Change of Domain!

If you like following my adventures, please check and subscribe to  my new domain http://www.travelwithstanito.com !

Advertisements

Hampton Court

Dear Reader,

This is Hampton Court Palace, a palace fit for a king, someone once said… With its unique red-brick style, Hampton Court was once the envy of most sovereigns in Europe, especially France and its rival palace of Versailles.

Originally built in 1514 for Cardinal Wolsey, his failure to secure an annulment for Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon led the Cardinal and royal chancellor to cede this residence to his king.

Here are some curious things to know about this royal palace:

1- You can pray where Henry VIII for his Chapel Royal is still there and intact.

2- the kings’tennis court is still there and functioning as an actual sports club for tennis and squash.

3- It’s haunted. England is full of ghosts stories and Hampton Court is not exempted. There are whispers of strange chills and ghostly sightings. Someone even told me to have witnessed a beheaded woman wondering in the halls…

4- Hampton Court has the largest surviving 16th century kitchens in the world. 200 cooks worked slavishly from sunrise to sunset to feed 800 guests (sometimes even more) when Henry’s entourage was staying at the palace.

India: a Cow’s Paradise?

Dear Reader,

If you think about it, the life of a cow is something incredible to describe.
If you’re in the American continent, central and southern Europe, then I would say ‘poor cow!’… Inevitably, beef is part of our delicious diet. Go to Argentina and you will find that eating beef is a religion just as important as soccer.
Good for us but sad for them. Short life, lived in a farm if lucky, fed with chemicals most times and then slaughtered for our pleasure on a plate.
Now imagine for one second, dear Reader, as a cow going from this…

cow_beef_argentina_stanito
At Parrilladas El Gaucho you will find a beautiful map of a cow’s body. Each part of the cow has its special taste and obvious difference in price. I came here for lunch with my colleagues few years ago.

… to this

worship_cow_india
A woman worshipping a decorated cow during a Jainist festivity.

You’d probably think the second option is best for a cow.
In Hindu tradition, a cow is honoured and worshipped for many reasons: due their agricultural uses like tilling and fertilising the fields, due to their gentle nature, because they are a major source of dairy products. In a way, cows represent a form of caretaker and maternal figure for Hindus.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As a result, cows are found literally everywhere you walk in India, ambling unmolested in traffic-choked streets, stationed at crossroads, stationed in front of markets and stores completely undisturbed.

In case of car accidents resulting in a injured cow, normally the latter should be taken to a hospital if a vet is not nearby. Truth is, most times they are left to die or starve.

cows_rajasthan_india_stanito_12
Fond of this pond. Water buffalos enjoy just as much pleasure as their bovine cousins.

 


Calves, cows and bullocks may enjoy similar privileges but only the cow is sacred.
For example, bullocks are a minority and they are fed well because of that and used for agriculture purposes and mating as well as to preserve their inferior number. However important calves will be at some point, they are not useful until they reach maturity.
Healthy cows have to starve or feed on rubbish. Bullocks, not so sacred, are fed because India has too many cows and not enough bullocks.

However sacred these animals are, there are times where you really question it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

These are cows I saw eating garbage. Most of cows in Rajasthan, i.e., are owned by dairy farmers who let them loose in the streets to look for free food instead of feeding them regularly. Some family can afford feeding their cattle only once a day. This way they ingest plastic bags, rotten food and garbage, resulting in a potential reduction in their milk production ability, poisoning and even death.

This is the reality. Can we really call it paradise?

 

 

Canneto di Caronia: a Poltergeist town

Dear Reader,
Remember Sicilians and superstitions saga on this blog?
Well, mystery and curiosity struck again and Stanito & staff are right there on spot.

It all happened one day, when I receive this piece of news via e-mail:

The mystery of Caronia’s fires, a 10 year long-lasting nightmare. 
A trip to Canneto di Caronia, in the province of Messina, through people and houses burnt down by mysterious fires that have stricken the area since 2004. 
TVs, fridges, washing machines and even couches and sofas catch fire seemingly without an explanation… 

And then the video:

As part of my Sicily plan, Canneto di Caronia was set towards the end of the trip.

What Happened?

First incidents are dated back to 2004 so it’s been going on for about 13 years now. This bizarre phenomenon revolves around spontaneous combustion of mattresses, beds, cars, and devices like fridges and mobile phones, even when these are switched off. Quite obviously, the events couldn’t but attract the attention of physicists, geologist who gave all sort of explanations. Villagers were not convinced though…

Poltergeist_Therese_Selles

Theories:

Grounded theories vary. It could have been simply arson or old devices and poor electrical cables simply gave up.
Well, arson was ruled out when the devices that caught fire were unplugged. Then something happened: in 2007 an Italian newspaper published a leaked report from Civil Protection, concluding that aliens were the only plausible explanation as the result of the two investigation led to ” 15 gigawatts high power electromagnetic emissions that were not man-made”. Investigation remained open attributing the causes to simply “unknown electromagnetic radiation”.

And then something even more incredible happened! The Vatican’s chief exorcist, Gabriele Amorth, backed the villagers true fears by saying the following: “these fires are caused by the Devil. I have seen incidents like these before. Demons occupy houses and appear in electrical devices”. The interview in Italian is right here.

