October 25, 2010

About.Me

Got my about.me profile activated today.

You can find my profile at about.me/indersen

The about.me guys did a good job creating a slick way of keeping tab of all your profiles. Get your’s today!

September 19, 2010

Reading: Stay Hungry Stay Foolish

Reading Now:

Stay Hungry Stay Foolish by Rashmi Bansal.

The Inspiring stories of 25 IIM Ahmedabad graduates who chose to tread a path of their own making.

Picture Courtesy: Amazon.com

Interesting Readings – Week 37 Year 2010

A very good analysis on Future of Internet Startups in India in coming years by Sandeep Aggarwal of Caris & Company. A Must read for Entrepreneurs and Investors interested in Internet space in India.

Recipe for Success in Entrepreneurship by Alex on The Entrepreneurs Blog

First-time Entrepreneur symptoms and cures by Gabriel Weinberg

What to Look For In A Business Co-Founder and Technical Co-Founder by Jason L Baptiste 

Interpreting Criticism by Seth Godin

An interpretation on Getting Rejected by Chris Dixon

Numbers on People accessing internet in Rural India by Vivek Jha on WATBlog

August 30, 2010

Interesting Readings – Week 34 Year 2010

An Article – If I could do all over Again by Sir Richard Branson – A great insight for Entrepreneurs.

The Bowling Pin strategy by Chris Dixon – A potential solution to the Chicken and Egg problem of User generated sites.

July 31, 2010

Interesting Readings – Week 30

A very good collection on Business Week for budding Entrepreneurs and Wannapreneurs (want-to-be-entrepreneurs) on Business Education Basics. Look out for the free online courses from SBA.

An interesting article on customer engagement by Pradeep Chopra on Wall Street Journal Blog

A very good and inspiring collection of TED Talks about Startups on ReadWriteWeb

Clarify Your Story excerpt by Sramana Mitra. Set of comprehensive questions that one needs to answer before setting off on his idea.

Experiences in raising funds for a startup – an article on self experience by Venkat Subramanian

July 26, 2010

Interesting Readings – Week 29

July 18, 2010

Why I Love Tirumala

A week earlier I was searching for a place to go and chill out. I was searching for a secluded location in the state where I live in – Andhra Pradesh. Little did I expect that I would end up in Tirumala – the temple town of Lord Venkateshwara

A statue at the entrance of the Hill

When I started my search for a place, I had couple of preferences that I was looking for in the destinations: Affordable accommodation, clean food, safe even to roam in the nights, good connectivity and most important – where I can find some peace of mind. Whatever destinations I found in the little time I had, none of them satisfied all my preferences. But, then just when I thought I have leave for another state, I found my answer in the most unlikely Destination – Tirumala.

You have loads of rooms available on the hill – my first requirement met. Affordable and Clean food available round the clock – I had dinner at 12:30 in the midnight on my first day of stay that too freshly prepared dosa and Idly.

I try not to include religious aspect of the Presiding Deity in thLord Hanuman while returning from the Hill tope discussion. The Hill is full of people all round the year. It’s totally lit all through the night. The hotels are open for most of the day as I told you earlier about me having dinner at 12:30 midnight. The roads are immaculate. It is one of the very few destinations in South India and the whole of India probably where there is no public littering on roads. The footpaths are clean and on which one can actually walk. There is no problem of mugging at all. One can roam all around the hill at any time of the day without any fear. These are some of the things for which I love to be in Tirumala. 

I just sat in the temple premises reading books(ones which I took from Hyderabad), watching traditional dances and listening to classical music LIVE by some famous musicians.

I must admit that I wouldn’t have enjoyed my stay in any other isolated or secret get away than this.

June 25, 2010

And I am Back


And, I am back from my Hitchhiking trip from the North East. It was a funfilled and adventurous 40 day trip. Although, had to cut down on going to Nagaland and Manipur. Will post details in coming blog posts.

April 14, 2010

My Travel Project

It’s been a while that I quit my job and back in India. Many of my friends and family members were wondering what I am upto.
Long since I was working in Sweden, I rekindled the travel bug in me making me yearn to travel all over the world. I saw couple of countries while in Sweden, but thanks to my unyielding manager, couldn’t cover more than that. But now, I set the stage for the best trip.
http://hitchhikingindia.com I and Ajay (@ajaymreddy) are planning a long hitchhiking trip to North East India. We plan to do many activities while hitchhiking. We will live blog the entire journey uncensored at http://hitchhikingindia.com. We’ll also tweet the journey.
There’s more to the journey than just hitchhiking:
We are covering all the 7 states of the North East India namely Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. If weather and heath permits us then we want to cover even Sikkim and Darjeeling.
  • We plan to record local folk and tribal music in all the places we are traveling.
  • We are flashpacking enough to have a Point and Shoot Camera and a DSLR. It means that it’s gonna be a photography treat.
  • Try to make Podcasts with the details of the destinations.
Do follow us with our exciting journey and spread the word.
Oh, I almost forgot, We are tentatively starting on 5th of May and planning to span the trip for 45 to 60 days.
Hitchhiking India | Promote Your Page Too

April 7, 2010

Travelogue – Berlin

Here comes the Berlin Travelogue which happened during the Easter of 2009.

