Sunday, August 02, 2009

Baltic Tour

My Baltic Tour for this summer... More to follow...



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Friday, January 02, 2009

Bus for early morning flight out of Rome Fiumicino airport (FCO) Leanardo Da Vinci

Ok.. I put this up because there is very little information about the public transport to the Roma's main international airport at Fiumicino (Leanardo Da Vinci airport) for early morning flights. Even if you ask around all the bus drivers or information center, not many people know about it. The information center inside the Roma Termini train station knows about it and can guide you. So also check with them to make sure the bus service is still on.
Leanardo express: There is a fast express train from Roma termini to the airport. But the first train starts only at 5:58 AM and reaches the airport at 6:30 AM or so... So what if you have Flight very early like 6:30 or so ??
COTRAL Night Buses: There are buses run by a company called COTRAL that is more like Night buses to the airport. The last of the night buses leave Roma Tiburtini Bus station and also stops at Piazza dei Cinquecento in front of the Roma Termini train station at 3:45 AM. Since I recently took this bus and found no information whatso ever about where the bus actually stops and its so easy to miss it, I have marked it on the map (Blue baloon on bottom left corner of map indicates the actual bus stop). Its almost the North west corner of the Piazza dei Cinquecento and just right outside Roma termini. Basically it is very close to one of the exit point of the bus station, where most buses exit and the this bus turns right onto Via Cavour after exiting the Piazza. You will find a small board at the indicated location on the side that says COTRAL and also the timings of the night buses. The color of the bus is BLUE contrary to the usual city buses(AMT buses) which are RED in color. If you get confused ask the small shop owner(shop that sells coffee, snacks etc.) in the pizza bus station and he can direct you. The 3:45AM bus leave Tiburtini at 3:45 and comes to Termini within a few minutes and reaches airport by 4:30 AM or so. So be there by 3:45AM and if the bus doesn't show up on time, dont worry.. its Italy.. you just need some patience. It will come.. :).. It costs about 7 EUR (as of Dec 2008). Prices may vary and you buy tickets in the bus itself. Hope this helps.. What if you miss this bus too ?? well.. then.. take a TAXI which easily costs about 50 EUR or more. :)

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Buses to Roma Ciampino airport: There are regular buses for all flight timings from outside Roma Termini to Roma Ciampino airport. These buses leave from Via Marsala (Top right corner blue baloon on Via Marsala). There is an exit to Via Marsala from inside the Train station itself. It is to the right side if you leave the train station facing Piazza dei Cinquecento. You can even find these bus informations even from the Ryan air website as Ryanair flies out of Ciampino.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Booze cruise to Copenhagen

