Category Archives: Travel

Rome wouldn’t let me go

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We were very happy that we actually happened to celebrate our first valentines day after marriage in Rome , Italy , the country of Saint Valentines.It wasn’t actually easy to plan this trip.Europe is very expensive and for a middle class Indian , like me  , to visit Europe  is actually a big financial adventure or should I say misadventure.But did I ever care for money?Never .My logic in life has always been to enjoy the life at present. Who knows , “Kal Ho Na Ho”. 🙂

As renowned Hindi Poet Rahul Sankratyayan wisely said –

सैर कर दुनिया की गाफ़िल , ज़िन्दगानी फिर कहाँ 

ज़िन्दगी गर कुछ रही तो , नौजवानी फिर कहाँ 

The Twist in the tale was that it was becoming more difficult to leave the Rome than it was to come here.You know the reason  in no time if you decide to waste your precious time in reading further.

After having a great day on 14th Feb , we had a great night also 😉 , we had sound sleep.When we woke up , the only thing in our mind was to get our self ready as quickly as possible and reach the station at time.our train to Venice was at 10:30  , that would leave from Termini.I don’t know what made my wife to insist that we took our breakfast in the hotel before leaving for the station but it was a decision which was going cost us a cool 40 Euros and good two hours, I will tell you Why and How-

After finishing our breakfast we headed to the station.I don’t know why but that day frequency of buses was lower than normal.I could sense that it was going to be a tough task to catch the train.Finally bus came.We took the bus and then reached the Metro Station.After disembarking from the bus , we were literally running to board the first available train standing on platform.And we did it.Train started to move and so our Race against Time.Every time train halted at stations along the route , I would push it and pray for it to move fast.And better it doesn’t stop at all. 😉

After a round of  increasing heartbeats and nervous moments , we reached the station. Great ! I took a deep breath.It was just 10:20 AM and train was standing right there at the platform.We were so happy that we could now enjoy our first journey in high-speed EuroStar trains.The reason behind this apparent curiosity was that our Eurail Pass , including reservation , was actually worth more than what we paid for return Air- tickets from Delhi to Rome for two. Facility of Eurail Pass can be availed only by non-European people.Another annoying thing is that we can purchase a second-class Pass only if our age is less than twenty-six year old.If we are above that age-limit then we have to buy only a First-Class Pass.The price difference between these two class are great but only a subtle difference in the luxury and facilities.May be only a glass of juice and two cookies extra.

We went up to find our compartment.That was not a very tough task.First class coaches are generally just behind the engine.So an effortless search.We took our Eurail-pass in the hand , showed it to the Ticket-Collector at platform.He had a look at it and then told us to get it validated.For those who are not familiar with how system works in Europe then I would like to tell them that a travel pass has to be validated by railway officers , generally by stamping and signing so that you can’t misuse/reuse that.You also have to fill the current date before boarding the train.If that is found empty , you have to pay a hefty fine , perhaps twice the price of ticket , I am not sure.

Now starts the not-so-noble way of  Rome to express its affection for us.TC gentlemen told us to get our ticket validated from the Customer-Care Service failing which it would cost us Euro 20.(Though it was written on Eu-rail website that we could also get it validated on the ticket counter ).Just ten minutes were left before the train would leave.I rushed to the customer care counter.There was a small que.I was on the third or fourth position.It took five minutes to reach inside the cabin and another five minutes to explain the situation to the lady inside.But she was probably not getting it.And time was running fast.Sensing that I was running out of time , I literally came out from cabin and ran towards the platform without getting my pass validated.I could see the train moving slowly and I couldn’t do anything.

We missed our FIRST and also the FIRST train in Europe.

Not only did we miss our train , we also lost the validity of our reservation ticket which was valid only for that specific train.Next train was an hour later at 11:30 AM.Another problem arose when I went to book the reservation for next train.Lady at the counter told me to use the automatic ticket-vending machine.If machine could do everything why the hell she was there ? I am very good with machines but my problem was the language.Home screen was in Italian and I wouldn’t know where to touch or press the screen.One time I almost went correctly till it was the time to PAY and I didn’t know how to use the Euro currency notes for cash payment to the machine.It was frustrating.I asked some people around if they knew “English” or would they help me in booking my reservation but unfortunately most of the people present there were ‘foreigners’ .I asked the security officers on duty to help and they proved to be just a better ‘dressed and looking’ extension of our Indian police.In fact Indian police officers are better , at least for me , as they know the  languages which I can understand.

Now came the most interesting part of this interesting scenario.One local old aged man came and ask for money when I was trying to book my reservation through the machine.I had first ignored him.Then I got an idea.I asked if he knew English.Surprisingly he knew.Then I asked for help.He , not surprisingly , knew how to book a ticket and pay through the machine.I gave him one Euro.He asked for more.I hesitantly gave him one more.Two Euros were given as consultancy for booking a Twenty Euro Ticket.A real big deal.