Another report also detailed a possible UFO landing close to the village, citing “burnt
imprints which have not been explained were found in a field.”

What’s Canneto di Caronia like today?

Years have gone by and eventually the town emptied considerably. Don’t forget that this is the region where superstitions have a big role in people’s lives (read my post on Sicilian superstitions for more on the subject). The episodes have attracted the attention of geologists, physicists and volcanologists, NASA experts without providing an accurate scientific explanation so far or a logical real conclusion to the case. Naturally, the villagers are blaming supernatural entities like UFOs, poltergeists, or other demonic forces, prompting them to evacuate the town.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Some of the villagers came back but the town still remain in ghost state…

 

 

Inter-caste Marriage

Dear Reader,

Traditionally, the caste system in India forbids marriage outside the same caste. However, in the past few years inter-caste marriages have gradually gained acceptance due to increasing education, employment, middle-class economic background, and urbanisation, mostly provided by the central government in light of the increasing number of such marriages and in an effort of integrating the dalits or untouchables in government job positions.

However there are advances on this matter mostly in the capital, inter-caste marriage remains particularly frowned upon  in the countryside where these unions primarily take place on the traditional grounds of jatis (higher-caste) and up-jati (sub-caste), forcing the spouse of the higher caste to be alienated from his family and community.

india_inter_caste_marriage_stanito
Deepak and Meene are couple married outside of their castes in Jaisalmer. I met them in their little store where they sell beautiful embroidery and patchwork made by underprivileged or divorced women from the region. 

How to Enjoy Mexico: understand its background first!

Dear Reader,

It’s been almost three since I moved to Mexico and I don’t feel I have fully explained this wonderful country. I wrote several posts on it and it will probably take several chapters to even slightly envision what Mexico is and it’s worth doing so. I want you to feel it as if you were here with me exploring this remarkable land.

balcony_restaurant_guanajuato_mexico_stanito
The beautiful and shining Guanajuato town.

It sounds so basic and futile when you think about it, as if by reading the title the imminent thought would be “oh come on, no need for guidelines”. But believe me, there is a science behind the enjoyment of a new city or even country, especially one you hope to survive without stress and melancholy. You might also think that all it takes is to join a tour or simply read about it on a travel guide.

Blue_Tacos_Mexico_Stanito_6
Learn how to make tacos. It’s fundamental in order to understand how delicious they can be…

Let’s take Mexico as an example. Mexico is a huge country full of colours, culture and above all contradictions. They say that here in Mexico you will find four stories: the one the Government wants you to believe, the one academic institutions want to teach, one that foreigners want to explain. And the last one, the one you have to discover yourself. And this is mine.

Mexcaltitan Restaurant
Cute little restaurant in Mexcaltitán, the Venice of Mexico

Certain beliefs and conceptions of reality characterise some populations more than others, and Mexico recalls images of ancient civilisations, plundering Spanish conquistadores and moustachioed revolucionarios. The many contradictions of this vibrant country lie in its unique history and are deeply reflected in the character and personality of the people. The expansive friendliness of norteños (Mexicans from the northern states) compared to the more defensive and rebellious southern Chiapanecos (people from Chiapas state). Mexicans can be intensely fatalistic, resigned even. And when the mood takes in, they are hedonistic and carefree. A reserved poker face will suddenly give way to astonishing warmth and familiarity.

chiapas_indigenous_zinacantan_stanito
Indigenous children from the sort of forgotten state Chiapas

We know Mexico’s first hundred years were bloody while the last eighty-five years have been at peace; it shares a long land border with the United states and yet they couldn’t be more different.
When the Spanish brought Catholicism, the missionaries took a very pragmatic approach to it and incorporated many beliefs from earlier religions. That’s why there are so many religious festivals here like Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), the Muxis (gay/transgender divinity festival), the Guelaguetza and many others that blend Catholic celebrations with indigenous rituals.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Mexico is dual.

It emerged from its bloody history and claimed its place in the modern world. And now globalisation and free trade is altering Mexican society once again.

 

Did you know…

that Pijama is a Persian word?

Dear Reader,
Discovering origins can really surprise us, just like when the Romans invented the bikini or else they took and made it famous (we Italians are known for taking existing inventions and improve them, like coffee, pizza and pasta, no argument on this 🙂 ). This is another new segment I dedicate to the Persian contribution to modern languages.

Pijama comes from the Persian pai jameh (پايجامه), which means ‘Leg Clothing’.

persian_pijama_didactalia
A muslim girl wearing a pijama. 1844. (c) Didactalia

Originally only used by men who did not wish to go to bed naked, usually composed by two pieces: a top part and a bottom part, looking very much like loose trousers. Higher ranking men also used a one-piece pai jameh.

It must have been very comfortable and chic. By the 18th century the use of pijamas was already widespread, making the ‘Persian loose pants’ a unique trade mark. It quickly displaced the old fashioned night-garment, a one-piece of heavy wool or velvet that stretched to the feet, prompting the use of linen instead.