Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day 14: Gallivanting in Geneva again!

Geneva was a day’s stopover but before we could leave this amazing city, and we still to visit a couple of places. So we packed our bags, left them at the reception and were off to the United Nations. We rode the tram. Super fun!

It was a long walk into the UN headquarters, with almost 3 levels of security screenings. We walked about the gardens before we actually entered the premises. With heavy security all around, it kinda makes you wanna act stupid. Unfortunately I could'nt act my obnoxious self as I was sure if the guards didn’t shoot me, Tan sure would.

The UN office or Palais des Nations is a massive and impressive structure. The Palais stands in the 45-hectre Ariana Park which is full of trees over 100 years old. It is said that the park was gifted by the last descendant of the Revilliod de Rive family to the UN on one condition that the peacocks roam the grounds freely. Also beneath the foundation stone of the Palais des Nations laid on 7 September 1929 lies a casket containing a document listing the names of the League of Nations Member States, a copy of the Covenant of the League and specimen coins of all the countries represented at its Tenth Assembly.

The Palais houses various agencies of the UN such as WHO, UNFPA, ECE, etc. This centre is always buzzing with activity around the year, with different agencies conducting meets and diplomats from representing countries lending their opinions. What’s amazing about this structure is the fact that most of the elements in this building were built from items gifted by representing countries. Our tour guide, an impeccable French man, told us that India gifted the peacocks, which can still be seen roaming around in full splendor.

We got to see the conference rooms, even sat in the seats that the diplomats do. Many treaties were signed in this very premise. It’s a place so full of history! It was almost as if all my history lessons had come alive.

Our tour around the building ended at the library cum gift shop and I ended up buying souvenirs for my family. A woolen shawl for Mama, a key chain for Papa and a digital clock calculator for Lovell. The proceeds of these go to different organizations of the UN, so i did not feel the pinch on my pocket much.

From the UN we walked to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), private humanitarian institution based in Geneva.
With the Red Cross flag billowing in the wind, you cannot miss it. Enter this area and you are faced with the recuperation's of war. The pain, the suffering and also hope. The ICRC houses various mandates made to protect the victims of international and internal armed conflicts, and also the medicines and medical treatments administered to victims’ of war. Founded by Henry Dunant, you can see a chronological series of developments in caring for victim from the world wars.

I don’t know how long we spent here, but I was sure glad to get out. 

From here we made a mad dash back to the hotel, grabbed our bags and hurrried to the station - Geneva's Gare de Cornavin. This time on we had to go through the international transit as we were leaving Switzerland. Our train tickets cost us zilch! Thanks to our Eurail passes. After clearing the customs, we had to wait an hour for the train. Bye bye Switzerland, I enjoyed every moment in this beautiful country.

Lyons, France

France baby France. Foot down on French soil. We disembark at Gare de Lyon Part Dieu and the place was like Churchgate station. So damn crowded. Oh God and people only speak French. With my little knowledge of it, it was not helpful. We got off on the wrong side of the station and spent the next half hour being lost, yet again. Thankfully we finally managed to ask someone who knew little English for directions and found the hotel easily. Luckily it was just walking distance on the other side of the station.

After a quick shower, we head down to the restaurant to savour authentic French cuisine. I had some fancy beef dish, and it was gross! My fault actually. Anyway it was a long day. After hanging out in the garden after dinner, we finally called it a night.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Day 13: Groovin in Geneva

I was really sad to leave Interlaken, I so loved the place and the solitude it offered. However I had to move on. Packed our bags and took the train to Geneva, it was quite a long ride. We went from freezing in the cold to pleasant weather. By noon we were ready to strip our winter wear off. Luckily this time too the hotel was just opposite the station. Our room was extremely small, but since we just had to spend a night in this city it hardly mattered.
There are so many different races of people in Geneva. With roads lined with almost all nationality flags and the headquarters of the United Nations, we learned that Geneva is also known as the world’s most compact metropolis. After resting for a while, it was time to hit the streets.

Our first stop the ‘Jet d’Eau’. Even from a distance you can see this spectacular stream rise high above in the skies. The city’s greatest landmark, this jet of water rises almost 10 kms into the sky. We spent our time viewing this spray, picking up hot dogs before we walked the stretch to Jardin Anglais. Situated on the banks of a harbor, this garden boasts of beautiful flowers and monuments.
We passed a huge clock made of flowers. The “L'horloge fleurie" or the flower clock pays homage to the watch industry and is made up of eight concentric circles filled with different plants and colours depending on the season. Close to it is the National Monument.

