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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Break

Colorful Eurail trains
Travel lust is something which is difficult to explain and those who have been bitten by the bug know that there is no better way to set the mind free and test the limits of the physical endurance and mental resolve, than travel. I have been inspired by the tales of Jules Verne of ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ fame, and Lewis Carroll who penned ‘Alice in Wonderland’ that  sets the imagination on journeys into the unknown and see the ultimate beauty of the creation of god in the world around us.
 I had just returned from a ten day journey in the interiors of Kerala in Jan 2014 and my mind was already working now on the next project to explore Europe in June! One may wonder why plan so early. I had read in various journals and books that the best time to see Europe is the month of June when the crowds of holidaymakers and school children all over Europe and US have still not invaded the continent in hoards.
Also, while scanning through the various sites on internet for the best and most economical ways to travel, I homed on the two options Eurolines bus that travel crisscross over the European continent another being Eurail. The economics was favoring the Eurolines where I could buy a pass for 15 days and visit any place of my choice on the Schengen list of countries starting in one direction and keep proceeding to the next as long as I did not retrace my route till the final destination.
Berlin TV Tower by night
Eurail was a bit more expensive but a faster way of travel especially on certain routes with an added comfort of stretching legs and getting more room while travel compared to sitting in the close confines of the bus seat which could be painful if one has to travel for longer durations and also on overnight travel.
There are other ways to get around by the cheaper airlines like Ryan Air which offer fares as low as One pound plus taxes if booked well in advance over certain sectors. One can also ‘rent a cab’ but it comes with a rider and of course the stress of driving especially on long routes.
While I was exploring the options I came across an irresistible offer of seeing Europe by Eurail in first class by paying almost a second class fare when booked as a party for example two or more people traveling together or as a family. Not only was the fare attractive it offered three extra days of travel for free on booking a 21 day tour. After evaluating all the options this appeared to be the best one!
Next step was to find a destination from where to commence the journey. I looked at various deals in the airlines and the cheap air tickets. While, hunting I came across a deal from Oman Air to Zurich which would reach from Delhi on the same day with a brief stopover at Muscat. The best part was that the airlines provides excellent service and is not exactly a budget airline compared to certain routes that offer cheap tickets with a long layover or flights operating at very inconvenient time. Nothing could be worse than spending a long night at an airport just to take another flight which is almost eight hours away! Zurich is an ideal place to start the journey as it is well connected with all over Europe and is a charming city. I had fond memories of earlier trips through the city so the decision was easier!
La Boqueria market, at La Ramblas,Barcelona
What followed next was a whirlwind trip across the continent starting with Zurich from 2nd June, exploring the lovely cities of Lyon, Barcelona, Marseilles, Genoa, Padova , Venice, Vienna, Budapest, Prague, and Berlin. For next 20 days we took almost 40 main route trains on SBB( Switzeland), TGV ,Renfe, TrenItalia, OBB, CD, S Bahn to cover the distances with almost 3/5 interchanges on every alternate day and traversing over 5000km.Unparalleled natural beauty of French and Italian Rivera, ever smiling people, impromptu concerts, Flamenco dances, modern ballets, carnivals, awaited us. Unforgettable climb atop Berlin TV Tower, nostalgic touch of the Berlin Wall and Brandenburg Gate, visit to Traboules(secret passages used during French Revolution), in Marseilles, street food at Les Ramblas in Barcelona, stunning views of the city from Notre Dame church in Lyon, Parc Gueil in Barcelona, narrow channels of Venice, old city of Genoa, Marseilles and Prague, amazing churches  in every city with inlay work and frescoes, kept us hooked! 
At the Rialto Bridge- Venice
Loving locals at Carnival in Vienna
The meadows, rivulets and ever changing scenery kept us engrossed on trains, making it difficult to close the eyes!
Banks of River Rhone Lyon

Friendly people came forward to our rescue when we got lost in the maze of railway stations and street crossings, as once we discovered that Google maps was not very accurate when walking to some places and our legs had to undertake much greater stress than anticipated. There were long journeys, endless experiences that could probably be summed in a book, escapades, dropping dead each night, eating exotic foods, brushing shoulders with locals in trams, and buses and even getting hugged by strangers that would go down the memory lane. A glimpse of the grandeur of cities of Cannes, Monte Carlo station that looked more like a discotheque, snow covered peaks in Innsbruck and Salzburg, Sun kissed beaches of Mediterranean in Marseilles and Genoa were a treat! There were hair raising moments too when a policeman accosted me at Keleti station at Budapest, thinking I was a drug peddler! Overall it was an experience, worthy of sleepless nights and straying like vagabonds during the day!













