The Comedy of Errors!

I have never been one to make New Year resolutions. Oh may be I have, in the past. But I think I have realized I am only so good at keeping them. So now I don’t even think abut setting one or more. What’s the point, really? And so, today, I wanted to do this post that I had promised to write last year. So let’s get the pending thing out of the way and then move on to the new year πŸ™‚

This post is about all the (mis)adventures that happened with me when I was trying to plan my travel to Germany. And would you believe it, this post got delayed so much because when I wrote it the first time around, it accidentally got deleted without a backup! Talk about the (mis)adventure continuing!

When the husband was in Germany last year, the responsibility of getting the little one’s passport made fall on me. Till this point, H and I, the so-responsible people that we were, hadn’t registered out marriage yet. Neither had we got the spouse name added in either of our passports. To get a minor’s passport done, one of the parents must have the spouse name included. So this meant, I had to get my passport reissued first with the husband’s name and only then could I apply for little S’s passport. So I applied for passport re-issue under Tatkal scheme to get it done fast.Only to be sent away from the Passport Seva Kendra. Not once, but twice over. Since my passport was made when I was unmarried, it had my parents’ house address. They wanted me to update the address to the address my husband’s passport had. Which again was his parents’, and not of the actual place where we live. Since he was not even in India, he couldn’t do anything about it. And so I went to the bank and got a joint bank account (without him being in India, all thanks to jugaad) and that served as an address proof for my new passport. Phew! Also, when he was in India for a short while between trips, we decided to get our Marriage Certificate made. The agent got wind of the urgency under which this was being done. Husband travelling, wife alone with infant. He charged an exorbitant 11K for the damn paper!

Anyway, so on my third trip to the Passport Seva Kendra, they finally accepted my papers. It took exactly 3 days for my passport to arrive. Now I had to apply for little S’s passport. The passport website said that for a minor’s passport, they needed the minor’s birth certificate. Unlike our Marriage certificate, we had made S’s birth certificate earlier. But due to some discrepancy, H got his full name written on her birth certificate while his passport had only his first and middle name. Again, the passport guys wouldn’t take that as a proof. I went to the MCD office to get it corrected. As is the case with Indian government offices, they asked me to leave my application and certificate and come back after 15 days. No amount of pleading (tatkal passport booking, husband not in India blah blah) worked. Finally, one of the guys came forward to help. He said the guy needed bribe. Of course you can judge me because pay the bribe I did. I did not have 15 days for a minor name change even as I had all the documents. I paid a 1000 Rs. and within the next half an hour, I got 6 brand new original birth certificates of S πŸ™‚ Proudly I went home thinking our troubles were over.

The Passport website said they also needed both the parents’ original passports. Since H was not in India, he needed to send an NOC from the Indian Embassy in Germany duly signed by him and stamped by the embassy. For this, he traveled from Dusseldorf to Frankfurt, got the NOC signed and stamped and sent it to me by normal mail. The form was 25 euros and the post stamp another 8. I received the form in almost 15 days. And can you believe what went wrong here? H, in his excitement of getting things done fast, had filled his dear daughter’s birth date wrong. The horror of horrors. Of course you can imagine the blame game that would have followed. Of course, we could not submit an NOC form and a birth certificate which had different birth dates. So this process had to be done again.

Again, the travel to Frankfurt was made. A new form and sent again. We had already lost so much time due to paper work. We couldn’t wait another 15 days for the form to arrive. This time he sent it by courier. Form – 25 euros, Courier – 70 euros. You do the math. We spent nearly 11K again, for a damn piece of paper πŸ™‚

The little one’s passport was applied for, under Tatkal scheme. The passport reached us within 3 days. Phew! Half a battle won.

Next I had to apply for a tourist visa, for both of us. Now when the husband had left, his visa was valid for 3 months. By the time we got our passports, 2.5 months had already passed. At this point, he got to know that he needed to stay for another 3 months. So this was good news for us. But. For us to apply a tourist visa, I had to show my husband’s visa, which at that point was only applicable for another 15 days. Again, a lot of drama followed. The visa guy suggested that if the company could give it in written that he needed to stay for another 3 months and that his visa interview would be scheduled soon, in that case our visa would be considered too. After much cajoling, his company agreed to issue the letter. Again, the letter needed to be sent to India. The fight was 15 days vs 70 euros. Thankfully, one of his colleagues was travelling to Bangalore at that time. So the letter came from Dusseldorf to Bangalore in a day. And then via courier from Bangalore in another 2 days. In the meantime, I completed the rest of the paper work and as soon as I received this letter, I submitted them with the visa office.

