Saved by a turbah

It’s been a while since my trip to Iran now, still I can not stop thinking about this little episode that happened to me when I was going in to see the crown jewels of Iran. Anyone who has been in the Central Bank of Iran and want to see the collection of gemstones, know that security is taken to the utmost highest level. It is of course surveillance cameras everywhere and you have to go through three checkpoints. The guards are strict and have eyes that can almost see right through you.

The first control was just inside the door and went fairly fast,  and we were guided into a waiting room, where we had to store over bags and camera equipment in the lockers. While our guide picked up tickets for us, we were placed in a new security line. The guard had a tough time keeping track of all the tourists, and unregulated behavior were therefor sanctioned. One of our fellow travelers had two sets of glasses, sunglasses and reading glasses. Curtly she was stopped and sent out of the queue. I had a bottle of water, which I had to dispose, but unlike my fellow travelers I came in with my sunglasses!

When everyone had passed trough the needle’s eye number 2, we were placed in a new line, and after 15 minutes we were motioned further down a staircase and yet a new security checkpoint. At that time the atmosphere were pretty testy in our little group. We wondered what we could have managed to smuggle in through the previous two checkpoints,  we were literally stripped of everything, except our cloths!

When it became my turn, I was immediately drawn to aside by one of a watchmen. I thought it was my sunglasses, because it was the only thing I had of  exterior that could activate the metal detector. But he was not interested in my sunglasses, where they sat firmly on my head. However, he checked all the pockets and stopped abruptly when he came to the side pocket of my pants. There he found something, he looked up at me with a stern mine and with a hard voice he said: “open your pocket”.    I could not remember what I had in my pocket, and thought someone had planted something on me?  My hands trembled  when I  open the pocket. Slowly I pulled out the object , while I thought about what it could be. I opened my hand careful, I was just as curious as the watchman, and the surprise was therefore equal for both when we saw what it was.

Inside one of the mosques in Ishfahan, I tried to take pictures from slightly different angles and put my camera on the floor. But because it was lying askew, I needed something to support it. In a bucket, I found some flat rocks, and I took one with me. When I was finished shooting, I put the stone in my trouser pocket and forgot about it. The stone is a Turbah and used by Shia Muslims as they pray “postrate”. The stone is made of clay from Karbala that is considered holy to Muslims. The soil represents the earth that God used to create the earth and man.

The guard took the stone from my hand, looked at it and then came the widest smile I’ve ever seen. He looked at me, said something in Persian, while he smiled even wider, he gave me the stone and patted me on my shoulder. He took my hand and pushed the other tourists aside.  And within seconds I was standing in front of a large display cabinet and studying Farah Diba’s jewelry, while the others were still waiting in the line outside.

The guard probably thought that I was true believer, which I am not though. However the stone is now firmly stored in my photo bag, ready to stabilize the camera if needed. Since it appears to be a door opener as well, it is with me on all my trips from now.

 

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Elephant merry-go-round

I’ve never ridden on an elephant before, and was therefore very excited when our guide told us we were signed up for a ride up to the beautiful Amber palace. I imagined me that we rode under tall trees. It was quiet, you could hear a small river flowing and birds singing. The elephant was thirsty and drank some water from the river. And of course the elephant sprayed me, just as I’ve seen on film… In reality it all reminded of a giant carousel.

As little children, we stood in line and waited until it was our turn. And even though all were grown ups some of tourist had bought funny hats of the merchants…We climbed the ramp where the elephants were waiting in line to pick us up.

Slowly the elephants walked up the hill to the Amber castle. As we were sitting sideways, we swayed quite a bit. I had planned to take a lot of photos, but ended up having a clear focus on not falling off and pushing the elephant off the wall with my feet.

So as I was clinging to my elephant and camera, feeling really uncomfortable and awkward, I kept repeating to myself: “I shall never ride an elephant again”.  And I promised myself that, the owner of elephant riding-idea would have no wine for dinner tonight!

To make the embarrassment complete, “pro” photographers, calls for your attentions, just like parents do to their children riding on a merry-go-round, and want you to smile and wave! I didn’t dare to wave and the smile I put on was so fake that even the elephant felt sorry for me. Well, the photographer got his shot. I shouted to him that I would not buy his photos. He just smiled back, as if he knew that my friends would buy the photos, which they did.

Inside the palace walls the ride was over, and I was happy to get off. The elephant coachman, claimed his tip and we got ready to run a gauntlet between merchant selling knick-knacks.

Ethically I cannot forgive myself that I actually did this.

