Europe: A journey to dreamland
Shehnaz Sarfarazh Attari
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Traveling to Europe was one of the dreams come true for me. I was super excited about the journey. We started planning for our tour in the month of March with one of our friend’s family. Firstly, we decided which all countries to visit. We planned to visit Rome, Pisa, Venice, Switzerland and Paris in our 10 day journey.
After that we started booking hotels and trains in these countries. We made our schedule and now the next step was to apply for schengen visa. We prepared all the documents and applied for the visa. One has to be careful while applying for the visa that we have to show complete details (hotel booking as well as mode of traveling) of visiting each country.
After getting the schengen visa we started our journey to Europe from Kuwait. We took Egypt airways from Kuwait to Rome via Cairo. After a journey of almost10 hrs we landed in Rome at around 11:45 am local time at Flumicino International airport.
What an excitement it was to be in Europe to explore, discover and experience the different cultures and lifestyles. We came out of airport and luckily we got one Bangladeshi taxi driver who was ready to drop us at Hotel and while driving towards hotel he told us that he can take us for sightseeing of Rome. He took us to hotel where we kept or luggage got refreshed and were ready to start our tour.
Rome: There is so much to see in Rome. It is famous for its rich historical heritage. We started the sightseeing of Rome by visiting Colosseum. We had already purchased online ticket from Kuwait. It is one of the historical sites and was a place of entertainment for ancient roman people. We passed the corridors and the underground hallways where gladiators, lions and those accused of crimes were put. We saw that most of the part of colosseum has been lost over time due to pillaging of its stones. The weather was windy and temperature was around 10 degree Centigrade and all of sudden it started raining. After visiting this historical site we moved further to explore more of Rome. We crossed wonderful palaces, old churches, many sculptures, monuments, fountains, paintings and Michelangelo masterpieces.
Next we went to Vatican City which is one of the world’s smallest countries. We entered the Vatican City through St. Peter’s Square. Roman Catholics gather here to hear blessings from pope. There we saw St. Peters basilica, the Sistine chapel and Vatican museums. We saw many magnificent monuments inside the church.
From Vatican City we went to see Trevi fountain. We crossed narrow cobbled street to reach the fountain. The art work here is very beautiful. Water spills from mythical figures and sea horses into a large pool. The design of the fountain is such that it depicts sea-god Oceanus's chariot being led by Tritons with seahorse’s .One wild, one docile. It represents the mood of the sea. We saw that tourist was tossing the coins into the water. We came to know that if anyone toss three coins into the water they will find love or visit Rome again. The money collected from the fountain is used for charity work. We also threw coin into the water.
After a long day journey it was time for us to go back to hotel and take some rest. We thanked our Bangladeshi driver for showing us the roman sculptures arts and paintings in one day. We stayed at night in hotel and next day morning we started our journey for PISA. We went to Roma Termini railway station which was just at a distance of 5 minutes from our hotel to take train to Pisa. It was 5 hr journey .We had no hotel booking in Pisa so we put our luggage in cloak room .We came out of railway station and took breakfast in a Pakistani restaurant. Owner of the restaurant was also exited to serve Indian people. He made a special tea for us on our request. He also guided us from where to get local bus for PISA.
We reached Pisa and when we entered the premises we saw huge green gardens and people were resting or taking pictures. We also sat in the garden to take some rest. At the end of the garden we were able to see a tall inclined monument and that was Leaning Tower of Pisa. Unfortunately, kids below 8 years were not allowed to enter inside the tower so they were resting in the garden. We already had purchased online tickets, so we did not had to stand in long queue for tickets. Only 40 people are allowed at a time to enter the tower. After security check we entered the monument. Leaning Tower of Pisa is famous for its strong inclination and it is said that it still continues to sink 1 mm every year. We started climbing the tower, steps were in the form of cylindrical in shape and there were 6 open galleries. After climbing few steps we took rest for 2-3 minutes near every open gallery. After climbing 294 steps now we were on top of the tower. What a magnificent scene of the town from top of the tower!! Cool breeze, slight shower and an awesome weather. We stayed there for few minutes and came down. Besides leaning tower of Pisa other monuments to visit there were The cathedral of St. Mary and The Baptistery. We did some shopping in the market and purchased some monuments of Pisa Tower and hand bags having the pictures of Pisa tower.
