of a village, so traversing on foot is relatively easy, although we do have a stellar subway system.

Simply click the image to enlarge it or print it out and take it along. There is also a map with the designated places marked below, so you can easily find your way.

Don't forget to leave a comment to enter the contest!

Here are a few of my tips:
- stay above ground so you can see more and make up for all of the walking with delicious foods
- stop by an apple store to check your emails for free
- many restaurants have lunch specials - eat a large lunch so you have energy to burn and because it's much less expensive.
- if you want to make your own 'bierprobe' purchase beer at the grocery where bottles are very inexpensive
- find groceries in the basements of many department stores and purchase drinks there

View 30€ day in Munich in a larger map

Other free activities to consider:
Gärtnerplatz - beautiful flowers and a great place to people watch
Olympic Park - this was the stage of the 1972 olympics, and if Munich has it's way, in 2018 it will be the first city to host both the summer and winter Olympics.
BMW Museum - the tours are not free, however going inside the museum and looking around is.
'Free City Tour' - guides work off of tips

Check back March 8th to see who won, and if you're in Germany visit for more money saving opportunities!

The giveaway is over - congratulations to the winner: Andi!