Salzburg – When Mountains Brew Romance

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So the crazy me has a list of to do’s beyond the Scuba Dives, Sky Jumping and Flying Hot Air Balloons. The other list is at times errant and instinctive leaving my better half stunned with no choice but to fall prey to it. Can you notice the devil horns on my head while I say this 😈

Ok so for Europe what was it , time to spill the beans baby , to the man who would make that happen. I begin to tell him, that one of the days all I wanna do in Europe is just sit at a quiet spot and gaze the endless parsley green fields, watch Europe’s trademark dalmatian cows grazing its meadows , cute old men sporting tweed cabbie caps catch their fish by a placid lake, rivers sledge down the gorgeous mountain valleys, and the sun sinking behind fairytale towns with one of my current favourite songs, a Bollywood number called “Moh Moh Ke Dhaage” playing in the background.

I expected the usual frowned brows on disclosing this to him but I got a little peck on my cheeks instead. I guess 12 years of knowing me and 4 years into marriage has made him give up on me totally 😂

We arrived in Salzburg on 4th of July, after spending 10 memorable days in Italy all bruised, tired , exhausted , astonished , gleaming with joy all of it at the same time owing to the long hours of walking on those cobbled alleys and streets, climbing hundreds of steps to beautiful basilica’s , breathtaking domes, clock towers , gasping at the best museums and art the world has to offer. You will read detailed excerpts on the Italian sojourn later.

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The Mirabell Palace Grounds

An upward overland journey from Venice, we arrived in the Mozart’s town quite late in the hour by the time most tourist attractions had shut down and all that we could do was wander on streets lined up with pretty coffee shops and restaurants, little stores selling souvenirs and gifts, people crossing the bridge over Salzach river and cycling down carefree on its banks. By the way this is one of best things to do in whole of Europe, its absolutely free and something that I miss the most back in India.

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At the Hohensalzburg Castle

Salzburg was just a point of transit for us on our way to Prague from Italy, a 12 hour long overland journey which I purposely chose over a short 1 hour flight. We just had a day in hand and it was a rather a tough choice to make between whether to cover the city and its attractions at a relaxed pace, to visit the ice caves at Werfen apparently the largest in the world and something we really were keen on before the very start of the trip or to action my bucket list which was still haunting me (Listening to Moh Moh ke Dhaage remember 😍) and here we were already inching towards the near end of our 2 weeks in Europe.

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Views from the Untersberg Mountain Cable Car

We agreed to drop the ice caves around this time and rather get a hang of the city , paying some respect to this charming Austrian town which is the country’s second most popular after its capital city Vienna. Covering all the attractions during the daytime and finding a secluded spot in the evening to sit down and listen to that song  would finally get my list ticking too. This would also rest our tired , swollen blistered feet from Italy  😇

Salzburg’s major city attractions can be easily covered in a day unlike Italy where every attraction takes 3-4 hours depending upon your interest and pace. But still I suggest one keeps 3 days here in your itinerary to take some day trips to Werfen Ice Caves and visit Hallstatt a charming little village 70 km south east of Salzburg and simply go hiking & biking in the Bavarian region. We plan doing this whenever next in Austria.1698

After an easy day of city exploration we walked towards the Salzach river banks to find a secluded spot to sit or lie down silently next to each other and finally listen to Moh Moh ke Dhaage over and over again,  At this point I had butterflies in my stomach, yes things like this can make me that excited , nervous all at the same time.

Moving towards the bridge that would take us down to the banks of the river I couldn’t help notice sky changing its color every few seconds , I jugged it off thinking its me who manifests a canvass of imagination every now and then, but then everything starts turning crimson and hues of pinks , oranges , and within minutes it starts to pour. Here goes our plan , washed out by the errant mountain rains and before I can even wink or react to this total mood dampener , I was pulled aside by my Mr. Right asking me to run and take shelter below an old tree. He quickly zips up my bright pink windcheater and says sorry baby your wishlist…..couldn’t make that happen, apologizing for Indra Dev’s (Aka indian rain god) deeds. Around this point in time I started to wonder if it was indeed better to go with our original plan of visiting the ice caves instead.1760

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The Salzach River

Standing under that tree, waiting for the out pour to stop , raindrops resting on my misty hair, watching specks of mud collect on my brand new white keds that I am paranoid about getting dirty,  I looked up with a clown face in order to lift both our spirits, and hey what do I notice , the skies have staged a drama, its a live concert of colors, from blue grey they turn into hues of crimson, orange, amber, pink and shades only the fashion world can identify with, I turn behind and the famous Hohensalzburg Fortress a famed white and grey structure symbolic of Salzburg city turns soothing honey gold. A Fairytale moment gifted by the almighty to us , that moment I wanted to seize a kiss but was held back by my Indian ethos so I just pulled him besides me to catch hold of his hand and we walked hand in hand on the banks of river Salzach watching the sun go down ….humming  “Moh Moh ke Dhage, Teri Ungliyon se ja Uljhe”.

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Do you have odd bucket lists too, I would love to hear yours in the comments below !

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Cambodian Odyssey -3 days in the land of smiles

Like everyone else I too wanted to visit Cambodia primarily to check out that gorgeous sunrise over ‘Angkor Wat’ and then the Ta Prohm’ walls wrapped up in gigantic trees from the surrounding rainforests attracted me even more or may be it was the Lara Croft Tomb Raider effect. Now who doesn’t like Angelina Jolie here ! 

Movies always have inspired me to add places to my ever expanding bucket list. My husband  calls it infinite ☺

1041So in 2014 winter when a euro trip could not materialise and a cousins trip popped up to the island of Bali, we decided to add 3 days of Cambodia to it to let that bucket list ticking.

Little did I know this small country would steal my heart and 3 days would seem far too less.

13111138We landed in Siem Reap around midnight and I was in for some real bad mood. I had lost my beautiful hand picked paintings from Bali ! For someone who loves wall art, this was a real dampener. Trying hard all night to explain Bangkok airport authorities over phone and shooting my phone bill to new heights, eventually I failed every attempt made to make them understand what was lost and being referred to as paintings. Cursing people for not speaking enough English, the language barrier hit me hard for the first time during my travels. Until then I thought of myself fondly as a profound communicator. But Bangkok authorities proved me wrong. It’s called a ‘Reality Check’ !

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Moving on to our Cambodia itinerary , this is how we spent 3 days there.

Reaching Siem Reap late at night through an Air Asia flight from Bangkok, we headed straight to the hotel to fetch some sleep and catch that spectacular sunrise over the Angkor Wat Temple the next morning. I am obsessed by the Sun god and can never get enough of Sunrises and Sunsets.3151280To make things easier we booked a tuk tuk for full day with our hotel reception for 15$. One could choose , a tuk tuk , a car , a bicycle , whatever suits the pocket and time off course. Early morning, heading straight to the Archaeological park we chose a 3 day pass for $40 each.

I recommend visiting all sites marked in red below known as the small circuit if time permits. My favourites in no particular order were

  • Banteay Srei
  • Angkor Wat
  • Bayon
  • Ta Prohm
  • Preah Khan
  • Angkor Thom
  • Ta Keo
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Image Courtesy visit-angkor

The Angkor Archaeological park extends over 400 square kilometres and consists of scores of temples , hydraulic structures, basins,  dykes, reservoirs, canals as well as communication routes. It’s a total delight for architecture & photography enthusiasts. That’s my verdict ! :mrgreen:

So, if you fall into any of the above my advise would be to give yourself 3 full days to admire the beauty of these structures , examine the intricate carvings and learn about the religious and cultural influences it held in various centuries. It’s highly advisable to hire a guide and buy a book to understand and identify things that resonate with the depictions on the walls, pillars of these structures better.

So grab your sturdiest pair of shoes, slip into breezy clothes, apply shields of sunscreen, adorn that hat and sport those Ray Bans to get you going through long days of exploring a truly magical man-made wonder.

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We bought this one by Michael Freeman & Claude Jacques

Little did we expect Siem Reap to offer us anything else beyond Angkor but boy were we wrong. ‘Yes Totally Indeed’. For evenings there was the graceful Apsara dance followed by traditional Cambodian dinner or one could just hang around the buzzing ‘Pub Street’ glistened with Restaurants,  Pubs, Bars, Massage Parlours and Street Shops selling souvenirs to hand block printed garments. Booze is less than a dollar so you could drink like a fish unless you gotta catch the magnificent sunrise over Angkor next day. I would go with the latter though !

522523If I had to sum up my experience there, Cambodian people gave us the warmest smiles, served the sweetest mangoes (that’s my favourite fruit so its important to me), locals invited us for a game of soccer  and a 5 dollar tip was acknowledged with the widest grins and a thousand Thank You’s.

I hardly shop during my travels but this was a country where I returned with bags full not because they came cheap or were cotton(that’s what I prefer) but because I realised that Travel is also about giving, giving back to the planet, giving back to the community and it’s people where its most required.551A  country with a tragic past and 3 decades of war, where still millions of mines underlay farm and forest land and strike mankind everyday, small kids sell stuff only to fund their education, mothers of young infants juggle home and work to build a better future for their kids. It reinstates my faith that we carve our own destinies, that no matter what circumstances strike us, get up , show up , smile and the world seems better.

Before I visited this country , I was just a beach bum, a mountain hiker , a road tripper and travel itineraries and holidays revolved around these.

“Cambodia changed my perspective for ever and only for the good”317

How Kashmir left me Breathless

Being an army kid, I grew up on tales about life in the valley from Dad & Grandpa. It obviously intrigued me day after day , week after week , month after month and years all together of what this part of the country looked like. To add to all this Mum repeatedly pointed that one thing she always would regret in life was not taking me to Kashmir. So with constant reminders of this deprivation, I started to etch vivid images of the valley and its people from the mid 80’s.

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IMG_4136nI precisely still remember the day Mom & Bro took off to join Dad’s battalion at Leh and I was left behind in my beloved Nani’s arms. Today I am glad they went, back then I wasn’t ! In case you are wondering why, the answer is my acute asthma, yes I was only 4 then and it was too risky a proposition with the limited medical aid in those times.

IMG_4362nThe tension all these years refused to subside in the valley & ‘KASHMIR’ from being Bollywood & India’s most loved holiday destination turned into an unsafe volatile zone and lately a frequent point of discussion on Arnab’s Goswamy’s show. Meanwhile, for me the blurred images engraved over all these years only gained clarity with the advent of the digital era and our Facebook , Instagram lives.

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It was difficult to contain myself any further, so with a long weekend at hand, I booked myself on a Delhi – Srinagar flight during the off-season month of September  My Birthday Month’. The asthma could no longer hold me back neither could the tension between the two neighbours.

And by the way I did in fact go breathless there not due to asthma but soaking in all those enchanting vistas around me.

Kashmir has only left me yearning for more and I cant wait enough to return to the alluring valley.

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