Tag Archives: roadtrip

1 Day: 3 Countries!

I chose Vienna-The capital of Austria and Europe’s darling, as the destination for my 22nd birthday celebration. For a traveler there is no such thing as mediocrity  and keeping this in mind, my friends and I decided to do something different on this trip.. Let me introduce you to our “milestone plan”- an ambitious goal to travel across three different countries in one day, with the objective of having breakfast in Hungary, lunch in Austria and dinner in Slovakia. This may seem like an impossible feat to many, but I’am proud to say that despite several hiccups along the way, we ended up as Supernovas. Here goes how..

Vienna, Austria
Vienna, Austria

For starters, we landed in Bratislava, Slovakia amidst a snow storm. Unable to see much around we immediately took the express bus to Vienna. You can imagine our relief when Vienna came to us with sunshine and colors!

 

Ring boulevard, Vienna
Ring boulevard, Vienna

Vienna at first glance is an incredibly beautiful city. Austria as a country is immensely scenic. For the purpose of recreation, imagine “the sound of music” shot across Salzberg, another city in Austria. Vienna looks like a city that is culturally rooted and yet competitively urban.

city center, Vienna
city center, Vienna

 

The largest city in Austria, Vienna is buzzing with activity throughout the year. Picture well planned streets, colorful markets, eccentric jazz clubs, gorgeous public buildings- especially the public library and historic monuments spread generously across the city.

Gorgeous walks along Vienna
Gorgeous walks along Vienna

The city offers several photo opportunities through day and night, and has especially quaint and  well designed traditional cafes and age old pubs.

Vienna is well connected by its trams which also add to its aesthetic value
Vienna is well connected by its trams which also add to its aesthetic value

The roads of Wein are always  brimming with tourists, students, artists and performers. It is one of the few cities where you can clearly demarcate between large groups of people who are typical office goers and another group which makes its living through art! Walking around the city is easy, although there may be a language barrier for those not fluent with German. An impressive monument expressing the culture of this country is the  Hoffgurg imperial palace.

The majestic Hoffberg
The majestic Hoffberg

The architecture of the palace is intricate and traditional, and today the palace is home to the National library, war museum as well as the Spanish horse riding school.

Outside the National museum of Wein
Outside the National museum of Wein

What intrigued me the most about the Hoffberg was the museum of Ethnography, which accounted the day to day lives of kings and queens that have resided in the palace over time.

National museum of Vienna houses the war museum as well
National museum of Vienna houses the war museum as well

The ring boulevard is another beautiful spot in Vienna which offers great pictures. The Austrian parliament, an imposing building can also be seen from here. The boulevard is scenic, historically rich and home to the Natural museum and the museum of Fine Arts, majorly inspired by the Italian renaissance.

Museum of fine arts
Museum of fine arts

In the heart of the city is the gorgeous St. Stephen cathedral, a magnificent church with an extremely large roof and high tower. The church square is the main part of the city center and is extremely tourist friendly.

St. Stephen cathedral
St. Stephen cathedral

We made lots of local friends here, and even struck upon a lucrative deal with a local vendor selling Opera passes. We were later upgraded to the VIP section of the show leading to a night dipped in the glory of ancient Wein and sparkling champagne.

The Opera
The Opera

We walked past Kalskirche, the building opposite the  cathedral and then down the Blutgassen district road to the ever colorful Naschmarket! The Blutgassen district has intricate, winding roads and many hidden alley ways if you know where to look.

Blutgassen district leading to the Naschmarket
Blutgassen district leading to the Naschmarket

A foodie’s delight, the Naschmarket is like an Indian bazaar- dynamic and full of variety. We bought home a variety of spices and chocolates although a large part of the market caters to fresh meat and pork sausage stalls.

Naschmarket
Naschmarket

The anchor clock hangs proud at the city center, representing the Austrian spirit and culture. For those who love to shop, the street behind St.Stephen cathedral is a shopper’s absolute delight. Mainly a high street you will find everything ranging from Tiffany’s, Mcqueen, Prada to Ferragamo and Ferretti!