Having booked our reservation ticket solved one of our problems.Another more important thing was to get our ticket validated.I once again went to the customer-relation block and then got myself in a que.This time it had more people waiting to get in.I was at sixth position.As it was just 10:55 now and my train was at 11:30 so I was relaxed.People were taking more time inside the cabin or as I found out when entered that only one lady was handling all the people.Another man who was supposed to be there was no where to see.Well , I got inside a good 15 minutes before the departure of my train.I explained everything to the lady present there.And much to my shock and horror , she told me that I was at wrong place and I should have been at ticket counter to validate my pass.(Surprisingly TC had told me to go to Customer-Care Service earlier).I was still holding my anger.I rushed toward the ticket counter and then I was disheartened to see that there was a huge line at all the counters there.There was no way I could have validated my pass if I follow any of those lines.So I tried to get help from the person who were at the front in the lines.One cute girl actually understood English and tried to help me but at that time it was around 11:25 so even if I happened to get my pass validated instantly I would have missed my train as it would take more than five minutes to reach the train from ticket counter.So , I simply gave up. I , justifiably fuming , started walking toward train.When I got to see it, It was still halting.After ten second it started to move and I could once again do nothing.

We  missed our SECOND  Train (but not last 😉  ) in Europe.

Once again our One Hour and Twenty Euros were wasted.This time , I was going to be very firm and strict with pathetic , ignorant and lazy Italian train staff.I had never missed my train in India because of such silly ignorance or arrogance of train staff.Thing , somehow take a positive turn in the last hour.Though at their own pace.I was very upset.I once again booked reservation ticket for the next train which was to leave at 12:30 am.I once again went to customer-service counter so that I could tell them my problem that I had already missed two trains of mine and as there is big que at ticket counters so if they could help me or not.This time I got to talk to a guy aged around 48-50 and explained my sympathetic situation.He listened carefully and then simply asked for my pass , stamped it and filled up the dates of  journey.And that’s it.I was cursing the lady earlier who refused to do this simple task by herself and sent me to ticket counter.Either she was ignorant and lazy or she was intentionally behaving in this manner.I could never know.But I made sure that she was made aware of what she did to me.I complained to the officer about her , though in a polite tone.I didn’t make a scene but it wasn’t anything which people present there could ignore easily.

Finally , I had my pass validated , reservation tickets and plenty of time to catch the train.

Good bye , Rome !

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Romance with Rome !

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It has been long since I posted on this Blog.I was actually very busy in my professional  life that I hardly found time even to access internet other than for work.Now , I can spare some time for this blog from the busy schedule and would try to complete the series of  travelogue about Europe ,which I started.

Saint Valentine receives a rosary from the Virgin

It was 14th Feb.Ah ! Valentines Day.I don’t have any special memories of it as I was always single and happy. 😉 Though I remember a small incident from our college days.It was a beautiful and sunny day  and I was in my mechanical Lab for the end-semester practical exams.Yeah , everybody was cursing the scheduler of University for that.There was only one girl(The only visible proof of his/her  being girl was that we KNEW she was a girl 😉  ) in our branch.She came to me and asked which day it was. “Wednesday” or “Thursday” ? I don’t know what prompted me to say that  but I replied , “Umm , Its Valentines Day”. She smiled and disappeared.Before your smart brain start working , I would like to say that she was not the type of girl any guy would like to be linked in romantic way, for the reason I mentioned above , and I , absolutely NOT ! If she is  reading this , “Sorry” !  😉

Anyway , I was talking out our second day in Rome , Italy which happened to be Valentines Day also was one of the memorable in our life.After having breakfast at the hotel restaurant, we headed off to the Bus-Stand.And then , once again , traveled without ticket on the Bus(Not our Fault , its just we didn’t know how to buy tickets 😉 to the metro station.After reaching  the metro station Euro-Fermi , we boarded the train and got off at Piramide station.From this station we had to catch a train which would take us to Ostia-Antica , Ruins of an old city in the neighbor hood of Rome. The train which goes to Lido operates on the different line from metro but come under the same administration and our Roma-Pass is allowed to use on that also.After animatedly  inquiring with at least ten locals we finally found the right train.We entered in the train and took the last possible seat in the compartment , so that staring from the locals could be minimized.(Yes , as the only Indian couple in around the Rome at that time of year , we were stared a LOT. ) Train compartment had very basic infrastructure.Sitting option with two row seating with every row having two benches which could accommodate three persons each. But train was almost empty.Some young school-going couples were utilizing the time and privacy to the full of their romantic fantasies.They were smiling , giggling , hugging and kissing each other in a cyclic manner.

It was kind of cute and very beautiful.I find the sight of couples being cozy with each other very beautiful.No , it has nothing to do with voyeurism but plain liking for romanticism.And I was observing it in a way that they don’t get bothered or conscious , but they were frequently seeing towards us and smiling.We  smiled too. They were , I think , acknowledging my presence. And that was when an aged guy , dressed in a suit and looking neat and clean,  came and sat in the front of us.He was looking fine to us till he started staring at us un-apologetically as if he had some issues or thoughts in his mind.Then he opened his mouth and said some words.I didn’t understand , they were in Italian. He repeated those words.I said “English” , “English” ! Obviously , He didn’t know English.I doubt even if he knew that English was a language in his part of world.. I ignored him but he continued to bother me and kept blabbering something in Italian.I just kept seeing in his eyes with an expression “Dude , when are you going to Shut up , or should I just stick your mouth with Feviquick ?” And then he became silent for a moment and then shouted ‘India’ , ‘India’ in a questioning gesture of hands pointing towards us. Yes , we said.He started speaking in loud voice so that anyone at the end of coach can hear it  and started shouting “Kashmir” , ‘Kashmir”.Obviously this guy either had big issues with India or with Kashmir.Or , may be he was plain curious.Till this time , many passengers had boarded the train and it had upgraded from ‘Almost-Empty’ to ‘Almost-Filled’.

