Monday, May 31, 2010

Awara hoon......

Basically we guys are of good nature and we maintain our dignity (if it exists), but in Europe the case is somewhat different. The reason is that "Goras" do not understand hindi. So we drop down to our native, and very own special hindi (remembering our maa and behen in every line) and expressions which should be limited to boys hostels only.


During the Heidelberg trip , my hostel mates accompanied me to visit Heidelberg and spend a night at Arnab's residence. The journey from Aachen to Heidelberg was memorable because of two reasons

a) The route was (very) scenic. ( "Very" is in brackets because my standards have increased after Switzerland )

b) One of my friends accidently described a girl in a way that makes him a complete awara (which he is not). The best part was that the girl heard what he said and also gave a strong reaction. How is this possible? Did she understand what he said ?????? The answer is : Yes, she was an indian and we did not notice that earlier :). After half an hour of this hilarious for us / embarassing for him incident we experienced a deja vu to add to his embarrassment.

Readers, please believe me , we are basically good guys but circumstances make us choose the wrong path. :P

Sunday, May 30, 2010


The funicular is some sort of a vehicle that runs on tracks along steep slopes, mostly shaped like a parallelogram, so that the passengers remain seated horizontally, even though the vehicle moves at angles close to 45 degrees. To reach Heidelberg Schlöss (Castle), we rode on one.

Heidleberg Schlöss built in the 13th century is now in its ruins. The only structures that are intact are the ones that have been renovated. The view from the castle was more impressive than the castle itself.

Another must not miss in the castle is the world's largest wine cask, some staggering size it had - 221,726 litres !!!

Old Heidelberg and the Old Bridge over the Neckar from the castle gardens

The castle from the Old bridge.

The friends of Diptarka weren't very good tourists but I will remember one of them, - a spontaneous PJ master.
That night, I had 5 guests at my place, and I was quite proud to be such an able host.

Friday, May 28, 2010


It has been raining a lot here. The conifers, upright like sentinels against the murky sky fail to keep the ground from getting wet. From the institute to the guest house is a short but steep walk. The curved path and the steps made from chipped stones through the vegetation (not so dense that they can be called woods) often have a slow creature crossing. The first day I met it, I tried to impose my authority, by turning it upside down, but then returned it to its original orientation. From then on I met it several times. However, never did I see two of them at the same time on the path. At our old home, I saw lots of them during the monsoons, but this one, the flesh is white, pale white. The shell helps it camouflage, and everytime I have to search for it.

One day while searching for it, I discovered another creature, new one for me. You can say it’s a snail without a shell. It’s all yucky, more so if you step on it. If it has some predator with good eyes, only way it can come out alive, is to expect that the predator has some pity for ultra-slow creatures.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Today I went to meet the caretaker of the guest house, Ruth Hafner. It did not go as expected. After confirming that I am the resident of room 5, she started off aggressively. Her English was not so good, and I thought that maybe she thought I had come to complain or something. So I clarified, “I have no problems.” Pat came the reply, “We do.” She rambled on hurling one accusation against me after another, the major ones being, - keeping potatoes on the table, throwing banana skin into the waste paper basket, keeping my toilet/bathroom wet, and not to have squeezed the towels before hanging them to dry. By the time she was done with me, I had completely forgotten my primary motive - to ask her about the facility to wash clothes in the guest house.

But suddenly after the business talk, she became very friendly. She even consdered that since I am staying for just 2 days more than 2 months, instead of charging me on a monthly basis, charged me on a daily basis. She talked about family and gave me postcards to send home. And advice about transportation. And places to visit around. Before leaving I assured her that she won’t have as many complaints again.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Paris -3

Versailles Palace (above) and its gate (below)

I was supposed to return on day 3 at 8.20 pm, and till 1.30 pm I was determined to do so. Thank God I changed my mind. After seeing the Versailles Palace and its gardens from the exterior, along with Pankaj, I decided it is too late for Disneyland, rather I would idle around the Eiffel, and maybe go see the Pantheon and the Sacre Coeur. But Diptarka and Ketan, managed to take me to go to Disneyland, in a way which bordered on kidnapping.

We were told at the counter that ticket for both parks is 56 euros and for one is 53 euros. We were contemplating our return, when a Russian guy approached us and handed us 3 tickets and said it was valid for both parks, and that it cost 40 euros. We were extremely suspicious, understandly, but turned out that the man wasn’t a fraud after all. And we had a really great time and for 16 euros less.

