Wednesday, August 30, 2017

La Tomatina Experience



'La Tomatina' is a tomato fight festival that takes place every year on the last Wednesday of August in Spain, only for an hour (11am to 12 noon). For the first time, when I read about this unique festival, I dreamt of playing with tomatoes. For the second time, when I saw this experience in 'Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara' movie, my nascent dream kicked this experience to the top of my bucket list. I moved to Europe in 2015 and I knew that it is just a matter of time before I live my dream. While planning to attend 'La Tomatina' festival, I was skeptical whether I should club this with my crazy solo trips.

Whom should I play with?
Do I really enjoy playing alone?
                    
All those doubts took a back seat as my strong desire to attend the festival triumphed. I reached the venue in Bunol (Spain) and forced my way through the crowd. I managed to get near the pole position where the tomato trucks start. While the road was covered with a sea of crazy souls, the houses along the road were covered with long plastic covers hanging from the second floor. Being pushed in all the directions amidst 20,000 people, I could only see the glaring sun through my tomatina goggles. Villagers watching the festival from the top of their buildings occasionally sprinkled water.

As the first truck of tomatoes started coming towards us, the crowd went berserk and threw the glasses with bear, in the air. We were pushed towards the walls to make the way for the truck. As the truck passed by, a few people on the truck threw tomatoes on us. I caught a couple of tomatoes and started staring at the crowd. Various groups started playing with their friends by crushing tomatoes against each other. I got the tomatoes in my hands but I was puzzled thinking why did I come alone all the way to Spain and suffer this embarrassment.

Now, a second truck of tomatoes went past through me. I saw the crowd enjoying by lifting their girl friends on their shoulders or crushing the tomatoes on their friends' faces. I rested hands on my waist and cursed my decision to come alone. A heavy smack on my head jolted me and I found a few tomatoes crushed against my head. When I turned around, a beautiful girl was laughing at me. I was polite and tried to explain her that she mistook my identity. She banged a few more tomatoes on my head. Enraged by this, I tried to crush a couple of tomatoes against her face. Meanwhile, another guy smacked a few tomatoes against my face. I left the girl and started chasing the guy. Another person came from behind and crushed a few more tomatoes on my head. I completely lost track of what was happening around me. Am I the "Bond 007" targeted by enemies in this festival?

As my thoughts disappeared, a third truck of tomatoes went past us. As soon as I got the tomatoes in my hand, I squeezed those and smacked against the heads and faces of the people surrounding me. Others took their turn to paint me red with the juice of ripe tomatoes. Eventually, we formed into two groups and started squashing tomatoes at each other. In five to ten minutes, I have a big group of friends and foes to fight with tomatoes. I raised my decibel levels and made my presence felt while playing with tomatoes. The more you shout, the more you get hit with tomatoes. I simply loved it! What followed was "Madness"! All I remember was that a few more trucks passed by and we shouted, jumped and danced in the tomato juice. When I posed for a photo, all my friends joined me and jumped on top of me. Fortunately, my bones are strong enough. All of us slept on the road and even went for a swim in the tomato juice.


A formal introduction and a customary photo session followed in the tomato swimming pools. A witty Australian friend started kidding "I squashed whatever came to my hand". My biggest embarrassment took a node dive and turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences to cherish.

Please find the album for this experience at:

https://www.facebook.com/jayanth.suravarapu/media_set?set=a.10154026213267865.1073741867.597222864&type=3

Monday, May 1, 2017

Second Cultural Shock!

Cultural shocks are always entertaining to discuss. During my second month in Germany, I have planned a trip to Rome. In Munich airport, while I was standing to check in my baggage, I came across a beautiful girl who resembles that of a model from the fashion world. I glanced at her intermittently and smiled within myself. Suddenly, her eyeballs grabbed my attention and she also responded with a smile. My joy knew no bounds and I could feel my heart flying high with new born wings. I started praying God to place me next to her seat in the flight.