The biggest surprise for me was nobody seemed to concern that an old man was verbally stalking to tourists, who don’t understand Italian. No, I didn’t want anyone to intervene.But I expected them to be AWARE and ACKNOWLEDGE what was happening around them.But most of people sat in their seat as if they were Blind , Deaf and Dumb ! No offense meant , but sometimes  ‘some’ Europeans act very “Robotic”  and “self-contained” (I know they call it their “right-to-privacy” ).After failing to fetch any response from me , he became silent and comfortable in his seat and imagination.He started talking to himself .He was visibly very upset and if that is what doctors say ‘psychological problems’ then I sympathize with such old people and pray God to make them healthy.

As train started to move leaving behind the city of Rome , we also left behind the irritating experience with oldman as he got off from the train after two station.People are same everywhere , I got to know.

We reached the ‘Ostia-Antica’ station which was in the midst of a very calm , peaceful and very green surroundings.It was a small town or should I say Village.Very small station.It reminded me of  small station in UP when I used to travel between Kanpur and my native town on holidays by train.The obvious difference was  the number of people present at station.

My Wife at Ostia Antica

We had gone to Ostia Antica to see the ruins of an ancient city predating the Roman Empire.Ostia Antica is a large archeological site, close to the modern suburb of Ostia that was the location of the harbor city of ancient Rome , which is approximately 30 km to the northeast. “Ostia” in Latin means “mouth”. At the mouth of the River Tiber Ostia was Rome’s seaport, but, due to silting and a drop in sea level, the site now lies 3 km from the sea.The site is noted for the excellent preservation of its ancient buildings, magnificent frescoes and impressive mosaics.

After we came out of station , we saw a Snack-Bar(This is the term for a Fastfood/Restaurant in Italy) just in the left front of station.There was no person out there except the owner of Bar.We decided to est something there.We went there and started scanning what was available to eat.And then a very funny incidence happened.As we asked the owner if he had something vegetarian for us , he spoke something in Italian and pointed toward a poster on the wall behind him.I thought it was a Menu but when I came nearer , I was actually a calendar.I was still to figure out what did he want to convey to us.We asked for vegetarian food and he is showing us Calender , but WHY ? Are there some specific days in Italy to have vegetarian food ? Absolutely Not !

He was  saying Lunedi , Martedi , Mercoledi , Giovedi , Venerdi , Sabato and  Domenica  alternatively and would point in the calender( for those who don’t know these are name of days of a week in Italian Language )

After much of brain-storming with  the gentlemen I came to the conclusion that he actually wanted to convey us that ‘Ostia-Antica’ site  , for which we went there , was actually closed that day and he was telling us the days on which it is closed and remain opened. Damn ! we won’t be able to see what  we have come to see  all the way from India to Italy.

We as Indians  looked like clueless tourists to him , so instead of  answering my question if he had any vegetarian things , he instead choose to tell us that we have actually come at the right place but on wrong time. But then , we wouldn’t believe him and after sitting for a while on the chairs out side the bar , we proceeded to actually see and then believe if the ancient site was REALLY closed today.

It’s not that we didn’t  believe local gentlemen but It was because of communication gap that deep in my heart I was telling myself to go and check by our self.We did go there and found that uncle ji was right in suggesting how we had missed an important link in otherwise impeccable plan. Timing is very important , indeed.

We then went back to the station and boarded another train towards the only beach near the city of Rome , that is , Lido.To get to Lido we first had to get off at the station , Columbus.And from there we boarded a bus which would take us on the road in front of the Lido beach.After disembarking from the bus , as we were feeling hungry , we went straight to a superstore and bought some cakes and bananas.We proceeded to the beach eating bananas and cakes.On the way , we found a big empty park with a some benches and Jhoola(rope-rides , is what you say it in English ? ) in the middle.We went there in the middle , sat at the Jhoola and started swinging our self in the air holding our hand firmly on the rope.It was kind of nostalgic for us , and also strange.I used to swing in this kind of rides at our old home in UP  and now I was re-enacting that childhood activity  in a foreign land , 5000 km far from India.And when we got bored or tired of what we were doing then we got off from the that and sat on the on one of the two benches which were available nearby.

It had  just been  five or ten minutes after we sat on the bench just in front of ride we saw an old lady following her cute dog.That doggy was very naughty.He came straight to us and started licking our feet.My wife screamed out of fear.I was laughing and teasing her.By this time old lady came near to us.She was watching  us in a very strange way as if she wanted to say something to us which she was not very sure about.My wife then broke the silence and asked her if she knew English. Inquiring about the knowledge of English was the first thing we used to do before starting any communication in Italy.She said “Yes , a Little Little”.After formal greetings , she came on the point very quickly and informed us that the seat we were sitting on was her ‘Unofficially-Reserved-Seat’.We offered to vacate the seat but she insisted that we remain seated there.Actually she was acting like a typical Aunty Jee of India.Her intention was just to let us know that the seat belong to her and and that she was actually doing a favor to us by letting us sit on it.Another similarity between India and Italy to draw ! ?

