Posts Tagged With: Travel

A weekend in Budapest

One of the best things about Europe is the ease of traveling within the continent. One visa and plenty of cheap travel options! Last weekend we went on a last minute weekend trip to Budapest, the  capital city of Hungary.

How do I explain the city? It is one of the loveliest I have been to. There is beauty wherever you look. During the day, we walked and walked and walked. We saw, we stopped and we just stared. It is one of the rare cities where the river flows right through the middle of it. Not surprising as Buda and Pest were earlier two cities with very distinct cultures, which is true even today and united only in 1873. During the night, we enjoyed great dining, good wine and the eclectic environs of the famous ruin bars! Not to forget the amazing sights of the city all lit up golden against the dark backdrop of night.

Here is the two and a half day itinerary of our first trip to Budapest! I say first because I am sure, we are going there again. I have also mentioned the vegan/ vegetarian friendly restaurants we went to. We had a great meal at all the places.

Day 0: Vörösmarty square — St. Stephen’s Basilica — Danube Promenade — Shoes on the Danube — Hungarian Parliament 

Public transport in Budapest is very convenient. As soon as we came out of the airport, we bought a pack of 10 discounted tickets to use over the next 3 days. Took one of the oldest metros in Europe to Deák square which is like a hub of all public transport. From there our apartment at Király utca was a 5 minute walk. There were lots of clubs and cafes on Király. After a quick bite we started walking towards Vörösmarty square.

“You have to start your trip at Vörösmarty square”, we were advised and we followed :-). It is like the hub of all activities and just has a great vibe to set the tone of the trip. The square is full of food stalls with Hungarian and regional cuisines and there are also restaurants and cafes all around the square to suit every taste. Lots of stalls selling local artisan gifts, from handmade jewellery to soaps to honey to ceramic flowers to woollen caps to sweet Hungarian paprika… anything and everything is here. It’s a pleasure to just idly walk around the square.

2 day itinerary for Budapest, walking tour itinerary Budapest, Vorosmarty Square budapest

“You have to start your trip from Vörösmarty square!”

From there we headed towards Danube Promenade and started walking north. The promenade is beautiful with stunning views of the Buda castle on the other side. We went a little inside towards St. Stephen’s Basilica. The Basilica towers over all the nearby buildings and as we were walking towards it, in many ways, it reminded me of St. Paul’s cathedral in London. Devoted to Saint Stephen, the founder of Hungarian State, the church is magnificent from inside. As it was time for the regular mass, we were able to go a little further inside and there was a beautiful painting of Jesus on the cross inside.  We weren’t allowed to take pictures of it.

St. Stephen Basilica Budapest, weekend itinerary for Budapest, Budapest in 2 days

St. Stephen Basilica

The outside courtyard had many students on segways, that you could try and hire for short or long tours around the city. From the basilica, we went back on the river front and kept on walking towards the Parliament. Before the parliament, we came across the Shoes on the Danube  Bank memorial which literally gave me goosebumps. The memorial is in honour of the many (mainly Jews) who were killed by the Arrowcross militiamen in Budapest during World War II. They were marched to the riverfront, ordered to take off their shoes, and then shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. The memorial represents their shoes left behind on the bank. While I was clicking the picture, a mother and daughter approached one of the shoes, the little girl took out a rock from her pocket, placed it in the shoe, bowed and left. In the evening we went back to read more about Hungary’s position during the World War II and especially what the Jews in Hungary went through.

Shoes on the Danube Memorial

Shoes on the Danube Memorial

From there we went upto the magnificent Hungarian Parliament building complex. Inspired by Westminster, it is quite impressive, standing right on the banks with beautiful symmetrical architecture. Going around the complex we could admire it from different angles. One can go inside also. The tour takes about an hour and tickets are easily available there. The best view of the parliament though is from across the Danube river, from where you can admire the whole building in one frame.

Hungarian Parliament building, Budapest in 2 days

The magnificent Hungarian Parliament and Danube River

For the night, we went Andrássy utca, a beautiful street lined with trees on both sides and plenty of restaurants. We went to Mazel Tov, a fusion Israeli restaurant in the old Jewish quarter. It is built in the ruins of an abandoned building and retains the charms of the old building. The old brick walls and balconies are adorned with hanging vines. We loved the food there. They had traditional Israeli dishes and the chef had an interesting fusion menu. I specially loved the pistachio soup and the ‘sweet potato bun’ falafel burger!