Finally almost after 3 months, I sat  back relaxed thinking nothing could go wrong now, except the fact that the visa officers wouldn’t grant us visa for 3 months. Remember that our passports now had address of my in-laws? And so, the visa office sent our stamped visas to their address. As the bad luck be, only the husband’s grandmother was home that day and the courier guy refused to handover our stamped passports to her. I got a call in the evening saying the passports and visa had come and taken back. You can well imagine my state. All this for nothing?

We had no information of who the courier company was. The courier guy didn’t leave any number. We were in a fix. It was already past 6 on a Friday evening. The Visa helpline number said they would be in office on Monday morning. We decided to check for any details on the consulate website. The latest update said “Your passport(s) have been dispatched” with no tracking number. Great!

That weekend was the longest I have ever spent. Monday morning I immediately called up the consulate to inquire about my passport. The lady at the other end checked passport number and said “Ma’m, your passport has already been delivered”. I almost fainted at this point. I was like, who did you deliver my passport to? But just in time, I got a call from the in-laws that the courier guy had turned up on Monday morning to deliver the Passport.

Finally that evening I reached home to collect my stamped visa. And would you believe it?? Based on the company’s letter, the consulate had actually granted us a 3 months visa.

Fianlly. Finally.
No, the adventure wasn’t over at this point. The Husband asked his office agent to book our tickets to avoid any more adventure. So he sent him a detailed email with our travel dates and the flight schedule and our passport copies to make the booking. Imagine the horror when I received the final e-ticket after booking only to see that the agent had spelled my daughter’s name wrong. That is, after having sent him the scanned passport copy with the correct name. A lot of frantic calls were made to the airline, only to be told that
a) this could not be corrected
b) this was not a major issue. But I was too skeptical by now to take any chances.
c) to cancel this ticket and book another ticket (which meant another 10K loss)

Finally, a truce was reached. I was able to convince the airline customer care guy to put in a comment on the ticket that the correct name as per the passport was so and so…and not the one mentioned on the ticket. Just to be sure that I would not be sent away from the airport this time.

You can well imagine my euphoria when I finally reached Dusseldorf after a pretty non adventurous flight. And thank God for that! This whole sequence of events seems so unbelievable to me at times. Even when it was happening, it made me wonder how could such mistakes happen, one after the other. It was like a Domino effect. One tick and the whole thing comes crumbling down. But now that this ordeal is over, it makes for very interesting memories. Isn’t it?

 

Guest Post : Return of the Traveller

If you haven’t read the first 2 parts; you can read them here and here.

I had precisely 2 months left to return to the motherland. Also, 2 days left for Oktober fest .What does one do? Yeah! Exactly my point! πŸ™‚

Munich – I survived the Oktober fest  and lived to tell the tales of 1 liter beer mugs , roasted chicken plates, hurried waiters , dancing on tables, lines for entry in tents and empty pockets in the end .This one just got checked off from the bucket list.

Fussen – Neuschwanstein castle –  It is called fairy tale castle for a reason. Once I went there, I just nodded in affirmation . It is  awe inspiring, surrounded by a forest, waterfall and crystal clear blue lake. Heaven must look something like this.


Heidelberg –  Philosophenweg translated unto philosophers’ walk . It is a steep hike of about 1 Km up the
mountain besides a flowing river and famous castle. It really tests your stamina .With the beer belly it was all the more tough. But I managed to conquer it and got the best landscape shots which I think I can sell for wallpapers. Yup…they are that good!

Black Forest–  I went to place which is famous for making cuckoo clocks – Neustadt Titisee.The clocks’ prices start from 50 € and go up to as expensive as 1000$ . One of the craziest thing I did was to rent a cycle and drove into the black forest even as there was a mild drizzle. And I think this is the best way to discover nature if you are not time bound. I drove about 20 km inside out and had their famous alcoholic black forest pastry to end the day.

