CARNEVALE IN VENICE CANADIAN ROCKIES THE SASSOON LEGACY THE DABBAWALAS OF MUMBAI CAPE WICKHAM KING ISLAND
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CARNEVALE IN VENICE CANADIAN ROCKIES THE SASSOON LEGACY THE DABBAWALAS OF MUMBAI CAPE WICKHAM KING ISLAND
Il Carnevale di Venezia – Venice
Cape Wickham – King Island
David Sassoon – The Benefactor of Bombay
Rocky Mountain High – Banff
Dabbawalas – ‘one who carries a box’
Cover: Costumes of Carnevale Fellow Traveller is a periodic eMag published by Nomads Secrets and dedicated to the Art of Exploration Lucia O’Connell Tony Sernack John Harber Tony Sernack
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Welcome to Nomads Secrets and the latest edition of Fellow Traveller our first for 2017. For many people the last year triggered mixed feelings. We watched in disbelief and horror the inhumanity of events in Syria and elsewhere. We saw a rebuke to conventional politics and decorum in the UK and USA. And we lost more beloved artists than seemed reasonable. I have always seen the adventure of travel as a path to better understanding and respect for our world and its peoples. That inveterate traveller Mark Twain perhaps put it best when he wrote “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness”. Recently I was talking to a friend involved in the development of virtual reality programs. We discussed the possibilities for what I might dub ‘goggle travel’ where the wearer can be interactively transported anywhere in the world. It isn’t far away. The thought of travel becoming like a video game comes with mixed emotions. Maybe it will allow more people to have some better understanding of what a country has to offer. Maybe it will whet their appetite for the first hand experience. In any event it will further separate those who understand that a destination isn’t a place but a new way to view the world from those who essentially want to do what they do at home in different surroundings. As Paul Theroux remarked, “Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they are going”. At Nomads Secrets we do have some idea of where we are going this year - New Zealand, East Africa and Tonga (to swim with the migrating humpbacks) are already on the agenda and we look forward to including elements of those journeys in future FTs.
I recently spent a couple of weeks in Italy over Christmas with New Year's in the resort town of Cortina, part business and part catching up with my family. Some of those experiences will be in the next FT. We also spent some time in magical Venice, a city that I always enjoy rediscovering. In this FT there is a story about the wonderful and unique experience of Carnevale with this year's festival about to start. In India we visit Mumbai, one of the world’s biggest and most diverse cities and learn something of the legacy of the Sassoon dynasty. Still in Mumbai we see first hand the daily marvel of the Dabbawalas who deliver lunchboxes across the city with unerring accuracy. Closer to home Tony Sernack reports on a new golf course on King Island, off Tasmania, that seems destined to become a pilgrimage site for aficionados of the game. His stunning photographs show why. And he also takes us the Banff and the grandeur of the Canadian Rockies. Our new website is now up and running. You can also access earlier editions of Fellow Traveller on the site. I hope you like the format. Nomads Secrets' clients are travellers and we are privileged to help ensure that their journeys are truly special. If we can help with your next exploration we’d love to talk to you. I hope you enjoy Fellow Traveller and best wishes for a great 2017.
Best wishes Lucia O’Connell
An affair with a city from another time!
Venice during Carnevale is definitely an experience that should not be missed.