Preparing for trekking in Bhutan at Dronningberget

When I woke up this morning I felt that today is the most splendid day to start the preparation for our journey to India and Bhutan in october. This journey will be a combination of trekking at high altitude, and hard core tourist sight seeing.
As I consider my self to be an expert in sight seeing (have at least a master degree),there is no need to prepare for that, not at the moment at least. But I need to improve my trekking abilities. So to get a feeling of how my back will feel like after 5-6 hours trekking at high altitude. I filled my back pack with some heavy books (books from my psychology study ) and my camera gear.
The weather conditions was fine and I met a lot of people, presumably not with the same purpose as me.
Anyhow, in the absence of mountains, I aimed for Dronningberget – “The Queen’s hill”, which had to do as mountain substitute.
This little hill’s forest is created in inspiration of the english parks from the 19th century.
At the foot of the hill there is a bust of Count Wedel Jarlsberg, with the grieving national lion, and at “the summit”, a “mountain lodge”. The path to the “mountain lodge” goes through an old hazel and linden forest. The lodge, which now serve as a café, has been renovated and is now sparkling in its utmost beauty.

Well, for me this was the end of todays hard work out.  Still, this was not at all a challenging trek, I admit that I could feel a mild pain after carrying my books on my back for 3 hours. So the little trip, was not in vain…

Sailing

Last weekend I was invited to come sailing with some friends and we had the most splendid weekend.  The tranquility and the feeling of being in touch with the elements, makes sailing one these activities one cannot get enough of .
I also came across a well hidden secrete, or it is a secret thus one knows about it yet. On one of the islands of Bolærne were we landed,  I felt an attraction towards a beautiful old house. The woman whom met us at the door step was warm and welcoming, she served us waffles and we felt at home instantly.   She could tell us that the house had been own by a pilot and his wife. Today the house is for rent if one would like to stay a weekend or even a week. So why not get away from a stress at an island in the Oslo-fjord…

Loshuset på Bolærne

The Barcode in Oslo

The Barcode, they named the buildings which will be Oslo new business and residential area in Bjørvika. But this name is so burdened, that authorities had to change the name of the area to The Opera Quarter. The criticism from Oslo’s residents have been that it closes the view to the bay, and fjord view is important for the naval Norwegians. But those buying apartments in The Barcode facing the sea, will of course be able to enjoy their morning coffee on the terrace overlooking the Opera House, the bay and the islands. Those that earlier enjoyed this view might instead enjoy a good view of The Barcodes architecture!

A curiosity is that the flats have mobile shields, to either shade for the sun or to prevent office people to stare into your bedroom. But if you buy a flat in a barcode, one should not be surprised to find one self an exhibit object, the spaces between the buildings are narrow….Looking forward to see it all finished, and how the citizens will adopt these “newcomers”.

The girl with the accordion

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Last summer I made it down to Gdansk, a lovely little town in North Poland. I didn’t have any particular reason for going there, therefor I wanted to just walk around and  let the city introduce it self. Well I had planned one visit to the Post museum to attend an exhibition of photos by a young Norwegian student taken in the thirties . Gdansk was totally bombed out at the end of WWII, but the citizens have rebuilt their beloved city. The photos taken by this student show how close they manage to copy the old houses. Therefor Gdansk is a lovely city to stroll around, talk to the nice and friendly people, and enjoy the architecture.

Poland has the fastest growing economy in Europe, thus lot of Polish people go to Scandinavia seeking better fortune, a lot of Eastern European peoples go to Poland to work. During summer hordes of the Travelers or Rom people as they like to call them self,  spread out through Europe to work or to beg. Many of them play instruments such as the accordion. It is mostly adults that are begging, but you may see children as well. It is sad that Europe cannot take care of the poor ones, but the problems in many countries economies forces a lot of people out on the streets.

So to the little girl playing accordion. I stood for a while and watched her playing. She played the same tune, as almost all the begging accordionist play: “La vie en rose”, over and over again. She watch the rich people as they passed by, but her eyes always looked down when someone looked back at her. Some gave her money, some just walked by, she never thanked those who gave her money, she just kept on playing as if she wasn’t there. After enjoying her interpretation of “La vie en rose” 3 – 4 times I dropped a ten Euro bill in her basked. She stopped playing immediately, grabbed the bill and started to count her income. Her desperate reaction moved me, was it right to give the money, what if she was fooling me, that she didn’t need the money and did it for fun, or what if she was so poor that my little contribution would help her get bread and milk the next two days. I watched her for a while and went for lunch and tried to get the incident out of my mind. But I could not, the thought about the little girl counting her money striving to get the ends to meet, would just not let go.
Because what ever I had done, give money or not I ended up with the same conclusion. It is all about my own conscience. I gave money, but I felt really  bad about it. Because, as you hand over the money, in a short moment you feel that you are a good person, buy you also show that you are richer than the beggar and somewhat emphasize that you are of a higher range in the social ladder. If I had not given the money I would have felt like an ignorant  egoistic human being. I could not stop arguing with my self. And I realized why I so often close my eyes to their existence.When I had finished my lunch the girl had left, I felt revealed, once again I could leave my bad consciences….

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Glimpse of Gdansk

Nostalgia

I came across this poster in Budapest. Thus sport events is not exactly my cup of tea, I remember the games because of two things: Many countries boycotted the games due to Soviet’s invasion in Afghanistan. And the card stunt showing Misha, the bear, crying in the closing ceremony! Strange times… How ever the Soviets did boycott the games in L.A. in 1984…

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