Hostels

Tag

The Beloved City

I was grumpy. A four-day head cold will do that to you. Mind you, this was an improved version of me. Two days earlier, saw me reduced to a gibbering idiot, staring owl eyed at the wall. The situation in the train station did not seem very promising. The place appeared to be cast in cold, grey stone. The design of the place seemed functional, but only just so. Only one or two shops were open, one a bar and the other a mobile phone shop of some sort. The coloured signs of the shops seemed almost reluctant in the way they shone, barely adequate in piercing the gloom of...

En Route to Firenze

The day dawned equally dreary and cold on an early Sunday morning in Milan as I made the short trek down to the main train station at the unholy hour of 7am in the morning – made really no difference actually, since I was jet-lagged anyway. And in typical Italian fashion, there was a small traffic melee taking place with some honking, poor driving and bad temper in the Piazza near the train station. “Ah, the Italian temperament,” remarked TC, wondering as well how more drab it could get when the 2.5 hr train journey consisted of misty industrial scenes that seemed to characterise the region of Lombardy. But Florence surprised us. It was very much alive on Sunday, bustling with fake-goods...

Misadventures in Brussels

Ingredients for misadventures: Take – 1. smelly, beer-swirling, alcohol-loving fat man 2. A less fat Korean man with a nasal English accent Put #1 and #2 together, mix with 3. Lousy Airline Food (poor excuse for Chinese fried rice and watery egg) Vigorously fold in 4. Incompetent baggage handling Garnish with 5. Nose bleeds For dessert: Throw in many loud-mouthed, vocabluary-challenged teenage Americans enjoying their gap-year thronging every corner of the hostel and several thieves who shoplift their way through the city. As far as I know, all these have happened in the space of the last 12-18 hours. “Your bag is still in Amsterdam,” some baggage handler said curtly as I...

Lisbon and its Taxis

I reached Lisbon after a rather harrowing 7 hour bus-ride, in which the driver in Jekyll-Hyde form, turned sanguine to nasty as he neared Lisbon Sete Rios Bus station. By the end of the journey he was already yelling at someone for some unfathomable reason, and I thought it wise to walk away before it escalated into some full blown quarrel. Then it was into a taxi from Sete Rios to Rua de Augusta (an apparently famous vein of the city) and found it most disconcerting to find that the cabbie himself didn’t know the way. “Cruzamento Rua de Augusta com Rua de Conceicao…” I had said to him curtly, attempting to pronounce the tilda-ed word properly. Either he did not understand a word I said, or my accent was so bad that...

Recuerdos de la Alhambra

*Memories of La Alhambra – Also a classical guitar piece by Francisco Tarrega. This week is kind of a special week for the Spaniard (or the lazy Spaniards as said rather wryly to me by Karina, the young proprietress of Apr RamCat in Barcelona – where the unofficial weekends begin on Thursday nights) , when 6th and 8th Dec are Catholic holidays. The last day in Barcelona was spent in Parc Guell, another quirky, fantastical playground of Gaudi. And suddenly, after a flurry of phone calls, I find myself in Granada after flying Spanair nonetheless, with a ticket booked mere hours before the actual flight. And I have God to thank...

Gorgeous, Gaudy Antoni Gaudi

Jet-lagged, smelly and tired, the chaos of an airport is as jarring as a stick shoved up my nose. I jumped into a taxi with 3 other German women (whom I obviously don’t know and who obviously half-think that I’m up to no good), praying that we were headed in the same direction. Apparently such boldness is still unheard of and they thought me strange, mildly speaking. The moment of communal distrust and anger came when the driver conveniently forgot to add the 12 Euro surcharge that comes when one hails the cab from the airport. I found myself thanking God that I was working and would not feel so much...

Cakes, Palaces and the Genteel Life

Cakes are in mouth-watering abundance in the cafes here. The origin of the famous Sachertorte is claimed by 2 coffee places: The cafe in the Hotel Sacher (which claims to ship all over the world) and the nearby Cafe Demel. The latter is not attached to any hotel and thus easier to infiltrate. Another plus-point: The cakes that are on display are visually pornographic. But pleasure can be found in other things: in the length of hair, or in the sheer largeness of a building. The pleasure garden is found in Schoenbrunn Palace, beautifully symmetrical in accordance with the Enlightenment beliefs. Swarming with tourists sweating in the mid-day heat, I...

The Blue Danube

Many guests at the hostel are using Austria as a springboard to travel to the rest of Eastern Europe – Zagreb, Prague, Bratislava (a mere 2-hour train ride away). The weather is hot, hot, hot, but at least the humidity is down. There is of course, the hazard of having the hostel lying just behind the massive shopping street, though it does make a very interesting walk. So I went a little crazy looking at the prices (and not buying) and rejoicing that they were way more manageable than Scandinavia. It is a city that I’ve not quite experienced before: expansive, baroque, so elegant and such a cultural mecca for those who...

The Mixed Dorm

The journey from Balestrand to Bergen heralded a change in scenery. The boat took a route through the gradually flattening landscape that opened out into the sea with many islets sheltering the Bergen coast. It was amusing to see some brave souls (well, me included) clamber up to the stern of the boat, only to back down in defeat when the wind got too strong and too cold in the upper regions of the Fjord. The boat terminal slices the Bergen Wharf into half, and for many visitors from other regions of Norway, the first sight they get is not only the hilly regions that the city is built on,...

A City built on Water

Or so says the touristy, bright yellow T-shirt that I might just buy for my father who’s afraid of bright colours. “Gorgeous, golden, green” were the first words that dropped into mind – the colour of the trees and plants that strikes you hard the moment you exit the airport and hop onto the Airport bus that goes to Stockholm city. The pictures don’t do justice to the breathtaking panorama of the place and its sheer scale. Stockholm City on the other hand, is like Copenhagen on a larger scale, sprayed across a couple of islands (thus the numerous bridges), and a few more times more expensive. The people are cautious,...