Berlin Day 1 – The Reichstag and The Brandenburg Gate

Its Easter and time was good for my next small getaway. This time my destination was Berlin, the capital of Germany. So off I went to city that was centre of the world wars.

I got into Pfefferbett Hostel at Senefelderplatz a bit away from the main tourist attractions, but very near to the vicinity of metros. Rather than going for a twin ensuite, I chose to go to dorm of four beds. It was because of two main reasons, to cut down my unnecessary expenses and next to get a chance to meet new people.

I reached my hostel at around 4 P.M in the evening and by the time I got out unpacking myself, it was almost 5:30, so I didn’t had much time to go around the tourist attractions. I decided to cover one of the top 5 attractions of the city and picked Reichstag as it was open to public till 12 in the midnight.

Transport: The best way to get around in Berlin are the S-Bahn and the U-bahn Metros. If I am not mistaken, the U-Bahn is the metro which goes under the ground and S-Bahn is the Metro that goes over the ground. If you are staying less than 7 days, I suggest you take the Day Ticket which costs you around 6.1 Euros and you travel all day till 3 AM next morning in all the public means of transport. The S-Bahn, U-Bahn, Busses and the Trams. There are zones demarcated for the tickets. The ticket for AB zone should cover most of the tourist attractions. Do not forget You have to validate the ticket before you enter the trains the fine if get caught is 40 Euros and you don’t want to be in that kind of misdeed spoil your vacation mood.

The location of the hostel was great in the sense that I have the U-Bahn station right in front of the hostel. I boarded the U2 metro and went to AlexanderPlatz and from there to Hauptbahnhof – the one of the largest Railway hubs of Europe and also the main railway station of Berlin. The station is simple ginormous – you have the long distance trains in the underground, you climb two stairs and come to the ground level, you have 2 floors of shopping complexes and climb further, you reach the metros – the S-Bahn and the U-Bahn.

Hauptbahnhof Station

I got off at the Hauptbahnhof and walked across the Swiss Embassy to reach the Reichstag. The Reichstag building is a combination of contemporary architecture and the last century style. From the front, it looks like a normal last century building, but on the top is the glass dome which overlooks the entire building right till the bottom. The Reichstag is the Parliament of the German government. The entrance to this building is free and the public is allowed in till 10 in the evening. I suggest you to go there either early in the morning or late in the evening as the queues that stand are never ending.

The Reichstag

To tell something about the Reichstag’s structure, the construction symbolizes the inner meaning of the Democratic government. The members of the Parliament have their meetings in the ground floor of the Parliament, the public can see the proceedings from the top dome which is made of glass. It states implicitly that the in Democracy people are the head and their representatives are being watched by them from above. The Glass dome also represents the transparency  of the government. Quite a representation I say. In the picture,  you can see the dome from inside. If you observe carefully you can see the seats of the representatives at the bottom.

Inside Reichstag

You can also a panoramic view of the entire Berlin city from the top of Reichstag. Don’t forget to collect a booklet outside the building which marks all the places that can be seen from the top of the dome. The booklet also helps you as travel guide as it lists the major places of the city.

The Reichstag is definitely a worth look. Do not miss that.

Awaiting what seemed as a lifetime in the queue outside the building, I came out victoriously after some 2 hours.

After striking off Reichstag from the list, I head towards the next most important monument – the Brandenburg gate.

The Brandenburg gate was almost empty as it was already 11 in the night. There were couple of tourists like us and a person playing saxophone beside the gate. Little did I realise that this is the centre of the entire tourism industry in Berlin.

After spending a little time @ the gate, i returned to my hostel. It was almost half past midnight but I was not done. I am spending some time in the lobby surfing internet and then writing this blog and also cover my Naruto and Bleach Manga.

 

Berlin Day 2 – Walking Tour and Pub Crawl

Day 2 – the main day of my tour as I had to cover all the main tourist attractions. The best way to do it is to have the free walking tour.

The tourist activity of Berlin is mainly concentrated in and around the Brandenburg Gate Square. The walking tour is no exception.By the time I reached the location, taking pictures along the way, I missed the walking tour, by couple of minutes. So, after deciding to go with the next tour which was scheduled at 1:00 PM, I spent the next 2 hours, strolling in the TierGarten which is nearer to the Brandenburg gate. After a while, I went into the Sony Building which is the prime attraction in the Potsdamer Platz. I must say that I was in awe when I went inside it.

 

The Sony Building clip_image001[10] I was so smitten by it that I went there everyday of my Berlin tour. My visit resulted in yet another gadget in my gadget arsenal. I bought the Sony Wireless MP3 player. Its quite a coincidence that my every tour results in a gadget collection.

