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A date with Vienna

Here is where it started. Well, not location wise but this is where the apple cart was upset and Europe went ablaze, here we were remembering 100 years since the World War One at Schonbrunn Palace. Schonbrunn which means beautiful spring was the family home (a huge one 66 rooms) of the Hofburg dynasty whose Prince Ferdinand was assassinated by a Yugoslavian national stirring the horrific war of the century.  Here, I was standing in disbelief admiring the gorgeous city views of Vienna from the Gloriette – the viewing terrace of the Schonbrunn.  I don’t quite remember when I had seen Schonbrunn on television but was fascinated by the sheer beauty and grandeur of the place – the city of Mozart was always on wish list since then. I do not have a particular interest in royal families or particularly a patron of their shameless display of wealth. (nor any modern day corporate emperor’s either and thankfully royals do not enjoy prestige anymore) But I am always keen on history and the architecture of the Palaces or Castles built. (I may be unable to draw a single straight line but we claim to be family of famous architects) The Schonbrunn is considered only second to Versailles in Europe and boasts of one of the oldest zoos in the world and a huge maze as also a labyrinth . To cover this huge palace, we were given only one hour by our […]

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Kanya Kumari to Kolkatta

Come December and Goa used to be thronged by the ‘Hippies’, a popular term which Indian aunties have described the western folk who ‘‘bared all’ on the golden beaches. Look at her, someone would nudge at the temple, pointing to a girl in a mini skirt with a huge backpack. She looked only sixteen. ‘’Their parents leave them alone and then they do these vulgar things’’. I didn’t’ bother listening to the remarks. For the seven year old me, the girls were awesome, travelling alone in a foreign land. In fact there may be so many Indian ladies young and old consumed by the wanderlust and yet whose dreams are shunned. Why? They are women.How will my Beti go alone? The question parents ask so often has broken many a dreams. School in faraway place? No.College in different town? No, will she be safe? Will get into bad habits. Job in different town? Nahi… koi baharwala ladka mil gaya toh. Achha, sasural in different town? Hesitation. Pata nahi kaise log honge!  I agree safety is a concern but overprotection is yet another. Today education for girls is no longer a debate but I appeal to the new age parents of today – let your daughter roam freely in her own city, let her commute late hours from work, take that week long education trip, go for a hike in sahyadris, stay in a camp with boys and girls and travel to different parts of […]

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Cornwall via Achara – Nostalgia

Last August, we made a road trip to Tintagel, Cornwall a coastal village in South West of England. Cornwall is renowned for its wild moorland landscapes and its long and varied coastline. Undoubtedly, the road was picturesque and we had more than our share of delicious sea food.  Yet, from the beginning of the trip, I was in a ‘rewind’ mode, a bit nostalgic. For reasons unknown, I was recollecting my innumerable road trips to ‘Achara’, my ancestral village. This was long before the Konkan railway was constructed and a Mumbaikar had to make a long road journey to reach his native home.As a very young child, I barely remember reaching ‘Achara’ in daylight as the enthusiasm at the start of the trip in Mumbai would have died out in exhaustion at 9.00 p.m. when we reached the village. My baby sleep would be awoken only by the call of a cuckoo and the gentle rays of sunlight passing through the ‘Criss-cross’ patterned large windows. While the elders relaxed in the front courtyard with a cup of tea, I set myself a task of collecting the ‘Champa’ and ‘Aboli’ flowers. The rest of the day was spent merrily at the water tank and well or spotting a frog or telling a cousin very bravely that I stood still when I saw a snake!I can safely say that I have spent more time at Achara compared to my cousins. In fact I […]

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Turkish Delights : Istanbul

The mild lamps dangling from the sky high ceiling creates a twinkle in your eyes. The poetic blue grandeur of the prayer hall of the Blue Mosque bewitches you. The blue and red tulip patterns on the ceiling are subtle yet magical. You step into the courtyard of this 400 year old mosque and you are out of a blue dream. The only other distraction: the horn of ship sailing in the blue sea in the backdrop whilst the pleasant evening air tickles your face. We were in the historic city of Istanbul, once renowned as Constantinople. An important destination on the Silk Route. The city spread over two continents was once the pearl in the crown of the Roman(later Byzantine) Empire until the Ottoman’s invaded the city.The Bosporus which connects the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea, divides the city into two sides (technically three) i.e. European and Asian. Our love affair with the city began as our jovial young taxi driver took us to our hotel passing the tiny zig zag traffic laden streets at the Old city centre i.e. Sultanahmet. Whilst the lorries ahead of us, off loaded the goods at luxury in middle of the street, we were lip syncing to a Turkish song with the taxi driver. (I hummed a Bollywood version one) We knew we were somewhere close to home.Being the Research guide for the group, I had mapped a list of places to […]

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The Netherlands – Windmills, Cheese and the Dark Swan

The ReasonThe glimpse of vast green fields lined with canal streams and windmills of all sizes greeted me from the tiny plane window as I landed the Schipol Airport and the drive to Leiden to meet Suruchi tai added to the eagerness of exploring a foreign land. Such is the beauty of the online world, that it gives you opportunities to meet a seemingly stranger over a few pleasant exchanges. Tai is Aditya’s cousin and we know each other only through facebook!The Dutch styled home felt so welcoming thanks to the hospitality of the hosts! My humble rented apartment at wimbeldon seemed like a pigeon hole compared to their spacious home. Chatter with tai gathered momentum over garam garam polis and experiences we had while staying abroad. We spoke as if we knew each other for a long time.  The next noon, I took a train to Amsterdam to continue the rest of my trip to meet my dear friend Hrishi and his new wife Sonal who were coming from Mumbai via Germany. The plan was to spend a weekend at Amsterdam with our spouses. However hubby couldn’t join and I decided to go ahead. The last time I met Hrishi was the day when I left India for London and I was really looking forward for this trip. I might add that our friendship has lasted over years now as also across continents! (In Mumbai we have been breakfast buddies […]

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On the Banks of Danube : Budapest

I have a confession to make. I cannot do a selfie. But I have this secret desire to get a professional photo shoot done in Black and White wearing a period costume in a historic backdrop.I think I have found my location. Budapest. I was pretty excited as this was my first European destination outside UK. We had no intentions to visit it soon but we tagged along with Dev and Preeti to bring in the new year.As our taxi from the airport drove from the outskirts to the city centre of Pest, we could see shabby looking flat style housing complexes indicating that we were indeed in Eastern Europe.Look at that! All of us exclaimed looking at a grand building with a Green-Yellow mosaic roof-top. The colours stood out so well amidst the blackened, old buildings in the city. As we said good bye to our friendly taxi driver to alight at our hotel round the corner, all of us gasped at the building which stood next to it.With the windows broken, it reminded me of the old bombed Passport office building in Mumbai. Was the hotel alright? Oh! Yes it was! It had retained its old world interiors and was bit too warm for Londoners. We speedily got ready to explore the city and feed ourselves to Hungarian cuisine. Preeti moaned that she couldn’t take the old world buildings anymore. They were simply everywhere. The streets were sparsely […]

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