Barcelona – Hands down this beats all the beaches and sea food one can see or have in a lifetime. My
wonderful moments were the dip in the Mediterranean sea, and watching Barcelona soccer match which was completely coincidental.One of the local markets had huge crabs,lobster,sea urchins,eels, jumbo prawns and whatever lies beneath the sea! Terrifying experience to see but a wonderful one to eat them πŸ˜‰

Istanbul – It is  true that it is a melting pot of cultures . With sea, sand, majestic mosques, rich history and
bright markets covered with spices, earthen lamps, jewelry and baklavas (a Turkish sweet) this has to be a  special mention and a befitting end to my Euro trip.My favourite moments are actually more than one – a walk down the spice market , Topkapi palace tour , Hagia Sophia  and Medussa head . The food was very spicy like in India . Their local food is a must try. I had kokorech (pronounced as cockroach), which is nothing but a simple grilled meat sandwich. I also tried their Menemen (omlette cooked in onion gravy with breads).
TIP-exchange currency at spice market with best value and no commission.

Belgrade –  This was a stop over while returning to Germany from Istanbul. 10 hours was a decent time and so I visited the lesser known tourist destinations. It is one of the few countries which have their prime attractions open 24 hours and  have free entry. The first stop was Belgrade Fort . This is a huge fort with exhibitions and tanks, anti –aircraft guns, torpedos kept for display from WW-1 times. Plus it hosts a man made Jurassic park theme restaurant and kids play area. It boasts of a bohemian street – Skarlidkja . It has some overpriced restaurants but food generally tastes good even though different.

And with this, my seemingly never ending journey came to an end, and now seems like a beautiful dream.
8 countries – a total of 22 cities – pretty much sum up my Euro travel tales .Some good memories to live with – until we make the next one! πŸ™‚

Thank you reading the posts . Signing off with lines from Robert frost – Miles to go before I sleep …..

Guest Post : The Two and a Half Travellers!

Continued from

here

….

Since my stay had been extended, I just relaxed for the first weeks. Also since the family was expected to visit me in a few months, I decided to save some money πŸ˜› But! I didn’t save all of it. I did visit a few places before the Ms. and Mrs. arrived. Talk about the wanderlust bug!

Duisberg,Wuppertal – hanging train ride in schwebebahn.  It is a beautiful ride over the river. Apart from the train ride, there is nothing much to see here. It is majorly a time kill.

Nuremberg-is mainly about forts. It has a central square and all international brands store that one can only window shop from. But I liked the forts as they made up a major chunk of the to-visit-places and was good with guided tour.

Erlangen – It is a small town near Nuremberg mainly famous for hosting mini Oktober fest in month of July. I  had to get acquainted before the real deal , so here I tried the famous 10% vol BEER πŸ˜›

Mettman – It is small town an hour away from Dusseldorf .It is built on a
mountain and forest. Neanderthal museum was the highlight of this trip. Walk to the museum from metro station is WILD and unforgettable. It is almost 1 Β½ KM among dense forest and directly opens to the entrance of the museum. Museum itself is a walk down the science class and shows history of man . 2 hours inside and I had existential crisis.The Neanderthals also had their own beer. But bad taste, don’t buy it πŸ˜‰

Frankfurt – Senckenberg Museum – I am big fan of Jurassic park and this museum has a lot of prehistoric
era fossils of dinosaurs shown in the movie plus pretty bad ass stuff like fossils of fishes, reptiles,
animals and men. Big fan, bought a t-shirt as souvenir. And Frankfurt is famous for Applewine .A must try though I wouldn’t recommend it much.

Rudeshiem/Geisenhiem – Vineyards. This region is famous for its wines. Since my client owns a wine
making machine, I got complete knowledge of wine making process ,different types of wine and also went to a local wine and cheese tasting festival. It also has round trip with walk into the forest mountain , coming down on on open chair lift and back to starting point from a cruise. The food was good and wine delicious on Drosselgasse lane. One of the less discovered places in Germany. Highly recommended.

And then my lovelies arrived and we planned our expeditions to rest of the Europe starting with Swisss.

