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Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

Centrally located in Switzerland, Lucerne is a great place to spend some time in. A leisurely stroll through its streets enables one to relish the kind of buildings which dot its streets and also appreciate the art which adorns their outer walls.

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Since the city straddles the Reuss where it drains the lake, it has a number of bridges. For a globe trotter, here are some of the tourist attractions on offer in Lucerne.

The Chapel Bridge

Lucerne Chapel Bridge

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The most famous is the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke), a 204 m long wooden covered bridge originally built in 1333. It is said to be the oldest covered bridge in Europe, although much of it had to be replaced after a fire on 18 August 1993, allegedly caused by a discarded cigarette. Part way across, the bridge runs by the octagonal Water Tower (Wasserturm), a fortification from the 13th century. Inside the bridge are a series of paintings from the 17th century depicting events from Lucerne’s history. The Bridge with its Tower is the city’s most famous landmark.

The Jesuit Church

Lucerne Jesuit Church

Lucerne’s Jesuit Church is the first large baroque church built in Switzerland north of the Alps.

Bollywood buffs would be delighted to recall the appearance of both the above in a song from the movie ‘Laga Chunari Mein Daag’.

The Spreuer Bridge

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Down the river, between the Kasernenplatz and the Mühlenplatz, the Spreuer Bridge zigzags across the Reuss. Constructed in 1408, it features a series of medieval-style 17th century plague paintings by Kaspar Meglinger titled ‘Dance of Death’. The bridge has a small chapel in the middle that was added in 1568.

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The Lion Monument

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Bertel Thorvaldsen’s famous carving of a dying lion (the Lion Monument, or Löwendenkmal) is found in a small park just off the Löwenplatz. The carving commemorates the hundreds of Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution, when an armed mob stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris.

Glacier Garden Museum

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Great informative museum about the nature, earth science and Lucerne history. It is amazing to know that centuries back, this area was on the sea coast!

The mirror maze is a must see, beautiful and real fun. Good view-point at the top. One down side is that it does not have all the descriptions in English.

The Transport Museum

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A visit to the Transport Museum is highly enlightening. It has a large and comprehensive museum exhibiting all forms of transport, including locomotives, automobiles, ships, and aircraft.

There is a separate section devoted to the history and the execution of the Gotthard Base Tunnel, which is a railway base tunnel through the Alps in Switzerland, which opened on the 1st of June 2016, with full service to begin in December 2016. With a route length of 57.09 km it is the world’s longest and deepest traffic tunnel and the first flat, low-level route through the Alps.

The Natural History Museum

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A permanent biological exhibition shows flora and fauna from Central Switzerland, and a variety of live animals can be seen in aquariums and terrariums. Rotating panels show butterflies and insects from all over the world.

The ground floor has interesting displays which keep changing from time to time. Kids have real fun learning about diverse animals.Lucerne 13

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The Culture and Convention Center

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The Culture and Convention Center (KKL) beside the lake in the center of the city was designed by Jean Nouvel. The center has one of the world’s leading concert halls, with acoustics by Russell Johnson. Here are some snippets from a recent art exhibition at the KKL Gallery.Lucerne 16

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A cruise in the lake is invigorating, to say the least.

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Pilatus nearby beckons

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At 2,132 meters above sea level, Pilatus is the ideal adventure mountain for the whole family.

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A visit to the Pilatus using the cog-wheel funicular, the world’s steepest at a maximum gradient of 48%, is exhilarating.

The Rosengart Museum has a delectable collection the works of Pablo Picasso and many others. More about this later.

Each city has a unique characteristic of its own. Lucerne in Switzerland is no exception.

(Note: Some of the photographs have been taken from Wikipedia)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/11/04/a-saunter-down-the-rietberg-museum-at-zurich-in-switzerland-part-1-of-3

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/10/25/a-brand-called-switzerland

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/08/09/flying-over-the-swiss-alps

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/sherlock-holmes-the-honorary-citizen-of-meiringen-switzerland)

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When members of the next generation of a family, born in First World countries like Norway and Switzerland, visit their roots in a Third World country like India, the poor souls are left clueless at times. Often, much hilarity ensues, as they try to cope with the realities of day-to-day life in such a delightful country as ours.