The two parks are the ‘Disneyland Park ‘ and ‘Walt Disney Studios’ Park ‘. The first one is further divided into Fantasyland, Adventureland, Discoveryland, Frontierland and Main Street USA. It was all very colourful and lively which can lift anyone’s spirits. And needless to say it was heaven for children. We had picked up a guide map written in French, and couldn’t figure out where to go. The parks were huge. Then we saw that out of the rides, some had some warning signs beside their description. I decided, that whichever of these had the maximum number of warning signs, we will take them, and it was a great decision indeed. Initially though, when we were in the queue to the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril, and we saw the track, I thought it was the worst decision ever. My jaw dropped loose when I saw that the carriage on the track completely inverts at one point. I was reminded of the feelings me and my stomach had from my previous experiences at the Nicco Park or on ferris wheels, and they did never invert. Seeing people returning alive after the ride, I finally decided to take a chance. And guess what, in spite of the thrills and all, it was not at all uncomfortable or nauseating. We went from one corner to the other of the park, seeing everything but taking only the most challenging rides… Star Tours, Twilight Zone – Tower of Terror (elevator gone berserk that rises and falls repeatedly with accn >g), Big Thunder Mountain (runaway mine train), and finally Space Mountain: Mission 2 (where we got inverted twice at high speed, went through wormholes and stuff, and plunged through empty black space, stars flying past left and right). This finally managed to send the brains of Diptarka and Ketan for a spin, and we decided to call it a day.

The Tower of Terror, where we were subjected to multiple bouts of vertical accelarations > g

These real pics they took while in the rides were being sold for 10 euros. This particular one was taken in the Space Mountain: Mission 2. In the first few rides, I had a zipped mouth. Then later, I opened it, and I realized that it was more enjoyable that way. I shouted my throat hoarse. Another hint that could help one enjoy more is to believe that nothing will happen to you, and to think of yourself as a part of the carriage you are on.

Really a dream-land

Paris -2

We were left enthralled by Paris, the Seine, the Notre Dame Cathedral, and of course the Louvre. It took time to soak in the feeling that I am at these places, which forever seemed so very out of reach, like places in some fantasyland. And now they stood right before me, and I was overwhelmed.

This board was everywhere inside Louvre

The Italian art gallery

Madonna of the Rocks

There she is, getting more attention as always

David and Goliath

There was a food festival going on, where specalities from different parts of France were being tasted by the people. In the picture above, people are trying raw oysters with some lemon. It's a delicacy in southern France.

Arc de Triomphe- French version of Indian gate

The city has a very very dense network of subways for metro-rail. There are 12 separate lines of Metros, connecting different parts of the city, and interconnected with each other. It is said that when in Paris, you are always within 500 metres of a metro station. I was really afraid that someday the city might collapse to the lower level. And now add to that the numerous tunnels for vehicles and subways for pedestrians, and underground stations for the RERs, and we really have something to worry about here. It’s all hollow below.
The French are clearly more proud of their language than the Germans. I mean what kind of manners is this? Writing descriptions of every object only in French at a world famous place like Louvre Museum. But the language in general sounds sweeter than German, who with their excessive and strong use of ‘H(heich)’, ‘K’ and ‘F’ always seem to be cursing or breathing fire in their words. Anyway, but in French we had some pronounciation comedies. When Diptarka asked a girl the way to the Louvre, she said with a question mark on her face ‘Pardonne?’ but its pronounciation in French is such that the ‘r’ and the ‘n’s and the 'e' are silent. Now try reading it again. And also some Indian interns devised a new way of pronouncing ‘Bonjour’ such that it sounds closer to a Hindi slang. (You won’t get it if you don’t know it.)

Here, we saw lots of African-origin people, some pretty well-to-do ones. We also saw lots of bare legs, they were all over the place and very distractive indeed. But girls were pretty comfortable dressing scantily, unlike the few imitating Indians.

However all said and done, in Paris, I was looted in more ways than one, be it food or the 500ml drinking water that cost 2.5 euros at Louvre, or the transportation costs. We were happy that at least we did not have to spend on acco, but then Diptarka and I had mild heart attacks, when we returned to Germany, and got messages from the mobile operator that we were approaching our limit of 5000 rupees of talktime. Apparently they charged something like 3 euros/min for outgoing and incoming calls when in Paris.

Paris -1

I headed straight for the Eiffel. Going past the African and Punjabi hawkers (they use Hindi to attract Indians), who gave the place an Indian feel, and to add to the feel, the crowd did its best. Figure me standing in a queue in an European city for 10 minutes shy of 3 hours before I could make it to the top. However, thanks to the exact slant angle of the earth’s axis, I got to see the majestic view of Paris before sunset, during sunset and afterwards within the next 3 hours.

The Seine crossed by numerous bridges meandering through the metro.

At the very top, I finally met Pankaj and his men, with whom I returned to where they stay at around 1 pm. I was literally smuggled in, past the prying eyes of the guy at the reception.

