Anaradhapura to Sigiriya

August 14

I awoke the next morning and Lal was knocking at my door. He had my suitcase!! They delivered it five (5!!) hours away from the airport at 3 am! I was utterly impressed. What service! I dressed, had breakfast (including fresh mangoes from trees on the property). Then we headed out to visit some of the temple ruins in Anaradhapura. (Had I realized how often I would be taking my shoes off and on, I would have worn flip-flops and worked to toughen the soles of my feet before going.) Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist country and this area especially had vast ruins of a large and bustling priest population. Here’s what his itinerary said about the ruins of Anuradhapura: the sprawling complex contains a rich collection of archaeological and architectural wonders: enormous dagobas, soaring brick towers, ancient pools and crumbling temples, built during Anuradhapura’s thousand years of rule over Sri Lanka.

By about 11 am we were heading toward Sigiriya. On the way I had an appointment for an Ayurvedic Medical Treatment (full body massage and steam bath). A broad variety of natural herbs form the main ingredients of Ayurvedic medicines, which make it absolutely free of side effects. This practice has been perfected over centuries and claims to have remedies even for those ailments that defy time and modern understanding. I was totally oily, including my hair upon leaving, so I was happy to go to the hotel and get a shower (cold to luke warm).

At 4:00 we headed for Sigiriya Lion Rock. This rock fortress is regarded as the eighth wonder of the ancient world. It is supposed to have been built by King Kassapa in the 5th century AD and was a royal citadel for more than a year. It is a complex of buildings, part-royal palace, part fortified town, and water gardens on par with the best in the ancient world. This is a magnificent and unique architectural feat on the part of the ancient Sinhalese. Fitbit said it was 63 flights of stairs and my feet said it was at least 100! I didn’t want to descend in the dark so I started down just before the sun reached the horizon. It was dusk when I got back to the parking lot and we headed back to the hotel and dinner.

I was really ready for an early night, but am glad I pushed myself to do it.

Colombo to Anaradhapura

August 13

I landed in Colombo at a little after 1:00 pm, but sadly, my luggage did not arrive with me. I filed a report, but didn’t have any local contact information. I finally headed out of the airport at about 3:30 pm and hoped that my tour guide would still be waiting for me. He was!! Lal had a beautiful lei for me and it smelled divine! I exchanged some money and then we went to the van. We called the airlines to give them his contact information regarding my suitcase. What I didn’t realize was that there was another five hours of driving to get to Anaradhapura. Finally we arrived after a stop to pick up some toothpaste and toothbrush and checked in to the hotel, and then I had dinner. I was served tons of food (rice and curry) looking out at the pool and a night sky through mango trees. I invited Lal to eat with me. He declined, but sat and kept me company (this was to be the standard practice until the last couple days).

The majority of roads in Sri Lanka are narrow and only two lanes (sometimes only one, and quite hair raising when you meet oncoming traffic). So, the speed limit is lower and it takes longer to get anyplace.

Summertime

 

August 09-12

I left for Kuwait after a glorious summer with friends and family.

I was incredibly remiss in getting photos with friends. I must remember to remedy that next year.

I find it interesting the various routes I find myself on when someone else books my flights. I flew through Newark

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What an offer! I had a lovely 20 year old single malt scotch

and then on to Frankfurt to land in Kuwait at about 10 pm on the 10th. Over the next couple days I unpacked and did laundry and then repacked for Sri Lanka. I headed for the airport at about 11:30 pm on the 12th for a flight that was due to leave a bit before 4:00 am. I don’t like to ask Abdul, the taxi driver, to take me places in the middle of the night. 11:30 is late enough and I can easily wait in the airport. I have at least mastered that part of traveling: the wait.

Last day in Tehran

April 1

Sheesh! It sure has taken me a long time to get back to this. I have been rather obstinate in my decision to avoid posting. I haven’t been able to pinpoint just why, but here I am again at last.

Our last day and we awoke to rain.