For eighteen days the city becomes the stage for one of the world’s most spectacular extravaganzas. Mysterious masked revellers parade in their spectacular costumes as they stroll along the city’s canals, take a gondola ride or sip a delicious hot chocolate at the iconic Caffe’ Florian in Piazza San Marco before vanishing through the gates of Renaissance palaces and luxury hotels to attend an exclusive ball. The Venice Carnival takes place on different dates each year, depending on when Easter falls, but it is always during the two weeks prior to the start of Lent. The name Carnevale, comes from ‘carne’ meaning meat and ‘vale’ meaning farewell. According to tradition during the period of Lent, the forty days that proceed Easter, Christians are supposed abstain from eating meat as a sign of devotion and respect in preparation for commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Carnevale therefore marks the last opportunity to celebrate all the good things in life before a period of abstinence. This year it will be celebrated from 11th to 28th of February. Traditionally the celebrations kick off in the late afternoon on the first day in Canareggio with a glamorous free show on the water and in the air. Artists perform acrobatic stunts as they hang from invisible wires across the canal while on the
water below musicians play traditional and modern musical pieces from gondolas and purpose-built barges. The following day the Grand Canal becomes centre stage with an historic boat regatta. Professional rowers take to the oars to showcase the mastery of the Venetians during the 15th century when the Serenissima (Most Serene as Venice was also known) became the most powerful city-state in the Mediterranean. For visitors the best time during Carnevale is in the second week when the city hums with shows, music and special events. Make sure not to miss the famous ‘Flight of the Angel’, a ritual that dates back to the 1500s when an unknown visitor first ‘flew’ dangling from a cable tied to the top of St. Mark’s 318-foot bell tower to the middle of the square below to offer a gift to the Doge, the ruler of Venice. This spectacular opening is further enhanced by costumed drummers and flag throwers. 9
This year the ‘angel’ will be the queen of last year’s beauty pageant the ‘Festa delle Marie’ that commemorates the rescue of a group of Venetian brides from North African pirates centuries ago. From this moment Piazza San Marco is where all the action takes place. The most beautiful people congregate to parade in their splendid costumes hoping to win the contest for the outstanding ‘Maschera’ of the year.
The best way to experience Carnevale is to become a participant rather than just a spectator. Attend the public performances and soak up the atmosphere for a couple of days, get lost in the city’s narrow lanes following a group of masked people, check out what is happening inside the cafés and restaurants and just go with the flow. Then it is time to hire or purchase a fabulous costume from a select atelier and attend one of the private and exclusive grand balls.
Getting into costume is the key to really feel part of Carnevale. In the distant past many of the costumes were made by the inmates of Venice Women's Prison. Since the ninety seventies a small group of very passionate and skilled tailors have specialised in bringing about a revival of this old and glamorous tradition. The Venice Carnival was first celebrated 1162 to mark the victory by the Venetian Republic over the city state of Aquileia in central Italy. Sporting a mask allowed the wearers to disguise their true identify, giving them anonymity. For the noble classes that meant they could enjoy philandering and other mischievous activities without being recognised. For the paupers, they could pretend for a time to be somebody else while in disguise.
In time the mask became common. It was used by men to cast their vote anonymously and by aristocratic women to leave the confines of their homes and walk freely around town. Servants used them to dispatch messages secretly for their masters while assassins and robbers found them essential to their nefarious professions. Napoleon put an end to it all when he conquered Venice in 1797 but the spirit of Carnevale was revived after his death and today it is grander than ever. Traditionally old Venetian families proudly provided sumptuous entertainment for their friends and international guests in the grand ballrooms of some of the city’s most prestigious palaces. Today the same palaces open their ballrooms adorned with period furniture, sparkling Murano crystal, starched linen tablecloths and shining silverware to host elaborate masquerades. Two of the most exclusive and glamorous grand balls are: ‘il Ballo della Cavalchina’ and ‘Il Ballo del Doge’.
As you enter the exquisite 15th century palaces you are immediately transported into another world. In your costume you and your friends become part of that world. Fine wine, delicious food, classical music and masked waiters set up an unforgettable evening. To complete this one-of-a kind Masquerade, performers from belly dancers, enchantresses, acrobats and magicians charm and beguile you with their skills. You become part of the ‘dolce vita’ of a time long gone. When you finally return to your hotel, take a quiet moment to look over the peaceful canal and absorb the whole wonderful experience. The festivities end when a gigantic flag with a golden winged lion on a red background, the symbol of Venice, is hoisted from the top of St Mark’s bell tower. It is time then to say goodbye to the lavish revelries of the Carnevale di Venezia.
Traditions of Carnevale SPETTACOLO DI BURATTINI (Puppet Shows) Puppets shows became popular in antiquity as way to educate the illiterate masses about religious practices that needed to be observed. With the passing of time puppetry was used during the late Middle Ages by troubadours, jugglers and street actors to earn a living without begging. The performances recounted historical events or popular folklore and are still very popular today. During Carnevale puppet shows were used in comedy acts where each puppet personified a representative of a social class. The upper classes were often ridiculed by their servants in the pantomimes giving the audience a reason to rejoice and forget their woes. Harlequin is the most famous Venetian puppet. He represents a peasant who becomes a servant to escape poverty. Colourfully dressed and funny in appearance, his disguise hides his pain and sadness for his humble origins. BAUTA The Bauta is the traditional Venetian mask, made to allow the wearer to eat and drink without having to take it off. Originally it was always white and often surrounded by finely woven lace and worn with a black triple pointed hat called tricorno. This type of mask was worn by men and women for different reasons. It allowed men to cast their vote anonymously and it was compulsory garb for women when they attended the theatre. GIOCHI DI CARTE (Card Games) Venetians are well known for their love of gambling. Vast fortunes were wagered at cards by the Venetian élite. Card games remain part of the tradition of Carnevale.
