Monday, October 13, 2014

Journey Into CyprusJourney Into Cyprus by Colin Thubron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Now I know why the title is Journey into Cyprus. Colin Thubron literally walk into its every cities. He climbed its hills, swam its sea, slept in ancient monasteries, made friends with Cypriots (Greek and Turkish) and found the presence of Aphrodite everywhere.

On his preface, Thubron said that this book probably the last eyewitness of Greek and Turkish cohabitation, because since 1974, the island has been divided into two separated governance.

Thubron maybe a strange Mr. Tourist who walked into foreign lands, but he also a great writer. I have read many travel books in which the writer seems to be exhausted towards the end of the journey and the writing of the books so the final chapters would be superficial. But Thubron is different and I love his energy.


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Monday, December 30, 2013

Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History Without the Fairy-Tale EndingsPrincesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History Without the Fairy-Tale Endings by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As someone who belief in fairy tales and hardcore fans of "princess dresses", I found this book very interesting. The stories, tragedies, unhappiness, and achievement of princesses (and queens), from Hatshepsut of Egypt to Princess Margaret of UK. From 'blue blood princesses' to the fake ones like Princess Caraboo of Javasu and Anne Anderson (who believe that she's Anastasia of Russia).

Despite of the great contents, I disagree with the title. Because not all of those princesses were behaving badly. Some of them are just unlucky enough to be born as a baby girl. And many of them faced tragedy from political yet unhappy marriage plus inability to produce an heir. Let alone princesses who suffered from genetic diseases resulted from close blood relatives marriages. Even for me, those princesses who behaved badly just did what they did because they want to survive the demanding court life. These princesses deserves something better than to be judged of behaving badly.

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Monday, September 9, 2013

1000 Years of Annoying the French1000 Years of Annoying the French by Stephen Clarke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An interesting book on France & Britain friend/foe relationship. Too historical than my expectation, but it's really incredible. Although in the end, 1000 years of back-stabbing each other was just too much and boring. Same old, same old.

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Cross Stitch: A Basket of Flower

I love flowers, especially basket/bouquet of flowers. And I just finished this design in 4 months 2 days, just a couple of days late from my 4 months target, an improvement for my target accuracy :)

With 40x40 cm dimension, DMC colors thread in white aida cloth, it's so beautiful and I love it!

month 1: the progress seemed so slow, I started doubting my target

month 2: running smoothly, ready to embrace 3rd page, the gradation of pink flower is so beautiful!

month 3: found out  it was the basket which needed extra time


month 4 + day 2: finally done, just realized the flowers are different from each other.
month 4 + day 6: framed! so thrilled!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Surabaya: Weekend Getaway





The shark and the crocodile of Surabaya
The feeling of being alone while my husband was travelling in Japan was just too unbearable, so I took my backpack and dragged my sister to the first flight out on Saturday morning. We’re going to Surabaya. This would be my sister’s first visit while I had been there a couple of times on business trips and fell in love instantly to the city.

Landed in Juanda Airport at 7.30 am, we took a cab and headed to the House of Sampoerna in the heart of old city of Surabaya about an hour from the airport. House of Sampoerna is a cigarette museum, located in a former movie theatre owned by Sampoerna, once the biggest cigarette manufacturer in the country. Until now, the backside of the museum still functioned as cigarette factory. 

Surabaya Heritage Track


This museum provides a tour around Surabaya on a tourist bus, called Surabaya Heritage Track. Each day, there are different routes and stops, mainly in historical buildings. That Saturday morning, the stops will be the City Hall and Cak Durasim building. We really wanted to join the tour. Unfortunately the bus was fully booked by a bunch of elementary school children, although fortunately after some sweet talking (that we came from a city 800 km away just to join this tour) and a lot of pleas, we’re allowed to hop in.

The bus slowly left the museum to the Old City of Surabaya. This region mainly consists of old and not well maintained European buildings. We passed the grim and almost ruined ex Kalisosok Prison, its walls were covered with lichen. It’s such a pity this historical building was just abandoned like this.

