Think of it this way: if there was one place you could visit before you die where would it be? I put the question to myself & couldn’t decide. I asked around & then asked some more, until I came up with the answer. Life’s too short for such an ultimatum. I want the holidays of several lifetimes, and I want them all in this world, not the next.
It is during the Degree course at College of Military Engg, Pune I realized that probably it is the last time when many of us like-minded coursemates, hard-core bachelors will be together…..as bachelors. So, along with two of my close friends & coursemates – Madhu Nair & Amartej Singh, I decided to plan a “lifetime holiday” during our term break between two semesters. And, what better place than…. Europe. Somebody asked me, “Why Europe?”
Europe is a chameleon; its colours change rapidly. One day you can be on the cobbled streets of a medieval city, the next atop a snowcapped peak. Nowhere else greets you with such a swift succession of different languages & menu changes. Europe’s appeal lies not just in an influential, often bloody past & a largely
peaceful present, but also in its mix of culture & nature. Da Vinci & Picasso masterpieces aren’t far from the countryside or popular beaches. Whether you dream of experiencing the romance of Paris, blazing own trails in the Alps or downing a few beers in Germany, this multifaceted continent can satisfy all your tastes.
So, after extensive planning & preparations (being true Army Engineers) extending over a period of 2 to 3 months, with the help of information from internet, various travel books, tour pamphlets & of course, the “bible for each traveller” – The Lonely Planet, we were ready to ‘explore’ Europe. Not to forget, winning a hard-fought & ‘almost lost’ battle for procuring Schengen Visa – this is the visa required for travelling to most of the countries in Europe (details of this ‘visa-battle’ cannot be disclosed as it contains some confidential stuff too….). We did our planning on a complete “shoe-string” budget by taking the least expensive flight, obtaining a 15-day EURAIL Pass & booking accommodation at various Youth Hostels all over Europe. As good Army Officers, we divided the responsibilities of the trip equally – I was chosen the official ‘map-reader & guide’ of the
trip, Amartej, being an ace photographer, took the task of capturing our trip in his camera & Madhu, being physically strongest among us, took the responsibility of helping with the load during our ‘exploring-walks’ in all the cities.
On 12th of June, we took our flight from Bombay to Rome via Moscow. Shortly before take-off I glimpsed the pincers of city of Bombay. Soon we were scudding over a pink bed of sunrise clouds, so pretty that the pilot must have chosen his flight path just for fun. But he obviously knew his way, because eight hours of flying time & six hours of somnambular stroll through Moscow airport (straight from the Hollywood movie “The Terminal”), we were descending to another sunset on a very different land – Rome. It was half past eight in the night & to our surprise, the sun had just set & the headlights of cars were far from required. So, here we were, finally, in the mesmerizing Europe...
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