train journeys

Tag

Stockholm – redux

Thus far, the wireless internet has sucked. In both the hotel and in the train, but I probably should be grateful that I can actually blog and stay online while the snow-covered landscape whizzes by. The first two days in Stockholm – en route to Copenhagen and Greenland – passed in a jet-lagged blur, and revisiting the hotel I last stayed in was a surreal experience, particularly so at the very moment I tried to borrow an electric kettle from the same man who worked at reception (which I did the last time). He nodded, went downstairs and promptly came back with the same kettle that I used over a...

Into a reversal of seasons

When Schilthorn remained closed for yet another day, I was rather foolish to hope that the continuous snowfall would when we stepped out of the Berner Oberland into Vaud and Fribourg. Our route was fairly complicated, long but very scenic (I spent lots of time convincing myself during lull periods that it really was the journey and not the destination that mattered) and with the number of train/bus combination and changes to make any programmer blush, it finally looked like this: Murren cable car – Stechelberg via Gimmelwald, Stechelberg – Lauterbrunnen – Interlaken Ost – Zweisimmen – Gstaad – Montreux – Lausanne. I’m fairly embarrassed to say that I hardly...

Snowed into the Berner Oberland

We stepped out of the miserable rain on a Monday morning in Luzern into a heavily snowing Berner Oberland via the Golden Pass route (Luzern – Brünigpass – Interlaken – Zweisimmen – Montreux) – it would have been all that was promised, except for the perpetual low cloud cover and the grey, washed-out landscape. Mürren, our final destination, was quite mercifully, the pretty and silent ghost town before it throws open its doors to the skiers and the ski season starting this saturday – our crippling disadvantage however, lies in the sheer lack of options in eating and outdoor activities. On our last evening, we stayed close and dined downstairs, and...

From the Blue Lagoon to the Alsatian flats

A 12-hour journey that began at 4am in the morning in Grindavik, Iceland’s Blue Lagoon clinic ended on a whimper (literally) in Strasbourg, a city sitting at the edge of the German border, tiring enough to erase a near-perfect day yesterday spent in the Blue Lagoon and soaking up the silica mud. We joined busloads of tourists for the 45-minute shuttle from Reykjavik, driving to snow-covered lava moss with the distinct advantage of staying over at the clinic for a night – which simply meant we got free entrance into the Lagoon and more time to dally. Situated 5-10 minutes walk down a winding path from the actual building through flammable...

Lost in translation

Japan – Tokyo at least – is quite a crazy place, with even crazier people. Why do they wear masks quite freely? I’m left wondering if it’s because of illness or a fear of contracting disease. Why are the women obsessed with whitening their skin and using so much mascara with their falsies? Why do the men look naturally pervy? Why that enduring obsession with kawaii, or cuteness? Clogged with sensorial overloads, neon lights and incessant noise from loud chatter, trains and human buzz, contemporary Japan has left me overwhelmed and quite unexpectedly distraught. Tokyo is better thought of as a conurbation of cities put together – has never been...

Impulse

For years now, I’ve talked about Japan as my personal fetish, the last, unexplored frontier that I don’t quite dare broach for reasons that were never quite so articulated. I knew that I’d be lost in translation, despite the successful trips that millions of non-Japanese have pulled off without knowing the language and the highly regulated etiquette that earn most gaijin -foreigners – the term “barbarians”. Tokyo itself sounds intimidating and the names of cities just sound the same to me, but I swore that I would plan for myself an ambitious, north-south tour of epic proportions that stretched from the national parks of Hokkaido to the memorial sites of...

A better version of London

The Travel Companion (TC) was with me once again this month, and we decided to make the 5-hour train journey to London from Edinburgh. I was adamant that he should be the one to write this entry because our last trip to London last December was pretty much accidental. My own memories of London spent in the summer of 2007 were exceptionally good, and I had desperately hoped that TC would have at least enjoyed that same privileged experience which I had. This meant packing a heck of a lot of activities in the 3 days we were there (the majority of them consisting of visiting galleries in the day,...

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 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...

Viva la France

I arrived in the touted “City of Lights” by the Eurostar in the mid-afternoon heat engulfed by an all-encompassing smog which made it a bit hard to breathe. So goes the secret of the shrouding mist that creates the accidental romantic ideal of Paris – it does make for good photos though. Just as it is daunting to write about London, it is no less for Paris. What can be said that has not been said in countless novels and other travelogues?   Paris is massive, dirty and sprawling (tourists crawl every available space unfortunately) – it is as though the French Kings competed to build palaces after palaces using...