But, God has no heart. She was placed many rows behind me in the plane. God is not to be blamed completely either because I have an exceptional track record when it comes to such scenarios. Whenever I take a train, the whole compartment is full of men and elders. Taking a flight will ensure the same in the rows around me. I used to comfort myself thinking that I am destiny's child. Throughout my journey to Rome, I cursed God and myself for my bad luck. When we reached Rome, I waited for her at baggage carousel in the pretext of picking my baggage. She came and stood at a distance waiting to pick her suitcase. To everyone's surprise, the flight officials announced that our luggage is coming by the next flight and we have to wait for an hour at the baggage carousel. I felt that an unexpected twist in this story is created by God to give me a chance.

God has a beautiful heart and he bestows opportunities to the right people! Now, it is my turn to grab this opportunity. Without wasting my time, I gathered the courage and slowly moved towards her to introduce myself. When I lifted my head, I was taken by a big surprise. I saw another equally beautiful girl beside her and both of them compete fiercely with each other for the best model in a fashion show. Oh my God! How did I miss the second girl? Attempting to judge between those two girls, I was puzzled to conclude whom I should talk to. It has become the decision of my life at that point. After a brief thought, I decided to go with my first crush and walked towards her. I could see the twinkle in her eyes as I approached towards her. I thought that she is unable to forget my first smile. As I increased the pace of my footsteps both the beautiful girls hugged and started kissing each other. This glance gave me a big jolt and my mouth and eyes were wide open without my knowledge. The new born wings of my flying heart were chopped off mercilessly. I told myself "How can they do this? Both are very beautiful, yet..."

God is cruel! Unable to come out of the shock, I still moved towards them. As I got a closer view of them, I reduced the pace of my footsteps and slowly moved past them. As I took ten steps beyond the girls, I heard a conversation and stopped by. A guy spoke to the second guy "Both the girls are extremely beautiful and can get any guy on this earth. How on earth can they do this? They are really mad." On hearing this, my lips moved wide with a slight smile. I felt that he spoke my mind. The second guy answered "Shut up! It is their choice. You do not have any right to comment on their private life." His response reverberated through my ears and I came to terms with this fact that each person has the right to make his/her own decision. Who am I to intrude into their private life or personal decisions?


Since then, I preferred not to discuss or create opinions about others' personal lives. This experience helped me stop gossip about others and respect each individual with varied diversity.

Monday, March 20, 2017

I regret ...



Imagine a helpless man fighting against a ferocious bull in a closed ring (arena). Yes, you heard it right!

‘Spanish Bull Fight’! Every time I hear these words, I get goosebumps. I am always amazed at the skill of a man challenging an arrogant bull that can kill him anytime. I never saw any video of a bull fight and always wanted to visit the bullring.

    Spring announced the arrival of bullfights paving my way to Spain. Valencia, a beautiful city in Eastern Spain, greeted me warmly with crowded streets and hustling crowds. Valencia is decorated with beautiful and exotic structures at every street to celebrate Las Fallas, a popular festival in Spain. Valencians are dressed in traditional Spanish outfits, outside the stadium named ‘Plaza de Toros de Valencia’, excited me to enjoy the bull fight. The bullring, with hundreds of spectators, reminded me of the Roman Colosseum brought to life.

    A few guys dressed in dazzling costumes, with bright colors, came to the middle of the bull ring. Those guys are called matadors who possess exceptional skills to fight with bulls. The spectators are yet to settle down in their seats and the noise ruled the stadium. A whistle blew to signal the start of the fight. A momentary silence followed the whistle sound with bated breaths of spectators waiting for the bull. All matadors ran outside the ring and only one matador remained in the middle of the ring. A hefty 1800-pound (800kg) ferocious bull entered the arena running towards the lonely matador. The bellowing bull with loud noise stopped in front of the matador who was holding a red cloth. The bull saw the red cloth, got agitated and started kicking the ground with its feet. It aimed the horns towards the matador and jumped towards him pulling all its weight at once. The matador escaped the bulls’ horns and showed the red cloth again to the bull. The matador repeatedly deceived the bull and escaped from its horns. The thought of human triumph against the mighty bull gave a sudden rush of blood to my head.

