As exciting as my days within Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra were, I was more than happy to escape the frenetic energy of the city for far quieter surroundings. Enter Orchha, a tiny town in Madhya Pradesh with a population of only ten thousand. Compared to the Golden Triangle, Orchha was a completely different world that seemed like it was still enshrined in the past and unspoiled by modernity. For the first time since entering the Subcontinent, my ears weren’t ringing from the constant beeping of horns and I could cross the street without fearing for my life. It was an entirely different world.
Some destinations are so hyped up, so seemingly magical and otherworldly, so commonly listed on bucket lists that they sometimes can lose their luster when you finally come face-to-face with them. So high are your expectations that the reality cannot possibly measure up with the image that you’ve built in your mind.
The Taj Mahal is not one of those places.
No, the Taj Mahal fulfilled every bit of my sky-high expectations and then some. I was expecting it to be easily one of the highlights of my week in India, and I wasn’t disappointed. Taj Mahal means “crown of palaces” in Arabic, and it’s a fitting name. It’s the crown architectural jewel of Agra, of Uttar Pradesh, of Rajasthan, maybe even of the entirety of India. You can’t argue with the fact that the shining white marble mausoleum, with its bulbous dome and the spindly towers that flank it, is one of the most impressive and iconic buildings in the entire world. Continue reading Taj-struck in Agra
I am a wanderer by nature. Metro, train, plane, automobile, bus, horse…you name it, I’ll hop on board. But you’ll most likely find me hoofing it most of the time. Given the choice, if I can walk somewhere, I’ll let my feet carry me there.
I love to go wherever my feet lead me, whether that be circling the outer walls of Hamlet’s castle in Denmark, scaling the rocky goat paths of Mount Fuji’s upper reaches, or browsing the endless stalls of Hong Kong’s Jade Market. I don’t mind sore feet, because fantastic sights have almost always accompanied the walking that caused them. When those sights and exercise are accompanied by food, you might as well write me off for a few hours, because I’ll be disappearing down the rabbit hole for a good chunk of time.
Because of that heady combination, one of my absolute favorite places to wile away the hours is La Boqueria market in the Citutat Vella district of Barcelona. Take the Barcelona Metro to the Liceu station on L3, walk a bit down La Rambla, one of the most prevalent pedestrian promenades in the city, and there on your right, a small stained glass sign proclaims that you’re now entering “Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria.” Come with an empty stomach. Continue reading Throwback Thursday: La Boqueria Market in Barcelona
If you made me pick, right here and now, my favorite place in Japan, chances are that I’d say Miyajima (宮島), a small island off of the coast of Hiroshima. The Japanese consider the view of Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima as one of the three most beautiful views in all of Japan, and I’m certainly not going to argue with them. (Incidentally, I’m bound and determined to see the other two, which are the sandbar of Amanohashidate and the pine-filled islands of Matsushima, before I leave Japan.)
The first time I came to Japan, it was on a two-week, whirlwind tour that doubled as a sociology course under Washington & Jefferson College. Takayama (高山), a city nestled in the mountains of Gifu prefecture, was one of the places we visited, and I primarily remember it as a place of “firsts.”
It was in Takayama that I got my first glimpse of the Japanese Alps, so impressively craggy and beautiful that you can’t help but wonder, “Did I somehow get on the wrong train and end up in Switzerland?” It was the first time I stayed at a 旅館 (ryokan, traditional Japanese inn) and donned a 浴衣 (yukata, informal cotton kimono). It was the first time I wandered off down the streets of Japan, without having the voice of our tour guide in my ear or a map to tell me where I was. It was the first time I ventured into an 温泉 (onsen, public hot spring bath). Continue reading Throwback Thursday: Takayama
I have been quite taken with Greek and Roman mythology for most of my life. My obsession started when my parents gave me a copy of Bullfinch’s Mythology for Christmas when I was in middle school. (I also got a very early start on my nerd street cred.) In high school, I loved reading Romeo & Juliet because it was inspired by the far older myth of Pyramus and Thisbe. In college, the literature of the British Romantic period was my favorite because of its many references to the old Grecian stories. Most people dream of seeing Starry Night and Mona Lisa, but I fangirled over Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss and Winged Victory of Samothrace. Ovid’s Metamorphoses is still one of my favorite books. (And while we’re at it, Hercules is my favorite Disney movie. That counts, right?) I think myths and legends are one of the most fascinating ways to learn about a place’s culture, but for whatever reason, Greece’s stories have always held a special place in my heart. Continue reading Throwback Thursday – Delos
Nara’s one of those places in Japan that I only visited for one day and then immediately filed it in the “come back here ASAP” category. Unfortunately, that file grows larger and larger with nearly every place I visit, and the rate at which entries get crossed off is far slower. Regardless, I hope I get to make a trip back to Nara before I move away from Japan. Continue reading Throwback Thursday – Nara
One of the things that I love most about Japan is the fact that there always seems to be some random festival being held. Whether it’s based around food (like Oma’s annual tuna festival), nature (such as Hirosaki’s autumnal foliage festival), or simply taking to the streets to dance the night away (here’s looking at you, Nebuta), Japan has countless festivals throughout the year.
Though some are about as culturally traditional as you can get, newer festivals still pop up all over the place. This past weekend, I make the trip to one such event: the 8th annual Oirase Salmon (sake, 鮭) Festival. Oirase’s one of the smaller towns in Aomori; anytime I hear the name, I automatically think of “Oirase Gorge,” which is actually about 45 kilometers from the town itself. Continue reading Channeling My Inner Grizzly Bear: おいらせ町 鮭 まつり
I’m digging way back into the archives for this Throwback Thursday. Even though I didn’t even spend 72 hours there, Prague (or Praha), the capital of the Czech Republic, is one of my favorite cities, regardless of country or continent. I went there during a short weekend trip while I was studying abroad in Cologne, and ever since, I’ve been itching to go back. Going through my old pictures to write this post gave me a real case of bittersweet nostalgia.
Throughout my time in Japan, I’ve happened upon some pretty hilarious, entertaining, and just all-around intriguing signs. This is a collection of some of my favorites. There’s no real unifying theme or fact that applies to them all. They’re from various different prefectures throughout Japan and call attention to everything from proper etiquette for interacting with deer to a “real” American burger. The humor in a fair number of them comes from their English translations, but some are amusing regardless of the language. Continue reading Just Give Me a Sign