Old Town

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Groove in the Food

Back when I was last in Copenhagen, I had only vague—and most likely erroneous—ideas about Scandinavia. Those included Michael Learns to Rock, herring, The Little Mermaid and minimalist but expensive furniture. None of them included the cuisine at all. This is not to say I didn’t do the usual wandering around old town, venturing further into Vesterbro, Nørrebro and even around Ørestad to do the usual touristy things, with the usual transportation mishaps (mostly to do with malfunctioning ticket machines and several ways of paying for a fare) along the way. But how things have changed, at least on the culinary front. Danish cuisine has since then, developed a reputation...

A hive of (in)activity

The bus journey to Korcula runs daily at 3pm from the bus terminal and seeing that the check-out time at Pension Stankovich is at 10am, the morning was spent wandering about in the sweltering heat and finally into the Taj Mahal, a small konoba off the Stradun that serves strangely, Bosnian rather than Indian food. Bosnian sweets and strong coffee at 11am in the morning couldn’t possibly go wrong. Thus came the tufahijia, a dessert dish made from baked apples, chocolate and walnuts, then topped with a layer of cream. It was then back to the Pension begging for much needed relief found in a glass of cold water, Mac’s...

Crna Gora: Shade is Salvation

When someone has food and drink, sit closer. When they are working, move away. It is best not to disturb them. – One of the 10 commandments printed on a postcard of Montenegro It is rather mind-blowing to enter a country that is a mere 3 years old but has a history that stretches over millennia. Montenegro – bordered by the Adriatic sea in the southwest and Croatia in the west – severed its ties with Serbia in June 2006 and declared its independence. It is an enticing region of monuments (and their ruins), beaches and great weather, situated in the allure of sparkling sea that continues as far as...

The Adriatic treasures

I’m starting to believe that I never pass up an opportunity to say just how much I hate plane journeys. Given that Edinburgh-Dubrovnik was a new route introduced by FlyGlobespan and seeing that I was on the first trip there, I was half expecting that the pilot would get lost or some other horrible thing would happen. A 45-minute delay just had to prove me right. It was a full and long flight (3.5 hrs) for an intercontinental one on a budget airline, and I tried sleeping to no avail, only to perk up a bit when the plane went over the Swiss Alps. Things changed however, when the Adriatic...

Englishmen in (Old) York

I decided that England is a dreadfully dismal place to be in the whole of God’s cheery earth, as the National Express East Coast wound it way southwards towards York. Clear skies in Edinburgh soon became a memory as the train chugged through England – and fog intuitively seemed to roll in at the Scottish borders after Berwick-upon-Tweed, hugging the coast line and passing Holy Isle en route to Newcastle, Durham, Darlington and finally, York. Even the weather hates the English, I thought childishly. Thankfully the 2.5 hour-long journey to York was mostly without incident, save for screaming children who got excited over sheep and inconsiderate parents sitting in the...

The Brouhaha of Brugge

Yet another day trip to Brugge, and as the travel guides promised, that place is overhyped and insanely touristy. I reached there smack in the mid-morning of the weekend and a bustling market was already in place selling mostly old women’ clothing, lace, hardware and other bric-a-bracs. The lace shops are undoubtedly tourist traps but also hark back to the era when Brugge was a textile powerhouse, and lace was one of the many materials that merchants dabbled in during its heyday. I was momentarily outraged that I had to pay a good dollar for a map, but the soothing nature of the girl in the tourist office helped take...

A day in Antwerp

The foray in Antwerp began from the impressively massive Antwerpen Centraal Train station, a masterpiece unto itself. They are still expanding it to add more shops in its staggering 3-5 storey-high building, with train platforms nearly on each level. The distance of about a km and a half paves the way from the central station to the historic core (Grote Markt) is a massive pedestrian vein known as the “Meir” of shops ranging from the kitsch to the large department stores. Antwerp is known for its avant-garde designers and has since become a shopping magnet for hard core shoppers. I walked around the historic centre for a while, and wondered how...

The unofficial capital of the EU

Sleeping off the stress associated with missing luggage works wonders. With that cat-nap behind me, thinking suddenly becomes easier, and Brussels suddenly looked more beautiful. Did I mention that my bag finally arrived on a separate plane, chauffeured to my hostel? I am also now clean and scrubbed, thank god, but my room still smells like a sewer every couple of hours. 2Go4 Hostel Brussels is the place (strange name), on Boulevard Emile-Jacqmainlaan, and a sneaky 2 streets parallel from the shopping stretch. Walk down a mile more and hit the Brussels’ central tourist catchment area (or trapment area), the Grand Place/ Grote Markt/ Grande Place, some World Heritage site which the Belgians simply acknowledge as ‘too many people’. The architecture is even cheerfully gothic. The people speak French, Dutch, Flemish and some other dialects that sound like American English shouted aloud under water. Weirdness is worshipped. Where else in the world do you have a status of a pissing boy (the Mannaken Pis) as an icon? The rage right now, is to be seen eating the rectangular waffles...

Old world charm

One wonders at the tripartite heart of Lisbon – the Bairro Alto (now the clubbing district), the Baixa Chiado (the centre piece and shopping area) and the Alfama (the oldest quarter that survived the 18th century earthquake), yet Tiago merely called it a big village. He is not wrong, for all 3 areas are interconnected, but the Alfama, followed by the Bairro Alto is undeniably the most compelling with its winding, uneven streets, and its stunning views at various look-out points. Up the Castelo Sao Jorge, a Visigoth battlement enhanced by the Moors with which the Tourism office makes a quick buck out of mere ruins, yields a magnificent panorama...

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...