I have been in Oslo for almost 3 years now and have never been to Copenhagen so far. So me and some friends decided to take a weekend trip to CPH. There is a ferry service between Oslo and Copenhagen which is highly recommended. So we decided to take the ferry for the onward journey and take the night train back to Oslo.
I have heard a lot about this ferry being the booze cruise and fun trip. The reason for the booze being associated with it is due to the fact that the ferry is operated by Danish company and booze sells at Danish prices and the moment it starts steaming the booze sells at duty free prices. Since taxation in Norway is quite high, anything lower than Norwegian prices are great for the locals. Hence, the booze cruise..
So we boarded the ferry and started steaming from Oslo harbour. It was a good experience to view Oslo from the sailing ferry. You get a totally different view of the place. we just explored this huge cruise liner that has about 12 or 13 levels (floors). They had outdoor swimming pool, jacuzzi, cinema, lots of bars, dance club, discotheque and even Karoake bar. The moment we went on the ferry half the people were already through to their 2nd or 3rd drink. So being on top deck and watching all these people acting funny was an interesting experience. After a while it started getting cold and then we went indoors and started getting ready for our dinner. We had pre-ordered a buffet dinner at 7 seas restaraunt which was supposed to be good. It was indeed a good buffet with so many vareities to choose from even for Vegetarian like me. After the dinner we went to check out the duty free shopping on the ferry. It was quite a vareity of stuff. Then we were just hanging around in the bar that was playing some 80's pop. Most of the people on the ferry were so drunk by then they didnt have a clue what they were upto and looking at some of these people dance on the floor was very funny... Although I shouldnt be making fun, it was quite funny to watch... then we just went to bed to get some good sleep before 2 days of roaming around the city.
The next day we got off the ferry around 9:30 and caught the bus to the city. First things first, we had to check out the famed Danish pastries:-). So we picked up some for breakfast and went to a cafe to get some gourmet coffee to kick start the day. After a tasty breakfast and awakening strong coffee, we headed to our hostel which was like 4 km from the city to drop off our bags so we can walk around with little stuff and a map ofcourse..
We started off our Danish tour by taking a Canal cruise or Canal boat that goes all around Copenhagen's canals and Harbour. The guide was quite good explaining all the historical landmarks and it was definitely worth our money and was quite cheap too. They compare these canals to be as good as Amsterdam's canals.. Lots of nice boats along the canals and intersting landmarks to see from the canal view...
Then we stopped by one of the city squares to grab some lunch. Some had a quick hot dogs and some others had a nice gourmet salad topped with cheese :). After being in Oslo, we could see that Denmark had plenty of options for food and quite cheap too. Guess going from Oslo, any place would be cheaper. Then we just walked around trying to figure out where we were going next. We decided to hit the Ice bar. Aquavit has a nice Ice bar, which is fully made of Ice blocks and you also get the drink in a Ice cup. It was interesting to go into it wearing a big warm wooly jacket and have a drink in a ice cup.
The gimmick was "Why bother putting ice into your drink, when you can drink from the ice" :). I made that up. Isnt that cool ??
Then we went to check out the Tivoli gardens which is the oldest amusement park right in the middle of the city. There were so many games and rides to choose from and we headed for the Roller-coaster ride. Since I was refusing to sit in the 1st row, my friends made it a point to make me sit in the front row. Since this was my 2nd time, I didnt have much of the 1st timer fear, but still... its roller coaster... Halfway into it, i was just hanging on it to it and too stunned to even open my mouth and then it all came screaming out loud... :)... It was lots of fun... It was total adrenalin rush.. After that we were stuck having to choose between nice dinner at a mediterenan place and laser show at Tivoli gardens... we had to settle for a greasy not so exciting chinese dinner and Laser show... But atleast the Laser show on the lake at Tivoli gardens was well worth the sacrifice for the good food... After we had another day to have a good dinner.... Then we went back to our hostel for a decent night's sleep.. atleast we didnt have to deal with annoying n screaming drunken booze croose tourists... :)

Next day started with us wanting to go and see many interesting landmarks... We did a walking tour to go through some of the intreresting landmarks in the city. It was nice day out to be walking and we had quite a few stops for drinks, ice creams etc. Then we headed off towards Christiania .. If you are in Copenhagen you should go to this place.. it is like the free town.. where they have their own rules and regulations or atleast try to have it that way... it is like the hippie town.. full of graffiti everywhere... 60's or 70's rock playing on and ppl rolling and smoking joints on pusher street and gives u a feel of woodstock.. it was meant to be a free town with people of free will... pretty interesting place to visit while you are in Copenhagen and should never miss out on that... After that we had a good dinner buffet at a nice Mediterenean restaurant and wound off the day and headed straight to the train station to catch a long over night train back to Oslo... So much for a wekend... We didnt really manage to see many touristy places though because we spoent so much time on the streets trying to decide where to go, we never actually got around to seeing many of the place :)... Nevertheless it was a fun trip with friends and good way to spend the weekend in a different city... and when u have Danish pastry shops around every corner, you dont have complaints.. :)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My travel map... :)

Check this out !!! This is cool... You can map your travels easily...

Monday, May 05, 2008

Polska travels..