From here we hiked up to Cathédrale St. Pierre. With Gothic influences in architecture, this cathedral is displays some Romanesque features in the form of beautiful Roman mosaics which are said to date back to the 4th century. If you are here, you must climb the tower. 150+ steps, it offers a spectacular aerial view of Geneva. Phew! In the cathedral you must observe the flute piano and choir stand. Absolutely spectacular!

After this we lazily walked through the streets, enjoying a mini fare on the way. Close to our hotel we walked into a supermarket. The guy there got talking and asked if were from India. Damn! I think our colour gave us away. Anyway he told me that he too was in India in New Delhi for four years as his Dad was a Diplomat. And he did a ‘Namaste’ the next time we went in. LOL tan totally freaked out. I on the other hand thought it was real cute.
My internet withdrawal symptoms had reached danger point. Phoooo, thankfully I found an internet café and quickly checked my mails, sent mails and chatted with whoever was online on my list. Tan chilled out for a while in the room before we met up again and walked around the block, deciding where to have dinner. We finally settled on a pizzeria opposite the station. The pizza was huge and expensive. Damn damn. Anyway back in the hotel, I crashed after having a bath.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Day 12: Conquering Mt. Titlis

We stuffed ourselves with breakfast and made a mad dash to Interlaken West train station. We bought tickets on the Golden Panoramic Pass for 123 Swiss Francs per person, Ouch, this excludes the cable car costs up Mt. Titlis. 

We prepared ourselves for a long journey. It takes 3 1/2 hours one way by train. But as it is in Switzerland, the countryside is breathtaking. Our journey again involved changing a number of trains. From Interlaken west to Interlaken Ost, and from here to Hergiswil, and from here to Engleberg. For more info on the various scenic routes available do check Swiss Travel System.

From Engleberg station it was a short hike to the base of Titlis Rotair. I was super excited to ride the cable cars but when it came to actually sitting in them I was super duper freaked out. The ride to the top involves three aerial cable cars and various changes in the screenery. As you rise up you can hear them Swiss cows with their bells tolling to rows and rows of pine trees to finally clear white blankets of snow.

We rode the world’s first rotating cable car. Yeah yeah! Finally on the summit of Klein Titlis which is about 3,028 meters above sea level, we were as excited as one could be. However unlike Jungfrau this place was pretty crowded and the weather too was gloomy. But what the heck. There was snow and I had a blast making snow angels, much to Tan’s disgust. I must have embarrassed her totally!

We spent a couple of hours on the summit clicking pictures, feeding the birds, and savouring the local delights at the restaurant. This place also has a ski resort, so its no wonder we saw many people skiing down the slopes. Wow!

Sadly it was time for us to go. On our way down the cables, we played guess the county as they flags were pasted on the cable cars. Having made our way back into Interlaken, we see not a soul in the street. No one. Trust me when I say no one. The reason being a football game – Man U v/s Chelsea. Grabbed our dinner and crashed in our rooms. It’s our last night in Interlaken. I feel a bit sad to leave this heaven on earth, but tomorrow we go to Geneva, the next stop in our trip and the last one in Switzerland.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Day 11: A day of doing nothing

Interlaken West

Today we just chilled. Having got up just in time for breakfast, we raced down to catch our meal. Cannot afford to miss free food.

Now since we decided to stay in Interlaken again and not go anywhere, I took this opportunity to explore the other side of town. I just walked about aimlessly, passing cafes, modern structures and beautiful homes with more gnomes in the garden. It was about 10 days into our trip and having not used the internet for so long, I was facing severe web withdrawal symptoms. On my walk about the town I kept on scouting for an internet café. Damn damn, only one in the whole place and it was closed! Aaargh.

Lunch was canned luncheon meat which had carried from India. And after that we caught up on some much needed sleep.

