Sunday, July 31, 2011

When in Rome, do visit the Vatican City

When in Rome, do visit the Vatican City

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 AT 03:48 PM (IST)
Tags: Spice,   travel,   Rome,   Vatican City,   church,   Roman Catholic,   Camil Parkhe
Camil Parkhe tells how he was awed by the size and historical significance of the Vatican City

We got down from the tram in a central part of Rome and were told, “There, that is the entrance of the Vatican City!”  My wife, daughter and I found ourselves being pulled in that direction, filled with awe and anticipation. A visit to Rome and the Vatican is a dream tour for any Roman Catholic, or for that matter, even to those interested in art, sculpture, architecture and other faculties.
After crossing the entrance having huge pillars, the visitor is suddenly feasted to a magnificent sight — the famous St Peter’s Square! It is a huge oval place, accommodating thousands of pilgrims when the pontiff appears in a balcony of St Peter’s Basilica to deliver his weekly address on Sunday morning or on religious feasts. We saw hundreds of tourists alighting from coaches and equipped with cameras heading towards St Peter’s Square.
In front of the impressive huge facade of the basilica are tall statues of St Peter and St Paul. Statues of other apostles and saints are located on top portion of the facade. On the right side of the basilica is the papal residence. It is here that the pope meets dignitaries from all over the world in his capacity as the head  of the Catholic Church and also as the head of the sovereign Vatican state. The basilica is built over the tomb of St Peter and the first pope’s successors are also buried in this shrine.
Significantly,  the Vatican City is the smallest nation in the world with an approximate area of 110 acres and the number of its citizens is less than 800. Most of these citizens are the cardinals, other clergies and nuns posted at the Vatican and the elite Swiss guards — the youths from Switzerland who, in keeping with the 500-year-old old tradition, volunteer to guard the pope and the Vatican.
Due to its small size, the Vatican City has no public transport like buses or taxis. The only vehicles one sees moving in this sovereign state are of the Vatican officials and employees, most of whom reside  in Rome.
I entered the basilica and stood bewitched looking at the first sculpture in the first chapel on the right side of the basilica. It was La Pieta, Michaelangelo’s masterpiece depicting grief-stricken Mary holding the corpse of her son, Jesus. It was a  great experience watching the world’s one of the most acclaimed and valuable marble sculptures.
One is overwhelmed by the dome of the basilica, an important skyline of Rome. For those well versed in Catholic Church history or researchers in various faculties, hours are not sufficient observing the sculptures, architecture and other objects in this basilica, perhaps the largest church in the world. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Royal family charm continues

Royal family charm
Monday, May 09, 2011 AT 12:12 AM (IST)
Tags: Royal wedding, Kate Middleton, Prince William, Diana, Prince Charles
The marriage of British Prince William and Kate Middleton revived memories of the wedding of William's parents -- Prince Charles and Diana Spencer in 1981, when television sets had just began to enter people's homes. Soon after the announcement of the royal wedding, tabloids and other newspapers started filling their columns with details of the private life and romance of the would-be couple and the preparations for the wedding. Even earlier, it was the royal wedding of the present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, and Prince Philip. But at that time the media's reach to the people was very limited and the monarch's wedding went unnoticed by a large percentage of the world population. The wedding of Prince Charles and Diana was the first major glamorous event after the boom in the print and electronic news industry. Journalists and specially photographers, now equipped with advanced technology, really tried hard to exploit it to the fullest while covering that event. The Charles-Diana wedding was rightly labelled as the wedding of the century. People across the world had never witnessed such pomp and show for a wedding.
Newspaper in Goa, where I had worked during those days, employed zinc blocks to print photos. This was the technology used by newspapers during those days. Colour printing was unheard of in the newspaper industry. The photographs of prime minister and ministers, supplied by the Press Information Bureau, used to be published by newspapers three or four days after the event. Every bit of news related to the royal wedding was used by newspapers and magazines for weeks prior to the wedding. The editor of the newspaper where I worked had a novel plan to cover the royal wedding. There were no TV towers in Goa then and Mumbai was too far to receive television signals. My editor erected a very tall antennae at his residence in Miramar in Panaji and fitted it with a booster. That enabled him to see black and white images on his television set. On the royal wedding day, the editor asked a photo journalist to set his camera in front of the television sets and capture images of the royal wedding. Next day, ours was the only our newspaper in Goa to have published pictures of the royal wedding!
Thirty years later, the world media covered every moment of another royal wedding live and in minute details. It shows that although the sun over the British empire has set long ago, the royal family's charm continues to hold sway over the world to this day.

