Diary of A Wanderer: Germany and Austria

Sitting down to pen my thoughts on Germany did seem a tad bit difficult – simply because the country is so breathtakingly beautiful, I wasn’t sure if I could do justice with a mere blog…

The famous Cologne cathedral

Where do I start …cliched…but true…my love affair with the country started with the famous ‘Sound of Music’ movie; the rolling hills, the tolling bells, the medieval castles which painted a romantic picture; the cathedrals, the endless travel books that I had read –  about the picture perfect villages and the magical forests – and the little phrases that I picked up along the way – Auf Weirdesen et al –  so when a chance came  along for me to experience Germany as part of the German Travel Mart in Colongne –

The city of contrasts - old and new city of Salzburg

I knew it was trip of a lifetime – because from the moment I stepped foot into the country, I knew the travel books hadn’t done justice – simply because as a Wanderer, you have to live the place – see the history come alive, waltz through the fairy tale castles, smile back at the charming people and experience the underlying thread of romanticism humming a tune to the lovers… a flavor which unfolds to every traveler who comes into the country.

Leopold palace in salzburg - sound of music location


Well, luckily, for us lot – when you are a Wanderer, we follow a pretty simple thumb rule  – pack your bags and explore the offbeat. Experience the myriad layers the country has to offer and that’s exactly what I did in my sojourn.

St. Peter's church in Munich

 Freiburg, Salzburg and Munich  was on my agenda after my series of meetings at Colonge…I had to experience the city of Mozart – had to relive my Sound of Music fantasy…had to discover the city of contrasts…and along the way, discover the little towns and the cities – which I now say are stunningly pretty, friendly, traditional, easily accessible, simple to discover, and literally oozing with character. The seduction’s easily explained.

 My worry at that point – I was in love with the country…and how was I going to pack my bags and head out back home?
As I headed into Cologne, I discovered ‘serenity’ – I was staying in Mondial am Dom which was a nice little boutique hotel which had  the fantastic view of the Cologne Cathedral which is one of the UNESCO world heritage center. Having my first cuppa tea with the breathtaking view of the Cathedral is a treat to the senses…
In Freiburg, come evenings, I would be welcomed by warm smiles from the locals who still sit together on long benches, and I realized it is so easy to make new friends. Yes, language is a barrier …but we managed.

I ended up learning a few quotable quotes…thanks to the wonderful locals.

And at the end of it all, I learnt the recipe for a perfect evening – meet up with friends, add to the mix a selection of regional dishes, one or two drinks and some music!

Germans love food and it is a meat eating country – and I’ve gorged on the yummiest steaks – without a second thought to the calories – (it’s vacation and a girl’s entitled to good living) and the desserts  are decadent delights…the cheesecake in Germany, Apfelstrudel and Mozart Chocolates in Salzburg are divine and I couldn’t do justice with mere words…if you enjoy sinful decadent delights,  then you simply need to pack your bags and head out to sample these delicious delights.

But I realized, along the way, being a vegetarian is not a good option in Germany. Simply because, the choices are limited.

The ‘off’  flavor to my journey – I had packed in my woollies thinking the temperature would hit a chilly point  – but little did I realize, the glorious Indian summer would follow me into Germany. Seemingly, Mumbai’s hot summer had decided to pay a visit to Germany…so here I was, lugging my woollie laden bags around and wishing the temperature would hit a near freezing point…

The open air cafes opposite Hellbrunn palace

Salzburg was next on my agenda – with its Alpine scenery and Italianate Baroque architecture, the city is a delight even without its lovely sounds. Besides the regular touristy sojourn, on my agenda was a boat cruise to Hellbrunn in Austria  – and the vista was truly captivating – the magnificent backdrop of the City of Mozart left me feeling complete.  As a traveler, there comes a time when ‘you know this is the ‘moment for you’…and for me, it was probably in the city of Mozart – with its history and surreal beauty.