The Walking tour started at exactly 1 PM. We first got an intro of the guide who was an Australian (in fact 90% of the tour guides tours I came across, are from Australia). The tour started with a History of Germany beginning from the last millennium to the 19th century, all in the shadows of the Brandenburg gate. Next stop was the Reichstag, the German Parliament building. There we learnt how Hitler came to power after the Reichstag was burnt down.

After the Reichstag, the next stop was at the Jews Memorial. It was a large area covered with rectangular blocks. It was more of a bar graph..starting with bars of 0 height at the entrance and flattening out again at the end before reaching the maximum height at the centre. Though it is popularly believed that the height of the bars represent the number of Jews died in a particular period, there is no official representation what the height of the blocks mean, leaving it to the imagination of the tourists to understand how it represents the Jews’ holocaust.

The Jews Memorial

Our guide asked us to interpret the Memorial. I thought that the height represent the number of deaths of the Jews. It was zero indicating a zero height before the war, rose to the maximum during the war and subdued back to zero.

After spending some time at the memorial, the next stop was at a Museum where the Nazi’s supposed empire was replicated. The plans of Hitler, the buildings he wanted to construct, if he succeeded in the war, were brought to life in a miniature version. One striking replica was that of a People’s Building which was 10 times of the Reichstag Building. I will learn more about this is the Third Reich tour which I am plan to go tomorrow.

Next stop was the Place where Hitler’s Bunker stood. Though there was nothing left reminiscing the gruesome past or fact that the place is a mere parking lot, this was my favourite tourist stop of the entire Berlin.  This is the place where Hitler spent his last days. It was here that he killed himself and his newly wedded wife along with his pet. The guide narrated the series of events that happened on the last day before Hitler died. How he married to his long time girl friend, how he tested the cyanide on his pet before he took and how he shot himself in addition to the cyanide consumption. The half burnt bodies of Hitler and his wife were buried in an undisclosed location. The next stop was the Aviation Building of the Hitler’s regime.

Hitler's Bunker

This is the only building that is not destroyed and which bears the testimony of the sordid past. After Hitler’s Regime, it was taken by Russians as their control office and the it bore the another phase of sordid past – the East Berlin. The building bears the same grandiose architecture that all other Hitler’s buildings do. This is the very place where the East Berlin revolution took place which was brutally crushed. As we pass this building and move forward you face to face with a structure for which the Berlin is most famous for – The Berlin Wall.

The Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall – the Wall that separated parents from children in one night, the wall that separated two neighbours into two neighbouring provinces, the only wall that once separated the two Super Powers of the World. You can spend days studying the Berlin Wall and its History. A thin wall running right behind the Aviation building with a death strip covering some meters from the wall. The death strip meant that no one should enter the strip of land and the Army had the power to fire at you.

After an initial look at the wall, we moved to have a bite as everyone in the walking tour group were starving. There I met couple of Swedes who also came from Gothenburg. So the company grew a bit. After a sandwich bite, we moved to the next part of the tour. We covered the only catholic cathedral in Berlin and the also where the Book Burning incident took place in Berlin. The Book Burning is the incident when the Nazis burnt all the literature in University Libraries which preached a different school of thought than that of Hitler’s.

The walking tour ended at the Islands. After the tour, we walked all the way from the TV tower to the Brandenburg gate. Then went to our hostel to get into our party wear and off we went to Pub crawling. The Pub Crawl also starts li Eat Berlin similar to the walking tour and the group hops from one pub to the other for 5 happening pubs. We get a free beer at the meeting point. The party ended at around 3 PM in the morning and so was my 2nd day in Berlin.

 

Berlin Day 3- All About Adolf

Today was all about Adolf Hitler – one man who took Germany to two extreme sides of fame.

After crawling pubs till early in the morning, I woke up at almost 9:30 in the morning. Got ready and was back on road by 11 AM. My schedule for today is to cover the Third Reich tour. The Third Reich tour covers the Rise and fall of Hitler’s Regime, spanning all the places that are part of the sordid history. After a brunch (a sandwich), I started off with the tour at 1 PM.

The tour as usual started at the Brandenburg gate. After giving a brief intro about the First and the Second Reich, I was told how the Nazis came to the power by burning down of the Reichstag. Since the tour was mainly revolving around Hitler, it had to contain all the memorials and the monuments. So first of the lot was the Memorial for the Political prisoners (see the image).

Political Prisoners Memorial clip_image001[16]It is exactly in front of the Reichstag. It consists of many irregular planks, each plank bearing the name of the Politician, his Party and how he met his fate. Many of them perished in the Death March that took place right before the end of the war, where the prisoners were told that they were being freed and then sent in boats only to get sucked up.