Day 1: Gozsdu Antik Market — Fisherman’s Bastion — Matthias Church — Buda Palace — Széchenyi Chain bridge — Citadel — Szimpla Kert — Gozsdu Udvar

The next day we had just left the apartment when I got drawn into a narrow passage where little shops were just coming up… and as it happens, I pulled Sikander in and we went into one of the most popular weekend markets — the Gozsdu Antik Market. I completely lose myself in such places… some stalls will take you back in time with their antique gas masks, communist era memorabilia, vintage signs while some will showcase some beautiful heart made handicrafts. I bought a little piece for myself and Sikander bought himself a Soviet hat before we headed out. This market is cheaper than Vorosmarty square, so if you happen to be in Budapest on the weekend, Gozsdu will be a better bet for finding new and antique souvenirs. The Gozsdu Udvar is a closed corridor between many apartment buildings. The place is full of local pubs and restaurants.

Gozsdu antik market Budapest, weekend markets in Budapest, Budapest in 2 days

Gozsdu antik market

After grabbing an amazing brunch at Oh my green, we took a bus to Buda to explore the Castle district. The entire Castle district is charming. Most of the area is pedestrian with cobblestone roads, colourful homes, ornate fountains, flower beds in full bloom. It is like being in a period movie set. The golden age of Castle Hill was in the 15th century, following the marriage of King Matthias Corvinus and Beatrix of Naples in 1476. The new queen brought with her many Italian artists and craftsmen and Buda soon became the cultural capital.

Castle hill district Budapest, 2 days itinerary for Budapest

Walking in the Castle hill district is like walking in a fairytale!

We started our walk with the Matthias church. The colourful tiles rooftops of the church are a delight to see. Much of the area is free to walk around. We found ourselves a spot on one of the balconies in the Fisherman’s Bastion and just sat there, enjoying the views of the city and those across the river. It is a shame to think that the entire region was bombed to the ground during World War II but it has been beautifully built back up. We leisurely walked around the area, enjoying the Buda palace courtyards, hills and the gardens. The palace also houses the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum

We crossed over through the famous Széchenyi Chain bridge which was the first bridge built to connect the two sides. Bridges and Locks go hand in hand :-). There were very interesting locks on this one from new custom engraved ones to some very antique ones.

Budapest historic chain bridge, a weekend in Budapest

Chain bridge with its interesting locks

It is interesting how the bridge came about. In the earlier days, there was a pontoon bridge to cross the river during summers and in winters the river froze, making crossing possible. In 1820, bad weather made the crossing impossible and Count Széchenyi, had to wait a week to get to his father’s funeral. This experience led him to decide that a permanent bridge had to be built!

For lunch we went to Hungarikan Bistro, a local restaurant which was recommended as vegetarian friendly also. Since we were planning a long night we took a short afternoon rest in our apartment.  The evening started at Kadarka wine bar, very close to our place and highly recommended by our host. And rightly so. The staff was very friendly and willing to offer as many varieties as you want for tasting until you find that one perfect wine for you! We stayed put right there all through dinner.

After dinner, we headed back to Buda side and went all the way up to Citadel and the statue of liberty to see the city decorated in twinkling lights up and down. Since it was pretty cold, there were hardly any people around and we just stayed there enjoying the calm and the view.

Citadella in Budapest, a weekend in Budapest

The statue of liberty and stars on Danube

And well the night was still alive! We headed back to Pest and straight into Szimpla Kert, the mother of all ruin bars. It is a maze inside with little corridors and many bars setup in different rooms:-). Loved it and of course we were hungry again in the middle of the night so headed over to Gozsdu Udvar. The place had completely transformed from morning marketplace to a party street!

Day 2:  Rudas Bathhouse — Old Jewish Quarter — Deak Square — Heroes Square — City Park

The last already! But we did feel like we wanted to take it a little easy. I think we took it way to easy by spending the first half simply relaxing in the thermal baths at the Rudas bathhouse. Budapest is famous for its thermal mineral springs and it will be a shame to go without experiencing one and they are definitely very different from Turkish Hamams. There are pools with different temperature water and mineral composition with healing properties. They also have a rooftop pool from where we could enjoy the panoramic views of the city while comfortably sitting in the warm water.

From there we went to Edeni Vegan, a buffet style vegan restaurant serving local Hungarian dishes adapted to suit vegans. In the evening we headed out for a leisurely walk  around the old Jewish quarter. There is colourful street art on many buildings. Jewish bookshops and gift shops selling Hanukkahs. The synagogue, the largest in Europe, is a beautiful sight in the area and the holocaust memorial garden a moving experience when you read through the plaques with names of all those who died.

graffiti in the old Jewish district Budapest

Love thy neighbour! colourful graffiti on walls in the old Jewish district

Back to Deák square for some live music at the terrace cafe and then to Heroes square, a monument built in 1896 to celebrate 100 years of the Hungarian State. The central pillar has the angel Gabriel on top, holding the holy crown and looking over the entire city. The semicircular arcade has statues of seven important kings and chiefs of Hungary.