 We sat there for half an hour talking to each other in most romantic and doing some *naughty* things over there before we left the park for the beach.Beach was just across the Road.Crossing the road was not very difficult as there was actually a pedestrian crossing there.After crossing the road , we got the see the huge sea.We weren’t actually on a beach but on the side of a road which was separated from the beach by a metal railing.Along the road there was many beach-side bars and restaurant which we , unfortunately , closed as this was winter there.It was mildly cold there.we sat there watching the vast amount of water in front of our eyes holding hand and saying nothing.Leaning on the railing was a couple who were very young , energetic and obviously romantic.They were enjoying their valentines day to the full.We were sitting there on a bench.I was wearing a jacket which I removed and now I was wearing just a pair  of jeans and a cotton shirt with arms folded.It was ten degree and is quite cold by Indian standard and may be even Italian standards.And that is why few people who were present there were looking at me as if I am an alien as they all were either in heavy jackets and/or in overcoats.After some more romantic moments , we left the place and went straight to the bus stand which was just across the road.That was literally a deserted place.Two buses came and left.We were not sure which bus to board.Then came our rescuer.A mid-aged woman.We smiled at each other.And then she said something in Italian. “Coppia Bella”. What ? , we asked. Beauty , beauty .. both .. , she said in broken English..for those who don’t know English she was actually saying “Beautiful Couple.Then I asked her about the bus which would take us to Columbo station.She didn’t understand.She said , “Italiano”.She probably wanted us to know that she only knew Italian language.We then left our hope with English and started speaking in Hindi. 😉

We did have some interesting discussion in our respective language.She kept talking in Italian and I kept talking in Hindi and my wife kept laughing for whole.Though , we still didn’t get to know which bus to board but we then decided that we would board the very next coming to this stand.And we actually did.After reaching at station we boarded the train and changed at Piramide station to proceed to Termini.

'Whining' Woman 😉

Wow , It was evening of Valentines Day in the Saint Valentine’s own country on our honeymoon.It couldn’t be better and perfect than this.Really.I insisted on giving my wife a big bunch of rose which was available in the market but she became emotional and said that you brought me here in Italy on this  special day which is celebrated for Love and it can not be compared with anything in the world.I then decided to have a dinner in a good restaurant.We , after roaming around and checking with the menu , price and ambiance  , decided on a decent restaurant with a decent menu.We had pasta , bread , pizzas and some wine.It was most romantic dinner I could ever have.

We reached at hotel and went into the relaxing mode to recharge our self only to unleash our touristic and romantic vandalism in the floating city of VENICE.

Good Nite , Rome !


Beggars , Buskers and Hookers !

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Having lived most of my life in India , I am used to seeing abject poverty in India’s Urban and Rural areas.The only difference is that in Urban areas  Poverty , Opulence and Beggary co-exist but in rural areas, in spite of poverty , begging is less visible than cities.May be because people are supportive to each other or because of  lack of long-term donors.

Whatever , but I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would have to confront unfortunate sight of degradation of human dignity in  highly developed part of world like Europe.I think that was my ignorance of realism in practical world.

Buskers at Roadside

My first such encounter was when I was travelling in metro between Euro-fermi and Termini Station in Rome , Italy. On Piramide station , one good-looking girl with fairly good dressing boarded the train.Then came her belonging which , on first sight , was looking like a trolley-bag but it was actually a music system with karaoke facility.She assembled and synchronized the music-data with output and then she was ready to “Perform”. I was completely shocked , not because it was a new thing for me but I didn’t expected it to be in a new and developed land.

Then there was this man on the traffic light who wore nothing but an underwear in such a cold evening and then I was totally convinced that problems of mankind are universal and uniform in the world.

Attention Sign Boards

Another surprising and interesting thing was the response of police to tackle hookers.They have actually installed signboards to make people aware about them who will pop out from the trees on highways and start selling their services.

Welcome to Italy !

‘Roman’ , ‘Romani’ and ‘Romanian’

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While reading about Italy on internet I came across a word ‘Romani’ which represents a certain group of ethnic people of Europe.I , with my “self-proclaimed-omniscient” mentality , thought that they(Romani) must either be related with Rome or Romania.My guess was not wild or strange.I mean how many people would not think of ‘Hindi’ as language or people related to ‘Hind’ , ‘Hindustan’ or ‘India’. The structure of word ‘Romani’ would definitely suggest anyone to think along the path where I strayed , rightly because of phonetic and spelling similarity and wrongly due to lack of any actual knowledge of ‘Romani’ people.

Roman ! We all know that people residing under the rule of ancient Roman Empire were  historically called Romans or the people native to the present day country of Italy may be classified as Romans in technical terms if we consider Italy as present day successor of ancient Roman Empire.

Indians returning from trips to Europe usually tend to grouse about the rude rigidity of the Germans, the haughty froideur of the French, the extreme parsimony of the Dutch or the racism of the Austrians.

