Hiking in Nepal: To My Turning Point – Deboche (Day 4)

Ama Dablam, Nepal, Himalayas, mountain, peak, Everest Base Camp, majestic, Samsung Galaxy

After a restful and relaxing day in Namche Bazaar, it was time to hit the road for the last leg of my trek before turning back.  As I explained in an earlier post, I was shy a few days in my vacation bank so I would not be going all the way to Everest Base Camp this time.  Day 4 would take me past Tengboche with its beautiful monastery to tiny Deboche.  This day would represent the highest altitude I would reach in this trek, a hundred or so meters under 4,000 m (or some hundred or two feet under 13,000 ft.).

The day would start climbing up out of the half bowl that is Namche Bazaar past the museums and great viewing point I described on the Day 3 post.  And we could also see in the distance the two hanging bridges we had passed on our way to Namche Bazaar.

Nepal, Everest, Lhotse, ilivetotravel, monument,Himalayas, Everest, EBC, mountains, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Looking back at the spot from Day 3 from here we saw Everest

Nepal, Everest, Lhotse, ilivetotravel, monument,Himalayas, Everest, EBC, mountains, photo, Samsung Galaxy, hanging bridges

The hanging bridges

Then we skirted the side of mountains on a beautiful and changing trail that offered us a new and closer view of Mt. Everest and Mt. Lhotse than the prior day’s.  We passed a stupa/chorten honoring the sherpas of Everest.

Stupa, chorten, sherpa, Himalayas, Nepal, EBC, trail, Everest, Tibetan, design, colorful, Lhotse, Ama Dablam, Samsung Galaxy

Headed towards the stupa with the best backdrop!

Stupa, chorten, sherpa, Himalayas, Nepal, EBC, trail, Everest, Tibetan, design, colorful, Samsung Galaxy

Detail of the stupa

Stupa, chorten, sherpa, Himalayas, Nepal, EBC, trail, Everest, Tibetan, design, colorful, Samsung Galaxy

Beautiful and colorful detail of the stupa

Later on we had the best view of my favorite mountain in the area:  Ama Dablam.  It looks like it is a person with two arms and flowing robes!  Pretty darn cool.

Ama Dablam, Nepal, Himalayas, mountain, peak, Everest Base Camp, majestic, Samsung Galaxy

Ama Dablam!

Of course, as we did every day, we stopped for tea at a tea house.  Mint tea or lemon tea – I could never decide which was my favorite.  Sometimes one, sometimes the other!

tea house, Himalayas, Nepal, Everest, EBC, Tibetan, architecture, tea, break ,trekkig, hike, Samsung Galaxy

Loved admiring typical Tibetan architecture during tea time!

tea house, Himalayas, Nepal, Everest, EBC, Tibetan, architecture, tea, break ,trekkig, hike, Samsung Galaxy

Lemon tea, anyone?

tea house, Himalayas, Nepal, Everest, EBC, Tibetan, architecture, tea, break ,trekkig, hike, Samsung Galaxy

Typical outdoor area of a tea house

The team guides and our lead discussed whether to make the push for Tengboche (which involved a serious climb) for lunch or to stop short of the climb to have lunch and rest.  They decided to eat before the climb.  I was torn.  On the one hand, the sooner we got to Tengboche, the sooner the hardest part of the day would be behind us and then lunch would feel more lackadaisical.   I also would not be doing the hardest part of the hike on a full stomach.  But, on the other hand, it would delay eating lunch by a good bit.  So, I didn’t mind which way they decided.  Now having seen Tengboche, I think the spot by the water where we stopped for lunch was perfect for rest and recovery prior to the climb.

Nepal, Himalayas, Everest, base camp, EBC, food, Khumbu, Samsung Galaxy

Part of our lunch – soup and rice!

Nepal, Himalayas, Everest, base camp, EBC, Khumbu, Samsung Galaxy

Toilet in a very scenic place at lunch (you can thank me later for not putting a photo of the inside…)

Overall, that day we would cover about 4 miles (6.5 km) and were expected to be on the trail for about 6.5 hrs.  The most exciting part of the day was when we came to the top of a slope to find ourselves in fairly flat ground looking at the Tibetan Tengboche Monastery through the foggy afternoon.  It was not only a beautiful sight but very surreal.

