prague

In the freezing drizzle of an early summer morning, I was greeted by Idly and Emu, two girls who would show me around Prague! During the day, they worked, and I went out to explore Old town on my own.

It was grey and rained all day, but the place was incredible. I found a market and I found the astronomical clock, where tourists gathered in masses every hour, to watch a skeleton ring a bell, and a man play a horn. I wandered for many hours, just staring at the incredible buildings, and finally finding a place to sit down for a few hours and drink some coffee. The coffee is very expensive here, 55 crowns for a cappuccino, (beer starts at 27 crowns).I found the Charles Bridge, which was also packed with tourists, producing a stream of brightly colored umbrellas.

In the evening, Idly and went out to a huge club that was five stories tall. It had five different kind of clubs-one floor was playing oldies, another was playing popular beyonce, rhianna, etc, there was a techno floor, and I don’t know the others! It was packed, and everyone spoke a different language. I have never heard so many languages in one place. We were there till about three in the morning and then wandered around the city until sunrise in search of our metro home. It was great, and we slept in till 1pm the next day.

The next day we went out to explore some more. We went walking, and explored the castle-which was incredible. The view of the city with the red roofs and amazing steeples, was breathtaking, and the church is an enormous gothic style structure with gargoyles all over. We had all day to explore, and found ourselves at an italian place for dinner-where we met Ola (in the picture below). The three of us took the metro to the beer fest.

Now, I have never been to a beer fest, but this was hilarious. People were dancing wildly on the dance floor and on nearby tables, there were a lot of men falling down, and women dressed as beer maids, serving everyone. Conveniently right out side, there were carnival rides like the zipper and lots of spinning tides that would definitely make one sick after consuming all sorts of beer inside the tents.

We stayed just for an hour or so and ventured onwards to a smaller cocktail bar to sit and talk for a while longer before heading for the metro, and home. We spent  last day, again wandering the city and going out for dinner.

Every where I went in Prague, I was amazed. The stone roads, and gigantic buildings, the red roofs, and the seven bridges, the well dressed people. and the tram lines, everything (except the gray weather), has been incredible. People are out all night long, literally all times of the day and night, the metro is bustling, and people are out. The smell of sausage lingers near tram stations, where small fast food like joints are placed selling meat and beer.

(they had fruit and vegetables-it was great)

I have to keep it short- I have a bus leaving in an hour for Olomouc, where I stay until the 20th. May 20th- I take a bus to Brno, then to Budapest, where I will be until I fly to vienna on the 25th until the 28th, then to Athens!

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May 17, 2010. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Netherlands

Greeted with colorful banners and Netherland-themed drawings, I was welcomed by Janette and her family on May 7th-morning. I had spent my last night in India with friends and finished it off the way I had welcomed it-Java City, Temptations, and Pebbles-style (not to mention the coffee, idlies, masala dosas, coconuts, juices, and on and on).

I waved goodbye to Mahima and Kris through the glass windows of the airport, and went to check in. Ten hours of flying and almost no security or customs waiting and hassle, I reached Amsterdam around 12am, and we all introduced ourselves, and chatted as we walked to the car.

We drove-past solar panels-in oh so cloudy Amsterdam… and pastures-HUGE green fields with hows and canals. The traffic moved fast and the roads were empty-of everything except cars. No vendors, no cows, no dogs, no pani puri, just highway followed by greenery. ( I liked the movement of traffic, I missed the street life)

We drove over rivers- big and small, and boats. We wove through their neighborhood streets housing tall brick buildings, churches, and people. Lots of people on bikes and on foot, and very strange looking trees. Trees that grew straight up and then in two directions, reached out horizontally, as if the branches were arms of a scarecrow. Only, it didn’t stop here, with greater heights, another pair of “arms” would appear, and this would continue for some while.

The house was amazing. It had been described to me as small, but I would say it was-efficient- with regards to space. Exploring the house, brought me back to ADP 3(?) with Nick Tobier, we covered Dutch design and architecture just a bit.

In the few days I spent with their Janette, Andre, Maud, and Iera, we did a lot! We ate traditional dutch food- bread, butter, and sprinkles-amazing combination, for starters. We had stroopwaffles-which were another amazing treat, and pancakes with raisins! We had other things too, but theses were a few highlights.

We went downtown to the main area of the village, and found ourselves highly amused by the sort of life museum that was taking place. There were WWII camp sites set up everywhere, and soldiers from the war wandering around the streets, eating ice cream and chatting on their cell phones. There were flags everywhere, and army vehicles parked through the streets.

We roamed, past the HUGE river, and we biked through some really nice trails. I was able to take a really nice hot shower, and-in all honesty-they definitely pampered me! I even got to sleep in Iera’s bunk bed. Both Iera and Maud can ride a unicycle. I am still amazed by this.

I said goodbye for a few days and went to Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Rotterdam, was quiet-it was sunday and everything was closed, but I walked all day long and made some friends who I spent time talking to in the park. I also visited the Cube houses, which were incredible. I could never live in one, but to look at, these structures were intriguing. (I will add pictures when I can!)

I also found a market where they were selling my poofy pants I love dearly and wore every day in India for 75 euros! (three usd in India). I later found my masala dosa for an astounding 12 euros (usually 24 rs/50 cents-usd), and had to run away from the South Indian restaurant before reading further! I saw the bridge, and went to a Museum where I saw lots of design, Dali, Degas, Rembrandt, and on.