We took local bus from outside and went to railway station took our luggage and from there we took evening train for Venice. We reached late night to Venice and took the taxi for hotel. Our hotel was very near to railway station. We had our dinner and took rest as we were tired.
Venice: It is one of the most interesting and lovely places in the world and is known for its spectacular scenery. We woke up early in the morning .Weather was cold and pleasant. Temperature was around 10 degree centigrade. We had our breakfast at hotel and left for gondola ride. From hotel we went to bus stand near railway station.
Gondola: It is a traditional rowing boat propelled by gondolier. It was indeed a very romantic ride which reminded me of the hindi movie song “ dau lavzoon ki hain dil ki kahani ya hain mahobbat ya haain jawaani” as we passed the canal we saw historic places, bustling shops and markets and homes that line the canals. But one thing I noticed that what we see in movies and what we saw in reality was a different picture as the walls of the homes and shops and restaurant near the canal was in deteriorating state. Other reason of this state may be that they have maintained it in its original form. But we enjoyed the enchanting gondola ride.
We came to know that in Venice waterways is one of the means of transport by local people. Water taxis are convenient as well as affordable way to travel around city. We also rode one water taxi and went to St. Marks square. It is one of the worlds most famous square and is surrounded by magnificent historical buildings. We did our lunch in one of the restaurant in St. Marks Square. There were many restaurants in that place and chairs and tables were put in the open space where people were enjoying drinks and snacks on their tables in a typical French style. We left Venice in the evening and took train for Switzerland (Lucerne) via Milano and arth gondola.
Switzerland: I had heard a lot about the beauty of Switzerland that it is a heaven on earth. Visiting Switzerland was one of my dreams, which came true. We reached Switzerland at late night. In morning when we came out of hotel weather was pleasant, I was able to breathe the scent of nice fresh air. I saw myself surrounded by snow –capped mountains. We stayed in Switzerland for three days. Very few traffic on roads .People used cycle as a means of transport. I cannot describe the beauty of Switzerland in words, it has unlimited beautiful scenery views and landscapes. Water is so fresh and clean that, even the tap water is used as a drinking water.
First day we went to Mt Titlis, we booked tour online through Viator.com. The bus was ready at counter near Lucerne main railway station. A guide was there in the bus who took us to Mt Titlis.
Mt Titlis: It is a beautiful mountain in the heart of Swiss Alps. We took cable car to go to Mt. Titlis. It is one of the world’s first rotating cable cars which turns through a complete 360 degree rotation and whisk us up in comfort from intermediate station to the peak of Mt Titlis. View from cable car was amazing and breathtaking, sheer cliff faces, snow capped mountain peaks. On our way to the top we saw houses and snow covered trees. We reached the top of Mt Titlis. There were so many sports activity to be undertaken. Tourist were hiking, snowboarding and skiing.
We also took ride of Ice Flyer chair. One can see the spectacular view of the icy depths of the glacier. It was a scary ride but adventurous. There was a facility of photograph at a certain point, which was instantly given to the tourist who wants it. We also took that photograph.
Another major attraction of Mt. Titlis was Titlis Cliff walk. It is one of the Europe’s highest suspension bridges. The bridge hangs on steel cable at an altitude of 3041 meters. There are 150 heart stopping steps. It was very cold and cool breeze was blowing in this particular direction that hardly I was able to take few steps forward and had to return back from the middle of the cliff because it was difficult to go ahead with kids.
The real beauty of Mt. titlis was that, it is one of the few places where non- climber like us got the idea of high altitude world which is normally visited by the alpinist. We stayed at Mt. Titlis for few hours and enjoyed by throwing snow balls on each other. I could feel the crunch of snow under my boots. We took some photographs and there was kid’s playground also with swings and rides. Kids too enjoyed there.
We came down from the Mt. Titlis at the prearranged time where our bus was ready to return back to
During our second day of stay in Switzerland we went to Juangfrau .We booked the ticket from Rail Europe from Lucerne Railway station.