After this, I went to the Memorial for the European Jews which I visited the previous day. Large blocks of concrete with no name and no particular size. From here, I was taken to the Hitler’s Bunker. As I wrote in my previous post, it was from here that Hitler ruled his Reich in his last days and it was here that he killed himself and his wife. The place where the Bunker stood is just a car parking today where the dogs Berliners come to do their daily job. I learnt what happened to Hitler and how he chose to die with a pistol and cyanide. There is just one sign board stating what the place is all about, but it was mainly describing the Bunker, not the person using that. I think the Germans take a lot of pain not to acknowledge Hitler in any means, although the major chunk of tourists flock to Germany just to see and know about him ( yours truly is one of them). There is also a museum just beside the bunker showing all the buildings that Hitler planned to construct in the Nazi Germany(called Germania). The one that really attracted my attention, in fact everyone’s attraction was the People’s Dome which he planned to construct. It is to house 200,000 people at any point of time. It contained a large dome in the top. It is also called the Dome of the Rain as if it were to be built, it seems that it would have rained in the Dome because of the breathing and perspiration  of 200,000 people. The museum has a prototype of the People’s Dome built and to show how gigantic it would have been, if built and to appreciate its size, they made another scaled prototype of Reichstag and placed it before the People’s dome. The People’s Dome could be at least 10 times larger than the Reichstag. I was so involved in that that I totally forgot to take a pic :(

After the Bunker, I went to the Soviet Union Memorial – a memorial built for the Soldiers of Soviet Union who sacrificed their lives to conquer Berlin. I also learned that the memorial had motives other than just to commemorate the Soviet Soldiers, it was to show that the Soviet crushed the Nazis in every possible way. In Hitler’s Germania, Hitler wished to construct an axis similar to the East West axis which runs through the mid of Berlin and had the Brandenburg gate on its way. He sought to construct a North South Axis much better than the East West Axis. The Soviet Memorial was built exactly at the intersection of both the axes hence declaring that Hitler’s Germania will never be possible.

The Russian Memorial

After this, we went to the buildings that used to be in Berlin during the Third Reich.As I wrote in the last post, none of them is standing today, but there is one building that is standing without any scars of war on it. It was the Hitler’s Office of the Aviation. Just in front of it was the longest piece of Berlin wall standing. The Aviation building was half into the death strip and the area near the Berlin wall here is the narrowest. The road is still the same which gives us a chance to imagine how it was then.

It was time for lunch and this time I had a Chicken Kebab at a corner. After Lunch we headed towards the Topography of Terror which is exactly at the place where the SS and the Gestapo headquarters used to stand before they were destroyed in the bombings.

I almost spent 3 to 4 hours in the topography of Terror. The exhibition portrays the real life pictures of the Third Reich in different parts of the Nazi Empire. How the Nazis systematically took over the countries rule and how they arranged for the holocaust and after the war how the officers ended their lives. The pictures were equally sordid as they were informative.

There are many museums focusing on the Berlin Wall. The One notable is the East Side Gallery which I still repent that I missed on this tour. One interesting observation I learnt is the Cover of the Wall (The circular covering over the Wall) was ordered by West Berlin from none other than East Berlin.

There are many incidents surrounding the Berlin Wall and the tiffs between the either sides those I learnt in the Walking tour. I will mention couple of them here. The day the East Berlin constructed the Wall, the entire West Berlin was cordoned off and there was no way of coming into West Berlin without trespassing the East Berlin’s territory. The West Berlin was so adamant to give into East Berlin’s power that they started to supply every thing from air through air carriers. Imagine, the air base when there are flights coming in every 2 seconds. Finally the East Berlin had to give up and open some passages into the West side. Then came the Check points. These were the places where the Berliners could cross from one side of the Wall to the other. The most famous of the check points is the Charlie – Check Point. It was demolished after the Wall came down but was re-built the same way for the tourists. The place gives the feeling of the Berlin Wall days as still people in Army Uniform guard the Check Point. But the Sub Way just beside the Check Point lessens the the historic look. One more incident at this check point is when the two super powers of the World, The USA and the USSR came face to face with Military Tanks. I couldn’t exactly get what ticked off the incident, but must have quite a fearful moment.

The Charlie Checkpoint

I also went to the museum where all the important incidents are catalogued in real pictures. Quite indepth information I must say.

Also near the Charlie Checkpoint where the Berlin Wall ran, there is a wall of posters or digital images depicting the entire History, Cause and the Effect of the Berlin Wall. Information on the people who died trying to cross the Berlin Wall, information on the places that came in the line of the Berlin Wall and as a result became a no man’s Property.

From here we went to a Jewish locality where a Jewish Old age home was slowly converted to the extinction camp where the old and weak were put to death.

I always had a question regarding Hitler which I wanted to ask a German. But never got a chance, so this time I asked the same question to our walking tour guide. The question was – What do Berliners or in general Germans think of Hitler? Do the hate him or sympathize with him? Well, I couldn’t get a convincing answer even from her. Guess I need to ask someone else. In any you are a German reading this post, then do try to give in your thoughts. in fact – not only Germans, every one is entitled to have an opinion. So, do tell me what do you think keeping yourselves in the Germans’ shoes.

