Shaina Evanka DCunha
Monday, January 22, 2018

With school ending on a beautiful note on the 15th of June, I was all geared up to spend the next three months doing a bunch of fun activities. My holidays began with a little girls day out which was followed by a party with my closest friends. The weeks were spent by outings, family time and games.

Finally, on the 26th of June 2017 my parents, my grandma and myself boarded a flight to Amsterdam- the first stop to our memorable vacation. After a long 6 hour flight, we set foot in Schiphol International airport. Amsterdam welcomed us with a cool but sunny hue. We went to the hotel, stowed our luggage in the locker and ventured out right away. A tram ride took us to central dam- the main hub of the city area. Since we were famished we snacked on some delectable cheesy fries and hotdogs. We spent the day roaming around the streets of central dam. A stop to a mini restaurant kiosk which served its food in vending machines fascinated us. We slept like a baby when we retired to the hotel.

On the 28th we set out to Vollendam- the cheese factory of Amsterdam. It was an amazing experience watching them make cheese, giving us little tidbits on it and its texture alongside tasting some of the traditional cheese- smoked, aged and classic. Our next stop was the waffle factory. As we entered, we were welcomed by the warm aroma of freshly baked waffles. After an intro on how to make it, a brief history of its origin and a quick taste we decided to venture along the streets for the next hour. We then tried “kibbeling”- steaming hot fish which tastes heavenly.

Finally, it was time to board a ship which was going to take us to the clog factory. Clogs are special wooden shoes used in fields as, wood doesn’t spoil easily nor does it get soaked fast. Even though it was drizzling, at first we stood near the deck to grasp in the beautiful scenery of Amsterdam. After it cleared,we sat in the open space above which provided an extreme sense of serenity.

A small walking path took us to the factory in Marken. It was interesting to see the various machinery and how this still continues in modern times. We took a trip to some of the oldest windmill sites which are still functional. It was a treat in itself to visit these fully functional windmills- a Unesco world heritage site. A bus ride then took us to another side of Amsterdam. We visited a historic church and saw the deft skill of delftware. The amount of precision that goes into painting each piece is astounding. We ended our venture with a visit to “Madurodam”- mini Amsterdam. The little interactive games to save the city reminded us that age was just a number. However, I must mention on our way to Madurodam we stopped by the International court of justice at Hague which was majestic in itself.

An early morning flight took us to Prague. We were greeted by heavy rain and strong breeze. Nevertheless, we took the risk and explored outside. We began our venture by entering a little complex which had tiny shops serving freshly made goodies. We grabbed a milkshake and sandwich to revive our energy and we were good to go. A tram ride took us to St. Ignatius and the Infant Jesus church- known for its miraculous power. The next day on the contrary was warm, we visited the dancing building, took a walk on the picturesque Charles bridge, went to the huge astronomical clock and walked quite a distance to the Prague castle. Even though it drained our energy, it was worth it. For lunch, we settled down to eat some pork knuckle with a glass of cool water. For dessert, I decided to try a Prague speciality- doughnut-cone ice cream. Wenceslas square was a delight to walk in- filled with bustling crowds and music. We sort of got lost trying to find our way through Prague when we came across a good samaritan who helped us back- a mini adventure in itself!

We packed our bags and were off to Salzburg the next day. We took the Eurail to Austria which was about 6 hours as we made a brief stop at Linz to change stations. I fell in love with the place first hand even though I could only see it through the window. I imagined what it would be once I set foot outside. As soon as we checked in we took a tram to Mirabelle Platz. We walked about in Mozart’s apartment (now museum) and learned more about the prodigy and his life. It was a self-guided tour. We were also fortunate enough to hear mass that day. The next day we had a private Sound of Music tour. Running around the Mirabelle Gardens, walking along the lakeside, tapping the dwarf’s head, the mesmerizing Untersberg- mountains, walking on the “do-re-mi” bridge, posing near the gazebo, visiting the church where Captain and Maria got married accompanied by music from the soundtrack and hidden facts from the set made me live the movie. We even drove to Hallstatt- village and saw the Redbull factory. The next day we had to wake up quite early to catch the bus that would take us to the Eagle’s nest- Hitler’s summer home a climb 1903.08m above sea level. We had entered Germany. The steep mountains scared my mother but the view totally made up for it. Enroute to the salt mines, we stopped at Edelweiss hotel which served us delectable sausages and bagels. The salt mines were very cold, hence we had to wear protective onesies. A mini cart took us deep inside the mines. To descend we had to use special chutes built by miners years ago and had to take a boat to cross the blue waters of the mine. We ended the day with some freshly baked apple strudel with steaming hot chocolate. It was one of the best days of the trip.

The next day we took the Eurail to Vienna- the capital of Austria. We went to St. Stephen’s cathedral, enjoyed the old times by a walk in Nasch-market and visited the extensive museum square. The next day we roamed in the age-old Schönbrunn palace, explored the vast sea grotto and learned about the grim murder case of Rudolf and his mistress in Mayerling woods. The case hasn’t been solved yet and is kept under wraps till date. We ended the day with dinner in the Ferris wheel. Vienna had a vast cuisine that ranged from countries all over the world.

Rome was our next destination. Sweltering heat indeed but we made it a point to visit the Colosseum, walk along the Palatine hills and the Roman forum. We visited the world famous Trevi Fountain and Pantheon, walked up the Spanish steps and most importantly visited the Vatican. Vatican – a small country with beauty unparalleled. It amazes me how Michelangelo stood for years completing paintings despite being a sculptor. The Sistine chapel and St Peters Basilica was a delight. The Vatacombs give you a deep inner peace and tranquility. For all those ice cream lovers, Pistachio and Tiramisu ice-creams are a must-have. Every night we used to get pizza from a little shop right next to our hotel- this made me to believe Italy IS the home of pizzas.

We returned to Kuwait and travelled to India the next day. We stayed in our house along with my grandmother and aunt. The rickshaw and bike rides are something that I truly miss. We went for a movie and one of my good friends stayed over for a day. My uncle and aunt from Mumbai surprised me the next day by coming home. I spent time with my cousins and relatives, feasted on authentic cuisine, paid a visit to all my grand aunts and uncles. We stayed in the countryside which housed my grandmother’s house. Nobody could tell that I wasn’t a resident of the place due to my adventurous and carefree attitude. After a few weeks, my cousin came to India. Holidays in Mangalore are never complete without a trip to Ideals ice cream palour- one of my personal favourites. Even though my dad left early to Kuwait I never really had the time to miss him as I was so immersed in making the most of it. Our journey came to an end on the 29th of July. We attended my grandfather’s death anniversary mass in which I did the first reading in Konkani. We set out to the airport from there and my 11pm (kst) we were back home. I felt very homesick for a few days but I realized that I had to buck up and complete my pending work. We never really slept early as we watched movies until the wee hours of morning. We went out- both with family and friends and made the most of it alongside completing my holiday homework. On the last day of vacation I closed my eyes and recalled all the wonderful memories I had made in the past 86 days. I guess the quote "All good things come to an end" is so, so true.

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