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Yogi's Travel Diary

Architect Georgios Toubekis from RWTH travel 6 weeks through the Bamiyan region. In this blog here he reports his experiences and findings.


30th Day

Posted by gtoubekis Published: Jul 25, 2007
30th Day

Shop in Bamiyan

I received a request from the Programme for Professional Development which is aimed to develop skills and capacities of regional governmental directorships and other organizations working in the various sectors on developement. The programme is funded by NZ AID and run by the Agha Khan Foundation in Bamiyan. The traning centre has residential resources in order to permorm long term training courses in the fields of management and project execution. It is planned to hold a seminar on the management issues regarding the protection of the World Heritage Site in Bamiyan. Since our Cultural Masterplan survey in 2005 new enterprises of commerce have emerged that are clearly oriented to the demands of a growing urban class in Bamiyan. Bamiyan, urbs without a city?

29th Day

Posted by gtoubekis Published: Jul 23, 2007
29th Day

Worker on the scaffold construction

 

28th Day

Posted by gtoubekis Published: Jul 23, 2007
28th Day

Worker on the scaffold construction

 

27th Day

Posted by gtoubekis Published: Jul 23, 2007
27th Day

Delicate condition of backside of niche

The erection of the scaffold construction dominates the working days. We start earlier now and work one hour longer. The scaffold builders have come from Kabul and have long year experience in scaffolds from their work in Iran. They are very good and organized. To ensure safety on the site we have brought safety belts from Germany. The builders are very proud to wear them as they usually work without any protection on the scaffold. When checking the back wall together with Eng. Thomas we reconfirm that it is not possible to use the back side of the niche for the stabilization of the scaffold construction as long it is in such delicate condition. He has prepared the design in such a way that a set of cables anchored deeply in the site walls of the niche will prevent the construction from moving. We also discover that some of the scaffold pipes installed by last years have disappeared. We are worried about this fact as it shows once again, that there is no proper site protection also for this important monument. In in order enhance the overall stability and to be on the safe side in case of misuse of pipe material Eng. Thomas decides to double the amount of pipes in the lower part of the construction.

26th Day

Posted by gtoubekis Published: Jul 23, 2007
26th Day

Engineer and scaffold workers discuss the construction design

Our scaffold engineer arrived today. His task will be to continue the scaffold construction so that future repair works can be executed without the need for hanging climbers from the top of the figure. The following days will be dominated from the work on the steel pipe construction. The work is very dangerous as the fragile backside should not be touched in any case in order to prevent loose and shallow parts to fall down.

25th Day

Posted by gtoubekis Published: Jul 23, 2007
25th Day

Mural painting in Bamiyan

I visit the cave in which Japanese restorers are working. Four people in a cave 3x2m size. The cave are situated high in the cliff and only accessible by a scaffold that has been set up to reach the internal staircase carved into the cliff. In this cave the Japanes collegues together with Afghan collegueas from the National Museum Kabul work on the long term conservation of the remaining mural paintings in Bamiyan. Due to neglect and lack of maintainance most of the murals have been lost. The task of the collegues is to clean the surface of the paintings and to consolate loose edges so that they do not detach from the walls and fall down. The picture shows two seated monks in meditation in predominant red and blue colours. The right figure shows signs of intentional destruction destroying the previous face of the painting. This has been done probably long time ago when figural depictions of living beings and images showing previous religious have been destroyed in raids of iconoclasm in the 9th and 10th century.

24th Day

Posted by gtoubekis Published: Jul 23, 2007
24th Day

Some progress on the reconstruction of the destroyed caves at the bottom of the Small Buddha niche. The red siltstone material seems suitable to be used as buiduing up the destroyed cave walls. The results of a first test are convincing. It becomes also clear that conglomerate pieces in this area of the cliff are not suitable for beeing used without prior solidification. Also the best composition of mortar for the stones has to be studied more carefully. I tried some different composition of lime and sand/silt from the site. Although the colouring achieved is convincing the mortar strength has to be improved. As the stone material (silt) does not resist at all to water (the surface dissolves immediately and cracks down completely) any mortar has to be as dry as possible in order not to harm the stone material.

