Vienna State Opera.

Vienna State Opera.
Play "RIGOLETTO" at historic "Vienna State Opera " :- Isn't travelling a real life Opera of experiencing different cultures, City's or Country's !

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Marathon tour of Vienna, Bratislava,Prague,Krakow,Budapest,Istanbul and Goreme.

Westerners marvel and get confused at India's diversity in religion ,languages and different local cultures although a single secular Hindu  Country with 80% of the population being Hindu's. All  Indian Christians  trace our original conversion roots to the arrival of St Thomas to the shores of Kerala  and the later  Colonization of India by  Europeans.Anglo-Indian Christians  are a legacy of mixed European and Indian marriages and are mostly affiliated to the Anglican church of England.As  Indian Catholics from Mangalore  my parents trace their Christian  legacy  to the Portuguese  and hence the family  surname "Furtado", a typical Portuguese name.Christians and the Parsi community were the most Westernized among the Indian population although in 21st Century India the "Global Village syndrome" has made the average city bred Indian irrespective of religion  into a "Americanized Indian" or "British/European Indian".Western Capitalism in the form of Malls , pubs and nightclubs besides "Internet Porn" are proof of the pudding.
Central Europe popular tours by "Tour Companies". Mine was a "SOLO TOUR" of Exploration.

                                                As a student of history the European theater of arts , music and Empires fascinated me .India itself was ruled by Maharajahs and Nawabs and finally colonized by Europeans . Ultimately the British Empire ruled India until Independence in 1947 also dividing the Country into India and Pakistan.The name "Rudolph" was synonymous with the "Habsburg Empire" that ruled Europe for centuries as also a common first name among Europeans,famous and infamous .The name "Rudolph" is German-Austrian by origin and today not a very common  name  among Asians and African Americans. Yes, i was tracing the "Origin Tree" of my name !
TURKEY :- A solo tour  of Istanbul and Cappadocia region of Goreme town.

                                           Aren't we all humans Narcissists ! Hence decided to undergo a tour of Central Europe to understand the definition of "European Royalty",the source of Christianity and the ravages and changes that World War-2 and later Communism brought to these  Country's.Have passed through Istanbul numerous times by ship but had never been ashore and hence decided to include Istanbul in my Central Europe tour itinerary.The seat of Christianity and the Holy Roman Empire  upto 1453AD  was Constantinople.It was  later conquered by  the Ottoman Turks  and  made the Islamic capital of the Ottoman empire.Thus two of the World's largest religions , Christianity and Islam along with the Jews moulded Constantinople which in 1930 was  renamed  Istanbul by the modern  "Republic of Turkey".
View of Vienna from  the plane before landing.

PREPARATIONS FOR THE MARATHON TOUR :- Post premature retirement from sea sailing as a "Marine Engineer" its been mostly  "Solo Tours" of exploration that has consumed my time and money.Researched  the "Internet" travel sites and  booked  a return ticket through "Makemytrip.com" on Tuesday(9-6-2015) on "Turkish Airlines" .The departure  flight from Mumbai to Vienna was  on Tuesday(1-9-2015) and  later after the European tour  a interconnecting flight from Budapest to Istanbul and finally arrival back to Mumbai from Istanbul on Wednesday(23-9-2015).The air ticket cost Rs 52,000  although booked over 2 months in advance.Real expensive although the cheapest flight !.Later booked the necessary hotel stays over the "Internet".Applied for the "SCHENGEN VISA" on Monday(28-7-2015) through "Farshak Travels(Prabhadevi)".Submitted  all my private monetary and  travel document details for verification along with Rs 7,077 as fees  charges to the Austrian Embassy in Delhi through the travel agency.Received my passport  stamped with the "Schengen Visa" by post  within 15 days. On receiving the "Schengen Visa" applied for a E-visa for Turkey which is issued instantly through the internet.The cost of the Turkish visa along with travel agency charges was  Rs 3,809.Finally i was prepared for the marathon solo tour hoping for the best of modern 21st century exploration. Luck and destiny besides tour research  plays a important role in any "Solo tour" success .
Arrival Vienna Airport and start of the tour.

DEPARTURE MUMBAI(Tuesday 1-9-2015):- Left my  residence in Prabhadevi at approx 0200hrs by taxi .On the way  towards the airport came across numerous  Hindu devotees walking towards Siddhivinayak temple in Prabhadevi as Tuesday is a auspicious day,The driver told me that some of these devotees walked 20 to 30 Kilometers from the distant suburbs of  Mumbai to this temple as a devotional walk which is just a few minutes from my residence in Prabhadevi. A good Omen as i was heading into the a country from which the roots of Christianity proliferated to other parts of the World .Walking  daily by foot would be my main mode of  sightseeing and exploration. On reaching the airport terminal completed the formalities as usual and brushed my knowledge of "Duty free goods".Window shopped booze costing 5000 U.S Dollars only! The "Turkish Airlines flight No Tk 0721"  took off a few minutes  late and it was a pleasant flight to Istanbul.After a short transit at crowded Istanbul airport boarded  the transit "TK 1885"  flight to Vienna and was  served a excellent meal with whisky on this short 2 hours flight.Arrived in  Vienna at 1400 hrs and the custom formalities were minimum and  was surprised at the lack of grandeur of Vienna airport, a major tourist destination.
"DO STEP IN" hostel complex with  a giant Chess board.

                                                                                                                                                On exit from the airport made my way to the "07" bus stop and boarded the airport bus to Westbahnhoff station.Ticket cost was 8 Euro's and after approximately forty minutes reached Westbanhoff.I thought Japan was a country which spoke least in the  English language but seems the Austrians speak only German and very little English.With great difficulty found my way to "Do Step In" hostel/hotel..Was allotted "Room No 12/Bed 4 " in a six bed mix dormitory.After a quick shower decided to begin my solo adventure exploration of Vienna.I am one of the top contributors to 'Tripadvisor" travel site and  thanks to other like minded contributors that my tour study preparations prove successful.Made my way to the "Westbahnhoff metro station" and felt like a novice on seeing the railway station and its centralized  functioning.The railway station resembled a plush shopping mall and there were lifts for train passengers besides the normal escalators.The "Underground Metro"  seemed at least  three to four  storeys below the ground and thankfully the massive escalators  made   walking up and down easy.. The station  platform resembled a"Jig-saw puzzle" much more sophisticated and confusing than the London  or Delhi Metro. The "Vienna Metro" was built in the late 20th century and hence ultra modern and sophisticated.as also very expensive. A single ticket cost 2.2 Euro irrespective of the distance traveled. Exchange rate of Euro to Indian rupee was 1 Euro = 75 Rupees approximately..Made my way to the "U3" metro-line boarding the train to Simmering.Had to change-over to another line and finally reached Prater.Prater is a amusement park akin to  a mini Disneyland. Its main claim to fame is that it has one of the oldest Ferris wheel in the World.It is situated near  the entrance of the park and one of Vienna's most popular tourist attractions.There is also a Madame Tussaud franchisee in this huge park.
Landmark "Wienar Riesenrad" in Prater.

                                              Its called the "Wiener Riesenrad"in Austrian German which means "Vienna Giant wheel" in English and was built in 1897! It originally had 30 Gondolla's but was severely destroyed during second world war and finally repaired and presently fitted with 15 Gondola's.It has steel cables and tension wires,typical old World technology.It featured in numerous films including the James Bond franchisee film  "The living daylights".A combination ticket of the Riesenrad ferris wheel and the Tiergarten Schoenbrunn zoo cost 19.5 Euro's.The ride on this historic Ferris wheel was memorable as also the view of Vienna  from the peak rotational circle  of the Ferris wheel box. .Returned back by train akin to a local Viennese citizen with a little help from a few locals who did acknowledge knowing English.Got familiar with my hostel complex which was in a building having a large courtyard with a unique giant chess board having  the floor as the chess board ! A first giant  chess board sight in my life-time.The hostel was busy with young backpackers/tourists and had a separate  leisure hall  with free  Internet facilities  along with a  "Pool table" as well as a reading library.Came across the Austrian German translation of the Bhagvad Gita among the library books.The Internet was programmed in Austrian German and hence only managed to log into my Facebook account.A excellent hostel for the rentals charged  and conveniently located  in Vienna city.
ZENTRALFRIEDHOF:- At Composer Beethoven's  graveyard monument.(Grave No  29 in Group 30 A)

Wednesday(2-9-2015) Vienna :- As usual woke up early and after my normal toilet routines left the hostel.My destination was Zentralfriedhof  cemetery, one of the World's largest cemeteries.Walked to Westbanhoff railway station and after a "Salami sandwich" breakfast at the station cafe  boarded the "U3 Metro" to Simmering.Alighted at Stephensplatz station and after map directions and the help of sign language  found my way to the Vienna Opera house which was a straight long walk from Stephensplatz station..The tram and bus stations are on the road facing this  landmark Opera house of Vienna.At approx 0700 hrs boarded tram  N0 71 and finally reached my destination,ZENTRALFRIEDHOF CEMETERY..There was a slight drizzle which was tolerable and the weather was getting cold.Abrupt change of weather from the bright warm sunshine on my arrival yesterday.At 0745 hrs in the morning i  must have been the first tourist or visitor to enter  gate No 2  of this historic graveyard inaugurated  on 31 October 1874. .There are  other gate entrances to this vast 2.4 Square Kms cemetery but most tourists enter through GATE No  2 as most of the legendary composers and musicians are interred around this vicinity of the graveyard complex. . The Austrians are obsessed with death and although having one of the World's highest per capita incomes it also has one of the World's highest suicide rates in comparison to its population density.The 2.4 Sq Km    mainly Catholic cemetery  complex also has a Protestant  ,Muslim ,Orthodox Greek  and two Jewish cemeteries.  
GATE NO 2:- Entrance to  Zentralfriedhof  cemetery.

                                                                                                                                               Due to its large size private vehicles are allowed inside the cemetery grounds on payment of a stipulated fee.Walking inside the cemetery was akin to a walk in a monument park with beautiful trees and palatial monuments to the dead.Classical Western music  is a foreign language to me having been brought up on a diet of Western English  rock, pop ,hip-hop as also Hindi film music.I was in the land of Mozart , Beethoven and Strauss to name a few of the household names of Western Classical music   and hence a visit to their graveyard as also the Vienna Opera house was mandatory for any tourist with a passion for drama or any form of  music.Strolled around aimlessly  in close vicinity of the graves near Gate No 2 afraid to venture deeper into this mammoth graveyard complex  alone,Not a human in sight in the distant wooded grave garden.
Grotesque  sexual theme  grave  monument 

                                                                                                                                                          The disadvantages of "Solo travel" is chances of mugging and i am no film hero as far as physical violence is concerned.Just couldn't trace any of the famous composers graves but came across  many grave monuments  of my namesake proving that the name "Rudolph" is a common popular Austrian name.Did you say i am Narcissistic ? Was on my way out of the graveyard complex  when fate intervened and a graveyard van operator on his normal duty guided me to Beethoven's grave.Clicked a "Selfie"  in front of Beethoven's grave absolutely happy to have discovered at least one prominent music composers grave in this vast graveyard complex.Came across a grave monument having a grotesque sexual theme akin to a Picasso nude art drawing in a Rodin monument. This beautiful  monument baffled my reasoning and thinking logic making me wonder as to the profession  or reputation of the deceased person since i couldn't read the German language.
HOFBURG PALACE facing Josefplatz Square.

                                                                                                                                                 A sexual theme monument in a graveyard of all places ! As a Catholic myself  just could not understand the message being conveyed by this Rodin style grave monument. Did  bestseller author Dan Brown get inspiration from this grave monument for his religious themed bestseller the "Da Vinci Code" based on the "Free Mason" society  ? This huge graveyard was meticulously maintained and came across gardeners mowing the graveyard grass with electric portable lawn mowers.Finally at approximately  0815 hrs made my exit from the grave complex and boarded the tram to Vienna State Opera.The carefully demarcated cycling tracks on Vienna's roads were a treat to my eyes and as a hobby cyclist  hoped that one day the roads of my home city Mumbai could also accommodate a cycling track on all its roads.There was a mild drizzle and hence decided to tour some indoor exhibits finally  deciding to visit the World famous  "Spanish riding school" in the Hofburg Palace complex.It was a short walk to the Hofburg palace complex from Vienna state opera situated in the heart of the Austrian capital.The Hofburg Palace  is a medieval 13th Century Palace  and was over the centuries expanded  by each emperor finally resembling a city within a city.The Palace complex comprises of  18 wings, and 19 courtyards. There are 2600 rooms in the Palace Complex. Part of the Palace  is the official residence as well as  workplace of the President of Austria and in 2015 some 5000 people work and live in the Palace complex.Part of the Palace has been converted into museums.The Spanish  winter riding school was  built between 1729 - 1735
View of  Royal box  of  "SPANISH RIDING SCHOOL"

 .The Spanish riding school of Vienna is the oldest of its kind in the World and named after the Spanish horses that formed the main breeding base of the now World recognizable "LIPIZZAN BREED" of horses seen in dressage equine  acrobatics all over the World.There was a large crowd of tourists and tickets were priced at 14 Euro's for viewing the "Morning Exercises".Purchased a ticket and at 0945 hrs was allowed entry into the indoor riding school that had all the trappings of the Habsburg Royalty.There was a large portrait of  Emperor  Charles VI above the royal box which is opposite to the main entrance.As one of the first few entrants in the long queue was lucky to get a front box row seat in the centre of the huge indoor riding school.Viewers get a birds eye view of the horses and the riders from a elevated  first floor viewing platform which also has a few seating arrangements.
Morning Exercise display at "Spanish Riding School".

                                                                                                                    The Royal box is on the ground level of the school.The show began at 1000 hrs with a recording of classical Western music  and a gradual parade of individual horses  along with their riders and sometimes handlers demonstrating various stages of training.As a horse punter and once a regular early morning  jogger  at the Mahalaxmi racecourse in Mumbai these exercise movements brought back memories of the morning paddock training rides of race horses. .The horses trotted to the tune of the music and intermittently  one or two horses performed the World famous  jump trot seen in movies and T.V.Female as well as male riders demonstrated various trotting phases of these Lipizzaner horse but nothing extraordinary like the flying mid-air leaps(Capriole).Photography was prohibited but seeing the lady next to me busy with her cell-phone photography decided to copy her mode and utilized my outdated camera for a few spy clips for my blog.Later looking around realized that photograph prohibition was being disregarded as a open secret ! The show finally ended at 1200 hrs. If you have the money and time in Vienna  then a viewing of the  "Lipizzan ballet"  at the Imperial Palace  is mandatory .Tickets are sold out well in advance  akin to the Vienna state opera tickets.
Stephansplatz Square

                                                                                                                                                         The weather had suddenly changed and it was bright and sunny  on stepping out of the indoor Spanish riding school.Walked onto the main  Josefplatz square of the Hofburg palace   which is the centre of tourist attraction in the city.A equestrian statue of  Emperor Joseph is the prominent landmark of this historic Vienna square.Horse carriage rides were on  display around the Palace square and the place was thronging with tourists and locals.Visited St Peters Catholic church situated opposite Hofburg Palace  in Josefplatz Square. Entered the small church  and its internal baroque design made the church resemble a small palace.From the church strolled along the crowded tourist locale  of Stephansplatz  and ate  a hot dog sausage snack  from a mobile cafeteria .Observed a young lady removing the freshly dropped poop of her pet dog with a plastic bag and dumping it into the dustbin. The height of citizen cleanliness ethics and observed that even the carriage horses had large cloth nappies  tied  along the carriage front below their  anus to prevent horse shit from messing the road. Have visited Europe numerous times during my shipping career with a chance   in sightseeing near the harbour vicinity or  at times visiting pubs or   nightclubs after strenuous working hours in the ships engine room.Now as a private tourist and blogger with ample time in my tour schedule was more observant of cultures, etiquette and customs.Observed many artists  around Stephansplatz  drawing paper sketches for  tourists. Didn't a certain  young man named Adolf.Hitler try his vocation as a painter in Vienna and the rest is World War-2 history ? There were also as few street performing artists, a common phenomenon in all European city Squares. Next entered St  Stephens Cathedral, the mother church of the Roman Catholic archdiocese in Vienna and seat of the archbishop of Vienna.St Stephens cathedral has been witness to Habsburg royalty  and Austrian history over the centuries.During World War 2 this historic cathedral was saved from destruction  by the  retreating German army when Captain Gerhard.Klinkicht
disobeyed superior orders from Josef Dietreich to completely destroy the cathedral.
Inside St Stephens Cathedral

                          However during the Soviet  advance  into  the city in 1945  it was civilian looters who lit fires in nearby shops that eventually spread to the cathedral and destroyed its roof and famed Rollinger  choir stalls carved in 1487. The church has 23 bells in total and the largest bell weighing  over 20 tons is the second largest bell in Europe after the Cologne cathedral bell.It is rumoured that Ludwig Van Beethoven discovered his deafness when he saw the birds flying from the bell tower due to the gong sounds but the same inaudible to his ear drums..The Church interior was akin to  religious museum art,priceless.Candle wicks offered by devotees   were burning on trays in parts of the Cathedral..The Cathedral also houses  royal  tombs of Habsburg rulers and the high clergy. Vienna is also known as the city of Classical Western music  with Amadeus.Mozart being its most celebrated icons.At every corner in Central Vienna a tourist is accosted by local concert tour operators selling tickets for some sort of "Mozart musical" show  in any of the numerous venues in the city including churches."Mozart concerts" and "Classical Music" viewing is the most advertised tourist attraction in the Innere Stadt(Old Town) locality of Vienna, the Mecca of Western Classical music.
Historic "Cafe Central" 

                                                                                                  From the Cathedral traced my  way to the historic Cafe Central situated within the vicinity  at  the Herrengasse 14 in the Innere Stadt first district of Vienna.This historic cafe was opened in 1876 and over the centuries  was a key meeting place of Viennese intellectuals. Some of the cafe's common customers later became famous or infamous  World leaders or world personalities. In a bizarre twist of fate  in January  1913 some of the common visitors were Josef Broz Tito,Sigmund Freud,Adolf.Hitler, Vladimir Lenin, and Leon Trotsky.All these common clients would decades later change 20th century World history for the good or bad. On entering the cafe its ordinariness baffled me  as it resembled any plush common cafe with its owners not capitalizing on its famous and infamous  historic clients through photographs or written literature..The only advertisement was a life-size  sitting model of  local Viennese poet  Peter.Altenberg .Peter Altenberg was referred to as the Cabaret  or coffee house poet as he frequented these places and Cafe Central must have been one of his prominent  locales in Vienna.
Banquet at the Habsburg palace in "SISI MUSEUM".

                                                                                                                                        The cafe was doing brisk business and not very expensive compared to the cost of living in Vienna. Seems the owners are still maintaining the commonness of this historic cafe in tune with its past and another few decades later wonder which historical name could have once visited this cafe ? Took a few photographs of this cafe and headed to the Hofburg palace  to visit the "SISI MUSEUM". Entrance to the "Sisi  museum and Kaiser apartments" cost 12.5 Euro's, my last sightseeing of the hectic day.Empress Elisabeth of Austria was the wife of Emperor Franz .Josef I and hence queen of the vast Habsburg Empire .Her tragic personal life as also her obsession for maintaining her youthful looks  had made her a cult figure in Viennese history.A statue of her is also installed in Westbahnhof railway station complex.
Habsburg Royalty in "Sisi Museum".