Surabaya City Hall
After a few minutes we arrived in the City Hall, the office of the Mayor of Surabaya, a huge structure with a beautiful front garden. From the year it was built, 1915-1925 this building has been assigned as City Hall. On its main hall there were some pictures and a sculpture on the legend of Surabaya, in which a Sura (a shark) and a Buaya (crocodile) fought, hence the name Surabaya. We were not allowed to go further the building, so we got out of the building, joined our fellow tour member – the elementary school children – who got bored first and decided to play in the garden’s fountain.

dancing competition in Cak Durasim
The next stop (and the last one) was a cultural center named Cak Durasim, after a famous ludruk (traditional drama) player in Japanese era. In this center there’s an open air stage for traditional performances. When we got there, there was a dancing competition for kindergarten kids. I sat for some dances; mesmerized by their moves and colorful costumes, and laughing heartily at their innocent errors and cuteness. I do appreciate this cultural center, especially its concept of preserving and re-introducing the traditional culture of East Java to younger generation. I think other cities in Indonesia should have an active cultural center like this.

At 10.30 the bus tour returned to House of Sampoerna and it was time for a tour in the museum. This building complex has a long story. Formerly a Dutch-supported orphanage before bought by Liem Seeng Tee, the founder of Sampoerna in 1932, this complex was converted into a cigarette factory and residents of Mr.Liem family, while the central building was transformed into a movie theatre. Later, in 2003, this building was restored and opened to public as museum.

Charlie Chaplin had been here


The museum consists of two floors and several sections, each section tells different story and history. On the first floor, we could learn the history of Liem Seeng Tee’s family and business. His first bike, his desk, the wife’s clothes and some pictures are among the displayed collections. There are also some pictures of cigarette manufacturing and manufacturers, including a picture of Sri Sultan, the King of Yogyakarta who also owns a cigarette factory. One of the museum guides showed us a poster on the history of the Sampoerna Corporation and how it’s now owned by Philip-Morris International. Such pity that this big family company was sold to a multinational corporation. I hate tobacco smoking. And knowing that an Indonesian ‘traditional’ cigarette company was now under control of a multinational business, just make me hate them even more. I think Liem Seeng Tee’s descendants should know better how to maintain this family business.
the interior of House of Sampoerna

The second part of the museum consists of some old production machines, like molds for packaging; some posters from the era of Sampoerna theatre, and some memorabilia from the later years of the company. One memorabilia that instantly caught my eyes was a complete instruments and uniform of HM Sampoerna marching band. I still vividly remember them from my childhood, when I read their story in a political magazine, saw their shimmering TV commercials, envied their red and white uniform especially the one wore by the majorette, and ultimately watched their performance in TV during Pasadena rose parade. Those were the times when I was always proud of my country. And maybe those pleasant recollections are one of the reasons why I love museums so much.

the stair, visitors are not allowed to take pictures in 2nd fl.
My sister snatched me from my daydream and dragged me to the second floor. The wooden staircase was so nice, covered by poster advertisements of current Sampoerna products. The first section in the upper floor was a shop offering some irresistible souvenirs, like t-shirts, lighter, collector’s edition packaging, and some handicrafts. The next section was a surprise for us: an eye-witness experience on cigarette manufacturing. In front of our very eyes, there are a couple of workers hand-rolling tobacco into cigarette and put them into their packaging. I gaped. They worked so fast, methodically, and almost robotically that I couldn’t believe they were human being, not a kind of high-tech diorama. I would have gaped for eternity if my sister didn’t poke me to show something behind a large window. She pointed to the view. And I gaped again. In front of me, or rather, below me, there were hundreds of workers do the same robotic motions of hand-rolling and packaging of tobacco cigarette. It’s totally unbelievable. They were skilled worker, irreplaceable, and yet that’s the only skill they have. I wonder if this company closes their business then what will they do. Or otherwise, if these workers have any other choice of line of work, would they choose this job?

walking along a string of warehouses
It’s almost midday when we left the museum. We, a couple of tourist with unreliable competency in reading map carrying an equally unreliable map, tried to get out of this old city region to find the direction to Jembatan Merah, a legendary bridge of Surabaya. Under a glaring sun, we walked, asked for direction, and then walked again. In this old city region, the narrow roads were surrounded by old buildings, some of them are well-maintained and functioned as warehouse, some were converted into (possibly illegal) housing, and some were just abandoned. Under other circumstances, I would have been very excited with all these old buildings and would have taken a lot of pictures, but at that time I started to feel a slight migraine and a something of “oh no, I don’t want to get a heat stroke”. And we knew that evidently were just circling the old city: we took an iconic roof of Ibis Hotel as our guidance to the main road, but then the roof disappeared and after some time unexpectedly reappeared in other direction.

