About 30 miles south of Stuttgart, the capital city of the German state of Baden-Württemberg, lies Tübingen, a pretty little University Town. About one third of the town’s population is students, the leading University being the The Eerhard Karls University of Tübingen. But education was not the reason we visited this beautiful town.
We were in Stuttgart in July, and were planning a drive to the Alps, a little to the south. Making elaborate road travel plans, routing towards the Alps mountains, making sure we touched some interesting places, consumed an entire day. We packed our luggage, checked out of the hotel, and went to the nearest car rental shop only to realise there were no cars available. It was summers and everyone drives out. We went to two more rental places, no cars. Not wanting to lose time, we rebooted the plans, and decided to take a train to a nearby place. And Tübingen it was.
One of our recent trips to Ratnagiri, Konkan Maharashtra, yielded an unusual discovery. Thousands of years old rock carvings made by early humans. Such carved drawings on rocks are called Petraglyphs, and we must be thankful to Mr Sudhir Risbud, who has painstakingly discovered, documented and made (continues to make) supreme efforts to preserve these and bring some public attention to these.
Our hosts told use as part of “what to do”, to speak to Sudhir Risbud on what we can see around the area and that he has interesting visits in mind. We had no idea we would be seeing rock carvings, made around 20,000 BCE to 2000 BCE! (Mr Sisbud says it is very difficult to accurately time these peraglyphs, but we can get a fair idea from the materials used and the animals portrayed. We find drawings of Rhinocerous, but they have been extinct from this area for 10s of thousands of years. Elephants have been carved as well, which are not found here for many years now).
About 500km Mumbai, on the banks of the mighty river Narmada, lies the old city of Maheshwar. Many historians identify Maheshwar as the ancient town of Mahishmati. It is believed Maheshwar was build on the ancient city of Somvanshya Shastrarjun Kshatriya and was the capital of the King Kartavirya Arjun, who is mentioned in the Sanskrit Epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Much later, it became the capital of the Maratha Kings, the Holkars. Maratha Queen Ahilya Bai Holkar (1725-1795) took over the reigns of Maheshwar after her young son Male Rao Holkar, heir to the throne died, soon after her father-in-law, Malhar Rao Holkar’s death (her husband Khaderao Holkar had died almost 12 years earlier).
Ahilyabai Holkar led her armies to battle. She also transformed Indore from a small village into a magnificent city. However she herself made Maheshwar her capital and developed the fort, ghats and temples of Maheshwar, as well as many roads, wells, ghats and rest houses.. She developed many temples all across India, the most significant being the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi. They say the sites where Ahilyabai Holkar built include Kashi, Gaya, Somnath, Ayodhya, Mathura, Haridwar, Kanchi, Avanti, Dwarka, Badrinarayan, Rameshwar and Jagannath Puri. She also supported merchants and farmers and helped them lead lives of peace and prosperity.
Perhaps one of the most culturally rich and significant cities of the world, Berlin has in many ways shaped a lot and gone through a lot as well. First documented in the 13th century, and founded at the crossing of two important trade routes, Berlin became the capital of the Margraviate of Brandenburg (1417-1701), Kingdom of Prussia (1701-1918), German Empire (1871-1918), Weimar Republic (1919-1933), and the Third Reich (1933-1945). It was bombed out in the World War II, split into two with a 96 mile long wall becoming a symbol of the Cold War, and then re-united, thereby symbolically ending the Cold War, and uniting a Germany split by Allied Powers after the World War II. It has now become the cultural (as well as political) capital of Germany, and perhaps an important one in the world as well, with its vibrant art, music, movies and startup scene.
When visiting Stuttgart, we were sure we wanted to visit Berlin as well. A big multicultural city, Berlin is also kind of artsy and hence a little bohemian. It is one of the largest startup capitals of Europe. There is a wide choice of food, music and party for every taste and budget.
What to do in Berlin?
We decided to stay in Berlin’s Mitte district in the hotel Lulu Guldsmeden located in a building made in 1850. The Mitte District is the first and oldest district of Berlin City. It encompasses the historic core of Berlin City and includes landmarks like the Museum Island, Reichstag, Potsdamer Platz, Alexander Platz, Berlin Hauptbanhof, Checkpoint Charlie (Berlin Wall), Brandenburg Gate, etc. Plus lots of nice cafes and restaurants. Because of its rich history and culture, we were sure this is where we wanted to stay.
