Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Shopping Malls

Entering a shopping mall in India is like entering another country. Within seconds you forget about the crowds, poverty, potholes and traffic. Instead you find yourself in the world of multi-screen cinemas, restaurants, branded shops and recreational facilities for adults and children. I was amazed that all shopping malls we visited were buzzing with people, even though everything was vastly overpriced there.

Be aware that there are metal detectors and armed security guards in front of all major shopping malls. If you bring a bigger bag with you, likely you will need to check it in. Even a camera bag is not looked upon too kindly, and every electronics shop I tried to enter asked me to check it in (which I refused to do, so I couldn't visit any of them).

One of the fancier malls (City Center) in Hyderabad:

I always feel disturbed seeing white-skinned blond women in Indian ads:

A super-fancy train-restaurant in one of the malls:

A little bit less fancy shopping mall, where people actually do shop, not just hang out:

Metal detectors in front of one of the malls (GVK One in Hyderabad):

Sunday, May 29, 2011

On the road in India

India is a diverse country and it definitely shows on its roads. Obviously there are big differences in development between big cities and small villages, e.g. many of the former have five-lane highways, whereas the latter often do not even have paved roads. But that would be true in many other countries too. What I find amazing about India is that you are equally likely to see a cow cart in small villages as you are in big cities.

A small side road on the way to Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve. Even though the road is paved, it is narrow, has lots of holes, and there is lots of traffic. I think we were averaging under 20km/h there. (It took us close to 6h to cover 120km...)

Kids playing on the road in Tadoba village:

In India, there are no sidewalks. So everybody is walking on the roads:

Hyderabad, a city of 4 million, has good roads:

I find it crazy that motorcyclists do not wear helmets!

There is so much pollution that traffic officers wear dust masks:

Friday, May 27, 2011

Church in My Hometown

Here is a photo of the church in my hometown to which I was going frequently as a kid:

Sadly, my hometown does not have too many interesting buildings as it was almost completely ruined during WWII.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gniezno - Poland Was Born Here

Gniezno was one of the first Polish capitals. Here, the first Polish kings were crowned.

According to a legend, many many years ago three brothers - Lech, Czech and Rus - decided to explore the northern-eastern part of Europe looking for a good place to settle. Lech decided to start his kingdom on a hill with an old oak and an eagle on top. He picked the white eagle as his emblem and because of the eagle nest (in Polish, nest = gniazdo) to call it Gniezdno (today: Gniezno). The other brothers went further to find a place for their people. Czech went to the South, where he found Czech Republic, and Rus went to the East, where he found Ukraine.

Around 940 AD Gniezno became one of the main fortresses of the early Piast rulers and around then Mieszko I (Prince of Poland) is thought to have moved the capital from Poznan to Gniezno. (From there the capital was later moved to Cracow).

Gniezno cathedral was a royal coronation site for the first Polish kings:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Baroque Church in Gasawa

On the way back from Biskupin we stopped in the village of Gasawa to visit a wooden baroque St. Nicolas Church. The church was built in 1625 and it hosts a unique collection of multi-layered mural paintings, the most recent of which comes from 1807.

Unfortunately we only managed to see the church from the outside. To see its collection of murals one needs to ask a local priest to open it for you. We did manage to find a priest, but he was in a hurry to get somewhere so he couldn't have opened the church for us. He said that the next time we are in the area, we should give him a call a day or so in advance and make an appointment with him.

St. Nicolas Church in Gasawa:

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Biskupin in Snow

Biskupin is the most famous archaeological site in Poland. The site was probably established in 700 BC (over 2700 years ago) by people of the Lusatian culture.

It was discovered in 1933 by local students who noticed strangely-looking wooden poles sticking out from the lake. In subsequent years the site was reconstructed and today it serves as a life-size model of Iron Age fortified settlement.

The settlement was divided into thirteen rows of huts, separated by timber roads. There was a total of around 100 huts, each around 70 - 90 m2, occupied by 800 to 1000 people.

The settlement was located on the island on the Lake Biskupin to provide better protection for its inhabitants. Additionally, there was also a wooden breakwater in the lake and a 3 meters high, 3.5 meter wide and 550 meters long fortification made up from a series of wooden boxes filled with dirt and stones. Only a small part of the fortification and two rows of houses were reconstructed thus far, but they give you a good idea of how Biskupin must have looked 2700 years ago.

During spring, summer and autumn, Biskupin is visited by thousands of people a day, mostly teenagers from secondary schools from all over Poland. I still remember my class trip here and even my parents remember theirs!

Biskupin has not changed much since I saw it last, except for the lake now being frozen due to winter... The other thing that was different about it was also lack of any other tourists and hardly any footsteps on the snow... There are benefits to sightseeing during winter :)

Biskupin in winter:

Inside the huts:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Torun By Day and Night

Toruń is one of the oldest cities in Poland. It is also a birthplace of the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, the one who "stopped the Sun and moved the Earth".

The city is famous for having preserved almost intact its medieval spatial layout and many Gothic buildings, all built from brick, including monumental churches, the Town Hall and many burgher houses. Luckily, Toruń, unlike most other historic cities in Poland, escaped substantial destruction in World War II and thanks to that almost all buildings in the Old Town are originals, not reconstructions. Because of those reasons it is considered to be one of Seven Wonders of Poland and it is a UNESCO's World Heritage Site.

A few pictures from Torun: