Travel checklist : 2016

2016 was a year of adventures, big and small. Early last year, Mr.A and I prepared a 2016 Travel Wishlist. And we went though quite a bit of it, of course, missing some here & there, but adding a few more in the end. By the end of it, I had ticked off 9 totally new countries! Whoa, I’m so lucky!! So, continuing on the tradition set down by my Travel checklist: 2015, here’s the lineup from 2016…

#1 Germany : Around my birthday in February, we visited Berlin, a city rife with such poignant history, yet so contemporary at the same time. It was an eye-opener, trying to imagine what the city might have gone through during those war-torn years.

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#2 Czech Republic : In spring, it was time for beautiful Prague, together with our friends N&G. The city of a hundred spires was as intriguing as we had expected. Like Berlin, here too, we experienced some heartrending snippets of history.

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#3 Croatia : May brought in a terrific week of road-trips, when we travelled through the length of Croatia, from Dubrovnik to Zagreb. We visited several cities and witnessed amazing geography, enjoyed traditional food and met some really nice people along the way.

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#4 Estonia : Around midsummer, we took an overnight cruise to Tallinn, to see its charming old town and relax at a spa hotel. Mr.A’s little sis joined us on this fun trip.

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#5 Latvia : A mere 4-hour bus ride from Tallinn brought us to Riga, another really winsome town with its many spires, squares, parks and cafes.

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#6 Iceland : In fall came our epic road-trip around Iceland with our friends S&S, one of our most awe-inspiring trips ever. To say that the landscape is stunning, is a gross understatement. Every step of the way was a revelation in beauty and wonder.

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#7 Switzerland :  In September, Mr.A and I took my parents on a trip to Switzerland, the enchanting land of endless green fields, glorious mountains and postcard villages.

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#8 United Kingdom : And then there was a bonus office trip to London. Though it was short & snappy, I got a chance to see a couple of prime spots and became even more excited about returning to this groovy city.

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#9 Hungary :  In November, keeping up with an unsaid tradition of ours, we celebrated Mr.A’s birthday in Budapest. We were charmed by this city of bridges, and felt knowledgable while comparing it to its almost-twin, Prague.

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#10 India : And finally in December we spent time in India to connect with our beloved friends and family. I know this is cheating, ’cause I am from India, so this is not a new visit, but I just couldn’t resist the fun of getting down to a square ten-pointer 😉

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How was your year in travel? Keep going!!

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Berlin & remains of the Wall

When Mr.A & I visited Berlin, we wanted to see the Berlin Wall up close. I researched a bit on the internet and found the best suggestion on traveldudes.org. They talk about three spots where the Wall is best preserved. We went to each of them and at each spot one may experience a different feeling.

1. Topography of Terror: 

Websitehttp://www.topographie.de

Address : Niederkirchnerstraße 8, 10963 Berlin

I shared some pictures from this site in a previous post about exploring Berlin. Topography of Terror is a museum that documents the reign of Hitler through the years and how Germany, and the world at large, was affected by the Nazi era. In fact, the museum stands at approximately the same spot where the Gestapo once had their headquarters. A section of the Berlin Wall still stands before it, a grim reminder of the past. The studies and photos are very detailed and quite an eye-opener even for a well-read traveler. One might come off a bit overwhelmed by this visit.

On a separate note, if you want to rent one of the lockers, make sure you have a €1 coin, the cafeteria will probably not help you out. The closest metro station would be Potsdamer Platz.

2. Berlin Wall Memorial and Documentation Center: 

Websitehttp://www.berliner-mauer-gedenkstaette.de

Address : Bernauer Straße 119, 13355 Berlin

This memorial has a kilometer and a half stretch of the Wall. The events that took place here are documented through pictures and artefacts at the Documentation Center. There are a couple of floors, so allow yourself some time. A watch tower at the Center provides a wider view of the Wall and what used to be two sides of divided Germany. To reach this site, take the metro to Nordbahnhof. Incidentally, Nordbahnhof used to be one of the ghost stations on the Eastern side that were blocked away during the Cold War. The station also has images and stories of how these ghost stations came to be. Mr.A and I felt quite moved with our experience here. It is hard to imagine what it must have been for the people loving here not so far back in the past.