Friday, July 1, 2011

English is no lingua franca in Europe

English is no lingua franca in Europe
Sakaal Times
Saturday, June 18, 2011 AT 06:01 PM (IST)
Tags: English language,   Europe,   France,   Camil Parkhe
Travelling from Rome to Venice in a bullet train, I was talking to my daughter when a senior citizen asked me in which language I was speaking. "English, of course,” I replied, embarrassed that due to my accent he had not understood the language. “No, no, I mean which is your native language,” the fellow passenger said. Relieved, I told him that we were from India and that Marathi was our mother tongue and Hindi the national language.
My answer aroused his curiosity. "Then, how come you are conversing among yourselves in English" was his next question. He was an Australian and English was his mother tongue. He was surprised that we Indians, located far from the Britain, had accepted English as the lingua franca. I understood him. Both of us were touring Europe and having hard time striking conversation with the locals. It was difficult to find a person who could speak English in France and Italy.
On our flight from Mumbai to France, the announcements were in French, English and an unknown language, although a French airhostess greeted me with a "namaste." Our communication problems began as soon as we landed at the Charles de Gaul airport in Paris. Barring emigrants from other continents settled in Paris and Italy, the local people had absolutely no knowledge of English. I realised that they did not just feign ignorance of English. I had desperately needed a chord used for transferring photos from camera to the computers and spent hours in many shops trying to convey my need with gestures and some English words but in vain. At Rome railway station, there was no English speaking person who could tell me the timing of the train to the local Leonardo da Vinci airport. Exasperated, I stood in a long queue at the railway reservation section and after reaching the counter half an hour later, asked the booking clerk the timing of the particular train. When she replied, I said "Thank you, Ma'm" and walked out without reserving tickets. On another occasion, I was overjoyed when in a supermarket I read a board, "We speak English." 
It is amazing that common people in countries like France, Italy, Germany do not understand English. What is more amazing that this has not hindered their progress in any field. We in India have concluded that knowledge of English is must for individual and national progress. 

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Eiffel Tower - The high and mighty

The high and mighty
Monday, June 20, 2011 AT 04:38 PM (IST)
Tags: Spice,   maglets,   travel,   Paris,   Eiffel Tower,   Camil Parkhe
Camil Parkhe shares the moment when the gigantic Eiffel Tower overwhelmed him

I was taking a photograph of my daughter Aditi at a picturesque site near the Seine river when someone drew her attention elsewhere. Annoyed, I looked in that direction and the sight left me gasping. We were watching the familiar, tall structure of Eiffel Tower, situated perhaps just one-and-half kilometres away. It was the first day of our Europe tour. We had just checked into our hotel rooms and moved out for Paris darshan when unexpectedly we found ourselves staring at one of the seven wonders of the world! Anupam Beri, a Puneite friend now working in Paris and our guide for our first day in Paris, smiled as he watched our astonishment.

We wound up our photo session and marched towards the landmark. The appearance of the Eiffel Tower from various angles kept unfolding its uniqueness. As we approached closer to the base of the tower, we were awed as we looked at this marvel, a masterpiece in civil engineering created by Gustave Eiffel. Four enormous, strong foundation concrete bases of the tower carry the mighty 7,300 tonnes of load of this 120-year-old structure. Standing at its base, it felt as if we were the Lilliputs and the tower was a Gulliver. The enormity of the structure overwhelmed us like never before. One  has to bend backwards and backwards to appreciate this tall Iron Lady or ‘La Dame de Fer’ as the tower is referred to.

There were some thousands of tourists scattered in all the directions of the Eiffel Tower. Some of them arrived in buses and cars, others, like us, walked into the precinct. Some reached in horse-drawn carriages. No matter how they arrived, their excitement touched the brim. We could hear all sorts of languages from across the world. There were ice-cream vans that allured young and old alike. Amid all of that, few musicians were playing violin, perhaps to entertain the people who waited at the long queues to board the lifts that carry people to the top of the tower. We, however, skipped the queue and decided to enjoy the charm of the grand old structure from the garden that surrounded the tower, and soak in the happiness that the ambience exuded.

I was told that at night, the view of the tower and that of Paris from the top is just amazing, something that was substantiated later on. Indeed, like a jewel in the crown, the tower shone bright and from our hotel rooms we watched the structure with amazed awe.

- The Eiffel Tower is located on the Champ de Mars in Paris. The tower is the tallest building in the city 
- The tower is named after its designer, engineer Gustave Eiffel.
- The tower was built as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair.
- The tower stands 324 metres (1,063 ft) tall, about the same height as an 81-storey building.
- There are three levels for the visitors who can purchase tickets to ascend the tower by lift or stairs. The first and the third levels accommodate restaurants.
- The pig iron structure of the Eiffel Tower weighs 7,300 tonnes while the entire structure, including non-metal components, is approximately 10,000 tonnes.
- The tower is maintained with 50 to 60 tonnes of paint every seven years to protect it from rust. It is currently painted a shade of bronze.