Category Archives: Romance and Rejuvenation

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.

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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!


Beach bumming at Culebra, Puerto Rico by Joe Varghese

Much as we had heard of Puerto Rico, not much was known about the island of Culebra. The only thing we knew was that, till the recent past, it was used as a target by the U.S. Navy. For years, we have driven by the U.S Naval Academy in Annapolis and the Destroyers and Submarines in Baltimore Harbor. I could imagine the big guns booming and the projectiles flying towards that tiny landmass in the Caribbean. How would it be to stand on the very same beach that had endured the mighty firepower of the Naval fleet for years, we asked ourselves ! The answer was three hours away. It was an early morning flight to Puerto Rico, landing at San Juan International Airport. Puerto Rico is one of the better countries in the region, with financial and political support from Uncle Sam. This is especially true for San Juan, where the infrastructure and lifestyle is almost like that of the US. Getting out of the airport, renting a car, and driving toward Fajardo on the East coast, was a cinch. We waited at a tiny little airport to catch a plane to Culebra. I don’t know if one can call it an airport.

Another way of describing it would be a single building with a huge parking lot, on which teensy-weensy airplanes landed and took off. When the time comes, you walk up to the plane, climb in through the back door (just like you would climb into a car) and dump your bags in the back. The plane can seat about 10 people, including the pilot. Is it too hot in the plane? Just crack open the window a wee bit! On-board refreshments ? Sure I just reach into your backpack and pull out the munchies you had bought at the airport. If you are lucky, you could call shotgun and sit next to the pilot. Culebra was half an hour away, and our eyes were riveted to the window as we passed the beautiful beaches of mainland Puerto Rico, flew over the sea with its little islands and boats, till we saw the mountains of Culebra looming in the distance. It is kinda noisy in the plane, so conversations may be limited. Every once in a while the plane may hit an air-pocket, so you have to be careful with your drink, if any.

The plane has to maneuver between two mountain peaks during its descent, which can make some people nervous. We landed at the airport, pulled our backpacks from the trunk and simply walked up to the terminal, making sure the rotating propellers were a safe distance away. Once there, you have a choice of renting two wheelers or 4-wheel drives. There are also some vans that ply across different parts of the island. We took one of the vans to a local eatery, which was the house of one of the local people. As expected, most dishes consisted of sea-food, the most intriguing of which was conch. We had the local drink: Scotch with coconut milk. The coconut milk has to be fresh or it ferments, thus ruining the taste of the drink. We tried one glass and decided the Medalla, the local beer was better. We camped at Flamenco beach, reputed to be one of the top three beaches in the world. The beach has a very well maintained camp site, which was almost deserted when we went there. It is not uncommon to see wild horses on the island. There is nothing more refreshing than to wake up in the morning to the sound of the ocean, unzip your tent and walk into a breathtakingly beautiful sun rise. We walked on the white sands of the beach, appreciating the green water and eyeing the corals that were within swimming distance. Soon we came across a couple of rusty battle-tanks on the beach. Apparently, these were the targets that were to be destroyed when the Navy conducted its exercises. Certain parts of the island are still cordoned off with fences.

We shared the whole beach with less than 5 other people. A quick breakfast later, we were swimming toward the corals. A few hours later, we were trekking to a beach on the other side of the island. It is like searching for Easter eggs: you walk through the dense vegetation and suddenly there is a beach. You walk some more, and look, one more beautiful beach, this time with corals a few meters away. Every once in a while you will find some other backpacker discovering the island the same way. The Navy has stopped using the island for target practice, and most parts of Culebra, along with its beaches and archipelagos, are protected wild life refuges. The main income source of the island is tourism, mostly domestic. It is very common for mainland Puerto Ricans to jump on a boat and come down to Culebra, enjoy the beach, have a barbeque and simply head on back home. The happening spot of Culebra is the township of Dewey, named after Admiral Dewey of, what else, the US Navy. We went there to have lunch. Dewey is nothing more than a collection of houses with some bars. The docks are a short walking distance away. The place is dead in the afternoons and sees some action at night. We walked around Dewey, talking to some of the local people. A large number of the locals speak English. The population of Culebra is around 1500, and crime is almost unknown. You could leave your bag at any place and simply walk around to enjoy the scenery. On the way back, we waited at the airport for our flight. There was a guy standing next to the ticket counter, cracking jokes and having fun. Turns out, he was our pilot. A Kashmiri gentleman named Babar, who spoke to us in Hindi. What are the chances of meeting a man from the Indian sub-continent on a tiny island of less than 1500 people in the Caribbean? Globalization has truly hit even the remotest part of the world. This trip was a unique experience: the island, its people, its food, and definitely the airplane ride.