ട്രാവല്‍ ബ്ലോഗ്‌

Schengen Memories

Text: Veni Pravin


Trips to any place whether it is through a paddy field, mountain, or to see the cities in big countries always made me quite energetic and happy. It always gave my youth back. Also, I had been lucky enough to get a life partner of my choice to accompany me in all such trips.

It started with my marriage and of course the maiden trip was to the Gulf where my husband was working (Muscat – Oman). I had the opportunity to be in Muscat ever since 1986. Let me proudly say that each and every corner of Muscat has its own beauty and specialty, compared to any other Gulf country. As I am living in Muscat I had been to UAE (United Arab Emirates – consisting of Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Al Ain, Khorfakhan, Ras Al Khaima&Khorfakkan).

My first visit to America was in the year 1996 to visit my younger sister Geetha and her family. Her husband Udayakumar was working with the Indian Embassy in Washington DC. There I spent most memorable 14 days of my life with my two younger sisters. I still remember a fantastic coincidence that happened at the banks of the river Niagra (at Buffallo – Niagra Falls - USA). We were at the place called 'Three Sisters Island'. The three sisters were lucky enough to take a picture *(attached herewith). Those 14 days that we spent at Virgina, Washington DC, Atlanta, Buffallo and New York City were some of the most memorable days of our life.

On our way to America, we had an excellent opportunity to be to the United Kingdom – London and East Sussex, Battle. Since we had planned our trip to visit UK first and then USA, we were lucky to spend almost 10 days in UK. My husband's cousin, a British National and staying at East Sussex came to Heathrow Airport to pick us up.

Pussy Cat pussy cat, where have you been? 'I've been to London to look at the Queen…' To my great surprise, while we were at the Queen's Palace area, close to the Buckingham Palace, something reminding this old rhyme happened. Pointing to the Guards taking position on both the sides of the road where we were shopping for curios and gifts, Paviettan (my husband's cousin )informed us that the Queen Mother (Q. Elizabeth) was about to pass by the street. We kept our cameras ready and just about then, the convoy of Queen Mother passed by, Her Majesty in her Black Mercedes. We were all waving our hands to greet her, and seeing some Indian tourists waving at her, the Queen Mother also waved back to us. We just got a small video clip of the Queen passing by in her convoy as an asset as well as a souvenir of our UK trip.

In the year 1999 we chose to go to Singapore during our holidays. Now after a long gap of 12 years, god gave us the opportunity to visit Switzerland, the land of the famous Alps Mountains. This time also our main factor was the presence of my younger sister Geetha& her husband Udayakumar& son Aditya.

We applied for the Schengen visa which allows one to enter one of the Schengen countries (Switzerland) and thereby visit all the 22 odd countries as stated in the Schengen agreement. http://search.yahoo.comwww.immihelp.com/visas/schengenvisa/

We opted to fly to Switzerland by Qatar Airways as it was affordable as well as quite convenient for us. Our trip had a short stopover at Qatar Airport after which we flew directly to Zurich, Switzerland. We were greeted at Zurich by my brother-in-law who could directly walk up to the door of the aircraft's walking aisle. We really felt like VIPs at this totally new European country. The famous Zurich airport; over 50 years old, handling more than 70,000 passengers per day, and having different levels for various flights to different countries and the underground trains that take passengers to various terminals were all quite new to us.

Switzerland was truly a wonderful country, full of greenery, pine trees, hills & mountains, cattle with pleasantly chiming bells tied to their necks, awesome lakes and to top it all the snowcapped mountains that occupied the skylines all around Switzerland. It's a land of charming people, the famous Swiss chocolates, and the land with the best and most convenient modes of transportation; busses, trams, boats, trains and of course cable cars. It also has plenty of fresh fruits & flowers, dry fruits and green vegetables.

At Bern – Switzerland.
The balcony of my sister's house overlooked the famous Alps Mountains. While sipping hot coffee in the cold and foggy mornings, I enjoyed the skyline and the striking view at the crack of the morning, and the welcoming bright sunlight. During our short stay at Bern in Switzerland, we could not take our eyes off the amazing view of the blue lakes and skies, the farms and houses with sloping tiled roofing that we could see almost everywhere around when we stayed in Bern –Switzerland, as well as all around in Switzerland.

My nephew had done all the planning and charted out our daily visit & tour plans well in advance. He even bought the 'TaggesKarte's' (tickets that allows one to travel anywhere within Switzerland, by bus, tram, boat and train from morning till midnight for a day), these tickets if bought in advance are said to be much cheaper to that when compared to the rates if one has to buy the tickets on the same day of travel. He even had our Hotel bookings done at Italy – Venice, and at France. My sister also had arranged with their family friend and Embassy colleague in Germany for us to stay with them for a night.
One of the breath taking experiences that we had witnessed during our Swiss trip was the trip to Mount Titlis, which has 360 degrees of snow. We took a train from Bern to Engelberg at the foothills of the Mount Titlis. We then walked up to the station where the 'TitlisRotair' (Cable cars) the world's first revolving cable car, took us to the top of the mountain (3020m/9900feet). It was a 40 minutes cruise where we could experience the actual feel of snow and ice. From the restaurant where we had our burgers and hot coffee, we saw one special 'Cut out' of the Bollywood stars – Shahrukh Khan &Kajol from the film 'Dilwaladhulhaniya le jayenge'. We were actually stunned to see all the different nationalities posing along with the Bollywood couple and taking pictures as souvenir and keepsakes. It was here that the movie was shot and the producer of the movie was given the Swiss citizenship and then the Swiss Government agreed to place a metallic cut out of the stars from the movie.
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