Into the Mueseum City - Washington DC

All along the week i was listening to "There are so many museums in Washington DC that you should visit". I choose this Sunday to explore those words. Took the Washington DC Metro and got down at the Smithsonian stop. Out I came and all over there were so many museums. Smithsonian is a group of museums with different themes many of them situated at the national mall. There museums on every aspect of American culture and history. Adding to that was the collection of Asian cultural and historical artifacts.

Braille Signs at the Freer Art Gallery

As usual the plan was something and I ended up doing something else. I was planning to visit air and space museum, the planetarium etc. But first I one visited was the Freer art gallery. It contains ancient artifacts related to the Asian culture. One can find artifacts from China, Japan, Thailand. India and Egypt. Each of sculptures or the artifacts have explanation on the history or how the art evolved and about the religion. Though India is the cradle of Buddhism and Jainism, not sure if there is any such museum which explains the facts in such details. For example different forms of Buddha were explained and there was booklet on identifying the forms of Buddha such as Bodhisattva, AvalokiteĊ›vara. Other interesting sections are on Japanese paintings, evolution of Chinese tea pots, Egyptian figures and many more.

Masks on Display at African Art Museum

Next one to be visited was the African art museum. It has got a big collection of masks and tribal artifacts depicting the African culture. There were also sections on contemporary African art. From here I went to the Slacker Gallery which was closed for renovation except for the exhibit on ceramics. Ceramics from Thailand, China and Japan were on exhibition including films on making ceramics. S Dillon Ripley center is attached to these galleries and has entrance from these. There was a exhibition going on American history which included American Indian, French and British lives, wars and on .
It was time for some food. Apart from fruits and deserts only vegetarian stuff I could find was Greek Salad with lettuce, tomatoes, olive and cheese. With that I went to the cash counter. The girl over there asked me if I was an Indian, not sure what made her think that I was an Indian the skin color or the preference to veg stuff? I was greeted with a "Namasthe" and she made sure to check that she was doing it right. It seems she was holding the hands above her head and somebody corrected her. Later on I realized that first thing they do at the cash counter is greet the customer. May be these systems are in place to make people comfortable who are used to the Mom and Shops( which existed long back in America) and it continues.

"New Fungus Corp" at Hirshhorn Museum

After a heavy meal I visited, Hirshhorn Sculpture museum and the garden. One the day of visit R. Tillman's photo's were on exhibit too. Probably this was the first time I was visiting an art exhibition like this. You could find lot of interesting sculptures, designs and ideas, wall hanging, decorative items. Some of the stuff I like included a mushroom garden made of synthetics, then there was collection of flowers stuck to the wall. There was a dark room which replicated atmosphere of sunset by controlling the light entering the room. One had to go inside and then sit till the eye adjusts to the conditions and relax.
From here I went to Natural History museum. I was just in time for the 3D IMAX movie on "Lions of Kalahari". This was the first I was watching a IMAX movie on the Giant screens. When the lions jumped it looked as if they are jumping at you and there was scene where in a plane flies close to the ground above desert swaying all along which made me feel as if I was sitting in the plane. Once the movie was over I got 45 minutes to roam around. The natural history museum has got a large collection of stuffed animals, skeletons and fossils. At the center is the African Elephant standing on the modeled echo system in Africa. There is a huge gallery on Mammals, fossils from Mesozoic era including Dinosaurs and marine animals that have gone extinct. I could not finish the whole round, thinking of coming back again I left to the hotel at Rockville. By this time I had got accustomed to the metro rail and easily reached back.
Smithsonian Museums

First day trip in America - Baltimore Aqurium

One of the closest things to see near Rockville was National Aquarium at Baltimore. It was an hours drive from rockville where I am currently put up. I was wondering how to go visit there. Thankfully Aneel offered to take me there on Saturday. We booked the tickets online for 11'o clock and we were to start by 9:30. Aneel arrived at my place around 9:45 AM and we hit the road with pleasant weather.
This was my first experience traveling using directions provided by mapquest with the conventions used on the US high ways. It was so organized, the naming conventions of the highways, directions for exit points and there were no traffic signals or road crossing. It was amazing to know that all the states use the same conventions. The traffic was homogeneous and was strictly following the lane discipline. In this kind of traffic somebody is meeting with an accident must be a real bad driver or must have run out of luck miserably. Aneel had to step up the gas so that we could be on time. We entered the town around 10:45 and missed the concessional parking provided by Aquarium. We entered the aquarium just in time for the allotted schedule.
We spent sometime at the string ray tank. There were aquarium personnel who were swimming along with string rays and sharks in diving gear. It was hard to believe they were swimming with same animals which became famous when Steve Erwin died. Occasionally they would pop up on the surface and take questions from people watching them.