    All of a sudden, the stadium was reverberated with a loud cry of the bull. I realized that the matador inserted a sharp spike into the bull’s flesh and it cried in pain. Matador held his hands high with victory sign and got soaked in a resounding applause from the crowd. The bull was in pain and ready to take vengeance and jumped towards the matador again. The bull missed him and he inserted another sharp spike into its flesh. I expected the bull to lift the matador with its horns and throw him to 30 feet outside the ring. But, I was puzzled and could not understand why the bull was unable to combat. I took a close look at the fight again for a few more minutes. Then, I was shocked to realize that the bull is trying to hit the moving cloth and not the matador standing in front of it. The bull could have killed the matador but the innocent creature stood in front of him waiting for the execution. As the supposed fight came to an end, the matador inserted a sword in the bull’s head and it tumbled and died in a flash without any noise. But, the bull’s cry recoiled in my ears and passed the pain to my heart. The dead bull’s corpse was dragged outside the arena and the view was piteous.


    Another heavy bull entered the ring and met the same fate. Without my knowledge, tears popped around my eyeballs at the sight of the pseudo fight. Bigger and stronger bulls are expected to enter the ring for execution but I could not sit there anymore and left the bullring with regret. Even though humans try to kill those bulls, those bulls endure the pain, pardon humans and show the so called humanity to humans. I agree that evading the bulls’ horns is no fun for matadors. But, is it fair? Is it fun? Give a thought! I request everyone to skip a bull fight and protest the gruesome display of humans killing animals for fun. Besides, I even started preferring vegetarian or vegan diet since then.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Setting the ramp on fire in Paris!


During my college days, fashion shows used to take place during 'OASIS' cultural festival at 2am. We used to stand till the wee hours and get tired just to get a glance of the show. So, ‘Attending a fashion show’ was never in my wish list. But, I got a chance to reserve a seat for a fashion show that is free of cost with limited seats of 30. I reached the venue in Paris, 30 minutes before the show began. I glanced at a brochure and came to know that the show is conducted to promote the most luxurious brands in the world as shown below:

Alexander Wang, Rag & Bone, Diane Von Furstenberg, Burberry, COS, Zadig & Voltaire, Red Valentino, Armani, See By Chloe, Claudie Pierlot, Etienne Deroeux, Nina Ricci, IRO, Louis Vuitton, Sonia Rykiel, Kenzo, Delpozo, Manoush, Tara Jarmon, Mary Katrantzou, Isabel Marant Etoile

    A momentary thought popped up in my mind “how about sitting at the end of the ramp where models stay for a while and turn”. Immediately, I rushed towards the entrance only to be stopped by a well-polished gentleman clad in a designer suit. He said “Wait! You have to reserve a seat to attend this show”. I replied “I already reserved one”. To command more respect from him I said “I am a software engineer from India”. Immediately he pointed his index finger towards the exit and uttered with a sharp voice “Go and sit there. I will call you when the show begins.” His gestures made me feel really bad. While coming back, I could only hold my head down but the not the ideas in my brain.

    To look funky, I wrapped a posh scarf around my neck. I went up to him again and said “I have an appointment with your Manager”. He raised his eyebrows out of surprise and said “Excuse me!” Out of nowhere, a middle-aged French lady appeared in front of us and interrupted our conversation. The gentleman pointed his index finger at me and asked that lady, “He says that he has an appointment with you. Is it correct?” I never expected my ploy to backfire in a span of few seconds. I was dumbstruck and gazed at her, waiting for her response. She replied “No. I don’t have any appointments now”. Before the gentleman kicked me out, I raised my hand and my voice saying “Wait! I can explain”. French people seem to be good listeners. She asked me to come forward and introduce myself.

    I introduced myself as, “I am an ‘international travel writer’ from India. I am travelling throughout Europe and writing an article to describe each country based on a unique aspect. I choose your fashion show to write an article and describe about France.” I showed my blog in my mobile. My blog has some good posts on various experiences across each country in Europe and this made my task easier. She replied “I am sorry. You must reserve a seat beforehand for this show.” I said “I have already reserved a seat for this show. But, I want to sit at the end of the ramp where models stop by and turn so that I can have a good experience and bring out a better article.” She said “I am sorry! Those are VIP seats and reserved only for VIPs.” However, I insisted, in an authoritative tone, that I get the VIP seat to produce a better article. She asked me to wait for a couple of minutes so that she can check with the Director of the show. She came back and said “You are lucky! For today’s show, we don’t have any VIPs. So, you are our VIP.” She escorted me to the VIP seat and asked me to stay comfortable. My feeling at that moment was beyond comfortable. With an air of proudness and excitement around me, I had no words to describe that feeling. I was unable to digest that I could get a VIP seat with a convincing conversation in less than 5 minutes. I thought “No! This is not enough! I want something more!” But, beyond this privilege, I can only think of a walk on the ramp show with international models. As soon as the thought came up in my mind, I stood up and rushed my feet towards that Manager who escorted me.

