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Entries about automotive

Marrakesh (Morocco) IV

Medina and Markets

sunny 40 °C

Summer 1967

If a visitor bestirs himself from the mesmerizing spectacles of Djemaa El Fna, he can stroll around the Plaza in the labyrinth of Zocos (Souks). Most popular is The Semnarin, with its colors, aromas, variety of cloth and carpets on display. Or you can visit the casbah of Télouet (outside the city and 170kms) which is a very impressive Kasbah, albeit in ruins but attractive anyway and go further to visit the casbah of Ait Benhaddou, which has been perfectly conserved and is worth a visit.

Marrakesh is famous for the tombs of its kings, as is The Bedi Palace which is entirely constructed in Marble. Against the backdrop of snowy Blue Atlas Mountains are the waterfalls at Vuzoud, about 160kms from the city. And if you like the ethnic handicrafts, then a visit to Chichaova Coop Society is worth the trouble. There you will see the making of carpets with typical Berber designs and basic colours of red. The carpets are called Chichaova, which has given the name to the society of artisans.

My favorite museum is Dar Si Saíd, which is housed in a beautiful building of 19th Century, and has an important collection of Moroccan art, a colorful display of female attire, ceramics, carpets, Berber jewelry and articles of adornment. Its carved wooden doors with beautiful Ablutions of 10th century, etched in Spain on one single slab of marble. There are more than 200 Mesquites (Masques) with the beautiful designs and ceramics and etchings of typical Arab artisan work, all worth seeing. Moors conquered Spain in 9th century and their cultural heritage, Art, their buildings have left an everlasting impression in many regions of Spain, specially in Andalusia (Al-Andalus).

My favorite place in the evenings, whenever I visited Marrakesh, was the Casino at La Mamounia. I knew the Director of that time and went there almost every evening, together with some Indian business men, to drink whiskey and soda and gamble. Black Jack, Open Poker and English Roulette (One Zero).were popular games and every evening you saw rich and famous local dignitaries and Europeans playing there.

Moroccans are friendly people and once you knew them well, their hospitality knows no bounds. I made many influential friends in Tangier, Casablanca and Marrakesh where late in the night, whether we won or lost on the gaming tables, when we had a good amount of whiskey and had deliciously satisfying food, we would head towards a Cabaret. As I remember, La Mamounia also had a Cabaret, but now, after a lapse of so many years, I can not remember well.

That evening while playing Roulette, I made the acquaintance of yet another Italian business man, who was living in Paris but had come down to Marrakesh to play the tables. He usually went to Nice to play roulette because only there you could play American Roulette (with two zeros) which was lucky for him. Two zeros were lucky for me too, so we made a promise to sometime visit Nice together. I had been lucky at roulette, once in Gibraltar, at the newly opened Rock Hotel Casino, I had won, at one sitting, Five Hundred sterling Pounds. Quiet a sum in those heady days of 1960s.

Posted by The Islander 14:44 Archived in Morocco Tagged automotive Comments (0)

St. Blaise of Switzerland

sunny 34 °C

From Neuchátel to St. Blaise is as easy as finding your destination in the dark, if you are driving, following the white line on the road. By the time you have your morning fill of the Jura mountains, you go down the slope and turn left to the huge parking space and the lake.

St. Blaise, Biagio or San Blas (as he is known) was the physician Bishop of Sebaste in Armenia who lived (c316) in a cave on Mount Argeus. He was the healer of men and animals and according to legend, sick animals would come on their own to his cave, to be cured.

Armenians are Christians and were persecuted even in the Roman times. There is still a huge controversory in Turkey about the Ottomans' genocide of Armenian christians before and after the First World War. In Roman times, Gnaueus Julius agricola, the Roman General and politician, who was the governor of Cappadocia, came to Sebasste to persecute Christians.

Bishop Blaise was arrested and Agricola tried to force him to renouce his faith and accept Roman Gods. On his refusal, Bishop Blaise was thrown into a lake to drown but he survived, standing upon the surface of the water and challanged his Roman persecuters to do the same, to prove that their Gods were as powerful as his own. Naturally they drowned. So when he returned to the solid ground, he was arrested, tortured and his flesh beaten and torn with wool brushes, then beheaded. For this reason he is worshipped by the Wool Merchants in Italy and Dalmatia (Croatia) and there are churches to his name in many countries. His memorial is celebrated on 3rd of February.