Poland... the country that took the brunt of the Nazi brute force tactics during WWII and later by Stalin's Russia... Always an interesting place to go and check out the history of Poland, days under the Nazis, Holocaust memorial sites at the biggest concentration camp during the WWII, Jewish Ghettos etc... So I decided to embark on a 5 day journey to check out capital Warsawa and also the historic old town of Krakow. Since Wizzair had cheap flights from oslo and back, it was good in terms of budget...
Warsaw: the city that was fully flattened by the German tanks and artilleries during the WWII as a result of the Warsaw upring in 1944 and also when the German were retreating, while the Russians just sat there at the other end of the river to let the Germans flatten it and do nothing. The Red army didnt care much for Poland either.. As a result, the Polish couldnt say for sure whom they hated the most.. atrocities of Nazis or the communist Stalin's Red army... Both were terrible in the Polish WWII history.. Since I had only day and half, I didn't spend much time in Warsaw. Some features of Warsaw were the workman like working class residential area built in the communist times with Russian help, Culture center built by Stalin as a gift to Poland, Jewish Ghetto, Old city (newly recreated after WWII to resemble the Old city), Old (new) castle etc... Warsaw is also home to the famous music composer Fredrick Chopin. If you have the movie, Pianist, most of it was filmed in the old jewish ghetto in Warsaw.. So I spend my day walking in the old city and market square.
The old city or the 'old' new city... is completely recreated after the WW2 to represent the past glory of warsaw... It is so nicely done that u wont beleive it is only 50 years old... it was fun to walk around on a nice sunny day with lots of ppl outside .. music, drinks and food all around... After a coffee, I headed towards the station to catch my train to krakow...
Krakow is one of the most beautiful cities in Poland and probably in Europe too... Almost untouched by the WW2, it is one of the most oldest and beaituful cities with a rich tradition and culture... Krakow is home to the Wavel castle, one of the oldest castles with Wavel dragon as their emblem... It was great to walk down to the Old city and huge market square called Rynek Glowny... It is one of the biggest market squares in Europe..It was a nice square with a towering basilica which gives a great view of the entire city and beyond...
I also took a trip to Auswitz and Birkenau to witness the atrocities from the times of holocaust..
Auswitz was the biggest concentration camp ever built by Nazis and they estimate about 1.5 million ppl to have been killed at this camp. It was really a harrowing experience to be there looking at the remaining camps that have artifacts from the times of holocaust and memorials to all the murdered jews... Then i went to Birkenau which was also a part of the camp, which was specifically built as an extermination camp to solve the jewish problems as the Nazis called it. After a sad trip, I went back to Krakow to have a quiet evening and had dinner with a friend I made from the hostel I was staying at. After dinner we went and caught a techno playing in Krakow. It was fun...
Next day I visited the Jewish part of the town called Kazimierz and went on to see the Jewish labor camp in the days of Nazis called "Podgorze". Some parts of the movie "Schindler's list" was actually filmed at several locations in this neighbourhood. I took a small tour of the neighbourhood to explore the remains of the walls of the Jewish ghetto and different memorials to the Holocaust and also saw the remains of the Oscar Schindler's enamel factory... It was little sad to walk the place where many crimes were committed by heartless people...

Next day I had to take a bus to the Katowice airport and fly back to Oslo. All in all it was total fun in Poland... Lots of good memories, some good Polish vegetarian food :) and zywiec beer...

Hostels I stayed in: Nathan's hostel
Krakow information center: www.krakow.pl/en


Vegetarian food in Krakow: Bar Vega I really like this place.
Recommended dishes: Zurek soup(Sour beetroot soup), Pierogi - dumplings(cheese & Onion, Potato & sourkraut), Soy Goulash ...

My photos from trip: Warsaw , Krakow

Friday, March 28, 2008

Malta.... Yalta...

Maltese falcon is the first thing that comes to my mind, when I hear the word Malta.. and to be honest I had very little idea about Malta until I visited Malta... Interestingly Malta has a rich history and has had lot of influences from different cultures across the Mediterenean. Smack in the center of Mediterenean it has always been a strategic location for all the powers of Europe, Africa and Persia in olden times. A place known for clear and sandy beaches is a great tourist location.

After sailing for almost 10 days and having finished our work, it was time to get off the boat. The boat was going in port to Malta for a crew change and supplies in Valetta in Malta. So that was our opportunity to get off before the boat sets sail again towards the North sea. It was then I realised Malta is such a small Island. You can easily drive along the coast of the country easily in a day or so. Since I had the opportunity, I took a couple of days off and stayed back in Malta to do some sight seeing. My bad luck, a depression set in mediterenean and it was cloudy and raining. and more depressingly.. my camera broke down... and I had no way of fixing it until I reached Oslo...

Malta is a very nice Island with lot of influences from the Romans, Byzantines, Phoenicians, Templar knights during the crusades, Napolean's French army and later became a British colony. It was heavily attacked by Zeee... Germans during WWII due to its location between Italy and North Africa. Most of these history is seen in its language 'Maltese' which is a heavy mix of Arabic and Italian. Quite frankly it is a very funny sounding language. Neither here nor there... They also speak English very well due to British influence. It has lots of beach resorts and tourism is a big money generating industry. Scuba diving and water sports is a great attraction.

Since I had very litle time, I explored the historic places of Malta, old chappels, factories from the last century fully preserved, catacombs from the Roman times etc. I went and checked out the night life in St. John's bay and St. Julian's bay which are known for the trendy bars and night clubs. These places thrive with huge crowd of college crowd hitting the bars late at night.