Italy, however, brings forth altogether different reactions: “They are friendly, garrulous, welcoming, and it is the only place in Europe that vegetarians can get a decent meal. But they are also thieves and double dealers. Given half a chance they’ll take the very shirt off your back and the shoes off your feet and you won’t even know how it happened, a bit like with the Bambaiya pickpockets. But then, you also somehow feel you are on familiar ground.”

The similarities , though not for positive things always , can be established on following behavioral pattern and social norm.

-Italians have very strong family bonding just like Indians and its not very unusual to live with parents after graduation or even after marriage.

-Italians seem to enjoy getting involved whenever there is a “situation” but just a little less actively than Indians.

-Italian Bureaucracy can be proved as frustrating and exhausting to deal with as Indian bureaucracy. 

-Italians are very superstitious just like Indians.For example in southern Italy people aren’t  supposed to trim their nails on Thursday just like in India where its advised not to have hair-cut or trimming of nails on Thursday.

 -Italian mafia controls large swathes of territory just like Land and drug-Mafia in India do.

-Italian police can be ‘managed’ to get rid of fines after paying a bucks or two as bribe.

-In Italy , corruption in public life and polity has become just an unavoidable reality just like India.

-In Italy you can find varieties of beggars , though well-dressed , like India.

-Italians don’t like to buy second-hand material and if they do they do it secretly. And that is why second-hand stores are rarely found in Italy or India.

There are many striking and startling similarities between these two nations and these can be construed as the reason why Sonia Gandhi , born and raised as Italian , has managed to do so well as politician in India. 😉

Without mentioning further about the similarities between India and Italy , I will tell you the reason why I brought those similarities in the discussion.The reason is to bring the attention of readers to an interesting observation that even though ‘Roman’ and ‘Romani’ people are not same they have striking similarities or ties with India.I tell you how.

Romanis, Roma or Roms, are an ethnic group living mostly in Europe, who trace their origins to the Indian Subcontinent. Romani are also widely known in the English-speaking world by the exonym Gypsies.

Linguistic and genetic evidence indicates the Romanies originated from the Indian subcontinent, emigrating from India towards the northwest no earlier than the 11th century. The Romani are generally believed to have originated in central India, possibly in the modern Indian state of Rajasthan, migrating to the northwest (the Punjab region, Sindh and Baluchistan of modern-day Pakistan and India) around 250 BC.

Irony ! Some people say that Aryans came from Outside.

The fact that there exist an ethnic minority in Europe , which migrated from India some thousand years ago , and have identity , culture and  language completely different from Indian diaspora is very  interesting , appealing and exciting enough for me to write here.

As for Romanians , Wikipedia says –

“The Romanian people are a nation in the meaning of ethnos (Romanian:etnie), defined by the sense of sharing a common Romanian culture,descent, and having Romanian as mother tongue, not by citizenship or by being subjects to any particular country.”

To me , the difference between these three spell-cousins are clear 🙂

Roma : A time travel in History !

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Very few cities in the world have retained their ancient history and heritage and proudly flaunt it to the visitors at every step they take.Roma is one of those few cities which are not only rich in history but also have , beautifully and rightly so , displayed fantastic amalgam of history with modernity to the world.

When I woke up to my first morning in Rome and opened my eyes , for one minute I couldn’t recognize where and why I was.I was trying hard to match the image of my bedroom in India with interior of hotel room in Rome.Luckily I regained my sense and reminded myself that I am not at my home but five thousand Km far from my city in a different continent and country.Though,I had arranged the whole tour by myself starting from booking flight-tickets,Eu-rail Pass , hotel bookings to the identification of interest points and was not bind to any strict tour plan.But still I had made some information handy in an excel sheet like ‘which bus or train to catch’,’when and which place to visit’,etc..


According to the plan , today , we have to go to city center and visit the historical monuments and museums in the city of Rome probably on an hop-on hop-off bus service.As we have opted for ‘breakfast-included’ booking , we don’t want to miss our break-fast and considering that it is already 9:00 am and restaurant will not entertain anyone coming after 10:00 there is a real possibility for that to happen if we don’t speed up the things a little.(No,it’s not a “tense-on”,I am “in-tension-ally” writing in present tense,if you notice,for a change. 🙂 )

Knowing fully well that people reading this are not very keen to know what is there in the breakfast but I would still tell you in brief.It is continental in nature and looks and appear very artificial and bald to die-hard fans , like us, of Desi breakfast.I am now taking a small tour of dining area and making some silent decision in my mind of dishes I may include in my breakfast today.It is a meal based on lighter Mediterranean breakfast traditions.It consists of coffee and milk and hot chocolate with a variety of sweet cakes such as waffles/pancakes, brioche and starchy foods such as croissants, with a sweet jam, cream, or chocolate filling. It is being served with juice.This also include sliced cold meats, such as salami or ham, yogurt or cereal, or a slice of cheese. I have now selected “British Breakfast Tea” with latte,Cakes,Orange Juice and bun with jam and cheese for my first meal of this morning… Let me enjoy it first before I lead to Roma 🙂

Near City Center !