Zurich – It definitely has to be Mt Titlis .With the little one tightly cupped in arms I climbed about 20
meters up and down in 2 feet deep snow. It was dangerous and daring – I was like SnowCrusher! But
when everybody else was trying to walk straight in the snow I did the complete round with my arms
full. I might sound arrogant but it is the craziest thing and I am proud of it. Coming to food, Swiss chocolates were to be found everywhere (no points for guessing that). I gorged on a full box of Macaroons from Luxemburgerli, one of their oldest confectioneries. And their local wine – Appenzeller is a delicacy worth tasting!

Paris – Louvre ! Louvre ! Louvre . I would like to spend a week looking at each and every painting, art, carved rocks , listening to a guide and gorging on the croissants and coffee. I spent only half a day but it
was mesmerizing .

Amsterdam (with family) – This was second visit to Amsterdam, the one with the family. Of it, I have everlasting memories of the Anne Frank house and Nemo science center. My daughter fell asleep while entering Anne Frank house and I covered the whole trip in about 2 hours carrying her in my arms. It was both emotionally and physically tiring. Nemo science center is so advanced that I felt like raising my child in that country which gives such good exposure and learning.

Berlin – Berlin has history unfolding in every corner of the city. You have to be with a guide to know and
appreciate it. It is for culture vultures. I liked The Berlin Zoo and specially feeding time for lions. We were
there at the perfect moment when a pair was fed with meat and they growled and scratched at it. They were just being defensive but we got our doubts cleared – Why they are called king of jungle.

And that’s how 45 days ended and 2 Β½ travelers got richer or poorer however you want to take it.The week when my family was leaving was definitely making me home sick. And so I booked a trip which
would make me feel at home πŸ˜›

 To be continued…..

Guest post : Fellowship of travelling!

I have missing in action for almost a month now. And I am not liking it AT ALL! There have been so many things to tell, half of my Euro tales still untold, and the exciting travel back home. But the office has been super hectic post vacation and combined with the festivals, it has left with no time to write.

 

So, the other day, I jokingly told the husband to ghost write my blog for me since I don’t have the time to do it these days. Also, considering that he, being the travel junkie that he is, has been on a Euro trip for almost 7 months now, he has SO much to tell. And so he agreed to do a guest post for my blog. This is the first post of a three part series of the husband’s Europe travel experience. He is as excited about seeing this in words as much as he’s been on the trips πŸ™‚
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I love the Quote from the movie β€œ UP(2009) ” which goes #Let the wilderness be explored , and I got a fair chance to apply this quote on my first onsite assignment . Modesty be damned,  I made sure no weekends got wasted in the comfy service apartment.

We all know how onsite assignments come our way. It is combination of being at right place at the right time and most importantly saying the right thing ! And voila, my company decided to send me to Germany , Dusseldorf in the month of April for strictly 30 days.

I landed in Dusseldorf on Saturday and so obviously, Sunday was wisely used πŸ˜‰ The nearest happening city is Koln(Cologne)- city from where EAU DE COLOGNE originated. I can go writing about my crazy experiences but I will keep it short to 1 special thing I liked about each of the destinations and may be about their food and beer.

Koln is all about Churches – they are magnificent and I have a lasting impression of all the churches I visited.It is also famous for Kolsch beer. I could tell it was different from the ones I had before . It had to be good. After all its coming from Germany, the land of beer! πŸ˜›

 

Koln’s oldest church….still under construction. Irony?

Amsterdam <Holland>– Heineken brewery experience – Being a beer fan I could relate to Darwin’s theory of origin. Food is about big French fries called Pommes Frites . In the chilly summer it was a perfect snack. I’d prefer to write about the (in)famous Amsterdam nightlife in an anonymous blog πŸ˜€

The Heinken brewery in Amsterdam!
Brussels <Belgium> Autoworld – Most comprehensive and live models of cars from 1800 . I could relate to most of models as I have played them in NFS and midtown madness video games. “When in Belgium, do the chocolate”, and so that’s the first thing I had when I landed there – Chocolate waffle beside Mannekan Piss. That boy was pissing and I was gorging hot Belgium chocolate πŸ˜‰
With THE cars!
 
Hamburg<Germany> – 1 hour ferry ride by Hamburg docking station. Amazing view of gigantic ships,city and sunset on far side of the river. 
 
 
Dusseldorf <Germany>– Visiting the Alstadt old town and Uerige brewery which over 150 years old .And ordering food by the Rhine river marks the day complete. Been staying in this city for 6 months now, and there is nothing much to do except have beer with locals and admire Germany’s weather and their perfection of trains, metro and clean roads. 
 