Jungfrau: it is one of the best places to visit in Switzerland. It is top of the Europe. It is one of the most scenic rail trips. The Jungfrau railway travels from heart of the mountains to Europe’s highest lying mountain station at 3454 meters. The Jungfraubahn, which is a cog- wheel railway, took us from Kleine Scheidegg mountain through the tunnel and over the steep climb up to the Jungfrau. It was one of the most safe and comfortable railway rides I had ever experienced in my life. Train passed from lakes, valleys, delightful villages and steep and lofty mountains and this beautiful view of the valleys and lakes of Switzerland reminded me of Yash chopra's Hindi movies. What a beautiful view as the train passes through the shadow of the looming Alps.
While changing trains we saw many tourists having ice skating board in their hand. Those who love adventure goes for ski climb mountains. We also met one more Indian family from Gujarat; they were sitting in our compartment only. We reached top of the Europe. Came out of train and went out in open area. It was very cold outside but we were well prepared with our winter clothes worn in layers. It was a great experience to breathe in the mountain air. From top we were able to have a close view of the longest glacial flow. We visited ice palace, ice gateway and walked through the snow. We also saw the pictures of construction of the railway tracks of Jungfrau and its history.
Switzerland is famous for Swiss watches and Lindt chocolates. We visited the Lindt chocolate store located in one of the floor of Jungfrau. Purchased different variety of Lindt chocolates and we also saw the movie of making of lindt chocolates. We also purchased watches from gift shops and got free Swiss pocket knife with every purchase of Swiss watch as a complementary gift. We purchased Swiss cow bells also. Now we were feeling hungry. We already had our lunch booked in Crystal restaurant. We were given a warm welcome in the restaurant. Kids were given free gifts. When the food was served, it was not of our taste, but the best part of the restaurant was that they again prepared food for us according to our taste -little spicy.
Now it was time for us to return back. No one is allowed to stay there. We again waited for the train to return back. While returning back we were given free lindt chocolate in train as a complementary gift.
We came back from Jungfrau and went to Bahnhostrasse. It is a market place where there are shops for world’s top branded watches and clothes. We purchased some gift items and watches. Switzerland is one of the most expensive places to live. Everything is very costly here. We searched for an Indian restaurant named Mirch Masala and had dinner there. Food was tasty. People of Switzerland are helpful and peace loving. We were refreshed and happy after visiting Switzerland.
On third day of our stay we went to see Rhine Falls. We took the train from Lucerne to Neuhausen am Rhine fall and from railway station we took bus. Than we took 10-15 minutes walk down the hill, following clearly marked street signs towards a pathway. From there we took steep and narrow stairs to reach the waterfalls. Rhine Falls is the largest water falls in the Europe. It is 150 mt wide and 23 mt high. View of the Rhine fall from the platform was marvelous. We took pictures of this powerful waterfall. The falls were spectacular with violent, roaring waters falling with great force and rushing downstream. The river had lots of ducks swimming in the water, we gave some food to ducks and stay there for couple of hours and again took the train back to Lucerne. In Lucerne again we did some purchasing and went back to hotel as we had to travel to Paris next day early morning. We already had booking from Lucerne to Paris through TGV, one of the luxurious trains run by Rail-Europe. One good part of Europe tour was that in all the railway station there were information centers which guided us on our routes.
Paris: Situated along the Sine river, Paris is famous for its architectural delights, artistic wonders and fashion houses. They all are magnificent. From railway station we went to Radisson hotel. We stayed in Paris for two days. We rested in our room and by evening we left hotel to visit Eiffel tower.
Eiffel tower: It is one of the global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world. It is 324 meters tall. There are three levels. We already had purchased online tickets. We went there in the evening. So after security check we used lift to go to the top. From top of the tower we saw a unique panoramic view of city of lights. Its sparkling lights shine every evening and we enjoyed the city view from top especially during sunset. There was also a vast lawn area near tower with wide walking paths. We took pictures of the tower standing in the lawn.
Next day we went to Disneyland through TGV from airport terminal.
