Eyeing The Storm!

Does travel always have to be about sugar spice and everything nice? About rainbows, sunshine, sand and snow? What lies on the dark side when you flip the coin? Oh no, this isn’t an article about traumatic travel and bad experiences, on the contrary it is about finding your baddest self, pushing boundaries and coming out a survivor.

In the peak of summer vacations (May 2018), trying to get last minute train tickets to North India is an adventure of its own. After 2 weeks and 6,000, I had no tickets in my hand. As postponing the trip was not an option, it was time to find alternative mode of transport and so; 35 hours, 5 states and 4 “cheapest available” buses later, my broke ass was in Delhi. 

In the next 12 hours I cramped in a cold shower, a nice lunch and one hour of sleep on a bed that wasn’t moving at 60km/hr; before hopping on to bus #5; now accompanied by my friend that finally got us to Mcleod Ganj. In the second that my eyes feel upon the golden snowy peaks at 6am, the past 57 hours just melted away. IT WAS ALL WORTH IT!

Excited to start the hike, we dropped our luggage, had a nice breakfast and at 10am began walking on the 9km trail to the famous (and crowded) Triund top. Taking our time, enjoying the views and constantly struggling to find peaceful sweet spots between Bluetooth enabled music warriors, we made it to the top at 2.30pm.

Enjoying the warm sun and cool breeze we stared at the awe inspiring snowcapped mountains, mesmerized and lost. It was all sunshine and sheep (coz their ain’t no daisies up there) till at 5.30pm we suddenly saw darrrkk clouds approaching. Before we knew it, it seemed like the ridge was floating as everything around disappeared. The clouds were moving in so fast that it looked like a time-lapse. Amused by the approaching storm, the pests of Triund started hooting and howling; like rowdy teenagers aboard a train in a tunnel.

Triund was soon hit by a thunderstorm. At 6pm it turned pitch black, with rain accompanied by thunder and lightning coming down hard. People had taken refuge in their tents or the tiny shops on the ridge and were enjoying this weather. My friend and I, sipped hot tea, watching the pouring rain, blissfully unaware of what was in store for us that night.

Soon the rain stopped, AND IT STARTED HAILING!!! We left the overcrowded shop and ran to our tent. As we lay there laughing at people in the neighbouring tents demanding room service, I managed to doze off.

Suddenly, I woke up to the sensation of someone hurling stones at my leg. It took me a while to realize that the wall of the tent was now sticking to my leg and through it the hail was hitting me hard. Before I could gather my thoughts, I felt the tent uproot. It was a tiny tent, and before I knew it a quarter of the tent was already off the ground. We hastily grabbed what we could, put on our shoes and abandoned the tent. The second we stepped out, our tent took flight like an eagle. I held on to it with all my strength but surrounded by tents on all sides there was no way the tent and I could both survive.  Having no intention of Mary Poppins-ing my way down the valley; I sacrificed the ₹3000 tent and ran for my ₹3100 life.

Feeling cramped yet safe in the tiny stone structure, we were unapologetically sipping on hot chai and licking plates of steaming hot Maggie and Rajma Chawal; while a local who had dragged our (surprisingly still intact) tent patiently waited for us to leave. After something close to 2 hours he shoved the still assembled tent into our hand and virtually kicked us out of the shop. (Guys, people in Himachal are the nicest people you will ever meet and it there was really no place for him to keep us).

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We dragged our half drenched asses with the still assembled tent to the shop we had rented from; but there was no shelter for us there either. Like an animal, we inspected various spots and plopped ourselves on the most protected (by few rocks and other tents, also as far from the edge as possible) and least mucky piece of land. The tent owner zipped us in and warned us to not unzip the tent no matter what. There was now a sense of security in knowing that I would drag 20 other tents with me if I took flight again.

Lightning lit up Triund relentlessly while hail persistently tried to rip through our tent. As I lay there drenched, shivering in my sleeping bag next to my snoring friend I wondered if “I’d ever see civilization again?”; “Would I see another sunrise?”; “Was this the end?”, when the winds picked up again and I was pulled out my open-eyed nightmare.