In the evening Tan & I decided to walk about the town. After a long walk about we sat in a garden just talking about life, work, love and our travel so far. In short it was a fantastic day in a fantastic town.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Day 10: Jungfraujoch

Today we will be scaling the heights of Europe – Jungfraujoch, the high mountain in Europe at 3,571 meters above sea level. To get here, we had to wake up super early at 4.30 to catch the first train. A clear sky was predicted. Return tickets to Jungfrau cost 140 Swiss Francs. From Interlaken we made our way to Interlaken Ost from where we took the train to Lauterbrunnen. The train journey was out of this world. It’s really amazing when you think how man build rail tracks on routes like these. Some were so narrow ans almost looked impossible to maneuver.

Getting to Jungfraujoch, is a long journey. You got to change trains three times. From Lauterbrunnen we had to take the train cart, it’s smaller than a train and runs on tracks which have grips, to Kleine Scheidegg. At all these locations we had to get off the train and step outdoors, so that we get used to the rise in altitude. Kleine Scheidegg is a pretty little station and we stopped to do some sightseeing. There’s nothing much to see but amazing valleys and lots of snow. With temperatures at 0 degrees, we then had to board the gauge rack railways to Jungfraujoch. Our 9km ride to the top was breath-taking, with the ice palace all the while glinting in the sun.

Soon we are on the top of Europe. Whooo hoo. Here you find a series of tunnels leading to various buildings. We just followed the signs and made our way to different places. First we landed at the ice sculptures where you can find intricate works. Man was it cold here. Despite four layers of clothings I was still feeling cold. Then we walked up out into the open snow. Wow. Really wow. And the scene from here, f%$*ing mindblowing. I threw a couple of snow balls at Tan, who just made a face at me. And soon we realized we were sinking in the snow. Plus we were wearing walking shoes, so totally not equipped for walking in the snow (mental note to self, next time come prepared with hiking boots).
We walk back to the comfort of the building where we pass by restaurants, a small cinema and an observatory and research station. Here it was freaky. Called the Sphinx Terrace, this structure has a landing that’s suspended into the air. Under you, you can see a sheer drop and snow and more snow. I for sure had my tummy in a knot.

We have a quick look around and scamper back to the safety of the landing. Oh it was freezing all the while. -4 degrees, we soon came to know. However the cold did not stop us. We decided to try some adventure sports. Once again out in the snow and the sun shining, we walked into blinding light. The scene was so white, that you need to have your sunglasses on to deter the light. What we can see is miles and miles of sun.
There were a couple of options in adventure sports. We decided to try the Tyroline. A small hike to a mount and soon we were off screaming our guts out like banshees. Tan went first and I followed. Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh. And then I landed in snow. The experience was super wow but it ended so soon.

We sat out on the deck observing the scene. After basking in the sun for almost half an hour, we decide it’s time to head back. The return journey takes you through another route. Jungfraujoch - Kleine Scheidegg – Grindelwald. I was amazed by the countryside. Everything is so picture perfect. From rows of coniferous trees to a lone cow grazing in the pastures to hillside filled with wild flowers and houses with beautiful gardens, Switzerland is one breath-taking country. I wish I could own a home, here right in the middle of nowhere. From Grindelwald we had to change trains again to Interlaken Ost. And a 5 minute ride lands us back in Interlaken.

Suddenly we realize we have not had lunch. It’s about four in the evening and we decide to walk about the town. Deciding to have a budget meal, choose Mc Donald’s. Bad choice, the food was horrendous, and they make you play for ketchup. That’s it! From now on its food bought at local supermarkets and hot dogs, except for the one time where we treat ourselves to the local cuisine.

We decide not to go to Lucerne and chill out in our room. Later in the evening, we grab hot dogs and sit by the river trail eating our dinner. A small walk in the area leaves us wondering if we are the only two souls in this town. All in all it was a wonderful day.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Day 9: In Interlaken

Today is my mama’s birthday, calculating the time difference I decide it’s time to call home. Right after an awesome European breakfast, I made the call. Mama and Papa were so excited that I was in Switzerland. It was Sunday, we were really low on cash and no forex centres were open, plus our day trips across Italy left us dead tired. We decided to chill in Interlaken instead. Our initial plan involved making a day trip to Austria but we had absolutely no energy and no money.
So we decided to walk about. Found a supermarket and bought groceries. It was a way cheaper option than dining out. Tan took the day to do her laundry and while she was at it, I went about exploring Interlaken. Such a small place, but so beautiful. I followed a trail from our hotel, adjacent the railway station and followed it till it opened out to the lake. On my walk I passed pastures, beautiful homes with amazing gardens and little gnomes, a dam and snow covered mountains. 

