Monday, August 28, 2017

S - St. Goar , Rhine Valley



Been there ... Done that 

St. Goar , Rhine Valley
Chimes from across the Rhine Valley 











It was on this solo - soul searching trip across Europe in that summer of 2006.  


On that warm summer afternoon at  Munich’s central  Marienplatz square,  I watched the Glockenspiel – chime and dance to the tunes for the royal wedding and the ritualistic dance at the stroke of midday.  

It was grand. It was intriguing . But most importantly it was a classic piece of mechanical engineering.

The industry of making  mechanical Cuckoo clocks and their many variants like the dancing dolls  with soldiers marching was a thriving industry in the 18th century and traces of that industrious art continues even today across regions of Switzerland and Germany. .      





I fell in love with the charm of the old world mechanical clocks and the art and science that goes behind creating them.  

That evening  the tour took us through the meandering Rhine valley along the black forest to this quaint village called St Goar  which was the place where the original cuckoo clocks were made by families  that had the craftsmanship passed on to them generation after generation since the mid 1800’s.     
At the cuckoo clock shop in St. Goar  were clocks big and small, grand and understated.
Each clock spoke of delicate craftsmanship and the pride and passion that goes behind creating these simple works of mechanics with such precision and beauty. 

Cuckoo clocks have been a favorite of Black Forest clockmakers since the 18th century. The traditional style clock is known as a Schilduhr, or shield clock. At the stroke of the hour, a cuckoo emerges through a door at the top of a square wooden face. The clock face is usually simply painted and decorated at the top with a semicircle of richly carved wood.
It is unknown who invented it and where the first one was made. It is thought that much of its development and evolution was made in the Black Forest area in southwestern Germany, the region where the cuckoo clock was popularized. The cuckoo clocks were exported to the rest of the world from the mid 1850s on. Today, the cuckoo clock is one of the favourite souvenirs of travelers in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. It has become a cultural icon of Germany.
Cuckoo clocks are almost always weight driven, though a very few are spring driven. The weights are made of cast iron in a pine cone shape and the "cuc-koo" sound is created by two tiny gedackt (pipes) in the clock, with bellows attached to their tops. The clock's movement activates the bellows to send a puff of air into each pipe alternately when the timekeeper strikes.



I just knew, I wanted one of them .  

On a shoe string budget Europe trip, this was certainly not the one thing I had budgeted for.

I am not given to splurging and impulsive buying. 
But that day had to be an exception. I did not want to regret later in life for having passed that moment.
 I think that is what I said to myself that warm summer evening at St. Goar in Rhine valley.
At 120 euros this was the cheapest cuckoo clock and the only one I could afford.  
When I now think of it, it was a steal. Although at that time it did burn a big hole in my pocket.

This  cuckoo clock came into my life on a surge of temptation that evening in the village of St. Goar upon the Rhine valley in the Black Forest area in Germany.

September 6th 2006. That was the day I got her. 

Instinct told me she would occupy a special place in my life.

The shop packed it well for me to carry. Yet for  someone on a backpacking trip across Europe that  was a huge luggage to carry.  I eagerly lugged  her from the Rhine valley to Normandy and then to Paris and then from Calais to Dover across the English channel and all the way to London on the coach and then in the tube and then the train all the way to the house in Croydon.  

I carefully assembled her into working condition soon after my return from the Europe trip. 

She chimed for a while at our Croydon house and then fell silent. 

Then we shifted houses. Considering she was not given to harsh handling (Oh-so-much-like-me), she stopped chiming when I reassembled her at the Hounslow apartment although she always showed the right time and was hung right in the middle of the entrance of the apartment. 

With a three year warranty still running, I could have taken her back to St. Goar in the  Rhine valley , to the cuckoo clock shop where she could have been  mended. 

She badly needed the mending, but so did my spirits. 
I did not do anything about either of them

Perhaps reflective of my own spirits she was never really unpacked  when we shifted houses once again, this time to Egham.  

One never gives up hope. I lugged her back to India when I decided to relocate to Bangalore. I made a special trip just for her and made sure I checked her in as a hand baggage. She was too delicate to be handled in a check in baggage even if it was marked fragile.

