Germany off the beaten path 

Have you tried to ingrain something in your brain so hard hoping that it will always be a great memory?

As I whizz past the endless fields,  the cattle and horses grazing, I try so hard to take in as much as of it as I can. I want to always remember these curvy country roads, the random horse-drawn carriage, mountain bikers and the endless motorcycle riders enjoying a beautiful spring day. I turn my head and I see the mountains dotted with houses and the vineyards on one side with a stream from time to time and an old church or castle if I look up in the distance.

The view while riding


Despite the fact that I’m not one for roller coasters or rides of any type, I don’t hesitate to get on the back of a motorcycle with my friend while he speeds down the  curvy country roads.

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Before we head out, he insists that I’m dressed up in bike riding gear, to me I feel like I’m ready for a bank heist instead of a motorcycle ride.


He  speeds on the autobahn and I try not to look over his shoulder at the speedometer. I accidentally catch a glimpse and I realize it is 150 mph or almost 240 kmph. I close my eyes for a second terrified, because I feel my palms break out into sweat. However, I realize that when I agreed to do this, it was because I trust him. I try to focus on how much I trust him right now instead of focusing on the speed. The high-speed might have lasted a few seconds, but to me it seemed much longer.

We stop at his usual haunt for coffee and cake in Breidscheid, a popular stop for motorcycle riders and also in close proximity to the  famous race track called ‘Nurburgring’, or also called “green-hell”.


The riding continues, while I try to take in as much as I can of this beautiful place that has captured me.

We are back in the village he lives in. After that exciting motorcycle ride, I want to go for a run, time to spend on my own and think about the fact that my trip is soon coming to an end and reality is staring at my face.

While pounding the sidewalk, I try not to think of all the things I will miss, running on open fields and through apple orchards or the quaint houses that line the streets. The church bells that chime every hour, the wonderful food and coffee. I feel the tears beginning to form, so instead I try to think of the stories I have to tell my friends and the memories and the friends I have made in the last 6 months.

The open field I go run

The quaint house I pass

The church where the bell chimes on the hour


After my run I head to the only coffee shop in the village, eating pastry, drinking coffee., trying to remember how exciting and wonderful the last 6 months has been.

Coffee and cake


Despite the language barrier and the miscommunication and sometimes even strange looks, while I run around the village, I’ve felt so comfortable here, something I’ve not felt anywhere else.

Even though I have been to a few countries in the last few months and Sri Lanka, which will always be home, I can say I have fallen in love with this place.

I may never come back here, but I will always be thankful to my friend for showing me Germany through his perspective and outside the beaten path.  I believe I’m gonna leave a part of my heart here in Germany.

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Home through my perspective

Spending the past 3 months in Sri Lanka with my family and friends has been incredible. It has been a while since I have had the opportunity to have constructive time with them. Typically my vacations there are for 2 weeks and mostly includes me being away spending time with my friends. However, this time I was able to cook and bake for my family and friends and spend time having long conversations in person.

What I enjoyed the most was the opportunity to reconnect with friends and the place that I used to call home for most of my adult life and still think of as home to a great extent. I guess it will always be home considering, I don’t get questioned as to where I am from or how I got there or any other questions I get typically asked in the US.

Walking around the streets of Colombo with my camera, gave me a new perspective to the things I used to take for granted. The crowded roads, the people standing around trying to make a living selling the most random things, the fruit and vegetable sellers and even the fish market, where you watch the boats come in from sea with fresh seafood you can purchase.

I tried looking at everything from an outsiders perspective and understand the quaintness that relates to this place. I could take pictures of the beautiful waterfalls, the beach and the wildlife, but I believe that the people have a more interesting story to tell. So here are some of my pictures of this place, through my perspective.

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A tuk tuk speeding down the road (a common mode of transport)

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Traditional dancers 

 

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This kid was helping her mother sort fish, but stopped to pose for me

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That is shrimp in their baskets being taken to get weighed 

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A roadside cobbler

 

 

 

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It’s the company and not the destination

Some say it’s the journey and not the destination, I say it’s the company and not the destination, that makes the journey more interesting.

I recently made a trip to Malaysia with my cousin. It probably is the first time that she and I have had a vacation together. It was an opportunity spend quality time catching up on our lives and deepen the bond we share.

We spent our 5 days exploring a little of Malaysia mostly the food and making some new friends.

A few hours after we landed we took a 5 hour bus ride to Penang. During which we time we were entertained by this little boy.