                                                                        The Imperial museum presents facets of her life and personal possessions.A strange fact was the royal banquets in which only a few palace employees knew the method in which to fold the guest napkin, a Royal secret to this day.Got to understand the family tree of the  Habsburg Empire and view the cutlery and royal banquets collections.Empress Elizabeth's private life and lifestyle was on public display including a portrait of the empress.Her mourning jewelry  and  dress on the tragic death of her son Crown prince  Rudolph  was on display .She was assassinated in Geneva in  1898 at the age of 60 years .A black coat with egret feathers which covered her after her assassination when her dead body was taken to Beau Rivage in Geneva.was on display.
Metro :-In Vienna travel like a Viennese !

                                                                                                         All monarchs and monarchy's display extraordinary wealth but the Habsburgs were different for the simple reason that almost entire Europe was ruled by this dynasty which  was also the cause for World War-I.Left the exhibition tired and enlightened on Habsburg and the Holy Roman empire history.Boarded the metro at Herreng station and was back to Westbahnhof at 1530 hrs. Inquired with the hostel reception regarding bus tickets to Prague. To my horror they didn't have a clue of the bus company or the bus office to book tickets for Prague.Thanks to my own tour research study at home in Mumbai that i could ask them for directions to  Vienna Erdberg  bus terminus and rushed out of the hostel to Westbahnhof station. First inquired about the rail tickets  at Westbahnhof station and  the prices were almost a knock-out blow to my travelling budget. The minimum rail fare from  Vienna to Prague cost 64 Euro's compared to the normal 14 Euro's by bus.I  boarded the "U3" metro train to Zentralfriedof and after a long ride alighted at Erdberg train station.Crossed the station over-bridge and after asking for directions reached the  Bus depot.Was hoping against hope that tickets were available otherwise my travel budget would  spurt like a fountain.Thankfully tickets were available and with my passport identification booked a ticket costing 14 Euro's to Prague. It puzzled me as to the huge price gap between International  train and bus travel in Vienna although the time taken to reach the destination was almost similar by both these modes of transport.Highways and road traffic in Europe is excellent with good average mileage on roads.Returned back to my hostel a relieved man . Bizarrely as a  foreigner  advised the hotel staff on directing future International  bus travelers to the right place in Vienna. The hostel owed me a obligation in updating their local travel information for their guests and backpackers.
On the grounds of  beautiful Schoenbrunn Palace.The Palace is in the background.

Thursday(3-9-2015) Vienna :-  Woke up early as usual and at approximately 0630 hrs left the hostel on a long walk to Schoenbrunn palace.Inquiries with the hostel staff  the previous day made me undertake this early morning exploration of the Viennese  common life.It was a long straight walk  in the opposite direction of Westbahnhof station and my hostel .
Early morning dog owners at Auer Welsbach park

                                                                   The weather was excellent although cloudy. On reaching a main road intersection and inquiries with a few locals  took a left turn and finally reached the boundary of Schoenbrunn Palace grounds.There was a large park adjacent to Schoenbrunn Palace grounds and it had a few  dog walkers exercising their pets in the large open space.Entered the "Auer Welsbach" park at 0715 hrs and came across two young ladies with  5 dogs including a handicapped dog.Had a conversation with them and realized that there were pet philanthropists as caring and maintenance of 5 random bred dogs is not a cheap way of living in Vienna.
The View of Schoenbrunn Palace from the "Gloriette".

                   Strolled around the park and met a few other dog owners including a lady who had her  pit-bull terrier muzzled.On inquiry was told that all large breed dogs in Vienna have to be muzzled  if left free in a open park.From the park entered Schoenbrunn palace grounds and the sheer beauty of the Palace landscape was beyond description.The James Bond film franchisee  "The Living Daylights"  was one of the numerous films filmed on the beautiful  Schoenbrunn Palace grounds.It was a dull cloudy morning and as i entered the Palace grounds it began drizzling.At 0745 hrs i was one of the earliest tourists in the Palace complex.Walked along the garden lawn towards the "Neptune Fountain"  situated at the foot of the Schoenbrunn hill on the opposite side of the palace.Took shelter under a huge tree as the drizzle was  continuous and making the ground wet.Came across a  regiment of young men jogging down Schoenbrunn hill and around the palace grounds.
View of "Gloriette". on Schoenbrunn hill.

                                        The Worlds oldest zoo "Tiergarten Schoenbrunn" zoo  entrance was just next to the Neptune fountain.At about 0810 when the drizzle subsided trekked up the 60 meter(200 ft) Schoenbrunn hill towards the "Gloriette". There was a small pond at the crest of the hill with wild ducks.A beautiful wet day and lucky not to get drenched since i didn't carry a umbrella.The Gloriette has been in existence since 1775 glorifying Habsburg power and built by Queen Marie .Theresa. It was destroyed in the Second World War and rebuilt in 1947.It was again restored in 1997 and hence the present day "Gloriette" housing a modern cafe and a observation deck is a recent architectural creation.Came across a lady feeding the ducks along the pond and was happy as the sky got clear and the first rays of sunshine broke through the clouds.
Critically endangered "POITOU DONKEY".

                                                        Walked down the hill towards the Neptune fountain and at exactly 0900 hrs was the first person to officially enter the gates of the oldest zoo in the World.Having visited numerous zoo's in India and other City's in the World it would be sacrilegious if i avoided visiting the "Tiergarten Schoenbrunn" zoo which is the Worlds oldest zoo and also a bastion for breeding endangered species.This zoo was established in 1752 and is also one of the few zoo's in the World to house the Giant Panda's.For the first time got to view the common reindeer of Europe which are non-existent in the tropics.Was amazed by the huge antlers of these magnificent herbivores.It was a marathon walk along the zoo with a few enclosures designed to the natural environment of the zoo exhibit.As it was early morning  the  zoo keepers were in the process of cleaning the cages and feeding the animals, birds and reptiles in a few enclosures.
Primate enclosure akin to a human apartment.

    Came across the endangered "Poitou donkey" which is the World's heaviest donkey and its origin  being France.It had a very shaggy coat resembling  wool on a sheep.Its unbelievable that a mere 44 of these once common donkeys which were used in breeding mules  existed in 1977 as modern machinery made them redundant as mule breeders.Systematic breeding in various zoo's of the World has now made this rare donkey survive as a species to the present day.It was educative to know that its not only exotic brand  name wildlife like elephants, rhino's, tigers, lions etc that are facing extinction due to human poaching and deforestation  but also some of the most common herd animals once utilized by us humans.Viewed the Polar bears in a artificial  enclosure and first time saw a polar bear prowling on the large enclosure ground.Viewed some rare birds and walked through  the "Franz Josef" land where a artificial tropical rain-forest was created complete with tropical birds and animals. Spotted a few flying foxes  on a tree as i walked below them.
Most successful European zoo in breeding Giant Panda's.

                                                                                                                                             A few enclosures surprised me as it was absolutely abnormal for a zoo.The monkey enclosures as well as a few other enclosures resembled human apartments and in fact before entering them i presumed it to be some educational room! The enclosure was as clean as my flat in Mumbai and the animals housed in enclosures akin to a normal human living  house as do our pets at home . Brilliant and excellent man-wildlife mutual benefits.Later was lucky to watch the "Sea lion" show  where a pair of seals were performing for the zoo audience. Witnessed the largest zoo sea lion perform and although the language was Austrian German i  didn't require translation as the seals themselves were the stars.Came across a breeding family of Cheetahs and it was the first time since 1967 as young boy in Nairobi national park in Kenya  that i again saw these majestic beasts.
Zoo-Keeper  normal daily enclosure routine.

                                                           Breeding Cheetahs in captivity is difficult unlike tigers,lions or leopards among the big cats.The Elephant enclosure housing African elephants was again designed like a human living apartment. Watched the zoo-keepers washing the elephants in their enclosure.Came across a beautiful cat in the elephant viewing enclosure the only stray cat i saw in Vienna!.Most or almost all the zoo animals, birds and reptiles enclosures were maintained by private sponsored donors whose names were engraved next to the enclosure.The zoo has had a pair of Giant Panda's since March 2003 and was the first European zoo to successfully breed Giant Panda's in captivity.Viewed Koala bears for the first time in my life.Visited the aquarium section and also viewed some rare new fish species seen only on National Geographic  or Animal planet channels.There was a educational campaign in the zoo regarding shark conservation but since it was in German just glanced through the posters.The zoo is so popular and famous that on  8th May 2002 on its 250th anniversary one of the most popular 5 Euro value  jubilee commemorative  silver  collector coins were issued .
A Picasso painting in "Albertina Museum".

                                                                                 Exited the zoo and came across the "Palm House" situated on the Schoenbrunn palace grounds which is the largest of its kind in Europe.The enclosed Palm house is divided into three pavilions and three climate zones for different species of plants ranging from tropical to Mediterranean and sub-tropical.Botany  is not my specialty and hence just admired the beautiful artificial palm house from its exterior.Strolled through the palatial Schoenbrunn palace gardens and came across a wedded couple undergoing  a photograph session in this beautiful landscape.As a World travel name-dropper it flooded me with memories of Jurong Bird park in Singapore and the  Ocean Park in Hongkong  where its common to see newly wedded couples engrossed in photo sessions.
"Albertina Museum" lounge.

                                                                        Finally at approximately 1230 hrs made my way to the local  Schoenbrunn train  station and with the help of my "McKenna's Gold style  rail/tram/bus tourist  map" boarded the train  to Karlsplatz station .Inquired directions at Karlsplatz station  and finally found my walking route to the  now familiar route to the Hofburg Palace. Enroute had a quick "Schnitzelteller" , a popular  local snack as lunch at a roadside take-away stall costing 4.9 Euro's.Travelling Europe on Indian wage income is no childs play and besides i was on a long 23 day tour .Hence had to balance my income and expenditure to last the entire tour without creating a new form of  a  tourist refugee status in a "First World Country" !
Photographer Rudolf. Koppitz :- Composition C 1927

                  Reminded me of  Indian English bestseller author Chetan.Bhagat's  male protagonist character  in his best-seller novel "Half a Girlfriend". I could  have sued author Chetan Bhagat for plagiarizing part of the hero's character from my travel blogs ! Ha Ha Ha Hee Hee Hee, Narcissism again."Hot dogs" are popular and the cheapest snack food in Vienna costing 2 to 3 Euro's as also common bread in different forms..My agenda was to visit the "Albertina Museum" situated in the Innere Stadt of Vienna in the Palace complex. A rare exhibition of the works titled "Monet to Picasso" was on exhibition and since these multi- million dollar paintings were  rarely exhibited in Mumbai  decided to see the same in Vienna.
Belvedere Palace(Upper).

                                                                     The  Albertina museum hosts the World's largest print collection of photographs besides modern graphic works, photographs  and architectural drawings.Its recent coup was the acquisition of the Impressionist artists of the early 20th century.This museum was  heavily bombarded in  March 1945 during allied bombing and has since been rebuilt and  restored over the years. In Vienna i was studying  the rebirth of a Nation from the after effects of a devastating World War- 1 and 2 in the 20th century.The art exhibition was awesome and although photography was prohibited did copy the locals who slyly filmed through smart phone camera's.My "Point and shoot Nikon" seemed from the Stone age era in Vienna where everyone either used "smart phones" or sophisticated professional SLR  lens camera's.Viewing multi million dollar paintings from a close-up is a total high and on visiting the photograph section was stunned by the nudes on display. Remember that this photo exhibition was open for all ages including kids.
Female Sphinx:- Lower Belvedere visible at extreme end.

                                                                                                                                    The Albertina museum has the largest collection of photographs in the World and a full blown up nude  lady model was unavoidable to the eye. I can't put photographer Helmut.Newton's photo titled "Big Nude XI Verina" as  i could be prosecuted in India for  obscenity and also by the Albertina museum for copyright infringement.Officially the museum  photographs are not allowed to be photographed. Another prominent nude photographer was Rudolf.Koppitz with his topless nude  masterpiece titled "Composition C 1927". All the photographs were in "Black and White".At approximately 1200 hrs  made my way out of the museum and decided to visit the last of the Habsburg palaces which was Belvedere Pal;ace. Asking directions through my map did manage to board a tram and alighted near the palace entrance gates.The entrance was into the upper Belvedere palace  which had a huge ground  styled in a gradient . At the other end of the huge long gradient lawn is the lower Belvedere.
Cafes and tourists On Stephansplatz street.

                                                                                                                    This Baroque Palace complex was built as a summer residence  by Prince Eugene of Savoy.The most striking aspect of the large rectangle shaped palace grounds between upper and lower Palaces  is the Sphinx statues and fountains .The Sphinx statues are half woman  with distinct breasts and half lion unlike the original Sphinx .From the Belvedere Palace boarded the same tram and returned to Vienna State Opera.I was now on track to breaking my own daily marathon sightseeing walks in Vienna city.Walked along the busy tourist road towards the now familiar Stephansplatz station and on the route curbed my gigantic appetite with a "Hot dog". Austria is forever linked with the two World Wars and there was a memorial dedicated to the Jewish victims of Austria  who became second class citizens after Adolf.Hitler's "Anschluss Declaration" in March 1938.
Legalized sports betting cafe 

                                                                      Boarded the train at Stephansplatz and was back to Westbahnhof. Relaxed at the hostel and later in the evening phoned my housekeeper Sabina about my safe arrival and stay in Vienna as also the situation of my non-human children ,cats "Matahari" and "Matata".She baby sits my cats during my frequent tours in India and overseas.As a bachelor my cats keep me busy and are always non-judgmental towards their human owner ! Visited the Hostel  relaxation room  but couldn't use the internet.Saw a hilarious portrait of a framed photograph with cigarette packets instead of a photo or portrait.Artists Andy.Warhol would have marveled at this creative artwork out of a habit that could be the cause of the smokers death.Every human have their own poisons.What is yours ? Decided to explore the vicinity of Westbahnhof and hence walked down the street towards the station main road. Came across a licensed brothel and a "Sex shop" selling sex toys and gadgets. Prostitution is legalized in Austria.While returning back to the hostel  came across "Admiral Sportwetten Cafe" and entered it to be surprised on discovering a legal gambling cafe.There were large television screens playing various sports and the "Odds" constantly fluctuating on any given sport.It was a betting cafe akin to Ladbrokes or William Hill betting shops in U.K.Went back to my hostel realizing that "Do Step In" hostel was situated in one of the most happening localities of Vienna.Had my normal 4 hours sleep after the marathon sightseeing day.
"BRATISLAVA" city with river Danube and St Martins Cathedral  steeple as seen from Bratislava Fort.

Friday(4-9-2015) Day trip to Bratislava  and viewing  the opera "Rigoletto" at the historic  Wiener Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera) :-  Woke up early as usual  and after normal routines  dressed up and walked to the now familiar Westbahnhof station.It was 0630 hrs and hence all shops in the station mall  were closed barring a few cafe's.Breakfast was  a snack at one of the cafeteria's in the station. Westbahnhof  train station has a huge shopping mall within its complex including a German bookshop which is rare as bookshops are fast disappearing all over the World in the era of Internet and digital books.Boarded the metro train( U3 Line)and reached Erdberg at 0700 hrs.
Touring Bratislava on a vintage buggy.

                                                                                                                    Purchased a  return ticket costing 13 euro's  for Bratislava  "Novy Most" bus terminus as this bus  ultimately ended at the Bratislava International  airport.Was told that the bus departure was at 0830 hrs and hence sat in the  waiting hall of the bus terminus..Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia and is only 79.1 Km from Vienna which is approximately a one hour journey or less  on European roads.Vienna and Bratislava hold the distinction of being the closest World Capitals  between any two Country's in the World. The bus departure was punctual and a excellent International bus with all the trappings of comfortable travel and better than most airlines.The ambient temperature was 19*C, cool but not cold. Roads in Europe are excellent and it was a smooth journey along the farmlands of Austria and on approaching Bratislava noticed  a large number of Wind power mills for electricity generation.
Bratislava Castle.

                           Slovakia was  formerly a integrated part of  Czechoslovakia and attained its Independence  from Czechoslovakia  on 1 January 1993.It joined the European Union on 1 May 2004 and hence the youngest nation i was visiting in my lifetime of travel.Reached Bratislava "Novy Most" bus station at 0930 hrs on a bright sunny morning.Alighted the bus and the routine solo tour began.Saw beautiful red coloured vintage style tourist  cars being driven around the main city square.The language is Slovak and it was the same routine task of finding my way through the maze of tourist sites with the help of my tour homework and a few local citizens who did understand and speak English language.Bratislava has a very straight and narrow main tourist road that ultimately leads to the castle.The river Danube flows  through the city and after my first sea voyage on the Danube in 1983 this was the first time i was viewing this mighty European river from land.Walked uphill along a  beautiful  narrow cobbled street  from the bus depot towards St Michaels gate which is the entrance to the Fort.St Michaels Gate which is 51 meters tall  was built in the 14th century and was one of the four  main entrance gates to the city.
Walking through St Michael's gate street.

               As it was still early morning most of the street side open air cafe's were closed.Bratislava has one of the smallest historical centers compared to other European cities and hence within a hours leisurely uphill walk i was at the castle.The massive castle is rectangular in structure  with four prominent corner towers.It stands isolated on a little rocky hill of the Carpathian mountains just above the Danube river.The castle was made into a Royal residence  during the reign of Maria.Teresa in the 18th century ,the only female ruler of the Habsburg dynasty.The tourists had already arrived and the castle square was a bit crowded with tourists.Bratislava is a very popular single day group tour offered by all tour operators in Vienna.The present day castle is a modern architectural restoration done after 1953 as the original castle was destroyed by wars and neglect .Entered the castle complex  which has a equestrian statue of King Svatopluk I in  the Courtyard at the  entrance to the castle.This statue was installed in 2010, a 21st century monument.Followed the tourist crowd into a tunnel situated  inside the castle courtyard and came across the deepest water well built which was built  in 1434 and  was 85 meters deep .The well was on level with the Danube river and hence never ran dry solving  the drinking water problems of the castle.Strolled along the castle  grounds which had a excellent view of Bratislava and the Danube river.Through my binoculars spotted the cluster of similar marked buildings in the distance on the other side of the Danube river. This was the largest Soviet Era mass housing complex built during the Soviet rule of Czechoslovakia..Spotted a iron ore barge slowly sailing along the Danube and it revived shipping memories of another day and another era in my life. Amongst all modern day technology  i personally feel that coastal shipping in any country has almost remained frozen over decades. Later made my descent from the castle back past  St Michael's gate and into the main town square..The Michalska  street  open air cafe's were now open and filled with tourists.
Main Town Square in Bratislava. French Foreign Legion ?

                                                                                       Stepped into the "Halcienda  El Diablo Bar" a Mexican restaurant on Michalska street which had a rustic village decor,Tasted their cheapest local Slavic  brewed beer called "Saris"  costing 1.5 Euro .Excellent for the price.Walked to the old Town square  where a stage was being prepared for some sort of musical concert.The Main square  in which the most notable building is the Old city  town hall with its tall steeple was also the market centre of the city  throughout its history.It has a renaissance fountain in its centre and a bench with a model of a French soldier with which tourists click photos.There was a piano kept at the side of the town square and i did take a photograph playing the keyboards and mimicking one of my favourite pop singers Sir Elton.John.From the town square walked down towards the  Danube embankment and it was again nostalgia on seeing the barges and small cruise ships docked along the banks of the Danube.
Main Foyer entrance of Vienna State Opera.