After a while I decided to sit by the stream and do nothing. I don’t know for how long I sat, but I got my much needed Jolene time. I took out my sandwich and soon some ducks, swans and geese came by. Just for the occasional train passing by, the rest of time it was so serene. I could only think what an amazing watercolour painting the scene would make.

Now let me tell you a little bit about this amazing place. Interlaken, they say is a backpackers haven. I couldn't agree more. The place is so small that most of Interlaken lies between the two train stations of Interlaken West and Interlaken Ost. The main shopping street is just a walk of 20 minutes and runs between the stations.And the name Interlaken comes as it is located between Lake Brienz to the east and Lake Thun to the west. This came to me in a blindly flash as we were journeying down Mount Jungfrau.  

Finally I met up with Tan and we went back to the hotel. After that we went to savour the local cuisine, and not save our money eating only sandwiches. After all it was my Mama’s birthday and I needed a treat! Ordered for some sumptuous prawns which were supposed to be spicy. And then in the middle of the night we decided it was time for a stroll. At night it was a different story. All places light up and sounds of music drifting by. After freezing our butts off it was time to call it a night.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Day 8: Bye Bye Italy. Hello Switzerland!

It's our last few hours in Italy. And from the time I have been here, that's about a week, I have grown to love everything about this country - the food, the people, the culture, the art,architecture, sculpture and even the language. I love Italy!

From Bologna we had to make our way to Switzerland - the land of snow covered mountains as far as the eye can see. We took the Intercity Plus to Milano (Milan) which cost us 20 Euros and from Milan to Interlaken Ost just 5 Euros aboard the Eurostar, thanks to our Eurail pass. They journey to Interlaken involved a lot of train switching. Milano Centrale to Spiez to Brig to Interlaken. 

The view on our journey was breathtaking. The Italian countryside is so laid back and wonderful. Few houses, a church in the middle of nowhere. Wow! Then we entered a long long tunnel which lasted for almost 20-25 minutes, in the meantime I dozed off as there was nothing to see, and then suddenly blingly light... voila! Switzerland baby! And I see snow. I almost do a little jig in my seat.

For those travelling to Europe and intend visiting Switzerland, make sure you apply for a Swizz visa. Then my Schengen Visa did'nt permit entering into this European country. 
Do note this was at the time of my travel. Please do check the Schengen Visa site for the latest updates. 

After quick switchovers at Spiez & Brig which are in Switzerland and temperatures hovering single digits, we find ourselves at Interlaken West. This city is just a kilometer long, which I discovered on my numerous walks. Thankfully the hotel - Hotel Central Continental was just across the station and it took no time for us to settle in the warmth of our room. Our room was beautiful. Huge French windows and the decor was glamorous yet with character.

The view from our room was awesome. We could see the snow covered mountains, a river just below our balcony window, swans, ducks paddling was heaven on earth. After a long lazy soak in the tub, we stepped out to grab sandwiches (our staple diet) and sat on the balcony enjoying our dinner. I could'nt believe that I was enjoying this kind of a life. I feel blessed. I feel wonderful to be in Switzerland. 

Monday, February 8, 2010

Day 7: Veneziaaaa

Aaah Venezia (Venice) is simply the most beautiful and romantic place on the planet. Venizia was another day trip for us from Bologna. We made it into the city early in the morning. The journey to Venezia is amazing. The local train journey offers you a lot to see. Italian graffiti, wide open fields so vast till you can see no more to finally rivlets and lots of water. 

In Venezia we embark at Stazione di Santa Lucia, it is the principle train station in the city. Once out of there you see... gondolas, water, buildings in water, people rowing, water taxis and Vaporetti (water bus). We took our time sinking the whole scene in. It was unbelievable that we were here. 

Soon we hoped onto  Vaporetto no. 1 and set off to explore Venice. Our destination Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square). We did not bother hoping down at the various stops and you can absorb the city from the decks of the water bus. The Grand Canal, the bridges, the rows of houses, etc. We were even lucky enough to see a couple getting married on a Gondola. So romantic... sigh!