All in all it was a good and relaxing break for a couple of days before I headed back to Oslo.
I only managed to take a few photos.
More info on Malta: http://www.visitmalta.com/main

Monday, March 17, 2008

My date with ancient Egypt

Egyptian civilization, as they say, is one of the most ancient civilizations in the history of human beings and is well recorded too through heiroglyphics and no trip to Egypt is complete without a trip the great pyramids and sphinx. The pyramids, mummies and sphinx are the outstanding examples of the their culture, civilization and their architecture. Being history lover, I would love any opportunity to go and see lengths and breadths of Egypt, travel across river Nile, go to Cairo, Memphis, Abu simbel, Luxor etc etc... This time I atleast got a chance to visit Cairo .. the rest will have to wait...
I had to travel to Cairo for work. This was the best oportunity for me to see Cairo. I had a day off before I join the crew. So I took off with a pre arranged taxi to go and see the pyramids of Giza. I had imagined that these pyramids would be quite a long way off from the city. But it was actually not too far, just half hour drive to south. My taxi driver took me to a Perfume shop (Its the oldest trick in the book :) who fixed me up with a horse and guide. All of this is a big hoax. They take u on a ride, take u back to perfume shop and make u buy perfumes at a ridiculous price and also for the horse. Anyhow, This guide who knew very little english started with his usual monologue... "My friend, First time to Cairo... I show you around Giza.. I make you happy, you make me happy" and I can't remember how many times he would have said that...
Having come from cold,dark and cloudy Oslo in March to Cairo and seeing the bright sun was a welcome gift for me... and on top entering the historic Giza was a great experience... Once we entered the main area of pyramids, there they stood.. three huge pyramids... I couldn't tell which was bigger... They say 2 of them are almost the same sizes, but look a bit different bcos of the level ground they stood on... It was just amazing... Standing in front of the historic monument, some 4000 years old, standing symbol of an old civilization, just felt really great... I came across this on the internet... "Soldats! Du haut de ces Pyramides, 40 si├Ęcles nous contemplent" (Soldiers! From the top of these Pyramids, 40 centuries are looking down upon us) - Napolean to his soldiers before the battle at giza against the mameluks... How true!!
No wonder all the greatest empires there after always had ties with egypt due to the pharoic ages... Alexander created his own Alexandria in Egypt, Romans had their Cleopatra, Arabs conquered Egypt, Salahuddin of Egypt was a leading figure in the holy crusades and finally even the British empire saw Egypt as a strategic location due to the Suez canal and a way to travel to the East quickly...
I had a slow horse ride all around the pyramids and then I walked on foot a little bit around the pyramids and even climbed a little bit.. Over the years, they have definitely lost some sheen off them, rocks stolen away by people to build their houses, the stones eroded due to sand and wind, but they havent lost their beauty or glory... It was just an amazing experience just be there among these pyramids. You wonder how they built these huge structure so many thousand years ago, when rest of the human world was still living in caves fighting the animals for their survival. If one wondered how the mankind could built a magnificient structure like coloseum in the Roman era, you would have to reserve some thoughts for these pyramids and the Egyptians who built them...
Since I didn't have enough time to go inside the pyramids, I just wandered around and moved onto the Sphinx. I wonder who came up with this mythological creature with the head of a human and body of a lion(just like Lord Ganesha I suppose). The one in Giza, for sure, is the great sphinx... It is huge and beautiful... It was quite a sight to see the huge sphinx stand tall with the great pyramids in the background...
With that sight registered in my mind, I had to move on to the Egyptian national museum in Cairo to see the old artifacts from the era of pharoahs.. I even skipped lunch so I have some time in the museum before they close for the day. The highlights of the museum were the Royal mummy section (preserved mummies of great pharoahs few thousand years old) and King tutenkhamen's (a.k.a King Tut) tomb artifacts. The museum was full of old artifacts from the Ancient Egypt. The Royal mummy section was quite chilling literally... 1. bcos they maintain a very cold temperature and 2. well preserved bodies of people who died few thousand years ago and you can still see the nails, black skin and hair(very creepy)... King Tut's burial chamber artifacts shows how much wealth is placed inside the king's burial chamber in the pyramid and no wonder the robber's were constantly at it to steal it all... The inner coffin of king were made fully of gold and so was the king's pharoah mask.. and rest of the coffins and ornaments had gold platings.. Also makes you wonder how much time it took to complete the project of a pyramid(the whole burial, making of these coffins in gold, building the pyramids etc....
All in all it was a tiring, but a great day for me... having been to the pyramids and Sphinx and seeing the King tut's burial chambers and the royal mummies... I couldn't have asked for more on a day's trip... I finished my day with tradition Egyptial Kushari from the best Kushari shop in town. Oh... I loved that Kushari... I would love to go back to Egypt for a week long or maybe 2 week long trip and travel along the Nile to see the historic sites....