So for our third day we did some proper sightseeing after sleeping in! We met up with former UPF Secretary Ali who was here for the weekend and he showed us around. We started of with a trip to the Blue Mosque, which was very beautiful, and Ali was a great guide giving us a little history lesson about the different mosques in the city and the sultans they were built for.
The Blue Mosque
After that we continued with a trip to the Basilica Cistern, which is an old underground water reservoir that dates back to Byzantium times that isn’t used anymore but is really cool to look at. We also swung by the Royal Gardens. It really was a day with a lot of walking so we needed some sugar and Ali and his friend took us to a really great cafe were we ordered Turkish desserts in all forms and shapes before going back to the hostel through the spice bazaar to prepare for a night out on the town.
The Basilica Cistern
High on sugar!!
For dinner we gathered everyone (plus some extra hostel people) and ate a great dinner on the main street in Taksim (center of Istanbul). Afterwards Ali took us to a blues club where we also hung out with these cuties:
Later on we ended up in a club street where we went to different clubs, one of them with an amazing view. All in all a very good day with both new and old friends!
Today we had two meetings, one with Women for Women’s Human Rights and the other with the LGBT rights organization SPOD. The first meeting was with Women for Women’s Human Rights, which started from 10am. It was a very nice and interesting meeting. The organization gave us a very detailed introduction about what they are doing. In the meeting, we discussed the current women’s situation in Turkey and what the organization did to help Turkish women to raise their social awareness. Good time always runs fast.
Our first study visits
People listening with interest
When we finished the meeting, it was lunchtime already. We decided to have lunch together. We are a big group. And most of the restaurants are small and crowd. It is difficult to find a proper place to hold all of us. Finally we found a place with cozy environment, nice food and reasonable price.
Good food and company
The other meeting with LGBT guys was at 2pm. Their office is in an old building located in Taksim. This organization is young which was founded in 2011. They experienced some hard time. But comparing with several years ago, LGBT people in Turkey have more liberty now. In the meeting we also introduced our UPF and tell them what we had done in Lund. They were very interested in our organization and we exchanged our contact information to keep contact. It was a long meeting. When we finished the meeting, it was already 4 pm. The weather in Turkey is changeable. It was sunny in the morning but when we walked out of the LGBT office, it started to rain. But walking in the rain is also romantic experience in Istanbul.
Todays second study visit
After some relax in the hostel, we went to Taksim, trying to find some nice food. Takism is situated in the European part of Istanbul, which is a major tourist and leisure district famed for its restaurants, and shops. However, like all the other tourist areas, the restaurants there are expensive and taste like the same. Okay, since we are the tourists here, then let us do what the tourists do. Eat, drink and enjoy the nightlife in Istanbul. Night just begin.
Today most of our travel group arrived in Istanbul. Due to the number of people we arrived at different times, some came here one day earlier and had already had time to visit the blue mosque and aya sofia by the time that we arrived plus some other things including buying selfie sticks. I arrived together with a group of five that left Copenhagen by direct flight at 12:30. Our journey started with a beer or a glass of vine after we forgot the time resulting in that we arrived to the gate as the last ones just before the plane was depart, causing somewhat of a cross reaction from the flight crew, but we nevertheless arrived in Istanbul high in spirit.
Some arrived earlier
After collecting our bags we took the tram to the hostel just as night had just fallen. Our hostel was located in the old part of town in an area called dgxft and just by both the blue mosque and aya sofia. Apparently both these of Istanbul’s most famous landmarks are in front of each other separated only by a small park. In the hostel we live in a 30-room dorm and for the price we paid I am surprised with the high standard, it was far above my expectations. Living in such a big room, we had the share it and as one could expect this would resulting meeting the others staying there. During the previous day the ones arriving first had already started to know some of the and they seem like an interesting bunch.
During our first night we went out for dinner at a local restaurant, giving us our first try for Turkish food and is was delicious. Afterword’s we went back to the hostel and a vary pleasant time in their bar and we are all seeing forward to seeing more of this city in the following week.