                                                              Came across the historical "Slovak National theatre"  that was staging the opera "Carmen".Next visited St Martins cathedral in the midst of a normal mass. Surprising that the mass was at 1200 hrs in the afternoon and the church had a sizable congregation although it was a week-day Friday normal mass. Catholicism  has had its roots in Central Europe and the St Martins cathedral which was consecrated in 1452 was the holy church where Hungarian kings were crowned between 1563 to 1830.A total of 11 Kings and Queens which included Queen Maria.Theresa of Austria  as also 8 of their consorts had their  coronation in St Martins Cathedral.Made my exit from the church and headed towards the city bus depot.At 1245 hrs boarded the bus back to Vienna.On reaching Erdberg  headed to the now familiar train station and after purchasing a 24 hr common ticket costing 7.6 Euros boarded the U3 line train to Westbahnhof.The exit from Westbahnhof station was another jigsaw puzzle that baffled me  as on a few occasions i exited at another part of the station exit into a entirely new different locality of Westbahnhof. Thankfully after a few teething problems i discovered a landmark for station exit.The main land central long distance train lines to Salzburg and other city's  was on the exit of the station that led to my "Do Step In" locality of Westbahnhof. Hence on exiting a Metro train i always asked for the exit  to the main Central train line and hope this tip is useful for other  solo tourists  illiterate in  the country's language.Always carry a tourist map in your language and remember the important landmarks of any locality.On arriving at the hostel relaxed  for a few hours as the evening agenda would be strenuous.
Interior  decor of Vienna State Opera.

At 1600 hrs left the hostel and boarded the "U3 Line" metro to Stephansplatz station.It was the week-end Friday and hence a festive atmosphere  on Stephansplatz street.  Walking towards Vienna State Opera came across a small outdoor cafe  situated in a by-lane that had live English music being sung for its customers and viewers watching from the street.For the first time i came across a live English music act in Vienna and would have spent the rest of the evening at this cafe if not for a appointment with "Vienna State Opera" and "Rigoletto".At 1700 hrs  stood in the queue outside the Vienna State opera for the "Standing tickets" allotment .Having arrived 2 hours before the start of the show i was in the front section of  the serpentine queue.
Partying during opera interval in Vienna State opera.

                             The original Vienna State Opera was  completed in 1869 and the first  opening premiere was  "Don Giovanni" by Mozart on May 25 1869. Emperor Franz.Josef and Empress Elizabeth(Sisi) were present  for the play.At the end of World War-II on March 25th  1945 the Vienna Opera was set ablaze by American bombardment and almost totally destroyed. It remained abandoned for  a decade and was finally rebuilt  and opened on November 5th 1955  with "Beethovens Fidialo" conducted by Karl.Bohm  being the premiere performance . "Rigoletto"  was the first opera opening the opera shows  in the fall season of 2015  at the  Vienna  state opera after a long holiday break in the summer.The show was sold months in advance but  the management allows a certain number of first-come-first-allotted standing tickets on the day of  any opera or musical event at this historic venue.
Interval of  opera "RIGOLETTO" with a  "Gosser beer".

                                                                                                         It is beneficial for tourists as well as authentic drama and music enthusiasts who can't afford the high priced normal tickets let alone booking months in advance.I have never stood in  any  queue for 2 hours in my entire life and here clothed in a suit i was in queue for  the cheapest opera ticket ! Real life can be a drama.Finally my turn arrived and at a cost of only 4.5 Euro's  which is the cost of a common "Jumbo hotdog" was issued a standing ticket .Entered the opera.The entire interior was carpeted and the atmosphere was of ultra   luxury and dress etiquette.Was directed towards the rear end of the ground floor  seats.We had to stand in a separate enclosure  behind the last row  ground floor seats.
Big screen outside Vienna State Opera  square.

                                                                                                                     There were a total of 5 floors arranged in a horse-shoe around the main stage having special boxes .Every floor had a few "Standing Ticket"  viewers in a similar arrangement like ours  on the ground floor.The live opera orchestra was accommodated just below the stage akin to a sports stadium dug-out.with a complete band and conductor.At exactly 1900 hrs the curtain opened and the play began to a house full audience .As the play was in Italian language i couldn't understand a word but had read the story of the play and hence tried to interpret the movements and opera  singing of the actors.The stage was a revolving stage.During interval at 1950 hrs stepped out of the auditorium into the plush opera lobby and was floored by the ambiance and luxury of the Vienna state opera..I have been attending the high class Indian Derby horse race in Mumbai since decades and not a novice to high fashion and high society but the Vienna  State opera on "Rigoletto" day resembled a scene from the movie Titanic.
Friday Night cafe street entertainment

                                                                                                                                    The interior decor of the opera house was straight out of a baroque era movie set while the audience was in the best of high society fashion..Champagne, wine ,whisky and beer were flowing all over the place in the upper floor stateroom lobby of the opera house as well as the refreshment  cafe on the ground floor.The view of the main street from the Opera house  viewing balcony was sheer beauty in the night.The Vienna state opera on "RIGOLETTO" day  resembled a huge "Great Gatsby" type entertainment  venue during the interval.Sipped a pint of beer costing 6 Euro's and at 2015 hrs headed back into the theatre for the  second part of the opera.The end was very abrupt even though i couldn't understand the language.At 2100 hrs made my way into the crowded street and watched a crowd seated  in a square outside the  opera pavement watching advertisements and discourses on a large giant television screen fitted on a wall  next to the opera boundary .Walking back towards Stephansplatz station and came across the open air  English music recital at the outdoor cafe that was still in progress. The crowds had thinned in the main tourist street of Stephansplatz and seems the average  Viennese are not party fanatics  on Friday nights with all night street party's .After all this was and is the city of Classic opera and music.Observed a lot of discipline in the partying and Friday street festiveness.Manners and etiquette could be studied by just strolling through the streets of Vienna.Boarded the routine tram at Stephansplatz station and was back home in "Do Step In" hostel, Happy and contended having  visited another Country  and viewing  a opera in the Mecca of  Opera theaters although extremely tired having stood for  almost 5 hours and having walked almost 5 kilometers in a single day ! Yes, unbelievable but true.
PRAGUE ROCKS :-Classic ""DJ ELECTRONIC TRANCE MUSIC"  on board a   barge on  Vltava  River of Prague.

Saturday(5-9-2015) Departure Vienna and arrival in Prague :- At 0630 hrs left "Do Step In" hostel with my luggage and trudged towards Westbahnhof station. Erdberg was now a familiar train station and boarded the "U3" metro line and alighted at Erdberg train station.
Czechoslovakia Border:- Police immigration check.

                                  Travelling by public transport in Vienna was equivalent to travelling by private transport in my home city of Mumbai or even better although expensive .Had my morning breakfast at the bus depot cafe which consisted of  a sausage with bread and coffee costing a total of 6.4 Euro's.Excellent weather and it had rained in the night.Bus departure at 0830 hrs was punctual and a excellent  International bus akin to the Bratislava bus.The countryside was postcard picturesque with small cottage houses and farmland.At 1010 hrs we reached the Czechoslovakia border where two policemen boarded the bus and checked our identities which in my case was the passport.The Syrian refugee crisis was the present International crisis plaguing  central Europe and  most prominently the Country's of Hungary and Austria.
Entrance to Prague  Old Town Square.

                                                                                                                                                    A young  Indian couple working in  Amsterdam was travelling with me in the same bus and made acquaintances with Mr & Mrs Rakesh.Pai who were also first time tourists to Prague.At 1345 hrs  we finally reached Florenc Bus station in Prague and  first approached the "CURRENCY CHANGE" counter at the depot and changed US  Dollars  into  Czech Republic Koruna .The exchange rate was  1 U.S Dollar  =  26 Koruna ( 1 Koruna = Indian Rs 3). Rakesh and  myself  next went to the tourist information counter and i first took a local tourist guide map and inquired my future train departure route from Prague to Krakow.The tourist information employee was extremely helpful and guided me through the train map for reaching my train station in "Karlovo Namesti".Purchased a 24 hr "travel ticket" costing 110 czk that could be used for any mode of transport within Prague city, the economy travel options in Europe where public transport is expensive. Rakesh and myself parted ways and i went to the Florenc Underground station very similar to Vienna and boarded the  "Yellow Line " train to Karlovo Namesti.
Astronomical clock  on Town  Hall.

                                                                                                                   In Prague the metro trains are categorized by colour codes and not numbers as in Vienna but otherwise identical in design.On alighting at Karlovo Namesti  station boarded the underground escalator and reached the exit to the city.My main landmark was the "Dancing House" building which was a short walk from the station  on the banks of the Vltava river that flows through Prague and Czechoslovakia.On arriving near "Dancing House" inquired about "Hostel Emma"situated at Na Zderaze 10,Praha 2  but was again handicapped by language translation.Searched around the vicinity and finally a gentleman guided me to the hostel which was  on the next adjacent road to   "Dancing house"  and situated on a inclined road. Entered the hostel building and after the normal registration formalities was shown my accommodation which was underground in the basement of the building.It was a 8 bed mixed dormitory room with a common toilet and a recreation cum pantry hall for the hostelites. The hostelites were a young crowd of mostly students who lived economically by cooking their own food in the main dining mess pantry..After a quick hot bath stepped out of the hostel and began  my exploration walk of Prague.Decided to head towards Prague Old Town  Square as every European city always has its main town square.
"Selfie" with a Salvador Dali sculptor as Devil or Ram ?

                                                                      After walking parallel to the river bank came across a Vietnamese restaurant and decided to have lunch at 1500 hrs in the afternoon. Lunch at the "Pho Viet"  restaurant  was duck fried rice costing 140czk, my only extravagance on the tour till date.After a late lunch inquired about directions to Old town square and walked the marathon.Finally reached the narrow road leading to the main town square with the prominent steeple and towers of the  Gothic church of  our Lady before Tyn  being visible. At the entrance to the main town square is the Town hall building with its World famous Prag Orloj medieval  astronomical clock.
"SELFIE" At Twins Jan and Kaja.Saudek Exhibition.

                                                                                                                                                    This clock was first installed in 1410 which makes it the third oldest astronomical clock in the World and the oldest astronomical  clock still working in 2015.In the centre of the square is a statue of religious reformer  Jan Hus who was burnt in Constance which led to the Hussite wars.This statue was erected in 1915 to mark his 500 th death anniversary.There is also a memorial  in the centre of town square for Martyrs beheaded  by the  Habsburgs after the battle of White Mountain in 1620 AD.The Town square was crowded with tourists and horse carriages for  carriage rides to tourists.There was a rare art exhibition in the "Gallery of Art" in Town Square featuring the works of   two prominent World household names Andy.Warhol and Salvador.Dali  with   local Czech  masters brothers Jan and Kaja.Saudek.Jan.Saudek was a photographer while his twin brother Kaja.Saudek was a caricature artist.

JAN HUS Memorial in Old Town Square.

                                                                                                The entrance price tickets  was a hefty 350 czk for viewing all 3 artists work or 170 czk for a single artist. I initially decided to view only Andy.Warhol and Salvador .Dali since Jan and Kaja.Saudek were unknowns to me although legends in Czechoslovakia.The sales lady requested me to also view their local Czech artists work and i obliged not wanting to  insult their local artists or behave like a total Western foreigner uninterested in understanding Czech artists .In hindsight after viewing their art i was thankful to the lady for advising me on purchasing a  ticket to the  twin brothers Jan and Kaja Saudek show as its sexual theme floored me with a  Jijutsu  fall from  which i did recover ! After purchasing the ticket  walked the stairs to the first floor and viewed the Salvador Dali art works.
Local Czech food at Old Town Square :- Pork Barbecue.

                                                       Have been a fan of Salvador Dali on "Facebook" but it was the first time in my life that i was viewing authentic art and not his copies or photos.This collection must have been worth millions of dollars.After viewing the exhibition took a "SELFIE" with the great artists sculptured head as a ram or a devil ! Salvador Dali dealt a lot with Catholicism and viewed his works on "Purgatory", "Inferno" and "Paradise". All his versatile art works were on display which included nudes, horses and sculptors.Not shocking as his art work copies are all over the internet and media.I couldn't believe that i was seeing genuine works of this eccentric artists and re-confirmed with the curator if these were copies or the originals.Yes they were the originals .I am honestly a miser on spending on accommodation or food and hence hostels and the cheapest local  food is my staple diet on solo trips in India or foreign Country's.
World's strongest beer "X-33" at  "U MEDVIDKU"

                                                        As  far as sightseeing is concerned i spend like a billionaire which normal  tour groups don't do although they put up their clients in expensive 3 or 5 star hotels.170 czk was big money in Indian rupees.After the Salvador Dali show i went to the next floor to view the Jan and Kaja.Saudek show,On entering the Jan and Kaja.Saudek exhibition i couldn't believe  that even young children were viewing the show along with me and other adults.If a parent i would honestly not enter the place with my child or children.At the Albertina museum in Vienna there were nude photographs but they were not shocking but just beauty in raw form. Kaja.Saudek was a Czech comic illustrator and his brother Jan a photographer.They were Jews and they along with their father were  persecuted during the Nazi regime and put in the Luza concentration camp in Poland.
"Vltava River" that bisects Prague city.

                                                                                                           Many of their family members died in the concentration camps but luckily the two brothers and their father survived and came back to Prague after the war.The Comics and photographs were of sexual nature akin to watching a pornographic film.Genitals both male and female were prominent as also sexual copulation and other Kamasutra sexual acts.A young boy is shown sitting on a window sill while a couple probably his parents are having sex on the floor.Remember that this exhibition was universal and there were young kids among the viewers.Agreed that in the "INTERNET ERA" of the 21st century  raw sex images and films can be viewed by one and sundry irrespective of age,income  or sex but its a very private affair in bedrooms or closed doors.I shudder to think of the repercussions if such a exhibition were held in a Islamic Country or even India. Isn't Indian origin Kamasutra internationally accepted as art  and not pornography ? Met a young couple at the exhibition and the Czech gentleman  Mr Vimos.Pisa had classic Rastafarian hairstyle and requested him for a photo-shoot. Kaja.Saudek had a tragic end as he lay in a coma in a Prague hospital  for  9 long  years after meeting with an accident and died recently on 26th June 2015.Moralists and the superstitious  would say its a divine "CURSE" for drawing sexual comic  caricatures and corrupting innocent minds ! I would say the Jan and Kaja.Saudek were far ahead of their times  and had foreseen the future World of "Internet Pornography". In 2015 children have access to Pornography let alone adults.Remember that Czechoslovakia is staunch Catholic Country.Came out of the exhibition "Shakken and stirred" to borrow a famous one liner from my favourite film franchisee hero "007 James .Bond".
Barge and floating restaurant party's on Vltava River.

                                                                       Travel educates and i realized that Western culture had its own ethics and rules as did my own Eastern culture and somewhere in-between was the balance of artistic licence. India's most controversial and highest paid  modern art painter Late  M.F.Hussain was hounded out of India to London because of his nude paintings of Hindu goddesses.Strolled along the crowded town square whose tourists and locals  were in a festive Saturday night partying mood.At a side of the square  local Czech food was for sale and the priciest food was pork chops. Huge chunks of pork was roasted on a open barbecue fire and on ordering slices were snipped and given to the buyer.
"DJ TRANCE SATURDAY NIGHT" barge music.

                                                                  Draught beer was the common drink instead of water and Czechoslovakia is the country with the highest consumption of beer. Next on my tour agenda was the World famous "U Medvidku beer hall pub"  which is the oldest beer pub in Czechoslovakia  dating back to 1466. With great difficulty at about 1900 hrs managed to locate this historic beer drinking and brewing institution.Its entrance   gate was totally pedestrian compared to its universal fame and in fact the first time i walked past it still asking for its location ! On entering the historic brewery/pub  asked for its "X-33 beer" which is considered one of the strongest beers in the World and a trade secret of the brewery.Was requested to go to the first floor of the pub and for the first time in my life saw the beer brewing casks and the process.Cost of the beer  was 5 Euro's for a glass.Was given beer in a wine glass which looked dark black in colour akin to 'Stout".On sipping it i found the taste akin to 'Stout" and very bitter.

Partying the Saturday  night on Vltava river.

                                         Strangely i didn't get "High" and  after drinking the wineglass beer inquired about the cabaret parties that the pub organized for clients. Atrociously expensive. Left the pub wondering what was all the fuss about "X-33 beer" being considered one of the World's strongest beers as i was stone sober !Walked my way back to the hostel along the river side walk."Dancing House" is a prominent landmark building as its odd looking and the most modern building among the row of buildings along the river front.On nearing "Dancing house" heard some music from the wharf below and walked towards the wharf.Saturday night  boat parties seems to have been the theme tonight and a "DJ Electro dance" party was in full swing on board a large barge.After ages attended a shipboard party and it was really rocking electro trance music while beer flowed like water.Prague looked beautiful in the night with its river boats and bridges.I had my doubts if the "X-33 " beer i consumed at "U Medvidku" was authentic as even after another two huge large draught beers  at the barge party i was still stone sober.At 2130 hrs went back to my hostel which was a short walking distance from the river front wharf. End of a first hectic day in Prague.
At gates of PRAGUE CASTLE, the World's largest Castle complex.


Sunday(6-9-2015) Prague:- Woke up early as usual and after the normal toilet routines was the first hostel resident to venture out into the chill Prague city.  
Walking on "CHARLES BRIDGE" early morning.

                                                             Walked the marathon with the help of my tourist map and "Internet tour study"  the destination being "Prague Castle.The majestic castle along with the spires of St Vitius cathedral is visible from the distance.Walked straight along the Vltava river and reached "Charles Bridge".The bridge was desolate in the morning and got to appreciate its beauty and architecture in its natural splendour with negligible tourist traffic.On crossing the bridge again asked for directions and realized that it was a straight uphill walk to Prague castle.Breakfast consisted of the now routine miserly "Hot dog" with the massive sausage costing 60 czk.Finally after a uphill walk in  the chill morning  reached the summit of Prague castle.  
"1940's Nazi era"' Prague Castle complex  "FILM SHOOT".

                                                                        On entering the castle square was surprised to see a "Nazi Era" film being shot.On inquiry was told that it was a film based on the "Reinhard Heydrich" assassination and was a joint American/Czech production venture. Every war film  fan must have seen the film "Operation Daybreak" based on the historic Reinhard.Heidrich assassination and seems this film was based on the same theme with reality location and could be a documentary on Czech history during World War-2.
"SUNDAY MASS" at historic St Vitus Cathedral.

                                    Watched the filming,one of the few tourists at this unearthly cold hours of a Prague autumn.Visited the historic "St Vitus Cathedral" and was right in time for the 0830 mass.The church had history written all over it and the pipe organ was being played at its best.The Mass was in Czech language  and similar to a normal Catholic mass in my home city of  Mumbai.The church mass congregation attendance was sparse.After mass walked inside  the church and later visited the "Prague Castle".Entrance ticket to the Prague castle was a expensive  250 czk.The view of Prague from the castle was awesome.Prague castle is considered the World's largest castle complex .Certain parts of the Castle complex are open to tourists except the St Vitus Cathedral which is closed on Sundays due to the church masses and hence couldn't tour the same.After the castle tour made my way to the "Golden Lane" housing complex of the castle which traces its origins to the 16th century. Until 1952 the  houses were occupied  and residents of this small cute housing complex consisted of the petty castle employees and later tenants who rented these houses from their owners.
House of Psychic Madame De Thebes in "Golden Lane".

                                                                 The houses of golden lane were the smallest and cutest houses i have seen barring the infamous slums of my home city of Mumbai.It was a small tiny village complex under the shadow of the massive Prague castle complex.The houses were tiny one room tenements designed as independent cottages situated next to each other.Recently  in 2010-2011 these  houses were renovated to solve the centuries old drainage problems and 9 of the 16 houses have been converted into a museum  for tourists and is a real window into architectural interior decoration in tiny well maintained small houses.The upper floor of these houses have been converted into a armoury exhibit for tourists featuring medieval arms like cross-bow, arrows and spears as well as torture machines.
House of Film historian Josef. Kazda in "Golden Lane".