23rd Day

Posted by gtoubekis Published: Jul 23, 2007

Due to Friday there is some time to continue office work and make some tests with our mobile communication device. We use a BGAN conncetion (Broadband Global Area Network) solution provided by Inmarsat. The device we use is a NERA Wordpro 1000 (0,5 kg) Satellite modem which can provide Internet access and Telephone services. We have just subscibed to the Internet service as we do not intend to use the telephone service capacity of the device. After initialization the device needs some 30 seconds to connect to the satellite. Actually there are two geostationery satellites covering most areas of the world. An acoustic signal and a status bar show the signal strenth and help to adjust the antenna properly to the south. As the USB connection cable to the device is quiete short it needs some preparation in terms where to put the antenna device and the laptop to ensure some kind of comfortable working conditions. Usually I have to fix the antenna device somehow on the open window sitting myself inside the room in shadow condiotions as the strong sunlight outside make it impossible to see anything on the screen. The preparation for transmission mostly occupy the most time and nerves as the small device and the sounds attract always the attention of some bystanders that come closer to inspect the device from short range. As a result they stand in front of the antenna and disturb the connection with the satellite. Some speed results achieved with German home page <br /> <br /> Download<br /> 177 kbit/s (22 kByte/s) <br /> <br /> Upload<br /> 21 kbit/s (3 kByte/s) <br /> <br /> From the tests it becomes clear the the service put emphasis in the download connection. Uploading of images and messages becomes an unpleaseant experience as time by time the the device announces some error so that the conection gets lost and the procedure has to be repeatead from the beginning. Despite several testings I cannot find out if the connection errors are due to hardware or software failures as there are limited possibilties provided by the system to trace system failures. <br /> <br /> Addendum (after return)<br /> For comparison, the test results using a desktop computer connected to University cable network: <br /> <br /> Download-Geschwindigkeit: <br /> 30.589 kbit/s (3.824 kByte/s) <br /> <br /> Upload-Geschwindigkeit: <br /> 7.163 kbit/s (895 kByte/s)

22nd Day

Posted by gtoubekis Published: Jul 23, 2007
22nd Day

River Embankment in Bamyian

The weather in the last days was bad. There has been heavy rainfall in the nearby mountains and the Bamiyan river is flooding endangering the nearby fields. From the news I hear of monsum floodings in Pakistan and Southern Afghanistan. From our Masterplan Survey we know about danger for settelment areas around Bamiyan as a lot of people are settling in areas which carry a lot of water when there is rainfall in the higher catchment areas. Thanks to the enforcement of the river embankment by Italian engineers last years the road and the lower Bazaar area are this year.

21st Day

Posted by gtoubekis Published: Jul 02, 2007
21st Day

Destroyed caves at the bottom of Small Buddha niche

Last preparation to reconstruct floor plan of destroyed caves at the Small Buddha niche. We have marked the previous sourrounding walls with wooden beams on the ground. The intention is to reconstruct the destroyed floor plan of the cave situation in order to make the previous space readable again. Original material from the cave will be used to find out in how far the material can be used for reconstruction purposes. for the workes to understand.

20th Day

Posted by gtoubekis Published: Jul 02, 2007
20th Day

UXO from the Buddha Site

We prepare the destroyed caves at the bottom of the Small Buddha niche as we intend to make the previous spatial connection readable again. During this works we discover again a mortar shell that was hidden under some sand in one corner. All are reminded again to be carefull when entering the caves.

19th Day

Posted by gtoubekis Published: Jun 29, 2007
19th Day

Thanks to the invitation of yesterday afternoon I find myself as part of the Tourism Delegation from Kabul going on a inspection tour to the lakes of Band-e Amir. Over night I printed some pages from our Cultural Master Plan publication to have it at hand if needed. The convoi of several Toyota cars leaves Bamiyan in the early morning headed by police vehicles. First stop is at the plain of Shebartu, that has been identified by the Afghan Government to become the main airport for the province of Bamiyan in the future. It is located right in the middle between Bamiyan valley and the Band-e Amir lakes around 1,5 hours in both directions. The present politicians assure the decisions regarding the future airport and reafirm that the present airfield in this location was in active use during the long year fightings in the country. After another bumpy ride we reach the main lake of Band-e Amir in record time. Although I have visited the lakes several times the first sight remains amazing. High concentration of lime and other minerals make the waters shine in sparkling blue that always reminds me of the deep blue of the mediteranean sea. A huge natural dam captures the ground water and reveal the beauty of geological formation processes. The water is dripping over this edge and by partially evaporating lime layers condense from the water and let the dam grow slowly in time. Different from other years there are no cars visible in close distance to the lake. The Governor with support of the local population introduced a entrance fee system and guarding of the site that controls the access to the water carefully. It is to hope that they succeed to get this system run on the long term. Also there are ideas to find a new location for the small shops that emerged in close distance to the water. In severall discussions with parts of the delegation it becomes clear that the Afghan authorities are determined to develop the area of Band-e Amir and Bamiyan as main tourist attractions on an international scale.