Tengboche, monastery, Himalayas, Nepal, Tibetan, color, Samsung Galaxy

Entrance to the monastery (more pix on the next post)

Tengboche, monastery, Himalayas, Nepal, Tibetan, color, Samsung Galaxy

Lots of color and detail

Tengboche, monastery, Himalayas, Nepal, Tibetan, color, Samsung Galaxy

We entered the main prayer room but no photos allows – and I respect that

Tengboche, monastery, Himalayas, Nepal, Tibetan, color, Samsung Galaxy

You better follow these rules – especially no kiss!

Right past it, we stopped at a tea/coffee house before embarking on the short last hour (or less) to our stopping point for the night in Deboche.  With the hardest part of the hike for the day over, it was very enjoyable to kick back and sip away!

Once we got to Deboche, the teahouse was one of the sparsest, most austere of the teahouses I stayed at in this trek.  Being that we were higher, it was colder and the place had one tiny stove in the center of the dining/living room (as do most teahouses).  I definitely stayed more warmly dressed, even through dinner, as I tried to keep by body heat in me.

Deboche, trail, teahouse, tea house, Himalayas, Everest, base camp, Nepal,EBC

View towards the trail from our room

Deboche, trail, teahouse, tea house, Himalayas, Everest, base camp, Nepal,EBC

The rooms were basic but who needs more? Except heat…

Deboche, trail, teahouse, tea house, Himalayas, Everest, base camp, Nepal,EBC, dung, stove

Yeah… heating was very limited and crowds formed

The evening was nothing short of frigid.  There were two toilet rooms, one upstairs and one downstairs. But the one upstairs was a Western toilet with a tank that would not fill.  I found it more effort to flush it so, in the middle of the night, I would walk down the very steep staircase to the non-Western toilet room, though by doing so I had to walk further in the cold of the night.  All indoors but, trust me, it was FRIGID; not sure there was much of a difference between inside and outside.  Thank goodness, I had the slight sleepwear and, more importantly, the right sleeping bag!!

Deboche, trail, teahouse, tea house, Himalayas, Everest, base camp, Nepal,EBC, Olympus

Yeah, that’s our ice-covered window in the morning…  Yes, it was THAT cold.

From this point out, the destination changed – back to Lukla for the flight back to Kathmandu!

A Year (or the World?) Ends… Either Way, I Travel

Photo of people reflected in the fender of a car

Well, today is the day the apocalypse was to happen.  I guess a few hours are still left so maybe I shouldn’t count my eggs just yet.  BUT, if the end did happen, guess what?  I can still blog from purgatory and you KNOW that would be an incredible travel story.  Just hope it is not one of being stuck there forever, like when I was stuck in Europe because of the Icelandic volcano (which did turn out well) or someone else’s horrible travel story.  Also, if the world did end, purgatory looks a lot like my house (and if the world did NOT end, I need to make some minor changes at home…).

So the end of anything usually calls for some reflection and be it the end of the world or the end of the year, I feel like reflecting on my very busy 2012…

A Texas tweetup in January

January saw me taking what felt like a bold step – to travel somewhere to meet people I met online.  At first that has an almost dirty sound to it, doesn’t it?  But I had been talking on Twitter with these three folks for many months and they were clearly people I would enjoy meeting in person and exploring with.  So off to awesome Austin, Texas for the Texas tweetup!  There I met in person @kirkcole, @L_e_a_h, and @LolaDiMarco.  Unfortunately, a severe cold hit me on the day I traveled so I was not able to partake in all the activities but enjoyed a good day’s worth of laughing and eating in Austin!

Photo of people reflected in the fender of a car

Can you find the Austin tweetup fab 5 in the picture?