What strikes you is the magnificent architecture and its sheer scale. The older buildings are like monuments, built carefully and with love. You cannot but help think of all that this wonderful city has gone through. During the second world war, the British dropped over 45,000 tonnes of bombs on Berlin, the Americans, around 25,000. A lot of the standing buildings were destroyed. At the end of the war, the city was split, the Berlin Wall built. But thankfully freedom and resilence shone through, the wall was brought down and Germany united once again!
During our visit to Stuttgart, some good friends suggested we take a day out to drive to Esslingen. Also located on the Neckar River, some only 14km from Stuttgart, Esslingen was first settled in the Neolithic Period. The city was first mentioned in 777AD when Franconian Abbot Fulrad of St. Denis near Paris mentioned it in his will. Around the 13th Century, the people of Esslingen built two bridges over the Neckar River thus making it an important trade route. Luckily during the World Wars, Esslingen wasn’t hit badly and that has preserved its medieval character.
It’s a beautiful city full of pretty houses, cafes, ice cream parlours and surrounded with nature. Definitely worth a visit. If you are here during the German summers, do carry an umbrella as it can get very hot.
When the waiting at the Berlin Airport for our connecting flight to Vienna became agonizingly long, we started panicking. Asking around we figured flights were getting delayed. There were some weather disturbances (this was end of July) which made it difficult for flights to land (it was raining, but the airlines folk know better). The delayed flights soon led to our flight being cancelled. We didn’t have a booking in Berlin and it was already getting late. Compounded with the fact that a lot of the staff was on holiday because of summers, there was a bit of confusion, before the airline finally managed to get us onboard a flight around 4 hours later.
In this process we landed in Vienna past midnight, starving, tired. Most of the eating places in the airport were shut already. The very reasonably priced metro that connected Vienna airport to the city center was way past its last flight. And we were here, only for two days in Vienna, Austria!
Meanwhile at the luggage belt, everyone from our flight had left except us and another family. Our luggage hadn’t arrived. We lodged a lost-luggage complaint with the airlines’ airport office, and took an expensive taxi to our hotel.
Not many people may have heard of this over 300 year old festival in Anandpur Sahib, called ‘Hola Mohalla’. Celebrated on the day after Holi, it’s a crazy grand festival of the Akali Nihangs, the original warrior Sikhs, considered the personal favorites of Guru Gobind Singh. It was Guru Gobind Singh himself who had established … Read more
Somewhere around the 14th Century AD, a major city arose on the banks of the Tungabhadra River in Karnataka. Pampa Kshetra, Kinshkinda Kshetra or Bhaskara Kshetra, this city is also known as Hampi. Spread over some 16 square miles, Hampi has some excellent ancient monuments, as we experienced. However, apart from the monuments, Hampi has … Read more
On the third day at Hampi, after having explored the heritage Vijayanagar Empire Hampi monuments here and some more amazing Hampi monuments, we went towards the Vitthala Temple. It is the largest of the Hampi monuments, but unclear who built it. Inscriptions has multiple male and female names. The large Ranga Mandapa of the Vitthala … Read more
There is so much to see and absorb in Hampi, one definitely needs about 4 days here. Spread over a 16 square miles, this UNESCO World Heritage site has “forts, riverside features, royal and sacred complexes, temples, shrines, pillared halls, mandapas, memorial structures, water structures and others” (from Wikipedia), and is one of the largest … Read more
I never thought there could be an archaeological site as vast and neat/clean as Hampi. From most of our travels, such sites are limited to tiny areas in congested villages or towns. Hampi is anything but that. The name Hampi comes from Pampa, another name for Goddess Parvati. Hampi is also known as Pampa Kshetra, … Read more
We had never planned on visiting Badami. In fact we were in Hampi and while returning, we decided to give Badami a quick look. But Badami turned out to better our expectations. The capital of the 6th Century Chalukya Dynasty, Badami is famous for its rock cut temples in the cliffs of red sandstone that … Read more