Sunday, September 13, 2009

Eastern Europe 2009 - a journey begins

I am back, I am back, I am back! And actually not all that excited to be back. It’s been 2 weeks since my 18-day vacation got over- the first week was sleep deprived with a lot of work, the second week has been me battling my cold. And still, even as all these mundane of my life overpower me back to reality, I can still close my eyes and transport myself to the time when I was swimming in the aquamarine seas, or the time we cycled downhill at wind-breaking speeds.

Where do I start? Despite my disgruntled mood at the outset, and a lot of shakeups to our plans, the trip was fabulous. It was quintessential Europe –soaking in the architecture, revelling equally in old, weighty buildings as well as the charming rustic villages, walking around old town squares till our feet hurt, lounging in cafes. But also more!

It’s hard to put in words what I imagined about Eastern Europe. Places like Prague and Croatia definitely had that magical quality about them, and partly because they were lesser trodden. I knew they were “developing” vs being the developed. I had heard that their trains and buses and transport aren’t as good as in the West. I had heard the people can be a little cold. I wasn’t sure if poverty was an issue the way it is in India or not really. All these tit bits don’t give a picture by themselves, but tend to be a downer and make you a bit wary. But don't worry! From the word go, these cities rid you of these distortions.

From the moment we stepped on Prague, from the airport to the metro, all we could think of was this doesnt feel like what Eastern Europe should feel like (That’s also because Czech replaced its age old communist era train system in 2000 after a flood). Croatia was like a resort, and may be off the lot, Bratislava showed a bit of wear.

One of the streets in the old town square, Czech

Yes, some of the things used to describe Eastern Europe is true and I agree, countries like Czech may have come a long way ahead than others. Alright, everyone on the road doesn’t stop to smile at you, but that is likely true of UK too. They don’t have TGV’s, but their trains were still OK and on time!!! I didn’t notice a single homeless person in Prague like you see in New York (and of course India), but our walking tour guide did mention there were druggies who begged for money. And of course, coming from India, really, it seemed almost ridiculous to be apprehensive, and they seem light years ahead in infrastructure.

Street outside my room, Czech

Need you ask? I am telling everyone to go to Czech and Croatia and Eastern Europe, especially before they join the Euro regime :).

And yes, I have so more tales to tell, if you will only listen. Till I can sort all that out in my head, I’ll leave you with some initial glimpses of the places I’ve been to.

Stone alleyway, Croatia