We had our last meeting with West Zone Cultural Center during the morning. Unlike previous meetings this one was mainly focused on West Indian culture, traditions, arts and entertainment. The meeting later evolved into a conversation about both India and Sweden where we talked about both monsoons, cows, snow and nature. We got a private tour around the museum which is located in a beautiful royal house from the 1700s. Our talented guide Yussef taught us all about the royal family, history and fun India trivia.
Pictures from visit at WZCC
Afterwards we spent the day just strolling around in the beautiful city of Udaipur, drinking chai tea, doing last minute shopping and saying good bye to our newly found friends (both dogs, people and cows). We finished off the evening with a nice dinner at a roof top restaurant. Cheers to India!!!
Tomorrow we leave for Mumbai… we have heard it is supposed to be a bit cold, only 28 degrees! Anahita trying to figure out which bedcover to buy
Today we woke up early to take a walk before breakfast (we meaning today’s bloggers, Sandra and Frida). The main plan was to catch the sunrise (05:45), but because of our struggle getting out of bed at that time, the plan became somewhat compromised to just a walk in the morning sun. However, that gave us the chance to see a glimpse of the real Udaipur, with the locals focusing on their own lives instead of the tourists. Families gathering by the lake shore, bathing and doing their laundry. They were all very relaxed and we got a very peaceful feeling instead of the usual busy and chaotic atmosphere. Meanwhile the city (including the rest of the group) was waking up, we sat by the water enjoying the day’s first cup of chai.People of Udaiur swimming and doing laundry in the morning
Chai Masters with friend
After having breakfast at our usual restaurant, we headed out from the city to today’s meeting with the organization Seva Mandir, a meeting organized by Stina. Founded forty five years ago, Seva Mandir has been working with community strengthening with focus on education, health care, women’s empowerment and natural resource development. For example they have an income generation program for people in the surrounding villages, such as Sadhna (that we visited yesterday). We all got the impression that the organization was well established and worked with people’s best interest in mind. They also told us about their work against child trafficking, specifically connected to child labor in the BT cotton fields (BT meaning that the cotton was genetically modified). Their impression was that the government only focused on rescuing and rehabilitation of the children, while Seva Mandir saw a greater importance in protecting the children from ending up in such a situation. Key areas they worked with to improve this situation for children was to make sure they went to school and not dropped out, and by helping families out of economic struggles.
Group Photo with the spokespersones of Sava Mandir
Another group photo!
After the meeting, we had some hours free before our cooking class began. Sandra and Fredrik went to their tailor and tried their new suits and we simply enjoyed resting in the sun. By 5pm we were picked up by two autorickshaws who drove us to our cooking class. A very friendly woman greeted us and took us, step by step, through dozens of delicious Indian dishes. We kind of got a wakeup call on what we had actually been eating for the past weeks. That meaning, sugar with some sugar, and some more sugar. Yum. No, just kidding, sugar and some vegetables and oil. The Indian cuisine is a great variety of ingredients; everything mixed together and based on loads of colorful spices. It was the best meal so far and we all felt very proud to have been a part of the cooking.
Chai in the making
And finally, the last group photo with our amazing chef, Shashi!
After breakfast we went for a walk on the streets of Udaipur. We headed towards the spice market known as the Mandir market. Since it was in the morning the market had just come to life and the stalls salesmen were towering up small pyramids of spices in all the different colours. Everything from huge sacks with whole dried red chilli fruits, wagons covered in green chillies to tea, legumes and big stones of sugar made out of canes could be found. After strolling around the market streets and buying saffron at a ridiculously low price we headed back to the hostel preparing for the trip’s next meeting.
In the afternoon we went to visit the organisation Sadhna working with creating labour for women. The organisation was created in 1988 and has today 700 artisans (99 % women). Through the organisation hundreds of women have become economically independent and trained in craftwork making. The women are able to do this work since they can work from home or in closely located factories making it possible to combine it with other house labour. Working groups of 20 women including a democratic elected leader on a three years mandate, reach the purpose to get a greater women empowerment and local leadership. The craftwork that is made is exported to countries such as Japan and the US and the organisation is also in a preface of cooperation with IKEA.
India it is not only people, cars, motorbikes or tuc-tuc that are crowding the streets, so are also the holy and untouchable cow. On our way to the Monsoon Palace, located on the top of a mountain just outside Udaipur, we spotted another animal than a cow eating grass in the middle of the street, it was a real live elephant. An extraordinary sight!