Next thing I know, the entire tent has been pushed down on me. As I lay there flat on my back, suffocating under the tent while the hail stabbed me, I started to laugh. In total acceptance of the dangers around me, there was a weird sense of freedom in that moment. Being on that open ridge, exposed to roaring thunder and lightning, I felt more alive than I ever had. The fleeting nature of our lives; that we live through in such oblivion had never been so clear to me.

The winds slowed, the tent went back to normal and believe it or not I actually managed to sleep through that thunder storm. As soon as dawn broke, the snowcapped peaks glistened gold against the bluest sky I’d ever seen. With a hot cup of chai, I soaked in the chirping birds, grazing sheep and sparkling green grass. Smiling at my new self, ‘the survivor of the storm’.

500 people ran down Triund that day. Every café, street corner, souvenir shop of Mcleod Ganj was abuzz with stories of terrified campers from Triund top. The locals laughed and the tourists swore they would never go back to Triund.

As for me, I cannot wait to go back; and beyond.

Everyone today is a “traveler” and every “traveler” wants to “find themselves”. Often we get on a plane, get off at a tourist spot and see everything around us through the screens of our phones and view-finder’s on our cameras.

Travelling has become more about posting stories, clicking pictures (that you will never see again) or making vlogs. But do we actually try to find ourselves? Do we leave behind the world we come from and try to connect with the world we have come to? To experience it, soak it in, live in it? Or are we just trying to impress the circles on our social media apps? Don’t travel for your phones, “Travel for you Soul”.

That night, a storm hit Triund again. From the safety of the balcony at my hostel I looked at the lightening, the clouds and the rain. Sipping on my chai and smirking at the roaring thunder, hoping this storm too would help calm the storm inside a traveler.

Ps. For more photos follow @travelforyoursoul_ and check highlights on instagram!

Frankfurt And Paperworld 2017 – Part 2

Zeil

The Zeil is a street in the city centre of Frankfurt. It is also the best spot in the city in terms of shopping and tourist attractions. One can take a S train to ‘Hauptwache’ or get down at ‘Frankfurt Sud’. This area has the best showrooms and restaurants. From German pubs to Ramen places to an American styled diner to Starbucks, it has everything for everyone’s taste.

Showrooms in the area range from Jack & Jones and Levi’s to Louis Vuitton and Prada. One can find good stores like Zara homes for house accessories, a lavish Apple showroom for tech, and a sassy Tesla showroom right beside it to buy a car, this place has it all.

Two different directions in the area.

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The Old Opera House, Frankfurt Am Main.

Near this area, about 5 minutes from the Apple store is the Old Opera of Frankfurt. The original opera house in Frankfurt is now the Alte Oper (Old Opera), a concert hall and former opera house in Frankfurt am Main. It was inaugurated in 1880 but destroyed by bombs in 1944. It was rebuilt, slowly, in the 1970s, opening again in 1981.The square in front of the building is known as Opernplatz (Opera Square).

As you walk straight over the road in the second picture above and take a right, you get near the Altstadt area. Here you come across The Romer and St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral.

St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral

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The Romer

The Romer is a medieval building in the Altstadt of Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and one of the city’s most important landmarks. The Römer is located opposite the Old St. Nicholas church and has been the city hall of Frankfurt for over 600 years. The Römer merchant family sold it together with a second building, the Goldener Schwan (Golden Swan), to the city council on March 11, 1405 and it was converted for use as the city hall.

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Waterfront to the right, and the church at the left.

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Walking right past the Church, or to the rear of the church is the waterfront again. One can see the rearside of Romer from here. A 15 minute walk along the waterfront and one is at Hopthanoff. Although, I’d suggest one cross the bridge and walk on the other side. That is where the museums and art houses are situated. One will also find a pretty lock bridge here.

Also on the other side, is a cool setting created, like a small garden, with a route for people to walk right besides the river. This seemed like the most favorite place for runners, since I could spot more than 20 of them during my stroll.

I don’t know the reason, but this area doesn’t have trees. Instead they are artificial poles with branches, which look like trees from afar. While walking towards Hopthanoff, one would come across a small park right in the center of the city. This is like a mini version of the Central Park, where people are taking their pets for a walk, or having their lunch in peace. Right besides this park is the New Opera House.