Now I know that Pankaj is talented in many ways, but I did not know of his cooking expertise. I had a feast at his place on both the nights I stayed there.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Evening in paris

My day started with a brief trip of brussels. The best part of that trip was the free chocolate that we got from a store and the worst part was when we decided to enter the atomium. Anyways we ( me , piyush, ketan & pranav ) boarded a train for Paris just after visiting atomium.

Well in europe it is actually very uncommon to miss trains as they are always on time but that day was special. We almost missed the first connecting train and completely missed the second one as the first one was not on time. Fortunately we had a high school group ( with their teacher ) going to paris who were in the same situation as us so she (the teacher) included the four of us in their team and managed to get another ticket for a high speed train. I learnt that in europe if something like this happens railways admit their fault and give us the best possible train connectivity tickets for free.

Now after reaching paris we four had to split as we had different accomodation plans. Ketan and I had to stay with himanshu and his friends. We (me and ketan) were supposed to go directly to himanshu but we decided to go to a club and then to eiffel tower and then to himanshu's room. We could not find a club so went straight to eiffel. Eiffel was just awesome. We saw it glowing and sparkling . It was seriously an awesome experience. We took some great videos of eiffel sparkling and thought that we would keep that a secret :P .

After the sweet midnight adventure we had to go to himanshu's place. We had a good sleep at his place which prepared us for the awesome but highly tiring Day2 of paris which would be described by arnab.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A mixture of Dutch and French

On the train from Frankfurt to Brussels, I had a lady from Ghana for company. She comfortably called herself black, and that her husband is “white man” who had been to India. She was comfortable talking about a lot of other things as well, and when she came to the part about why she and her husband appreciated Indians because of the use of water for certain toilet practices, enacting it out, it was a bit too much.

When I reached Bruxelles Central at 10pm, it was still not dark. Piyush and Ketan took me around for the night. The Grand Place was very grand and lively considering it was almost 11pm. Lots of tourists and street shows. Mannekin Pis, is very famous all over the world, but it lay in a dark corner. Actually I felt that it was justified, since it did not deserve as much fame as it had. We tasted a chocolate waffle, bringing back memories of Max Brenner. I learnt that if you by mistake order French fries in a Belgian shop, they often end up giving a lecture as to how the French stole credit of the fries (frites) which should actually be called Belgian frites.

Piyush was a very good host, and after a good night sleep at his hostel room, we went for a walk around to a forest which I couldn’t make out whether it was natural or artificial. The three of us, included Diptrix and Pranav into our team and then we went on a mission to waste 8 euros each. The Atomium with 9 spheres interconnected in some weird manner, making us rack our brains as to which chemical compound it resembles most, looks really impressive from below. But we should have been satisfied with that. God gave us a chance when we all joined the queue to the toilet by mistake, but fate …

So in the short stay, Brussels failed to catch my heart or anything, although some public displays of Over-affection (or Public Over-Displays of Affection) did catch my eyes. Then, I undertook a journey from one capital city in Europe to another in something other than ‘zugs’(trains). The Euroliner coach, took me to Paris in 4 hours.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A bunch of nonsense

Ok. So I am being supported by DAAD, and so are about 150 other students. Someone’s idea was to open a google group, and people joined in. People discuss all sorts of stuff there, mostly unimportant. I unfortunately seeing the (over)enthusiastic crowd, shy-ed away from it, and so neither did I contribute anything to it, nor did I take much from it. I only get a digest mail from them once a day, that I just glance over. So far there has been endless discussions on airfares, baggage allowance, the amount of warm clothes and protection from rain people would require, and many other silly details that one could easily live without. Even in that you would see the occasional guy trying to be smart, especially if there is a girl in the discussion. And if you thought only IIT people are desperate in this respect, NIT guys are no less either. At points some members try to take the upperhand and start planning trips for others. Many people join in, discuss possibilities. Mostly they never agree. (The problem with most people who think they are intelligent.) When these go out of bounds, some people cry foul at their mailboxes being flooded, unaware that they can change the settings to prevent it. This is then followed by fifteen more posts agreeing that indeed such things should not be discussed on a public forum.

There was also 2 group spreadsheets. In that I don’t know what people got in changing or distorting others’ details to something they thought was funny. And there were NIT-IIT fights. Just for fun, one of them said.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Remaining facts of Amsterdam trip

According to me, the following points did deserve to be in arnab's description of amsterdam trip.

  • If Arnab says he was visiting Amsterdam for the first time, he is definitely lying. I think he has stayed here for atleast more than 2 months. He knows all the routes of Amsterdam and keukenhof. Our task was simple just follow him. My words : “ If you would have just added that ‘this building was made in 1882 and signifies love and blah blah blah’ , i would have paid you. ”

  • Arnab also got an offer to be a guide of a group. The guy was serious , but i still do not know why arnab thought it was a joke.

