Black and White and Golden

The Golden Temple* in Patan, Nepal is a stunning Buddhist monastery. The three-tiered temple roofs, walls, and embellishments are plated in golden metal. Decorative carvings adorn every inch of the courtyard, including doorways and roof struts. Rows of prayer wheels wrap around the courtyard, and statues surround the central shrine. The temple was founded in the 12th century, and its current structures date back to 1409.

On the day we visited, the sun was glaringly bright on the gilded sheeting. Instead of fighting the light, I decided to focus on light and dark contrasts, and the depth of shading in the elaborate details. I haven’t done much black and white photography recently, but I used to take and develop black and white film–35mm, medium format, and 4×5. It was a great experience to try out visual and mental lens in this incredible temple.

* Also called the Bhaskerdev Samskarita Hiranyabarna Mahavihara

My favorite of these pictures are the ones that show different layers of decoration. Taking pictures in this temple was overwhelming, because there were incredible angles and detail everywhere–around corners, multiple stories up into the sky, statues next to statues behind other statues. I particularly like how the prayer bell picture with the courtyard in the background turned out.

Want more black and white posts? Here’s a circular tower in Copenhagen, and animal antics at the San Francisco Zoo.

Patan old city

The last stage of our November Nepal trip was a week in Katmandu, exploring the city and surrounding regions. We particularly enjoyed visiting the other city states in the Kathmandu valley, which are now connected to the sprawling metropolis. The first of these is Patan, which was founded in the 3rd century. Temples and stupas are scattered throughout the city, many of them hundreds of years old. Intricate carvings adorn doors, windows, and even supporting wooden struts along the tile roofs. Walking through the streets, we also saw evidence of the 2015 earthquake, and more modern artwork, including a street exhibit on climate change and environmental issues.

Looking for more photos of Nepal? Check out mudbathing rhinos and mountain sunrises. Want more city streets? Here’s Copenhagen and Oulu.

Narayani River

Entering Chitwan, we crossed a large river which our taxi driver told us was part of the Ganga river. We later learned that this is the Narayani, or Gandaki River, which is one of the major tributaries of the Ganga river. I spent 7 months in Varanasi, Indiat living and teaching on the banks of the Ganga (way back when this blog was first conceived). It was pretty incredible to see the same waters much further upstream.

During our stay in Chitwan, we took a boat ride along the river. We saw all kinds of animals in the water and on the shores, including the endangered gharial, or fish-eating crocodile. We also saw a group of men using two canoes to bring a Jeep across the river! And we took a morning walk with the elephants and mahouts that work at the lodge to cut food for the elephants. The elephants passed a bundle at a time up to their mahouts (stealing bites along the way) and carried the stack back–the whole elephant-load is only about half of their food for the day.

Thomaskirche

On Easter Sunday, we visited Thomaskirche, one of the most famous churches in Leipzig. Originally founded in the 12th century, the current building was started in the 15th century, and is now a combination of different styles and restorations. Bach spent over 25 years here as cantor, and is buried beneath the sanctuary. It’s also home to a famous boys’ choir, which was founded over 800 years ago. It was stunning to hear one of Bach’s cantatas performed by the Thomas choir in this space.

Oulu Winter

In February, I went to an ecology conference in Oulu, Finland. I’ve wanted to travel to Finland for years, and this was particularly neat because for complicated reasons Oulu is actually my employing university, even though my research is based in Germany. Our first few days the temperatures were well below freezing–we had ice crystals forming on our eyelashes–but the snow and ice made for stunning landscapes.

Easter Market

Germany’s Christmas markets get a lot of attention, but Leipzig also hosts a vibrant Ostermesse, or Easter fair, with wooden stalls selling crafts and tasty treats. Many of the crafters demonstrate traditional techniques–everything from hand masonry to a wooden treadle lathe–and wear traditional linen clothes. We wandered through the fair on Saturday, and liked it so much we went back Sunday.

Peterskirche

Here’s some pictures of one of our local churches: Peterskirche, in Leipzig. The neo-gothic building was built in the 1880’s, but connected to a long history of churches with the same name spanning back to the 1100’s. Like many historic buildings in Germany, Peterskirche was severely damaged in WWII. Reconstruction work has progressed slowly over decades, and the interior is still being refurbished. The spire juts above the surrounding buildings, and makes a familiar landmark on our city walks.

Bridge of Insanity

Last weekend we visited a region called Saxony-Switzerland, which is in Saxony (Germany, not Switzerland), and reminds me a lot of Pinnacles National Park. With castles, because Germany. We walked around the ruins of Neurathen castle, a rock fortress that perched on the towering cliff formations during the Middle Ages, and the Basteibrücke, a sandstone bridge constructed in the 1800s for tourists. (The original bridge to the fortress was wooden, so it could be broken if enemies tried to cross). It was amazing seeing the high rocks where people walked, worked, and lived–and the modern climbers scaling the sandstone peaks.

 

Nepali Pachyderms

We went on multiple jungle walks in Chitwan, including a visit to a watering hole. On each of these adventures, the highlight was pairs of rhinos, each a mother with a calf. Young rhinos stay with their mothers for about four years, until her next child is born. One of the calves was pretty small. It was fun to see them wander around, with the mothers always watching nearby. We also had a great time watching the tame elephants, who provide security and continuously munch on their favorite forest plants.

*Pachyderm is a term often used to describe elephants, rhinoceroses, and hippopotamuses, all large vegetarian mammals with thick skin. Despite their similarities, these animals are not closely related, and are all taxonomically grouped into different orders.