At the end of the trip we were told the One reason why the Berlin Wall came down Allegedly one phone call  made the difference.

After the tour I again went back to Sony Building., and basked myself in the its awesome ambience. took some pictures and ended the Day – 3 of my trip.

 

Berlin Day 4 – Walk Inder Walk

This was my theme today..I mean I walked almost the entire breadth of the city today, right from Charlie Check Point, went around the Alexander Platz and then to Hauptbahnhof. Here the entire story…

After a good nights sleep, I got up at around 9:30 in the morning, got ready and checked out the hostel at 11. Using the Metros which was the main means of transport for during my entire tour apart from 11 numbered bus (read walking!), I reached the Hauptbahnhof station and kept up the luggage in the lockers. It costs you 5 Euros per bag. After getting rid of the baggage, I headed towards my first destination, the Topography of Terror. This is a must watch for all, who are interested in the holocaust and its impact. The entire crimes of SS and the Gestapo are depicted here in the chronological order. I felt like seeing the movie Schindler’s List when seeing some of the pictures. History interests me and the Holocaust and the World War are my favourite topics. So I almost took some 3 hours for half of the display. The Sun was bright and I was feeling the heat along with the hunger pangs, so I completed the rest of the pictures a bit hastily and Off I went to have a bite and gulp down something chilled. This time it was Subway @ Charlie Checkpoint.

After the Lunch, I rented a bicycle for 3 hours. It costs you 5 Euros but it is the best way to tour the city if you know where you want to go. I travelled along the entire breadth from the so called East Berlin to West Berlin to the Zoo. Well, I am not a kid to go to Zoo, but I heard that there were some animals which I did not see till now. It turned out to be true. I saw the Polar Bear, Penguins, Bison, Walrus and Giant Panda for the first time. The Giant Panda was just lying on the ground sleeping but the Polar Bear and the Walrus really entertained the people. Seeing the number of people near those animals, I understood that these are the stars of the Berlin Zoo.

The Polar Bear

After completing my Zoological trip, I started to TierGarten, Its a stretch of four hectares of land right in centre of the city. It houses the Zoo and the Soviet Union Memorial. I circled the park for some time seeing the Germans who were spending their holiday on the edge of the lake. After some 30 minutes, I started back to the Bike rental shop. I returned the bike and started back to Hauptbahnhof. This is the where my walking tour started. Little did I know that It will take me almost 2 hours to travel back which should have taken some 30 min. I don’t know how but I missed the route and travelled in the exactly opposite direction to than what I should have been going. I was walking walking and walking just to realize that I was no where near the destination. Then we got an idea, I took the map and tried to mark the shortest route to the Hauptbahnhof rather than the traditional route which the metros or the tourists take. It was quite funny as the roads we took were not filled by the tourists and we got a chance to see the locals in the residential communities. The roads were quite deserted as expected. Within some 25 min, we were in the Hauptbahnhof station thanks to the route which we followed. Had the dinner as usual at the Pizza Hut and took the luggage out of the lockers.

One thing which wondered me was the toilet in the station. One has to pay 80 cents to use the toilets. It converts to around 40 Indian rupees. Paying 40 rupees for the loo, yeh baat kuch hazab nahin huyi…

Overall, the Berlin tour was much needed break from Work, which was pushing me to the limits. I think I desperately needed this trip. I got my priorities right and I think I can plan accordingly for the coming months.

Thank You Berlin, I think I LOVE YOU :)

March 30, 2010

Travelogue – Paris

The best data I lost from my blog was the travelogue. I had a detailed travelogue on Paris and Berlin. Luckily since I imported the posts to Facebook, I could retrieve the data from the travelogues (not the pics). So, here is the Paris day-to-day travelogue…btw the trip was in December 2008.

Paris Trip Day 0 – The Journey Commences

Blogging from the hotel in Paris..

First things first – Mom, Shilpa – I am fine, reached safely to the hotel. (They will be following my trip through my blog!)

Eiffel Tower clip_image001

It was a mind boggling day as my head is bombarding from inside..I am feeling that some one is playing a 10000 Watts music in the head. Partly because I couldn’t eat enough to sustain the entire day of my travel and partly because of the flight travel. The flight from Frankfurt to Paris was more like a roller coaster ride.

I started from office at 3: 15 PM and came to Korsvagen and took the Landvetter airport bus. After shelling out 75 SEK for the ticket, I reached the airport in just about 20 min. For this 20 min journey the taxis charge a sum of 500 SEK. Compared to this the Airport bus is a much viable option. Ok, after I reached the airport I had just about 1 hr to board the flight. Gothenburg, being a small city (though 2nd largest in Sweden) had less number of travelers which made my travel and the routines of air travel appear less rigorous. I got my foreign exchange in Euros and then got my luggage checked in.

