Year: 2017

Gardens Of Villa d’Este, in Tivoli

The hilltop town of Tivoli, back in time, may just be a summer retreat for ancient Romans, but today, it is home for two UNESCO World Heritage sites: Villa Adriana, the sprawling estate of Emperor Hadrian; and the 16th-century Villa d’Este, a Renaissance villa famous for its landscaped gardens and lavish fountains. During my two week workawaying in Italy, near Rome, I happened to explore the old city of Tivoli, and in Tivoli, perhaps the most surreal gardens I’ve seen in my life. Villa d’Este, as I had imagined (after watching its glimpse in the Hollywood movie Lizzie McGuire) to be grand, majestic and awe-inspiring. But it turned out to be something more than that, something far magical and unrealistic. The detailed Villa d’Este dates from the mid 16th century when Cardinal Ippolito d’Este decided to make changes to the convent he was given, upon his appointment as the governor of Tivoli, Italy. A member of an influential family and a lover of the finest things in life, d’Este commissioned his architect to build a new, grand residence filled with everything that money could buy and from what …

My Journey Through Cambodia’s Depressing Past

[I visited Cambodia in 2016, but this is an edited version of the original story provided (by me) to and published by the print version of… Harmony – Celebrate Age, in May 2017] The mugshot of several dozen victims of the Khmer Rouge genocide lay in front of me. Some appeared to have a broken jawbone, and some, a few missing teeth. I winced every time I looked at a new face. The man next to me, however, stood still, though he appeared twitching from time to time. He looked Cambodian, and unlike me, I realised, he might just be finding the entire sight a lot more tormenting. A few faces might perhaps be familiar to him. I’d arrived in Phnom Penh only a day before, and I was already inside the infamous site of S-21 Tuol Sleng Jail. The place had some appeal, after all, S-21 of Phnom Penh is the reason why so many tourists come to Cambodia, at first place. After struggling with the thoughts and studying different faces for a few long minutes, …

What To See In Budapest, And How

Nesting in the heart of Europe, Budapest offers its visitors an unlimited treasury of experiences. Budapest is one of those European metropolis,  popular for its wealth of sights, sounds and experiences. And what makes it better is that the city has something for everyone — from good food to charming architecture, to world-famous spas. In fact,the city has such rich experiences that visitors — especially those travelling for a short time and looking for offbeat experiences — often get so much peckish during their visit that they end up being confused about what to choose and what not. And if so is the case with you too and you’re in Budapest for only for a few nights (give Budapest at least three days, as less than that would be a total injustice to the city), here’s how I’d suggest you to plan your trip: Before Anything… Welcome to Budapest! Home to world-famous artists, mouth-watering food, and above all — cheap beer! Budapest, as a city, is vibrant. It’s comparatively much, raw, wilder, and backpacking friendly. I personally favored …

Exploring The Iconic Budapest Metro

The Hungarian National museum, if you want to see it all, appear to be much bigger and overwhelming than you can imagine. A long stretch of art and artifacts and centuries old history. Don’t plan to see and absorb it all, in a day, just like I did. You need more time than that. And then certainly not plan an evening show in the city’s Opera House later, the same day — something that I ended up doing, again. I remember my second day in Budapest was long and tiring. I mean the city had too much to offer, and I had only a week to explore it all. But the good thing about Budapest was an efficient public transport, and among its public transport system is the Underground Metro System, that is not just beautiful and iconic, but has a long history associated to it. Yes, we are talking about the history that takes you back in 19th century — when Budapest, or the entire European continent, at large, got its first metro line. In many cities, the underground commute involves boring …

From Getting Robbed In Bratislava, Slovakia, To Saying No To Making Generalizations: My Experience, As It Continues…

Before you read the story, I request you to please read it till the end. Please do not leave it in between finding a negative tone against Slovaks, or the Eastern Europe at large… because that was never the intention, and just cannot be!  While planning my 2-month backpacking trip across 8 countries in Europe, and before I arrived in Bratislava, the capital town of the east-European country of Slovakia, a few people warned me about having my wits about the place. “You be careful walking along those streets; eastern Europe can be surprising,” they claimed. But I never cared much for their unsolicited advice. I mean for a person who had spent most of his life learning the art of self-defense, inside the crazy boundaries of a city like New Delhi, eastern Europe should be no problem, right? “I’ve seen worse,” I would carefully assure myself. To sometimes even brag about it a little, and sound more experienced, I would utter an experience or two from my solo backpacking trip in Southeast Asia, and Cambodia …

