Sunday, October 4, 2015

Thursday, October 1, 2015

9 Beautiful Buddhas in London, England

Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England

We missed the "Radiant Buddha" but viewed many others. Beautiful!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

9 Beautiful Buddhas in Bagan, Myanmar

#1 Beautiful Buddha of Myanmar

#2 Beautiful Buddha of Myanmar

#3 Beautiful Buddha of Myanmar

#4 Beautiful Buddha of Myanmar

#5 Beautiful Buddha of Myanmar
#6 Beautiful Buddha of Myanmar

#7 Beautiful Buddha of Myanmar
#8 Beautiful Buddha of Myanmar

#9 Beautiful Buddha of Myanmar

 The Buddhists of Myanmar revere the ancient, sacred statues of Buddha found throughout Burma. The stunning, towering Buddhas of Bagan are often covered in gold leaf.  The temples, monasteries, and pagodas of Bagan were constructed between the 11th and 13th centuries, when the ancient city was the capital of the region of Pagan, later to be known as Myanmar or Burma. Of the 10,000 original structures, just over 2000 remain.  This amazing sight is particularly gorgeous at dawn or sunset.

Bagan, Myanmar Sunrise.

Buddhist Monks in Bagan, Myanmar

UNESCO World Heritage Cella Septichora, Early Christian Burial Site in Pecs, Hungary

UNESCO Early Christian Burial Site of Sopianae in Pecs, Hungary
 A few hours south by train from Budapest is the university town of Pecs, a cultural center of Hungary, a lovely medieval and modern town with multi-cultural roots, and home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Early Christian Necropolis of Pecs.  This archaeological site is part of the ancient city of Sopianae, founded by the Romans almost two thousand years ago and once home to 10,000 people. The city of Pecs, with a population of 150,000, now completely overlays the ancient town of Sopianae.
Early Symbol of Christianity at Pecs

The Romans introduced Christianity to the area and by 400 AD,  the trading center of Sopianae had a significant and large Christian population. Three ancient Christian burial grounds have been located just outside the old walled town of Sopianae. Here are tombs, numerous family burial chapels, monuments and mausoleums. This type of Christian burial site, with many grouped stone ceremonial buildings and chambers, was unique for this era in Europe. The well-preserved 1600 year old site is, therefore, historically important. 

From the town center in Pecs we walked to the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Cella Septichora, Early Christian Cemetery. The burial chambers excavated here, around the Szent Istvan Square, date back to the 4th century.

Cella Septichora, Early Christian Cemetery, UNESCO World Heritage site at Pecs, Hungary

Early image of Mary?

The UNESCO Center is a low, architecturally sound concrete structure, nestled into the surrounding plaza and steps. The small entrance and initial courtyard chamber are well-lit due to a glass roof, that serves as the floor of the public square above. Through tunnels we ventured into deeper burial chambers with remnants of biblical frescoes and Christian and Roman imagery. 

In the two story barrel-vaulted Saint Peter and Paul Chamber, the Apostles point to an early Christian symbol of Jesus,  a circular Christogram with Greek letters. The garden of Eden and other biblical stories are depicted as well as a faded portrayal of a woman, possibly the Virgin Mary. It was fascinating to see these Christian images created only a few hundred years after the death of Christ. 

We later toured the nearby Mausoleum, with a large sarcophagus and 4th century images of Daniel and lions, and Eden. Go to the Cella Septichora Visitor Center first to get information about the Mausoleum. The UNESCO site was closed on Mondays.

UNESCO World Heritage Site Cella Septichora, Early Christian Necropolis, Pecs, Hungary

Fresco in Saint Peter and Paul Chamber, UNESCO

Some guidebooks make reference to another archaeological site nearby, on Apaca Street. We sought this out first, but could not find it. This left us wondering if the UNESCO site existed. It does and once located, it was worth the effort to find.   Ask for the Cella Septichora, Early Christian Cemetery.

This World Heritage site is well protected and beautifully displayed. Although not expansive, it is of significance as one of the largest and best preserved early Christian burial grounds in Europe. It was interesting, well-presented, reasonably priced and like most UNESCO World Heritage sites, invaluable for its preservation of human history and culture. In Pecs, be sure to seek it out. The Center is also used for current cultural events by the citizens of Pecs.

Apostles point to early Christian symbol of Jesus, UNESCO World Heritage, Pecs, Hungary

More information on the World Heritage Pecs site.

Pecs, Hungary with medieval roads

Pecs, Hungary, with temporary Leonardo da Vinci exhibit -the Horse.
Center Square of Pecs, Hungary

Sunday, November 30, 2014

10 Travel Mistakes and How to Avoid Them!

Udaipur, India - Beautiful Travel Destination

  1In your 'carry-on' take a change of clothes, essentials, and your camera. If your luggage is lost, you will survive.