At the Monsoon Palace we had a fantastic view of Udaipur and it surroundings. We ended the day watching the sun with the colour of a huge blood grapefruit falling down behind the mountains towards Pakistan.
Our second day in beautiful Udaipur began with an early breakfast at one of the neighbourhood cafés, before we jumped into a car destined to drive us to Ranakpur where we wished to see the famous Jain temple. Since the car’s AC made the sound of a cat clawing itself to death, the two-hour drive was less than peaceful, but nevertheless we made it to our destination.
The temple itself was breathtaking, with marble pillars and amazingly detailed carvings everywhere. But while it is important to respect religions – especially if you travel to their temples at own will – we had some issues with the general attitude towards visitors. The fact that you need to cover yourself up and that certain parts of the temple are open solely for Jainists is to be expected; the fact that you cannot enter the building while menstruating is not. I know that this is not uncommon within certain religions, and in some ways it is impressive that they manage to keep things just as they were several hundred years ago. But we felt a bit out of place, and I personally felt like an intruder. But it was an incredibly beautiful place nevertheless.
After a bumpy and slightly terrifying ride back to Udaipur (we were driving around in the mountains on thin roads with barely anything between the car and the abyss) we grabbed lunch and went for a stroll before experiencing an amazing Rajasthani dance performance. The dance, which took place outside, included great amounts of twirling, drumming, singing and puppet dancing. One woman in particular stood out and did several difficult “tricks” while carrying an increasing amount of pots on her head. To be honest, it was slightly painful to watch – we could tell that she was struggling with the act, beautiful though it was.
The night ended with some waterpipe smoking (“Shishah”). My references in regards to this activity were previously all from Teheran, where one in a certain part of town can find a mountainesque area with several little cafés that all serve chai alongside the shishah. People sit on Persian rugs, lean back against the tall pillows on the floor, listen to some traditional Iranian music and just have an incredibly serene time.
The joint we went to, however, completely changed my perception of what waterpipe smoking can be like. It was a balcony-type room with blue neon lights, black walls, an enormous poster of a hard rocking Ganesha, an aquarium in the middle of the room and planet stickers all over the ceiling. The chai was replaced by beer and the entire scene felt very high – which, if the readers are interested, seems to be the general vibe in Udaipur. People here are incredibly chill; even the shop owners who call after us don’t seem too stressed out. We even got a confession from one of the Rickshaw drivers, who apparently smokes marijuana every day.
All in all, it was an eventful and fun Sunday. Udaipur is absolutely lovely, and even though I myself grew to like Mumbai quite a lot before we left, it seems as though the group in general prefers Udaipur to Mumbai. I have to admit that it is wonderful to be rid of the insane humidity.
We have barely a week left to go here in India. More posts are promised, so stay tuned!
Finally, our how else would I express myself? We are in an extremly beautiful town, amazing architecture and so much to explore! Also we are away from all the constant traffic jams, pollution and noise in Mumbai. Fortunately, our fear of melting away in the sun, was exaggerated, we could handle the 35 degrees pretty, the dry air and the breeze made everything so much better.
Hence the more liveable weather most of us felt that a need of change to an AC room was necessary, the night had been really hot. Some of us had crazy dreams (like fever dreams), woke several times a night, and fell asleep again in our own cozy sweat puddles. Me and Maari were lucky getting a room with beautifully shaped windows with a great view.
Breakfast consisted of for most of the group were enjoying the fact that we could eat porridge and banana, just like a home:) After the breakfast it was time to head of for the first major site for the day, The city palace. The place was just amazing, so well kept, you could just imagine being a royalty walking around on the courtyard in your most beautiful sari. The reason to why the place was so well kept was that the Mewar families last maharana (emperor) lived there until the 1970s and after this it was given to the state as a part of India’s cultural heritage. Wikipedia this man and you will see that he attended the Swedish princesses wedding last summer.
Inside the city place you could see the queen’s dressing room, the last maharana’s all different costumes and several mirror rooms. After being lost in the palace for myself for half an hour, I found the group and we had some well deserved lunch. We did some shopping, the cities shops offering some great handmade leather products as wells as miniature art and home decorations. Plus, all the “regular” backpacker things.
