………………this is just to let you know that I will have to take a short break for 48 hours.
So, please stay ‘tuned’ – I will be back in a couple of days.
See you then,
I have never belonged to the group of people who hated Monday – rather the opposite.
Like Spring following Winter – Monday to me was mostly the start of a new week with all its ups and downs, its surprises jumping at me from unsuspected quarters; but then because I have a “job” I enjoy doing.
So far so good – until this past Monday! So many things were written down on my “what-to-do” list over the week-end, and a couple of them were quite urgent, that I was ready to ‘rock-and-roll’ my way through Ernakulam (what we call our City centre). Anticipating therefore being back home early afternoon ready to cook a nice delicious Kerala curry, take the photographs and write my Blog-entry to be posted that evening.
So far so good – but then the powers-to-be came and ruined my entire well laid out plans.
You must have had days like this when everything and anything went wrong for you. Hm, yes – just like my Monday!
Traffic that day was absolutely atrocious, people I had to see had either not yet turned up at their office or had to rush off to some more important meeting, items I really needed for my kitchen were not available that day, other people, who normally were always friendly, were wearing their “I-hate-Monday’s-therefore-I-am-grumpy” face, etc. etc. – I knew you understand.
Then when I finally reached home and had my second cup of coffee of the day, I found out that the Internet connection had gone due to ‘line complaint’! And before I even had the chance of starting in my kitchen the electricity went off, too and did not come back for a long long time, by then I had decided to call it a day!
Dreading just a little bit Tuesday (fearing what could possibly go wrong?) I again faced traffic, heat, people not being available etc.
But then I had an idea! And a brilliant one, as it turned out in the end. Since, once again I was in Ernakulam, I decided to re-visit a place not too far away. A place I had last been to appr. 4 years ago – Vypeen!
Vypeen (or Vipin, as it is also known) belongs to a group of islands, forming part of the City of Cochin/Ernakulam only just 5 km away and is now a fast developing suburb of Cochin.
Heavy floods in 1341 shaped this Island – but now once again it is re-connected to the Mainland by various bridges, known as the Goshree Bridges.
After parking the car by the Bus Depot I went right down to the edge of the sea – a spot which I like very much.
Not much really has changed; in a way I felt time has stood still.
Right along the seafront, a paved path has now been laid out for locals and visitors to walk on and sit and enjoy the fresh sea breeze and watch life on the water go by before their very own eyes. There are the big ships, many many fishing canoes whizzing through the water like colourful butterflys, the public ferry taking people across to the other side. Birds looking for small fish near the waters edge. And the occasional boys trying to catch a bigger fish just with a line (but I have never seen a catch here).
I love just sitting there and watch the breakers out at the mouth of the Arabian Sea. And I even found a few reminders of the once well maintained ‘Chinese Fishing nets’, now completely dilapidated and still, to my utter amazement, fishermen dare walk those few remaining planks, like acrobats in a circus, lowering a net in the hope to be lucky and not only catch their lunch but also enough to sell.
But, as you can see from one of my photographs here, luck was not much on their side that morning. Look at the little ‘Tiger Fish’ – not even a child’s mouthful! But their spirits were high and they go on looking forward to their next catch, which might after all be the lucky one for them.
It is quite a peaceful place – not (yet) overrun by tourists and the few locals out are a friendly and courteous lot. I will have to go back there, and soon for more fresh sea air and photographs and to write my ‘Vypeen – the Island (Part II)’
Until then, Ciao Carina
Officially around 21st September Autumn makes his entrance into England. Although not welcomed by everybody, there are still plenty of us, who quite like the change in the seasons with all their plus- and minus points.
Despite what is always being said about the “good old British weather…” it is a fact, that often Summer will not allow Autumn just to enter and push her aside, ‘…just like that…’ – oh no. More often than not the country is blessed with some really wonderful warm sunny days before the onslaught of darkness and rain arrives for real.
Take London for example; blessed with a great number of wonderful parks and plenty of tree-lined streets, she will show off a wonderful display of autumn colours before the leaves fall down and bring tremendous enjoyment to children, young and older!! Who has not felt like a child again walking through a park or wood and playing the old game of kicking up the leaves (especially if somebody had just swept them up into small ‘mountains’ to be taken away at a later stage for composting). Come on; admit it, its tremendous fun.
It is said, that some people start getting depressed around this time of year, but why? For us, who live in a country which is hot all year round, this seasonal change is a blessed relief and full of enjoyment.
Unfortunately we have nearly always just missed this change, returning home to India only a few days before Lady Sunshine burst onto the scene once more with full force. But I can leave you with a picture of one of the trees near our apartment in London. Every day that tree looked different – I only wish I would have taken a picture every day to record this. Hm, there is always another time, right?
And also I like to introduce you to yet 2 more paintings which we like so very much. Both depicting “autumn” (Herbst/Fall).