    I gathered all my courage to ask, “I want to walk on the ramp with those models.” It really took me nearly four times to utter these words as I am unable to digest myself walking on the ramp with those international models. Her first reaction was “Whatttttt?” as if she got a 1000W electric shock. She asked me “Are you a model?” My response was “No”. She asked again, “Have you done this before?” Again, my response was the same, “No”. She shook her head in disapproval and requested me to go and take my seat. Her reaction only made my intent stronger.

    My eyes turned towards that hollow chamber where the Director sits and waited for her to come outside. After five minutes, the Director came out and I ran towards her and introduced myself as an ‘International travel writer’. I came across this fancy profession (International travel writer) just a week ago, but I never expected that it would elevate my image gigantically. She approved my credentials upon showing my blog to her. She said “Yes. I heard about you. Please go and take the VIP seat and enjoy the show. You are our only VIP today.” I replied “Thank you. But, I want to walk on the ramp with those models.” Her response was also similar “Whatttt! Are you a model?” This time, I handled the conversation smoothly and confidently. I said “No. I am not a model. But, if I walk on the ramp with those models, I will get the real feel and can bring out a really good article.” She explained that models are already trained for this 30 minute show and she cannot disturb the sequence by introducing me. I requested her to think again so that it would help me get a really good article, to describe about France through this fashion show. As the nation’s pride is at stake, she took a deep thought and asked me to wait for a couple of minutes. She came back saying, “Good news! I spoke to the models and they agreed to walk with you on the ramp towards the end of the show.” My excitement knew no bounds after hearing this. While coming back to my VIP seat, my slow motion Rajinikanth walk gathered the attention of many eyeballs of the audience.

    When I started thinking of my walk with the models, my imagination went blank because I don’t know how to walk on a ramp as I have never done it before. Again, I rushed to the Director and expressed my concern. She obliged and assured me to be comfortable and arranged a mock ramp walk with a model. She suggested that my posture is stiff and asked me to stay relaxed. After a second mock walk, she approved my posture. I went back to my seat with some confidence. Audience kept watching my anxiousness during my round trips to the hollow chamber. I rushed to the Director again and asked her “Do you think that I can do this?” She said “You look cool and confident. That’s what a model needs. We believe that you can do it.” My energy levels went manifold. I felt that I was blessed with the strength of 1000 elephants. While I adorned the VIP seat, models started to walk on the ramp and exhibited the apparel of the famous designer brands. When models stop by and exhibit apparel, it appeared as if they are walking the ramp to impress me. I did not realize that the audience is noticing this.

    And the big moment has come! The Director signaled me to join the models. A model came forward and held my hand aptly so that I can express myself during the walk. As soon as I started walking, the audience gave a loud applause and it lasted throughout my walk. I thought that the loud applause from the audience was to the fashion show organizers, for allowing a normal person like me to walk with the international models. I was grateful for the audience for their kind gesture. Once again, I recollected the names of those most luxurious international brands, which I am promoting in this show. Tears almost rolled behind my eyeballs and my cheeks bulged with pride and happiness. Those 30 seconds are the most memorable moments of all my Europe trips.

    After completing the ramp walk, I moved towards the VIP seat to collect my knapsack. To my consternation, I was thwarted by the audience. Everyone started applauding me, “We liked your designs”, “We like the color combinations that you used”, “We liked your contemporary taste”, “All your designs are amazing”. It took me a while to understand that the audience had mistaken my identity for that of a fashion designer, because of my chequered blazer and scarf. Now, I understood that the audience applauded my walk thinking that I am a fashion designer.

