Prague : Day 0-1

6 PM. That was the time I reached Prague, after a pretty bus journey through the countryside. Oddly enough, I wasn’t very impressed when I first set my eyes on Prague. It seemed so normal! Haha, I think this is the travelling effect, I ought to give places more time before I decide they are normal 😛

Interestingly, my college here in France had also planned a trip to Prague at the same time, and it’s safe to say I met atleast one friend each day, at any random location, random time. Hide and seek?

At a cool 5 Euros per night, I was staying in Hostel Centre, which is a bit out of the city center, but I couldn’t complain, it was a really cool place, and I made some amazing friends! My college friends on the other hand were staying bang in the city center, Hostel Ananas, at the same price I think. ( much WIN )

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View from Hostel Ananas (slightly exaggerated)

By the way, that’s the National Museum. No, I didn’t visit it, I am kind of tired of museums. I’d rather take a tour of the city now, it’s way more interactive! And of course, that’s what I did! My morning was greeted by Karel, our Sandemans Prague Tour Guide! I wouldn’t go into the details of the tour, except a few really cool things, like the astronomical clock in Old Town Square :

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This left me so awestruck! It was built in 1410. Can you imagine? And it’s still working! However, don’t ask me how to read the time on this monster, I have no clue! Every hour, there’s a 30 second clock show, which, well I guess you can watch it once, it’s fun! ( Only the first time, I hope you don’t stay there every hour just to watch it again and again ).

Here’s a really cool fact you wouldn’t find on wikipedia yet( I checked ) : The lower dial consists of 400 names on the outskirts, which correspond to a specific day! In every persons life, there are two important days : The birthday and the name-day. That’s right, Czech’s had to choose one of these 400 names for their kids. Yes, that means you couldn’t name your kid Yoda, or Gotham, or Skeletor, or Bulbasaur. Hmm, I should write a book on “Best Names to give your child. Gender not an issue.”

Haha, moving on, on the tour break, I got to try some authentic Czech cuisine : Pork with dumplings and sauerkaut, which is basically a sauce! Let me tell you, it tasted heavenly! Absolutely wonderful!

Guláš
Guláš

I took a bite before I could take a picture, too hungry! In fact, I just realised 😮 This has happened every time! Remember the Indian Naan? Damn! Those white things, are the dumplings! They are different here than the rest of the world, not your common “momos” or the Chinese dumplings you’re used to.

This was followed by discussions into the Second World War, the Jewish Quarter, and the various occupations in Prague. I think, being in Europe, I’ve come to see the war from a much closer perspective, from right next to the epicenter, to how it spread through Europe. It has been pretty eye opening.

This 3.5 hour tour, by far the longest and also one of the loveliest, left me next to the Philosophical division of Charles University with 2 new friends. We decided to go see the John Lennon Wall, by Karel’s recommendation, through the Charles Bridge, which is also pretty famous, and right across the corner.

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A view of Prague Castle and the Cathedral
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Charles Bridge

This was followed by one of the most ecstatic and spontaneous moments of my life. This band, Electroshock, playing Viva la Vida, Toxic, We will rock you, on a chello, violin and hand drums! I was in love! So.Freaking.Amazing! Music hormones( you understand what I mean if you love music like I do 😉 ) shooting through the roof! Watch. A small video, simply because hey, I’d rather listen than shoot it, and I had to take a glimpse for you guys.

Followed by one of the most epic walls I have ever seen : The John Lennon Wall.

When was the last time you did something for the first time?
When was the last time you did something for the first time?

Taking in the city, walking around town, exploring, you know how it goes and well, 20KM and 25,000 steps later, I was back to my hostel. This, right above, was one side of Prague, let’s call it the day-life, because the night-life is something totally different! Drugs, Casinos, Strip Clubs, Night Clubs, all are in plenty throughout town! I was slightly surprised the last night, when I first got to see all this! This was also new to me. I haven’t been clubbing much, and in fact to not even a single club where I didn’t know majority of people ( college parties / birthdays ). What better way to change that, than to do it here, in Prague? The drinking capital of the world, with some kick ass night clubs.

