Saturday, April 24, 2010

Language trouble

It was a hot and sweltering day as I landed in Chennai, after a long break of 4 months since my last visit. I was taking in every small sign – the chattering in Tamizh, signboards, the Saravana Bhawan, movie posters – all making me feel home again. I was almost sporting a silly smile as I floated into the taxi and told the driver ‘Thoraipakkam poganum’ (I have to go to Thoraipakkam in tamizh). Maybe he didn’t hear me, but minutes later he turned around and asked ‘Kahan jaana hai?”(Where to? in Hindi). I snapped out of my reverie - ‘had I heard that right?’ I had flown down all the way to a certified no-Hindi-land and the cabbie addresses me in the language that they refuse to acknowledge? Was the sun rising in the west these days?

I tried again – repeated where I needed to get to and asked him which route he planned to take. He didn’t respond for a bit; and then seemingly disappointed at an opportunity lost to hone his Hindi skills (I presume, or maybe he was disappointed that I was just a boring local and not an exotic tourist) answered me in Tamil. Still, a few minutes later he did try again - ‘Very very hot no today???”. I couldn’t but help smile.

Are the winds of change sweeping through the city after all?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Little Prague - Cesky Krumlov

Cesky Krumlov is mostly a day trip for visitors to Prague. But, stories of Bohemian fairytale castles, and the idea of a laid back halt, possible a day or 2 of cycling made this a longer stop for us. Cesky Krumlov is a part of the greenways project – a project to create and maintain trails between Southern Bohemia and Vienna for hikers and cyclists to explore the region. I was fascinated and I would have loved to spend a week or so, moving between towns and checking out a few castles. In the end, we decided to base in Cesky and do day trips.

Town of Cesky Krumlov

We hadn’t made any specific plans for our activities here and sadly, the tourist info center wasn’t the most helpful on trails around the place. But then we ran into an outfitter shop and Yana here was most helpful. We bonded over travel stories and she selected a wonderful trail for us for cycling. Canoeing on the second day was an experience too – R is terrified of water and in the first half hour we struggled to navigate on the river. And not to mention R’s hysterics at one juncture where we thought the canoe may topple and she thought she may drown. The depth of the river would have come up to our torso only – something we found out later. All in all a great day!

A sculptor at work on the streets

The best times to be in Cesky is in the early mornings, where you can get a quiet breakfast watching the castle spires, as you see the small town stir to life. And then after 5, when you can walk through the fairy tale like alleys, admire the endless but tastefully done tourist knick knack shops (they are clichéd but still have a lure to them) and have some of our best dinners in some really classy restaurants by the river. In the end, we never did properly see the Cesky castle.

Of the many shop fronts

Ideas for inspiration
Cold war legacy: peaceful hiking in Bohemia
Bohemia: where fairytales may be true

Where we stayed in Cesky – Town Theatre in Cesky Krumlov
There is a small pension in the attic of the Town Theatre- the place was very comfortable, right at the start of the town. The lady here however doesn’t speak English and reservations have to be done through the tourist information center. In the evenings, we saw some performances happening in the theatre, something you could pencil in. Despite being a smaller town, room rates were not very different from Prague.

Sports outfitters- I can’t recollect their name, but run by Jana and Peter, they are by the bridge in Cesky. Very helpful, if not the cheapest.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

In the heart of Bohemia

I the last couple of weeks, every time I have a breather at work, I find my mind wandering to my past vacations, and most often than not the couple of days we spent in Cesky Krumlov. I still remember this one moment – R and I were sitting under a bush after an excruciating stretch of uphill cycling, which we mostly walked, catching our breathe. We could feel the heat beating down steadily, radiating in the air, lulling the moment into silence, creating a buzz in our heads –beads of sweat rolling down our faces and a bottle of water, our respite. Our cycles carelessly lay on the ground. In front of us were slopes of green grass, undulating hills, houses here and there and distant forests forming the horizon.

And then it hit us – we are actually sitting in a random spot – a place we may not been able to spot on the map later, between 2 no-name villages in the heart of Czech Republic. We are actually there- no; we are actually here in Czech Republic. In Boehmia. And yes, Bohemia is a real place. It was real, yet surreal.

Gearing for the day

Our lunch stop on our cycling trail and an impromptu dip in the lake!

Ruins of Divci Kamen - an abandoned castle

The landscape

On the Vlatava - from Cesky to Zlata Koruna