After the most important thing of checking in the luggage without any hassles, I got my tax refund amount on the Canon XSi camera which I bought on my birthday. All non EU residents can avail this facility of TAX REFUND where the VAT that is charged as a a part of the price tag of a product, is refunded to you while leaving the EU region. You can get the amount in any currency you want.

The flight started at sharp 5:10 PM local time and reached Frankfurt in 1 hr 50 min. It was almost 7 PM, by the time I reached the next terminal. Frankfurt airport is good but it did not impress me as much as the Amsterdam one did 7 months back. But you get all that you’d expect of an International airport. The German culture becomes apparent in couple of minutes in the airport and the first sight of that for me was huge beer glasses in cafes all round :) .

I had 45 min to get freshen up and have some snacks before I board the connecting flight from Frankfurt to Paris. Being Tuesday I was a vegetarian, so just had a  Foccacia Mozzarella and a Cappuccino. Little did I know that it would be my entire dinner :(

The flight from Frankfurt to Paris took some 50 min and it was not a smooth one. Paris stuck me first time with its illumination when the flight was lowering down. The entire Paris was bedazzled in lights and it was looking like a collection of millions of fireflies that gathered together.Anyways, the flight touched down at around 9:30 and by the time we collected out check in baggage, it was 10:00 PM.

My accommodation is at St.Christopher's hostel and we had to get there by tram and metro. I took a Airport Shuttle which looked like a 22nd century future travel machine, and got down at Terminal 3. There I took a ticket for one way journey from Charles De Gaulle to Paris (RER + Metro) which cost around 8.4 Euros. So got that ticket along with a Mini plan which consists of the entire Tram and Metro lines network. The RER, going to St. Remy, took around 25-30 min to get me to Gare du Nord Station which was my link between the RER and the metro. We got down at Gare du Nord station and moved down to M5 platform to catch the Line 5 towards Bobigny-Pablo-Picasso. It was after 8 min, that we got into the tram and we got down at the Lumiere station. The Inn was at a walk able distance from the station.It was already 23:00 and the only thing that worries me was that I was carrying more than enough money in my pockets and the roads were eerily calm. But thanks to the directions we had with us, we reached the hostel less than 10 min and safely :) Least did I expect that there was a surprise in store for me ;)

After waiting at the reception for 10 min and in spite of booking well in advance, the hostel crew over booked and as a result they ran short of rooms for us. Luckily, they had an agreement with the Holiday Inn Express Hotel just beside them, so we were given the rooms there. It was more like an upgrade from Economy class to Business class. Even then it has its pros and cons:

  • The rooms which we got actually cost 160 Euros per night. We paid 100 Euros.
  • We can access the features of both the hotels..can have two breakfasts :)
  • The Luxury of a Hotel and the social interaction of a hostel.

We are planning to cover important attractions tomorrow. And in the evening we have booked a Christmas dinner and party at St. Christopher's.

 

Day 1 – Notre Dame and Tour Eiffel

Lack of sleep for 2 continuous days made me sleep like a sleeping beauty ;-) I thought of starting the tour as early as possible but by the time I got up it was almost 10:00 in the morning. But thanks to the sleep, my head felt lighter than the day before. I got up not because of any alarm but the room service maid entered my room with her master key!!! I don’t know if thought something might have happened as I was opening the door, little did she knew of my soouunndd sleep :-)

The hotels in Paris give you a complimentary breakfast which hardly breaks the fast, but atleast assists us till we have any other meal. The hotel where I stayed was serves breakfast from morning 7 to 11. I went down right in time time to catch a bite which consisted of 3 different kinds of bread (dumped in a basket) butter, ghee, jam, yogurt along with coffee. After the breakfast, I started off to the city. The best way to roam in Paris is by Metro and if you don’t know where and how to go, just take the Orange Carte pass in any of the main stations. The Orange Carte is valid for one week, typically from Monday to Sunday, covers all the buses, metros and RER. There are different combinations, like only Paris or Paris and Disney Land, which are priced accordingly. I took an only Paris pass which cost me 16.8 Euros. Try this, any single journey from one point to other costs you 1.6 Euros. So, you pay for 10 trips but can go unlimited number of times in that weeks time.

I took a single journey ticket to Gare du Nord for 1.6 Euros, and took an Orange Carte pass valid for one week. One irony I faced here is that even in the information centre, the people hardly speak english. Anyways, it was a bit easy after I got the pass as I can get on any metro i want and get down if its not right..a good way to know the city :)

From Gare du Nord, I went to Pont Neuf, where the famous Pont Neuf bridge is located and the islands are located. I headed directly to Notre Dame Cathedral.