Heroes square Budapest, weekend guide to Budapest

Heroes square

From there the City Park is the perfect place to just sit, relax and watch people pass by. At night we went to Mazi, a Greek kitchen for a fitting last dinner and drinks.

We felt like we saw a lot and yet there was so much more to see. In this trip we did not go inside any of the paid monuments as we wanted to explore as much of the city as we could. If there was more time, I would have definitely liked to go inside few of the monuments and also to more World War II memorial buildings like the house of terror and hospital in the rock. I would have gone to Margeret Island too.

Which is why I know, we will be back for a second time!

Until later Budapest!

 

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The travel begins..

It’s been more than a year since we decided to go on an African adventure. The main reason for us to take a posting in Angola was to be able to travel the continent but due to the inexplicable visa rules in angola, we could not travel anywhere for the last one year. And now finally after 1 year of wait, we are on the flight to south Africa 🙂

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I feel like a child.
I feel like a bubbly… ready to jump around and do the happy dance. I don’t remember when was the last time I was so excited about a holiday. My be it’s because it’s been over a year since me and sikander went wandering.

Something tells me it’s going to be a special trip.
Though that something can also be the bottle of shiraz I just finished on the flight along with two very romantic movies – before sunrise; after sunset 🙂

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All my bags are packed.. I am ready to go...

PS: I am planning to keep a journal on this trip.. hopefully will be able to upload them as often 🙂

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Food lovers’ paradise! – Sarafa Bazaar, Indore

I was visiting my sister in Indore and just happened to speak with a friend of mine who had spent many a vacation in his childhood in Indore. The first thing he tells me about Indore is

N: “you have to go to sarafa bazaar!”

A: “What is Sarafa Bazaar?”

N: “It’s a food paradise! You have to try the garaadu and the kees.”

It was almost like sitting in Germany he was reliving his childhood; savouring the flavours while urging me to go there 🙂

So I went! Continue reading

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Goa beyond the beach

Sun. Sand. Late nights. Lazy days. Tattoos. Phirangs.  Beach. Alcohol. Yoga. Shack.

Some of the images that come instantly to mind when we think of Goa. I don’t have a count of the number of times I have been to Goa. Friends and family say its our vacation Mecca!:) But each time we have just done what it is famous for – the Sun, sand, water, food, late night parties and lazy days. But this time we went a little beyond the beach. Not saying that the beach was not there in the whole one week vacation.. It was but only for a couple of days. The rest of the time we explored the cities and mainly the capital city – Panjim.

Riding through the narrow quaint lanes of the old city. Walking along blue, yellow, orange homes; turning a corner and getting lost in the narrow lanes. Stopping to admire a small lamp post or a name plate done in traditional pottery.

Panjim has charms hidden all over. It started with the drive along river Mandovi to Shan’s home. It was evening and the sun was just about to set. We stopped and that was when I fell for the city :). Next day we went to explore Fontainhas – the older part of the city still living in its Portuguese heritage. Homes decorated with beautiful pottery and bright colours. You would love to lose way in their lanes and it’s made easier to lose way by the numerous one ways in the region :). I wanted to click pictures of all the name plates which were actually done in blue pottery. Turning a corner, you would see a small homely café or a small yet very expensive boutique!

Goa, Panjim, Fontainhas, Goa sans the beach, exploring Goa beyond the beaches

The bright and colourful Fontainhas

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Day 3: Ganapati Pule to Goa: Continuing on India’s route 1

“It’s not the destination but the glory of the ride!”

(This is my diary entry from 21st August after we reached Goa…)

Today we had a destination in mind! And as we were leaving Ganapati Pule, we were pretty excited about reaching Goa at the end of the day but the journey from Ganapati Pule to Goa via the coastal roads (not the highway) was so beautiful that we forgot about the destination fairly soon!

If the drive from Bombay to Ganapati Pule was the cake, the drive from Ganapati Pule to Goa was the icing of the cake… Almost 5 years ago we had done a road trip along Route 1 in California and today’s drive reminded us of just that. The day started with some silent meditation and a dip in the ocean at Ganapati Pule. After a regular breakfast we left around 9:30am…As soon as we left Ganapati Pule and turned towards Ratnagiri, the road became parallel to the ocean! For a few minutes we were on a road cut into a mountain with walls on each side and suddenly as we turn left, we are right next to the ocean. And we stopped. Click click.

road trip along India's west coast, Ganapati Pule to Goa road trip, Bombay to Goa road trip

as we started we were on a road cut through a mountain with walls on both sides..