 

The Trick fountain @ Salzburg

And on the fun bit – the Trick fountains was a real blast.  To be honest, I thought much fun can fountains be? My best advice to all who go: Leave the Dolce and Gabbana at home and bring your sense of humor. Put on a jacket if you’re really worried about getting wet (you won’t get SOAKED…unless you want to that is) and protect your camera.

My day ended with the Mozart Dinner Concert in Salzburg – the baroque room that it is held in is beautiful. It was an experience to hear the lilting music played before and between courses of the meal. A small ensemble of instruments and the singers who were full of personality did add to the drama. Loved every bit of it.

A whole new chapter in my travel diary.

Bear in mind the wine is very expensive so you might want to share with someone else.

It was early to hit the bed…the music was still in the air, lovers walking along the way, Wanderers like me…drinking in the beauty of the place

Ahhh…Salzburg!!!

Munich, capital of Bavaria, brought my first experience at a Beer Hall or  Hofbrauhaus.  It was also the first time that I had ever seen a liter of beer, and so of course I had to order one. And drinking a litre of beer in one go is no mean feat! 

The famous beer mug @ Augustine Beur - they serve in litres

But it was an experience…a definite must for everyone who believes in ‘sampling and savoring every experience that comes along in your Wandering ways! 

 In between discovering the friendly faces, missing a few hop on hop off buses,  I got an opportunity to see the bells of the Glockenspiel chime. Seemingly, the bells only chime three times a day and mini robot dolls pop out to perform two pieces for the spectators below. The first is a traditional wedding piece, the second a dance once used to ward off the plague.

The mad rush of my city awaited me…but the tolling bells and the rolling hills sang their song to me. I was going back to my world where the ‘grind’ awaited me…but I knew the warm smiles, the beer, the music…had woven itself so well into me…that I just had to go back yet again to relive the magic…

And it was, at that moment, I knew my sojourn with the country wasn’t over…in fact, it was just beginning….


About Salzburg Hellbrunn Castle:

In 1612, only a few months after ascending the throne, Salzburg’s Prince Archbishop Markus Sittikus von Hohenems commissioned a country residence to be built at the foot of the well-watered Hellbrunn Mountain. Within a relatively short period of time an architectural masterpiece was created just south of the city that remains one of the most magnificent Renaissance buildings north of the Alps:  the Lustschloss (“pleasure palace”) of Hellbrunn with its spacious park and its unique Wasserspiele (trick fountains).  Hidden in the shade of bushes and trees or jetting out from unexpected hiding places – the world-famous Wasserspiele have been the main attraction at Hellbrunn for almost 400 years.


About Dina

Dina Menon is our Executive- Sales and Client Servicing for MICE. A hotel management graduate from IHM Mumbai, she loves to network with people. And give her the world map and she is already planning her next sojourn even before her bags are unpacked. Discovering the history and learning all about the local flavor comes naturally to her. She loves her Wandering ways and her hobbies include listening to music, watching movies and partying till wee hours in the morning.


Diary of a Wanderer: Homestay at Rangiora, Christchurch-Canterbury

A home away from home…is what my stay at the quaint little home in Rangiora, Christchurch-Canterbury was all about.

A  pretty ordinary day…dotted with simple pleasures that was enough to put a smile on my lips…leave me with a warm toasty feeling. A day which leaves you with a feeling of being complete. A day which, whilst I write this blog post, makes me realize that it is indeed simple pleasures – being in the warm folds of a family, going about routine chores – that makes life a treat!

My day kick  started with a big smile from Margaret who met me at  Christchurch International Airport. A grandmotherly like figure – warm smiles and hugs, she opened her arms and welcomed me into her home and her heart with a single smile.

Forty minutes later,  we were at her lovely home in a small town called Rangiora (approx. population 11,000).

(Rangiora Township is small but has all the conveniences of a town without the crowds and traffic jams. The rest of the town is only homes and farmlands. A picture perfect little town which is every Wanderers dream destination…)

Stepping into her warm abode was a  treat to every gourmand’s senses. Freshly baked cakes and cookies welcomed me…and well, just when you think you can get away with a nibble here and there…a nibble turns into a bite…a bite turns into a big bite and before you know it – the decadent delights are polished off the table – which earns me a big smile from my hostess.