  • In Amsterdam square a black guy was showing his awesome body flexibility. This is how he convinced a guy to give him some money: ” If u give me 1 euro, I would be happy .. if you give me 5 euros, i would be more happy.. if you give me 50 euros , I would start dancing and if you give me 100 euros, sir, I would come with you”

Last but not the least

  • Pranav had a very interesting discussion (people call that flirting) about Hindi Songs with a dutch girl. The occupation of the dutch girl , the scenario in which he was flirting and the response of the girl ( The response was something like : “ Dude can’t u see I am working” ) made the whole incident really hilarious. No prizes for guessing the occupation and the location. :P

That’s it. Enjoy reading and do post your comments.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Canals, Tulips, Windmills and Prostitutes

Netherlands is a completely flat land full of water bodies of various shapes and sizes. At Amsterdam, they have tamed the water and constricted them to canals, but even then the city ended up with more waterways than streets. Because of the infinite canals, the streets could not take the normal rectilinear arrangement common for most cities. There was something typical about the houses too, mostly 2-4 storey-ed and with sloping tiled roofs, and placed right beside each other without any gap. And somehow they gave me the feeling as if some huge crane has placed them one by one along the streets. And by God, if all three of us weren’t having illusions, some houses were tilted outwards with respect to the ones beside them.

There is a lot of graffiti around. I guess Van Gogh will feel proud from above about his countrymen. However, a striking point, especially if you are coming from Germany is that the city is very very dirty, unlike what one might expect from an European capital city. Rubbish strewn all over the place. Bottles floating on the grey-black water, the boats and launches shoving them to the banks. Diptarka started comparing the place to Calcutta, and by the end of the day concluded that this city is dirtier.

Our diet in Amsterdam consisted mostly of French fries. Diptarka and I had the intention to try new stuff, but we didn’t want our wallets to dry up so early in our quest to conquer Europe. We tried beer at a few places though. Netherlands is the home of Heineken beer and there is a museum on its history too.

From the station, we made our way to the main square called Dam Square through the bustling crowd. Street shows were going on there. We just kept walking, keeping Madame Tussaud’s to the right, reached Waterlooplein and Rembrandtplein. Bridges are called Brugs here. Blauwe Brug and Magere Brug look especially nice at night, but the day being long, we did not have the chance to see them in artificial lights.

We made some attempts to put up for the night. Again, 36 Euros for nothing but a bed was too much for us. At Museumplein, there is the Rijksmuseum and the famous Van Gogh Museum. But after last year’s experience, I didn’t have too much taste for them left in me. There is also a museum on diamonds for which we were too late. There is something about diamonds and Amsterdam. We saw a lot of diamond stores on our way too.

Another thing for which Amsterdam is famous, is its red light area near the railway station. The area is called De Wallen, and the directions given in most places was beside the ‘Oude Kerk’, kerk in Dutch meaning church. This was some experience for me. Women wearing just bare minimums and advertising themselves through glass doors and windows opening to the streets. Fixed rate. 50 euros. One could go for live shows too. The crowd was unimaginable considering that it is not Asia. Strangely there were people of all sexes and all ages among the crowd. And here we met an Indian guy, who put us to shame by bringing his parents and cousins along with him. “I came to this place alone yesterday and liked it; so I brought them along today,” he explained.

Initially we had decided to spend the night at the station, but Pranav had made friends with Martin, a student who worked part-time at Burger King. He not only helped us get free drinking water, but also advised us to stay at the airport if we have to spend the night at some public place, as “this is the capital of the wild wild west.”

And so we headed for Schipol, where we spent a peaceful and warm night.

The next morning we went to Keukenhof. The reason why I decided to come to Amsterdam the first weekend was precisely and just this. The Keukenhof Garden – Europe’s largest, opens for just 2 months every year and 16th May was the last day for this year. I am not capable of bringing out the beauty of the garden through my words. My photographic skills are better in this respect:

An all-in-one music machine in the garden. The stack of cards are music notes of different songs which when run in the belt plays them.

After Keukenhof, Diptarka saw that he had an opportunity to show me his city albeit for a short time, and make me taste some great food too. And so I almost ran through the city, saw Aachen’s huge churches and cathedrals, in a superfast tour which also included a grand dinner of pizza and chicken. All this and I returned to the station in just an hours’ time.

Cathedral in Aachen

On reaching Heidelberg at midnight by my 13th train ride over the past 2 days, I stayed over at Deepesh’s place before returning in the morning.