Ganapati Pule to Goa road trip, road trip on India's west coast, drive along arabian ocean

slowly the road turned and we were next to the ocean!

After 10 minutes we were at a high point on the road and we stopped. Click click.

In the next 45 minutes we had hardly covered 10 kms. The view was just so amazing that we would stop every few kms and take pictures. After that we kept to taking pictures from the car itself.

It was today that we had the best tea in our entire trip at a small village called Katradeviwadi. The chai had beautiful cardamom flavours and the guy gave us some vadas and bhajias along with it. When I told him that this was very tasty tea and if he added cardamom for us, he said this is his usual tea. And imagine 2 cups of tea, 2 plates of bhajia, 1 plate of vada and 1 packet of glucose biscuit – all for Rs. 20!

We discovered a beautiful temple on the coast – kunteshwar. Near malvan region, we gave lift to a gift economy astronomer – Omkaar. We found a snorkeling destination called tarkarli. We had a malvan sea-food thali for lunch and instead of evening tea we had a tender coconut water break at Guhagar beach!

Elliot said it well “The journey, not the arrival, matters”

For the entire route we were surrounded by shades of green and blue. As we went up the mountains, the road was flanked with forests on both sides; at the top there were grasslands as far as the eye could see and at times we had the ocean along us on one side and forest on another :).

Beautiful.

While, no words or pictures can do justice to the experience; I can just try to share a part of it through some. (click on any one to start the slideshow)

Love,

Ashima

21st August 2013, Miramar beach, Goa

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Day 2: Mumbai to Ganapati Phule- india’s route 1

Loaded with a heavy breakfast, we left Mumbai by around 8am. We started on NH17, which is the usual route from Mumbai to Goa. While NH17 itself is beautiful with paddy fields all along and mountains in the distance, we soon took a narrower lane off it. Road trip is not about trucks and toll roads. 🙂
We turned into a road (after wadpale) going up into the ghats and how beautiful was the whole way! The road meandered with the mountains. We felt like getting down every 100mts.. It was a road to cruise through slowly.
And no cars or trucks in the vicinity.. Nobody to follow us, nobody whom we followed. The villages also came far and between. And to top it all, it started drizzling 🙂
We rolled down our windows and soaked in nature’s abundance on both sides. Its amazing how creepers turn the entire forest green, be it the trunk of trees or the roots hanging from banyan trees or some pole, they wind over everything as if everything is made of leaves and everything is green!
And then we also went in two ferries, with our car! I was so excited about driving the car into the ferry and driving it out :).
Finally we reached Ganpati Phule just about 20 mins ago. A distance that is 6 hrs by highway, we covered in 11 hrs but with a lot more moments to celebrate.
Every scene was a photo worth taking. And we did stop at quite a few but many will stay etched in our memory…
Right now my phone net is pretty slow so I would leave the photos out from the post and stay with the text.. the photos shall follow.

Tomorrow is another day 🙂

Love
Ashima
20 august 2013, 8:21pm, MTDC Resort, Ganapati Phule

22/08/2013: Reached Goa (Day 3 post shall follow).. having breakfast at a cafe with wifi; while Sikander is busy finding a room for tonight, I got busy sorting some pictures.. Here’s a snapshot of our drive from Mumbai to Ganapati Pule along India’s western coast:

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Before we go…

travel quotes, travel for travels sake, road trip, Vadodara travels

I travel not to go anywhere, but to GO.

It’s time to move again. And this time it’s Africa! As excited as we are about the move to a new country, actually a whole new continent and exploring its treasures; we are also sad, at the same time, about leaving India. We have yet to explore so much in India itself. How do we prepare ourselves for a new place when we feel incomplete about leaving this place?

So we planned on taking a road trip… The whole of August, traveling in the North, was the original idea. But well, as they say, Man proposes and God disposes… Between meeting family & friends, work and visa work, the trip could only start today. It’s not a month long either. One week on the road, no bookings, no agenda. The only two known things are that we start and end in Baroda and that we turn back from Goa… In between we will stop anywhere we feel like, spend the night wherever the night falls and take each day as it comes to us…
This is the diary of the coming 7 days 🙂

[I will be writing the actual diary every night but whether it gets posted on that day or not depends entirely on availability of net connection!] Here goes Day 1!

Vadodara to Mumbai road trip

Day1 (19 August’13): Last night we came back from Ahmedabad at around midnight… So we woke up easy in the morning… Only after the morning tea and breakfast at around 10am, did we set the gears in action. At one point over tea we even contemplated of going tomorrow! [I’m glad we left it at contemplation :)]. But after some very quick and a bit haphazard packing we left Baroda by 12:15pm.