The first one by Frederic Edwin Church we saw in June this year for the first time in a Museum during our visit to Madrid – I wish you too could see the real thing! The colours are incredible.
The second one is by John Everett Millais and can be found in the City Art Gallery in Manchester, England.
(The pictures of the two paintings courtesy of Wikipedia)
Today my friends, I will not bother you with too much text – just a very small visual feast for your eyes (so I hope).
The Peacock, India’s national bird. Look how proud and majestic he sits here, seemingly without any care in the world, showing off his magnificent plumage for all to see. He was quite in a receptive mood when I was trying to take his pictures – I was able to get pretty close to him, nearly able to touch him. But, all my sweet talking was in vein, he was not prepared to open his feathers and display for us and my camera the famous ‘peacock fan’; and of course I was not one to complain, having been able to get this shot of him.
He was such a good bird, he allowed us to stay with him for quite some time, taking pictures occasionally. And somehow we had this feeling, that he knew that we came from far away, the land of his ancestors – and suddenly, out of the corner of my eyes I saw this most magnificent creature strutting across the lawn only a couple of meters away from us, it’s long tail feathers making a slight swishing sound, which must have caught my attention in the first place, I think – it was THE WHITE PEACOCK. But unlike his blue ‘cousin’ this one here was extremely shy – very happy to parade proudly up and down in front of us, seemingly urging us to take pictures like at a photo shoot, but not confident enough to allow us really close.
Neither Jo nor I had ever seen this kind of bird before. The beauty of this peacock literally took my breath away. Having seen so much beauty on that one day, we soon said good bye to the beautiful Park of the famous Villa Pallavicino, just outside Stresa on Lake Maggiore, which is literally a paradise of flowers and animals.
The Park was originally the idea of the Neapolitan statesman Ruggero Bonghi, who fell in love with Lake Maggiore and decided in1855 to purchase the land and build a small house for himself. In 1862 the family of the Marquises of Pallavicino acquired the property and began to improve it, extending the grounds, building drives suitable for carriages, embellishing the park with statues and transforming the modest house into the opulent 19th century Neoclassical mansion which still graces the hillside.
In 1952 Marchioness Luisa Pallavicino completed the family project with the addition of a zoo with animals from every corner of the globe. I was introduced to the Marchesa in the early 70s by a close Italian friend of mine who was a cousin of the Marchesa. She was such a charming and gracious lady who personally and proudly showed me around, introducing me to nearly every animal she had in her beloved parco, before we sat down in the cooling shade of one of the many magnificent Cypresses where we enjoyed our tea overlooking the picture postcard view of the Lago Maggiore. Sadly I only met her once again before her death in 1992 in Rome. So I was very happy of being able to visit once again after such a long time. Another time I will take you around a bit more.
(Photos: CS/Manningtree Archive)
It was last Friday we once again went to Fort Cochin.
For convenience sake and to avoid the heavy traffic of Cochin, we opted for the long stretch of the Bypass, from our house which took us through Vyttila Junction, past the office of EMIRATES Airlines and the Whyte Fort Hotel on the other side, through Kundanoor Toll, Thevera Cross Road onto Willingdon Island.
The Thoppumpady Bridge connecting the Willingdon Island to Fort Cochin/Mattancherry peninsula was not as crowded like the usual melee at the Thoppumpady Junction. JS and I prefer the Beach Road at the extreme end running parallel to the coastline of the Arabian Sea.
JS was born here in Fort Cochin and this surely is one of the many reasons why this place is special to us. The atmosphere, the ambiance is somewhat difficult to describe – it is … hmm yes … it is just special! But one thing is for sure, we always have this feeling like we have stepped back in time, just a few steps… mind you, but enough to leave the hassle and bustle of Cochin far behind. Surely most of you know that special feeling you get when you visit places from your past with their happy memories.
For example, there is always one spot we simply have to pass, the Veli Grounds, where we can see the giant old tree to our right (see picture above) which is decorated and illuminated every year during the Christmas and New Year season and of course, during the famous Fort Cochin Carnival. But what we found now was a giant bee’s hive further ahead at the junction. So huge and menacing looking from below – neither of us has ever seen anything like this before.
Having been stung viciously by bees in our own garden in England a few years ago, I am naturally a bit, shall we say “wary” of them and we made a quick exit from that place.
The entrance to K.B Jacaob Road also hosts a group of other huge trees with wide-stretched branches that is a treat to the eyes and indeed a silent welcome to the visitors to Fort Cochin.
But since we wanted to get to Kamaalakkadavu at the extreme end of Fort Cochin, we took the K.B. Jacob Road, now a main thoroughfare, for quicker access.
Soon we reach Kamaalakkadavu where the Chinese Fishnets loom above, facing the main island of Vypeen. A very popular tourist place – a must on every visitors “do-do” list and despite the fact that so much has been written about those Nets, I too will broach this subject and other attractions of Fort Cochin in my future blogs.