What I didn’t know was, that the first opportunity would present itself this night itself, with me sitting in the common room of the hostel, talking to people from all around the world, and hearing their night plans. Mind you, this was at 11 PM. Whaat? My new friend, Rafael told me about this really cool place. 4 floors, biggest music club in Central Europe, different genre of music on each floor and a 200 CZK entry. Now that sounds awesome! Although I was tired as hell, 15 minutes later, I was out again, on our way to Karlovy Lazne! Best. Decision. Ever.

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Thanks guys for taking me with you! Rafael, Gabriela, Neil, Leo.

This GIF was created with http://www.gifmaker.me and I want to add this reference because it was free, those guys deserve that!

That night was a pretty important night, and I am not going to go into the details of what happened there 😉 However, apparently a lot of people from my college were there too! Talk about coincidence!

I reached back home, 4 AM, bursting with excitement, because the next day, I finally get my birthday gift for myself, which I had mentioned before. That, finally. at 2 PM.

Barcelona : Day 1

Waking up to the alarm of my room mate, I got up, got dressed, all ready to venture forth for our last (and sadly first proper day ) in Barcelona. We had the bus for Paris leaving at 4:30 PM. Haha, yes, I know, not a lot of time, but that’s how it is. On the other hand, the 28 hours in Barcelona were so full of experiences! I don’t think I would have been able to keep up had we stayed longer.

This day, I was determined to attend the tour, to find out the true story behind yesterday’s spectacle. This was the only aim for the day. Sumit, the same college-mate who went out with me last night, decided to join me; while Puskar followed his calling : Camp Nou, Barcelona! ( Football stadium, for the ones not into football ) and while the rest 2 were creating a hilarious story, which you’d hear about soon enough.

So, we made the reservations ( not taking chances today!) and checked out at 9 AM, to reach the tour point at about 9:40 AM. We got our tickets and waited for the tour to start. Haha, my tour guide turned out to Tommy! I thanked him for his advice last afternoon and we went on to cover quite a bit of history. Starting at the Barcelona Cathedral, to the eternal flame, to the infamous La Rambla! He talked a bit about the Catalonian movement, the million flags, Aragon and the Prince of Madrid and the sieges. The Catalonian flag, with 4 red stripes, actually comes from a symbol during the war. <Some important guy> fell, and <another important guy> dug his hand into the other’s wound, and used the blood on his 4 fingers to draw 4 lines on his shield, paying his respects, which came to be known as the coat of arms! <Sorry, don’t remember the names of the guys>.

We stopped in a pretty indoor garden of the Viceroy’s Palace.

With all my gear
With all my gear
Oh, and it’s moderately hot in Spain! Hence the t-shirt and shorts. En route, we also apparently crashed a wedding. ( Technically not, the church is open to the public. But it was fun to catch a glimpse of it)

The Wedding
The Wedding
The tour soon ended, and we consulted the map for our next destination : The famous Barcelona aquarium, which was slightly far, but we had about 3.5 hours to get to the bus. So we might as well go. On reaching there, we saw that the ticket was 20 Euros. Haha, we went back faster than we got here! ( Not really.) We ditched the idea of the aquarium, reasoning, that there should be a cheaper aquarium somewhere someplace, and I chipped in, I’ve seen these fish live, in the ocean, in their habitat. This can’t beat that any day. Interesting how the mind spins things off to suit your needs. Anyways, we moved on, checked out the harbour which had a lot of really cool ships! The kind with sails, not the modern ( slightly ugly?) ones.

Boats, boats everywhere but not one to climb
Boats, boats everywhere but not one to climb
Not really, there was a really huge one specifically for the public to check out! Ahaaan, the number of ropes on these is just incredible!!IMG_1363

Moving on, we were greeted by one of the best sights in Barcelona : Unloading of supercars on the port for super rich people.