Back in the hotel for a siesta, I decided to take on some dirty laundry. I hanged it on the curtain rod and after a while my favorite dress flew out the window and landed on another roof top. The dress was on the middle of a roof, which looked like a pile of crushed terracotta pots, it would have been dangerous to walk out there. It was just for me to wait and hope that someone brave at the hotel could fix it the next day.
Before we went for dinner we went on a touristy little boat ride in the great lake. On the trip we had to wear silly big orange life vest, that didn’t have straps. I guess it was just for the looks. We had a great dinner on a rooftop restaurant just by the lake and we watched the palaces and houses lighting up. It all looked like a scene from a romantic movie.
We all very happy, pleased, well and less sweaty after our first day in Udaipur!
The day started with a meeting with Majlis, an organization for women and their juridical rights. We met two layers with a wide knowledge about just that, women’s right.
They told us about their main concerns and gave us case-examples. One was about a wife how got hit by her husband a lot. One day she decided it was enough and hit him back, really badly. He got jail and after a few months he was back in the house but he never touched her again.
After a lunch break we took a cab to University of Mumbai where we met with both teachers and students. Together we had a discussion about the largest democracy in the world, India.
After the two meetings we went to Dohbi bhat, a laundry place where a large part of Mumbai’s laundry is hand washed.
The night ended in the fancy area of Mumbai, at the restaurant Olive where all the famous Bollywood stars usually hang. If we saw any? I actually don’t watch that kind of movies so I have no idea.
Before leaving Mumbai we went to Prince of Wales art museum, where they had a lot of sculptures and paintings.
After a quick lunch break we went to the airport, next stop Udaipur.
Being in India, where tourists don’t seem so be an every day thing, you have to get use to staring, shaking hands and getting your photo taken without your own approval…
After a bumpy flight we arrived in Udaipur, which has to be one of the most beautiful cities we have ever seen.
Wednesday we had the possibility to enjoy a slow morning – we had only one meeting in the afternoon. We had breakfast, bread omelette and chai tea, at TISS cantine and read local newspapers. Mumbai Mirror (local “Expressen”) was the most entertaining one, with its horoscope and sex help parts. After breakfast some of us sat down to update this blog, while others went to do some fruit and Tiger-balm shopping.
Before our 2 o’clock meeting we had lunch at a nearby lunch/take away-restaurant Muktar’s. We all came there together, sat in different tables, were served different times and left separately.
Wednesdays meeting was at TISS at School of Median and Culture Studies, where we met Anjali Monteiro and K. P. Jayasankar, a couple, professors and documentary film makers. They showed us their film Naata (2003), which told us three separate stories. One about them selves, their love marriage across casts and religions, one about Dharavi, the most known slum in Mumbai, and one about two friends: one Muslim, one Hindu and their peace initiatives in Dharavi after 1992. After the film we talked lot about the Dharavi slum, which is also known from Slumdog Millionaire. However, the film shows entirely wrong picture of the slum. In the film there is not even one law following adult. In reality Dharavi is highly organized and extremely productive “mini-India”, where all the cultures meet and almost 200 languages are spoken and its according to them one of the safest parts of Mumbai.
We also got to meet some students of their Master program, who had just started their semester. The students had studied their bachelors in different fields and came from all around India. They showed us some of their works from last year and we had interesting discussions about them. They had made music videos and public service ads with theme women & safety to create awareness. Themes included rape, sexual abuses and wives “locked” inside their homes. The public service ads were really thought provoking and well made, as well as the music videos.
After our meeting officially ended, we stayed and mingled with the students about the election results and about studying in Mumbai and Lund. Anahita had dinner and went Bollywood star spotting with an Indian student, while the rest of us went to see the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus train station, the biggest in the whole of Asia.
Lund University and TISS coming together
After train station we had dinner – thalis – and went for a sightseeing walk in Fort, the area with old colonial style buildings. We walked past the High court, University of Mumbai’s main building and some other beautiful old buildings. In the end we ended up having beers at the same place as on Saturday.
When we got back to TISS, we were all so tired that we went straight to bed!