3. East Side Gallery: 

Websitehttp://www.eastsidegallery-berlin.de

Address : Mühlenstraße, 10243 Berlin

The East Side Gallery is often called the longest open air gallery in the world. Here, remains of the Berlin Wall stretch for over a kilometer along the Spree river. Once a symbol of separation, it is now covered with artists’ impressions advocating freedom for everybody. Some paintings have deteriorated over time due to vandalism and erosion, but some work is being done to preserve it, including fences to protect certain parts. To reach the Gallery, one could either hop off at the metro station Ostbahnhof and walk along the wall to the next metro, Warschauer Straße, or vice versa. Walking along the water is also very pleasant. I quite liked this one, given my love for murals, graffiti & street art.

There are, of course, several other places where you may see bits of the wall remaining, but they would be smaller in scale as compared to the spots mentioned above. Have you visited Berlin? Did you make it to any of these memorials? What did you think? I’d love to know!

Exploring Berlin

Mr.A and I went to Berlin for a weekend last month. This is our first tick on our 2016 Travel Checklist. So happy to start off on our adventures right away! Berlin, and Germany as a whole, has been at the heart of history for such a long time. There are so many levels at which you can explore this amazing city. Try one of the history walks through the city, visit their many impressive museums, eat curry wurst and wash it down with some beer, or give their nightlife a go. There is always something for everyone in Berlin!

1. The Reichstag

2. Brandenburger Torg & Pariser Plats 

3. Unter den Linden & Friedrichstraße 

4. Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

5. Hitler’s bunker 

6. Bebelplatz & Neue Wache 

7. Museum Island

 8. Marx-Engels Forum & Neptunbrunnren 

9. Alexanderplatz 

10. Topography of Terror & Checkpoint Charlie 

11. Gendarmenmarkt 

12. Kurfürstendamm 

Have you been to Berlin? What was your favourite part of this enchanting city? I’d love to know!

Travel wishlist : 2016

Did you guys check out my Travel Checklist from 2015? Go, go, take a look & tell me how cool it reads 😉

It might be pretty evident that being the travel-hungry people that we are, Mr.A and I surely have a Wishlist for 2016 ready and waiting to be ticked off!

  1. Berlin, Germany : We also love history, and Berlin has so much to offer on that front. In fact, we are going to be on a flight to Berlin tonight; we definitely believe in a good start!
  2. Prague, Czech Republic : Picturesque Prague has been on our list ever since we moved to Europe. Finally we go there during the Easter break. Can’t wait!
  3. Dubrovnik & Split, Croatia : Go Game of Thrones! Everyone knows that Croatia is featured heavily in the series, and we both are totally hooked on to it. Remember my excitement when the Game of Thrones Exhibition came to Stockholm? I am already making lists of places we need to check out.
  4. Budapest, Hungary : I hear this pretty city has so much to offer. Some friends have even quoted Budapest as their favourite European city. So that puts it high up on our must-visit list.
  5. St. Petersburg & Moscow, Russia : We have flown through Russia many times, but haven’t yet had a chance to see one of its cities. I really want to see the Church of the Saviour on Blood, which to me seems quite an unusual architecture for a church, but extremely fascinating at the same time. And I must buy myself some matrioskas, of course! We have friends in Moscow, and it would be lovely to visit them. Always good to have local insights about a foreign place, right?

Of course, we have a never-ending urge to travel and see more all the time, but I guess this is a reasonable set to start with for this year. And then again, we aren’t ones to stick to plans either, so who knows where to end up by the end of the year 😉 As long as we continue to make the journey, I think we will be happy enough 🙂 Right, Mr.A?!

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P.S. I don’t have photos of these amazing places yet, but I thought this happy photo of me walking on ice was nice enough to share 😉

 

The Book Thief

People observe the colors of a day only at its beginnings and ends, but to me it’s quite clear that a day merges through a multitude of shades and intonations with each passing moment. A single hour can consist of thousands of different colors. Waxy yellows, cloud-spot blues. Murky darkness. In my line of work, I make it a point to notice them.

Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief is a poignant tale of childhood in Nazi Germany. Narrated by Death, a very very unusual voice, the story follows Liesel Meminger from being given up for foster care, to starting to love her new family, making new friends, saving a life, and ultimately losing it all during the bombing of Munich during World War II. And it all weaves through the little girl’s curiosity and hunger for books and words. I admit, reading the book made me a little teary-eyed at times. And yet, it is not a constant reminder of the pain of those days, on the contrary it speaks about how there is happiness to be found in the toughest times and from the most meager means. The book is a heartening story of love, friendship, trust and hope. A book I am sure I will remember for a long time.

On a side-note, have you played that listing-favorite-books-and-tagging-friends game that was all the rage a few weeks ago on Facebook?