my sister staring at the river from the Red Bridge
When we finally reached the bridge, my migraine were getting worse and my sister’s mood getting sourer. Maybe it’s just my head’s and her mood’s talking, but it turned out that the bridge was just an ordinary one. Well yes it is red. But it’s not as grand as we’ve imagined. 



I stopped in the middle, hummed the legendary song:

Jembatan merah sungguh gagah
Berpagar gedung indah
(Red bridge, o so stout,
Fenced by magnificent buildings)

berpagar gedung indah
I looked at my left side where the old city with its old building is and to my right where the Chinatown is. And I began to understand. Maybe at the time Gesang composed this song in 1943, the brigde was indeed stout and grand; the European buildings on one side and Chinese architecture on the other was truly magnificent. I wished I could see the same view.

The hot Surabaya sun was getting unbearable, so we decided that it’s time to give up walking and took a bus to Tunjungan Plaza, a mall near our hotel. Some confusions and two buses a later, we landed safely in the mall and enjoyed a lunch in the food court.

Press monument at night
At 2 pm, under a never-ending-hot-sun, we walked to our hotel near the historical Genteng Market, just a few hundred meters from the mall. We passed Tunjungan Street and we just realized this street is an old one and fortunately well-maintained. There were some old beautiful buildings, really beautiful that I couldn’t take my eyes off them, for example this Monumen Pers Perjuangan Surabaya (Press monument), the office of Indonesian news agency in 1945.
Red and white forever @Majapahit Hotel
There also the most iconic building from the year of Indonesian struggle to freedom: Majapahit Hotel. At that time, it went with the name Oranje Hotel in Dutch occupancy and later Yamato Hotel in Japanese time. September 1945, a month after Indonesian declaration of independence, the Allies landed in Surabaya and used the Hotel as headquarter. A group of Dutch then raised their red-white-blue flag above the Hotel. After a negotiation went wrong between Surabaya Resident and Dutch leader, a group of Surabaya youngster stormed the Hotel, climbed the roof and took down the flag. One of them ripped the blue cloth and raised the now red and white (Indonesian) flag. Until today, a red and white flag never absent from this roof.

My migraine wouldn’t go away, and so did the blazing light of Surabaya sun. So we decided to stay in our hotel room for the rest of that afternoon. At 5 p.m. fresh from the shower, we went to Cheng Ho mosque, just 10 minutes ride by cab. We planned to do our Magrib prayer in the mosque. Unfortunately that day was the birthday of the mosque, it was so crowded and all high rank officials of Surabaya were present, so we just passed the mosque. The nice cab driver suggested that we visit Sunan Ampel mosque instead.


Pilgrims at the humble mosque
Sunan Ampel mosque and cemetery complex was located in the middle of settlement (or rather, the settlement grew surrounding the mosque). The parking lot was some hundred meters from the mosque, and at that hour we’re still in trouble to find an empty spot meaning the mosque had to be crowded. My sister and I walked along an alley way to reach the mosque. Compared to that full parking lot, this alley way seemed so empty and homey like a nice neighbourhood to grow up, remind me of those alley ways in Kauman, Yogyakarta.

the endless tunnel
It turned out that we enter the mosque from the back side, hence the quietness. We passed at least a small cemetery complex and three other individual cemeteries. Here and there we could see placards on “we must only worship Allah”. It’s a relief for us to find these cemeteries were not surrounded by pilgrims. Entering the mosque complex, we finally met a stream of pilgrims. Along with them we were led to the side of the mosque to the women quarter and to take wudlu. It was 10 minutes before magrib prayer, so we still had plenty of times to see all sides of the mosque before the dark settled in. We got a peek to the men’s quarter, and surprised to see that this mosque is very large for it’s just a humble building from outside. A row of prayer rugs looked like an endless tunnel.

