Through the fog of jet lag I recall highlights of my recent travels. There are the images of monkey, camels and elephants along the streets in Jaipur. The joy of seeing the Eiffel Tower again. The central market in Florence filled with a mix of languages, displays of porcini mushrooms everywhere.
And of course, the taste highlights. The breakfast buffet at our hotel, the Jai Mahal Palace (tajhotels.com) was a splendid welcome after spending the night in the Dehli airport. The buffet told a story of history and travelers. Traditional indian foods, British baked beans and tomatoes sat near chocolate donuts and an omelete station exactly like ones to be found in a Los Angeles hotel. My favorites were the Indian breads (paadum, naan, cahpati) with different varieties appearing every day. I didn’t find Dal Baat-Churma, but I did discover a fruit that tasted like mix of a plum and I pear – I never learned the name but I’ll know it the next time I see it.
But the most surprising and the most impressive experience of this trip was a visit to Jantar Mantar (jantarmantar.org) the astronomical observatory in Jaipur. Built in 1728 it is a series of unusual structures developed to makes astronomical measurement. Carved into lovely marble structures are lines to measure hours, minutes and seconds (think of the divisions on a ruler). Others show astrological symbols, the months of the year. I arrived at the observatory expecting to enter a single building. Instead we walked into an open field filled with astonishing shapes that were really complex instruments. The experience reminded me of my first visit to the Colosseum in Rome. Another discovery of a sophisticated structure (a stadium with a retractable roof) built without the aid of computers, elaborating measuring devices and 21st construction techniques.
These structures demonstrate the amazing abilities of people throughout the ages. Moreover remind us to be thankful that others have cared for these monuments so we can enjoy and learn from them today.