                                                                                                The houses were numbered and over the centuries had some historic residents.House No 15 represented a Goldsmiths house  complete with workshop and interior decor of the Renaissance period of Czech history.In the 20th century renowned Czech writer  Frank.Kafka did at one time reside in house No 22 as a tenant. while house No 14 was the home of renowned Czech Psychic  Madame de Thebes(Matylda.Prusova) who had a World wide  fan following  for her accurate predictions and had predicted the downfall of the "Third Reich"  and hence arrested  and  tortured by the Gestapo during Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. Her house had tarot cards and a  human skull and a bookshelf of horoscope and occult literature.House No 12 is associated with Czech film historian Josef.Kazda who preserved many films and documentaries which were ordered to be destroyed during the Second World War.This house contained stacks of film reels ,posters and a room where films are still screened.
Performing for tourists on scenic "CHARLES BRIDGE".
                                                                                                                                             
As a travel blogger and writer i really understood and appreciated the historical importance of the works of Josef.Kazda. History is being replicated in 2015 with the "I.S.I.S(Islamic State of Iraq Syria)" regime intent on destroying centuries old archaeological sites in Syria akin to the Nazis destroying books and paintings during the 1930's - 40's.At the Western  end of the lane is the   Tower Daliborka which was a prison dungeon and got to view medieval torture methods.This tour of the quaint houses of "Golden Lane" in Prague castle complex made me realize that a house need not be a mansion or multi bedrooms in size in order to be livable and architecturally aesthetic Numerous slums all over the World including in India could replicate the living hygiene and aesthetics in tiny one room tenements akin to "Golden Lane" housing model in Prague Castle complex. Travel educates. After completing the entire Prague castle complex tour  made my way downhill back to St Charles bridge.It was 1130 hrs and the tourist crowd and hawkers  gave the bridge its International tourist atmosphere with beautiful swans swimming along the river.Swans in flight in the wild  is a beautiful sight.Spotted a few artists  on the bridge making landscape sketches  as also portrait for tourists.A few musicians were playing their instruments along the bridge sidewalk as also a few hawkers selling souvenirs.
Touring  "PRAGUE CASTLE".Inside the castle complex.

                                                                                                      Made my way to the hostel and  along the way spotted a young lady with a Yorkshire terrier on the back-basket of her bicycle.Finally at 1200 hrs reached my hostel and after a brief rest headed towards St Wenceslas Square,the historic centre of Prague that spurred the " 1989 Velvet revolution" of 20th Century Czechoslovakia.It was a long walk and seems i was on track for breaking my own record of the longest marathon walk in a day being held by the 2010 London solo tour !At approximately 1315 hrs  reached Wenceslas Square which is the business and cultural square of Modern Prague.This square is a traditional venue for political demonstrations, public gatherings and public celebrations and is  named after St Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia.
"WENCESLAS SQUARE"  with  National Museum.

                                                                                                                 The Square has a long rectangle shape with one end facing the Czech National museum and the other end being a long boulevard that borders the Old and New town of Prague. The statue of St Wencenslas  on a  horse  with other Czech patron saints carved on the statue base is the landmark of this historical square..From Wenceslas Square walked down towards the Prague railway station and visited the "Jerusalem Synagogue(Jubilee synagogue)".The Jerusalem Mosque is named after Jerusalem street on which it is situated.and was built in 1906.It was originally  named "Jubilee Synagogue" in honour of Austro-Hungarian King  Franz Josef-1. After the  breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Independence of Czechoslovakia in 1918 it  was renamed as the "Jerusalem Synagogue".
"Jerusalem (Jubilee) Synagogue"

                                                                                                                                        The exterior of the Synagogue with its red and white stone structure and bluish horse shoe arch is very striking in architectural appearance compared to the surrounding buildings in the vicinity.The Synagogue was closed  for tourists on that day and hence couldn't get a internal view of this Synagogue.

                                                                                From the "Jerusalem Synagogue" walked towards Old town square and decided to visit the "Museum of Communism" .After much walking and inquiry by sign  and English language   discovered this museum building situated on a inclined road in a 18th century aristocrats palace  next to a casino.To my utter disappointment the museum was closed on Sundays and hence just got a window peep into post Second World War Communist memorabilia ! Ironically this museum was founded by a American millionaire Prague businessman Mr Glen.Spicker who was  a political science graduate and hence a history enthusiast. He himself gathered Communist era  artifacts from the flea markets  and junk shops in Prague and hence a hobby was converted into a history museum on December 26 2001.The logo of the museum is "Communism, the dream, the reality and the nightmare" ! Czechoslovakian modern history would be incomplete without a reference or study of the Soviet Union Communist era rule of the Country post World War-2. My final destination was "Old Town Square" and it was crowded with tourists and locals.There were some protest banners about the Russian intervention in Ukraine as Czechoslovakia  was a former Soviet satellite Country during the now defunct "COLD WAR " era of the Western bloc.
"15 minutes of Fame" selfie with Andy.Warhol bust.

                                                                           Lunch was local Czech food at the tourist food stalls at a corner of the Old Town square.The dish  called "Harlusky" consisted of a large giant size plate of potatoes, cabbage and tiny shreds of bacon.Along  with a glass of beer which replaces water in Czechoslovakia  the total cost was  a princely 370 czk ! I always make it a point to taste a Country's common cuisine as well as street food.Met two Indian origin tourists from England and Australia  and did have some conversation regarding the tourist sites and comparisons.After lunch visited the Andy Warhol exhibition titled "I am O.k in Prague"..For the first time in my life got to view the original pop and artwork of this most celebrated modern artist whose most memorable quote based on media and publicity is,quote, "Every human would have their 15 minutes of fame ".Rock star Mick.Jagger's portraits were very prominent as also  Marilyn.Monroe.Michael.Jackson on a "Time Magazine " cover designed by Warhol as also the banana logo of the "Velvet  Underground " group  formed by Andy.Warhol were prominent features in the exhibition.As a cat enthusiast was surprised to see two prominent cat portraits among the art collection most notably being "Cat Sam".His quotes were also catchy and thought provoking and one of my favourites was " Fantasy love is much better than reality love". How true!After viewing the exhibition strolled along the picturesque Old town square and discovered a "SEX MACHINES MUSEUM" situated  in a bylane near the  buildings on the periphery of the square.Viewed the museum externally as it was on the ground floor of the building and  realized that the Andy.Warhol quote was bizarrely  clairvoyant.Machinery didn't mean only mechanical  machinery but also sex tool machines used for human sexual pleasure and sexual physical fitness.Began my marathon journey back to "Emma hostel".On reaching the hostel had realized that i had definitely bettered my own previous "London 2010 Marathon solo tour walk".To quote  pop artist Andy Warhol , "Yes, i was O.K in Prague"!
PRAGUE ZOO :- Most Successful zoo in breeding "CAPTIVE GORILLA'S"

Monday(7-9-2015) Prague :- Woke up early as usual and made my way out of the hostel to "Karlovo Namesti" metro station.Just  about 300 meters  opposite the "Dancing House" building  on the opposite main road came across the  1912 built " St Cyril and Methodius  Czech  Orthodox Church" that had a tragic historic role during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia during World War - 2.
Historic "St Cyril & Methodius" church.

                                                                                                                                                The Crypt beneath the church was the last hiding place  for 7 Czech commando's including Jan.Kubis and Josef.Gabsik who assassinated Reinhard.Heydrich. in 1942 that altered the course of World War-2.It took 800 SS troops more than 8 hours to storm the crypt and put an end to the Czech resistance on June 18 1942.A commemorative plaque honouring the martyrs of this day is on the facade of the church wall. Any World War-2 history is incomplete without a lecture or movie on the Reinhard. Heydrich  assassination which changed the course of World War-2 and tourists visiting Prague should visit this historic church  situated opposite  the unique architectural marvel ,"The Dancing House". As it was early morning the church was closed and hence i couldn't visit the historic crypt.Walked the short distance to Karlovo Namesti station and  boarded the "B-Line Metro" heading to "Cerny Most" station.
Landmark unique  "DANCING HOUSE" building

                    Alighted at "Florenc Station" and from "Florenc" transferred onto the "C-Line" train heading to "Letnany" alighting at  "Nadrazi Holesovice" station.Barring the Czech language i felt like a local Czech and  as a World traveler strictly follow Napolean.Bonaparte's philosophy.Quote, "I was born a Catholic but i am a Hindu in India and a Muslim in Egypt" or as the Romans say ,quote, "In Rome do as the Romans do"! Travel educates a individual in religious, cultural and communal living.My agenda was a visit to one of the World's best zoo's, the "Prague Zoo".Had my breakfast at a McDonalds restaurant  at the station.Excellent hamburger with coffee costing a reasonable 77 czk. After breakfast  boarded the "112 Bus" outside the station  and finally reached "Prague zoo" at 0800 hrs.Strolled around the vicinity as  the zoo  opened  at 0900 hrs and came across the "Botanical garden" situated adjacent to the zoo.
"Malayan Tiger":- Last of its species ?

  First time saw grape plants being grown straight out of the ground like a normal tree by supporting the plant with a iron rod.A new discovery in grape cultivation .At 0900 hrs purchased a ticket costing 200 czk and entered the zoological park.Forbes traveler magazine had listed the Prague zoo as the seventh best zoo in the World in 2015 and hence i traveled this distance far out of Prague City.Excellent beyond description and Prague zoo is reputed for breeding endangered species.Saw a group of Gorilla's along with a baby being carried on its back by its mother.A handsome male silver-back was the breeding stud male. Prague zoo is also successful in captive breeding of Cheetahs and akin to the "Gorilla family" came across a Cheetah family in the zoo.Saw the "Sumatran" and "Malayan" tigers which could soon become extinct in the wild as well as captivity.I was lucky to view the last specimen of these species and hope that other tiger species like the Bengal and Siberian tigers from India and Russia don't face the same future decades from today.
View of Prague from the "PETRIN".

                                                           Viewed the giant ant-eater for the second time in my life the first being just a few days ago at the Schoenbrunn zoo in Vienna.Had to undergo another small hill trek as the zoo enclosures are situated on the slopes of a hill.Some of the prominent and endangered species enclosures have the animal name tag and description in English language while most other species are only in Czech language.Saw beautiful Gharials and Anaconda's.For the first time in my life saw the "Giant Chinese Salamander" which akin to the Panda is facing extinction in its natural habitat.Viewed  the"King Vulture"and "Bearded vulture" as also many rare bird species.The view of Prague from the top of the hill is awesome and there is a rope - way for visitors not wanting to trek back to the base of the zoo. Finally after three hours of zoo viewing made me way to the exit and boarded the"112" bus back to the station.Returned back to the hostel with this being my first outing outside Prague city.After a brief rest on the hostel "Internet" walked out of the hostel and decided to visit  the"Petrin",the viewing tower on the hill.Boarded tram nos 9 and crossed the river Vitava.On the other side of the river inquired directions and boarded bus  Nos 176  having  thankfully received some guidance from a local bus passenger.
Main Altar of St Vitus Cathedral.

                                Language communication was  the biggest hurdle in Czechoslovakia akin to Austria.Europeans are very proud of their own national language and English is definitely a foreign language to other Europeans.The bus  climbed up the winding road leading to the  hill and alighted at the last stop.Asked for directions and finally at 1400 hrs after a long walk reached "Petrin" a tall tower  327 Meters in height  and identical to the Eiffel tower in Paris.There was a slight drizzle.Had a excellent lunch at the Petrin cafe consisting of "Palais de France wine", hot-dog and  a local Czech  dessert costing a total of 190 czk .Excuse me for disclosing the prices as i do so for the benefit of my readers as well as the "Tax-man"! Its a 300 steps free walk  to the top of the Petrin viewing tower  and costs  180 czk for using the lift.I chose the lift as walking the steps would have definitely shortened my tour itinerary due to simple travel fatigue..The view from the top was similar to being on the Eiffel tower with a magnificent  view of Prague.There was a slight drizzle but the view was excellent.From the Petrin tower walked all the way to Prague castle which was slightly downhill.
St Wenceslas Chapel inside St Vitus Cathedral.

                                                                                       When i had visited St Vitus Cathedral for mass on Sunday it was closed for tourists  and hence i had revisited the church as the "Prague Castle" entrance ticket was valid for 3 days.Toured St Vitus Cathedral and eavesdropped on a local English tour guide "K.G.B" or "C.I.A" style ! Yes the miser tourist was saving some money on guide expenses. This cathedral is Gothic in architecture  and is the seat of the archbishop of Prague.The  Cathedral contains the tombs of many Bohemian Kings and Holy Roman Emperors and resembles a palace.St Wenceslas Chapel situated at the  right hand corner  mid-way to the church  altar is the most important  place in the entire cathedral where the mortal remains of the Saint are  kept in a room.Entry to the inside of the chapel is closed for visitors who can only view the doorway leading to the chapel. A door  at the South Western corner of this chapel  having 7 locks leads to  the "Czech  Crown Jewels"  kept in the  crown vault.
Scenic view of  Vltava river and Charles bridge at twilight.

                                           These crown jewels are displayed to the public once in every eight years.My next exploration after the Cathedral visit was the"K.G.B museum" and with great difficulty located the small nondescript museum.Sadly Monday was a holiday for the museum and was utterly disappointed.The weather had suddenly changed from drizzling rain to bright sunshine.Next visited the Jewish locality of  Prague  which is Josefov and was called the "Jewish Ghetto". .The Josefov Jewish quarter was partly demolished between 1897  and 1913  as it had degenerated into a quarter of filth and poverty as wealthier Jews migrated to plusher localities of Prague.A few historical buildings were saved from total demolition  and  at present a total of 6 Synagogues, a Jewish city hall and a Jewish Cemetery  exist  in Josefov. Fortunately  during World War II  Josefov Jewish quarter survived Nazi destruction as Adolf.Hitler wanted to preserve this section of Prague as a future museum for a extinct Jewish race.Celebrated Czech Writer Franz.Kafka was born in the Josefov Jewish Ghetto of Prague and has a statue in his memory on Dusni Street. Viewed the Synagogues externally as the ticket prices were exorbitant and besides i had less time since they closed at 1800 hrs and it was already 1700 hrs when i had arrived at the synagogue. The "Old-New Synagogue" was built in  the 13th Century and is still used as a place of worship by Jews making it the oldest Synagogue in Europe...There are various superstitious legends connected to the Josefoz  Jewish quarter that also gives Prague city its mysterious charm..From Josefov boarded tram No 17 and on my way to the hostel purchased two "Staropramen" beer cans. A local brand at a local store costing 25 czk each and much cheaper than the 60czk  draft beer commonly sold at the tourist sites in Prague.Decades of sea employment and private tours  has made this tourist backpacker aware of tourist traps although i have been swindled and cheated on a few occasions.
Last night at  classic "Charles Bridge Restaurant". 

                                                                             Haven't you ever been pick-pocketed or cheated at least once in your life-time  in your home city let alone a foreign Country ?In the evening went  to the  "Karlovy Lazne" meaning "Charles Spa" in English  which is considered the biggest discotheque in Central Europe  having a complete entire building of 5 floors for music and dance. The building is situated next to the Charles Bridge on the bank of the Vltava river.I was early at 2030 hrs and the two burly bouncers who frisked me at the entrance requested me to come at mid-night and not so early ! ? I was suffering from marathon walking fatigue and staying awake from mid-night to 0500 hrs in the morning was beyond my tour physical agenda at the young age of 55 years.Besides being "SOLO" in a discotheque could mean different messages to various  patrons and not worth the risk.Decided to give this most talked discotheque a slip and decided to have a grand sumptuous non-miserly dinner on the last night of my Prague tour.  Entered the classic "Charles Bridge restaurant" situated  next to the river at the beginning of Charles bridge just walking distance from the discotheque.
"EMMA HOSTEL" building.

                                                                                                               A musician sang classic 50's & 60's songs on the piano,real romantic. Only difference was that i was"Solo"!On recommendation of the steward had a local Czech dish.A half roasted duck with apples ,red cabbage and potato dumplings costing a fortune of  249 czk was served to me on a huge dish.A dinner for two which i  found difficult to consume and hence a little food was wasted.After dinner made my way back along the riverside main road  and visited a local grocery owned by Vietnamese origin Czechs.Purchased two beer cans and came across one of the most beautiful black cats in my life.It had copper eyes and must have been the "Bombay breed",The Vietnamese couple couldn't speak English fluently and hence the cat is captured on photo's in my camera.From the grocery store went straight to the hostel and onto my bed at approximately 2300 hrs.This was my last night in Prague.
Krakow Old Town Market Square with "Cloth Market" building in the background.


Tuesday(8-9-2015) Departure Prague and arrival in Krakow in Poland :-  Woke up early as usual and after my normal routines  walked out of the hostel at 0600 hrs  of the cold morning.
Prague International Train Terminus.

          My destination was Krakow by means of a combination of train and bus travel by "Leo Express" transport services of Prague.  I had booked the ticket on-line in Mumbai .Walked all alone on the road towards "Karlovo Namesti(B Yellow Line)" metro station.Boarded the train and alighted at "Florenc Station".At "Florenc Station" changed over to the  "C(Brown Line)"  metro train and alighted at "Hlavni Nadrazi Station" which is the main metro stop for passengers wanting to board International trains at the main Prague train station.It was a short walk from the metro terminus to the International train terminus and i was totally lost on seeing the huge train arrivals/departures electronic display board at the International terminus main entrance .Language was the major hurdle as English was a total foreign language. Luckily a disheveled  man in railway employee uniform approached me and asked me my train and destination.
Most luxurious train journey of my life."LEO EXPRESS".

                                                                                                                                               I showed him my "Leo Express Train ticket" and he told me to follow him to the platform.At 0730 hrs I hesitantly followed him and after a short walk and a uphill stair climb  was on the main International train platform  with "Leo Express" train  having its own private take-off platform akin to a plane.The man told me that he was homeless and requested some money which i gleefully handed him for his great favour in directing me to the right platform .As a solo traveler remember that every human irrespective of status or income  does have a impact on your journey or travel in a strange foreign Country.
"Leo Express" bus from Bohumin to Krakow.

                                                                                                                                   For the first time i got a insight into First world Poverty and unemployment which is invisible to the average tourist staying in luxury hotels or travelling in tour groups..The train was scheduled to depart at 0805 hrs and since unlike India there was not a soul outside the empty train i was wondering if it was the right train and not a empty train parking platform ! Inquired with the rail staff of another train and was relieved to know that i was on the right platform.Prague International train terminus was not as modern and flashy as the underground metro stations and the train drivers and staff  were in uniform similar to airline employees.Yes i was travelling on a International train journey in a First World Country for the first time in my life and the experience was scary and exhilarating since the local language was beyond my comprehension.
 "Dom Studencki Zaulek " hostel

                                       Watched the automatic collection of overnight  railway trash dustbins and marveled at the cleanliness of the platforms and railway tracks.Finally at 0745 hrs the automatic  doors of "Leo Express" opened and  the passengers arrived and shown their seats.I was in the economy class and on entering the beautiful sleek centrally air-conditioned train was floored by the neatness and interior decor of the train, definitely much better than most International airplanes.Remember i have traveled on various airlines and different flights and hence comparing this train to be a equivalent of one of the World's best airlines airplanes.This particular train was brand new and  surprisingly not full to capacity.Now i realized the reasons for train travel being atrociously expensive in Europe compared to bus travel.
St Marys Basilica.

                               Departure was prompt at 0805 hrs and the maximum speed was 160 Km/hr with  the same displayed on a T.V screen board situated overhead  on the centre of the passenger aisle.After departure the train hostess  akin to a airline stewardess offered us beverages and a breakfast snack.The train stops at a few stations and  the first station at 0905 hrs  was  Pardubice station which was very similar to any normal train station in my native India but specklessly clean.Viewed the Czech countryside typical of a average European country.Visited the train toilet which had the latest modern pneumatic operating system and was impressed by the toilet cleanliness and gadget  sophistication. One of the best toilets i have seen in my life-time of travel and hotel stays !The journey was pleasant and although the train was delayed by 45 minutes due to traffic signals we reached our destination Bohumin station at approximately 1215 hrs.The stewardess gave us directions to board the bus outside the train station and i just followed the small crowd out of the station to the bus terminus. A large black bus was waiting for us and on entering it was pleased to be in one of the best tour buses in my life-time."Leo Express" was definitely a 5-star transport company of Central  Europe  in train and bus service.
Inside historic Cloth market of Krakow.