The best countries to be born in

Some time back, The Economic Intelligence Unit had compiled an index onEU Flag image the best places to be born in 2013. As many as 80 countries had been ranked on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 standing for ideal living conditions. The rank took into account 11 indicators, like crime, trust in public institutions, health infrastructure, family life, besides fixed factors such as geography.

As per this reckoning, Switzerland was at the top, scoring 8.22. Norway was ranked number 3, scoring 8.09. Amongst the top 10 were not only Sweden (rank 4, score 8.02), Denmark (rank 5, score 8.01) and Netherlands (rank 8, score 7.94), but also Australia (rank 2, score 8.12), Singapore (rank 6, score 8.00), New Zealand (rank 7, score 7.95), Canada (rank 9, score 7.81) and Hong Kong (rank 10, score 7.80). Incidentally, India was then ranked 66, with a score of 5.67.

Hard core patriots in India may derive some comfort from the fact that Russia was ranked at 72 (score 5.54), Pakistan at 75 (score 5.17) and Bangladesh at 77 (score 5.07).

The side effects of a visit to India

What do such kids discover when they visit their roots in India?

First off, there are objects which invite wonderment.

A ceiling fan sounds like an alien object. A manually driven rickshaw is looked The horse carriages I saw in the museum were larger, grander version of this cycle rickshaw.at with unmasked curiosity. An auto rickshaw evokes a sense of novelty. A horse-driven Tonga comes in for ardent admiration. A bullock-cart gets viewed with wide-eyed wonder.

Insects and reptiles like cockroaches, lizards, ants, spiders, snails and worms of all sizes and shapes come in for close scrutiny. So do creatures of all kinds, whether bovine or porcine, especially when found exercising their democratic rights on Indian roads. Flying objects – whether unidentifiable or otherwise – get looked up to with a sense of awe and respect. Squirrels and chameleons generate much merriment.

A splash in the tropical rains uplifts the tender souls. Jumps into puddles on

Lakshmi

Lakshmi

the streets generate much excitement. The seagulls flapping about their sonorous wings leave them mesmerized. The wavering reflection of a pale yellow uprising moon on the pristine waters of the Bay of Bengal makes them attain a heavenly bliss.

Kolams outside homes arouse their curiosity. A classical dance performance leaves them spell-bound. Depending upon their own areas of interest, a keen desire to learn some form of fine art or a cultural activity gets enshrined.

An encounter with Lakshmi, the famous temple elephant of Pondicherry, invigorates them no end. A dip in the sea comes about as a blissful experience. A visit to the Planetarium and the Science Centre proves to be highly instructive.

The Incredible India

Then there are things which invoke ridicule and pity.

A power cut which disrupts a Tom and Jerry show on TV invites a stridentPGW Tom and Jerry protest and needs to be explained. When a beggar gets sighted, or when the vehicle passes a hut by the road side, the parents get called upon to explain the rationale of peaceful co-existence of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ of Indian society.

The absence of dustbins ready to receive the wrapper of a chocolate arouses curiosity. The garbage, as well as the generally poor civic sense, invites an adverse comment. Smelly trains and railway stations get negative rankings.

The absence of courtesy and discipline on the roads and the density of vehiclesKrishna_Arjuna_Gita on our roads, all come in for sharp criticism. To ensure parking space near a favourite ice cream joint, divine intervention is prayed for.

Crossing a road is a trying experience. Use of public toilets, if any are available, leaves their souls in torment. A rat feasting on a dead bird lying on the road side comes across as a traumatic sight, explained with great difficulty by an accompanying adult by invoking the teachings of Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.

Within the confines of a home, unquestioned obedience on part of the juniors in the family causes some surprise and amusement. The rights of the younger ones – to decide which flavour of ice cream to have for dinner – can simply not get curtailed. This is an experience which is quite alien to their value system.

Expansion of the family nucleus

Other than feasting on Indian delicacies, the pampering by all seniors theyRamayana 1 come in contact with leaves them assured and self-confident. A sense of belongingness comes about. Stories from scriptures fascinate them. Narrations of the lives of great men and women of the country leave them awestruck.

They also end up imbibing some values of a joint family system. Sharing, caring, a sense of responsibility towards juniors and a healthy regard for the elderly gets implanted in their thought processes.

The twin advantage

This generation has a unique twin advantage – that of having a Western mind and an Eastern heart. Their analytical abilities are getting nurtured in a more scientific environment, while their hearts carry the seeds of compassion, empathy and love. From their working parent, they imbibe a sense of professionalism in whatever they do. Through their folks back home, they understand the importance of togetherness and team work.