How To See Prague In One Day

Prague is one of those destinations that always seems to be in vogue. It’s been on the tourist map for a long time, and the crowds show no signs of abating – particularly when it comes to women. And I understand the fascination. Prague is, after all, gorgeous; has a Vegas-style nightlife; and speaks, from its all nooks and corners, but a hint of romance. But where on one side, the city is beautiful and vibrant, its well-preserved medieval city is abundant of rich history and stories. In fact, there is just so much to see and absorb here that if you’re staying here for only a few days, you’re going to miss a lot, unless you plan better. Since I stayed in Prague for only 3 days, out of which, I spent a day in the Bohemian and Saxon Switzerland Park, I was out of luck too. So very carefully, I opted for a full-day guided tour around the city (despite not being a big fan of guided tours) for I did not want to leave the city …

What To Do In Bratislava: Perhaps Some Target Shooting!

Dodging with the idea of how to make your trip to Bratislava memorable? Wondering what to do in the city? I recommend: Some Target Shooting! Now I really can’t say that guns are quite my cup of tea, I mean how can anyone fancy the idea of playing with those dangerous chunks of metal, that make designed for nothing but kill people, but as it was one of the highlights of traveling in Slovalia, and Bratislava in particular, I thought “why not!” Before you read further, please leave your all prejudices behind, and try to absorb it in the form of a new, healthy experience, after all, I was not hunt people! I think during my backpacking trip across Europe, guns were designed to feature somewhere in the itinerary. After all, you do not get to travel to a land, every now and then, where shooting, as a activity, has quiet a charm. So yea, shooting guns in Bratislava, was high in my list, especially when I was one of those people who had never …

What To See And Do In Vienna

To an outsider, Vienna may just appear to be quite city-like, for it is now one of fastest growing towns in central Europe, but if you try to see and absorb the city in its more real and conscious form, it may appear as a town you’d still want to call as ‘historic’. As you walk along the Grand Ringstrasse (a one way street that encircles the Vienna’s 1st district, or the city-center) you literally go back in 19th century – the time when Vienna was still developing as the capital of Austrian empire, and started shaping itself into a city, we are much familiar to, today. Walking along its many elegant pedestrian thoroughfares, particularly in and around the first district, there was not a single moment when I did not find myself awestruck by its ever-impressive architectural marvels. Whether in the historic city center, in the traditional wine taverns or on the other side of the Danube — its many contemporary and historic buildings coexist in a strikingly innovative manner. But that doesn’t mean that Vienna is …

Vienna: In Pictures

Before anything, I confess that Vienna wasn’t on the original travel itinerary during my backpacking trip across Europe. Its ‘old people city’ charm was, in fact, the demotivation. I mean why would a 20-something solo traveller would want to visit an European town where all he can expect is an overdose of imperial grandeur of the Habsburg-era. But as an invitation from ViennaTourism landed in my inbox, recommending me a ballet performance and a guided tour in world’s one of the historical and most reputable horse riding schools, I thought, “Why Not!” The next thing I remember was booking a whirlwind trip to Vienna (from Prague) — and spending three days just wandering around its many royal and imperial streets. It turned out that walking around the city was one of the best things to do — because Vienna is drenched in incredible architecture. And now that I’ve concluded my visit to this royal city, I thought of putting up at least one picture post on Vienna where I can tell some stories via pictures. So here we go… …

Bohemian And Saxon Switzerland Park

I always admire beautiful and distinct landscapes. Landscapes that put me in a moment of awe, and offer me a sense of wonderment, even if for a fraction of second. And it was one of those days as I happened to explore a part of the Bohemian and Saxon Switzerland Park and walked along its many giant sandstone cliffs and steep canyons. Before anything, I’d like to clear out that the Bohemian and Saxon Switzerland Park is, in no way, a part of Switzerland. It got its name in the 18th century, when two Swiss artists called it Saxon Switzerland, as it reminded them of the landscape back home in Switzerland. Straddling between the Czech and German border, the park is divided, almost evenly, between the two countries, with just a slightly bigger portion of it falling on the German side (where it’s known as the Saxon Switzerland Park) and the remaining in the Czech Republic (where it’s known as Bohemian Switzerland National Park). Amazingly, the two countries work together to manage and protect the entire region, and you barely find a difference between the landscape and its sheer …