      2.   Pack light, travel light. Don't get an injury carrying a heavy bag. If you shop buy light, small things. In Budapest buy paprika; Thailand, silk scarves. Buy heavier items at the end of the trip. Shopping takes time, money and weighs you down. Resist.

Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

    3.  Learn before you go so you can appreciate the cultural experience.  Read before you go. Hint:- learn at minimum a few words of the local language before you go – like ‘thanks’ and ‘hello’. 

Small plates in Bagan, Myanmar
      4.    As a pedestrian, be aware. Cross the street with the locals. Not every city is pedestrian friendly – some are downright hostile.

      5.    Beware the ‘soft’ scams. Even the most experienced travelers can get fooled. Don’t go with people who approach you on the street, don’t take their advice. Make your own plans and stick to them.

      6.    Don’t use taxis from the airport when the public transportation is perfectly fine.  Research this before you go and save cash and time. Singapore, Athens, Rome, Amsterdam, Paris  all have fast public transit from the airport. Sometimes the hotel will arrange for pick you up at the airport.  Ask your hotel for a good  local travel agent, too. Generally, they won’t steer you wrong.

       7.    Choose food carefully.  Don't eat creamy foods that are not chilled. Hot foods should be hot, not lukewarm. Enjoy great food experiences as you travel, but use common sense.  Take medications to combat diarrhea, constipation and vomiting. 
Shopping in Udaipur, India

     8.    Don't be lateCheck your departure times. Leave enough time. 

       9.    Don't rely on e-readers as guide books.  E-readers are fine for reading indoors, but not great as 'on the street' travel guides. Hard to read in daylight and difficult to navigate through when on the street. 

       10.    Stay cool. When in the tropics,  get air conditioning. 

Here’s a few mistakes we haven’t made, and hope you don’t either.
View from the hotel room in Delhi.

     1.  Resist renting and riding on motorcycles or mopeds. We have encountered MANY injured travelers. Thinking of deep sea diving, or para-sailing? Safety is not always a priority on the tourist beach.   CAUTION!  Is the equipment truly safe, is the training excellent, is the company reputable, are you insured for injury?

     2.  Buy medical travel insurance! You think you are healthy and nothing will happen to you? Maybe not, but maybe so. Get your shots before you travel, too.

     3.  Keep your valuables secure on your person. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Mount Popa, Myanmar

We climbed to the top of Mount Popa, 777 steps.

Rendition of Nat spirits at Mount Popa
Nat Worship in Burma.

Some Buddhists in Myanmar, especially those in rural areas, worship Nats.  Nats are uniquely Burmese. They are spirits or guardians and protectors with dominion over people or things.  The worship of Nats  pre-dates Buddhism,  which became the national religion of  Burma in the eleventh century.   Nat worship was a form of animism, especially popular with the hill peoples of Myanmar, but practiced all over the country.
Mount Popa, Burma
Mount Popa, an extinct volcano in central Burma, was  home of the most important Nat, the Lord of the Great Mountain, and his Sister Lady Golden-Face.  In the ninth century they became the guardian gods of the city of Pagan.  Nat worshippers travelled to Mount Popa for a feast at the full moon in December.  Animals were sacrificed,  people drank palm toddy wine and danced. Full moon festivals were common throughout Burma in Nat worship.

Atop Mount Popa, monkey's view of Myanmar.
In the town below Mount Popa
Although pre-Buddhist practices, such as astrology, alchemy and the worship of Nats, were suppressed when King Anawratha unified Burma in the eleventh century and made Buddhism the national religion, Nat worship continued. The King eventually integrated Nat worship into Theravada Buddhism,  added one of his own to the traditional 36 primary Nats, and replaced other Nats with his own dead war heroes. 
Today in Myanmar, Nat worship continues, side by side Buddhism, with pilgrimages and festivals held throughout the country. Nats are similar to Saints, some with human characteristics, such as drinking and smoking. Some protect the environment and dwell in the forest or mountains, and environmental destruction could bring their rath.   Nats are spiritual friends of the Burmese people.

Nats guard Buddha in Bagan. Stop, and look, they seem to say.

Mount Popa is a day trip from Bagan. On the way to Mount Popa from Bagan, we stopped to see how palm oil, palm candy (jaggery) and palm toddy wine are made, the old fashioned way. The drinking of toddy, wild dancing and traditional hsaing music enduce the trance at a Nat festival, and assist in the belief that revellers are possessed by the Nats.

Palm Toddy

Grinding to make palm oil

Mount Popa, as an important shrine to Nat worship, was an extremely interesting place to visit. Monkeys inhabit the temples, and we enjoyed watching them, keeping our distance because they can be aggressive. The climb up to the top, 777 steps in bare feet, was not too difficult. Mount Popa does not have the beautiful old buddhas, pagodas and temples of Bagan, but as Nat worship is still prevalent in Myanmar, Mount Popa is culturally important.  Before we went to Myanmar, we knew nothing of Nats.  

In Mandalay, Myanmar