A cuppa tea later, we set out in her SUV to the milking station, and en route picked up Bob, her husband.

The milking station was nothing like I imagined it to be. Sure, it smelt like a cow stable back in India, but it was completely mechanized as far as the operations were concerned.

All the cows get herded into a staging area feeding into the rotary milking platform which holds around 50 cows at a time. The machine spins and loads/unloads cows at a pretty brisk pace. One time around is the amount of time needed to finish milking each cow. So once they reach the end, the milking cups automatically fall off and the cow steps out, heading back to a pasture. Farms have as many as 800 cows so it is a lot of planning & hard work, in spite of all the automation.

Wow…Impressive is the adjective I use for want of any better word. A world removed from the cow sheds of India!

And a little later after exploring their farm and basking  in the lush verdant beauty, we headed out to one of  their son’s homes.

Margaret & Bob have a huge family (17 grand children!) The family tree is chronicled through the many pictures Margaret has put up in their home (much like my wall at home). It was interesting to be a part of their routine and listen to the children talk about their day. At which point, it really made me realize that life is full of simple pleasures – the pitter patter of children running about, the warm hearth, the soft tinkling laughter of Margaret, the warm smiles from Bob and his son and  how, in their own way, they enveloped me so easily into their fold.

Came home to a dinner of succulent roast lamb & vegetables (beans, carrot & cauliflower) and spent some time chatting after dinner. By 7:45 pm I was ready to call it a day!

The quaint little heaven they call home is just perfect – the heater making the room warm and toasty…and my bed was inviting.

A long but lovely day that reminded me of simpler childhood holidays (Bob & Margaret are the quintessential grandparents – they pampered me to bits!)

I’ve always believed that every Wandering has its own feel – but a homestay is something that I definitely recommend  in New Zealand for those who want to experience the peace & quiet of the local life here and leave with a warm, fuzzy feeling!

More on my Wanderings soon….

Ciao, Farah

About Rangiora:

Rangiora was occupied by Maori for several hundred years before the arrival of Europeans. The beauty of the area and the potential for grazing lands inspired a Canterbury surveyor, Charles Obins Torlesse, to build the first dwelling in the town in 1851. The main industries in the area are lamb production, dairying, fruit growing and mixed farming. Southern hemisphere truffles are a new specialty crop. The town has several interesting museums and some wonderful heritage buildings, including one of Canterbury’s oldest wooden churches. The beaches of Pegasus Bay are within easy reach and the nearby rivers are popular for fishing and walking.

About Farah Bode: When she gets time from travelling (or getting people to travel), Farah enjoys music, interior designing, dancing and shopping in the bustling streets of Crawford Market, Mumbai. Some of her previous conquests include Canada, US, Philippines, Kenya, France and Italy.


Welcome to The Wanderers Blog!


Seek inspiration for your next trip by tracking the Wanderers on the go!

This blog belongs to all the Wanderers who are on the move, who like to share their travel stories with the world, interesting information about the destination they are exploring, travel tips, must-do activities.. anything that they’d love to share during the trip..

* Post about their travel stories, tips and favourites.
* Experiences of their stay arrangements at fabulous hotels
* Their absolute recommended must-do activities?
* Best eating joints, mouth-watering restaurants that one shouldn’t miss?
* Favourite place to get shopping fixes?
* Celebrity they spotted during the trip?
* Best travel picture/ video that captures their “Magic Moment”
All this or any general story about their trip experience that would help others rediscover familiar places or learn more about unusual offbeat destinations.  Take a few minutes to lose yourself, be informed and inspired!

Follow the comments below as our clients reply with their holiday experiences across the globe!

Keep Wandering!

The Wanderers




Morocco Marrakesh Market: A treat to the senses

Marrakesh Spice Market

Marrakesh Spice Market

Just off Marrakesh central square – Djemaa el-Fna – lies some of the most enticing souks in Morocco. The immense market is home to food vendors, storytellers, musicians, tattoo artists and snake charmers…and the list goes on.