     Looking at my uneasiness and confused state, one among the audience asked me, “Are you a fashion designer?” As I was not prepared for such an unexpected question, I unintentionally responded “Yes… Kind of...” Everyone started murmuring “Kind of..” Now, I got into the skin of the fashion designer and responded loudly “Excuse me! I have to catch a flight now as I have to organize another fashion show in Germany. Whoever has taken my pictures or videos, please take my mail id and send it across to jet706@gmail.com. Thank you everyone.” In no time, I collected my knapsack and left that room. The gentleman, who stopped me before the event, opened the door for me with his mouth wide open. I held all my excitement and bewildered laughs till I came out of that venue and vented out everything at once like a crazy soul. The audience might have gone back to their home and would have told their friends that they met a busy fashion designer. After a week, I even received the video of my ramp walk.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

French lady’s Indian cuisine in a desert night camp



Have you ever been to night camping? Think again! How about in a desert? Sounds exciting and adventurous, right! Even I was quite excited with this idea during my Jordan trip. Being a solo traveler, the only option that I am left with is to book a package tour but that idea didn’t quite excite me. Therefore, I looked for friends in Jordan to plan an impromptu night camping.

    I was fortunate to meet a couple of adventurous guys who came from Dubai. All three of us met for the first time in our lives and we don’t know each other. But, they also liked the idea of night camping in a desert. In no time, we contacted a few camps in Wadirum and finalized one to arrange a private tour for only three of us. We reached Wadirum with starving tummies around 9 pm. A land cruiser arranged by the private tour took us into the desert. Even though the driver assured that it was a desert, all we could see is a couple of cruising car lights immersed in darkness. Another couple of lights followed our car and we started looking at each other with growing suspicion. Our driver cleared the air explaining that the other couple of lights following our car belong to a French lady who is supposed to arrange campfire and dinner for us.

    On reaching the destination, we were thoroughly disappointed as the surroundings were loomed by darkness. Our driver lit a few candles and set up campfire inside a half broken cave. The French lady told us that she would prepare a delicious chicken biryani. Our reaction was “NO! Do you know how a chicken biryani tastes?” She smiled and asked us to trust her. Meanwhile, we rested on the mattresses in the cave and gazed at the clear sky full of stars. We identified the constellations and started to count the stars. It was fun and the last time I remember such an experience was during my childhood. We are becoming so busy in our lives that we are unable to enjoy such experiences. It was very cold in the desert at night and the campfire between our mattresses was a wonderful idea. The warmth from rubbing our hands and exposing our body to the fire was really comforting. We picked the drinks of our choice and started to introduce ourselves. We spoke, argued and debated on a wide variety of topics in a short time. After an hour, the French lady served us the most delicious chicken biryani I ever ate outside India. We thanked her and asked her what a French lady is doing in Jordan deserts in her mid-forties. She said that she is exploring life by travelling to various places and taking up different jobs in each country. She has been working as a volunteer in Jordan to organize private desert tours for tourists.

    After dinner, we resumed our conversation for another hour or so. It felt like a dream. Night camping in a desert, camp fire in a cave, dinner with candle lights, a few melodies, drinks of our choice, frank opinions on the most idiotic topics on earth, non-sense arguments with new friends, clear skies and millions of stars falling on us. Since then, whenever I hear about night camping, this experience comes quickly passing a tickling sensation to my memory.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Barcelona! You stole my heart... and my wallet too!



As the saying goes “Barcelona is a bachelor’s heaven”, I am very much excited on this 5-day trip with many suggestions from friends who already visited this place. On the first day of my trip, I walked through the beautiful neighborhoods of Barcelona and also visited Barceloneta beach. A serene walk through the beautiful palm trees beside the sea is worth an experience.

        An old man in his fifties came up to me with a visiting card and inquired for an address. I had a good laugh in my heart as this is my first day in Barcelona and someone chose me to guide him. Even though my hands are full with a back sack and a bag, I showed him the way with google maps in my mobile. I expected him to show gratitude in his eyes but he showed all his 32 teeth with a big smile. He asked me whether I am interested in salsa dance at that pub for which he inquired the address. In this process, he lifted his legs and rubbed some dirt on my trousers. Witnessing his spurious behavior, I denied his request and moved towards Barceloneta beach. I walked alone in the beach and enjoyed the sound of waves in the middle of bustling city. After an hour, I was shell-shocked to sense my empty pockets. After checking my back sack thoroughly, I confirmed that I lost my beautiful ‘Hi-Design’ wallet. My wallet contains my EU residence permit, health insurance, driving license, debit and credit cards from Germany and India, and some cash. While I bent to clean my trousers, that old man stole my wallet. Huh! He chose me to cheat and not to guide him. My first reaction was that I looked at the sky and closed my eyes tightly with a big laugh.