It's really interesting to see the Gondolas and other water transport in Venezia. We disembarked at Piazza San Marco. And the square is filled with pigeons. Huge mighty pigeons! However what meets the eye here are Byzantine domes, spangled spires of Basilica di San Marco (St. Mark's Basilica) and the 15th century Torre dell'Orologio (clock tower). 

We decided to lunch at the piazza. Got some salad rolls and sat by the dock talking about our journey so far. Oh how I missed my whole family then and Bonnie too. Later made some quick international calls to my folks, convincing them that they have to visit venice. The rest of the day we spent walking about the piazza and window shopping. Soon it was time to leave. 

For once we reached Bologna in the evening and rode the bus back. And as we walked back the stretch from the main road to the hotel, a tree was calling me to hug it. So i did and Tan absolutely refused to click a picture of us. How rude! Anyway i clicked one by myself. What a day it was.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Day 6: 3 cities. 1 day.

Bologna - Firenze - Pisa
Phew! What a day. I don't know how we managed it, but we did. Whoohooo! We got up early and made our way to Firenze. 

Firenze (Florence)

Having got to Firenze, we made our to the Duomo and were off to see David. The real one! Followed the map to Galleria dell 'Accademia. The streets were filled with street artist, musicians and fine artists, and graffiti. They lent the perfect mood and made the wait to enter the museum interesting. We even gave our hard earned Euros to the artists, appreciating their talent. There are some things you just had to do :). 

After almost an hour we enter the museum. It holds many of Michelangelo's unfinished sculptures. Listen and you will feel the sculptures talk to you. As you walk through the gallery, you see him. If the copy was so amazing, then believe me when I say that the real David was gorgeous. Tan and I were transfixed. We must have stood starring at David for eternity. Till we realized that we had to go. Mission accomplished. 

Having ogled at David, our train journey to Pisa, which took an hour, was all about David. And what a masterpiece of art it is. 

Check out my pics of Firenze


Well, Pisa was kinda a disappointing. Having made our way to Piazza del Duomo, there wasn't much to see. You have the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Battistero di San Giovanni (The Baptistry of St. John). We spend a few minutes sitting at the steps of the cathedral and watched other tourist clicking the typical tourist snaps. You know the type that has them stopping the tower from toppling. Morons! 

Oh well, the thing that cheered me up in Pisa was a Ferrari flag flying high. Go Ferrari! I also picked up some marble miniatures of the Leaning Tower for my family. 

Well we missed our ride back, the direct train to Bologna, so we had to go via Firenze. At Firenze station we grabbed some hot dogs before we boarded the Eurostar. An expensive ride but we had a pass. We reached Bologna pretty late again. But this time it was close to 10 p.m. Had to take a taxi back, as it was the safest and fastest way. Anyway tomorrow is another exciting day. Venezia here I come. 

Check out my pics of Pisa

Friday, February 5, 2010

Day 5: Bologna - Firenze

It’s pretty late in the morning, and we hurry and make our way to Bologna Centrale. After trying to make our way around we reached the station at 12! We had to hurry as museums close early. However we did indulge in a little sightseeing on a local bus in Bologna. Then we travelled on the local trains to Firenze, and their second classes are luxury when compared to the sad train network in India. It took about an hour and half to reach and the ride to and fro costs us 10.20 Euros.

Firenze (Florence)
What a beautiful city – Firenze. The birth place of Michaelangelo, Botticelli, Dante and many renowned renaissance artists, the city itself is a masterpiece. From Piazzas filled with sculptures to homes with intricate architecture and carving, every street and corner offers something to see.

Using my Lonely Planet guide once again to navigate, making my way around this city was pretty easy. You could see the dome of the Duomo so this
was easy. We took a bus to Galleria degli Uffizi. The galleria houses paintings and sculptures from the renaissance period. It’s one of the oldest and most famous museums. The hallways house the sculptures while in the galleries you will find some of the famous paintings - The Birth of Venus (Botticelli) by Botticelli, Madonna del cardellino by Raphael, The Doni Tondo by Michelangelo and many more. Each painting like all renaissance art is perfection in detail.

We were dying to see David. Not just any David but Michaelangelos’s masterpiece in Renaissance sculptures. Well we got late exploring Uffizi Gallery, so we had to make do with the copy of David standing in the original, in front of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. The copy is as impressive as the original. I fell in love with David. I fell in love with a sculpture.
Palazzo Vecchio is an impressive palace. It is also the town hall of Flroence and has some statues from the adjacent Loggia dei Lanzi on display.
We made our way back to the train station. What an interesting name for a train station - Firenze Santa Maria Novella. Anyway our route back has us passing by the Duomo or The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore . It is known to have the largest ever brick dome to be constructed and influences of gothic architecture. The façade of the church is astounding!