Snack served with the local beer- a piece of meat, loaf of bread, onion rings and spicy mustard sauce!
And that’s how a month got over – sweating it out in office 5 days and wandering endlessly on weekends. I returned to India with chocolates for colleagues and stories for family. My assignment got extended for next 3 months and I flew back to Germany again in May .This time determined to explore more than the natives have done. 

To be continued …..

The Swiss bliss – part 2!

Continued from here….

Mt. Titlis is one of the highest mountains of Switzerland. Permanent ice and snow all through the year. We reached the foot of the mountain after a breath taking beautiful view of the country side on the way to Lucerne. Our guide asked us to look up. The mountain was so high up, you couldn’t even see the top. Yeah, we had to go there. First there is a cable car ride that covers a major part of the altitude. You can imagine the steep climb given the height we had to cover. The view as you ascend is like nothing you have ever seen before. I cannot express enough how beautiful everything was. Miles of greenery, snow laden mountains partially covered with clouds and the famed swiss cows quietly grazing. It also meant a lot of anxiety and fear for someone like me who has altitude phobia. I was torn between the desire to take in the view or to just keep my eyes closed and pretend nothing was happening πŸ˜›

see the angle of ascend here?
Isn’t this view breath taking?

Once we could start seeing some of the peaks surrounding the mountain, we had to alight. The trip to the top of the mountain was even more interesting. A gondola that spins 360 degrees takes around 30 people to the top, at once. So as it ascends, it also spins so everyone can have a look around the mountain and its peaks and the snow. This one was even scarier and yet, incredulous. The top is blinding white. There is snow and clouds everywhere. That is one place you just can’t do without your goggles. I fell down quite a few times going up and down the snow mounds. Even though it sounds funny now, at that time, I had my heart in my throat for the fear of just sliding down and going off the mountain edge. It was so cold at that height and I was also petrified for the little one. But she did well πŸ™‚

Yes, the gondola has it written in Hindi, considering how much we Indians contribute to Swiss tourism πŸ˜›

 

Blinding white!

The husband was as usual his excited adventurous self. I fought with him and accused him of trying to kill me when he tried to take me to the other side of the mountain via the sky bridge. Now that bridge is the highest suspension bridge in Europe at a height of 10000 ft. And as soon as I would walk a little, he would start shaking the bridge vigorously. Imagine the plight of  an already petrified altitude phobic. Anyway, once we had a screaming match right there, we both decided to behave. We held hands and crossed the bridge. Don’t even ask me how my legs were shaking with fear.

After all the adventure, we had some nice and very hot “hot chocolate” at the restaurant also located at 10000 ft. Trust me, it has never tasted better. The ride back to earth felt much less scary after the extreme weather and sights πŸ™‚

We also visited the Rhine falls in Switzerland, which are actually the source of Rhine river that flows in Germany. Since it rained heavily that day, we couldn’t stay at the falls for a very long time but it was beautiful as well.

Did you know that in all of the cities that we visited in Europe during the last one month, we came across the most number of Indians in Switzerland. No surprises there, yeah? I mean everywhere we went, we would find people – couples, families speaking in Hindi. And would you believe,at the foot of the mountain (Mt. Titlis), there is a chai ki shop, run by an Indian family who sell samosas and vada pavs and masala tea. You wouldn’t believe the rush. Felt like mini India. And having hot samosas and masala tea after a freezing rendezvous was definitely the next best thing.

The little one also made a lot of friends during our visit to Mt. Titlis as she was the youngest child there. Some people even sent “looks” our way. Irresponsible parents waale! I don’t blame them though. I had no idea the weather and surroundings would be so extreme. But she thoroughly enjoyed herself – laughing and waving to everyone. So many people took her pictures and posed with her and also promised us of sending us those. We are still waiting :

I know this post is getting excruciatingly long but Swiss deseves that, trust me. Swiss chocolates were had at every oportunity we got. Melting in the mouth and oh-so-yummy! The only thing that pinched were the prices. Swiss is very expensive, even by European standards. The food, travel everything. But I guess, best deserves the best! Swiss lived up to eery bit the hype it is πŸ™‚