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Megan and Shahid taking pictures in the rain

The first on our trip, which flew by, and we got but just a wee taste of this vast and amazing country. Before we had to check out and head for the airport, we visited the National Museum of Iran. We scrambled through the rain to get to there. It begins with displays from prehistoric times and includes pottery, carvings, and other artifacts, which date from at least as far back as 7000 years ago.

The journey to the airport was spent in reflection, exchanging contact information and then suddenly we having to say goodbye to Ali and Majid, our guide and driver. Spending a week with them made them feel almost like family. It was truly a trip of a lifetime!

Out and about in Tehran

March 31

We headed out and drove past the former US Embassy. As I have found everywhere, photos are not allowed around embassies, government buildings, military sites or oil production areas. So of course, we snapped a few.

From there we headed for near the in-town airport, from which most domestic flights ensue, to see the Azadi Tower. It was designed and built by a 24 year old architecture student and used to be the icon that represented Tehran. It has been replaced by a tall, rather non-descript radio tower now. I think this one is much more representative. It is multi-level and we were able to go to the top. Inside houses a museum on several levels.

As we were exiting we were approached by a local radio station that broadcasts from the tower for an interview. Gabe agreed to be our spokesperson and again we were impressed with the warmth towards us as Americans.

Radio Tehran

After the radio interview with host, sound people (women), Ali our guide acted as interpreter.

The Carpet Museum was next. The outside entrance is designed to resemble a loom’s warps.

Inside were some truly massive carpets, many of which were really old. These are all hand-knotted, and I found it helped to illustrate what I had read about in the book The Blood of Flowers. People would work on the design from opposite sides. The pattern would be called out as the knots were tied and the two would meet in the middle. The colors are all natural dyes.

Then it was on to visit Golestan Palace. This is part of a complex that dates back to the 1500s, but the palace was rebuilt to its current form in 1865. It includes a huge, beautiful garden, and many buildings. Many Iranian crafts and Asian and European gifts from state heads during the 18th and 19th century are on display here.

Each day has been so full, and this was no exception.

March 30

We headed for Tehran this morning, with a stop at Abyaneh. This village has been inhabited for at least 5000 years. The people who live here dress in traditional clothes for all the tourists (of which there were many).

They sold various dried fruits and green almonds (rather bitter with only a slight almond flavor and best with salt). From there we went to Karshan were we visited another mosque that is also an active religious school

and a mansion from the 1850s that had belonged to a local carpet merchant. It was beautiful and incorporated courtyard gardens, as all architecture from years ago seemed to do here.

Following that we visited the historic Fin Gardens.

Tehran was a surprise to see as it is surrounded by snow-covered mountains. The tallest peak is about 5,000 meters (almost 16,500 ft.).

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Sunset as we are nearing Tehran.

Walking around Esfahan

 

March 29

We walked to Naqsh-e-Jahan Square, which is reputed to be the largest square in Iran. It has two mosques and a palace to visit around it. One mosque was the private mosque of the royal family when it was built 400 years ago.

It was really beautiful, and the attention to details such as having the light hit the ceiling in such a way as to look like the peacock at the center of the dome was opening its tail.

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Though it is difficult to make out the bird image in the center of the dome, you can see the light creating the tail fan and the design all around is meant to resemble the peacock tail feathers.

The other mosque was in honor of Imam Khomeini and was also beautiful.

They were working on rebuilding the outer dome, and we were able to see the process underway inside.

The palace is touted to be the first multi-story building in Iran.

It has 7 floors. We were not able to go to the top floor because it was Nowruz and too crowded.

Since the bazaar here surrounds the square, we browsed through and found multitudes of shops. We bought enameled copper dishes

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My enamelled copper plate. It is about 6 inches in diameter. The photo makes it look much darker than it is.

and calico. This calico is printed on cotton by hand with wooden stamps. A large piece can have thousands of stamps. It is then steamed and treated to set the ink, so all the pieces can be washed.

Then we went to the reception palace of the Shah dating back to the 17th century. The gardens surrounding it were so peaceful and beautiful, even with the crowds of people.

What has been nice is that there are gardens and green growing things everywhere.

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This was a partially underground roundabout and even here there were growing things.

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