Words: Lucia O’Connell Photography: Tony Sernack, Giorgio Minguzzi
Rocky Mountain High Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada attracts over 3 million visitors a year. Normally we might look to a road less travelled but if you haven’t been there…….
I drove from Calgary to Banff in September. The weather was pleasant as the days were starting to get colder and shorter. The town of Banff and the National Park started in the same year, 1885. It is Canada’s oldest and the third oldest park in North America (after Yellowstone and Mackinac in the USA, although the latter, in Michigan, was abolished in 1895). A 150km drive from Calgary, the park today covers 6641 km² of mountainous terrain, lakes, glaciers and forests. On the way I stopped to photograph a Canadian Pacific freight train as it wound its way beside the Bow River. The railway company was instrumental in the early development of tourism to the park, built two hotels and promoted its attractions. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the area has ecosystems ranging from montane (forests) to alpine and is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Most notably large mammals such as grizzly bear, cougars, wolverines, moose, big horn sheep and elk. At one point walking in the forest I saw some big horn sheep but fortunately avoided any encounter with bears! The most famous hotel is the very substantial and grand Banff Springs Hotel (now the Fairmont) built by Canadian Pacific in 1888 and thankfully winterised in the late ‘60’s. Today it also boasts a 27-hole golf course.
Perhaps the main attraction in the park is Lake Louise, some 50km northwest of Banff and with another huge and sprawling hotel, Chateau Lake Louise.
As a scenic vista Lake Louise doesnâ€™t disappoint, surrounded by high peaks with the Mount Victoria Glacier in the background it is hard to take a poor photograph. I ventured up on the chairlift opposite and from the top of the ski slopes there is a spectacular perspective of the lake below and the range of the Rockies. Moraine Lake, as the name implies is at end of a glacier. The day I was there was misty and overcast but the water was still a distinctive aquamarine. It lies around 15km from Lake Louise, in the Valley of the Ten Peaks. As an Australian I have found Canada a very familiar and comfortable place. There is a similar sense of history and humour. But the pristine terrain of the Rockies with its dense pine and birch forests, crystal rivers and of course grizzly bears is something quite different and despite the tourist numbers something to experience. Tony Sernack
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GIVERNY – Normandy Claude Monet settled in Giverny in 1883, first renting and later buying the rundown estate that he would transform into a magnificent garden. Located where the Epte meets the Seine, Giverny is about 80km. west of Paris, in Normandy and easily accessible by train. In Monet’s own words “It took me some time to understand my water lilies… I cultivated them with no thought of painting them… One does not fully appreciate a landscape in one day… And then, suddenly, I had a revelation of the magic of my pond. I took my palette. From this moment, I have had almost no other model.” “Beyond painting and gardening, I am good for nothing.”
Monet lived at Giverny until his death in 1926.
OLD DELHI â€“ Pigeon flying Pigeon coops have been a feature of the rooftops of Old Delhi for generations. The ancient and noble art of Katbbtarbaazi or pigeon rearing goes back to the 1500s and the time of the Moghul emperors when they realised that these birds were the best way to send messages. Owners are fiercely dedicated to the care and training of their birds, often spending more time with their flocks than with their families. And the best birds are very valuable.
Training their birds to fly and return on command, the best handlers can also entice other peopleâ€™s birds to join their flock.
i WITNESS ALBEROBELLO, SOUTHERN ITALY â€“ Traditional Trulli houses The conical roofed dry stone construction of the trulli is found only in the Puglia region at the foot of Italy. Scattered across the countryside, this unique construction was generally used for farm stores and animal shelters. Farm laborers made their dwellings in the same style, often with clusters of up to five circular and joined rooms. The town of Alberobello is well known for its trulli and is UNESCO Heritage listed.
