Archive for September 2007

Jaipur and Taj Mahal   Leave a comment

Today the day is divided in three parts: in the early morning, visit to the fort of Jaipur, with the elephant (fits all 4 of us) and camel ride (fits just one, Jessica). After that, visit to the ancient astronomic observatory. It is well known that those people were very good in astronomy. Indeed we see pretty interesting instruments to study the motion of the sun and the stars.

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Matteo, Camilla, Jessica and Josh
at the Jaipur fort
A palace in the fort

Then, our driver drives us to Agra. It’s only 230 km, but due to the conditions and traffic of the indian roads, it takes 6 hours. It’s not like driving in Hyderabad, but still it’s a mess. There are always big trucks, people and motorbikes crossing and zigzagging on the road. Quite often there are vehicles on the wrong way, and overtaking is always allowed, does not matter how if/how may cars are coming in the opposite direction.

The Taj Mahal is really impressive. It’s a white marble tomb, inlaid with semi-precious stone, that the emperor made to bury his most loved wife. The beautiful gardens around enhance its beauty. There is not much to say, just stunning to see.

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Dinner and again go to bed early, as another busy day is coming.



Posted September 30, 2007 by mtcerio in Uncategorized

Kingfisher Airlines, what a good surprise   Leave a comment

Today starts the 3-day tour of the "Golden Triangle": Jaipur, Agra and Delhi. We have to flight to Jaipur, connection in Mumbay. Wake up very early, at 5, to catch a plane at 8:25. The journey starts badly, as the flight has been delayed 2 hours or so. I could have slept more.

View map

Having seen the general condition of India, one expects the worst from a private, internal airline. Kingfisher is the same brand of the most famous beer in India, and its airline was a great surprise. I would never have said that the first time I found an LCD screen with TV for each seat was on an Indian airline. Furthermore, we had a nice bag some gadgets inside, like a pen, a headset, and the menu of the day (2 possible choices), bottled water and juice. As we had a connection, we had 2 meals, also. And the on-board crew was very friendly, and even before checking in, they helped us carrying the suitcases. I was amazed, this airline is miles ahead many big european airlines, and considering it’s in India, that’s incredible!

IMG_0258Arrive in Jaipur that is very late, run at the hotel (we have a 7 seat car with driver), pick up our guide for Jaipur and visit of the palace of the Maharaja, in a rush. In Jaipur, it’s sunny and hot, very hot. It’s not humid and cloudy like it was in Hyderabad. This because the monsoon season finishes earlier here in the north. During the first transfer by car, we finally meet properly our tour-mates: we were put together by the agency, as they wanted to do IMG_0245the same tour as us. We exchanged a few emails to agree on the tour, and knew they were a man and a woman. We had already met Joshua, a PhD student in Maryland, on the flight to Hyderabad. We were very pleased to see that Jessica is also a PhD student, at MIT, Boston. A tour of Ph.D.s, then!

After dinner, straight to sleep at the hotel in Jaipur, as tomorrow will be very busy with more sightseeing fo Jaipur and then travel to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. It’s a pity, as our hotel has all the facilities,  including a swimming pool.


Posted September 29, 2007 by mtcerio in Uncategorized

Gala Dinner   Leave a comment

IMG_0239Fantastic locations, one of the most beautiful hotels I have been. And the fact that, just a few metres before the gate, there where people sleeping on the road, is also impressive. Magnificent aperitiv and then dinner, with typical indian food, and entertainment with music and dance.

But there is something else. We were invited at the Gala Dinner, because a work we presented won the prize for the best paper in its category (team of students). We were awarded during the dinner, by the president of the International Astronautical Federation, and we were so excited during the cerimony! And the trophy was such a big cup! It was also nice that a team in Glasgow won such an important prize when the same congress is coming to Glasgow next year!

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Better pictures to come soon (I hope!), from an official photographer and some friends of mine!


Posted September 28, 2007 by mtcerio in Uncategorized

Hyderabad city tour   Leave a comment

I’m a bad guy, I skipped the last day of conference to go and see the indian city of Hyderabad. There is not much to see, but the city fort is worth to see. On the map, it appears close to our hotel, but indian cities are huge: after 45 scary minutes on the rickshaw, we reach the ancient fortified city, on the top of a hill, and finally the royal palace. This palace is famous for its acoustic properties, as our tour guide explains. There are arches which amplify the sound and make echoes, but only if you stand right in the middle. There are other arches with four pillars as in a square: if one person is standing at each pillar, can talk to the one at the opposite pillar without being heard by the two next to him. The most impressive acoustic wonder is that a hand clap at the entrance is perfectly heard on the other side of the fort: this was used as a telephone to tell to shut all the doors and load the cannons, in case an enemy was arriving.