A truly balanced human being they are apt to make. Unknown to them, they take humanity further on its path of evolution.

(Photograph of cycle rickshaw courtesy http://www.shabnamphoto.wordpress.com; link: http://shabnamphoto.com/2014/10/28/pondicherry-a-certain-sense-of-gallic-glory-gone-by)

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Oh, to be in the land of cheese and chocolates!

Ronco sopra Ascona

Ronco sopra Ascona

Here is the Quay of Locarno at the Lago Maggiore. Located at its upper end is Locarno, which bustles with life all through the year. Those in search of enchanting botany are sure to find solace here.

Lake of Lucerne and Bristenstock

Lake of Lucerne and Bristenstock

Centrally located, Lucerne is a great place to spend some time in. Enjoy a stroll on the Kappell Bridge with its octagonal water tower. A visit to the Transport Museum is highly enlightening. A cruise in the lake is invigorating, to say the least. A visit to the Pilatus using the funicular, the world’s steepest at an incline of 48%, is exhilarating.

Brunnen and Lake of Uri

Brunnen and Lake of Uri

From the Lake of Lucerne, take the winding road towards enchanting Fluelen and to Brunnen, a renowned resort and spa.

Monsatery church and Sihi Lake

Monastery church and Sihi Lake

The village of Einsiedeln with its Benedictine abbey and the monumental monastery would make you marvel at the architectural splendour on offer.

Matterhorn

Matterhorn

Think of Swiss mountains and the name of Matterhorn is bound to come up on the very top. If you decide to go on an adventurous trek, ensure that a woolly creature known as the St. Bernard dog is close at hand.

Lausanne

Lausanne

Lausanne is a metropolis dedicated to science and art as well as to commerce and industry. The Federal Supreme Court is stationed here.

Geneva

Geneva

An internationally renowned city with a distinctive French touch. The UN is here. The Red Cross is here. CERN is here. Above all, the warm hospitality of the residents could leave you wonder-struck.

Of course, there is much more to this land of precision engineering and watches. A single visit is sure to whet your appetite, and make you want to come back for more sight-seeing!

(Photographs used here are from a book gifted to me by a close friend)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/09/25/flying-over-the-swiss-alps-part-2

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/10/25/a-brand-called-switzerland)

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We came and courted you for a brief time,

Keen to explore your many charms we were told you possess;

Your physical assets we could see we found irresistible,

Qualities of your kindly soul your helpful denizens made us assess.IMG_1194

The Eiffel Tower proved to be as magnificent as its pictures had made us believe,

We learned of its role in advancement of science and visited the underground bunkers vast;

We marvelled at its elaborate elevator mechanisms and the general attention to detail,

Enjoyed the view from the top, shivering in the strong chilled breeze blowing past. Paris Obélisque_de_la_Concorde

The hunchback at the Notre Dame de Paris we could not locate,

The inner precincts were sombre, the performers outside nimble and smart;

The Luxor Obelisk took us back in time by a couple of millennia,

La Madeline and other structures held us spellbound, their architectural grandeur playing an important part.

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The Louvre had us in enthrall as we waltzed through its corridors rich in cultural heritage,

Mona Lisa, Venus and a multitude of others conspired to keep us riveted, not to part;

The Egyptian Gallery left us simply awe-struck, the beauty of sculptures cast a spell,

Grateful to those who have had the vision to preserve such magnificent works of art.

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The Arc de Triomphe reminded us of your brush with history,

Reminding us of India Gate in New Delhi and the modest Aayi Mandapam at Pondicherry;

The Champs-Elysees showcased the best that you have on offer,

International brands, famous buildings, wide-eyed tourists not in a hurry.

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The tree-lined avenues were charming, so was a cruise down the Seine,

Public conveniences we found in good shape, the multi-modal transport system we enjoyed too;

Our hearts went out to the much hassled drivers crawling through your congested roads,

Those in Pondicherry who practice the art of aggressive driving could perhaps teach them a trick or two.

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Visiting you only whetted our appetite to explore so many of your other attractions,

We wish you and your denizens a balanced and peaceful life, we do not grudge your modernity;

Even though you continue to revel in a materialistic life full of chutzpah and glamour,

You gifted Mother to us, spreading the message of universal brotherhood and spirituality.