Made from local limestone with no mortar or cement, the trulli had their origin at a time in the mid 1600s when permanent houses were highly taxed. Ingenious locals came up with the idea of a temporary dwelling that could be easily dismantled whenever the King of Naples sent his tax collectors.
Tony Sernack reports that Cape Wickham Links on the wild coastline of Australiaâ€™s King Island is destined for greatness.
ING ISLAND is in the middle of Bass Strait between Victoria and Tasmania’s North West coast.
Australians know King Island for its quality beef, gourmet cheese, local lobster and historic shipwrecks. A new golf course on the northern tip of the island will undoubtedly create attention amongst golfers worldwide.
The 6150 metre/par 72 layout at Cape Wickham is simply right up with the world’s very best. At the eastern end of the course stands Cape Wickham lighthouse, the
tallest in the Sothern Hemisphere. The course runs around Cape Farewell and Victoria Cove. Michigan based designer Mike DeVries has used the spectacular coastline and soaring dunes to stunning effect.
Yes they are all good, very good!! Cape Wickham is remote. Newly built accommodation at the course is comfortable and the views stunning. The ‘clubhouse’ is still a temporary structure but Chef Mark provides very good fare with local produce.
Playing there with Mike recently, he told me that the design philosophy This new stellar addition to the was to have no signature holes, but golfing firmament could well prove to make every hole exciting and a “Build it and they will come”. (fair) challenge. Certainly the par 5, 9th and the ocean side 10th come to mind, as does the 18th around the beach, the great par 3s the 11th and 17th and the excellent opening above: Designer Mike DeVries on the 10th green par 4s.
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BOMBAY DAVID SASSOON built a family empire in 19th century India to become known as the Rothschild of the East. Much of his early success came from trading opium.
Sassoon with three of his sons
ODAY Mumbai (Bombay) is one of India’s busiest ports and India’s most populous city with over 20 million inhabitants. It is also India’s richest city, accounting for around 70% of all maritime trade and the same proportion of capital transactions. It is home to the Indian Stock Exchange, many major corporations and Bollywood!
Its success and complex mix of cultures and ethnicities today is a reflection of the rich history of this fascinating city. This once Portuguese colony built on seven islands was ultimately delivered to the British East India Company as a dowry
when Charles II married Portuguese Catherine of Braganza in 1661. This melting pot for trade proved fertile ground for David Sassoon, a Mesopotamian (Iraqi) Jew, who arrived in Bombay in 1832. The Sassoons were already wealthy traders. David’s father, Sassoon ben Salih and his family were the treasurers to the pashas of Baghdad so David (who was 40 when he arrived in India with his large family) was well experienced and connected. However at that time Jews in Baghdad were coming under pressure from the Muslim Turkish
rulers and that led to Sassoon’s decision to leave. On arrival in Bombay he started a counting house (an accounting office in today’s terms) and small carpet godown (warehouse) but his acumen soon saw his company, David S. Sassoon, grow. He kept the management with family members and trusted staff from Baghdad and built branches across Asia, in India, Burma, Malaya and China. With eight sons Sassoon had the guile, drive and in-built infrastructure to build an empire and the family became one of the richest in the world.
Interior of the Mumbai synagogue built in Sassoonâ€™s honour by his sons.
By the 1850s it was said that ‘silver and gold, silks, gums and spices, opium and cotton, wool and wheat - whatever moves over sea or land feels the hand or bears the mark of Sassoon and Company’.
became a British citizen in 1853.
In todays terms Sassoon’s prime involvement in the production and trading of opium with China for goods that were sold to England would be seen as controversial. One of his sons (Elias David) went to China in 1844 to oversee the business and Sassoon House on the Bund in Shanghai was a landmark.
Philanthropy as well as a strong sense of his role as a leader of the Jewish community ran in parallel with David Sassoon’s business success. In each branch of his business he maintained a rabbi and across Asia he paid for the construction of schools, orphanages, hospitals and museums.
The trade yielded massive benefits and also political support in Victorian England. So much so that while Sassoon didn’t speak English and continued to dress and maintain the lifestyle of his Baghdadi Jewish heritage, he
Some of his sons went on to settle in England, most notably Sir Albert (Abdullah) David Sassoon, a Baronet, who ran the firm after his father’s death in 1864.