Normal in February – and other months

Traveling to DC for work permeates every month this year so my normal continued in February.  Recovered from the Austin tweetup and post-Christmas parties in January, February was time to relax and be home (or in DC). Over the year, I got to check new things in DC that I had not explored yet in the last year.  Doing the White House tour was a long-time bucket list item that I finally made happen.  I continued exploring and enjoying many of the DC’s finest hotels like The Mayflower, the Sofitel Lafayette, and the Renaissance on 9th St.  DC is a wonderful town if you get out and explore.  Its many beautiful brownstones and local eateries are a joy to explore.

March Madness:  Mile High Skiing

The traveling continued in March – this time a great ski trip with dear friends to Vail and Breckendridge, two places I had been dying to try for many years.  The trip did not disappoint and neither did my skiing, not having skied since Valle Nevado, Chile in the Andes in 2010.  Vail and Breck WILL be in a future ski trip for me, I can tell.  The bowls of Vail where incredible:  one bowl, then another one behind it, then another.  It seemed to never end!

Statue of skier in Vail, Colorado

How thoughtful! Vail had a statue of me at the base of one of the slopes!

Amicci en Italia and diving into eastern Europe in April

April finally brought about the “long”-planned trip to Italy with two sets of great friends.  Though mainly focused on Rome (a city I love re-visiting), a side trip to finally see Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast was built into the itinerary.  It did not disappoint, especially our guide in Pompeii, one of the preeminent experts on Pompeii!.

But I took advantage of being on the other side of the pond to add another iconic destination I had never explored:  Dubrovnik, Croatia.  Its tiled roofs and architecture combined with the natural setting of its location made it a magical place for me.  Of course, ever eager to see more, I decided to get further into eastern Europe while in Dubrovnik by doing day trips into Bosnia & Herzegovina (Mostar) and into the beautiful mountains and bays of Montenegro!  These day trips were short, obviously, but they definitely opened the appetite to see more of these countries and this part of Europe.

View from up high of Kotor Bay in Montenegro

One of the ridges that divides Kotor Bay into 2 bays in Montenegro

Re-charging, re-connecting, and exploring Chicago

May saw a second tweetup, this time in the Windy City since we were eager to connect with other travel bloggers we had been chatting with for awhile.  The Windy City tweetup had a little bit of everything:  from French goodness (courtesy of the Sofitel Water Tower), Charlie’s Angels, boat tour, fallen traffic lights (not our fault!), doughnuts, cold coffee, good food, drinks (repeat), and the mob.  It was a very fun weekend indeed meeting @workmomtravels, @travelingted, @jettingaround, and @elatlboy in person.

Posing in front of the Bean in Chicago at Millenium Park

Being tourists at The Bean

More fun with fellow travelers and good learnings

In June, TBEX, a travel bloggers conference, held its North America conference in Keystone, Colorado (very close to Breckenridge where I’d just been 3 months before; who knew I would be returning to the area so soon!).  Besides the interesting learnings, the reception at the mountaintop on Friday night and the ensuing party at the pub at base (free!) really made the weekend a lot of fun and a good time to meet others who share the travel bug and re-connect with others.  Among the great folks I met (too many to list all!):  @BlBrtravel, @stayadventurous, @captainandclark, @lazytravelers, @budgettravelsac, and @travelrinserept.

A trek with a purpose in Romania and a true relic of the USSR

Romania had been a mysterious place that I had always dreamed of seeing.  Not because I knew I would love it but it just called to me.  A wonderful opportunity came my way to do a hike in the Transylvanian Alps with Trekking for Kids, a non-profit seeking to bring improved lives to orphaned/at-risk children around the world.  We worked with the orphanage and just “were” with the kids before and after a hike through some beautiful landscapes around Brasov – we even saw castles other than Dracula’s!  An experience I will never forget every which way, including it was my first multi-day hike ever!

Sphinx-like rock in the Bucegi Mountains near Omu Peak, Romania

Who knew there was a Sphinx atop the Transylvanian Alps (near Omu Peak)??

Since I was headed that way, I decided Romania (more precisely, the town of Iasi, Romania’s cultural capital) would be a great springboard to explore Moldova.  So with my great guide, I explored churches, monasteries, towns (including the capital, Chisinau), and wineries in this little known former Soviet socialist republic still working to undo decades of horrible communist dictatorship.  I am SO glad I made the time for this unpolished gem at the edge of eastern Europe!