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A friend suggested visiting the National Gallery in Oslo. Having had the opportunity of admiring the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Pablo Picasso and others in the last few years, I was naturally curious as to what Norwegian artists had come up with in the past. The visit turned out to be a truly instructive one. I realized the depth and range of work done by painters as well as sculptors and marvelled at the passion and artistic fervour of the artists concerned.IMG_1716

Founded in 1837, the National Gallery houses Norway’s largest public collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures. In its permanent and temporary exhibitions, the museum presents older art, with principal emphasis on art from Norway.IMG_1652

Highlights from the collection are shown in the permanent exhibition “The Dance of Life – The Collection from Antiquity to 1945”.IMG_1664

The exhibition presents a chronological overview of more than 300 Norwegian and international masterpieces from the Renaissance, the Baroque period, Romanticism, Realism, Impressionism, Symbolism, Cubism and modern abstract art. IMG_1658

Special attention is devoted to paintings by J.C. Dahl and Romanticism, Christian Krohg and Realism, Edvard Munch’s renowned works, as well as Norwegian evocative painting from the turn of the last century.The_Scream

Central attractions include Edvard Munch’s The Scream and Madonna and paintings by Cézanne and Monet.IMG_1672

Paintings by Picasso and several other artists are also on display.IMG_1683

In the exhibition on abstract art, one could see some striking works. A particular one I found of great interest was entitled ‘The Universal Flag.’IMG_1638

With more than 4,000 paintings, 1,000 sculptures and nearly 50,000 works on paper, the National Gallery’s art collection is the most comprehensive and wide ranging in Norway, and one of the largest of its kind in Northern Europe.IMG_1692

Michelangelo is said to have taken four years to adorn the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Leonardo da Vinci is said to have taken three years to finish ‘The Last Supper.’ Dahl is said to have taken six years to paint ‘Stalheim’; remarkably, he did it while he was nowhere near a fjord in Norway!Dahl-Stalheim

All these eminent artists worked in an age devoid of photography, computers, internet, trains, aeroplanes and mobile phones. They suffered innumerable hardships while creating their works. Since they simply loved what they were doing at the time, they would have surely derived immense joy and satisfaction while pursuing their creative goals.IMG_1678

Leads one to wonder how creativity originates. We may know the external circumstances and the trials and tribulations they faced. We may marvel at the outstanding works of art they have produced. We may surmise as to the motivation and the feeling behind each work. But would we ever know the precise moment when the germ of an idea really hit them? How long did it simmer within them before taking a tangible shape? Unless they have left behind an autobiographical account, or someone else has covered their life and times in some detail, we might never be able to identify the real point of origin of their creative outburst.IMG_1689

Surely, all great artists have a streak of divinity in them. Besides, they have passion for their form of art. Patience and perseverance would be only two of their several sterling qualities. They would also have been lucky to get mentors who spotted and nurtured their talents. Some blossomed in adversity, enabled perhaps only by their innermost conviction.IMG_1702

We may not know the exact point of conception. We may be unaware of the technical details or the process of eventual delivery. But we shall be forever grateful that they have left behind a rich tapestry of the dance of life, capturing its precious moments for posterity. It is a legacy which continues to attract, entice and inspire artists and laymen alike all over the world.

Note: ‘Scream’ and ‘Stalheim’ reproductions are courtesy Wikipedia. Others are a result of my photographic skills, which are severely limited. Please bear with me for deficiencies – if you notice any – in these.  

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Having settled back in the shadow of the Alps yet again, I am filled with a sense of exhilaration and awe. The heat of India has got replaced by the chill of melting snow. TheSwiss Zermatt dust has given way to fresh air which is invigorating. In the cobbled streets, litter is missing. The greenery and the snow-capped mountains are a relief for the eyes. The ears are just about getting used to the soothing silence which has replaced the relentless honking on Indian roads. Courtesy in public spaces is once again leaving me dumbstruck.

But the stark contrasts do not end at the physical level. There are differences in the mental make up. The value systems which govern our behavior appear to be differently configured. The forces of nature and nurture which have shaped our personalities are quite different.

East and West can both learn quite a few things from each other.

What Indians can learn from the West

  • Respecting the Public Good

In the West, we find better respect for the public good. For instance, public spaces are cleaner and drivers on roads are courteous. On the contrary, in India, we keep our houses values cartoon corruptionclean and water our gardens everyday – but, when we go to the beach front, we litter the place with gay abandon.