Fascinating, spell binding, alluring – and the list of adjectives could go on if we were to describe the Marrakesh Market – where the exotic world of snake charmers, musicians and riot of colors and cacophony of sounds bring the market alive and enticing enough to take a day out and revel in the magic of it.

Its ancient history revolves around desert caravans and pirates; its low red buildings are framed by the snow covered High Atlas mountains. The square around, which the city is centered is easily the most alluring of any African market.

It is so easy to get lost in the shrouded alleyways, which leads us into a darker, narrower lane that snakes into a twisty clutch of passageways, each nudging us in directions we can neither predict nor resist. But then, at the end these labyrinthine byways all funnel back to the main square – eventually.

And in your journey through the sights, smell and sound of the souks…you chance upon its very soul which pulls you back into its fold. Enveloping you in its magic and transporting you into a world like none seen before.

Amid the dense souks, you’ll find objects to sate every sense. Monkey trainers, snake charmers, henna artists,, carpets for the feet, candies for the tongue and scores of potent spices for the nose, people standing over huge boiling cauldrons dyeing wool whilst their neighbours measure out spices on old lead scales. Music acting as a layer to the souk…and over cups of sugary mint tea, with chat of family and country bartering and haggling seals the deal.

Whilst you go to the square at different times of the day, and you’ll keep seeing it reborn. At times, storytellers spin tales. At others, the food stalls dominate the scene, packed with everything from dried fruits, nuts and orange juice to gleaming rows of calf brains.

The flavor of the market is it’s salesmen – aggressive, pushing everything from rugs to perfume, with prices “just for you, my friend.” With the  happy cacophony of sounds – honks, braying of the donkey, the blaring music which keeps the shopper enthralled – it is a world of havoc – captivating havoc…

For a flavor of culinary heritage
Four-course meals are common here, the freshest salads, and meat platters ladled over fine bowls of couscous in the steaming tagines.

A must taste: Pastilla, a meat or vegetable pie with powdered sugar on its crust. There’s also fresh bread here to rival anything from Italy or France.

The mechoui sellers’s delicious slow-cooked lamb flavoured with cumin and salt is not to be missed.
Stalls selling aromatic bunches of mint compete with colourful displays of ras al hanout, a popular spice blend, and jars of preserved olives and red peppers.

Marrakech Bazaar

Marrakech bazaar

Visiting the bazaar
Thumb rule: If you decide to buy, the name of the game is to haggle. Offer about a third of the original price presented to you. You may as well make yourself comfortable as negotiations can take hours and be prepared to drink numerous cups of sweet mint tea in the process. It may also be possible to swap things, if you have designers T-shirts or trainers for example that you are prepared to give up.
The most interesting time to visit the souks is in the early hours of 5 – 8am, or late afternoon around 4-5pm when local traders can be seen bargaining for goods. Most stalls are closed in the evenings, although a few stay open till 7 or 8pm. It’s also worth noting that some souks are closed on Fridays, the holy day.


Tell us your most inspired movies for travelling?

The motocycle diaries

Movie: The Motorcycle Diaries - (Image-IMDB movie database)

There are films that inspire you to travel and live the essence of a destination that you see and stir you to experience yourself. And as travel-addicts, those are the kinds of films we’re all about. Whether its ‘The motorcycle diaries’ which sets the mood of South Americas’ open roads,  ‘Into the Wild’ which inspires you to trek to Alaska, Healy..’Seven years in Tibet’ transporting you to those lovely snow-covered mountains, ‘The Beach’ that makes you want to go on a solo trip to paradise island…its all about transporting yourself to the world you see in films and you long to discover!


Romance is in the air..Do something different this Valentine! The Wanderers tip

 

Exotic laced with silken threads of romanticism…candle lit dinners, walking in the silken carpet of dew laden grass to sipping wine in the floating resort, this season’s flavor  is all about celebrating getaways which spells romance.