The Miniature version of the Cathedral

It was breathtaking – the Gothic Architecture and the presence of the cathedral is so imposing. First took some pics of the Cathedral and then went inside, there were summons going on inside and we were not supposed to disturb that. All the tourists are required to remove their head wear before entering and no photography (but all were taking pics as they liked) I got a mini guide book and went on the Cathedral taking some pics at some good places. The bronze Crucifix and the gold cross are the most striking must see things of the Cathedral. I couldn’t climb up the cathedral as the entry was closed. Will cover that in the coming days. Took some pics there in front of the Virgin Mary and the flying Buttresses and that as the weather was pleasant, I thought of completing the Eiffel Tower, so off I went to the tower.

The Eiffel tower was simply magnificent…France is the head of the European Union, so the entire tower is drenched in blue lights and the torso of the tower bears the stars of the EU.

I took the ticket till the top floor. We have to go till he second floor and then from there should change the lift. I was already starving, so as soon I reached the 2nd floor, I went inside and had a Cappuccino, Eggs and  Bacon. After the small bite, I went on to the deck and took some pics of the beautiful Paris city from the 2nd floor of the Eiffel Tower. After some 15 min of waiting in the line to go up, I got my chance.In the top floor, the distance from that point to the to various Cites. I saw Hyderabad, Bangalore, Delhi etc

After the Eiffel tower, I started to my hostel and on the way, in the metro met a Tamil guy. The Tamil guy who sat beside me, suggested me an area where where I can find some Indian restaurants. Off I went there and found that the area should be named after India, coz its like being in India.

After the dinner, just came back to the hotel and slept. One thing that I have realized is that I don’t have stamina like those of Westerners'. Backpacking for me is long way ahead.

 

Day 2 – The Walking Tour and Champs Elysees

After just one day I realised that this is not going to be that easy like a trip in India. Here you have to walk a lot to get the feel and vibe of the city and walking is the one thing we Indians do not tend to do much. 6 Months of Sweden and walking there I could do bit ok but not to the fullest – still a long way to become a backpacker.

The Louvre clip_image001[12]

I took the free walking tour as it was Xmas and most of the locations will be closed. The walking tour is a great chance to get the gist of the places you can cover and some historic significance. It’s like a preview of the places. You can pick the places which interest you more or the places you want to dig in more and come at a later time to see them. The walking tour is also a great ice breaker, you get a chance to meet fellow travelers and the guide makes you play some games to initiate interaction.

We met at St.Michel, a big fountain with a history behind it.  From there we caught a Metro and went to the Islands. We went to the Pont Neuf and the places near to that. After a brief history of France in about 10 min under the Pont Neuf bridge, I slightly understood the importance of the bridge and the faces that were chiseled on that. After the history we were told about the curse of the temple of knights. We walked along the notable places while learning about their significance from the guide. We walked over the wooden bridge over the Seine and reached the Louvre. Being Xmas, the Louvre was closed, so we just walked past along the Great Axis through the Tuleries (not sure of the spelling!!) gardens and the Musee de Orsay (even it was closed!!). Then we walked along the Champ Elysees and reached the Palais de Royale and the Petit Palais which were once the execution cells. The walking tour came to an end here and so was my energy. I was totally sapped even when the tour was for just 2 hours. After the tour, I continued my walking along the Champs Elysees seeing all the hustle of the Christmas Markets. When I walked up the road towards the Arc de Triomphe, I saw the Head Quarters of leading Brands of the Fashion World. I could see the Arc de Triomphe from a distance and it was much like the India Gate at a first glance. As I neared it, I realized why it was so famous. The sheer size of the Arc moves you. After seeing the amazing monument for some time from a distance, I started realizing how hungry I was. I just had a light breakfast which hardly broke the fast and then I walked almost 4 hours. I started to see for some cafes on the Champ Elysees, when I realized that it was a Thursday and I was again a vegetarian :-(

I went into McDonalds but could hardly find any vegetarian stuff there and the mad rush there made the task of asking the boys there impossible. So what did I do? back to La Chapelle. I got the taste of South Indian Cuisine after 7 months. So it was hard to resist not going there again. The fact that I can have only vegetarian stuff made it more compelling ;-)

 

After the Lunch cum snacks I went to the room and thought of going to the evening tour of Montmartre. So after going to the room I had a nap, little did I know that the small nap would indeed be long one. After getting up and realizing that I wouldn’t be doing much today, I just went to the Belushi’s Cafe and just lazed out the time.

So, thus was my day 2 in Paris. Till now I covered:

  • Eiffel Tower
  • Notre Dame – 80%
  • St. Michel
  • Pont Neuf
  • Tuleries gardens
  • Palais de Royale & Petit Palais
  • Champs Elysees – in day
  • Arc de Triomphe – 10%

 

Day 3 – Notre Dame (Stairs), Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees (lights)

After a good rest the previous night(thanks to the Belushi’s cafe :)) I was again ready for a good walk. After finishing the same breakfast (Did I tell what my breakfast was? It was bread, butter, cheese, jam, milk, orange juice, 3 types of flakes (corn, chocolate, don’t know the other one) and coffee) by 10:30, I went directly to Notre Dame as I could not climb up the stairs to have a good look of the city. So thought of finishing up that as soon as possible and strike off that from my list. Could do that after an hour.But I also realised that it was not that worthy to shell out 7.5 Euros to go up..I read that there were some 400 steps..didn’t get a chance to count though ;-) The view was good.The pic beside shows the blend of past and present of Paris. It includes the Eiffel tower and the new sky scrapers. Also the another striking feature which is worth the money you spend is the large bell and the gargoyles that stand up there.