On other side of the mosque, there’s a small market selling korma fruits, perfumes, jewelry, books, etc all with Arabic specialty. We followed another flow of pilgrims to the tomb of Sunan Ampel, but were rejected in entering his tomb complex because it’s almost prayer time. There’s a strict rule said that 10 minutes before and after prayer, pilgrims are not allowed to go near the tomb, all pilgrims must enter the mosque to pray. Of course we disappointed, but on the other hand, this rule is very true. Almost all about Sunan Ampel mosque is very comforting, a peaceful place where pilgrimage is a means to get closer to God. We left the mosque with a wonderful feeling, and able to think positive again on this Wali Songo pilgrimage. Maybe, just maybe, the tombs and mosques of the other 7 sunans will be equally comforting. 

Hotel Oranye/Yamato/Majapahit at night
We went to Tunjungan Plaza mall again for dinner, and after that enjoyed the night scenery in Tunjungan Street along with some photographers. Those beautiful buildings I saw that afternoon turned out to be much more beautiful at night. Heaven!



The next morning, we checked out early from the hotel, and headed to Kenjeran beach to visit the statue of Four Faces of Buddha, a new place of worship for Buddhists. It’s 45 minutes from where we were, and there’s no direct bus, so once again we hailed a cab. The Kenjeran Park area was so large yet empty. There were only an aged man praying and a couple of tourists visiting the statue. It was a beautiful park; the surrounding was very clean and tidy. The statue was so huge that we should stand farther to enjoy its full view. The four faces symbolized different characters of Buddha, which are generous, gracious, righteous, and meditation. We took some pictures of the Buddha although I couldn’t tell which face is what. It was a beautiful morning. The golden statue, colorful surrounding and the gleaming sunshine made it a beautiful place. Indeed the people of Surabaya should be very proud of it.

The four faces of Buddha
Kya Kya
Besides the Buddha, the beach park also has a culinary center, Pusat Kya-kya Kembang Jepun, formerly located in Chinatown (the one near the Red Bridge). At that morning, the stalls were still closed, so we were free to roam the passage between restaurants and shops. I’ve never been to China nor Japan, so I couldn’t tell if this place resembles those in both countries. But I do hope, ‘the real’ ones just as beautiful as this, or my oriental dream would be ruined.

Inside the tiny room of the Submarine

We returned to the city center and headed to Mokasel or Monumen Kapal Selam (Submarine Monument). It’s a real Russian-made Submarine placed in the middle of the city, one that had been used as part of Indonesian army to fight against rebel after Indonesian independence. It’s a very interesting and educative place. Visitors are allowed to enter the Submarine, to feel how these marines packed in such a tight place, under a sea, sometimes with dangerous weapons, andcouldn’t go anywhere. Really, entering this special boat with such thoughts had made me depressed.

The Submarine
We were lucky to meet one of the former crew of this Submarine in the Monument. He guided us through the bedroom, control room, and showed us how to operate the ship. We tried the periscope, peeked through its now blur lenses, and could see the building across the street, it’s awesome! After exploring the spooky tiny rooms in the Submarine, we went to a theatre behind the monument. We watched a movie on Indonesian Navy Forces, including a story on the Indonesian Submarines. The movie just went for about 20 minutes, but I was so sleepy I fell asleep in a couple of minutes. Ashamed, I turned my head to my sister that sat behind me and caught her asleep too! So, I guessed I shouldn’t feel guilty.

The fountain with the plaque
It was11 am, we still had few hours before our 5 pm flight to Jakarta, so we decided to take a walk anywhere to look for the nearest shopping mall possible because that hot Surabaya sun had returned. We couldn’t find a shopping center; instead our feet brought us to Balai Pemuda, an old pink building with a beautiful dome that served as Tourism Information Center (TIC). Balai Pemuda was built in 1907, known by “De Simpangsche Societeit” a recreational place for the Dutch. There’s a small fountain with a plaque stating “THIS WAS AN EXCLUSIVE DUTCH CLUB, FORBIDDEN FOR NATIVES AND DOGS”. I guess we love keeping bad memories.