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The Park in January. The withered trees tend to be their own kind of beautiful.

This has been pretty much my experience in Frankfurt over 4 days. Feel free to like, subscribe and comment and let me know about your views and opinions regarding this post or blog. Until next time!

Regards,

The Travellothoner

Frankfurt And Paperworld 2017 – Part 1

I went to Frankfurt back in January from 27-31, from where I took a flight to Dubai (You can check my experience here). The same vacation I posted about earlier. Although this was more like an educative/business trip, it did have its own moments of fun and exploration. Before this trip, the only time I had landed in Frankfurt was while shifting flights when I was travelling via Lufthansa. This is a beautiful city, with beautiful and courteous people. It is well thought of, in terms of convenience for tourists for commute, communication and safety.

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View from my seat.

I was flying via Emirates this time, my most favorite airline ever, and it did not manage to disappoint. The view while traveling between timezones has its own advantages in terms of getting to see the sunrise and the view from the window.

To start with, I landed at the Frankfurt Main Airport, on terminal 2. Most international traffic is from the Terminal 2, and the public trains drop you on the Terminal 1 station, from which one is supposed to take the airport shuttle to Terminal 2. I myself did not realize this until I was lost, and almost scared on Terminal 1. Because I was travelling alone, and ahead of time, I managed everything on time. Hence it is important to arrive a little before time, and make sure about the terminal and flight arrangements.

Another thing to make sure is The Airport doesn’t have free WiFi, in case you want to contact someone as soon as you’re off your flight. How it works is that once logged in, the system sends a mail to your Email-Id which you’re supposed to use to get in. However, what they probably missed is an international traveler like me does not have any primary resources to access my mail in the first place. Hopefully, they’ve fixed this issue by now!

After collecting bags, and taking the airport shuttle to Terminal 1, one gets access to the trains. Tickets can be collected from the vending machines, and depending on your destination, one can take the necessary line. The ‘S’ train takes you to Hopthanoff, also known as The Frankfurt Main Station or The Frankfurt Central Station. This station has big and small lockers, to store your luggage while you roam around the city.

The locker is a very convenient option for people who have evening or night flights. On my last day after checking out, I stored my luggage in these lockers, and set about exploring the city on foot. Since this is the central station, I can easily collect my luggage and take a train to the airport. The small lockers cost €2 and the big ones €5. These are big enough to store the biggest of bags one can carry while traveling.

Take a right from this station, and a 10 minute walk would lead you to a river/waterfront. All the tourist activities like the museums, art houses, dance and music studios, etc. are all along this river. A 5 minute walk straight from the station would lead you to a couple of really good Indian restaurants, and a further walk will lead you to the New opera house; marked with a big Euro sign, which was made when Germany decided to be a part of the big Euro group.

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The Waterfront

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A pedestrian suspension bridge.

The river has some really beautiful suspension bridges, some only for cars, and some only for pedestrians and people on the bicycle. Also, about 5 minutes away from this place is the Red Light District, so one should be careful during the late hours.

Just 2 stations away from this place is The Messe Exhibition Center. It hosts some of the biggest exhibitions in the world, including the one that we visited, ie, The Paper World + The Christmas World + The Creative World, all at once.

Inside the exhibition. Some excerpts of the stalls.

This place has 10 big halls/wings, further divided into 10.1, 10.2, etc. depending on the wing and floors. It gets a footfall of about 45-50k people, within a span of 4 days. People from all across the world, and especially Europe, don’t miss this one.

Wudberg

About a couple of hours drive from the city, is this very pretty little town. Known for its breweries, this place has over 300 different breweries. And they have a huge festival during summers, with beer fairs and movies every weekend, and boy do the Germans know their Beer! We came across some Oktoberfest clips as well, and it gets as crazy as one can imagine.

Fun Fact : This place may seem similar to some people, cause this is where a few scenes from The Three Musketeers, the one with Orlando Bloom, was shot. It also happens to be historic for having the biggest ceiling painting here. One might argue that The Vatican has the biggest ceiling paintings, which is actually true, however it has a lot of slits/windows/columns in between. This place happens to have the biggest on a stretch.

Do subscribe for more updates, and Part 2 for this one coming soon!

Until next time,

The Travellothoner