Our first objective is to reach city center which is close to all the historical monument , heritage buildings and ruined symbols of majestic Roman Empire.We reach to the bus stand , through underpass, which is situated across the road in front of our hotel and start waiting for the bus which will take us to Eurofermi Metro Station.Now that we have reached here ,we aim to purchase ‘Roma-Pass’ ,for 25 Euro , that will entitle us to unlimited travel on Buses , Metro , Trams , Free entry to first three Museums visited and a healthy discount on the rest , for three days.

Now , we have boarded the Metro and shall be arriving at main train station of Rome,’Termini’, that is very close to city center.Being consistently exposed to the accusation by Americans and European people that “Indians Stare”,I innocently assumed that it shall be a different experience in Rome , an European City. How wrong I was! I along with my wife are objects of constant and consistent staring by fellow-travelers , all Europeans, even though our dress and behavior is very local and uninviting for any stares.But ‘color’ can not become fair by ‘Fair and Lovely’. Let me also tell you that as we have come to Europe in winters so there are tourists from Asian countries and I am yet to see any Indian traveler here.May be the reason of stares we are facing in Rome is that there are very Indians/Asians around at this time of year.Whatever, but I logically and fairly concluded that staring is subconscious and mostly unintentional act by majority of people which is result of natural curiosity rather than any malicious intent.

We reach at Termini and comE out of the station following the ‘Uscita'(Exit ,in Italian)sign boards.It’s surprising how many people think Uscita is an Italian town accessible from every train station they’ve visited in Italy. 🙂

We now proceed out of Metro station through an underground way which opens in the sidewalk of a road in front of Termini Station.Wow ! Weather is perfect , view is awesome and our excitement is on cloud-nine.Roman architecture is Magical.Though , there is less variation in the structures of buildings but they are wearing almost every color in the rainbow.Pink , Orange , peach , blue , grey are among the most visible.I know its very childish to say but I have a fetish for these European buildings which have an aura of mystery and arrogance.

On the roof of Bus !

We now feel like having something to eat as the breakfast was very light.It is 11:00 am.The sight of a ‘pizzeria’ don’t help us to curb our hunger either.So , we surrender our self to one of the basic instincts and necessity of human life , that is , hunger.This is a very small eatery and has many varieties of Pizzas.Mushroom , Chicken , Cheese , onion , tomato , potato and fish.And most surprising was to see that pizzas are not always round shape here but they are being made in a rectangular tray.The man at counter with cutlery in hand do ask us for the size of piece he should cut and then put in on the weighing machine and tell us the price.After making it hot in oven he serves it to us.The shape , size and method of serving pizza is totally new to us and we are surprised.Any way size and shape of pizza will never change the taste of it and that is why , what we eat here is very tasty.The economically-pleasant surprise for us is that it cost us only ‘three point something’ Euros for a meal of two.And we know that this place is certainly going to be frequented by us in coming days.

Having our stomach full of pizza and coke , as planned , we are just going to opt for a Hop-On Hop-off service.Before we can even take a step outside above-mentioned pizzeria , a clever travel agent from ‘Greenline Tours’ who has actually identified our self as tourist , did approach us for the same.His offer is 20 Euro per person for a 24 hour service.Before we can think of negotiating here comes his discounted offer.He is offering a price of 16 Euro Per Person.We have opted for it.After a wait of around 10 minutes our bus is ready to go.Though its quite cold but we make it a point to sit on the open roof of bus as I think this is what Hop-On Hop-off service is for.

Colosseo !

Well it is a sunny day in winter and we are enjoying the sun on the top of bus.On the side of seats there are a multiple-language earphones to guide tourist throughout the tour.But that is hardly audible and clear , so useless facility.It stops at every place mentioned in the itinerary and then leaves for next destination.In all , that is not experience worth 18 Euros.It took us to Piazza Venezia , Colosseo ,Circo Massimo , Isola Tiberina , San Pietro ,Piazza della Repubblica, stops close-by to the Trevi Fountain, Santa Maria Maggiore, Sant’Angelo and Piazza Barberini.

One thing I notice here is  that mostly people use small cars saving lots of fuels unlike Americans and the shape , size and make  of cars are very familiar to my Indian eyes.I can even see  cars of one biggest Indian brand on roads.One of many strange things is that shape and size of some cars are not matching with usual names that we are familiar with in India. For example , Chevrolet “Spark” in India is sold as ‘Matiz’ here in Italy and what is called “Beat” in India is sold here as “Spark”.That is quite confusing and surprising.Anyway we are feeling hungry again and will head to to our ‘cheap and best’ pizzeria , again.This time we are going to have more than last time.After having our stomach full of authentic roman pizza , we are wandering on the streets of Rome , aimlessly in the area surrounding Termini-Station.

Matiz of Italy !

'Spark' of Italy !

The only Asians I see here in substantial numbers are Bangladeshis and they mostly own cybercafe , Indian Restaurants , Public Telephone office (That is damn cheap , 10 Minutes in 1 Euro to India), Fruits vendors , vegetables vendors , grocery stores and also sell some cheap toys on the footpath illegally.(We have actually bought one which is a pink rubber-ball filled with strange liquid and when it is thrown on a hard surface it sticks to that and takes shape of splashed water and then after some time takes its original shape of ball )

Now its 7:00 PM and time to go to our hotel.We have taken our dinner at Bangladeshi Dhaba where we ate ‘Indian Daal'(There was nothing Indian in that) , Tortilla(Roti) and Fried potatoes as ‘Aloo ki Subzi’. And , in the case we get hungry in the night , we have also got some pizza packed from our favorite ‘Pizzeria’ just for 4 Euros. Damn Cheap !