In an office setting, a friendly colleague could get chastised for being careless on a project. In India, a criticism would either not be made – so it may not hurt the feelings of a friend – or taken personally by the recipient.

Corruption is another manifestation of the same lack of concern for the common good. Society is relatively corruption free in the West. In India, corruption, tax evasion, cheating and bribery have become a part of daily routine.

Apathy towards solving problems which affect the ordinary citizen is another dimension. In the West, people form groups to solve common problems in a proactive manner. In India, we see serious problems around us but do not try to solve them. We either believe that the problems do not impact us directly, or it is for someone else to resolve the issues.

  • Openness to Learning

If we have to progress, we have to change this attitude, listen to people who have performed better than us, learn from them and perform better than them. In India, we appear to have perfected the art of rationalizing our failures and explaining them off by misquoting our scriptures. We are good at finding excuses to justify our incompetence, corruption, and apathy. This attitude will not do.

  • Accountability based on the RoleAccessibility

Another interesting attribute that we Indians need to learn from the West is that of accountability. Irrespective of your position, in the West, you are held accountable for what you do. However, in India, the more ‘important’ you are, the less answerable you are.

Organizations whose top honchos indulge in illicit relations with their team members need to be pulled up and acted against as firmly as a junior cashier who siphons off money from the till.

  • Dignity of Labor

Dignity of labor is an integral part of the Western value system. In the West, each person is proud about his or her labor that raises honest sweat. On the other hand, in India, we have a mindset that respects only supposedly intellectual work.

A peon deserves as much respect as a Head of the Department. CEOs whose fragile egos are shaken by someone else parking his/her car in the normal slot needs to do some introspection.

  • Discriminating between Intimacy and Friendliness

Indians tend to become intimate even without being friendly. They ask favors of strangers without any hesitation. Rudyard Kipling once said: A westerner can be friendly without being intimate while an easterner tends to be intimate without being friendly.

Those who have worked as expatriates in another cultural setting would readily attest to this.

  • A Professional ApproachWORK-LIFE BALANCE

In India, more than 70% of the time of senior managers is spent on follow-ups; just ensuring that what is committed is indeed delivered. Delays are easily explained, and so are cost over-runs. Keeping a person unduly waiting is a sure sign of seniority in an Indian organization.

Here is yet another lesson to be learnt from the West – that of professionalism in dealings. Managements in the West ensure better work-life balance for their employees.

What the West can learn from India

  • Loyalty towards FamilyZOMBIES

Indians are part of a culture which has deep-rooted family values. We have tremendous loyalty to the family. For instance, parents make enormous sacrifices for their children. They support them until they can stand on their own feet. On the other side, children consider it their duty to take care of aged parents.

In organizations, we often find executives who are competent as well as extremely loyal. Also, respect for seniors is deeply ingrained in the system. There are times when juniors find it tough to take independent decisions. Very few are adept at registering a dissent with their seniors. Successful organizations have a culture which is designed to overcome such handicaps.

  • Family: A Critical Support Mechanism

One of the key strengths of Indian values is the presence of so much love and affection in the family life. In India, families act as a critical support mechanism for employees. Thus, resilience is better.

In the West, it is common to have break-ups when the career prospects of a manager nosedive. This adds to the stress experienced by a manager. Mental disorders present a much greater challenge. Predominantly, life has a materialistic approach, leading to a vacuum within.

  • Managing Chaos

Indians have improved upon the art of managing chaos and disorder. Even in high entropy situations, Indians tend to keep their nerve. Perhaps, this leads to better levels of perseverance as well.

Successful management of a human congregation like the Kumbh Mela is but one example of this trait.

  • Facing Adversity with EquanimityFeatured Image -- 1211

Upbringing steeped in religion and spirituality enables an average Indian to face adversity and failures with equanimity.

Learning from Different Value Systems

Values are like mountains. They have survived for centuries and shall continue to do so much after we have kicked the bucket. Universal common denominator is that of, say, love and affection. Over and above that, value systems differ across continents and cultures. When it comes to values, every culture has its own Unique Selling Proposition.

In this age of globalization and connectivity, mingling of diverse cultures is bound to happen. Learning from other value systems and adapting their good features is the only way to enable humanity to realize its full potential faster and better.

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