                                                                                                                                           The bus left the station at 1230 hrs and it was a pleasant drive through Poland with a water bottle,  tea and a snack being served by a stewardess on board the ultra-luxury bus having inboard  toilet facilities.At 1315 hrs we reached the first stop Katowice and finally at approximately 1430 hrs reached our destination Krakow Glowny  bus terminus.On alighting the bus to my utter disbelief realized that the average Polish citizen spoke and understood less of the  English language than the average Czech ! Found my way to the money exchange counter at the bus station and changed dollars into Polish Zloty with the rate being 1 U.S Dollar = 3.7 Polish Zloty(PLN) or  1 Polish(PLN) Zloty = 19 Indian Rupees since as a Indian i always equated the final exchange rate  in terms of the Indian rupee.
Beautiful horses and carriages in Old Market Town.

                                                                                                                                                 After exchanging the money asked for directions to "Dom Studencki Zaulek " hostel situated at Ul Piekarska 5-7,Stare Miasto in Kazimierz district of Krakow by showing the address to  locals who just couldn't direct me in the right direction or mode of transport.Finally i almost panicked as i realized that i was totally lost in a strange city.Providence came to my rescue and a local man  speaking fluent English directed me to the tram stop telling me to board tram No 10 and alight at the 6th stop called "Plac Wolnica"..Did as i was told and on alighting at "Plac Wolnica" tram station was again in a language communication fix.Luckily a Nun came to my rescue and told me to follow her as she was heading in the same direction as the hostel.
Florists and open air cafe's in Old Market Square.

                                                                                             We  entered a narrow road  and passed along a huge ancient church and turned right into another lane. Finally to my utter relief  sighted "Dom Studencki Zaulek" hostel which was just opposite a convent  that was the residence of the nun and the clergy. I was in staunch Catholic Poland  and bizarrely "Dom Studencki Zaulek" resembled a common Mumbai chawl building from the exterior, the most unique architectural building in entire Old Krakow. Seems the architect must have got the building design idea during a tour of Bombay(Mumbai)."Chawls" are single room houses having a common toilet and a common gallery for all tenants or house owners.In 2015 most of the chawl style buildings are disappearing in Mumbai and being replaced by skyscraper apartments or malls..On entering the hostel as usual introduced myself to the manager and after the normal formalities was allotted room No 417 on the third floor.This hostel was actually a private students hostel and since it was vacation time for students  the same was rented to tourists.I had the entire 4-bed hostel room to myself as it was off-season for tourists.
"B-BOYING" in Old Market Square.

                                                                    After a bathe made my way out of the hostel and after brief direction instructions from the manager and a tourist map began my discovery trail of Krakow city.I was told to take the straight road from the hostel to reach Krakow Old town Market Square(Rynek Glowny in Polish). .My walking marathon of Krakow city had  just begun.Walking straight along the narrow road from my hostel reached the main tram road and after crossing the same it was again a straight walk towards Old Market town Square(Rynek Glowny).Came across Wawel castle situated on a hill towards the left of the road and the Martyrs memorial situated on the right side of the road.My destination was Krakow Old Market town square  and since i was now in the tourist zone it was easy to find people understanding and speaking English language.Came across "St Peter and Paul " Roman catholic church  facing the St Maria Magdalena Square and  designed entirely in the Baroque style which was consecrated in 1635.Most prominent are the statues of  apostles on raised plinths in front of the church entrance.In Europe classical music concerts are held inside churches between certain hours and there was a advertisement of a classical concert at 2000 hrs in the "St Peter and  Paul" church.
Town Hall tower.

                                                                        Ssaw the same sign boards advertising classical music recitals  outside a few churches in Vienna and Prague.At 1700 hrs reached the Main town market  square(Rynek Glowny) packed with tourists and just too beautiful to describe with its quaint cobblestone  road.Horse carriages decorated the main market  square periphery  with the beautiful maintained horses resplendent in their attire giving tourists a ride along the Old town.The sound of these heavy horse shoes on the cobblestones was akin to classical music to a horse enthusiasts ears.All tourists brochures consider a horse carriage ride in Old town of Krakow as one of the best leisure rides in the World.This town square is considered to be one of the largest Medieval Town squares in Europe having been demarcated during the construction of the city in  1257.Gothic style St Mary's Basilica was very prominent as also the renaissance  Sukiennice cloth hall  which stood in the centre of the town market square.Entered  St Mary's Basilica(Church of our lady assumed into Heaven), a brick Gothic church which was rebuilt in the 14th century.
Pigeons in Main Market Square.A tourist favourite.

                                          In the 18th century the interior of the church was redecorated in the Baroque style and to a non-christian the church could be mistaken for a Palace.It has 26 altars and beautiful religious murals and explains the power of the Catholic church during the Middle ages in Europe.Next visited Church of St Barbara founded in the 14th century and situated just south of St Mary's Basilica.Its external architecture is Gothic while internal religious decor is Baroque.The church priest was in the confessional box and as a practicing Catholic decided to confess my sins  in the confessional box.After the confession made my exit from this historic ancient church that has stone sculptors of Christ with three apostles at the entrance gate.
Memorial to Polish victims of Totalitarian Stalin regime.

               After the Church visits entered the renaissance cloth market which is a modern mall in a ancient building.Most prominent were the display and sale of animal fur pelts consisting of rabbit and sheep skin and hopefully not some endangered animal species.Strolled around the busy town square which had open air cafe's at one end and ancient medieval buildings most importantly the Town hall tower.A group of young men were "B-Boying" to recorded music  and their acrobats thrilled the tourists while also  earning them some money.Krakow seems to have the World's largest presence of rock pigeons  and the same can be seen being fed by tourists in large flocks at Old Market town square.Later discovered the tourist office in the market square  and took some brochures while also inquiring about the guided tours to the Wieliczka salt mines and Auschwitz concentration camp.I had planned a solo tour to the Wieliczka salt mines ,Auschwitz  concentration camps  and Wadowice which was the birthplace of Late Pope John Paul-II.Finally at approximately 1800 hrs made my way back to the hostel which was a very long walk after a hectic day of  travel from Czechoslovakia to Poland.On the way came across a restaurant "Eko veg momo bar" selling Indian food like "Masala Dosa's" which at 14.2 PLN cost a fortune here  compared to its price in  India. The owner had been to India and had a fondness for the Country and hence the exotic Polish Indian vegetarian restaurant.Unlike Vienna, and Prague  i noticed the absence of "Hot  dog sausages" in Krakow street food, very strange. Krakow street food consisted mostly of  bread products .Purchased   some peaches for dinner along with  ham and beer.In Europe its economical to cook at home rather then eat in restaurants or indulge in street food.The hostel had a  separate cooking pantry and seems the students did cook their food in the hostel.After a excellent  dinner with beer replacing water  had a good nights sleep.
Down below the Earth inside "WIELICZKA SALT MINE in the "CHAPEL OF ST KINGA"  The chandeliers are made of  rock salt crystals   as also the religious  statues including Leonardo Da Vinci's "Last Supper".

Wednesday(9-9-2015) Krakow :- Woke up early as usual in my own private room with a balcony and the common dormitory bathe/toilet just outside my room.
Entrance to  "Wieliczka salt mine" with  its Headframe.

                                                  Travelling "Off- tourist season" has its advantages as otherwise i would have to share this room with three other fellow hostelites. .It was a very pleasant morning with the Polish winter still a month away.Walked out of the hostel to the tram station with my tour itinerary being the World famous "WIELICZKA SALT MINE".A small roadside stall was open and had a bread-bun for breakfast.Bread and cake  products seemed to be the favourite food of Krakow with numerous small confectionery shops around the city's tourist locales.Boarded tram No 10 and alighted at "Krakowska Galleria" which was a huge mall next to Krakow Glowny bus and train station.With great difficulty managed to find the bus-stop of  No 304 bus on the main road near the train station. .
Underground "Tourist Passage" of  "Wieliczka Mine".

                                                                                         At approximately 0715 hrs boarded the 304 bus buying a  ticket costing 4 PLN  from the driver  and was on my way to the historic and unique mine in the World, a salt mine.This mine which was built in the mid 13th century produced "Table salt" continuously until 2007 in the 21st century.The mine reaches a maximum depth of 327 meters(1027 feet) and is approximately  287 kilometers long ! During World War-2 these mine shafts were used by the Germans for various war efforts.The bus journey was excellent in the pleasant cool morning weather.The bus had a closed circuit  T.V displaying the bus-stops on the route which was helpful to tourists and foreigners.I was told to alight the bus at the last stop which was "Wieliczka Kampus"  and the schematic t.v route map on the bus  was  a guide akin to the internet google search engine.
"Rock Salt" statues of miners at work.

                                                                                                                            .In Europe every second commuter has a "Smart Phone" akin to every Indian having a cell-phone  and all directions are instantly confirmed by a simple "Google map search" on the phone internet.A elderly lady sitting next to me seemed a local and asked her for directions.She spoke fluent English and told me to alight at "Weliczka Cmentarz" which was the second last stop.I was surprised when she got down at the stop and to my disbelief when she introduced herself  was surprised to know that Terry was a Canadian tourist from Vancouver  on the way to the mines. We both walked towards the mine entrance gate and at 0800 hrs finally reached  the main tourist  entrance gate.
At 90 meters below the earth in "Weliczka Mine".

                                                      There were different "Tour Groups" awaiting the opening of the ticket counter and we two were the rare private individual tourists.Entrance tickets for single individuals was priced at 79 PLN.Terry and myself were finally joined by another young solo tourist, a young Taiwanese origin student Peter  studying in England and on a tour in Poland.Every tour group gets a official  guide from the mine tourism department in their respective language  and no individual tourists can enter the mine without a  allotted guide.There are set timings for certain individual tour guides in English and other  languages and we were lucky to have a 0830 hrs time allotment for a English guide.The mines open for tourists at 0830 hrs and we were the first batch of "English Language" tourists.
Unbelievable concert/Dining hall 120 meters below earth.

                                                                                                    To my bizarre disbelief we three received "V.I.P" treatment by having a lady guide Barbara introduce herself  to us and finally beginning our tour at 0830 hrs. Most of the large tour groups had more that 10 to 15 tourists with one single guide while we were just  3 tourists with a single guide akin to a private personal tour.We entered the mine tunnel and then down a endless flight of wooden stairs ..Nicolaus.Copernicus,Johann.Von.Goethe,Robert.Baden.Powell, Karol.Wojtyla(Pope John Paul-II) and former  U.S President Bill.Clinton have  been some of the  famous "V.V.I.P" visitors  to have toured this historic mine.
Mother Mary & Infant Jesus statue.

                                                                                                                                          A total number of  378 wooden steps leads to the  64 meter bottom level from where the guided exploration museum  tour actually begins for tourists. .We finally reached the bottom and were explained the various chambers and salt statues. The passage for the tourist walk is broad and well lit and hence although deep below ground level we were all comfortable in our mode of walking and sightseeing.Not very cramped although at times the presence of too many tourists at a single exhibition hall or object meant a queue or a little  waiting time for viewing the exhibit.The wooden stairs were broad and not narrow.We visited the following exhibition chambers in serial order. 1) The Mikolaj Kopernik chamber installed before 1785 .There were rock salt statues in this chamber. 2)The  Janowice Chamber installed before 1642.From here it was a long walk through the broad tunnel passage to the 3) Spallone Chamber installed before 1645. Next was the 4) Sielec Chamber installed in 1642.Walking along this corridor came across rock salt statues of miners at work..Then we came to the Kaziemerza chamber where a rock salt bust of King Kazimierza  was the prime attraction.Next was the Kunegunda passage installed before 1825.
Statue of St Kinga ,patron saint of miners

                                                                                   Here a museum  pulley rack wheel was installed to demonstrate the method by which the mine workers transported  goods to and fro from ground level to these deep depths under the earth.We next walked a few stairs lower and at 90 meters depth came across Markowski brothers tunnel.Saw a narrow stream of  natural salt water akin to a stream  flowing through a  artificial canal into a collection trough for the benefit of tourists.Next we entered the "Holy Cross Chapel" and a reason for the Weliczka mines being  also referred to as the "UNDERGROUND SALT CATHEDRAL" of Poland. Beautiful altars and statues  occupy the chamber as miners were very religious since their profession was always a gamble between life and death let alone normal living.The Chapel of Holy cross was created  after the miners survived a miraculous escape from a water leak into the mines in the middle of the 19th century.The most recent human created chapel is the Chapel of Pope St John.Paul II chapel in the renovated Aleksandrowice Chamber created  in 2014.Pilgrims touring the salt mines celebrate a mass in this chapel .The Chapel of St Kinga  next to Pope John Paul II chapel  is considered the crown jewel of the Wieliczka salt mine  being the largest monumental chapel.
Wooden staircase deep inside the mine.

                                                              There is a extra camera charge of 10 PLN for photography in this chapel and i did produce my usual amateur study video as well as a self portrait in this beautiful chapel.Bibilical theme sculptors decorate the rock walls including the last supper of Leonardo Da Vinci.St Kinga is considered the patron saint of the salt miners and her statue  faces the entrance to the chapel.From here it was another walk down a flight of wooden stairs in darkness to the Weimar Chamber built in the beginning of the 20th century.This chamber had a  statue of classical composer Goethe who was the first Classical composer to have visited this mine as a tourist.Next visited the Josef Presudski grotto where there was a small pond..We had finally descended to the maximum level allowed for tourists which was 130 meters from the top and named as the "Kazanow Split - level".It was in this last underground passage  carved against the rock wall in a circle were the names of the first list of U.N.E.S.C.O listed heritage sites in which the Wiliczka mines from Poland featured prominently among other heritage sites of the World.A large conference hall cum dining room was the ultimate marvel of the mines at this depth of 130 meters.Concerts, balls, theatre performances ,weddings,and conferences have been held in this huge underground hall.
"Tourist mine lift" lobby 130 meters below sea level.

                 The World's first underground balloon flight was held inside the Wieliczka mines which is a "Guinness book of World records" event.Numerous films have had their shooting locations within the Wieliczka salt mine complex.Former Windsurfing champion Mateusz..Kusznierewisz  did the unimaginable by sailing on a underground lake in the mine.Football matches and underground boxing matches are also held in the mine underground complex.In cycling the final round of the "Tour De Pologne" is also held in this underground mine.All unbelievably true and a fact of human ingenuity and living.At the end of the trip. after walking  through  almost 3 Kilometer underground we finally came to the exit of this seen to be believed  salt mine museum .Unbelievable as the entire structure was nothing but grey salt rock unlike the common white salt  extracted from sea-water.
Sharing lunch with pigeons of  Krakow.

                                                                                                                     The mining of salt at Wieliczka mines has been abandoned because the economics of underground salt mining unlike   gold , precious and semi-precious stones or even coal and metals is ridiculously costly compared to sea-water harvesting of salt.There was a long queue for the lifts and our guide wished us goodbye for her next tour group assignment. Finally at 1030 hrs we boarded the lift and were back to sea-level in 30 seconds !A life long memorable tour of the Wieliczka Mines had finally come to a glorious end and one of my tour ambitions fulfilled. Sometimes "Solo Travel" can be a boon as it was with the three of us.Visited the souvenir shop of the mine where salt rock statues as well as grey salt was for sale to tourists.The three of us, total strangers finally decided to go back to the city together and walked in search of No 304 bus.
Vistula river as seen from Wawel Castle complex.

                                                                                 Finally discovered the bus stop which was a long walk from the Mine complex and at 1100 hrs were on the bus back to Krakow.Canadian Terry alighted before the last stop while Taiwanese Peter and myself  alighted at Galleria Krakowska stop.We reached at 1145 hrs a journey of 45 minutes.We parted ways and i headed towards "Old Town market square "  as it was within my marathon walking distance.I was hungry and purchased some salami meat along with bread and had a leisurely lunch in a beautiful garden surrounded by flocks of pigeons.Krakow could be having a surplus of pigeons  as these birds seemed to be everywhere and literally ate from my hand as also other tourists.What surprised me was their non-vegetarianism as they also relished morsels of salami meat !
Wawel Castle Complex.

                                              After my brief lunch in the open park walked towards Old town market place and realized that i had yet to visit Wawel castle.Hence walked further  along the now familiar route towards Wawel Castle.At approximately 1245 hrs after  a short uphill  walk  on Wawel hill  from the main road reached the  the castle grounds For the first time got a direct view of the Vistula river from Wawel hill that flows below the castle complex  through Krakow.The river is not visible from the main road route that i frequented on my city travel.The Vistula is the largest and longest river in Poland at 1,047 Kilometers(651 miles) in length and also flows through Belarus,Ukraine and Slovakia.Saw a few small cruise  restaurant ships anchored along the river bank. Wawel Castle was built by Casimir II the Great(1333-1370)  and the castle and Wawel hill are historic and cultural  symbols of Polish Statehood.
Tomb of St Stanislaus in Wawel Cathedral.

                                                                 For centuries it was the residence of the Kings of Poland and since 1930 is  one of the Country's premier art museums.Decided to tour the  Wawel Cathedral , a Roman Catholic church situated in the castle complex that is over 900 years old. At approximately 1315 hrs purchased a 12 PLN ticket and entered the Wawel Cathedral complex.The ticket allows tourists to visit the Cathedral,the Royal tombs and the Sigismunds chapel.The actual name of the Cathedral is "Royalarchcathedral of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslaus" and has traditionally been  the church for the crowning of Polish Monarchs and also the Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Krakow.Late Pope John Paul II who became Pope in 1978 was ordained into the Catholic priesthood on  "All Saints day(1-11-1946) in this historic church.
Touching the gong of "Royal Sigismund(Zygmunt) Bell."

                                         He  then  was known as Karol.Wojtyla. The current Gothic cathedral is the third cathedral built on the same site as the previous two were destroyed in the 11th and 12th century. The present Gothic cathedral was constructed in the 14th century by Bishop Nanker.The main altar  has a 17th century painting  of the crucified Christ  by Marcin.Blechowski .Saw the sarcophagus of St Stanislaus.Visited Sigismund's chapel which adjoins the southern wall of the cathedral which  is considered one of the most notable pieces of architecture in Krakow and the purest form of renaissance architecture outside Italy which was the cradle of the Renaissance period.Financed by Sigismund I the Old and built between 1517 -1533 by Florentine architect Bartolommeo .Berrecci.It houses the tombs of its founder and his children.
View of Krakow from "Sigismund Bell tower"

                                  Walked up the stairs to the Sigismund tower and got a feel of the massive size of the "Royal Sigismund Bell(Zygmunt bell)" cast in bronze.There was a long queue of tourists wanting to see and touch this bell which is one of the World's largest bells.Its weight is almost  13 tons and requires 12 bell ringers to swing it.It tolls only on special occasions which is national and religious  holidays and is considered one of the National symbols  of Poland.This bell was cast in Krakow in 1520. and is decorated with reliefs of St Staislaus and St Sigismund and the arms of Poland and Lithuiania. It is still in its original position on the 14th century bell tower  where it was  hung  in 1521.Touched the gong of this massive bell which has a belief that a wish does come true on touching the gong.The view of Krakow from the top of the bell tower was scenic and worth the stair climb.
Wawel Cathedral in Wawel Castle complex.