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Rickshaw, its driver and Camilla The Golconda Fort

IMG_0214Then we decided to visit the Charminar, which is also close to the main bazaar (=market) of the city and to one of the biggest mosques in India. After a short walk in the bazaar, and the first real experience in bargaining for some bracelets, we realise it is not the best moment to visit the area. Basically, Hyderabad is the city with the highest percentage of muslim people, so the mosques are usually crowded. It’s also the period of ramadan, the muslim festival. In addition, it’s Friday, holiday for muslims. On the top of that, it’s 2 o’clock, so just after the end of the one-hour-long pray that starts at one. What we find is so many people that is difficult to walk. If you also consider that most of them are trying to sell us something, you are still far away from understanding the situation. Unless you have been to India. We decide to head to one of the few shops which look safe: it’s a jewelry. We are decided in buying some pearls (for which Hyderabad is famous), but the bargaining is not succesful and we go to the next shop. This time we leave with some stuff. Back in the street, the mess is still too much to stand, so we head back to the hotel to get ready for the night. This thime the rickshaw driver is really crazy, and the fact that we are driving through very narrow and poor streets doesn’t help us. But once again, safe at the hotel.

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The Charminar square Camilla bargaining for pearls

Posted September 28, 2007 by mtcerio in Uncategorized

“Unity in Diversity”   Leave a comment

It’s the motto India chose to celebrate the aniversary of the fundation as a single country.

The following figures represent places which are only a few hundred metres apart:

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Figure 1: The Hyderabad International Convention Centre Figure 2: Some tent-houses, in a ground field just next to the road

Note that, if you decide to sleep at the 5-star-plus hotel connected to the convention centre, you will miss the pleasure to see figure 2. If instead you decide to be born in Hyderabad, it’s most likely that you will miss the pleasure to see figure 1.

Another question is: is it really possible to to talk about space in a country where so many people live in such a condition? The theme of this year’s congress is "Touching humanity: space to improve the quality of life". But it looks to me that here something else is needed, to improve the quality of life.


Posted September 27, 2007 by mtcerio in Uncategorized

I’m on holiday in India!   1 comment

I gave my 2 talks at the congress, now I’m on holiday!

Night out for dinner. It’s 5 of us, 2 rick-shaws: the drivers are completely crazy, and you’d better bargain on the cost of the travel before. Nice dinner, finally we found a cook able to cook something not so spicy, so I quite appreciated the food. It’s night, but because of the ramadan (for muslims) and Ganesha (for Hindi) the shops are open till late, and there are so many people around. Everybody wants to talk to us, or asks for a picture, or to shake the hand. Claudio even managed t borrow a old Bajaj (the indian Vespa) and have a ride on the road. Dario and Leo, don’t worry: he’s still alive. At a point, 2 children start to follow us, asking for money. The photos make them happy, but still they need food. After a walk, shopping session for the girls. The clothes shop is really huge, and you can find so many different colors and decorations on the dresses. Out of the shop several rick-shaws are there, ready to fight to drive us safely home. Hopefully.

After a while, you start to get used to be like a V.I.P. as soon as you walk on the streets, and so you begin not to care much, to be more relaxed and appreciate more all the diversities of this country.

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Gerardine and Julia

Claudio and his Bajaj



Hindi Camilla

Yes, you can have a picture!

Forgot to say, we met Julia gain, I was so pleased! Julia is the first person we met when we arrived in Valencia last year, and we had a good fun during the week of the IAC 2006.


Posted September 26, 2007 by mtcerio in Uncategorized

Congress, day 2   Leave a comment

I did my presentation in the morning, but today it’s a mess. Today it’s the actual day of the celebration of the goddess Ganesha (elephant headed girl), and starting from this early afternoon, all the hindus in Hyderabad and suburbs will converge at the lake to deep a statue of the goddess. Unfortunately, our hotel is close to the lake itself, and the roads will be closed to vehicles. So the congress organisers "kindly adviced" (read "forced") us to leave the conference venue by noon. Apparently my afternoon talk is postponed tomorrow, who knows when and where.

I would like to see all these people around but they also suggested us not to wander around this afternoon.


Posted September 25, 2007 by mtcerio in Uncategorized