It’s time to head back, but before we leave we decide we have to come here tomorrow to see the real David. Anything is worth it.

So we are back to Bologna, digging it at McDonalds as once again we reached super late and this was the only place open. Stuffed we had to take a taxi back to our hotel.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Day 4: Aaaaaah the Sistine Chapel

Having packed our bags we leave them at the hotel and rush off to Vatican City. The line to enter Sistine Chapel snaked all the way to the main road. It took almost an hour to get to the gates. Then there was a security check, baggages screening that were just adding to my anticipation. But the moment you walk up the stairs you know that every minute was worth the wait.

Our tour at the Sistine Chapel began with frescos done by the greatest Renaissance artists including Michelangelo, 
Raphael, Bernini and Sandro Botticelli. As I walked by each of them, I was filled with a deep sense of respect for each of the artists. The detail to each painting was so well done that it brought tears to my eyes. As an art student you always imagined seeing these masterpieces. Now all I could do was stare at them in wonder. WOW!

As we proceed, following the floor plan, we made our way to Raphael’s rooms. Amazing! Simply amazing each and every one of them. But nothing, I mean nothing, comes close to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescos. We were not allowed to click any photos and right so. No photograph will ever be able to capture the beauty of this masterpiece. I almost died of vertigo, staring up looking to absorb each and every detail. I don’t know how he achieved such perfection, but hats down to Michelangelo and his craftsmanship.

After this everything else passed in a blur. Went back to the hotel, picked our bags and… it rains! Looks like Roma was sad we were leaving. I promise to come back.

At Roma Termini we board the Eurostar. Wooohooo! We sit next to two gentlemen and to pass time, Tan and I begin to play Name, Place, Animal, Thing. These dudes we so amazed by this, that they kept stealing glances at us and our game. Damn Tan won.

We reached a new city in a foreign country very late. No information counter open at this hour, it think it was about 9 at night. Bus was out of the question, so we ended up taking a taxi. That will be 18 Euros ma’am. Damn!
The hotel was at the end of the world. Nestled away in the woods. Modernity in the midst of serenity. I felt it was so out of place. It was so different from the one at Rome. Hotel Relais Bellaria was in every way modern. The room uber col. But as usual at the end of the day we are tied and munch on some snacks to keep the energy levels up. Today there wasn’t much of sightseeing as the day went at Vatican City and then shuttling between cities. Tomorrow we will explore!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Day 3: Roaming in Rome

Roma, Italy
It started off being a cloudy day and it even drizzled as we sat out for breakfast.  Today I am off to explore Rome. We hoped on the Caio Rome Open Tour bus to see the sights. Since we booked it via our hotel we got a discount, do check with your hotels for deals. We boarded the bus at Piazza Dell 'Esquilino and we were off.

Stop 1: The Colesseum 
It’s huge. It’s beautiful. It’s wonderful. And it’s ancient! For the time that we were standing in the queue to enter, my imagination went wild. Men is short skirts walking by, lions and gladiators… I touch the columns, the stone and it comes alive. I am in awe. 

It’s hard to describe what you feel. You just got to travel way back in time to enjoy the moment.

Just next to the Colesseum is the Arch of Constantine. It commemorate Constantine I's victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge on October 28, 312. It’s something you just cannot miss.

Across it is the Palatine Hill housing the most ancient parts of Rome.From here we hop back on the bus and proceed to the Piazza Venezia.

Stop 2: Piazza Venezia
Piazza Venezia takes its name from the adjacent Palazzo Venezia, the former embassy in the city of the Republic of Venice. What’s makes this Piazza a must visit is the imposing monument to Vittorio Emanuele II. Built of pure whit e marble, it honours Victor Emmanuel, the first king of unified Italy.

We then proceed to Piazza San Pierro, all the while passing through some on Rome’s beautiful streets. We also spot the Castle S. Angelo on a hillock and what am amazing sight it is.

As our bus approaches the Holy City or the World’s smallest country – The Vatican, you just cannot help but be filled with awe.