        For the first time in my life, I was stranded in the streets of an unknown city in a foreign land with no money in hand. Only one question ran through my mind repeatedly. “What are my strengths that can get me out of this situation?” At once, I briskly walked for four kilometers to reach ‘St Christopher Inn’ hostel. I looked for a German in the hostel who can speak to customer care officials to block my cards. The hostel management reacted quickly and identified two beautiful German girls who were playing ‘Blind Date’ in the hostel. I greeted them in German language and explained my situation to them in English. After knowing my situation, they walked out of that game and extended their help unconditionally. Those German girls spoke to ‘Deutsche Bank’ customer care officials and ensured that my cards are blocked and also requested to issue new cards. Simultaneously, I got an internet connection and blocked my debit and credit cards from Indian banks. Later, I asked the German girls to lend me some money and I immediately returned the money through my 'Deutsche Bank' online account. In just an hour, I got the situation under control because of the helping nature of those German girls. I also realized that my strengths are to keep my head cool under pressure and focus on tasks at hand. This experience pushed me to react confidently to unexpected critical situations.

        The next day, I gave a police complaint and filed an FIR to get a new EU residence permit. I was surprised by the long queue of people who came to file FIR as they lost their belongings. When I explained the whole incident to my friends after this trip, they started saying “Oh! This is the first tip that we should have given. Beware of wallet snatchers in Barcelona!”

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Death-defying experience in Trolltunga Hike





When I saw this Trolltunga picture sometime back, I thought that this is definitely not my cup of tea because of its dangerous position to pose for a picture. While planning my Norway trip, I read a few articles about Trolltunga hike that explained how amateurs attempted this hike and struggled. Having completed a 40 kilometer hike in India (Kudremukh), I convinced myself out of pride that, this hike is for experts like me and included it in my itinerary.

        In Odda town, I met three more guys in Trolltunga hotel and made friends. One of them got a car that helped us reach the base of Trolltunga hike the next day. The hiking sticks at the base camp lured me to change my plan from ‘Classic’ to ‘22 kilometer Winter’ hike. Little did I know that I’m prepared only to pose for the pictures but not for the hike! Ten of us started with a steep one kilometer hike through dense vegetation and moved to a mushy terrain scattered with ice and melted water. With a couple of breaks, we moved towards mountains completely covered with thick ice. Under this thick ice, one can hear the noise of melted water flowing. Out of fear, I took steps slowly and was left behind by the group. Despite being cautious, one wrong step broke the ice under my foot and I slipped into the water under the ice. Fortunately, I got hold of a rock nearby and saved myself despite losing my goggles.

        Our guide approached me and suggested that I turn back as it is going to get more dangerous ahead and the group has to wait for me at every break. It kicked my ego like hell. I thought “Whom are you speaking to? I completed a 40 kilometer hike and this is a mere 22 km hike”. I gathered all my energy and started leading the group literally by running in the ice. When I ran towards an area where ice was clean, I was quickly warned by my guide. He shouted that I’m running on a frozen pond and stand a chance of drowning in the ice. Later, I took as many as 20 wrong steps and fell in the ice every time and got up. My guide noticed my struggle, appreciated my efforts and suggested me to follow him. Actually, he threatened me to follow him but I interpreted it as a suggestion to make myself comfortable.

        Suddenly it started raining cats and dogs and the temperature dropped further. I would say that ‘real feel’ is ‘freezing cold’. My idiotic casual shoes added more misery and I literally experienced walking on the ice with bare foot. On my way, I met a few hikers who were unable to tolerate the cold weather and cried that they may die there. I gave some energy bars and motivated them to return. The scariest part of the hike was to walk through a narrow path in the middle of a slanted ice mountain. We held our breath with the help of hiking sticks during this phase.