Usual sights along the roads of Wien
Usual sights along the roads of Wien

However, moving on to the traditional treasures of Vienna, the Belvedere palace and the peripherally located Schonbrunn palace are tourist delights. The Schonbrunn palace is immensely beautiful and is spread across giant acres of land. The palace provides front and back views of landscapes spread out till as far as the eye can see. We spent hours running across and exploring the snow spread grounds of the palace. The immensity of the property is awe inspiring and I recommend an entire day for this tourist spot if you really want to see every nook and corner of the schonbrunn.

Schonnbrunn palace, Austria
Schonnbrunn palace, Austria

Visiting the Schonbrunn gave us the opportunity to check out the train service in Austria as well, which was a delight owing to the scenic views of the country one gets through the journey.

The view from Schonbrunn palace
The view from Schonbrunn palace

Coming back to my personal ambition, I spent my birthday night at a high profile club of Vienna, Le Babenberger Passage- thanks to my absolutely amazing friends. This club is located under the ground and definitely not easy to find unless you know where to look.

Cosmopolitran night at the Babenberger Passage
Cosmopolitran night at the Babenberger Passage

The Passage hosts great crowds, international music circuits and interesting drink profiles, Absinthe cocktails being one of their specialties. Having spent a large part of our power trip in Vienna, we spent the rest of the trip traveling across Hungary and Slovakia! and this brings me to the goal story:

One day- Three countries

On the last day of our trip, we set out from Budapest in Hungary. We started the day early and left Hungary after a heavy breakfast from the International bus station of Budapest. Yellow buses available from here ride to Prague, Austria and other neighboring countries at hourly intervals.

Lunch in Vienna
Breakfast in Hungary

Next, we landed in Vienna, Austria at around 2:30 pm and absolutely famished, made our way to our favourite street along the city center to Akakiko, an amazing restaurant serving fresh Maki rolls and heavenly sushi! You can find the link to the restaurant in case you’re curious- http://www.akakiko.at/  🙂

Lunch in Vienna
Lunch in Vienna

Post an afternoon lavishly in Vienna, we once again made our way by road- to Bratislava! I must take  a minute here to talk about Slovakia. I had a great experience in Slovakia, especially with the incredibly hospitable hotel staff. The city center of Bratislava is gorgeous! Lit up with fairy lights and theme restaurants, this square is absolutely delightful. Aiming to end the night well with a cuisine we had not tried before, we decided to check out this fabulous Spanish restaurant called Rio.. A must try in case you’re there.

Dinner in Slovakia!
Dinner in Slovakia!

 

Bratislava is often preferred for Bachelor and Bachelor-ette parties and is commonly called the party hub of Central Europe with a wide range of clubs and services to pick from.

The gorgeous city center of Bratislava
The gorgeous city center of Bratislava

Alternatively, Central Europe is a must visit for anyone who might be intrigued by the idea of contemporary influence of art on vanishing cultures. It is especially a delight for people who may love art, music and philosophy.

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This trip made me richer by experience and ensured the birthday of a lifetime. Funny moments are always an integral part of any travel journey, and we had loads of these as well, with “Mom” fits in hotel rooms, best friend-ing locals at dingy clubs and especially this one incident where my friend Hrishi thought he was going to “die” because a taxi driver tried to zoom off before Hrishi was safely seated “inside” the taxi.  Of course, this might have been because Hrishi was infact too slow to get in and the clueless taxi driver miscalculated his entry into the taxi. Irrespective,  threw a raging tantrum only to be instantly pacified with a chocolate from the extremely apologetic taxi driver. This indeed is the story…of how hrishi and “that taxi driver Dave” became best friends.

"No matter what girls, you must never mess with a man's pocket scarf!"- wise words of the funniest guy alive
“No matter what girls, you must never mess with a man’s pocket scarf!”- wise words of the funniest guy alive

So, if you want to visit three countries in a day, or set a similar milestone for yourself- try road tripping through Europe. Having done it myself, I must admit that it will definitely be one hell of an adventure. 🙂

vienna-at-night-14

 

Kadinche, Bhutan :)

Bhutan, better known as the last Shagri-La- Bhutan is a divine country.