She got the much needed mending at an upmarket cuckoo clock specialist in Bangalore.

Once again, reflective of my own spirits, she started chiming again and has been doing a great job adorning the center stage of my drawing room. The Cuckoo chimes reverberate all over the house.

Her cuckoo chimes have given me company through many a sleepless nights in the past and also give me company when I sleep  like a baby, only to faintly hear her chime away a seven or perhaps even an eight in the mornings, starkly reminding me to get out of bed , strut my butt and begin the day.        

For more than a decade now she has kept me company chiming happily and  unfailingly.
My Cuckoo clock and I,feels like  we have been on a long journey together for a long time now.  



Saturday, August 26, 2017

N - New york - Musings along the New York skyline


Been there ... done that



N - Musings along  The New York Skyline






From far across the Staten Island I am about to embark on the most touristy thing that one does when in the US of A.

I am going through the security check. In a few minutes I would board the ferry that would take us across to Staten Island. 

From afar, the lady in Green beckons us and everyone in the ferry is clicking away on their DSLR and mobiles phones. It feels surreal.  (That is when you realize that selfie sticks are the best thing that happened since sliced bread. One shudders to think how civilizations of the previous era managed without something as primitive as a selfie stick) 

The icon that symbolizes what America stands for.


Over many centuries since Christopher Columbus accidentally discovered that promised Land, millions have arrived on her shores to make their dreams comes true in the land of milk of honey. Rags to riches stories of many immigrants who made their wealth and their mark after arriving here are what legends are made of.

Just across the Island is Wall Street whose spirit is filled with stories alike of people from Riches to rags as well.  It has weathered many an economic upheaval.  The great recession of 1929 was etched in historical memory for the many riches to rags story of American dream until the 2009 Global recession whose epicenter originated arguably over here and not somewhere over the ethernet. . 

 Yet even today the Manhattan skyline allures and attracts many men (some women as well) in the promise of making wealth. 

On the way to board the ferry to Staten Island, I stopped by a street hawker selling souvenirs of New York. In it is a picture of work men sitting on top of what looks like an iron scaffolding far above the sea level.




Like those men on the picture postcard, there must have been millions of unsung heroes who must have toiled to build those tall skyscrapers, those iconic bridges and the symmetrically laid out city of New York.
They look tough, weary, and dirty and in overalls that labourers would wear at construction sites. Yet there is no mistaking the smile on their faces.

A smile perhaps taken during a break for a few minutes from some back breaking manual work. ..

Or perhaps 

A smile thinking of a loved one or a family left behind many miles away, 

Or perhaps 

A smile dreaming of making enough money in the land of opportunities 

Or perhaps

A smile of having been part of building something that would last beyond their lifetime


The New York Skyline ...

There must have been thousands of them over the centuries. 


From the ferry  back from Staten Island , I notice the sun dazzle across the Manhattan Skyline and reflect light into the sea before it. It is a picture perfect moment.
But there is a void over here, There stands ground Zero, where once stood those two iconic towers.  The rest of Manhattan , the Wall street, the Empire state building, the Waldorf  Astoria hotel , the Grand central station and the other skyscrapers that make the magnificient Manhattan skyline are all there intact.

It is the spirit of New York.  The spirit of those who toil to make money . The money that they hope will one day help them make their dreams come true. 

She is a very attractive bait.  
Those who land in her shores, seldom go back.
They toil  happily  and  unhappily. 
Some settle down make this place their adopted home , Some keep dreaming of going back home  and many die here while taking their dreams to their grave.  

And that is the spirit that keeps the New Yorkers going.


I click a picture with the big bull ( these were times before the fearless lady found place opposite the big bull) . 

Then as I walk back to the Wall street metro station after watching in awe the city that churns a good chunk of the world’s wealth,   I notice this little poem on the underground Metro train.

Billy Collins wrote it.  And so beautifully summarized what I have clumsily attempted in so many words all over this post. 

As you fly swiftly underground
 with  a song in your ears
or lost in the maze of a book, 

remember the ones who descended here
into the mire of bedrock
to bore a hole through this granite,

to clear a passage for you
where there was only darkness and stone. 
Remember as you come up into the light. 






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