The Sassoon Docks, built by Albert, were the first wet docks in western India. (We visited them pre-dawn and it was an extraordinary experience as the fisherman brought in their catches and traders (mostly women) sought to buy at a multitude of dockside auctions. One needs a good guide and the awareness to keep out of the way as the activity is frantic but just fascinating.)
In today’s Mumbai you can visit the substantial Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue in the centre of town built by son Jacob in honor of his father and also the Sassoon Library where a life sized marble statue of David is in the foyer. 41
David himself built synagogues in Byculla (south Mumbai) and Pune (better known as the Red Synagogue because it is made of red bricks and famous for its spire). David lived in Pune (inland from Mumbai) and his mausoleum is in the precinct of the synagogue. He also endowed Puneâ€™s major hospital.
The Sassoon history and legacy is substantial. Descendants went on
to prominence in many fields, from banking to politics to poetry as well as continuing the familyâ€™s rabbinical traditions. And perhaps inevitably they joined with the Rothschilds through marriage. One granddaughter Rachel Sassoon Beer owned the Sunday Times and The Observer, the first female editor of a major newspaper. In 1898 she personally obtained a confession
from Ferdinand Esterhazy, a French major and German agent who had forged documents that had led to the trial and conviction of Dreyfus and her intervention led to his exoneration. But her extraordinary life is another story! Suffice that when you visit Mumbai you will see the mark of Sassoon and Company.
The Sassoon Library
A Day in the Life of
Dabbawalas. They have their own website and organisation yet are at best semi literate. Most are from the Warkari sect from rural Maharashtra. They deliver 200,000 boxes a day with an error rate of less than one in 16 million. They have been studied by business academia and the worldâ€™s leading corporates because they excel in terms of Six Sigma practice but have no idea what that is.
They have no bosses but are 5000 strong and all share equally in the proceeds of their collective work. They are the Dabbawalas, literally in Hindi â€˜one who carries a boxâ€™; usually a cylindrical compartmented metal container or tiffin box containing lunch. Made by the wives of office workers, collected from the home, moved by train, hand cart and bicycle across one
of the busiest and most populous cities in the world and delivered to the desk of the husband in time for his lunch-break. And then collected empty and delivered back to the household from which it came. Many of us have heard about this daily miracle or seen the film The Lunchbox but to see the system in action at the train stations and redistribution points across the city
of Mumbai, with purpose and ease, without panic or concern amplifies oneâ€™s amazement. If the Dabbawalas can work with such cooperation, efficiency and harmony surely we could be doing a little better on a number of fronts (politicians particularly take note).
The whole thing started around 1890 when a Parasi banker wanted to have home cooked food regularly at his office and gave the responsibility to the first Dabbawala. Others liked the idea and, as they say, the rest is history. Typically each dabba changes hands 3 or 4 times on its journey so the Dabbawala who picks up the lunchbox rarely is the one who delivers it. Thus trust is a big factor. As the city and demand grew the coding system on each lunchbox bag has evolved. Initially simple colour codes sufficed but today alpha numeric codes are used. And like everyone in India the Dabbawalas carry mobile phones. But the service remains the same. Bicycle delivery of home cooked food from home to office. And the cost around $10 a month!
Great eating from around the world
Yazdani Bakery, Cawasji Patel Street, Fort, Mumbai India A must visit stop in one of the byways in the old Fort area. This bakery is run by Iranis. The name comes from the town of Yazd, the capital of the province of the same name in Iran. Started by his father in 1950 it is today overseen by Rashid Zend, now 79, his brothers and his son, Tirandz. Rashid has a dry sense of humour and part of the fun is engaging is some banter over your chai and brun maska (which you really should heavily butter!). For the first 30 years Rashidâ€™s father ran Yazdani as a typical Persian restaurant, catering to the local Iranian community. After he died, the focus shifted. Nowadays the bakery produces a wide range of delights, including 12 seed multigrain bread, apple pies and mawa cakes. If they are available try the rum soaked plum cakes, a speciality. But the real pleasure is just absorbing what goes on. The walls are covered in memorabilia from another era, there are sacks of flour stacked up and the sheer size of the bakeryâ€™s output is stunning. They produce over 6000 pav bread buns a day alone.
Twenty years from now
you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover.
Published on Jan 24, 2017
Specially designed for that enthusiastic band of travellers who like to venture off the beaten track to experience countries and cultures th...