18th Day

Posted by gtoubekis Published: Jun 29, 2007
18th Day

Ceremony in Center
This afternoon the new storage wing is officially handed over to the Cultural Center. It is supposed to store the findings from all teams working at the Bamiyan Valley. The construction was funded by the National Federation of UNESCO Associations in Japan (NFUAJ) and belongs now to the Ministry for Culture and Information. Also present to the inauguration is a delegation of the Ministry of Culture on an assesment visit to inspect the tourist potential for Bamiyan. The Cultural Masterplan elaborated in 2005 by RWTH Aachen University is presented by the Governor Dr. Habiba Sarabi as the guiding idea for a future tourism. She invites me to join the delegation tour to the lakes in Band-e Amir in order to promote the content of our plan.

17th Day

Posted by gtoubekis Published: Jun 29, 2007
17th Day

Logistical problems continue as the expected machinery from Kabul for the removal of the remaining fragments at the site is not available as sheduled. Again long phonecalls to get the problem fixed and to examine alternatives. A loader from the local bazar can be used with limitations but we have no other choice for the moment. The storage rooms need to be modified to be able to store more and more fragements coming out of the debris. In the Cultural Center work on the storerooms are carefully supervisioned by the Japanese collegues. The Japanese colleagues have devoted themselves in the study of pottery fragements and mural painting. All of them are carefully cleaned and documented individually. Different kinds of pottery are find in different excavation situation. By stylistic analysis it is possible to determine when the artefact was created and therefore the differerent excavation levels can be dated accordingly. Working Situation is difficult. The Center already is lacking enough restrooms and working space. Altogether we are for the moment more than 20 national and international experts working here.

15th-16th Day

Posted by gtoubekis Published: Jun 29, 2007
15th-16th Day

Logistical problems dominate again everything. The transport of the scaffold material from the ISAF camp is questioned as the hired truck breaks down after a traffic accident. Our partners in Kabul suceed to organize a new truck overnight to be on time the next morning. I get up very early and coordinate some minor problems by phone that occur until the truck is finally allowed to enter the ISAF compound. Due to friday the telephone network is more stable than on other days. I appreciate the stability of the service today as I feel my total dependency on the reliabilty of the network. Also the Italian collegues are quiet happy as their luggage was finally detected at Dubai airport. They have reasonable chances to receive it prior to their departure from Bamiyan on Thursday. As the day passes by I have opportunity to meet the new Director of Agha Khan Foundation in Bamiyan which is running some very important devlopment projects especially in the infrastructure of Health Services and Electrification by Micro Hydro Power Projects. We discuss also about the possibilities of a Community Website for Bamiyan. It becomes clear that such a system cannot be a subsitute for an agency website but more a platform to share information and ressources that are in some cases dificult to obtain (i.g. Law texts of the different sectors or practical examples on issues of Health Care or agriculture and irrigation issues). For me it becomes clear, that development in Bamiyan is taking place rapidly. Not only that the bazaar has further grown since our survey in 2005 there are also street consolidation works going on at a large scale. The street to the airport is said to get bitumen coated and become a better quality than the recent airstrip, the previously dusty and bumpy road down the hill to the bazaar receives an new shape and the main road leading to the Buddha Cliff is leveled and graveled for good. Only the development in our main base the Cultural Center is leading backwards. A new water pump was installed as the previous well dried out. As a result the generator that provides the center with electricity overloaded and the selfmade switchboard exploded. New water no electricity and more experts to come to work here. Also there is great concern if the new attached storeroom wing will be ready for its inauguration on in two days.