Chikmangallur

Gokarna

Maldives Loft

lapland

So be it in the exotic, tucked away beach in Gokarna, waking up to the aroma of coffee and vanilla in Chikamangalur, to listening to the jungle lore around the campfire in Pench to treating your sweetheart to a spa in Maldives, to husky riding in the Lapland or simply discovering the mystical land of Srilanka…your wandering never seemed better!

Discover Sri Lanka

North Pole expedition

And if you want your surprise to have an edge ‘a la the cherry on top of he icing on the cake’, go the Wanderers’ way and book a North Pole expedition which sets off on July 23rd, 2011! Adventure and exotic…your dream holiday never seemed better!

So  savor the moment and pamper your sweetheart’s senses in a way where it’s all about getting up in the morning, watching the rays of the sun kiss you and your beloved, romancing in the azure blue sea, the lush green forests and the frozen land.

Note: For Indians traveling to Srilanka, Maldives, Mauritius, Thailand – it is visa on arrival. And its free!

Call The Wanderers to enquire!


The magic of Bhutan – Savitha Subramaniam, The Wanderers

Valleys of Bhutan

Albeit a little late to sit down and pen my thoughts about Bhutan, I had no one else to blame but me – simply because Bhutan, the land of the Thunder Dragons still had ‘that’ effect – which had me at loss for adjectives about the place. That, and ofcourse, the post vacation hangover – which translates into getting back into the routine.

 

But as I sit down to pen this blog post, my mind is flooded with the images of Bhutan – The land of the Thunder Dragon; The country which measures the happiness of its citizens ; One of the claimants to the title- Shangri-la! Anyone who visits this tiny Himalayan kingdom nestled between the two Asian giants (India and China) would be blown away by its beauty, culture and serenity.

 

As someone who believes that travel is an experience, a journey and not just visa stampings I take a lot of efforts to plan my vacations. It’s important that the travel is enjoyable and appealing to the varied tastes of my husband, my two kids and myself. Vacations and destinations have always been very close to my heart – simply because I feel that it is escapism from the normal rigours and the highlight should be fun filled family time.

 

And, lo behold came Wanderers – who understand the kind of traveller you are, your expectations, budgets and adds their own expert advice to it. And in this case, I had Alifiya – my little vacation genie, if I could call her that! With the Wanderers, the destination holds a close thread to their heart. And the magic of the country begins from the moment they sit across and bring the country alive with their words.

 

Bhutan is awe inspiring from the moment you start flying over the Himalayas and land into a breathtaking valley. I felt like applauding the pilot for that amazing flight. The itinerary was not too rigid and we were ready to put our feet up and enjoy.

Butter paint - Taktsang Monastery

Due to weather vagaries we couldn’t do the hike to Taktsang monastery. But the trips to Thimphu, Punakha, Wangdue, Bumthang and Trongsa exposed us to the beauty of this nation and their culture. And the view of Taktsang left us in awe! The hypnotic quality that the place possesses is something that the guide books could never do justice.

And of course, we had a fantastic guide and a driver – which made the trip all the more pleasurable. Extremely helpful and resourceful, they knew the ins and outs of the land and little quaint details which I’ve believed is very important to making your trip memorable. Excellent hotels and I would recommend the Kyichu properties which definitely gets thumbs up from us! Indian vegetarian food is available at most good hotels and resorts. And what helps is also the fact that the Bhutanese have lot of regards for Indians and it feels nice to see their warm hospitality.

 

Travel books, magazines, blogs and websites don’t do justice to any place. Because, if you have to feel the magic of the land, you need to pack your bags and head out. Let the country envelop you in its folds…let the magic of the monasteries and the snow capped mountains mesmerise you.

 

Simply put – you must visit the country to enjoy it.
Bhutan is a jewel in our neighbourhood. You don’t need a Visa to travel to Bhutan from India.  Between penning my thoughts and going back to the captured images, I’m promoting Bhutan as a destination to all my friends. And if a tailor-made trip is what you have in mind, then the Wanderers is your destination.