36 comments:

  1. First, I am jealous of you Sir. Sorry to say that. I have been planning Europe trip for a long long time but we neither have that much money or time to explore it the way you do. Eurorail deal was a great thing. I will keep those airlines names in mind for future reference. And as I always say, will ask for before planning any trip. :)

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    1. Saru, you will see a lot of the world, rest assured! Also, I am sure both you and Alok have enough in the kitty to see Europe , provided you plan well. It is a misnomer that you need a fortune to travel there. BTW, free consultancy is available when you like:) Thanks for reading!

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  2. I know what you mean. This travel bug has bitten me recently and I want to explore more and more places. Just need the right company and you are set to go. Have you been to Europe already without visiting Norway?

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    1. Read your post so know, what you mean!I have seen Oslo on a weekend quite sometime back, but would love to explore more, as Norway is beautiful:)

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  3. Lovely places and great exploring Rahul! Would have loved more details, may be one post for each of these!

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    1. Thanks a lot Padmaja for the encouraging comment! Believe me there are enough tales to tell about each place, but am afraid the readers will feel there is an overdose:)

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  4. I went to Europe last September but never went to Barcelona or Venice!! :( We chose different places. Now I regret and I am so jealous!!

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    1. Wow Red, that was good but believe me each of these cities was magical and Budapest and Barcelona score highest when it comes to being tourist friendly :)

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    1. Yes Lady fi, it was an adventure right from the word go!

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  6. My God, Rahul, this sounds like so much fun. We do plan to do Berlin, Austria and Italy and I know now, whose number I should be calling for advise.

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    1. Purba, I wish I could really give the feel of the fun as there was an experiences, galore! Do see the places you have planned plus more if you can! I promise to assist in any way I can:)

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  7. A great tour. Got a feel that I was physically following you.

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    1. Ushaji thanks a lot for reading and it was an experience of a lifetime to see so much in such a short time:)

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  8. Wow, Rahul! I am so jealous of you.

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    1. Rachna, do plan a holiday with kids if you have the time to some of these places! I know you have seen a bit of the world, but there is so much to see and experience:)

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  9. An you didn't come to Rome?? Well to tell you the truth Venice is much much better!
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    1. Francesca, I wish I could have come to Rome, but the itinerary was planned, else I could have met you too:) BTW I have been to Rome a long time back , but Italy is so beautiful that any number of visits are welcome!

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  10. Write them in a series, Rahulji. We are eager to read. We have got a plan to visit Europe. Had been to UK twice and was staying in our niece's house. This time don't want to disturb her. You advice seems good. Will try that. Thank you!

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    1. Thanks a lot Sandhya, that you enjoyed the read! Hope you have a lovely trip soon and I will try to bring out some more posts on the places I visited as each of them was unique!

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  11. You seem to have covered alarge area.I still recall my tripto Milan.It was snowing and couldnt get out of the hotel for two days.In the meantime ,airport was closed.
    But,it was fun

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    1. Thank you Mr Chowla, and it was a lot of travel, spread across, Europe. Milan is beautiful and I am sure you must have got time to see Duomo,despite snowfall!

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  12. wowowowo.. now tell me when you coming to UK.. you been to europe all around it seems ..

    enjoyed reading and who knows i might just myself go europe hunting but they are so very expensive .. that is the only problem I will need to take a LOAN :)


    Bikram

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    1. Thanks Bikram but I can assure you, if you plan ahead, it is not so expensive! I have been to UK a couple of times and god willing in next trip will meet you:)

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    2. Looking forward to it sir already

      Bikram

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    3. Thanks Bikram! Hope it happens soon!

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  13. Thanks for sharing these amazing photos and experiences with us! Have a wonderful start to the weekend!

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  14. Wow!!! You went to all the places on my wish list :(

    Now that I have gotten over my envy, I am glad that you enjoyed your trip and returned with a truckload of memories. Thanks for sharing the lovely pictures.

    Nice to see your comment as usual (in the first place) on my blog :)

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    1. Delighted to be back and connect with the reality after a three week fantasy:) Am happy you liked the post,Rachna

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  15. Wow, you visited many countries in Europe at once. You are great physical vigor and mental,too. Thank you for sharing nice information,too.
    Have a nice day.

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    1. Thanks Sarah! It was good to see so much in one go:)

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