Look at this beauty
Look at this beauty
I clicked this one ( not allowed to come any closer) but Sumit clicked them all! Here’s another awesome picture he got :

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Feeling tired, I wanted to go back, but on Sumit’s persistence and that awesome quiche, we decided to go to the beach! Thanks a lot, Sumit, for helping me acquire this experience as well! The beach here, was entirely different! I loved it. Even with all that gear, we got out our swimming trunks, prayed that no one took our bags while we changed and were into the water! Crazily enough, just an hour before our bus left for Paris. ( If we missed it, we would have been completely stranded!) This, almost completed my Barcelona experience. Almost? what else is left? Just one small thing. When we packed up, took a shower, and started moving back, I was on the look out for restaurants serving the Barcelona speciality : seafood. Tommy told me that they got the best seafood here, and wasn’t he right! In a little restaurant around the corner, in an unknown street ( We were just walking in the general direction : I have a good sense of direction) Wait, that reminds me!

Pro Tip : Whenever you’re going to a new place, try and memorize as much of the map as you can, mainly important monuments and your hostel. It usually just takes one glance to obtain a general idea, but very helpful in navigation!

Oops, yes, so, there was this store selling fried codfish with lemon : 8 pieces, 2.95 Euros. That sounded like a bargain, and we went ahead to have the most amazing fish I have ever had in my life! Wow, those 4 pieces I had were simply extravagant! Haha, I wish I’d taken more! Yes, Barcelona experience, complete.

We reached the bus, to hear about Puskar’s Camp Nou experience and ofcourse, the hilarious story: The other two, unaware of the legend of La Rambla, ventured in to find someone throw paint all over their bag, point them to a place to clean it, and, then elope with that bag. Okay, probably not hilarious for them 😛 But the good part is, they found their bag again, with nothing missing. We think that was because there was nothing inside to steal. We decided, not to let Animek and Tulika venture out on their own ever again.

To the next adventure!

Paris : Day 0

I would call this Day -1, but I think that would get increasingly problematic as it isn’t a very definite convention. I was woken up with a loud banging on my door, which turned out to be my neighbour who had lost his room key, at 6 AM, en route to Brussels. Due to some complicated and not-interesting stuff, I couldn’t go with them ( 4 of them ), and I was here in my room, at 6 AM, still deliberating whether I could go to Paris. The earlier day, Friday, I’d tried to book a hostel and the train tickets, but to no avail. So, I had virtually nothing, and I was slightly apprehensive about going on such a journey.

I packed my bags, ate the apple I had saved from last night’s dinner and figured, I might as well go to the train station ( a 20 minutes walk), see if I get the ticket, and we can see how it goes? Once I reached the station, all my apprehensions vanished during the 2 minutes I was talking to the lady at the ticket counter. I purchased a ticket for 15 minutes from now ( I checked the timetable before hand, my timing was awesome) and also an nonexchangeable return ticket for the next night at 10 P.M. Haha, talk about fighting fears!

In short, this was the best decision, ever!

The voyage lasted 1 hour 17 minutes, and I was in Paris at 9:08 AM. So exhilarating! So, the hostel I had decided to check for a room was on the other side of the River Seine, and if you know where Gare du Nord ( Train station) is, let’s just say it is very far! 1.5 hours walking, but 20 minutes by the metro (which I found out later). Since I wanted to experience the city rather than just taking the metro, I decided to walk. From north to south, covering pretty much all the differences  in between the two parts of town. The premier walk from the station till the river was pretty shady. I wasn’t sure if I made the right decision walking through it, but I realised it finished pretty soon, commemorated by this :

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A little further, I found the Cathedral of Notre Dame, which is on the River Siene. I went past it, and onwards to my hostel, as I thought it was important to first  find a room to stay for the night. The earlier I reach => More chances to find a room. I would have had to try somewhere else otherwise. As luck would have it, I found a room right there, in FIAP Jean Monnet hostel, 30 Rue Cabanis. And yes, I would recommend it any day! It really is an amazing hostel, I loved it! ( More on this later). I was told that I could check in by 12, and at that time it was 11. I used the irritatingly slow Wi-Fi over there, thinking out my day, when a stroke of brilliance hit me! Remember the Sandeman’s Free Tours in Amsterdam? Yes, they are here in Paris as well. And yes, the next tour left at 1. Yes, the starting point of the tour was an hour away. Yes, the Garden of Luxemborg falls in between the hostel and the start point of the tour, (which is St. Michel Fountain, right next to the Cathedral of Notre Dame,if you want to go. Tours leave every day at 10:00, 11:00 and 1:00.) Even more good timing.