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Once in Penang, we walked the streets, exploring the art district and the streets which were lined up with food vendors. Despite our best effort to not overeat, its pretty hard to resist when different smells keep wafting the air.

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Things people do for a picture – Art Street in Penang

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One of the street food vendors we ate from

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He watches the shore disappear, Penang Ferry

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Art district, Penang

At the end of the 2 days there, we took a ferry and bus a back to Kuala Lumpur, where we made friends with an Australian, German, Vietnamese, and a few Malaysians. I am typically not one who will approach strangers and strike up a friendship, but being with my cousin who has a more outgoing personality than me, it was easier to step outside my comfort zone.

I could talk about our adventures, but instead I will share some of my favorite photographs.

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Entrance to Batu caves, 272 steps to the top

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Devotees at the caves

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A step back in time – Part 2

Trying to speak Tamil, the language which is predominantly used there was not an easy feat, therefore getting directions and trying to find our way around turned out to be quite an entertaining adventure.

Due to time constrains  I could not explore my roots in-depth, but yet gave me a glimpse into my mother’s family and helped me identify with the places she mentions in her stories.

Despite the language barrier, the stories I heard of courage and survival were unbelievable.  The fisherman who risk their lives on a daily basis to go out to sea, those who had lost loved ones and their homes during the war, but doing their best to stay positive and rebuild their lives.

Listening to their stories and knowing that life is not easy over there, gave me courage and hope when I need it the most.

Here are a few more of my favorite pictures.

A church destroyed 

Waiting for the ferry

Riding in the rain

Fisherman getting ready to go out to see

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Fisherman live in shacks like this by the sea

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A woman weaving a thatch

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Sometimes a bicycle is built for 3

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A man going to market on his bicycle

A view from the hotel we stayed at

A selfie with people I met

A passenger on another train

Some ride the train standing by the door

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I step back in time to explore my roots

The waves crash in the distance as my friend and I board the train to Jaffna. Still half asleep at 5 am, we settle into our seats for the 8-hour train ride.

I am anxious and excited about this trip for many reasons. I have never visited this part of Sri Lanka due to the civil war that was on for more than 20 years. However I am excited because I have heard so many stories of this area from my mother who was originally from there.

The Northern and Eastern  part of the country was out-of-bounds for many years because of the war. The Tamil Tigers, the terrorist organization was fighting for a separate state claiming discrimination. Most often the heavy fighting was confined to that part making it hard or almost impossible for anyone to get their. While the rest of the country did their best to carry on despite the war and the bombs that would go off from time to time in the city, the North and east were the most adversely affected.

However, the war was finally over about 5 years ago, and now with people moving back and trying to get their lives back on track, the North and east have become an attractive tourist destination.

Even though my older sister was born in that part of the country, I never had the opportunity to visit. This trip made me feel like I was embarking on an adventure that might result in finding my lost roots.

My friend Sue and I had debated for days about where we should go. Finally we settled on the 4 day trip to Jaffna and mapped out our journey which was going to involve a lot of photography and food.

After a very bumpy 8 hour train ride, during which we passed palmyrah trees swaying to the wind, bullet ridden walls and houses that were destroyed during the war, we finally reached our destination. Barely able to contain our excitement we stepped out of the train and headed to our hotel. The hotel I picked was close to the area my mother frequently mentioned in stories.

After having settled into the hotel, my friend and I finally headed out to explore the streets.  After experiencing the heavy traffic and crowds of the city, being in Jaffna was like a step back in time. The popular mode of transport was bicycles or motorcycles. There would be the random car or van which will whiz pass. School girls, boys, teachers, everyone rides a bicycle around. When it rains they still ride around holding an umbrella over themselves.

While at the beach one day we met a group of school children having a picnic, who were from a village and were on their way to Jaffna to see the only escalator in that area. I was sad by that. The fact that they would make a field trip to see an escalator, something we don’t really even think about as we step onto it.

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Picture with a couple of kids from the beach

I have to confess that through a tourist perspective there is not much to do and the city is being hyped up because of the war. However I enjoyed my trip because to me it was more about seeing a city that I have heard stories about from my family.

We spent the four days doing a lot of walking and exploring and taking pictures. The highlight for me was being at the most northern tip of the country. Here are some of my favorites I captured.

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Nallur Kovil

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Natural Hot water spring

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Taking a picture of those taking a selfie

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Its a long road

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Waiting

I put on my running shoes and head out for a long run. The sun is rising in the distance and the cows grazing as I keep going mile after mile.