But for today, we buy our fish from our favourite vendor and whilst he is attending to one of the quick auctions, JS and I take in the sight (and smell) of the sea, watching the ships coming from the Arabian Sea and now passing through the channel into the harbour. We watch the men working the nets, like acrobats in a circus, dancing fearlessly across the wooden leavers – it never stops to fascinate us and we hope that this ancient art of fishing will somehow never die out.
We also watch the many little boats coming in to deliver their individual catch to be auctioned and a queue of people (and a few of the more than well-fed little cats) are always ready to walk off with their choice of fish from the auction place. And now that our own purchase of today, cleaned and cut to our liking, is ready, we have to say good-bye for now to this charming place and head for home.
But talking about cats – there is one cat we always look out for, GINGER, but we can not see her. We are dog people in our house, but this Ginger is a bit special. When I lived in Trinidad, W.I, we had just the double (or is it the other way round now?) of Ginger, to keep company to our dog and her puppies.
But just when we were nearing our car, we saw her – sound asleep in the groove at the bottom of one of the huge trees. Judging by the expression on her sleepy face she was enjoying the tranquility of Fort Cochin. We did not disturb her – but just took this photograph instead….
(Text and Photos © Carina/Manningtree Archive.)
NAMASKARAM. Welcome to my blog – a blog primarily written for our many friends abroad, old and new, who are generally interested in our part of the world and our way of life, and also for Malayalees who live and work abroad, but like “to stay in touch”. In short, I like to do my personal bid to promote this LAND OF SPICES – KERALA. This is also a blog which talks about food (oh no! I hear you groan – not another one)…
Food from India and particularly from Kerala – which is now my new home and has become my life for the past decade…
Food from the country of my birth – Germany and in fact food from around the globe, mainly countries I actually have lived in (like Trinidad & Tobago, Lebanon, Italy, England, etc.) and from countries I have visited, most of them over and over again (like Turkey, Spain, Thailand, France, Singapore, etc.).
The majority of the recipes were given to me by family, friends, Chefs and Hostesses of many private houses, whom I cajoled and even begged at times to share with me their secret of a particularly delicious dish. As time goes by I intend to write about my visits to certain restaurants and hotels, concentrating on my new world in the hope that any visitors will like my personal table.
However, I try not to write about food alone – I hope to include fashion, events, exhibitions and many other things, with my trusted Nikon camera as my ‘constant companion’, which just might interest some of you and hopefully will bring you back to my pages over and over again and, in time, to make me your friend.
And so what better time to start this blog now with one of the most important and auspicious festivals in the Kerala Calendar – ONAM.
O N A M
Life becomes a festival when gaiety and culture blend.
Onam delivers the message of both. – Anonymous
ONAM – will be once again celebrated with great joy by every Malayalee, wherever they are in the world. It is the equivalent of our Harvest Festival and marks the homecoming of the mythical Asura King of ancient Kerala, the legendary King Mahabali. On Thiruvonam (the main Onam day, which falls this year on 29th of August), King Mahabali is believed to re-visit every Malayali’s home and meet his people.
Most houses and offices will have their “Pookalam” (Flower carpet), depicting an intricate colourful design. Days before the festival season begins certain streets and markets are lined with flower sellers and we choose the colours and buy the blossoms by weight. Each family will have their own design and competitions are being held in most of the offices and Government institutions for the best and most intricate Pookalam. The making of a Pookalam is often accompanied with the joyful singing of traditional songs and dances (and no, sadly I do not speak Malayalam – so therefore I can only hum along with certain tunes).
Like at Christmas, when there are plenty of a “Father Christmas” around, during Onam most 4* and 5* Hotels, Malls, large and small shops have their own “King Mahabali” to attract and greet customers. Here in Cochin, Sebastian, the splendid doorman of the famous “Grand Hotel” on MG Road is without doubt the most photographed “King Mahabali”. I too, of course, joined the queue of people who came to take his picture prior to their feast of the “Onam Sadya” and hear him greet every guest with his sonoric voice “Namaskaram/Namaste” and to select the traditional offering of sweets from his basket – much fun especially for the Little Ones!
The feast, the traditional meal enjoyed by nearly everybody on Thiruvonam is known as “Onam Sadya” and I, like so many of the guests visiting this famous Hotel, will have previously ordered my “Onam Sadya” complete with traditional Kerala plates (to you known as banana leaves) to take back home with me. JS, my husband and I will have an enjoyable celebration of this all so important festival in Kerala’s calendar.
By the way, Onam is also the time when many of the girls and ladies like do wear their special Saree, unique to our State – known as the Kerala Saree (handloom material with gold designs and border) and their hair is adorned with sweet smelling Jasmine blooms. A wonderful site to be seen and the heady scent of all those Jasmine blossoms can leave you slightly dizzy.
So therefore let me sign off for today with a warm NAMASKARAM – NAMASTE to all of you Malayalees, from our house to yours
Text and all photos: © Manningtree Archive