                                                                                                                There are 4 smaller bells in the tower which are older than the massive "Sigismund(Zygmunt) Bell".The Wawel cathedral has another Belfry called the "Tower of Silver" which has 5 bellsNext visited the "St Leonards Crypt" situated beneath the cathedral.This crypt holds the tomb of Polish Kings,National heroes, Generals and Polish Revolutionaries.Pope John Paul II also considered being buried here at one time but was finally buried in St Peters Basilica in the Vatican as is the tradition  of the Papacy.My last visit was to the "John Paul II Cathedral Museum".In 1975 this   museum was transformed from a Diocesan museum to a cathedral museum housing objects from Wawel Cathedral   by Cardinal Karol Wojtyla who later became Pope John Paul II.
"Corpus Christi Basilica" in Kazimierz.

                                                     The building houses four rooms as follows.1)Royal room housing objects of polish royalty and ceremonies. 2)Cathedral Treasury room (11th -16th Century) housing objects donated to the Wawel Cathedral which was and is considered the most important church in Catholic Poland. 3)Cathedral Treasury room (17th -20th Century)  housing objects donated to the Cathedral by the Clergy and the Aristocracy between the 17th and 20th centuries 4)Papal room which contains memorabilia associated with Pope John Paul-II who during his time as Archbishop Karl Wojtyla of Krakow elevated this diocesan museum to  the rank of Wawel Cathedral museum.His papal clothes are on display as also the papal Mitre.After touring the Cathedral museum at approximately 1445 hrs  made my exit from Wawel hill down  towards my normal route to the hostel.It was a long straight walk to the hostel and after a refreshing bathe relaxed for some time in my cosy room.At 1630 began my last leg of exploration for the day with the agenda being the "JEWISH SECTOR" of Old Town Krakow called  "Kazimierz" .Our locality of Pekarska was also in  Kazimierz district but  was the Catholic segment of this historical former Jewish district which had its Polish Jewish and Catholic segments.. Explored the nearby  street near the hostel and came across a restaurant  called "Curry Up !" advertising Asian street  food which was actually partly my native Mumbai street food.
Jozefa street in Old Town  "KAZIMIERZ" 

                     In distant Poland native Mumbai street food was definitely expensive but cheap when you compare the cost of living of the average Polish citizen. Inquiring directions  came across the gigantic Gothic "Corpus Christi Basilica" made of  brick and stone situated in Kazimierz district .This Basilica was a mere 10 minutes walk from Dom Studencki Zaulek hostel in Old Town Perkarska .The entire huge church compound looked desolate with not a human in sight  which surprised me. Entered the  Basilica and felt i was in a Royal Palace rather than a Church as such was its internal Polish  baroque religious decor.This church was founded By King Casimir III the Great in 1335 and was actually initially intended as a church cum monastery and hence its huge compound.It had a boat shaped pulpit and a high altar.
"Old Synagogue" in Kazimierz

                                               This Church was plundered by the Swedish in 1665 and is considered one of the best Baroque decor churches in Central Europe. To me  the Church resembled a holy palace .Renaissance artist Bartolommeo.Berrecci who designed the "Sigismund Chapel" in Wawel Cathedral is buried in this Basilica.Krakow should be called the city of Churches and Basilica's.After the church visit  walked along the narrow street of Jozefa towards the "Old Synagogue".Since its formation in the 14th century Kazimierz was a Independent city of the Polish Kingdom and since centuries a place of co-existence and interpenetration of Christian and Jewish cultures.In 1941 its historic North Eastern Jewish inhabitants were relocated to th Krakow Ghetto just across the Vistula river in Podgorze.The rest is World War-II history.
"Yiddish Music" at Ester Krakow cafe in Kazimierz.

                                             After the Second World War Kazimierz was devoid of a Jewish population and neglected by the new  Communist  regime. Since 1988 Jewish culture was re-introduced to a post World War-II Cracovian  generation devoid  of mingling with their historic Kazimierz  Jewish counterparts by means of celebrating the annual Jewish festival .In 1993 Hollywood director Steven.Spielberg shot most of his film "SCHINDLERS LIST" in the Kazimierz locality although  historically it didn't play a major role .The film shooting created a new found interest in Kazimierz  and old historic sites in the locality were restored while Jewish themed restaurants, books and souvenir shops  made it a  important tourist destination in  Krakow. Kazimierz owes Steven.Spielberg and the movie "Schindlers list" a favour for rekindling a interest in its historic culture and unique location in Cracovian society.
Inside Remuh Synagogue.
 
                                                        Most importantly there is a reverse migration of some Jews from Israel  and U.S.A to Kazimierz  with the local Jewish population having increased in recent years.My first stop was at the "Old Synagogue" which is now a Jewish museum.The "Old Synagogue" is the oldest Synagogue building still standing in Poland.Before  1939  it was the most important Jewish Synagogue in Krakow and totally plundered and internally destroyed by the Nazi Germans during World War-II.After the War it was renovated between 1956- 1959 and now functions as a museum.At 1645 hrs it was almost closing time for the museum and hence i couldn't visit it.I could definitely feel the cultural difference between Old town Krakow and Old town Kazimierz Krakow.Walked along Kazimierz  and felt myself in a different World of Krakow.  
Remuh Jewish Cemetery.

                                                                                                                                      Besides a visit to Israel in 2008 this was the first time i got a glimpse of Jewish culture outside Israel in the former city  of some of their  their ancestors. In fact our Israeli tourist guide in Israel was of Polish descent and wonder if his ancestors were from Krakow.There were a few open air "Jewish Cafe's" in the vicinity with one cafe "Ester Krakow"  playing  classical Yiddish music and the restaurant menu as pricey as Jerusalem restaurants.Israel is one of the costliest country's in the World.My next visit was  the "Remuh Cemetry and Synagogue" just a few minutes walk from the "Old Synagogue".The closing time for visitors and tourists was 1800 hrs and at 1700 hrs i was lucky to get entrance into the synagogue which was undergoing renovation.Entrance ticket to the Synagogue and cemetery was 5 PLN .
Recreating Pre-1939 Jewish Kazimierz shops for tourists.

                                                                                                   The synagogue is named after Rabbi Moses.Isseries(1525-1572)whose Hebrew acronym  was Rema.On entering the Synagogue i was surprised by the simplicity and smallness of this practicing Synagogue compared to the palatial churches in the vicinity. Remuh  Synagogue is the smallest of all the historic synagogues in Poland and one of the only two active synagogues in Krakow.During the holocaust the Synagogue was converted into a  storehouse of firefighting equipment having been stripped of its religious articrafts.The building was intact and in 1957  underwent complete renovation and  restored into a place of Jewish worship.
Mobile "BUS RESTAURANT" in Kazimierz.

                                                                           There were memorials on the wall of the building dedicated to victims of the Nazi holocaust by their relatives mostly Americans  and it was disturbing to read  memorials of entire families who perished.From the Synagogue  visited the Cemetery situated in the open ground next to the synagogue.After the cemetery visit  made my way out of the Synagogue and strolled around Jewish Kazimierz and realized the reasons for European Jews having a total separate identity among fellow Europeans.Came across a few shops that were modeled  on the pre-1939 era of Jewish Kazimierz although the prices of the  products and eatables were on par with the most expensive in the city. Kazimierz is now a commercialized  tourist hub.On my way back to the hostel came across a  mobile "Bus restaurant" serving patrons on the open air  side walk.As mentioned i was breaking my own tour walkathon records and today was definitely one of my longest walks beginning in the salt mines of Wieliczka and finally ending in the Jewish enclave of Kazimierz. Dinner was  sandwiches with beer ,pears and a pastry.Weather was excellent and cool but not cold.At 2000 hrs i was snug in my bed content in my days accomplishments.
Entrance gate to the holocaust "AUSCHWITZ - I CONCENTRATION CAMP":- Our Polish Lady guide explaining.
Thursday(10-9-2015) Krakow :- After my normal  approximately 4 hours sleep woke up and whiled away my time planning my next solo itinerary.At 0630 hrs after  the normal toilet routines in the desolate  floor of my hostel dressed up left the hostel.
Auschwitz-I prison housing complex.

                                                                             It was a chill morning and as usual walked down the lane to my now familiar N0 10 Tram stop.Krakow does not have a underground train metro service  and hence buses and trams were the common and most convenient public transport.Reached the now familiar "Galleria Krakowska" at 0645 hrs and crossed over the train station by the underground subway  into the adjacent bus terminus.On inquiries was directed to the "Auschwitz mini-bus " terminus which was on the ground floor of the 2 storey International  bus terminus complex .The mini-van  "No 122 L" had "OSWIECIM" , the Polish name for Auschwitz written on the main front window and hence easily identifiable by tourists.
AUSCHWITZ- I:- Housing  for human extermination.

                                                                   Visits to the Auschwitz concentration camp is one of the busiest tourist routes of Krakow  and reservation for Individual visitors should be made in advance through a Internet booking which i did through my hostel manager.The ticket  cost was 40 PLN for a "Return ticket".The "122 L" mini van left the bus station at approximately 0715 hrs and it was a pleasant journey along the Krakow countryside on beautiful paved roads.Entire Europe has one of the World's best roads and highways where driving at 100 Km/hr is passe!Auschwitz(Oswiecem) is approximately 70 Kms from Krakow  and at  0845 hrs reached Oswiecem(Auschwitz) and made my way to the main tourist entrance gate.
Auschwitz-I complex guard watch-tower.

                                         It was the coldest morning of my entire tour and there was  already a large crowd of Caucasian tourists  at the main reception counter. Checked my name at the "Internet registration counter" and found it cancelled since i didn't pay the fees online   and hence luckily got myself re-registered and payed the entrance fee of 12 PLN. A electronic board displayed the timings for guided tours in different languages which included French,Polish,Italian,German,Spanish and English.I was allotted the days first  English tour scheduled for 1030 hrs and was told to wait in the large  warm reception lobby as were the other group tourists.At 1000 hrs was shown a 15 minutes documentary on the atrocities committed in the concentration and the  testimony of the survivors after  its liberation by the Soviet Army .This film was shown in  the small mini-theatre adjoining the lobby.After the film made my way out of the warm cosy lobby into the cold Auschwitz morning. There was a large crowd of mostly Caucasian tourists with a few Orientals and   myself being the only Indian.Our  Polish lady guide was punctual at 1030 hrs  and since the crowd was large decided to divide us  into two different English groups.
Wall on which inmates were executed by "Firing Squad".

                                                                     She would guide the first group while the next would follow after the arrival of another guide . Since i was a lone tourist  requested to be in the first group and was allowed the same.The "AUSCHWITZ" tour including travel time is almost a entire day tour and since i was travelling alone didn't want to get back to Krakow late in the evening.We  were  each given a audio-phone through which we could hear her .We walked to the main gate which has the infamous signboard in German "ARBEIT MACHT FREI" which means "WORK SETS YOU FREE". The Auschwitz  concentration camps was a network of 3 different camps
"Auschwitz I" Concentration camp complex.

                                                                                                                            The camp we were now visiting was "AUSCHWITZ -1" while approximately 2.5 Kms from here was the other camp called "AUSCHWITZ II-BIRKENEAU" camp and the third was "AUSCHWITZ III-MONOWITZ" camp that was actually a slave labour camp for a I.G .Farben factory.The Auschwitz III camp no more existed as it was dismantled by the Soviet Union.Hence we would be touring "AUSCHWITZ I" and "AUSCHWITZ II-BIRKENEAU". concentration camps.As a student of history have read  Adolf.Hitler's autobiography "Mein Kempf "  to understand the Nazi ideology. Also read  the biography of his deputy Rudolph.Hess whose undecipherable act of flying to England in the midst of the War to seek peace with England as also his long  imprisonment and unexplained suicide which  baffled historians and detectives.
"Auschwitz II-Bikenau" Concentration camp.

                                      Years later here i was in person witnessing the worst atrocities in human history inflicted on fellow humans on the basis of a ideology.Read my tour blog of the "Killing Fields" of Cambodia where i did happen to meet a survivor of the Pol Pot regime.World War II is now distant history in 2015 and a few babies or children born in the Concentration camps could be the only lucky holocaust survivors in 2015. Polish Antoni.Dobrowlowoski who died at the age of 108  on October 21 2012 in Debno(Poland)  was the last authentic oldest known survivor of  Auschwitz concentration camps.Discrimination against Jews in Germany  began after the Nazi's seized power  in 1933.After the annexation of Poland by the Nazi's in 1939 it was decided in 1940 by Reichsfuhrer-SS Heinrich.Himmler   to make Auschwitz which was then a Polish garrison  into  a site for detaining political prisoners.SS Obersturmbannfuhrer( Lt Col )Rudolf.Hoss was given the task of building the prison housing project and became its first Commandant.
Original Prison transport train wagon.

                                                                                                                                       This prison camp was called "AUSCHWITZ-I". Initially the prisoners were mostly Polish men .Later as the war progressed Jews and other non-Aryan people including Gypsies ,half-breeds ,homosexuals and other society misfits were sent to this camp.Plans for the total eradication of Europe's 11 million Jewish population was formalized at the "Wannsee Conference" on  January 20 1942.The rest is holocaust history.Our guide took us around the buildings which resembled a normal   massive cheap  housing complex. Most of these  buildings are of modern construction built on the design of the original buildings as the retreating Nazi army destroyed most of the concentration camp evidence including buildings.Important signboards with photo's were placed in front of some buildings indicating the importance of that particular building in the extermination of prisoners.
"Auschwitz II- Birkenau" Complex.

                       In one building there was the passport size photo's of some of the numerous victims of the Auschwitz-I death camp.Numerous books and reams of paper and now internet research  have been written on Auschwitz and hence i will just give a brief practical view as a tourist.Visited the building where the clothes and luggage of  the prisoners  were exhibited.One building depicted the living conditions of the prisoners in bunk type accommodation.We were shown the Gestapo torture ground where prisoners suspected of treason and underground resistance were tortured with most succumbing to the same.Saw the blank wall against which prisoners faced the firing squad.A very depressing tour as every tourist realizes that the people in this extermination housing camp did not die natural deaths but were either worked or tortured to death.I love visiting cemeteries as most cemeteries are beautiful gardens parks for the dead and a place for introspection on life and living."Auschwitz-1" death camp was not a cemetery but a site of one of the worst human created mass murders  in history.
"Furnace Crematorium"ruins in Auschwitz II-Birkenau.

                                                                              The  approximately 7000 Schtzstaffel(SS) men who looked after the extermination prison camps had their living quarters within the camp and lived a privileged life compared to other German army units.Some of them were allowed to live with their wives and children in the camp quarters.The camp had a library,swimming pool, coffee house and a theatre for the German army staff .The most infamous doctor of Auschwitz was Dr Josef.Mengele also called the "Angel of Death"  who performed experiments on some of the prisoners who were twins or dwarfs.He escaped the gallows and is rumoured to have died in South America. Camp commandant Rudolf.Hoss  along with his wife and children lived in a private villa  having a swimming pool and other luxuries. He was hanged next to his villa after a trial and was totally unrepentant saying that he was performing his job in the army.We finally finished our tour  of "AUSCHWITZ -I" at 1215 hrs and  were given a short break.I was hungry and had a expensive snack.At 1230 hrs we boarded the bus and it was a short drive to "AUSCHWITZ II-BIKENEAU " concentration camp.The first thing one notices is the railway track that enters the camp which today resembles a huge open ground with small single row buildings that depict the "Concentration camp" housing system.
Memorial Plaques by different Nations

                                                                                                                                 After my visit to Israel for the first time got to see traditional Jews in their traditional garments and pony-tail hair locks.We walked across the railway track towards a single train coach museum exhibit  that was a authentic restored coach of one of the trains that carted prisoners to this concentration camp. Every English movie fan  must have seen "Schindlers List" or some holocaust movie and this was one of the places in which the overcrowded trains arrived with prisoners doomed to death.On arrival at Birkenau train station the prisoners were separated according to their physical fitness ,age and slave labour  employment skills.A young Jewish lad  in typical Jewish rabbi attire was seating on the historic museum train coach's metal buffer rod  and was reprimanded by our guide  for disrespect  to a tragic site.He is on the photograph i clicked of the coach. This young man literally jumped off from the coach  like a mischievous boy reprimanded by a school teacher and had a awkward fall in typical "Woody Allen" fashion.He quickly recovered and ran away with his young Jewish friend. Jewish comedians are considered one of the best in the World and this young lad could be a future "Woody Allen".  Our guide explained us the importance of different buildings and also a separate building that housed women prisoners.We were also shown the showers and wash rooms as also the toilets for prisoners.We were shown the chambers in which the prisoners were gassed with  "Zyklon-B" , a cyanide based  pesticide.
Women's prison camp in "Auschwitz-II - Birkenau".

                                                                    Last of all were the massive crematoriums where the dead bodies were disposed. Just ruins of the crematoriums remained as the same was destroyed by the Germans. A writer  commented that there is not a single statue or monument to Adolf.Hitler but his memory is all over the post Second World War  World.The creation of Israel for European Jews and the 21st century Arab-Israeli conflict is a result of the "HOLOCAUST". In fact the entire "Auschwitz II-Birkenau" concentration camp complex was rebuilt after 1947 as a museum since the original had been almost totally destroyed by the Germans..After the liberation of the camp by the Soviet army  on January 27 1945 now annually commemorated  as "International Holocaust  remembrance day " parts of Auschwitz was initially converted into a hospital.Soviet and polish investigators probed the war crimes through the survivors and captured "SS" men.The Soviets dismantled the I G  Farben factories in "Auschwitz-III" and the Birkenau concentration barracks was looted by Polish civilians.
Gallows in "Auschwitz-I" where Rudolf. Hoss was executed.

                                                      Area residents searched the mass graves and ashes for gold. Bizarrely until 1947 some of the sites were used as a prison camp by the victorious Soviet Union NKVD  police.The site became a museum in 1947 and in 1979 was named a UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE. Our tour of  "Auschwitz II-Bikenau" camp was finally over at 1500 hrs and we boarded the bus and were transported back to "Auschwitz-I" camp. Visited the  plush tourist restaurant and had a plate of potato chips costing 6 PLN. Was surprised at not seeing a single  Non-Oriental Asian among the tourists .I was hoping to meet some Indian origin Israelis many  of whom migrated from Bombay after the creation of the State of Israel.Visited the book-shop which had books on the holocaust and whiled away some time browsing through the books.At approximately 1600 hrs boarded the mini-van and began my return journey back to Krakow.Reached landmark "Galleria Krakowska" at approximately 1730 hrs in the peak evening traffic.Walked my way back to the hostel through the normal marathon route passing along Old Market square and  Wawel castle.The  historic tour of the Auschwitz concentration  death camps changed my mental attitude towards life and living.Just happy to be a free living man let alone wealthy or a genius.Dinner was ham,tinned fish, pastry, bread and two beers.A health dietitian would have recommended more food for the calories that i was burning every day during my marathon day walks.had a reasonable nights sleep.
At the  statue of  Pope  St John Paul II   in Wadowice . The birthplace of  the Pope.

Friday(11-9-2015) Krakow :- Woke up early as usual, my last day in Krakow.Checked out of  my hotel room  and kept my luggage  in the hostel storage room  as i would be leaving for Budapest in the night.
Basilica of Wadowice in Market Square.

                                                                                                                                                  At 0730 hrs  walked out of the hostel and had a tiny paper cup of coffee costing a  astronomical 5 PLN.My days agenda was to visit Wadowice which was the birthplace of St Pope John Paul II. As a fan  and history buff of the "Mad Monk Rasputin" it would be sacrilegious of touring Krakow and not visiting Wadowice, the birthplace of Pope St John Paul II. Pope John Paul II had visited Bombay(Mumbai) in February 1986 during my sailing years and my mother had personally attended his mass at Shivaji Park in Mumbai.Akin to the "Mad Monk" i believe in "Physical pain and earthly pleasure " to gain happiness and despite my fatigue  decided to do penance by walking  all the way to "Galleria Krakowska".The landmark mall location for tourists heading or arriving from  the International  bus and train station of Krakow Glowny,Rasputin had walked from Russia to Jerusalem !  But unlike Rasputin i was lucky to be alive at the age of 55 years and as fit as a 30 year old youth  despite suffering a severe case of digestive problems just before departure from Mumbai  which almost made me cancel my tour.
Wadowice Town Square Fountain.