During my three-month temporary hiatus from reality, the only consistent thing has been running. I’m constantly hoping that during a long run that there would be this aha moment or a clairvoyant telling me what my future holds. Here I am still waiting.

After being back home in Sri Lanka  for a month now, I’ve been tempted to move back. There is my family and friends and job offers, including one in a newspaper making it hard to decide.

However, every time I step outside and deal with the insane traffic, crowds and the inability to find decent coffee, I change my mind and look forward to going back to US.

Despite not having found the answer as yet, I keep hoping that one day soon, as I continue to run past the flower vendors, the couples taking pictures of their special day and the  beautiful scenery, that I will find the right answer to the questions in my mind.

Here are some pictures I captured during a 6 mile run.

 

Lotus Flowers

 

He chops coconuts which is made into coconut oil

 

Traditional Bridal couple 

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A peek through my lens

It has been a month since I got to Sri Lanka and I hardly got my camera out. I decided it was time to charge the battery and head out and capture some images. Today (Sunday) is Thai Pongal,  the harvest festival celebrated by the Tamil Hindu’s as aThank you to the Sun God for agriculture abundance.

It seemed like a good day to grab my camera and head out to the Hindu Temple, where most come dressed in colorful attires to celebrate this festival. So here are some pictures I captured during this festival.

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These feet are meant for walking

My last weekend in Germany was spent in Lübeck, the city where Marzipan originated and a city dating back to 1143. As you can imagine the city is overflowing with historical buildings. During the three days, despite the cloudy, gloomy weather and sometimes rain, I probably walked a total of 30 miles, exploring almost every nook and cranny of the city and visiting almost every historic site.

I started my visit at the most popular building in Lübeck called the Holstentor, which is the iconic gate of the city and St. Mary’s church, which is another famous symbol and where you still find bells that were destroyed by the British during the World War II.

During all my travels I have learnt that the best way to explore any new city is to put on some walking shoes and keep going.

Here are some pictures from my fascinating weekend.

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View of Holstentor from a distance

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Church bells destroyed in WW II

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533 steps to the top of the Cathedral

If anyone had told me during summer months that I would be running in below freezing temps I would have laughed really hard. But I’m definitely not having the last laugh right now.

It all began when my friend suggested that we make a trip to Cologne Cathedral and go to the top. When he said that it was 533 steps, I just assumed it was joke and that there probably is an elevator to get to the top. Construction on this church began in 1248 and is Germany’s most visited landmark.

The first 50 steps on the spiral staircase was fine, then I realized this was no joke, there is no elevator coming to my rescue and I had to keep going. I really wanted to turn back, but there were too many people behind me to do it, so despite the huffing and puffing I had to keep going.

This struggle caught me off guard, I consider myself energetic and fit, but instead I felt old and unfit and out of shape.  Staring at the view from the top I realized that while being on vacation I had thrown my healthy eating habits out of the window along with my exercise.

The smell of food was floating to the top from the Christmas market which was taking place around the Cathedral. Once at the market I forgot about the struggle of climbing the steps and indulged in a little of everything which was on offer. I consoled myself with the fact that 533 steps must have burnt a lot of calories which needed to be replenished and there is always tomorrow to start eating healthy and going running.

So now despite the cold and fog, I make the extra effort of going for a run, because who knows when I will have to climb another 533 steps.

Here are some pics from the top and the Christmas market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I come calling for the Queen

After my recent trip to UK, I decided to watch a TV show called ‘The Crown’. I have some fascination with the Royal family I can’t even begin to explain. I remember my mum taking me as a kid to see the Queen when she visited Sri Lanka many moons ago. I vividly remember climbing on a tree top, but despite that I did not see her.

When I applied for a visa to visit UK about 10 years ago, the visa officer asked me why I wanted to visit UK, I told her to see Buckingham Palace (It was no lie) but she thought I was being cute and therefore made me jump through hoops to get a visa. When I got there, even though it was a cold winter day in February, guess what I did? Yes, you probably guessed it, I visited the palace.  I remember standing outside with the throngs of people watching the change of guards and staring at this huge palace trying to imagine what it must be like. The highlight of that trip was when the Queen (I think it was her) left the palace and I was finally able to say I saw the Queen.

This trip wasn’t any different,  I found myself standing outside the palace again, telling my friend that the palace looks  old and shabby and it needs some revamping, but yet fascinated with it.

Where I am going with this story is beyond me. However, after having watched a few episodes of the TV show I decided it was time to sort through my pictures from the trip. However, my computer decided to flunk on me, but here are some pictures I did take with my phone.

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Big Ben

 

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