Surabaya Tourism Information Center @Balai Pemuda
I entered the TIC and met a nice lady behind the information desk. She asked me what I want to see in Surabaya, and I told her I’ve visited several places except that Cheng Ho Mosque. She then gave me a map and showed me how to get there in bemo (a small bus). The TIC was quiet so we chatted for some time; she gave me a lot of information on the city and current affairs. Before I left the building, I was asked to sign a guess book. I was visitor no.2 that day, after a Japanese tourist. It’s sad that such information center was under-utilized. I do recommend visiting this place first before exploring Surabaya to get important and useful information. Really, I still regret not to visit this TIC in the first place although maybe that’s not entirely my fault. This TIC was never mentioned in any of travel guides that I’ve read. They mentioned Balai Pemuda as historical building, but not its current function.


Cheng Ho Mosque
Following the lady’s instruction, we jumped on a bemo to Cheng Ho Mosque. The bemo stopped in Surabaya Hero’s Memorial Park and we walked a couple of blocks to the mosque. That lady in the TIC said that Cheng Ho Mosque is actually very small, but it’s the oldest among other Cheng Ho Mosques in Indonesia. Reaching this mosque after a lost battle with the fierce Surabaya sun is very relieving. The lady was right, this mosque is small, but it has a very large foreground so that it can accommodate hundreds of Muslims. Consistent to the name, this mosque resembles a Chinese pagoda, very red and beautiful. It was built by Indonesian Chinese Muslims Association in Surabaya. I do admire their effort to combine their religion with their ancestor’s culture. And they’re devout Muslims too.
Praying at Cheng Ho Mosque
When we were there, some of them came just to do Dzuhur prayer. Sitting in the women quarter in the mosque, we looked at a wall painting on Cheng Ho’s journey and very reluctant to leave. This place is a perfect shield from the sun. But we’re starving, and we had a plane to catch, so had to move anyway.

After a brief lunch in the brand new Grand City Mall Surabaya, we bolted to Juanda Airport. It was 4 pm so we still have an hour to kill (before that announcement of delay) but my sister was too tired to roam around the shops in the airport, and I started to feel sore throat, so we just dozed off in the waiting room.  Almost 6 pm and off we go. In the plane, my sister and I discussed this trip and conclude that despite the heat, Surabaya will always be on our favorite list.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Yogyakarta: Malioboro, the World I Know



the legendary street sign

Born and raised in the Special Region of Yogyakarta and spent some years during my university times in a family house in an alley in Malioboro Street has made me took this place and its surrounding for granted. During those years I spent so much time down the street. I knew so well where to buy what: certain supermarket for groceries, a particular
becak, in the supposedly one way street
store for my favourite CDs and cassettes (yes, it was the time of side A/side B), a Chinese drug store sold herbal medicines for my typhoid, and my favourite bookstore ever (Sari Ilmu it is!).




my most favorite building in Malioboro
Time flies, years passed. The house in the alley has survived several renovations, although we’ve lost almost all of the neighbors because the alleys had turned into a string of cheap hotels. While Malioboro is still being Malioboro, ‘a street with many shops in the center of Yogyakarta’ (a quote from a couple of foreign tourist asked for direction), despite of the brand new stores, and more overly populated by retailers and visitors.



another well-maintained building
Now, after all those years away from Yogyakarta, I returned to the city with some friends. And when I see this place, I just realized that I have returned as a new me, with a new point of view. The historical point of view I use in Jakarta. Now, I saw things I never saw before, and pay attention to things I ignored before. Things that create an overwhelming feeling and make me love Malioboro even more.





We stayed in a hotel at Dagen Street, one of the alleys in Malioboro with several new affordable hotels. Just like many years back, I woke up to the sound of the trans-Java train coming in to the Tugu station. As dawn breaks, we walk out of our hotel towards Malioboro Street. The city was still dark and empty; the smell of freshly brewed tea filled the air.  Some becak drivers slept in their vehicle, and sidewalk vendors cleaned up their stall.



the gate of Dagen street
The history of this area was started in 1755 and named Secodiningratan, after the owner a Chinese Captain, with a Javanese name Secodiningrat. This is a strategic area and gradually turned into a Chinatown which in the early 20th century became a very important one, with a street connecting the Tugu train station, a big market (Pasar Beringharjo, the biggest market in Yogyakarta), the Dutch area (consists of Vredeburg fort, the Dutch Governor’s house, and a complex of Dutch official buildings) and ultimately the Sultan Palace. The street is now famous as Malioboro (although it consists of two streets: Malioboro and Ahmad Yani).





