Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A City of Roses and Nightingale - Shiraz, Iran

"How did the rose ever opens it's heart and give the world all its beauty" - Hafez
Hafez Thomb under the dome
There is no direct flight from Sanandaj, Kurdistan to Shiraz. We had to fly via Mehrabad Airport, Tehran to get to Shiraz. We were informed of the tight security check at the Kurdistan airport and as expected, each and everyone of us went through the body check. Although we were escorted by many Iranians colleagues, it did not change anything and being foreigners, we adhered strictly to their procedures.

It was a relief that our flight was not canceled or delayed. After we boarded and just when the plane was about to take off, my Iranian friend raised his hands in supplication, looked at me and he said, "Make d'ua that you will land safely in Tehran!" and he chuckled. Jokes aside, there is truth in his words. Most of the aeroplanes in this country are old and aviation accidents and incidents are many; at least more than a dozen in the last decade.

As the airplane touched down in Tehran - Alhamdulilah, I was glad that I arrived in Tehran in one piece! We then took our connecting flight to Shiraz. A city of roses, poets and nightingales - that's what Shiraz is known for and this means I should not miss Eram Garden, Hafez and Saadi Tomb. Shiraz is an interesting city but unfortunately we had only three days and two nights before leaving for Isfahan.

Iranians are generally very passionate about their poetry and even my Iranian friend was always with his earphone plugged neatly into his ears. He listens, he honors and he recites them by heart! It was scorching when we arrived at Hafez mousoleum but that did not stop the locals and foreigners from visiting the place. His tomb is surrounded by beautiful garden of roses and other flowers. Scent of sweet roses filled the air. We approached the marble coffin under the dome to pay respect. My friend touched the cold marble and put his palm on his breast...as a gesture of honoring the most celebrated Persian Sufi Master and Poet. 

Hafez laid to rest in the marble coffin
Decoration under the dome
Hafez Mausoleum 
Bagh e-Eram  - Garden of Paradise
Eram Garden

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Colours of Burano - Burano Island, Venice, Italy

Charming Burano 
Lovely colorful houses by the canal
Last October, 2010, we had about 3 hours in Venice and we had to give up on Burano because there wasn't enough time to visit this charming little island. This year, I am determined to visit the famous Murano and Burano islands in Venetian Lagoon. We stayed in Tritone, right in front of the Mestre train station and it took about 10 minutes to get to Venice by bus or by train. We bought a 24hours pass for 16 Euro, which is valid on the bus and vaporetto. From Mestre we took a bus to Pizzale Roma and from there we took Vaporetto number 13. 
Burano is a small fishermen island with a population of about 3,000 in the Northern Venetian Lagoon. It has been famous for its lace making industry since the 16th. century. The tiny houses along the little canals are brightly painted with all colors and the colorful reflection is clearly visible in the canals. To explore this island, you just need to walk leisurely along the sidewalks, cross the little bridges until you come to the main square. There are many little souvenir shops along the way for the tourists to marvel on their beautiful crafts and laces. 

Burano is perfect for any photography enthusiast and even amateurs can't go wrong! The colors are so fascinating that everyone is so engrossed with their cameras and every corner of the island becomes a subject of the photo shoot. We had a pleasant day in Burano.




The resting place of all faiths - Mirogoj, Zagreb

The entrance of Mirogoj
When traveling, we always look for a new experience and a place different from our backyard at home. At times, my curiosity in the history of the dead is equally intriguing as the living. This had brought me to Mirogoj; in search for the Muslims who was buried in this burial ground many years ago. Mirogoj was once the burial ground of all faith and religions in Zagreb. When I told everyone that we were going to the cemetery, all eyes were on me! The only words I said, "Come on, you'll enjoy it!" 

From the Tomislav Square, we walked straight up the steep hill towards the Zagreb Cathedral (Kaptol) and from there we took bus number 106. It is not far- about 2.5 km away from the city, we got off after four stops. There is actually a bus and tram that goes up the hill but asking around would take time since not many Croatians speak English. While waiting for the bus, we met a friendly old man who tried to communicate with us but unfortunately we couldn't make sense of what he was trying to say. He got on the same bus and we realized that he was going to Mirogoj too when he got off the bus with us. He then spent his quiet moment sitting in a secluded area of the park; perhaps he found peace in Mirogoj. 

The friendly Croatian man
Mirogoj Cemetery is noted as one of the most beautiful cemetery parks in Europe and a well known landmark in the city of Zagreb. Once upon a time the cemetery is a burial ground of Christian, Muslim, Jewish and others. It is also the last resting place of many famous Croatians. The cemetery was created in 1876 and most parts were completed by 1929.

The fact that  the first Muslim was buried in the Zagreb Mirogoj cemetery in 1883 marked the beginnings of a Muslim community and his tomb indicated the start of the oldest Muslim cemetery in central Europe.  The census in 1910 recorded the existence of a small 35-strong Muslim community in Zagreb which grew to 2000 permanent inhabitants in 1941.
A special feature of the Muslim cemetery is a two-metre high Islamic monument from 1873. We went searching for the Nišan of the Ferhatović family in the Mirogoj cemetery but unfortunately we could not locate the Muslim quarter. After a few hours at the cemetery we had to leave. The next day, Mirano told us that he could locate the Muslims section of the cemetery but unfortunately we didn't have the time to go to Mirogoj again.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A day in Ljubljana, Slovenia

The Ljubljanica River flows in the middle of the city
The  famous Dragon Bridge
It was about half past eleven by the time we arrived at the City Hotel in Ljubljana. Too early for check-in but I was hoping at least some of the rooms were ready and we could put our luggage. The hotel management was very accommodating and gladly, they had all our rooms ready. One thing that I always do before I travel is to send email to the hotels and inform them on my late or early arrival. These days some hotels even write emails asking for your arrival time, which is pretty sweet to make us feel that they do care about their clients. 

As soon as our rooms were sorted, we started exploring Ljubljana (pronounced as yupyana). From the hotel, we walked towards the famous Dragon Bridge and just across the Ljubljanica River is the old part of the town. I love Ljubljana because it is small, cosy, easy to navigate and the people are friendly. You won't get lost in this city! 

What a relief that our day in Ljubljana was relaxing. We strolled around the little old town, browsed through the souvenir shops and visited Ljubljana Castle on the hill. My legs haven't fully recovered from the hike in Plitvice and this is not even half of the journey yet. This is the hazard of harsh travelling - it's like you bashed yourself about 7 to 8 hours of walking in the day and spent a few hours of sleep at night, hoping to recuperate miraculously the next day!

Ljubljana is an interesting town
Modern shopping arcade
The streets are car-free but cyclist can roam freely
The streets in old town
A view from the castle
The fresh fruits and vegetable market
We took the funicular up to the castle
View of Ljubljana City from the Castle Hill
Many bridges across the river