The trip ended with a one-day, two-night in awesome Paris, my home away from home in Europe.  Always love re-visiting my favorite areas and still finding new things to enjoy!

Time with Family in Tampa on my sister’s birthday in August

August also included a trip to Tampa where my family lives – always good to be with them, and enjoy good Cuban food and TLC!  I had just been there in June (when I visited the impressively set-up Dali museum) but my Mom turned 70 while I was in Romania and my sister was hitting a milestone birthday of her own in August so I just HAD to go and celebrate with them!

Rest in September

In September, I took a break from travel.  Well, non-business travel… But read on, the year of travel is not over!

Architecture and Wine:  Tuscany or Bordeaux, you say?  No, Virginia in October!

I finally succumbed to friends’ suggestion that I explore Virginia wine country with them.  I had been wanting to do this for a long time but other travel got in the way.  I took advantage of being in the DC area for work to go ahead and spend a weekend with them in wine country.  And got out RIGHT BEFORE Sandy passed by!  As you can read in my writings about this central part of Virginia, Monticello, Charlottesville and the countryside are filled with early colonial history and architecture as well as delicious wines.  And there are close to 200 other wineries in the state to be found and explored!  I was glad to have this opportunity to see more of my own country and other places will be in my sights in 2013 (like Michigan and Wisconsin thanks to friends from Chicago who write about these places!).

Cemetery where Thomas Jefferson is buried in Monticello on a fall day

Cemetery where Thomas Jefferson is buried in Monticello on a fall day

OK, now I rest ‘xcept for Thanksgiving in November

So, my fun travels wrap up for the year save for visiting family again in Tampa where I discover yet another new place for good Cuban food!  Someone STOP the madness! :)

I reflect back on the year and I am amazed at how much I have been able to see of places I have always wanted to see.  And this is setting aside the twenty-something weeks of work travel to DC!   The bucket list shrinks and yet I add new places I learn about.  I consider THAT my most important key performance indicator – a never-ending travel bucket list!

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and the best in 2013 for you and yours!

The Land of Re-Born Churches and Monasteries

Frumoasa Monastery in Moldova

I had no idea when I first thought of going to Moldova that I would see a treasure trove of church and monastery architecture but as I researched a possible visit to Moldova, I learned that was exactly what I was going to see.

Moldova, as a Soviet Socialist Republic, was a place where the system tried to take man’s humanity out of the equation – and part of that was removing the strength and hope that faith can provide.  Churches and monasteries were either destroyed or severely damaged; those that were not totally destroyed were re-purposed as mental hospitals, children’s institutions, etc. and the religious communities were broken up.

It is evident that Moldova is trying to shed its Soviet past in the ways that are possible for a small economy that is not in the EU and that is talked about as one of the poorest, if not the poorest, in Europe.   For example, roads are being re-built in and around the capital, Chisinau.  The airport is modern.  But what I noticed was how churches and monasteries have been worked on to restore them to their greatness, even if not all buildings in the complexes are completely restored yet.

Visiting monasteries does not require an appointment nor are there entrance fees.  Simply walk in.  Do remember to dress appropriately!

But after showing you these monasteries below, I have a conclusion I would like to share.

Frumoasa Monastery

This small and beautiful monastery, which reminded me of the Greek isles due to its sharp blue and white colors, was the focus of my photo of the week post earlier this week but it is worthy of including here as it was such a gem.  The monastery is about 14 km from Calarasi town which in turn is about 50 km from Chisinau.  It is also a convenient monastery to see if visiting the Curchi monastery.

Frumoasa Monastery in Moldova

Frumoasa Monastery altar in Moldova

Curchi Monastery

This monastery (pronounced COOR-key) is considered one of the most beautiful and famous monastery complex in Moldova with 2 large churches (and other small ones I did not get to see) and many other spaces and buildings in its footprint.  It was founded around the 1770s.  Between the 1950s and the early 2000s it did not operate as a monastery though now it has again become a monastery for men.  Lots of visitors/pilgrims the day I went though it was a weekday.  And strict rules as no photography was allowed within the churches.