We walked slowly to the south. I took my time to observe the buildings along the street. Almost all of them have been functioned as stores. The Chinatown has long gone. But I could still see the remnants of the Chinese architectures of the buildings. Some of them had been renovated to the new styles, but the traces of the triangle roofs still could be observed. While some owners still maintain the old building, although the whole appearance is now covered with store banners.



very interesting: one building divided to three stores
We continued walking under some first sunlight of the day, and soon arrive in Pasar Beringharjo. There’s no one in front of the supposed to be super-busy market, Maybe it’s because of the kiosks that sells groceries are in the backside of the market so the activities are concentrated there in the early morning, while the front kiosks that sells clothes won’t be open until 8 or 9 a.m.  This traditional market has been there since 18th century following the existence of Yogyakarta Hadiningrat. The name of Beringharjo was given by Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono (the King of Yogyakarta) in 1925 when the permanent building was erected.




Fort Vredeburg
To the south of the market, there’s a big fort named Vredeburg or ‘Peace Fort’ as a symbol of peace between Dutch and the King of Yogyakarta, although the Dutch has a cannon aimed at the Palace. First built by the first King Yogyakarta in 1760 then given to the Dutch, this large fort is now in a very good condition and functioned as a museum.



Monumen Serangan Umum 1 Maret
In the south-east corner of the fort, there’s a monument to commemorate March 1st 1949 Affair when the Indonesian National Army attacked the Dutch army in the fort and took control of the city which proved the existence of The Republic of Indonesia. A reference mentioned that the monument was built in 1973, before being renovated a few years ago. However I could swear I never saw this monument before the renovation. Maybe it was really there all those times, it was just abandoned or covered by bushes, or maybe I was just too indifferent to notice. 

Despite of the height, this monument was protected by a high fence, so I climbed a bench to get a better view and snapped some pictures.



Gedung Agung, the Presidential Palace
Crossing the end of the Malioboro Street to the east, there’s Gedung Agung, the Presidential Palace right in front of the fort. The construction of this magnificent structure was finished in 1869 and served as the official house of the Dutch Governors in Yogyakarta. When Yogyakarta became the temporary capital city of Indonesia, Soekarno and his family lived here, and that’s how it became one of the Presidential Palaces.  



The sunlight was softly falling when we take some pictures in front of the fort, the monument and the palace. With us, there’s a couple of tourist and a photographer. I could only guess he’s a professional from the long lenses attached to his DSLR and a backpack full of other lenses.
one of the European building
He then turned left towards the Sultan Agung Street while we freely pass the crossroad to the Sultan Palace. A few minutes later, this intersection would be so busy we wouldn't be able to cross it recklessly like this. Anyway, since my childhood this intersection is always my favourite because it is where the big European buildings are. Those buildings was constructed by none other than the Dutch, and now functioned as Post office, Bank of Indonesia and other government offices. I always dream of entering those buildings or at least taking their pictures, but I never got a chance (or once again I just take it for granted).



the gate to the square and Sultan Palace

the euphoric me in front of the kiosk


We continued walking towards the North town square and the Sultan Palace. Commoners are allowed to enter the Palace except on Fridays and certain ceremonial days. The palace consists of a building complex and two town squares, the north and the south. It’s a very large complex and now the sun is getting higher, so we halted and returned to the main street. Therefore, just in front of the main gate to the town square, there’s a newspaper kiosk with some collections of used magazine, so I got too excited and bought some back issues of National Geographic and Disney’s comic books.



gudeg vendor


Now, the Malioboro Street started to wake and so did our stomach. From the sidewalk food vendors we bought fresh snacks and gudeg, a traditional food of Yogyakarta. When we sat in the pavement enjoying our breakfast with other visitors, I think of my childhood times with my sister in this city. Of course we had short trips to the market almost every morning, but we never walked just to enjoy the ambiance of the city like this, and I never knew that this simple activity could be this magical. I never tried to understand the story of this historical piece of land. I also never appreciated its legacy. But one thing for sure, I will return to this city and walk along this street in such early morning like this again and again.