Incredible Bhutan!
Incredible Bhutan!

It wont be wrong if i said that Bhutan is magic! I remember feeling very unsure about what to expect when “the explorers” first broke it to us that we would be visiting Bhutan next ! The thing was, I knew nothing about Bhutan, quite literally. This is the reason why what happened in the next ten days blew my mind.

Gateway to Bhutan
Gateway to Bhutan

We flew to Sealdah, Kolkata and then travelled by road to Jaigaon, a little town in Bengal that shares the border with Bhutan. One look at the Majestic gate of the Royal republic of Bhutan mermerised us. we had our permits checked and moved into the town of Pheuntsholing.. and might I say, it was incredible. Colourful, grand and absolutely majestic. It was hard to believe that we had moved into another drastically country just in a span of 2-3 minutes.

First look of Bhutan
First look of Bhutan

If you are traveling to Bhutan, do not come back without trying every variety of momos they have. The food in Bhutan comprises alot of red rice and curries, but the momos are absolutely incredible. Definitely a must try.

Bhutan- Paradise on earth!
Bhutan- Paradise on earth!

The locals in Bhutan are very like-able. They love smiling at foreigners, making them happy, and before you know it, you get into the habit of smiling a lot too.

Colours of Bhutan
Colours of Bhutan

We left after lunch for Timphu, the capital of Bhutan. As you leave Pheuntsholing, one can see the tiny lane snaking up the hills to Thimphu.

The hills snaking towards the city of Paro
The hills snaking towards the city of Paro and Thimphu

Bhutan is a land of stories, beliefs and faith. One instance which led me to believe in this was the presence of hundreds of little pots along the mountains of Bhutan, which as per Bhutanese culture bore the remains of its ancestors.

Bhutanese people offer great photo opportunities :)
Bhutanese people offer great photo opportunities 🙂

The people of Bhutan believe that these “tshakas” protect the country and its people from the evil forces. The “land of the thunder dragon” or Druk yul as referred to by the people is a monarchy and is represented by the Dragon.

Tsakhas- the ancestral remains that are believed to protect the country
Tsakhas- the ancestral remains that are believed to protect the country

The gorgeous town of Thimphu was quite, peaceful and a hub of the political buildings of the country, one of the most important being the Tasiccho-dzong or the parlimentary house.

The Parliamentary building
The Parliamentary building

We visited the beautiful nunnery called the Drubthob Goemba, followed by the Tango Monestery and  Chery Monestery. The lower markets turned out to be a delight as we shopped for natural creams, powders and what-nots.

Tatsang monastery, Bhutan
Takhtsheng monastery, Bhutan

Our next stop was the serene town of Paro, and it was here that we started our trek to the Taktsheng monestery- better known as the Tiger’s nest! The climb up to the monestery is steep and extremely dangerous. Alot of people climb the monestery half way and then turn around. It is believed that the Monestery holds so much divine power that even if a person starts the climb with the genuine intention of reaching to the top, he is blessed. What comes after the “half was climb” and what we noticed to our horror was the “valley of death”! Literally known as the Valley of death, The climb was followed by a tricky and very slippery descent into a valley with no barriers and safety nets!  I still feel the thrill of the experience, even today. A good 3.5 hours later, we finally made it to the top of the Monestery, and the feeling was non comparable to anything I have experienced before. I don’t know whether it was the satisfaction of having done something that will make me proud for life, or whether it was the sheer divinity of this sanctuary where little girls and boys were training, studying to be monks.

On the trek up to the Tiger's nest
On the trek up to the Tiger’s nest

A life of sacrifice and selflessness, so high above everything else in the world.. You have to experience it once to know what that feels like. We did end up catching the take off routine of one of the only three flights which would fly from Paro airport (The only airport in Bhutan) from the Bird’s eye view.. but nothing after could top the Taktshang Monestery and what it had left me with.

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Little local at the Drubthob Goemba

Today, when I remember Bhutan, I smile..What comes to my mind if the happy faces of children, the lovable demeanor of the locals..even the animals there seemed affectionate, kind of polite. 🙂

Inside a local house in Bhutan
Inside a local house in Bhutan

 

If you do happen to visit the last Shangri-La at some point in your life, remember to carry a very good camera.