Stop 3: St. Peter’s Basilica
OMG! OMG! OMG! What in imposing structure that symbolizes the beliefs associated with Christianity. It’s like heaven just opened! As a child I remember always seeing this place on TV. Never had I imagined I would be here one day. Suddenly feeling how blessed I was to be here, I rush to send a postcard back home, thanking my parents for funding my trip and for everything they have ever done for me.
St. Peter’s square is magnificent. Intricate mosaics, sculptured pillars, saints on the columns, it’s it’s… hard to describe. We stand in a queue to enter the basilica. There are some hot cute Swiss guards guarding the Papal chambers and areas not open to public. But as we set foot into the basilica, I was zapped and all that came out was “Holy Shit!” Ouch! Tan just nudged me, saying to show some respect. Fine! But I couldn’t help it. From the ceilings to columns to the flooring, everything was perfect. The works of Michaelangelo & Bernini, and numerous artists on display. What a masterpiece each one of them. We took an audio guide and made our way across the basilica, spotting Michaelangelo’s Pieta.

We dint realize just how much time flew by as a result of which we missed visiting the Sistine Chapel. But for that we come back tomorrow.

Tied and having munched on some snacks, we get back on the bus to find the Spanish steps.

Stop 4: Fontana di Trevi
The architecture in Rome is mindblowing, and so are the carvings, sculpting on the façade of Fontana di Trevi. As tradition has it, you have to throw a coin into the fountain and make a wish. A wish that you come back to rome. How convenient. How expensive! Especially as a Euro could have fed me. Anyway some things you just got to do, so i flung my precious Euro and made a wish.
After a bit of posing and clicking pictures, we decided to try out a gelatto. And it was yucks! I have had better ones in India.

Our next stop were the Spanish Steps, but considering how lost and tired we were we decided to skip it.
Having made our way back successfully this time, we stopped atthe local pizzeria for dinner. I had a pasta. Yummy!
It’s just our second night in Rome and it’s time to say goodbye. Tomorrow we head to Bologna, but not before we visit the Sistine Chapel!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Day 2: Rome – Napoli (Naples)

Roma, Italy

It’s our first morning in Europe. Roma, Italy is where we crashed. We stayed at Osimar Hotel a comfy B&B. All charged up, we treated ourselves to an awesome breakfast. Bacon, juice, homemade jams… it was the life. We stuffed ourselves up, picked our day bags and ready to make our way to Naples armed with my Lonely Planet Europe on a Shoestring Travel Guide . What a blessing this book came to be!

“Naploi? Sunday?” shrieked the receptionist. Tan & I look at each other. I think Mafia! I don’t know what Tan’s thinking about. But we decided to f*** it, we didn’t come all the way from India for no adventure.

So here we are at the Roma Termini, validate our Eurail passes and are off to Napoli. The landscape is beautiful, especially as we go from city to coast.

Napoli, Italy
As we set foot at Stazione Napoli Centrale my jaw drops. What a railway station. Amazingly huge. The first few minutes in this city were spent staring at the signs and trying to find a friendly face. In Napoli we were lost again! Being Sunday, the information kiosk were closed. Finally we managed to buy a bus ticket, thanks to a guy at some counter and my Lonely Planet guide, and found our way to the museum.

The Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli (The Naples National Archaeological Museum) is a museum in Naples. Entry to the museum was € 3.25, thanks to being just 25. The museum was beautiful. I clicked a lot of photos. The museum is all about the city of Pompeii and wherever they could they stamped it with penises. One bigger than the other signifying their conquests. For easy reading matter what to expect at the museum click here.  

Once we got done at the museum, we got lost again. The closest metro station was closed. And not a soul in the street. We walked down opposite the metro and waited for a bus there. Some dudes passed us by. I guess they dint make much of us, two brown girls! How rude. Finally the bus arrives and we hop on board it to the train station.

We take the late evening train back to Rome, and I crash out on the journey back.

Roma, Italy.
Back in Rome, we realized we missed lunch. So as starved as we could be, we head to a pizzeria. And it being Sunday everyone decides to dine out. We order two pepperoni pizzas at a local pizzeria near our hotel and after a one and half long wait we bite into it sitting on the footpaths of Rome.

Stuffed. And it's time to call it a night!

Check here for pics of my day at Napoli.