We now take  the Metro from ‘Termini’ to ‘Eurofermi’ station which is close to our Hotel.And we are still being stared,once in a while, by the people around returning from their work.After arriving at ‘Eurofermi’ we find it difficult to get a direct bus to our hotel and that is when we get in contact with this girl who was working in ‘Turino’ as domestic help and hails from Philippines.And she tells us which bus to catch to get to our hotel.We stand there on a bus-stop and that is when I see this beggar , a white Caucasian man , who is wearing nothing except his underwear.I am just shocked ! I mean ,in an European country with US $36,000 per capita income why should anyone bear something like this ?( I will write a different post on the Beggars , Buskers and Hookers in Italy)I always believed that countries of western Europe implement the social security schemes with strictness unlike India where public money meant for poor never reach them.May be I forgot that Italy is just 15 steps behind in corruption in the list of Transparency International.Grass is always greener on other side , as we say, apply here in true sense.

We board the bus now and are going to our Hotel..We have reached and after taking a shower and having our dinner ..we will take a much required sleep to be ready for another adventurous journey in rural Italy at Ostia Antica-Good Night-We said to Rome ! 🙂

When in Rome , We were Romans !

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Finally we reached to our destination for which we planned with great excitement and enthusiasm a good six months in advance. There were moments of anxiety and desperation when we were still to get our ‘Schengen Visa’ and departure date was arriving in ten days.Refusal of Visa could have spoiled the most romantic and lovely phase of our wedding ceremony.

Schengen Visa

Though I had a back-up plan of Visiting to Moscow and St Peters-berg in Russia , but Europe was our priority.Luckily and finally we got our Visa.

I would check my Visa-Status at least fifty times a day.That was crazy.And when I received the message from VFS Global(Visa outsourcing Company) that our passports have been received , I was even more nervous as they didn’t tell me if my Visa was granted or refused.When I reached VFS Ofiice in Nehru Place , Delhi and collected my Passport , which was in a closed envelop , I decided not to check it until I reached home.After reaching home I opened the envelop and started flipping the pages of Passport , I couldn’t find the Visa-Page of ‘Schengen’ but only previously stamped Visas of other countries toured by me in the past.I was shattered and hopeless.And then when I was just thinking of throwing my passport in the shelf , I felt a thick page.Wow , I turned and it was licence to my dream ..Europa ! I was euphoric and instantly called my wife who was in fact more nervous than me… I could hear her scream on the phone.. 🙂

Hotel-Pool

Now I am coming to where we had reached in last post , that is , Rome. After reaching our hotel ‘Christoforo Colombo’, we went straight to the check-in counter and it was smooth.But nobody bothered to escort us to the room.They just gave us keys and showed us the direction of room.And it was a “Four-Star’ Hotel.In India , even in two-three star hotels , we get our luggage transported by the staff. Welcome to Europe ! 🙂

Eurma-2 , Mall adjacent to our Hotel

It was around 9:30 pm local time and we could have missed our dinner if we didn’t take our shower fast after such a long and tiring journey. After taking shower we went out to find something to eat.There was this big mall “Euroma-2” adjacent to hotel.It was about to close so we hurried a little and inquired about any eateries there.My wife asked a gentleman in the parking if we can get any Indian restaurant here.He gave some Idea but it was too late and staff was collecting trolleys from the parking space and were shutting down the whole place.So it was almost sure that we had to depend on what our Hotel-restaurant had to offer for just 15 Euro per person.And options were very limited.

Hotel Restaurant

I don’t remember exactly but it was something like a combination of Spaghetti with bacon , Tomato and ‘patate fritte'(french fries) with water.Bacon was out of question as I am a vegetarian(I eat egg , though).My wife eats non-veg but not the raw-type which was available there.So we had to adjust with spaghetti with tomato and french fries.When I drank water I felt something is wrong.I examined the wrapper and found out a word something like ‘gassed’ though it was written in Italian but I somehow found out that It was actaully not water but carbonated water which is also called ‘Sparkling Water’ or ‘Soda water’ in US and Britain respectively.We got it exchanged with still water.Already having enough excitement in the days , we just wanted to lie on our bed and sleep … so “Sweet Dreams” , we said to each other. 🙂

Ardhangini-(Better Half) !

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When I showed this Blog to my wife she asked why her picture with me is not on the blog after all I am your ‘ardhangini’ and have full right to be with you anywhere , everywhere. I said , this is a public blog and not a social website. “Isn’t ‘public’ made up of “Individuals” ?, she asked.She was right , and here we are !

We , 'The Couple' at our Engagement !

She is the best thing happened to me ever.Marrying her is the only good decision I have taken in my life 🙂 , and the trip after marriage to Europe was unforgettable not only because of pristine beauty of Europe but also because of her lovely , vivacious and gorgeous presence.

Now , I have decided to write about my Euro-Trip which was full of all the excitement and (mis)-adventures of missing trains , eating loads of Pizzas and falafel , talking with strangers in rural Italy without knowing each other’s language , dancing with strangers and getting free stuff by a generous lady in Venice.