The main church, painted in bright red, is the Church of the Mother of God and was built in the late 19th century.  It is a beautiful building up close but even more impressive as one approaches the monastery by road.

Church of the Mother of God in the Curchi Monastery in Moldova

St. Dumitru Church in the Curchi Monastery

Capriana Monastery

This monastery, one of the oldest in Moldova dating to the 1420s, is just 40 km away from Chisinau.  It is one of the most important ones because rulers, including the most important one, Stefan cel Mare, helped build it.  The two main churches, St. George and St. Nicholas, were built in the 1840s and 1900s, respectively.

Capriana Monastery in Moldova

Capriana Monastery in Moldova

Capriana Monastery in Moldova - Image of Stefan cel Mare (Stephen the Great)

Image of Stefan cel Mare (Stephen the Great)

Chisinau Center Churches/Cathedrals

Chisinau as a city has a good number of churches (for views of Chisinau itself, check my post on it here).  Right in the city center there are a few worth checking out.

1.  Near the Hotel National lies the St. Great Martyr Tiron Cathedral, quite a beautiful structure built in the 1850s.

Stanful Teodor Tiron Church in Moldova

2.  The Transfiguration Cathedral (or the Church of Schimbarea La Fata in Moldovan) sits next to the Ministry of Agriculture.  It has been beautifully restored inside.  It’d be easy to pass it up given the size of nearby Cathedral of Christ’s Nativity but don’t miss visiting it.

Church in Chisinau, Moldova

3.  The Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ’s Nativity, however, is the most imposing of the churches I saw in Chisinau.  It is a Russian Orthodox Church built around the 1830s.  It, and its front tower and outdoor baptistry, sit in a large square facing the Triumphal Arch and, beyond, the imposing (though unimaginatevely architected) Government House building.

Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ's Nativity in Chisinau, Moldova

Baptistry at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ's Nativity in Chisinau, Moldova

The outdoor baptistry

Small Churches in Orhei

The predominant religion in Moldova is Orthodox Christianity.  In Orhei, a town north of Chisinau with about 25,000 inhabitants, I visited the small Catholic Church.  We asked the attendant what percent of the town’s people were Catholic and she replied:  “4%  – but working on it.”  What a spirit!

The town had small Orthodox churches but because of our itinerary/schedule, I could not explore except from the car.  But they were definitely colorful!

Church in Moldova

My Conclusion:  It’s about More than Architecture

So the renewal I witnessed in Moldova was impressive but even more impressive was seeing the faithful visit these religious places so openly, something that I am sure was impossible (or close to it?) during the decades of Soviet communism.  Those images are the ones that really stay with me…

Person praying at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Chisinau, Moldova

Candles at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Chisinau, Moldova

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You can find more information about monasteries in Moldova here.

Photo of the Week – Into Moldova: The Frumoasa Monastery

Frumoasa Monastery and Church in Moldova

As I prepare to write the story of my visit to the Republic of Moldova, a former Soviet socialist republic, I thought this week’s Photo of the Week could be a good initial way to share one of the things that the country has to offer:  its monasteries and churches.

The Frumoasa Monastery (which was on our way to the better known and more significant Curchi Monastery) was my first stop after entering Moldova from Romania near Iasi.  It is a nun monastery today, as it was for a few years pre-World War II and Soviet communism.

As many monasteries in Moldova, they were severely damaged either intentionally and/or by fire and restored after the fall of communism.  Also, as most former monasteries during Soviet communism in Moldova, this one was used for non-religious purposes during that era having served as an orphanage, a school for deaf children, a colony for girls, and even a dancing club for children.  Different buildings in the complex were used for different purposes.

While communism severely damaged the original buildings and likely destroyed original architecture, artwork, and documents, the dedication shown post-communism to restore these jewels of Moldova speaks a lot about the Moldovan people, and humans in general:  no political system can really remove a people’s faith.  Most monasteries I visited had a lot of the faithful -young and old- coming in for prayers.

Frumoasa Monastery and Church in Moldova

Frumoasa Monastery and Church

 

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