Disneyland is a famous tourist destination of Europe especially for kids. It is one of the most visited theme parks. Kids were super exited and eager to go to different rides. It has two theme parks. One is Disneyland Park which is based on Disneyland and magic kingdom and the other one is Walt Disney Studio Park. We visited both these parks.
First we went to see Pirates of the Caribbean in the adventure land. It was a water based ride which tells the story of a band of pirates and their troubles and exploits. We had to stand in queue in the courtyard. We saw glimpse of several skeleton pirates. We boarded the boat from the dock. Boat passed through the jungle and an old fortress. We heard the gun noises and swordplay at the back. Shadow of fighting pirates and soldiers were seen and we saw some pirates inside the jail. Further, we saw projection effect of two pirates chasing a girl. Dialogues were in French language which we were not able to understand. Our boat passed under an archway where we saw some skulls and crossbones. Suddenly a flash of light was on us for an on ride photo. The boat returned to the dock and we came out and entered the shop where on ride photos could be purchased. Really, it was an adventurous journey, in the Adventure land.
Next we went to Buzz light year Astro Blasters in the discovery land. Here we boarded space vehicle. It had laser pistol in it. We really enjoyed shooting laser beams at targets of various points’ value. Space vehicle could be rotated in 360 degree angle. As we were shooting the targets our scores were increasing which were shown on the dashboard. Kids also enjoyed this ride.
Studio Tram tour: We entered the Hollywood boulevard section of the park. We saw movie sets and bone yard props and a variety of practical fire, water and shaking effects. Overall it was a nice experience
Cars Quatre roués rallye: We sat in the car and automatically the car changed from one spinning turntable to the next while leaving spaces for the other vehicle. I was sitting on the rear bank so, I was spinning more. It was fun to ride this car.
Sleeping beauty castle: It is the central icon of Disneyland. It is like a fairytale castle surrounded by square trees, royal blue rooftops and window glasses which are stained and colorful fountains. The display shows the basic storyline of sleeping beauty.
Le Passage Enchate d ‘Alladin : It is located inside the adventure land. We saw the recreated scenes from movie Aladdin. The city of Agrabah, and the magical lamp of Aladin. Aladin’s home and Ginnie.
We spent one full day at Disneyland. In the evening it was now time for Disneyland to close. So, the entire tourists were guided to leave the place.
We came out of Disney Land Park and boarded train. As we entered the compartment, a group of 7-8 young girls also came after us in the compartment and surrounded me and my friend and started diverting our attention towards the screen on top side of train. We realized they were drunk and tried to go to our seats. A girl from that group came to me and told me my purse had fallen. Suddenly we all got alerted and I checked my bag. Chain of my bag was open. I was the victim of pick pocketing. My husband stopped that girl from going out by the time other girls had left the compartment. I checked my bag for all my belongings. I was carrying passport as well as foreign currency in my bag. But thank god all my important documents and currency were in my bag. Those girls opened two chains of my bag and took out small purse which only had safety pins in that. Rest all important things were kept below that small purse. All this happened within a span of few seconds. How clever are the pick picketers…… After this incidence I was scared and just wanted to go back to hotel. I encountered a very bad experience in Paris. In every public transport there is announcement by the automated sound machine to be aware of pick picketers. Now, we were more alert in public places and while using public transport.
From Disney land we went for Hop-on-hop-off bus tour of Paris. It is an open top bus tour which took us around the city top tourist destinations. We took the night tour. There was recorded commentary to guide us. Sitting on top of the bus we were able to see the sparkling lights of the Eiffel tower, iconic sights of the Moulin rouge, Notre –Dame and Arc de Triomphe. The stunning sights of the city’s illuminated landmark and monuments were showcased beautifully. We were able to learn so much about the history of Paris. Bus also took us to the most expensive and famous streets of Paris-The Avenues. We also had view of luxury specialty shops, cafes and cinemas. Night tour is just one round trip. It dropped us at the end destination and from there we went to railway station and took train to reach back to hotel.
Next day we left Paris to come back to Kuwait again. Our fun filled journey to Europe ended with lots of memories and I hope to visit again in future to explore some more places of Europe.
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