Friday, December 16, 2016

Winter Wish Well – Kashmir

White washed, painted with numerous shades of cold blue and white, beauty of bareness and dead grooves that would bloom again in spring and still a land alive in every sense. Some days back it snowed in Seattle and I was transported back to a beautiful state of India. If you thought Spring or Autumns are the only time to visit the cold Himalayan beauty of India again, think again for now I would give you five reasons to make you believe why you have to visit Kashmir during winters at least once in your life!

1.   The white wonderland
Kashmir is better than Switzerland during winters. To experience snow that has fallen months ago and to experience snowfall – the feel is really different. Imagine making snowman in fresh snow, fall and create deep snow angels in soft, yet to settle, fluffy snow, to gaze outside your window and see the snow pile on vast fields, pined trees and your window sills while sitting with a hot cup of Kehwa and hot burning Kangri – the only time to get all this is during winters! Even the other areas that do not have snow, have a backdrop of white washed Himalayas and a shade of winter that is stunning in every sense.

2.  No crowd, No fuss
Since due to common belief, winters is termed off season for Kashmir Tourism and hence all the places you venture to would have very less crowd aka welcome to a non-touristy Kashmir. This means you get heavy discounts on almost everything there and at the same time get to interact with locals as much as you want because people are not in any hurry to attend to hordes of tourists that they usually do during the other times of the year.

Source -

3.  Enjoy food the Kashmiri way
Local food around Srinagar get a lot more Kashmiri during winters than in any other season. It is not like you can’t get local delicacies during the other seasons but during winters the street food gets more local flavoured and lets go of the Punjabi, Lucknowi touch and well imagine hot kebabs on chilled winter nights. You get the fun right?

4.  Ski and Sledge
Let’s go the eskimo way. Okay, no, but just the touristy way. Sure in other seasons you get the orchards of apricots, you may see arrays of Tulips and Saffron, you may also see sprawling fields of paddy and grass but winter is the only time you would see endless rows of snow laden slopes that are fit for skiing and sledge rides. Why travel all the way to Switzerland, Alaska and Austria when you can get it all in your own country!

5.  Kehwa and Kangri
I love to do local stuff!!!  I know you guys must have figured that out already but still I love doing local stuff and one of the best moments I had in Kashmir during my trip was – roaming around near Sindh Nallah in Sonmarg with a kangri in hands and sipping Kehwa all the while. You can get Kehwa in Kashmir all-round the year but it is primarily a winter drink. Long story short, I was doing what the local villagers of Sonmarg were doing at the Sonmarg bus stop and I totally got the point of it.

Winter is when Kashmir gets the most real and the warmest in terms of hospitality! I loved Kashmir in winters and feel lucky to have experienced the place in that season! What about you guys?

Also for those of you who are anxious about the conditions in Kashmir right now – life has kind of come back to normalcy but locals need a lot of support and positivity to forget the last five months. From personal experience, I can tell you people over there are really nice and kind and a few friends who traveled there recently have confirmed that it is pretty safe to travel to Kashmir now.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Winterfest at Seattle Center

Current entrance to Seattle Center
April 21st 1962
A huge tower topped with a flying saucer look alike observation deck. A couple of huge halls close by. A set of huge white arched structure act as gate to future. A huge ground full of people, 200 at first, 20,000 eventually and at a point some 2M people had shown glimpse of greatness that was paving way for some amazing stories to come. Musical notes with splashes of water dance to tunes of success and achievement. A fast train whizzes by all this, ready to transport people to a new era of technology and globalization.

The International Fountain and the Space Needle
Fast forward to 8th December 2016
The huge flying saucer, called the Space needle is the pride of Seattle and the symbol of this beautiful city. The white arched gates still stand but are gates to IMAX and the science center. The huge fountain, called the international fountain, still plays music from different parts of the world and makes water and people dance to those tunes every day. The fast train now has company of music thanks to EMP museum or MoPop – Museum of Pop Culture. The big field now has more halls than ever, most dedicated to art and craft and some to recreation. But what still hasn’t changed is what this place stands for – people!
Seattle Center Park Way
This amazing place is Seattle Center!!!
Started in 1962, for Seattle’s World Fair – Century 21 Exposition, Seattle Center not only entered the 21st century 38 years in advance and in full glory, it has only thrived and become more about people over the years. If you check Seattle Center’s website it says – ‘Seattle Center creates exceptional events, experiences and environments that delight and inspire the human spirit to build stronger communities’ just like it did when it was opened to public for the first time in 1962. And after being in the campus 3 times now, I can totally vouch for the authenticity of their claim.

It is all about holiday spirit!
Ever since I started writing about Seattle on my blog, people have asked me why I haven’t written about main tourist areas of Seattle, and I always thought when I did start writing about touristy places in Seattle I would start with Seattle Center, but had not found the right opportunity yet. Thanks to the ongoing Winterfest in Seattle Center, here I am and I would tell you all about why you should visit Seattle Center and not miss Winterfest if in Seattle during December.

Winterfest is celebration of holiday season at Seattle Center, that starts just after thanksgiving and goes on till new year’s every year. I attended Winterfest this year on Black Friday and I do not regret letting go of shopping for some hours to be part of community and the holiday spirit for a few of hours. Winterfest has an ice rink for ice skating that I saw kids and adults enjoy equally. Many who didn’t know how to skate also didn’t mind spending the 8$ for falling, getting up and making memories with their friends and family.

Ice Rink
The train station was just the prettiest art display at the armoury. Tiny train, plane, hot air balloon. Some dancing damsel, a happy man skating over a frozen lake. Some children playing in snow, some people enjoying just nature. Festivities, music, and daily life – the train station display had it all and it just felt so real at time, maybe because of the whole holiday decoration of the armoury or maybe because of the carols being performed in the background.

Train Station Village
There are many musical and dance performances lined up every day at the armoury for the whole day, most troupes local to Seattle. Seattle is known as the city of performing arts and Seattle Centre Winterfest gives a chance to local groups to shine and display their art. 

When I visited Seattle Center, I was reminded of my childhood thanks to the tons of Christmas Carols performed by Snow Globe - Kristin Chambers and Puget Sound Acapella Choir.

Train Station Village
Apart from performing arts, display art is also huge in Seattle and at Winterfest, ice sculpting that happens every Saturday for the whole month is pretty huge! Sadly, I went there on a Friday and hence could not see the sculptures. But I did get to spend a lot of time at the International Fountain and I loved every minute of it. You can actually go down and drench and dance under this huge fountain! 

Holiday, snow and music
I did go round and dodged some water sprout due to the super cold weather but there were kids who were getting drenched even in this weather! But anyhow listening to Arabian and Russian music and watching the 20 or so water sprouts synchronizing with the music was kind of soothing – something that took me away from studies and stress of the upcoming finals week of my college. And street performances near this fountain just redefined ‘Seattle meets world at Seattle Center.’
Last Autumn Shades
Well long story when in Seattle, do go to Seattle Center; not just to Space Needle, the Chihuly Glass Museum and EMP but to Seattle Center as a whole! And if in Seattle during December – Get the feel of Seattle, Holidays and Winters all in one place! To know more about Winterfest check here -

The huge Christmas tree at armoury! 
P.S.: I would be telling you more about different places at Seattle Center in separate posts.

A snowy happy Holidays to all!!!