I spent the evening drinking coffee at my hostel and the guys who worked there, plus some other guests, and the hostel dog-beautiful cocker spaniel!

Two nights, I then spent in Amsterdam. The first night I was at the Stayokay, the second-at the travellers hostel. Similar to Rotterdam, I just walked around all day long-both days. There were glimpses of sunlight now and then, but in the shade and in the wind, it was cool. The garbage collectors were on strike, so trash lined the curbs and piled up in front of the beautiful monuments. Every time I went walking, I found new things, new places, new markets, and I was very startled when I wound up in the Red Light District. It always happened while my eyes were attached to the massive church up in the sky, while my feet continued down an unknown ally- and when I would continue my window shopping, the baguettes, and coffee shops had transformed into glass doors framing women in lingerie and red, drawn curtains.

I got over it fast, for I found myself there unexpected- very often. I walked very far in all directions, and would sometimes sit down for a coffee, a Heineken, or a baguette. The last night there, I stayed up most of the night in a small shop drinking coffee while it rained outside. It was cozy and I had the best seat in the house, the one against the window, where people watching was prime. I spoke for many hours with people as they came and left, people either “passing through” or “taking a few days off”.

In the morning I returned to Janettes house, and we had another really mellow day, while I made further arrangements for travel-with their help.

We all piled in the car and drove me to the bus stand, where a huge yellow bus picked me up. Student Agency, a bus line, cost 70 euros from Utrecht to Prague, and would arrive at 5 am in the night! The bus stopped nearly every hour (if that) and I am not sure it was always to pick people up. I am more convinced, the stopping was for the unfortunate addiction of all the passengers; smoking. Every hour, the passengers would pile off the bus, stand in the cold and smoke, then pile back on, only to repeat this action within the hour.

Goodbye to the Netherlands-just for now. I would love to go back. It was incredible. The place where Janette lives is unbelieveable-brick buildings and roads, canals and very old boats. The architecture of different neighborhoods, the friendly people. Bikes EVERYWHERE, and people are outside. The houses were tall, and the windows HUGE, so the house was full of natural light and you could watch the neighbors go by. The canals that cut through the grassy fields held motor boats. On my tram ride, there were grasslands, and a canal where all sorts of big boats were parked-not up against a boardwalk, up against the grassy field… it was amazing. Windmills- old and new, draw your attention with almost no hope of returning it. The tall, skinny, homes that would twist around the bend and go on for as far as one could see, drew out a cityscape I have never experienced in real life, and the contrast between old and new (especially in Rotterdam where most of the old buildings were destroyed) was beautiful.

Strange, to be looking at baby pictures in the Netherlands with a woman I haven’t seen in 20 years! To see pictures of my parents in the East Lansing house, raising three small kids, and big smiles-was a treat!

Strange to not be in India.






May 14, 2010. travel. Leave a comment.

goodbye-chennai

Already- I am leaving Chennai!

I have spent the last ten days with Rima in Chennai. We stayed at her house for most of the break, but took a small trip of our own to pondie and Auroville. Pondicherry was amazing. The two of us woke up early and jumped on a bus. We fell in and out of sleep, while we watched the ocean pass us by. Upon arrival, we found out that the hotel we had booked for a 225 rs room, had given that room away and now we were stuck with no room or a 450 rs room. We ended up taking the room after hearing there was and that everything was closed. We only partially believed it. 

They showed us the room, white, and clean. We set down our things and went out to see where exactly we were and what we could find. Turned out-the man at the hotel was right, EVERYthing was shut-and we were hungry. We made a few stops before returning to the hotel where I filled up on my four baby bananas, and Rima, her four baby bags of chips. We sat and chatted for a few hours, until we fell asleep for a bit. In the evening, we were up and out the door. We shopped around a bit and while walking down the street, they heard drums. Alyssa ran out the door of the store they were looking in, and found an elephant leading a procession through the street. Elephants really do roam the streets-accompanied-but they roam none the less 🙂

We planned to leave the following day, just look around Auroville, and head out, however when we decided just to ask-about accommodations, we were shown amazing photos and agreed to spend another night…which turned into two nights. Our new guest house was incredible in and of itself. THe location was extremely peaceful and laid back, and we were in heaven. 

We spent the night writing, reading, and chatting. In the night, after falling asleep, I watched the fan turn off, and then all of a sudden the heat was unbareable and that was the end of sleep for the night. This was the only downside-everything else was incredible! We just happened to pick the worst-weather-time of year to come. 

After two days of peace and quiet, relaxation, wandering, and sleep, we returned to chennai. 

Rima’s sister, Megha had arrived and the three of us went out to a Spanish Tapas restaurant. Over the last few days, we saw, “how to train your dragon”, went to a place called “ID” short of Idly-dosa-which was incredible, we went out for fancy dessert afterwards, as well. They dressed me in a saree and we all went out for food. I bought my own saree, and their mom taught me how to wear it. We stood in the living room while I practiced wrapping this incredibly long material around myself before looking to her for approval. I watched and learned how to cook a number of dishes, which I will surely forget before my return home, and talked with her grandmother about her life. 

Today, I get BACK on the train (which I am really excited about) to Yelahanka (slightly less exciting). I get in at 10 and will hopefully see some people, repack my bag and box, ship something off with fedex, and be off by tomorrow night! Crazy, that this is coming to an end. As sad as I am to leave India, knowing I will come back coupled with the my excitement for the following weeks in Europe, help numb it. A new adventure now!

May 5, 2010. Uncategorized. 1 comment.