Terminal-3 at IGI , New Delhi , India

I think I should start describing my journey with the mention of Magnificent , Monstrous and Magical new Terminal-3 of IGI airport , New Delhi.Last time I visited this airport was when I returned from Dubai and always hoped in my heart and dreamed in my sleep that some day Delhi also gets its share of shining glories which all the big airports in Asia are already basking in.Terminal-3 in Delhi is truly a world-class architecture marvel , swanky and ‘International’.I was pleasantly surprised to see foreign travelers picking their camera and come in to action at the airport itself at arrivals area where many ‘Mudras’ of Hands are depicted using huge metallic structures.This was in a stark contrast with what we earlier had.Old Airport terminal was just a ‘cleaner’ version of New-Delhi railway station with a dim and dull look.Staff was also in sync with vibes of place.Now IGI actually look like an Airport.

Moscow Airport

My first destination was Rome,Italy via Moscow , Russia where we had a nine-hour stop at airport.Our bad-luck that we couldn’t arrange the transit visa for Moscow because we got our Schengen Visa just 5 Days before our departure.That means we had to abandon our plans to take short tour of city of Moscow.I always like the colorful and dreamy architecture of Kremlin and it was painful not to be able to see while in the city.Anyway , we utilized our time to full at the airport itself by shopping , eating chips , having a talk with an Indian who was working in Australia and was on the way to Ukraine for his work.We shared our home-made sweets with him.It was a good passing time in that way in a foreign city at airport where language was a very big barrier.Yes , they won’t take Euros.”Only Rubel” was the common reply.So we did convert our 10 Euros with Rubals and we did get lots of it.Flavors of ‘Lays’ were totally different from what we get here in India.Mostly,non-veg flavors were available.We managed to get some vegetarian flavors like ‘cheese’ and ‘cucumber’ and I must tell you that both flavors were terrible for me.I didn’t like them but my wife kept on eating with great enthusiasm and finished the ‘Cheesed’ one.She also didn’t like the ‘cucumber’ flavor but our above-mentioned fellow-Indian-Australian liked this flavor and we ‘gifted’ the whole pack to him.

My wife At Moscow Airport !

But I never thought that a pack of chips of cheese flavor is going to be the main culprit for spoiling our mood in the air.’Cheese’ had started showing its malicious intent and my wife fell sick.I along with the whole crew of plane was tense as Rome was still two hours away and there was no improvement in her conditioned.I was so upset that if happened even before our honeymoon started.Luckily her condition became better after the regurgitation of material from stomach.And they she slept like baby in my arm but whole crew had kept coming asking for the well-being of her till the plane landed in Rome.

Colosseum , Rome

WOW ! we were on our honeymoon in our favorite city , country and continent.We were SO HAPPY ! I took a taxi and went straight to hotel.It took 18 minutes and 36 Euros…price of a one way flight from Delhi to Lucknow.. “Welcome to Europe”, We said to each other ! 🙂

A Cigarette Shock !

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Though , I didn’t have much cultural shock in my last Europe visit as the life I live here in India is nothing different than Europe except that I live with my parents and can’t(actually don’t ) kiss my wife in their presence.

I was in Mestre , Venice and came down from from hotel room to the footpath just in front of the hotel entrance to smoke.As I had opted for Non-Smoking room , so had to rush down stairs.

There was heavy rain outside and people were standing under the roof of bus stop which was also just in front of the Hotel.Adjacent to Hotel was a big supermarket and people were walking past behind and in front of me.

Suddenly a guy came , ( I am sure , he was local Italian ) and stopped just 4-5 feet away from and and we made eye contact.I was stone-faced.No expression ! He came forward.I ignored him.He came nearer , I was a little concerned.He came within the slapping-radius of my hand and then I could smell his breath and finally he broke the tension and silence and said “CIGARETTE” pointing towards the Marlboro pack in my hand. I gave him one.Then he asked for lighter.He looked happy ! I was happy too , thinking I now can ask for cigarette from stranger when I run out of supply.

We left Venice for Luzern , Switzerland.It was serene.I must say that Switzerland is not mentioned as ‘heaven’ without reason and thanked Yash Chopra for making Indians aware about it.I was happy in Luzern because here more people could understand English than Italy.

Switzerland was the only country in Europe where I could find some signboards in Hindi except at some Indian Restaurants.That was pleasant surprise.

On the top of Mount Titls , Engelberg

We went to see Mount Titlis on Rotair , the first and only of its kind in world.There at the top of Mount titlis in -13 Degree at 10,000 feet , my urge to smoke got better of me.And I ran out out of cigarettes.I saw a man smoking and he was with his family which probably included his wife and an old lady , his mother-in-law ? Encouraged with the incidence which happened in Venice , I went up to him and asked ”Do you speak English” “Yeah Little” , He said. I asked , “Can I have a cigarette” and He simply refused saying “I only have two”

I was totally embarrassed and my better-half burst in a teasing laughter as she had advised against doing that. My Bad-Luck , I insisted and became a victim of cutural-difference of ‘Two countries’ or more precisely ‘Two Individuals’ within Europe.