Friday, April 29, 2011

Goodbye seems to be the hardest word...

The sun was streaming through the french windows, stripped bare of the curtains that had adorned them for so long, flooding the whole room in bright light. It felt like the first time I had walked in and fallen in love with the place. There had been a s sense of hope, and of new beginnings. Except, now, on the floors, in the corner, stood my bags. All packed.

This was something I've wanted for a long long long time. Something I wanted like yesterday. Yet, at that final moment, I was in knots...

It was time to move again.

Goodbye Bombay. Hello Singapore!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

An alternative side of a regular European city

Who would have thought that this small city, nestled close to the Julian Alps, characterised as peaceful, laid-back, and may be even boringly nice (if only you knew!) would be defined by the word 'Alternative'. Ok, still not sure if ‘alternative’ captures it, but for sure alternative to the regular. From the girl we ran into the dead of the night, with multiple piercings and spiky hair, but yet speaking sweet, to Metalkova, to the Trn fest and the rap show in the park, Ljubljana totally surprised us!

* * *

Metelkova is a neighbourhood of abandoned warehouses and barracks, which was claimed by squatters (people who take over abandoned buildings) and converted into a kind of “modern” art center. We heard it was being used as art studios and also hosted a lot of parties and jamming session (we could hear someone playing, but they didn’t invite us in!). You are just as likely to find ugly goblin headed structures just as you can find the most colourful spray painted walls and graffiti. The whole place was a cross between Noddy’s world(remember Noddy? )with its vivid colours, an art studio bordering on grotesque and a well worn ramshackle biker hang out. Set in a ground with untended greenery, with a moon glowing overhead, this place turned even more eerily exciting at night.

Metalkova has quite a bit of a controversial history as the supporter's fought to retain its individuality and today it is nearly a regular stop for travellers. Its s a great place to meet other fellow traveller's, you'll find information at all hostels. More on Metelkova’s history here...

At the entrance to Metelkova

Ain't these goblin heads pretty?

The bar...

Eerily interesting at night

* * *

Behind Metelkova, is the Celica hostel... a prison converted into a hostel, the rooms are actually modelled on prison rooms. Who wants to be jailed for a night or two? This hostel is known for its party atmosphere, a filled event calender and as a great place to meet other backpacking travellers.

Both Metelkova and Celica lie on the other side of the old town, across the main bridge. This part of the city was relatively quiet with lesser thoroughfare, maybe more residential, hiding a few character-full bars and restaurants.

* * *

Trn fest is one of the biggest yearly events in Ljubljana with dance/music/ theatre (? not sure) shows. It was nothing like I’ve seen before... the place was packed with people ‘just hanging’ as my friend likes to say. It was a total social event for people to meet friends and grab a couple of drinks and catch-up on the days events and not one seemed to be paying attention to the stage. Not blaming them, on stage was one of the weirdest, (oops!) extremely new-age dance performance I’ve seen till date... Couple of people clad in white seemed to be moving to noises, and sounds really, it was just a series of sounds like fans whizzing, wind blowing, then some sirens... ! I didn’t get it for sure. And the crowd was equally alternative – mostly hip-hopper/rapper types, and a good proportion of Goths... but we did meet a few ‘regular’ people who were also discovering this side of Ljubljana. We left past midnight, but it was still early in the night for Trn Fest!

* * *

On the last night, in a park on the way to the train station was a Slovenian rap show... the last thing we experienced in Ljubjana.

People, just hanging

The show

Into Trn Fest

Cycles piled up at the entrance

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Falling in love...all over again...

The sun was burning down in all its mid-day August glory ... one of those hot scorching days when the heat lies about like a thick cloak, like something you can feel, and if you move your finger in a slicing motion, you can feel the air molecules actually rearrange themselves... only it was an air-conditioned car, but in your head, you could still feel the hear. The mood was was a long day and an even longer journey, beginning the mid-night before... a sleepless train ride and a long car journey there after... the silence was heavy, weighed down by sulks and the aftertaste of a tiff... the industrial highways of Italy overshadowing the distant hills, raising doubts and offering no respite.