The Gargoyles on the Cathedral

After coming down conquering the Notre Dame and have a sandwich, I moved directly to Arc de Triomphe to complete that as well. The Arc de Triomphe is at the centre of six ways making it the point of intersection of six busy streets. So we have an underground channel to reach the Arc. The ticket costs 9 Euros for an Adult. The first thing that we notice in the arc is the flame of the unknown soldier. The flame is lighted every evening at 6:30 and it commemorates the sacrifices of the French Soldiers in the War. After capturing the Arc from different angles I went up the Arc where I could see the remains of some of the statues and the history of the Arc. There were huge screens set up for the history and one could learn the importance of the Arc in the French History by spending some 10 minutes at the screens. It shows why the Arc was built, the important events that happened near the arc and the leaders who visited the Arc. One thing which really impressed me was a miniature version of the Arc with screening capacities. There is a mini Arc standing on a revolving dais and a handle for the same in the same shape to revolve that. As we revolve the Arc, a small block of light focuses on the Arc and the details of the focussed part are reflected on to the screen in front of us showing the carvings and their significance. It is indeed a great way to learn the details of the Arc without any guide.

Arc de Triomphe

After touring the Arc and taking enough pictures there, I went to nearby McDonalds for a bite. After stuffing myself with a burger and some fries, I jumped onto Champs Elysees and started window shopping. Paris is a place where you can shop and spend lavishly. You can splurge money like there’s no tomorrow. I went to the Merc and Citroen Car showrooms where they exhibited some big boys toys. I got some good pics of the Arc and the Paris wheel by standing in the middle of the road.

The Champs Elysees is a place which must not be missed. Also, it had the festive charm which poured lot more people on the road which made the road even more lively and with festive spirit. I went to the eyewear shops which hosted the likes of Armani, Versace, Police ..

Champs Elysees

One kind of shop which never went before is the self defence shop which sold a range of goods which helps in self defence, spying, mystery solving..there were secret cameras, walkies, secret mics and voice recorders, spy cam detectors, different kinds of knifes, guns, etc I spent a good amount of time there seeing the different purpose tools that were present there.

After strolling the entire length of the Champ Elysees, I went towards the Eiffel Tower to see the glittering of the tower which happens once every hour. It was a scintillating view. The entire length of the tower, immersed in blue, flickering with light.

I couldn’t get a very good shot because of the hand shake. Then I understood the importance of a tripod and a remote for my rebel. I will get them as soon as I gain a bit more proficiency in photography.

Eiffel Tower

Anyways, walking for some 10 kilometres sucked out all of my energy and I just wanted to go sleep. So, off I went to La Chappel to Anjapper hotel and had poulet(chicken) biryani and then headed back to the hotel.

Thus ended my day 3 of Paris – I covered..

  • Notre Dame – 100%
  • Champs Elysees – 100%
  • Arc de Triomphe – 100%
  • The Police Head Quarters

Day 4 to Day7

Well I did not complete the travelogue for the next three days in detail, so writing down just the highlights.

Covered the World famous Louvre especially the Monalisa, Venus de Milo and the Victory of Samothrace (my personal fav)

 Monalisa

Venus de Milo

Victory of Samothrace

I have also visited Montmartre and learnt the history of Picasso and saw the place where he lived.

Overall, the trip was a great success considering the cold weather in Paris.

March 22, 2010

The Phoenix

 

Phoenix

Phoenix – A Creature that takes rebirth from its own ashes. I was enchanted by this mystical creature since my childhood. How it completes its life time, burns itself up and reborns from its own ashes. A new life, a new beginning and whole new experience.

Little did I now that there will come a time in my life where I will emulate this creature.

Last two years were quite exciting from personal as well as professional point of view. I got to meet some wonderful people and made some friends for life. After this short stint in Europe.

Now, I am back in India trying to start afresh with a new career and a new life. So, what made me tell that I emulated the Phoenix? Well you may have observed that this is my first post again. Well, I lost all the data in my hard disk and to my disappointment, I even lost all the data from my backup hard drive (Now, I really hate Western Digital Products). So. here I am starting all over again. Also, Since I lost all the data from my hard disk, I lost all the documents and files which were part of my life. Luckily I burned all the photos onto DVDs just before the debacle. I tried to recover the data using Ontrack recovery software only to realize that the software was recovering junk data.  :(

So Why Phoenix? Because of new Career, new lifestyle, new blog, new data.

Getting ready for an exciting journey ahead.

pic source: marvel.com