Swan symphony

This gorgeous swan couple had me engaged for a long time while walking along this beautiful canal in Bruges, Belgium. Their fascination for each other was so evidently palpable in their gestures and movements, that I really wanted to capture a moment between the two that I could take along with me as a happy memory.

I waited for about 15 minutes in anticipation of a sync of their long, slender and beautiful, though extremely swiftly turning necks. And finally, for a fraction of a second, I got this one. If you watch closely, the swan on the left is facing her front, while the swan on the right has his head twisted behind to pair up with his partner. But the elegance is such that it makes the difference less noticeable!

I love the symphony of elements in the image – the harmonious blend of the green landscape with the sweet exhibit of affection. It subtly stirs up feelings of being in unison with one’s partner, having a common direction of vision, hope and love. The feelings of being at peace.

Via Photo Challenge : All-time favorites

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The active geyser of Iceland

The flow of water enhances the beauty of any landscape multifold. We have all seen this precious life source adding to the glory of nature in the form of swift and rapid rivers, cascading waterfalls, pristine lakes and vast oceans.

One truly wondrous and unforgettable sight for me was when I witnessed it spouting wildly from the deeper layers of the earth, like a vigorous fountain, roaring in its fury as it began to reach for the sky. Having attained its peak, it collapsed the next moment with a loud thud, only to stir up its core and rise again, and then again, every few minutes. What a spellbinding sight it was!

I was at the great Geysir, Strokkur, the famous active hot spring in Iceland that erupts about every 6-10 minutes, due to high geothermal activity in the area. It usually goes up to 30 meters of height, and before it begins to fall, it has already cast a lasting, bewildering impression on its bystanders! You can imagine people standing around it, and waiting patiently to get a perfect picture, like I attempted to get this one! 🙂

A trip to the Geysir can easily be done from Reykjavik (capital of Iceland) as part of the popular Golden Circle sightseeing route, which covers three major attractions in the range of 100-150 kms – the Þingvellir National Park where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, the spectacular double-layered waterfall of Gullfoss, and the active Geysir in the Haukadalur Valley.

Read my post about the most stunning waterfalls of Iceland

Read : These incredible waterfalls of Iceland

Blissful union

“Blessings and love resonate in the starry skies,

Radiant eyes recite the saga of a blissful union;

A secret smile revels, to welcome a new world of joy,

Turning an ordinary night into an eternal divine promise.”

A deep throwback and reminiscence to the words I composed for my wedding card five years ago today! As I read and re-read them now, I fathom the faith and strength that they carry deep in their bosom. The years gone by have indeed nothing been less than an eternal promise, and the ones knocking on the door show a promise of sacred new beginnings!

Sunrise in Cyprus

What an opportune time to be getting this photo challenge theme of sun rise/set! I am in this beautiful island country of Cyprus for the long Easter weekend, where watching sunrises and sunsets are nothing short of bestsellers on tourist attractions packages! While I’ve seen many a sundowns, my times to partake in the beauty of breaking dawns have been quite numbered. I had almost forgotten what immense peace this nature’s art can bring to the soul!

Here are a couple of clicks from those ephemeral golden glow moments during sunrise.

The decorative view the vast Mediterranean, the delightful sound of splashing waves, and the divine-like sight of this rising hope above the horizon made my experience truly wholesome.

Via Photo Challenge Rise/Set

I’d Rather Be…

This week’s photo challenge theme taps into the pure, happiness-oozing corners of the readers, rooted somewhere deep within, kindling with joy when they do something that they love! For me, penning down poetry compositions is what stirs up those hidden pancreas of delight. That’s the paradise I lose myself in.. That’s what I find the most satisfying and rewarding.. Do you still wonder how my blog came to be titled as ‘Pen and Paradise’? 🙂

Here’s a glimpse of a few lines that I composed for the ‘About my journey’ page of my blog, where I happily introduce my readers to the love I nurture for travelling around the world, collecting timeless memories as varied,  precious and rich as crystals from the ocean!

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I’d really like to be able to give more time to this love of my life.
I’d rather be.. composing..

via Photo Challenge: I’d Rather Be…

I’m so happy you chose to grace this page today. How about browsing through other Photo Challenge entries? You might like!
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Indian Culture : Sweets for religious offerings (Photo Challenge: Sweet)

 

Crossing the Arctic 66°N – Part 2 : Ice Hotel and Swedish Lapland

It’s still winter in Scandinavia. And it’s still freezing in Stockholm, where I live. Or rather, where I hibernate. While the natives would merrily make way to the Mediterranean, or to the beaches of Gran Canaria, to pump in some necessary dose of Vitamin D, we had apprehensively jumped on to a plane flying further up North to some more brazen winter and icy winds. Read about how I mustered courage for this adventure, in my first post on Crossing the Arctic series, and revisit some pictures of the snow-white land of Kiruna.

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As a matter of a stunning fact, the whole city is being moved to another location currently, in order for the largest mining company in Kiruna (LKAB) to continue with their mining operations, since it is the financial backbone of the place. So a lot of buildings in the city centre have been or are being brought down.