Filled with excitement about the plan, I got up and told the reception I’d be coming back late to check in, stowed my bag over there and was off. Say hello to the entrance of the entrance to the garden.

Fountain just outside the garden.
Fountain just outside the garden.
and the Garden:

Gardens of Luxemborg
Gardens of Luxemborg
I sat here for a while, and then was off to reach just in time for the tour. This tour was, just like the previous one, very amazing! Bruce covered a lot about the history and the war, and how it affected Paris, or rather, how it didn’t. We went through most of the amazing sights in Paris, starting with the Cathedral of Notre Dame, to the Louvre, to Place de la Concorde. The most amazing bit was, that I could understand French! Learning a new language is truly the best way to immerse in the culture! The names of the streets, the buildings, the jokes in French, the inscriptions, felt really cool. It could also be the fact that I was the only one who understood even a bit of French in the tour group. I practiced a bit with Bruce, who was nice enough to help me out. He even clicked a photo of me at the Louvre! ( I’m not much into selfies)

The Great Pyramid of the Louvre
The Great Pyramid of the Louvre
The tour ended at Place de la Concorde, at about 3:30 P.M. Now, I hadn’t had lunch and was very hungry. Bruce was selling tickets for their other tour of Montmarte, in a cafe where I found decent enough food, next to the Place.(pronounced Pl-aaa-ce : Meaning Square in French, because Place de la Concorde, is a square. Look carefully! The biggest in fact, with the characteristic Obelisk, which was gifted by Egypt, and the gold on top added by the French)

This is what I'm talking about
This is what I’m talking about
Oh, and you can see the famous Tour de Eiffel from here! I sat here for a while because I was tired, and yes, you can easily guess where my next stop was going to be! I could see it from here! The Tour de Eiffel.

A cool photo
A cool photo : That’s a groom waiting for his bride, who is on the right side of the frame.
And, after another half an hour, I reached the Tour de Eiffel.IMG_1097

Too tired to do anything, I sat on the first bench I could find, and I think I was there for about 2 hours. After about 1 hour, a girl came and sat next to me on the bench, while I was contemplating how beautiful this is, and how right I was to have come here and earned this experience. She looked kinda French to me and I thought about asking her something in French, ( “Are you French? 😛 “) but I forgot about it after about 5 minutes ( which is a long time) because she seemed occupied, and I was back to my comtemplations. Half an hour later, she got up to through something in the trash can, and I realised she was still here. I smiled at her and was about to ask her the question when she asked me the same question xD. (“Where are you from? “) and that started a pretty amazing friendship. Turns out, she’s from Scotland ( and she’s not a redhead 😉 ). We grabbed something to eat, and ended up at the Arc de Triomphe. Haha, exactly like India Gate in India! Except a few beautiful statues in front. Even the flame underneath the Arc, exists in India. We stayed there for a bit, didn’t go up because the line was too long, went to Place de la Concorde, encore, and after that, ended up at Eiffel Tower again. It was night time, and seeing it light up was even more amazing!

Almost underneath
Almost underneath
We spent an hour( or two?) here, looking at all the people and taking in the atmosphere. It really left me spellbound. After that, we parted ways for tonight, and I had already walked 30 kms today, I couldn’t anymore, so I took the Metro, which I might add is very convenient and super fast! I was surprised when we traversed 12 stations in 12 minutes. Oh well, I had dinner in a small restaurant close to my place. This had you choose what you want, with price per 100 gms written, which made it seem cheap, but when he filled the plate, I had had 11 Euros worth of food. Sigh. It tasted good though, so can’t complain!

Another piece of awesomeness awaited me when I went to the hostel, to check in at 11:30 PM. I was upgraded because the room that I’d earlier booked for had been filled. Personal bathrooms, personal washrooms, complete with towels and a personal charging port. Ah, is this even a hostel anymore!? I reverted my decision of not taking a bath ( because I didn’t bring my towel, I packed really light! ) because of the welcoming hot shower, which I needed after all that walking.

Best end to the best damn day!

…. I just re read it again. It isn’t even half of what I experienced! There’s so much, but damn it, I can’t write it all here! 😀 😀

For another day
For another day