By 4 we had crossed over into Maharashtra. At a town called Manor (originally called Manohar) there was a big hoarding about a new highway (saying “save money and take the new 4-lane highway from Manor to Panvel!”). So we took it… Turned out to be not the best of decisions :). The road is only partially made (about 1/4th the distance) and the rest is pretty bad. Sikander said they have started advertising the road at Manor so that people take it and the toll money collected will then be used to make the remaining sections :). Parts of the road are very beautiful; cutting through lush green forests…

Vadodara to Mumbai road trip,

The new highway to Panvel that cuts from Manor…

At one toll plaza Sikander refused to pay the toll, saying that it was nothing but potholes and he drove at 10kms/ hr speed through the entire section so he doesn’t feel that the toll is justified. And I was quite impressed when without much argument the toll operator actually let us pass giving us a “pass by exemption” :D! Awesome!

We reached Bhiwandi by 5:30pm and the real ordeal started from there on. Bombay is an ocean of people! We were thinking if there was any possible way of not entering Bombay but given how the city keeps expanding the earlier bypass is now part of the city… It took us almost 3 hours to reach Panvel from Bhiwandi. By then we were pretty tired by the traffic itself and decided to call it a day. So here we are at the end of day1 at Vashi.

As we entered our room the canvas behind the bed had a picture which said “Goa”! Is that where the road is taking us tomorrow?

Road trip from Vadodara, Vadodara to Mumbai road trip, Vadodara to Goa road trip, Goa

Frame in our hotel room.. is it trying to give us a clue? 🙂

We shall soon find out 🙂 Till then, Good night.

-Ashima

19/08/2013 23:55 pm, Hotel Yogi Executive, Vashi, Mumbai

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Are you sure no-one lives on top of the cloud?

“…somewhere above an ocean we are flying past a vast white candy-floss island which would have made a perfect seat for an angel or even God himself in a painting by Piero della Francesca.”
-The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton

from the airplane windowRemember the childhood days when we used to make faces and shapes out of clouds? I used to believe that there exists a world above the clouds where the fairies live. And then I took my first flight. I looked outside the window and saw those huge cotton balls just floating along side me and there was no-one on top of them. If I wasn’t a little older, I would have actually went and asked my mom “Are you sure no one lives on these clouds? Do they just hide when humans come? Maybe we can’t see them and they are right there looking at us through the plane window” 🙂

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Reliving the past: Jallianwala Bagh

“I passed my whole night there. It is impossible for me to describe what I felt. Heaps of dead bodies lay there, some on their backs and some with their faces upturned. A number of them were poor innocent children. I was all alone the whole night… nothing but the barking of dogs, or the braying of donkeys was audible. Amidst hundreds of corpses, I passed my night, crying and watching. I cannot say more. What I experienced that night is known only to me and to God”

        – Eye witness account of Ratan Devi after the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar

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What is it in a train journey?

man looking outside the train

a dreaminess fostered by the noise and the views from the windows. Image source: Flickr

What is it in a train journey that takes us to a land of day-dreaming and deep thinking? I have always felt a calm in the rhythmic movement and sound of the train wheels moving ahead on the tracks and the occasionally loud horn.  Every time before a train journey, I would pack a book that I intend to finish during the journey. In addition I would also buy some magazine from the vendor on the platform; as if the book won’t see me through! 🙂 But more often than not I end up reading just a few pages from the book and manage to flip through the pages before losing myself in some thought trail. Suddenly the fellow passenger will bring me out of my reverie and ask “Can I borrow your magazine?” and I would say “Of course! Here” and that would be the last I will see of the magazine during the journey.

Slowly as I start looking out of the window, I would again be lost in another day-dream. And the thoughts will be far off from what I would normally want to ponder on. They would most definitely not be something I have been “planning’ to sit on for some time, when I find time. And when I have all the time during the train journey the slow pace, the chatter of the passengers, the fast moving scenes outside have their own way with my thoughts. Why does that happen?

I always wondered, until I read something that nails it so well!

“… the silence that reigns inside while the wheels beat in rhythm against the rails outside, the dreaminess fostered by the noise and the views from the windows, a dreaminess in which we seem to stand outside our normal selves and have access to thoughts and memories that may not arise in more settled circumstances … Journeys are like midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than a moving plane, ship or train… Of all modes of transport, the train perhaps is the best aid to thought: the views have none of the potential monotony of those on a ship or plane, they move fast enough for us not to get exasperated but slowly enough to allow us to identify objects.”

-excerpt from chapter On Travelling places in The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton [p56-57]

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