In my previous post, I promised my readers to share some tips for a short visit to the Swedish Lapland. Needless to say, one weekend is not sufficient to even scathe the surface of the Arctic landscape, let alone getting into the skin of it. But like I confessed my fears in my first post, I didn’t think my body was designed to battle the snow and ice for a period longer than that, especially on my first trip 🙂 More might come, perhaps after a cool-off period!

So, are you ready for some highlights? Here we go!

  1. Guided activity tours
    The best and only way to explore Kiruna in winter is to join a couple of the activity tours, like snowmobiling, dog-sledding or mountain hiking – organized by the various tour companies. They take you deep into the forests laden with dense snow, where it’s unthinkable to get on your own. They also offer all sorts of warm overall clothing to beat that chill head to toe. So there you go! No hunting for a life-saviour winter jacket if you don’t already own one. Snowmobile and Dog-sledding tours are the most popular. We took a snowmobile tour from the company kirunaguidetur, and I can’t begin to say how exciting the experience was, driving the snowmobile in the middle of snowy wilderness. Choose between day or night tours depending on the time of your visit.

    From October to March, there are good chances of catching the Northern Lights when the sky gets dark after 6pm. I’d love to share that we caught a glimpse of the Lights from the plane just before landing 🙂 but unfortunately, nothing during the stay, due to dense clouds and rain 😦
  2. Ice Hotel
    Trust me, even if you don’t get to see the Northern Lights, a visit to the Ice Hotel will make your trip to the Lapland complete! Situated in a small Swedish village of Jukkasjärvi, 18 kms from Kiruna, 200 kms north of the Arctic Circle, this hotel made of fresh ice and snow, is rebuilt every year in December and lasts until April when it begins to melt away. Every winter, large blocks of ice are cut from the frozen Torne river close to Jukkasjärvi, and sculpted into the ICEHOTEL – everything from the hotel facade, hotel rooms and galleries, hotel art and decorations, and an Icebar!  ISN’T IT AMUSING? New art, new sculpting, new hotel every year! Every room is designed based on a different theme, and showcase some intricately beautiful patterns made of ice. And what more, if you’re the courageous and adventurous kinds, you can rent the rooms and stay over on beds made of ice.
    What a thrilling, and chilling experience! 😉

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    Ice Hotel entrance

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    Decorations inside the IceHotel

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    Themed rooms
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    Inside one of the Icehotel rooms. Fancy sleeping on that bed, eh? 🙂
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    Ice Hotel entrance view from a distance

    Don’t forget to gulp down some cocktails in their ICEBAR, served in glasses made entirely out of ice! Warm up the blood before starting your stroll around the icy ice hotel 😉

  3. City highlights

    We went around to see a few highlights of the town, one of them being the Kiruna Kyrka (Kiruna Church), one of Sweden’s largest wooden buildings.
    There are a couple of other buildings like the Kiruna City Hall with some interesting art and paintings, but like I mentioned in the beginning of the post, the whole town is on the move, and the building is getting demolished to facilitate the move.
    If you have an additional day, you could consider visiting the LKAB underground iron-ore mine, which is the world’s largest and it’s operations provide financial sustenance to the entire city of Kiruna.  Guided tours lasting about 3 hours are organized to take visitors 540 meters down into the mountain, and walk them around. Tours run only on certain dates, so it’s good to check online in advance.

  4. Abisko Sky Station for Northern Lights watching
    Roughly 100 kms from Kiruna, is a Swedish village, primarily known for being one of the places with the highest likelihood of Aurora or Northern Lights watching, due to its relatively clearer skies on most days. They even have a chair-lift ride up to their Aurora Sky Station, situated 900 meters above sea level, which takes visitors high above on a mountain with no disturbing sources of light. We didn’t get a chance to visit the Sky Station due to time constraints, but if you can, then do try! Who knows, you might get super lucky! 🙂

Read also : Crossing the Arctic 66°N – Part 1

 

Out of This World

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I strolled around one of the islands in the Mediterranean during the early hours of sunset, when something in the far horizon caught my eye. It was small, and black, with a strange shape, sort of a rectangle dented in between. It protruded out of the vast expanse of waters. It didn’t look like a boat parked in the middle of the sea. Also it was hard to imagine a boat as stationary or fixated, as this one was. I could not unravel it’s true identity despite giving it a keen gaze, and in order to allow myself to move on further, I placidly told myself that it could be a natural rock, stemming from the ocean bed, with a part of its head surfacing above the waters. May be that’s what it just was.

No sooner had I begun to turn my eyes around, than I came across an orchestration, so stunning and powerful and sinister at the same time, that I felt transfixed. My vision followed a path up from ‘my rock’, to the softly streaming crepuscular rays of the downing golden sun, that appeared to be wanting to shine on the rock but with no success. And then slowly leading to the gigantic and ominous mass of dark black cloud, which due to its shape, appeared to be cradling the biggest fireball in the sky. It was so enormous that it had almost devoured all the glory that could have possibly reached the rock. The rock! yes! How was this gigantic cloud looming only over the rock? How did it bring itself to engulf the radiating light and keep it from falling only over the rock, while the rest of the sky beamed blue cloudless?

The eerie and evil-looking sight I witnessed in that moment, posed an out of this world energy, contriving to disturb the quietude of the place, threatening to wreak havoc in ‘our’ world.

via Photo Challenge : Out of This World