                                                                                                              It was my gambling  intuition(6th sense)that eventually made me undertake the tour and i was even carrying my doctors medication in case of emergency medical treatment  before a quick flight back to India.Call it a miracle that after flying out of  Mumbai my digestive sickness just disappeared and i was hale and hearty with a little sleeplessness fatigue.Took a different route towards Galleria Krakowaska and on the way came across the "Temple Synagogue" which made my tour of  seeing Krakow Synagogues fulfilled. At 0830 hrs was at Galleria Krakowska and after crossing the railway station subway reached the International bus terminus. Frantically inquired about the bus to Wadowice which is a distance of  53 Kms from Krakow.Language was my worst nemesis  as i was under the impression that most Europeans spoke or understood English language.Finally discovered the bus stop which was parking lot No "D15" in the bus depot.At 0900 hrs boarded the mini van  bus to Wadowice  and it was a pleasant journey across the Polish countryside .Reached Wadowice Main town market which has been renamed "John Paul II Square" square at approximately 1000 hrs with the bus stop just a few meters away from the Town square.
Baptismal Holy Family chapel in Basilica.

                                                                The entire population of Wadowice city  is less than 20,000 people !From the bus stop walked towards the Main market town square  which resembled a artificial film set in its cleanliness, beauty , architecture and sparse population.Not ashamed  to state that the Town square road  seemed cleaner than the tiled floor of my house in Mumbai . The Town square  has a granite surface with 167 plaques  commemorating Pope  John Paul II's pilgrimages to Poland and over 100 Country's around the World.There were advertisement  hoardings  in the main town square of a Japanese "World Seido Karate" demonstration in Wadowice . Remember that the Pope was a avid sportsman being proficient in team sports as well as skiing.It was a very small town square   and after a short walk   entered the  "Basilica of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary".It is a 15th century church which was rebuilt in the 18th century.This was the church in which Pope John Paul II was baptized  in the  Holy Family chapel as a child.He was then known as Kaol.Wojtyla.The interior of the church as did all the other churches in Central Europe  resembled a Palace in church art and baroque decor although small in size.The  Main church altar has interchangeable paintings of the  Virgin Mary and All Saints.In the left knave of the  Presbytery is a chapel which has the miraculous image of Our lady of Perpetual Help blessed by Pope John Paul II on 16th June 1999 during his third visit to his birthplace.
Wadowice Main market town Square.

                                                                                                                                Pilgrims visit the Basilica to view this miraculous  image. There is a large clock on the steeple of the Basilica.From the Basilica strolled around the small town square and came across "John Paul II Family house museum" at the corner of the Town Square.This building was erected in the 19th Century and in 1919 the  Wojtyla family rented  a apartment on the second floor in which Karol Jozef Wojtyla was born on 18th May 1920.Karol .Wojtyla went through the Market Square everyday during his school years and some of his classroom friends lived near the Market Square.In 1984 a Open Papal exhibition was set up here and in 2010 the whole building was renovated and converted  into a museum.I didn't visit the museum as i had a hectic time travel schedule ahead  in a Country where English was almost a strange language.
Picturesque cobble stone  street in Wadowice.

                                                                                                   A beautiful fountain stood at the centre  of the Town square in which pigeons refreshed themselves with a bathe or quenched their thirst.There was a pastry/bread  bakery  shop  in the main square and was surprised to see a queue of tourists for purchasing the pastry and bread.The "Piekarnia  bakery"  shop was literally a museum of bread and pastry's.Different types and sizes of bread .pizza's and pastries were on sale and the bakery staff just busy serving its customers. Krakow  and Wadowice could be called the city of Churches, bakeries and pigeons.Purchased a traditional Pizza which at 1.7 PLN was surprisingly cheap compared to the extravagant morning coffee in Krakow costing 5 PLN. Bizarre prices.
View of Vistula river  & Wawel Castle from the bridge.

                                                                   It was a bright cool  morning and after the Pizza snack  walked down the cobblestone  road away from the Market square and came across some hawkers selling their wares .The entire small Town resembled a "FILM SET", The beauty and cleanliness was poster card perfect and hence the comparison to a artificial "Film set".Returned back to the Main market town square and  discovered the "Kremowki  Papieska" pastry shop at a corner of the Town Square.Wadowice is also famous for the "Kremowka Papieska" cream cake  made world famous by  Pope St John Paul II .At  5 PLN the pastry was reasonably priced  and it consisted of  two layers of puffed pastry  filled  with custard   cream and hence the name "Kremowka".After the pastry snack decided to board the bus and return back to Krakow.
At Statue of "DZOK the Dog"

                  I had fulfilled my ambition of the tour of Wadowice having visited the birthplace of  a Pope who was Canonized as a Saint.My life circle of Catholic religious tourism had come to completion.Boarded the bus at 1200 hrs and it was a long slow journey  towards Krakow with the mini-van stopping at various places along the route.At approximately 1315 hrs sighted Wawel castle from the highway and requested the driver to stop the van next to the Vistula  river bridge.Alighted the van and walked across the Vistula river towards Wawel Hill embankment.There was a crowd of tourists along the riverside as well as two small restaurant ships anchored on the wharf.Walking along the riverside came across a garden  which had a statue built in homage of "Dzok,the dog ".
Schindler Factory Museum

                                                                                                                                     A plaque  in English language stated that  throughout 1990-91 Dzok was seen waiting at the Rondo Grunwaldzkie  roundabout to be fetched by his master who had expired at that same spot.Unbelievable and true.I didn't notice seeing stray dogs during my tour and seems Dzok was lucky not to have been caught by the "Animal shelter squad" and euthanized  or else he was known to locals who must have been feeding him and also watching his movements.I intended walking along the riverside to the Old Town market square.Came across a group of archers practicing their skill against  targets buffered by the hill-side.It was a long slow walk to the Old Market square crowded with tourists and horse carriages as also pigeons.As a movie addict during my youth  it was sacrosanct that i visited Krakow and didn't visit "Oscar Schindlers Factory Museum" although furious with Director Steven.Spielberg for giving sharks a bad name in his debut hit movie "Jaws"."Schindler's  Factory  Museum" was on my agenda and walked to the tourist office and inquired about the method of transport to this tourist site.
Nazi War Memorabilia in "Schindler Factory museum".

                                                                                                                  The tourism office in the Main market town square was extremely helpful in guidance with the staff very courteous and speaking fluent English.Was told to board tram No 24 just a few meters away from the office on the main road junction .Purchasing tram tickets is a tricky act for tourists due to language as well as machine operation handicaps. I boarded the tram without purchasing a tram ticket hoping to buy the same if accosted by a ticket collector and explaining him my predicament. Schindler's factory was at 4 Lipowa street and alighted at the required tram stop "Plac Bohaterow" as guided by a local commuter.From "Plac Bohaterow" tram stop it was a long walk towards the museum on Lipowa street
Oskar.Schindler office.

.                                                                                                                   On arriving near the museum came across a container food van with the name  "Hindus Indian food". I thought they were advertising themselves as a "Vegetarian Restaurant" since most Westerners consider most  Hindus vegetarian , Steven.Spielberg also had a film partnership venture with Indian Industrialist Anil.Ambani, a Hindu Indian. On inquiry was surprised to know that this "Hindu Indian food" restaurant served hard core non-vegetarian food and snacks  ranging from Pork Vindaloo to  butter Chicken besides vegetarian food like  Chana Massala !Importantly there was no "Beef" dishes on the menu.
Exhibit of Jewish valuables .

                                                                                                                 This was Steven Spielberg style advertisement by the restaurant owners.Yes the World and India  now knows that  Hindus are also non-vegetarians barring beef meat!Entrance ticket  to the museum was 21 PLN and it was crowded.The museum exhibits the city of Krakow between 1939 to 1945 when it was under German Nazi rule.At the entrance to the museum was a plaque honouring Oskar.Schindler(1908-1974) with a quote from the holy  Talmud stating  ," Whoever saves one life saves the World entire". This building was on  the actual site of Oskar.Schindler's enamel factory  which has two museums. One museum is on contemporary arts while the other which i was visiting  is on Krakow city under Nazi occupation.The museum was in a building and it was a short climb up a flight of stairs to the first floor of the building.On entering the first room of the museum the visitor is instantly taken back to 1939 in a photographic time capsule that explains the important events during Nazi occupation of Krakow.Genuine posters of the era line the  walls.Tourists have to gradually move in a single file along the different rooms where various exhibits are kept.
Krakow liberated by Soviet Army.Stalin.

                                                The next room  had exhibits of German uniforms, helmets, Swastika banner and news cuttings of the era.There were exhibits of Jewish property  seized by the Nazi's with placards explaining the rules and laws of that era against the minority Jewish population.The word "GHETTO" is today used to describe a low scale or poor  communalized housing  system in any part of the World but its origins sprang from the "JEWISH GHETTO'S" created in  Poland and other Nazi occupied Country's of Europe during World War II.The Polish Jewish Ghetto was explained in detail where approximately 320 one or two storey houses across several streets became a secluded and isolated Ghetto cut off from the local population .In German propaganda Jews were presented as carriers of diseases and hence isolation from the normal population.In reality the Ghetto residents were used  as slave labour and ultimately sent to their deaths in concentration camps like Auschwitz and Birkenau.Many Ghetto survivors  including Hollywood Director Roman.Polanski who was 8 years old at the time  had his testimony about life and living in the Ghetto's displayed in the museum.
"BARBICAN FORTRESS"  of Krakow Old Town Market.

                                                                                                      One room contained the office of Oskar.Schindler who really lived in style and loved luxury with a wardrobe of suits . He was also a horse racing fan with photographs of horses  on his table.His typewriter and phone was on display as also his normal files and desk.The enamel utensils that his factory manufactured were on display in a glass paneled shelf.He was definitely fond of Nude paintings ,As one walks  across in a straight file  its  Krakow under "Third Reich" rule that is reflected  and finally towards the end a huge portrait of  Josef .Stalin greets the visitors.The last room exhibits the final days of the "Third Reich" and displays Soviet ammunition and armaments used against the Nazi's for capturing Krakow.Capture of Krakow by the Soviet Army was the end of the museum display.
ST FLORIANS GATE.

          At approximately 1615 hrs made my exit from the museum and walked the distance to the tram stop at "Plac Bohaterow" . Boarded Tram No 24  without purchasing a ticket and suddenly just before arrival near Old Market town place a group of 3 young men stepped into the tram examining the passengers for tickets. To my utter astonishment  on telling the ticket collector that i didn't have a ticket he spoke in fluent English and told me that i would have to pay a fine for "Ticketless travel".Alighted at the Main market town square tram stop where i paid the young man a fine of 120 PLN a fortune in Indian currency.He was more surprised since i didn't argue with him but admitted my fault also explaining the reasons.He issued me a receipt for the fine and also a ticket costing only 4PLN.For a 4 PLN ticket i had to pay a ticket-less fine of 120 PLN ! I have never ever been robbed, mugged or cheated in a Foreign Country during my entire lifetime and this was the first instance where of all things i lost money for "TICKETLESS TRAVEL" ! Recovered from the ticket-less shock akin to losing in a horse race  and made my way into the now too familiar Old Town market square.Walked towards the "Barbican" which is the actual fortified entrance to the Old Town market square. Built in 1498 it is one of the only 3  Fortification outposts still surviving  in Europe.
Touring Krakow Old Market Place in a " Motor Buggy"

    It is considered a masterpiece of military engineering and modeled on the Arabic and not European defensive strategy.Next walked across to St Florians gate  which is a 33.5 meters tall Gothic Tower.This gate named after St Florian  was the main entrance to the Old town  connected by a long bridge  through a moat to the fortified  circular Barbican.The ancient Royal route  of Kings, Queens,Foreign Envoys, distinguished guests ,processions and parades began at St Florians Gate.From here the royal route was through Ulica Florianska(St Florians street) to the Main market square and up Ulica Grodzka(Castle street) to the final destination of Wawel Castle. Today this is the common route of tourists in the city.Walked back the familiar distance to my hostel and at 1830 hrs collected my luggage and walked out of "Dom Studencki Zaulek " hostel premises.
Wawel Hill & Wawel Castle as seen from  Main road.

                  Took a different lane from the main road of the hostel   and  discovered  a "SEX SHOP" just a few meters away from the hostel and  the church monastery.Entered the "Butik  Dla Dorostych" and was transported into a World of sex toys and sex gadgets for both, men and women. A young man and a woman were at the sales counter in the small sex shop that resembled a grocery store.As a hard core former sailor exposed to "Sex shops" in European Country's  and from the land of Kamasutra  i was totally out of touch with modern innovations in the multi-billion dollar sex Industry.Photography was not allowed otherwise could have had the most erotic sex tools on camera.Thanked the staff for allowing me to window shop in the "Sex Shop" and made my way to the tram stop. Boarded Tram No 10 purchasing a 4 PLN ticket from the machine with the help of a local and alighted at "Galleria Krakowska".Walked through the railway subway onto the bus terminus and decided as usual to have a lavish dinner before departure from Krakow.
My last dinner in Krakow before departure to Budapest.

                        At 2000 hrs entered the "Gospodo Krakowska" restaurant situated just opposite the International bus terminus.Dinner was local  Polish  "Gillowny Fillet Kurczaka" with a large mug of beer costing a total of 19 PLN.After the 120PLN ticketless fine my solo travel attitude had changed from miser to spendthrift backpacker.After the lavish dinner walked into the bus terminus and into the common waiting lobby hoping that my bus would be on time at 2230 hrs as this company had a bad reputation with punctuality.Worse was that on a few occasions they even canceled their bus services abruptly without informing the passengers in advance as is the normal protocol.At 2200 hrs my bus number or destination did not show on the electronic screen board  and i panicked hoping that there was no cancellation. Inquired with  fellow passengers about the 2230 hrs "Orangeways bus" to Budapest  but none or few understood English.Finally a passenger told me that "International Buses" were not shown on the local electronic screen and  that the stop was outside the lounge in the allotted  bus parking lanes.Left the warm comfort of the lounge and ventured into the huge open bus parking lot filled with a few buses and passengers to different destinations. Finally came across a few passengers and even a young  Indian couple awaiting the same "Kolonjarat Charter Line(Orangeways)" bus to Budapest .The bus was late and  arrived at the bus station just before midnight.The seating accommodation was unfit for a overnight journey with absolutely cramped leg-space .We were at least thankful that the service was not cancelled and our journey to Budapest began  past mid-night.
View of Budapest from "FISHERMAN'S BASTION"  in  Buda Castle  complex..

Saturday(12-9-2015) Budapest :- Arrived at 0930 hrs in Budapest by one of the most horrible buses in my touring saga all over the World.The bus last stop was at Nyugati Palyaudar station.Observed a few people begging in the railway station an indication of the Syrian  refugee crisis in Hungary.
"CENTRAL MARKET HALL" building.

                    First approached the "Currency Exchange Counter" at the railway station entrance  lobby and exchanged Euros for the local Hungarian Forint at the rate of 1 Euro = 311 Forint(Ft) or  1Indian rupee = 4.8 Forint(Ft). Not wanting to  repeat the  ticket-less  saga drama again.purchased a 72 hrs(3 Days) Budapest travel-card ticket  costing 4150 Ft with the assistance of the ticket inspector  at the railway station. Once bitten twice shy.Boarded Metro 3 train and alighted at Kalvin Ter station.The bus was 3 hrs late and luckily things went well and after a little inquiry  on the main road  managed to find my way to  "White Rabbit hostel" situated in a 150 year old building.Deposited my luggage in the hostel as check -in time was 1400 hrs  and decided to explore the city with the help of the guide map.
Statue of  Saint King Stephen I  outside St Matthais Church

                                                            Walked  along the main road from the hostel building towards the Danube river and came across  the "Central Market Hall" situated a few meters from the banks of the river Danube. This indoor market is considered the most beautiful in Europe and was originally built in  1896 and later restored in 1994.On entering this market was just spell bound by the variety of food products and the cleanliness of the market.From the market walked towards the tram station just across the market near the Danube river with the intention of visiting Buda castle. Budapest is divided into halves Buda and Pest by the river Danube with Pest being the half on the East bank on which my hostel was situated and Buda on the West  side of the river on which Buda Castle was located.
Hungarian Parliament as seen from Fisherman's Bastion.

                                                                                              On 17th November 1873 the two halves Pest and Buda were merged to form the city Budapest. There are numerous bridges across the Danube river linking Pest and Buda of which the most famous situated in the main tourist locale of Budapest city. are "Elizabeth Bridge"  "Liberty Bridge(Freedom Bridge)""Szechenyi Chain Bridge" and the "Margaret Bridge .All the bridges were destroyed by the Germans during their retreat from Pest to Buda  in the " Siege of Budapest" during World War-II.The present bridges have all been rebuilt ."The "Liberty Bridge(Freedom Bridge)"  that connected Pest with Buda was directly  ahead  and closest to "White rabbit hostel".Hence i was confused as to whether to cross the bridge or board a tram/bus on the Pest side of the river to reach Buda Castle.A lady guided me  to  board Tram No 2 which was in the underground terminal of "Fovam Ter metro Station", the main metro terminus next to "Central market hall" in Pest and a few minutes walk from "White Rabbit hostel". Boarded Tram No 2  which has a scenic route along the east bank of the Danube river in Pest.Alighted at Chain bridge and after inquiries  walked over to the bus station a few minutes from the tram stop   and  boarded  bus No  16  to visit Budapest castle.
St Matthais Church  in Buda castle district.

                                                     The Bus drove over the "Chain Bridge" across the river Danube onto Buda side of the river."Chain Bridge" was the first bridge to be built over the Danube river linking Buda and Pest.It was a long uphill drive to Buda Castle district which is the oldest part of the capital and also a World Heritage site.At approximately 1045 hrs alighted at the last stop in Buda castle district.Walked up  the steep road  past St Matthais Church onto the "Fisherman's Bastion" which was crowded with tourists.A equestrian statue of Saint King Strephen I  who founded the Magyar Kingdom is a prominent landmark next to Fisherman's Bastion.It gets its name from the  guild of fishermen who were responsible for defending this stretch of the land from invaders during the Middle ages."Fisherman's Bastion" was built between 1895 and 1902 and is a terrace which occupies a portion of the extreme boundary walls of Buda castle.It has seven spires which represents the seven chieftains of the Magyars  who conquered this land that became Hungary.There was a  luxury cafe  along the castle wall of Fisherman's Bastion which offered its patrons a  breathtaking view of  the Danube, Margaret Island , Gellert hill and Pest to the East while musicians entertained them..
View of Margaret Island and Margaret Bridge.

              Went to the viewing point of the Bastion  and realized the reasons for Budapest being considered one of the most beautiful city's in Europe. The Parliament building on Pest side was just amazing as also the surrounding landscape .Later strolled around the crowded castle complex  and came across a Hungarian in traditional costume with a massive "Golden Eagle" on his arm below the bronze equestrian statue of  Saint King Stephen I of Hungary . He was offering tourists a photo session with the hooded eagle at  5 Euro a photo which was a big hit.After strolling around the castle complex boarded No 16 bus and was back across the river Danube into Pest.Walked over to the Hungarian Parliament building  situated in  Lajos Kossuth Square just a few minutes walk from the bus stop.
Hungarian Parliament Guards of Honour.