Next we headed to the Dolphin show, which was made interesting by the facts about Dolphins, how they acquire the behavior and how one can become a trainer. Dolphin behavior was amazing watch. One of the good things I observed was the accessibility options provided in the public places. All along the show there was also person interpreting it in sign language for the challenging hearing abilities. Wherever possible there will be signs in Braile and wheel chairs will be available for the tours.
Then we had food at the frog cafe. Not surprisingly, I had to eat cheese pizza which was the only vegetarian food available.
Aquarium contains different species of fish which have been grouped on the basis of habitat and exhibited in similar ecological conditions(Including plants, soil, water, rocks and temperature and in some case coral). Certainly its not a like fish tank with different fish. Each of the eco systems has notes on identification, interesting facts. I guess most famous among the children being "The Nemo"(Clown fish).Apart from the fish, there are exhibition area for frogs, rain forest simulation and Australian echo system. We spent almost 3 hours watching all the exhibits and then strolled around for a while on the inner harbor boardwalk area. Sun was getting hotter and we started our journey back.
National Aquarium

Hoysala Trails - Nuggihalli

After couple of trek and birding weekends I and Prem decided explore Hoysala trails. The last hoysala temple we visited was almost 8 months back(Hosaholau) and I was planning to cover lot many during th elast monsoon. This time first choice was Belavadi but we were not sure if we could make it in a day. For a change we were planning for trip on KSRTC instead of the car as there was always a scare of traffic jams on Hasan road and then we did not know how were the road conditions. So we decided to go to Nuggihalli which was supposed to be the closest Hoysala temple on Hassan route.

This time we made it a point to start as early possible and carry some food and Getorade to tackle the hunger problem(guess who? Prem is the most affected by hunger problem). We reached Majestic by 7:30 AM and managed to get a Rajahansa with comfortable seating than Suvarna Karnataka. It was a 3 hour ride to Chenna Raya Patna with a break at Bellur Cross. I and Prem were reading for a while and then chatting for a while about all the topics in the world and sleeping in between.

At C.R. Patna we found a bus to Tipatur and we got down at the Nuggihalli after half an hour drive through fields. I was surprised to see that the roads were fairly good condition compared to the roads at other places in Karnataka. A short walk from the bus stand through the narrow streets took us to the temple. Probably this was the largest of the places we visited so far in search of the Hoysala temples. It was auspicious day(Narasimha Jayanthi) at the temple and was being celebrated by the folks around the temple. Prem inquired if we could get a guide and we got one!

The floor was hot and the guide was running through the explanation. This time Prem did not ask many questions :) and guide also did not tell us any lengthy stories.( I guess both were feeling the heat ?) So we managed to finish of the tour quickly and headed to the other temple. By the time we reached, it was already locked and we could not see the deities. Standing on toes we managed to take some snaps and run back to the shades. We were thinking we will end up with huge boils. But thankfully that did not happen. When we came back to the first temple it was pooja time and after which we relished prasadam served.
Now started the pics session which took me around 45 mins and then it was time to go back. On the way back we had lunch at CR Patna Bus stand and some how managed to get seats in "Suvarna Karnataka"

How to go?

If you are going by car after couple of kms from Hirisave there is a diversion to Nuggehalli on the right. This is the shortest route from bangalore. On the deviation Karnataka tourism development board has put huge banner with directions.

If you are going by public transport go to Channarayapatna and then catch express buses going to Tiptur. There are plenty of buses available and it takes hardly 20 minutes by the express bus.

What to See ?
Nuggehalli has 2 temples Laxmi Narasimha and Sadashiva temple built during Hoysala period. Laxmi Narasimha temple is a trikoota temple with exquisite carvings on the outer walls. There are 3 deities with Sowmya Keshava in the middle and Venugopal and Laxmi Narasimha on either side. As per Grerard Foekema this is a new style temple with one strip of carving describing Krishna. The temple does not have a Hoysala Crest and has been extended after it was built. Like the temple in Hosaholalu one can see 24 forms of Vishnu depicted on outer walls. Many of the sculptures have the form of Vishnu depicted and sculptors name engraved on the lower side of the sculpture. Must see sculptures include the dancing Ganesh with 8 hands on the left side wall, dancing laxmi on the back side.

Sadashiva temple is close to the first temple but does not have carvings like Laxmi Narasimha temple. But this is fine example of Nagara style architecture. On the way one can also see the remains of the entrance to the city. There is also a guide available at the temple who gives explanation about the carvings and takes to other places.

When to go ?
One can go year around but during the summer months it might be tough to stand on the outer section of the temple as the ground will be heated like the charcoal.