A ‘Western’ Surprise!

Film History Museum, Lone Pine, California.

Westerns – we all know of them as movies of the American Old West with all that swag! But driving cross country on a trip to see the Californian National Parks, a Western was the last thing on our minds. 

It was just after dusk when we entered the small town of Lone Pine, 3.5 hours drove from LA and 93 miles from America’s beautiful Death Valley National Park. We were shaken with the cold weather and stirred by the joy of being so close to a destination that topped our bucket list, and were gearing to visit it first thing the next morning. Knowing little that there was a charming little museum of Western Film History right in our backyard. As the server in the diner mentioned the museum, we could suddenly hear Ennio Morricone’s everlasting theme of The Good, Bad and Ugly ring in our ears, remembering Heston’s sassy one liners, the cowboy hats and the whistles. Now our hearts were pounding with excitement as though we discovered a little gem. Well, what do you expect from filmmakers anyway ? 

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Oh Berlin!

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!

Standing at the corner outside our hotel, our first views of Mitte in Berlin.

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Esslingen, Germany : A Gorgeous, Almost Fairy Town

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.

Ours was a very brief visit to Esslingen!

Esslingen Church
Esslingen
Esslingen has the largest collection of old medieval half timbered houses in Germany.
Esslingen
These old half timbered houses in Esslingen were all built in the mid 1300s

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Two Days in Vienna, Austria

Vienna State Opera

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.

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Anegundi Village : Visiting Hampi

The Kishkinda Trust

When visiting Hampi, we chose to stay at a quaint village across the Tungabhadra, called Anegundi. The village, also called Kishkinda, itself is older than the Hampi monuments. You need at least two days to see this village. Lots of people stay at Hippy Island in Hampi, but frankly we didn’t like the place. It’s … Read more

Stuttgart : Not Just The Home Of Mercedes Benz And Porsche

Schlossplaz, Stuttgart

Ok, so it’s a fact that Stuttgart is a home to Mercedes Benz and also to Porsche. Stuttgart is the capital of the German state of Baden-Württenberg, and large German auto companies like Mercedes Benz, Porsche, Bosch etc have their headquarters here. It is for this reason most people associate this city with industry and … Read more

Jhalana : Leopard Sanctuary Inside Jaipur

If there’s one place where you are most likely to spot a leopard, it’s Jhalana Leopard Sanctuary. And it’s right inside the City of Jaipur. Jaipur is a beautiful city to travel to in its own right. With fabulous havelis, palaces, shopping opportunities, food, culture and plenty of heritage. In the middle of all of … Read more

McLeodganj : A Dreamy Little Hill Town

McLeodganj Lanes

Up in the Kangra hills lies this little town of Dharamshala, also known as Little Lhasa because of the large Tibetan population. The Tibetan Government -In – Exile is based out of Dharamshala-McLeodganj. (McLeodganj is a suburb of Dharamshala.) McLedoganj lies in the Kangra District which was annexed by the British from the Sikh empire … Read more

Hola Mohalla : Anandpur Sahib

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

Where To Eat Out In Bangalore

I have been making a small list of where to eat out in Bangalore. While the city has many, many options, these are only a few I have been able to try out myself or recommended by friends. Feel free to add your own choice sin the comments below. Sotally Tober, Koramangala 4th Block for … Read more