        You might think that we forget all the pain after seeing the most beautiful views from Trolltunga. No, not at all! After removing the jacket and gloves, I gathered all my courage to stand on Trolltunga and posed for pictures. When I came back to wear jacket, I am unable to even hold it as my hands were frozen. Other hikers rushed towards me and helped me wear gloves and jacket. Looking at my shoes and superman T-shirt, our guide shouted in surprise “How did you manage to come so far with these shoes? You must be a Superman!” At that moment, I wanted to give him a slap and all the bad words in this world for not warning me at the start of the hike. But, I could only show him my teeth acknowledging him for calling me a Superman! In no time, I started running back in the ice to generate some heat in my feet to survive in that cold weather. Then, I realized that the amateurs they are referring to in the articles mentioned in my first paragraph was about people like me! Damn!

Tips:
1) You need a guide till the end of May as paths are not clear. From mid of June, you don't need a guide.
2) Take thermals and rain coat based on weather prediction. Wear hiking shoes and take enough food.
3) Reserve hotels/hostels early as there is limited accommodation in Odda.

You can find my travel experience through some adventurous pictures with description in the link below:

https://www.facebook.com/jayanth.suravarapu/media_set?set=a.10153874932332865.1073741861.597222864&type=3

Monday, July 4, 2016

The city that inspired me to travel...

Have you ever been inspired by a place?
If you get an opportunity to travel to one place, what is the place that you would choose?
Before coming to Europe, my answer to this question was ‘Rome’. In 2005, I read a novel named ‘Angels and Demons’ by Dan Brown. His description of Rome and Vatican excited me so much that I frequently dreamt of roaming in the roads of Rome and churches of Vatican. Finally, the day has come to live my unfulfilled travel dream through my third trip to Rome. I have spent many days reading about the history, economy and culture of Italy and Rome.

    After landing in ‘Leonardo da Vinci’ airport, I took a metro to the Roma Termini (Central) and dumped my backpack in a hostel. In no time, my eyes, feet and heart started searching for an engineering marvel called ‘Colosseum’. When I lifted my head up to see the Colosseum, all I can remember is, a wave of energy that passed from my brain to my body. If the concept of reincarnation exists, I might be a Roman solider or someone who died in the arena fighting with a lion or a gargantuan foreign creature. Ah! How many human generations has it seen since B.C ? How many exotic wild animals visited this place? How many warriors and animals died in this arena fighting for their life? Sometimes, I feel that history is not just about kingdoms and wars, but about the feelings of human beings across various cultures. I missed a trip to dungeons and it calls for another trip to Rome J

    On the second day, I went to Vatican on foot amidst stunning statues and churches with exceptional architecture. A view of St. Peter’s Basilica thwarted my walk and I found myself to be in the middle of St Peter’s square. The great ‘Michelangelo’ was one of the painters of this masterpiece, St Peter’s Basilica from the 16th century! The top of St Peter’s Basilica’s takes you to one of the most stunning views in the world. For the first time in my life, I admired art after visiting Vatican Museums. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of frescoes especially ‘The Last Judgement’ and ‘The Creation of Adam’ by Michelangelo.

    On the third day, I visited all the Museums in Rome and Vatican to ensure that I get the feel of the churches described in ‘Angels and Demons’ novel. Each church is decorated in a unique fashion and has a history of its own. I made sure that I read the history of each church in Wikipedia upon visiting it. Ensure that you satiate your taste buds with Italian food such as Pizza, pasta and lasagna. Of course, your trip will not be complete without a scoop of Italian gelato. My best moment of the trip was to watch a few Europeans dressed in saris and dhotis dancing to the tunes of Hindi songs at Spanish square. Rome is a visual feast to anyone and will really enjoy more if one reads the history before a visit.

Major tourist attractions in Rome are:

Colosseum
Trevi Fountain
St Peter's Basilica
St Peter's square
Vatican Museums
Sistine Chapel
Roman forum
Pantheon
Piazza Navona
Spanish steps

TIP: Free entry to all the attractions in Rome and Pompei on every first Sunday of the month. Buy a 3-day or 4-day ROMA pass to save money.