Beautiful people
Beautiful people

The country may be geographically isolated but its got some of the most beautiful sceneries I have seen in the world, and whats incredible is that, even though you will try to capture every bit of the beauty there, you will most probably come back with a camera filled with happy, shiny faces of the people. They love to smile, and even the little children love being on camera. All the best 🙂

Happy Bhutan :)
Happy Bhutan 🙂

Leh, Ladakh- 2009!

My cupboard has always been full of innate postcards and city maps from several cities around the world, most of which I did not recognize for a long long time. You see, the love for travel runs in my genes..My father was a traveler at heart, and one of the ways i feel the most connected with him today, after him having gone for 19 years- is through travel.

My first ever experience that made me a traveler- Ladakh trip 2009
My first ever experience that made me a traveler- Ladakh trip 2009

Standing in remote places, staring out at the evening sky and wondering- Was it like this for him too?

Incredible Ladakh!
Incredible Ladakh!

One of the first real travel anecdotes of my life occurred in 2009, when I jumped at the opportunity to visit Ladakh- The frozen desert with my friends on a much awaited college trip. Little did I know that I was leaving my city, never to be the same again.

The beautiful Chandrabhan valley beyond Rohtang pass on our way to Ladakh
The beautiful Chandrabhan valley beyond Rohtang pass on our way to Ladakh

We traveled from Mumbai to Ambala by train, and then by road from Manali to Leh. Let me take the liberty to assert that If you are thinking of traveling in India..You absolutely must do the road trip from Manali to Leh. One of the most beautiful journeys of my life, the road trip turned out to be one full of adventures. If you do travel by road, make sure you drink lots of water.

Along the Mountain curves
Along the Mountain curves

With an average decline of 30% Oxygen, acclimatization is a gradual and necessary process. We stayed the night at Keylong, one of the only bigger towns on the Manali-Leh highway but the real icing on the cake was the temporary lay over at Pang!

Sarchu, on the border of Ladakh and HP
Sarchu, on the border of Ladakh and HP

Once we crossed Sarchu, which is at the Ladakh-Himachal Pradesh border, one of my friends developed hypothermia. Yes, it was that cold.

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Stunning views alone the route through the frozen desert

The delay led us to an unplanned halt at Pang, which was a little settlement made by trucker wives in the mountain tops. It even had a very infamous “loo with a view”.

The view from the loos at Pang
The view from the loos at Pang

May I say, that the night spent at Pang had me waking up at 3 AM, unable to breathe and extremely hungry. I ran out only to find one of the ladies sitting there and she said- “Ah, Finally!”. I still dont know what she meant..but two bowls of Maggi later, I found myself having conversations with the mountains in the middle of the night.

Pang, The night adventure
Pang, The night adventure

The Manali-Leh highway is open to travel only for 4 and half months, but take it from me- each of the 475 kilometers of that journey comprises the journey of a lifetime.

Along the passes through the Himalayas
Along the passes through the Himalayas

Having crossed the Lachung-La pass, Naki-La pass and finally the second highest motorable road Baralachala Pass, we finally descended into the green valleys of Ladakh!

Thikshe Monastery, Leh
Thikshe Monastery, Leh

I instantly fell in love with Leh- Its people, Its markets, the German bakery, the Monasteries- I remember feeling, and knowing peace. Pangong lake, the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar rivers had us awestruck followed by a trip to Khardung-la, the highest motorable road of the world.

At the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar rivers, Ladakh
At the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar rivers, Ladakh
Khar dung-la Pass, the highest motorable road in the world
Khar dung-la Pass, the highest motorable road in the world

The trip to Ladakh has given me memories and friends that will last a lifetime.

My little local friend :)
My little local friend 🙂

I remember walking the streets of Leh, guided by nothing but milky moonlight and I remember feeling so much, so much love in that city- that till today, I feel like I would have gladly stayed back there. Soon.. 🙂

Pangong lake, Ladakh
Pangong lake, Ladakh