Saturday, October 31, 2009

Alone or not alone? That is the question

Ok. I have to take a diversion from my not-going-anywhere Europe travelogues to turn to more pressing problem.

I have to move. My flatmate is being transferred (to London btw, and yes lucky her!) and I have to find a new place. I have for some time now been wanting to change apartments – we have put up with the same place, same cranky owner, same maid, same area for too long and a change is warranted. So this was an opportunity and I couldn’t chicken out on laziness.

The question now was – should I find a place all by myself? So I decided to do a survey and this was what I found out –

1. It would be way too lonely in the evenings and weekends. The evenings drag too long with no one to talk to.
This probably was not meant for people who work 14 hours a day, have dinner with a TV, and could go days without meeting their flatmate who also works 14 hours, if not more.

2. One friend had had a great time staying alone and in fact it had been his dream for a while. I was hoping for inspiration. He says, “It was nice. But would be nicer with a fun flatmate”.
OK! Needed one fun flat mate.

3. Now for the more serious feedback – for most women, when they were staying alone they had a boyfriend frequently visiting them. Sometimes it was also their parents, but mostly the boy friend.
So, it’s not really the same as living alone. It was just a matter of technicality.

4. My sister came out right and said ‘isn’t that a little weird?’
Ok. I can see where she is coming from. Still in her 4th year of college, she is probably planning house sharing plans in Bangalore (where she will take her job) and it probably didn’t occur to her that there will be a point when close friends are not so close by (location wise) any more.

But I thought that for other reasons. Are we judgemental of people, women in particular claiming to be ok of being alone?

But now that I think about it, several of my friends have lived alone at different points in time. When my flatmate in Hyderabad – the girl who couldn’t have eat lunch alone in an office cafeteria – took a place for herself, it was radical. And trust me,she lived it up. Another friend who took a place for herself was kicked about doing the place up and loved having a place of her own. For one friend, a place for herself was the highest kind of "evolution", if you can put it that way (well, except for her fear of staying alone). Another said that it would have been the natural choice.

So, maybe it could be liberating. Like the woman who buys flowers for herself and I’ve already done that once.

Maybe it’s just about being ok in your skin kind of thing. Believe that it’s no big deal ; and it really isn’t.

5. One said, ‘I was too young to be alone’.
How sweet. Is it an age thing? Do we become more ok with this sort of thing after an age? Or could this be an unavoidable option for some of us in the future? This scares me... I don’t think I want to accelerate this eventuality any further than I have to.

So, here I am going through all this emotional and psychological upheaval about moving alone. And I forgot (how could I?) – it always comes back to the basic things. No no – its not facing my fear and all that blah. I’m talking money and exorbitant rents in Mumbai. All this drama and struggle before sorting out the most important question – will I be able to afford it?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Old Towns of Eastern Europe

Have you guys seen the Old Town Square yet? Beautiful isn’t it...”, he said. And with a mischievous grin, he smoothly adds, “ Almost like Times Square”. Yeah, right!

That was the American tourist we ran into in Petrin. Within moments after he had told us he was from New York, we both gushed that we loved New York and Manhattan. And in return, he was taking a dig at us. Still, we didn’t mind. He was cute.

This post is not about him, but about the Old Towns and Town Squares of Prague and of Eastern Europe. Small, neat, historic and at the same time colourful, the old Town area is almost like a toy city from a different age. Roaming around the Old Town Prague took a little getting used to, it was almost like a set. And you think you haven’t seen anything like it and don’t think you will see anything like it. And then you are in Bratislava and find yourself in another quaint Old Town, an even smaller one if that’s possible, and you fall in love all over again.

Prague Old Town Square

It was not until the last day that we truly discovered and duly got lost in the maze that the Old Town Square of Prague was. Like the quite corner of Ungelt, a small corner just behind the Town Square, which we hadn’t even thought of wandering into. All through our walking tour on the last day, we kept noting several quirky restaurants and cafe’s we wanted to come back to for lunch (especially a particular choco-cafe) – sadly we couldn’t find our way back.

A small bridge in Bratislava Old Town

Bratislava - we didn't expect anything and in fact we didn't plan to do anything but chill by a cafe. But once again, the historic center lured us into her folds. Much much smaller, and slightly less ornate, and still very distinct from Prague! I remember how excited we were to find Bratislava the way we found it!

Sigh. I keep telling myself travelling isn't about compare and contrast. But visiting these smaller Eastern European cities, with their colourful Old Towns served on cobblestones, could just almost spoil you for the biggies.

Oh, and ps, I did have my wits around me to tell him, yeah right. R, of course was nodding her head in agreement.

The dominating church in Bratislava's Old Town

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Prague - the city of thousand spires

How beautifully true. We were standing at a view point, near the entrance to the Prague castle (aka Pražský hrad) and in front of us stretched out the city of Prague. The sky was cloudy, with a light fog blurring distant buildings and the horizon and giving the view a slightly ephemeral quality. There is a clutter of orange-brown rooftops and old buildings along the Vlatava. And from this slightly hazy view of the city, were several spires breaking the nearly flat sky line.

Prague from the castle

Escaping the crowds in the Prague castle and in search of the omni-present McD signs, R and I stumbled upon the quiet streets of Mala Strana. The road was narrow, flanked by tall ornate buildings, with huge wooden gates at intervals like each of them held a palace inside them, and the quintessential lantern like street lights along the walls – in the quietness of the streets, I could almost imagine a world from years ago, and could almost hear the clutter of hooves. It wasn’t until after lunch when our stomachs were satisfied and our minds were rolling, there was an ‘oh!’ moment and we realized we were at Mala Strana.

We found the owner of the green dome that had dominated every view from the Prague castle – St. Nicholas Church. On Nerudova street and in its namesake cafe, R had a coffee-shake and I, tasted my first Czech original Budweiser. We then discovered the road to Petrin (a wooded area with a mini-Eiffel like tower which offers yet another, but still different view of Prague). Another walk beckoned and we followed the call – a long day of walks and views! If there was any city where I’d recommend one to climb towers and tough roads all for the views, it would definitely be Prague!

The dome of St. Nicholas

Call it clichéd. Call it touristy. But I loved walking on the Charles bridge (the bridge across river Vlatava leading from the Old Town to Mala Strana. There is something about a place from where one can observe a beautiful sunset and see palaces in the distant horizon. The bridge is lined with statues on both sides. The most notable one is that of St. John of Nepomuk or the statue with 5 stars (I confess, I just googled his name up). Legend has it that if you rub the base of the statue you will come back to Prague . Or you could also get married. These were the versions provided by our tour guide. The website says this statue brings good luck. Sadly, I never got to rub the statue.

Charles bridge