The wool trade in Italy was centered in Florence (Fiorenza! the City of Flowers) which was the capital of Tuscany) and employed thousands of workers. Although other industries like making of wine etc developed later, wool trade was the main industry. Merino sheep was imported from scotland and Merino wool even today is world famous for its purity.

St. Blaise in switzerland, named in honour of martyred Bishop, has a special charm. We parked our car in the almost empty parking area, there were three or four caravans standing on their parking lot and when I went to use the toilet, a man standing outside kindly told me that I could drink the water from the tap. Water was cool and refreshing.

Thus refreshed, we turned towards the lake, on our right a small semi-circle of a sandy beach, the beautiful mountains hovering overhead, beautiful houses perched on its slopes. The place had an atmosphere of complete calm and romance, which immediately put an spell on us. The morning was hot and we took off our clothes and dipped in the water with total abandon. Although we stayed on the beach for quite some time, only one solitary woman came to swim. No other bathers.

Straight ahead is the landing for boats and as we were gazing at the lake,a big boat/ferry came to the pier and some passangers got off. It was apparent that you could travel by boat to other destinations around the lake. Go visiting your friends and relatives, do some shopping.

On our left was a small harbour for boats, there were many boats berthed and people on board, some having breakfast. Every body greeted us and we returned their greetings. As if we were not visitors but well known acquintances. Where ever we went in switzerland, people in a friendly manner. Another nice and surprising thing was that we saw no nudity on the beaches, no scanty clad youngsters on any camp sites. In fact we saw no girls with a short short top or a mini skirt.

We were so enchanted with the beach, the lake and the mountains that we stayed there until late in the afternoon, and missed going up to the town center. So later we took to the road again.

But even now when I am writing about st. Blaise and remeber the mismerising effect of Bernese mountain range and the perfect soothing calm of St. Blaise, right now, I would rather be there than here in Germany.


Posted by The Islander 13:05 Archived in Switzerland Tagged automotive Comments (0)

Neuchátel and Chaumont. Switzerland

Lakes And Mountains

Neuchátel is barely 15 kms from Biel, driving was easy and we did not lose the view of mountain ranges on one side and the lakes on the other. The population is about 34,000 and the town is sitting comfortably between the mountains and the lakes, which, as is mentioned by people there, promoted Alexander Dumas to describe it as a "Toy Town carved out of butter". I do not know if it was Dumas pere, the great French historian and writer of classics "Count of Monte Cristo" and "Three Musketeers" etc., or was it Dumas fils, who wrote "Lady of Camelias" and "La Traviata", on whose theme the world famous Opera by Giuseppe Verdi was written. I could not find out about this in the town. But to us Neuchátel also reminded us of Sibenik and Split in Crotia, its main street full of shops and cafes, the region dotted with waterfalls, snowy mountains and wide lakes.

The lingua franca in Nauchátel is French, its architecture is French and many of its mid 17-18th century buildings are painted yellow. As are many buildings painted in Andalusia (Spain) and in some Mediterranean towns and sea side villages in Italy. The ambiance is also Gallic, the place was full of street life, crowded pavement cafes and restaurants serving good tasty food and fine French and Swiss wine. The day being hot, we sat down on the terrace of a corner cafe, had toasted sandwiches and a chilled Chateaubriand (Réserve) from Beaujolais. Then we went and had Crépe Suzette (Pan cakes to common folks) with banana and marmalade. As we would eat in Montmartre in Paris. Trés Chic.

In the after- noon I wanted to visit the Museum of Art, which I was told, has a fine collection of Mechanical Figurines. But I do not now remember, how or why, we chose to visit the mountainous town of Chaumont, which is set amongst the high peaks on an elevated area of Bernese Alps. From there we had a fantastic view of the three lakes of Switzerland, Lake Nauchátel, Murten and Lake Biel. The harbor was full of boats coming and going and the snowy edge of Bernese Alps hovering over it. A very enchanting sight it was.

Posted by The Islander 10:05 Archived in Switzerland Tagged automotive Comments (0)

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