And all it took was a single breathtaking view!

It was like falling in love all over again...

Falling slowly, eyes that know me
And I can't go back
Moods that take me and erase me
And I'm painted black

Our own farmhouse apartment for a few days

The view from the window

Our backyard...

The fragrance between the pages...

Just thinking of my book worm days... I miss those, but love this!

I stepped into the bookshop and breathed in that perfume of paper and magic that strangely no one had ever thought of bottling.
- Carlos Ruiz Zafón)

Friday, April 01, 2011

Hitchhiking to Pienza, Tuscany

“Yes... I hike to take around an hour from here...”, said Claudia, who was stretched out on the sun bed, lounging under the lazy evening sun, with her palms shading her eye from the sun as she looked up to me. “Really?”, I asked and she says “Si, Si”. I wasn’t so sure, but if it was an hour’s hike one way, it didn’t sound too bad... And that is how i found myself hiking to Pienza on one day in Tuscany. But, boy, had she underestimated the time or I had underestimated her... definitely the former I think!

It was a great morning... the sun not strong still and a nice cool breeze... An hour later, I had just reached the crossroad leading to Pienza... and guess what???? The signboard was showing another good 10kms away... (note to self, if it looks far, it probably is! And have the sense to double check!!).

On the way to Pienza

The weather was still good, I was enjoying fantastic views... but soon the sun would be blazing down on me... and I had to pick up my speed. Plus, all the photography was slowing down, (yes, I was trying to get some timer snaps of myself with the landscape... lame, right??). I was tiring myself out a bit, and also partly dreaming of the previous day when I too had lounged on a sun bed in the balcony, with a book and little else to do... But it wasn’t until I came really close to the town, I gave up hope!!! You see, all these towns are perched on hilltops, and the last leg is the hardest...

And up went my hand, sticking out a thumb for a ride...

An abandoned farm house?

A young couple in a car... they wave to me, but won’t stop

A family... this time no wave even!

A slightly beaten up car and a little hippy looking old couple... but there was a lady... so thumbs up again....Voila! they pull over and I am very, very, very grateful (cannot overstate it enough!!!)... we chat a bit , and they are quite cool!!! They speak very good English, couldn’t yet figure out if they are settled here or on vacation...The lady does warn me that she see’s many tourists doing “this” and says, it’s not safe... before I can figure out if she means the long hike in the midday sun or just the hitchhiking, we are in Pienza.

After a bit of a search for the food, I have one of the MOST DELICIOUS ravioli’s in my LIFE!!!! Only 3 piece of the pillow pasta, in a bed of olive oil rather than the usual cream sauce... my first thought was dismay at the paltry portions, but it was Yummmy and also filling!!!


Emboldened by my first hitchhiking experience, I decide to do that on my way back too...

My first ride is an old Italian man in a beat up car...I was a bit tired, and lowered by rules a bit (of ensuring at least one woman in the car. He was old, so I let it go...). He spoke only Italian, I spoke only English and well, he rattled on. He did pat me on my knees a couple of times as he discoursed on heartily... (having seen some Italian men, would definitely NOT believe it was grandfatherly)... Anyways, I was a little relieved to get off.

My last ride was a biker...I later realized he wasn’t even going the way I needed to go, but took the trouble. He owned a farm nearby too and we chatted a bit (as much as you can with the wind howling as you race through). It was wonderful racing down those roads on a bike, with the wind in your hair, refreshing me after a hot, sweaty day.

And I was home!

A note of caution: Hitchhiking was a fun experience, something I didn’t plan for, but happened. Sorry to sound like a grandmother and be melodramaitc, but I CANNOT OVEREMPHASIZE enough ON SAFETY OVER ADVENTURE any day. Hitchhiking can be fun, but please, please be careful!

The Tuscan slopes... you haven't heard the last of it!

Views along the way

Views along the way

Views along the way