It is the largest and highest building in Hungary and is designed in the architectural style of the British Parliament in London.  Spent the entire morning sightseeing through tram no 2.The guards on duty resembled statues akin to  the sentry's of Buckingham palace guards in London.In fact from a distance i initially mistook them to be statues until they performed their change of guard march.It was a bright sunny afternoon  and after the normal photograph session  made my way to the tram stop.Boarded tram No 2 and alighted at "Fovam Ter" station. Walked into Central market hall and went to the first floor which had food stalls packed with diners.
Memento(Memorial Park)" of Soviet Era Political statues

       At 1330 hrs had a lunch consisting of beef Ghoulash a Hungarian specialty  costing 1200 Fl.Later came back to the hostel at 1400 hrs and checked into my room.Bright sunshine and pleasant weather.After the normal checking in formalities was allotted Room Nos 3 shared by four  other guests.First time in my life i had lived in a 150 years old building akin to living in a Maharajahs palace in India although of different stay costs.Strangely for a 150 year hostel it had the latest 21st century security arrangements with a safety key code to open the main door  akin to a K.G.B or C.I.A security code shown in films.Later in the evening decided to visit the Memento park(Memorial Park),the resting place of Communist era statues and memorabilia of Hungary."White Rabbit Hostel" was centrally located  to two Metro stations "Kalvin Ter" and "Fovam Ter" besides being within half-marathon walking distance from most tourist sites.
Memento Park" of Soviet Era statues in Budapest.

              The  "Fovam Ter" train station was just walking distance to the South of the hostel while "Kalvin Ter" which i used on my first arrival into the city  was to its North.The train ticket inspectors at "Fovam Ter" station proved helpful and directed me to the Metro platform which was at least 3 storeys underground .I was now familiar  with metro train travel in Europe which was a pleasure and definitely faster than private transport.Alighted the train at the last stop "Kelenfold  Vasutallomas" station and with great inquiry got the 710 bus to Memento Park.I was surprised that although "Memento Park" was a tourist attraction there were very few sign boards or direction signboards indicating the bus stop for tourists.
"Liberty(Freedom) Bridge" at twilight.

Seems most tourists might be travelling in group guided  tour buses with few venturing on solo tours.It was a real long travel distance by train and bus  and my decades of travel experience paid dividends.At approximately 1700 hrs  reached the park.Memento Park is about "DICTATORSHIP" and the park is divided into two sections 1) Statue Park and 2) Witness Square.Entrance to "Witness Square" is free while the  entrance to  "Statue Park"  was 1500 Ft and worth the money.There were statues of  Lenin, Marx and Engels  besides the statues of Hungarian Communist leaders.A total of 42 statues and monuments exist in "Statue Park" which were removed from Budapest after the fall of Communism in 1989. The "Memento Park(Memorial Park)" was opened on June 29  1993 on the second anniversary of the Soviet Army withdrawal from Hungary.
On bank of Danube with "Chain Bridge" in background.

                                                                                                                                     Reminded me of my own sea faring days during which i visited a few  Communist country's which today are separate  politically different nations or integrated into a single nation as happened in Germany.A  Soviet Union era passenger car was on display as also  propaganda posters of the Soviet Union era.Soviet Union era memorabilia was for sale and a particular book titled "The 3 Terrors" costing 500 Ft and having Lenin, Stalin and Mao on its cover caught my political study fancy. Got to listen to the voices and speeches of some of the greatest and infamous Communist leaders over a telephone specially created for tourists.After the nostalgic Communist era tour came back to my heritage hostel at 1845 hrs with  the return journey being easy..After a brief rest went to the hostel lounge room, excellently maintained with television,Internet and movies.The entire first floor of this historic building was owned by "White Rabbit Hostel".
Plaque on "White Rabbit Hostel" building.

                                                                                   A Plaque honouring the architect of the building was fitted outside the building wall facing the main road which was in Hungarian language.The lifespan  of the architect Patrubany.Gergelly was 1830 to 1891 and somewhere in-between he built the "White Rabbit hostel" building.Hence i averaged its age to be approximately 150 years old and in excellent rock solid condition. Most important was it survived World War-II in which the "Liberty Bridge" just about 200 meters away was destroyed as were other buildings in the near vicinity .The hostel had a live white coloured rabbit as its mascot which had its cage in the large recreation hall.During the day the rabbit was free to roam around the hall akin to a pet cat or dog.A co-hostelite guided me in using the hostel computer as it was programmed in Hungarian language.As usual got in touch with the computer and updated my travelogues.Later in the evening at 1930 hrs walked down to the Danube  and took photo's of the "Liberty bridge" at night.Later boarded the World famous Tram N0 2 and traversed the same locales getting a night view of the city waterfront.Alighted at the "Szechenyi Chain bridge" stop  and just admired Budapest at night.The view of Buda castle and the river Danube was picture post card beautiful. The entire Pest side riverfront of the Danube was  crowded with tourists.Came back to the hostel at 2030 hrs and came across Mr Rachel.Gopalswamy  from Chennai who had checked in to the hostel for a night. He was the first Indian tourist  i came across during my recent Europe hostel stays. Had a good nights sleep and was surprised at my own physical capabilities in Marathon solo walks.
 Budapest "Statue of Liberty" at  Citadella situated on the 236 meters Gellert Hill.

Sunday(13-9-2015) Budapest :- Woke up early as usual and at about 0700 hrs headed to the now familiar "Fovam Tier" station and boarded Tram No 2.Alighted at Chain bridge  with my destination being St Stephens Basilica.
Hungarian State Opera on Andrassy Avenue.

                                                                                                  As it was early morning got to view the pavement being cleaned by a electric  road cleaner akin to a house automatic floor polishing machine.With the help of locals and my tourist map reached St Stephens Basilica which was straight ahead in the opposite direction of "Chain Bridge" on the Pest side of Budapest..It was just 0730 hrs and the Basilica was closed and hence  walked further towards the  Hungarian State Opera situated on the fashionable Andrassy  shopping Avenue.On the way came across a grocery store and for a difference purchased a packet of milk and drank the same  instead of tea or coffee !The  Hungarian State opera was  opened to the public on 27th September 1884 and is the largest opera house in Hungary  built during the reign of Habsburg  Emperor Franz.Joseph.
"St Stephens Basilica"

                It had a major renovation that began in 1984 and lasted for four years with the Opera house reopening on 27th September 1984 exactly 100 years after its inaugural opening.The auditorium is horse shoe shaped with a capacity of  1261 people.In beauty and quality of acoustics it is considered one of the best in the World. .In front of the building are statues of  Ferenc.Erkel  and Franz.Liszt.Franz.Liszt had composed the Hungarian National anthem and was also founder of the  Budapest.Philharmonic orchestra while Erkel was the best known Hungarian Composer. There were statues of the female Sphinx on either side of the main building entrance.A large poster  advertising Shakespeare's play "Othello" hung in front of the Opera building.
Budapest Half Marathon in progress.

                                                                                                                                        I would have definitely visited the opera if the play was in English language.All the roads in Budapest have distinctly marked cycling lanes,a cyclists paradise as cycling is very popular all over Europe.From the Opera house went back to  St Stephens Basilica which now had a tourist crowd as well as Catholic parishioner.St Stephens Basilica  is named in honour of Stephen I(975-1038) ,Hungary's first King  whose mummified right hand is housed in the church reliquary.It is the third largest church building in Hungary  and the tallest building in Budapest along with the Parliament building having a total height of  96 meters (315 ft).Its architectural style is Neo-Classical and its facade has two large bell towers  with the southern bell tower housing Hungary's largest bell weighing 9 tons.
Cruise restaurant ships along  Pest side of Danube River.

   The Basilica is also famous for its musical concerts  with the head organist of the church always considered one of the best musicians.The Basilica choir often performs in different parts of Europe  and during the summer months perform every Sunday at the Basilica premises.Attended the 0830 mass with the  mass rituals similar to masses held in my native India only slight  differences being language and a few different religious rituals during the mass..At the end of my Central Europe tour have to say that all  Churches i visited in Vienna,Bratislava,Prague,Kracow,Wadowice and now in Budapest resembled Palaces in religious art decor and murals.
Funicular transport on Castle hill to Buda Castle.

                                                                                                              The Catholic Church was a "Superpower" during  the Middle ages and the same can be understood by just visiting the numerous churches and chapels in Europe.After Mass on stepping out of the Basilica came across a Catholic group from Philippines singing outside the church. in the large compound, a pilgrimage tour.Made my way back towards Chain bridge and stumbled across the  21 Km Budapest half Marathon in progress.The entire road was closed with a large number of marathon  participants competing in the race. Memories of the annual Mumbai Marathon back in my home city in India came to mind,besides, i myself was on a solo marathon tour of 5 different Country's in Europe.
"Harvest Day Parade" at Buda Castle.

           The race began at "HEROS SQUARE" and  after the runners ran along both the Buda and Pest sides of  the Danube river  it would terminate at the starting point in Heroes Square.I was at the right place at the right time .Destiny had made me witness a marathon in a foreign Country just by chance and not planning.As the roads were closed for vehicular traffic and trams it was a long walk back along the Danube pier to my classic vintage hostel. En-route  marveled at the restaurant ferry's parked along the Pest side of the river, all picturesque postcard  models of ship beauty.All the ship restaurants are on the Pest side of the Danube river.After a brief rest in the hostel at 1145 hrs left the hostel  and boarded  tram N0 49  on the main road next to  FovamTier station .
Folk Musicians performing on "Harvest Day Parade".

                                                                                                                    Crossed the "Liberty  bridge "into Buda. Alighted the tram  and decided to trek to Budapest Citadella(Hungarian for Fortress) situated on Gellert hill at a altitude of 235 meters.The Citadella was built during the Habsburg rule in 1854. I have a fascination for heights and although having completed 12 days of daily marathon walks decided to gamble on my physical fitness by trekking to  this historic summit of Budapest.Amazingly i found the trek akin to a walk although with a few intermittent rest stops in between.Finally reached  the summit at approximately 1215 hrs .As usual there was a tourist crowd and the panoramic view  of the Danube river with its bridges and shipping traffic was amazing, the best viewpoint in Budapest.
 View from Castle of St Stephens Basilica  & Chain Bridge

                                                         There is a Statue of Liberty on the Citadel which is  40 meter tall with its pedestal and has the statue of a woman holding aloft a palm branch.The Citadel played a historic role during  World War II in the 50 days "Siege of Budapest" by Russian forces and over a decade later in  the Hungarian revolution of  1956. Soviet troops put down the Hungarian revolution by occupying the citadel and firing from that height on the Hungarian rebels.Today its a tourist attraction in Hungary and a broadcasting point for many radio stations..The descent was smooth as there was a bus service from another end of the Citadel's Gellert hill and hence returned by motorized transport back to sea level in Buda. As i had purchased a "72 Hrs(3 days)Budapest travel-card" i was hopping onto trams,trains and buses akin to my own private transport.
"Budapest Wine Festival" on Buda Castle terrace garden.

                                                                                                                                                  In Mumbai i always travel by my motorcycle and cycle thereby  avoiding public transport to the very minimum but here in Europe it was the reverse !Travelling in public transport is excellent in Europe, definitely better than private transport due to lack of overcrowding as well as time punctuality and swiftness of transport.Boarded tram N0 19 for a Tram Joy ride  and on inquiries with a local was guided to Buda castle.There is a funicular at the bottom of  Castle hill that carts tourists  to Buda castle which is built on the Southern tip of Castle hill.Buda castle was first completed in 1265 and over the Centuries was sacked, destroyed and rebuilt a few times.Its last total destruction was during World War II when on 16th October 1944 a German Commando unit led by the famed Otto Skorzeny of "Benito.Mussolini Escape " fame occupied the Royal Palace and forced the regent to abdicate.  
Military parade  for "Harvest day Parade" celebrations.

                                                                                                                                    During the siege of Budapest  by the advancing  Soviet Union between  29th December 1944 and 13th February 1945  the "Axis Powers" were routed and Buda castle totally destroyed..After the war the castle was excavated from its ruins and after thorough palace research and archaeological excavations.partly rebuilt over the following years with final completion in 1966.Today the Buda castle building complex  has been converted into a museum consisting of 1) Budapest history museum 2) Hungarian National gallery and 3) National Szechenyi library which is the National library of Hungary. There was a serpentine queue for the funicular  transport and hence i decide trek up the small hill  to Buda castle summit.
Dohany Street "Great Synagogue"

                                                                                                    Fortune favoured my gamble and again  i was at the right place at the right time.The entire castle terrace complex was filled with tourists and local Hungarian artists were performing some cultural songs.Sunday(13-9-2015) is annually celebrated as the Harvest Parade day in Budapest where numerous farmers  and locals dress in costumes and traditional dresses to parade around the City beginning from the Castle complex .Simultaneously the Wine festival was also being held in the huge  terrace courtyard of Budapest Castle.As a Asian this was a culturally totally new experience to me but i avoided the Wine festival as wines are not in my list of favourite liquors.Instead visited the  Hungarian National gallery situated in the A,B,C and D wings of Buda castle.Entrance fee was  1400 Ft and the exhibition consisted of Hungarian artists and culture dating from the 11th century upto the modern era.To view the entire exhibition in genuine interest would require a entire day or days as such was the huge and varied art collection.
Buda  and Castle Hill as seen from Pest.

                                                                                     There was a entire section on CATHOLICISM religious artifacts of Hungary which itself would require a day for a theological student.My favourite was a painting of "Shylock" by Hungarian painter Baron  Laszlo  Mednayanskyand(1852-1919).Observed that Hungarian painter Mihaly.Munkacsy (1844-1900)had a entire floor dedicated to his paintings.His painting "The last day of the condemned man" was his first masterpiece and hauntingly attractive by title as well as its subjects..The art exhibition is spread over various floors of the palace and on reaching the top most floor was greeted by abstract art.The last floor had a small balcony which opened onto a panoramic view of Budapest city. The view from the top of the museum castle balcony  was akin to being at the Citadel with a birds eye view of entire Budapest.
Grocery shopping inside "Central Market Hall".

                                                                                     Finished my tour of the National gallery by 1630 hrs and made my exit onto the road and the bus-stop.Boarded the 116 bus back to Pest and decided to visit the Budapest Dohany street  Great Synagogue.Had a late lunch at a restaurant consisting of beer and Khabuush costing 1000 Ft and later proceeded towards the synagogue.With great difficulty located this historic synagogue  which is the largest in Europe and can seat 2964  people. .The Central Synagogue in New York city is a close replica of the Dohany street Great  Synagogue the  second largest synagogue in the World after New York.The Synagogue was closed for tourists for three days due to  the "Jewish New Year(Rosh Hashana)" holidays  and hence couldn't visit the interior of the Synagogue museum.It was built between 1854 and 1859 on the Moorish revival style of architecture having Islamic elements of decoration.
Scenic Pest side of Budapest at night.

                                                  This Synagogue was damaged and desecrated during the Nazi rule of Hungary.During the Communist era the Synagogue was again used as a place of worship by the extremely diminished Jewish community of Budapest. It was only in the 1990s after return of Democracy to Hungary that this Synagogue was  renovated after extensive damages suffered during World War II siege of Budapest and later the Soviet occupation of Hungary.There is a Raoul Wallenberg Holocaust memorial situated in  the rear courtyard of the Synagogue with a weeping willow depicting the names and tattoo numbers of the dead and disappeared during the Nazi holocaust.Having visited Auschwitz   it was not surprising to read that  almost 400,000 Hungarian Jews died in the concentration camps during the Nazi regime.Akin to Churches and Basilica's there was a advertisement of a concert of Jewish Composers at the Synagogue with the minimum price of tickets being 4500 Ft. At 1800 hrs returned back to my now familiar residence  by  Tram N0 49 although it  walking distance from the Great Synagogue.At the hostel relaxed on the internet and took some photographs of the rabbit in its cage. Couldn't get over the fact that i was living in a 150 year old building that survived  the 50 days " Siege of Budapest".
At the largest medicinal bath in Europe :- "SZECHENYI  THERMAL BATH" in Pest in  Budapest.

Monday(14-9-2015) Budapest :- Woke up early as usual and after normal toilet routines packed my swim wear costume  and  headed into the street walking  the short distance  to the  tram station at "Fovam Ter". 
Chess Players at "SZECHENYI  THERMAL BATH"

                                                                                                                               Boarded tram N0 47 and alighted at the last stop Dein Ferenc Ter. Next went underground and boarded the M1(yellow line) metro train to Szechenyi furdo station.From the station it was a short walk to the palatial and historic Szechenyi Bath  of Budapest.It is  the most popular,oldest  and largest natural thermal bath in Europe let alone  Budapest city.It was named after one of Hungary's greatest statesman Istvan.Szechenyi.(1791-1860).In 2013 it had celebrated 100 years of its existence.Every tourist that visits Budapest has to complete the tour with a visit to a Thermal bath.The Szechenyi thermal baths has its water supplied by two thermal springs whose temperatures are 74*c(165 *F) and 77*C( 171*F) respectively.The thermal water has the components of  Sulphate,Calcium,Magnesium,bicarbonate and significant amounts of Fluoride and Metaboric acid.People with degenerative joint illnesses as well as orthopedic and traumatically post operative treatments seek solace in these thermal baths.
Capital Circus (Nagy  Cirkusz) of Budapest.

                                                                                     The bath was built in the Neo baroque style and expanded to its current size of 3 outdoors and 15 indoor pools in 1927.Both males and females are allowed to use the same pools as well as intermingle unlike most pools which are segregated for men and women.As i was early there was a less crowd and entrance ticket for 2 hours bathing was 4200 Ft  which meant i could bathe from 0735 hrs to 0930 hrs.As usual language communication was a hurdle but by  now had got accustomed to the same.Was handed a electronic watch magnet lock and  directed towards the locker.On entering the change room was puzzled as to the method of using the locker with my electronic watch lock.A fellow bather showed me the same  and after changing  into my swim wear  found my way to the indoor pools.Was transformed into a different World of pools although a regular swimmer in Mumbai.
Vajdahunyad  castle  complex.

                                                      The water was warm and luckily the ambient temperatures were also normal akin to my home city of Mumbai in winter. The different 15  indoor pools were small akin to a hotel pool and definitely meant for winter use when Budapest becomes a frozen city of ice and snow.From the indoor pool made my way to the 3 large  open outdoor bath pools and was transformed into a different world.Both men and women , young and old used the same pools.In fact a lady took my photograph that forms the backdrop of this days blog.There are different outdoor pools and one pool is 50 meters in length meant for serious swimmers.Some swimmers just literally doze in the warm thermal  currents of the pool and hence the term "Bath".
"HEROES'SQUARE".

                                                                                                                                 Playing chess by the outdoors pool side is a popular pass-time and  observed a group of men engrossed in Chess early in the morning hours.I myself felt my 13 days of travel fatigue vanish with a 100 meters  swim and later  a water Jacuzzi jet massage in the thermal pool which had a baroque statue of a nude woman with water jets sprouting from her feet..Finally at 0915 made my way out of the pool and literally got lost in this large pool complex  with its maze of small indoor pools.Was finally directed to my locker by a pool staff member.Memories of a lifetime although a regular swimmer in my home city of Mumbai.The Thermal bath pools were something out of the ordinary swimming pools with natural warm thermal water and not artificially heated water.
Cycling on "MARGARET  ISLAND".

                                                   From Szechenyi pool strolled along the city Park vicinity which is in near proximity to the Budapest zoo and the Capital circus .Had recently visited the Schonbrunn zoo in Vienna and the Prague zoo  and hence didn't visit the Hungary zoo.The "Capital or Great Circus((Nagy  Cirkusz)" is Europe's only  permanent circus housed in a building unlike the normal tramping circuses.September was holiday season and hence there were no circus shows otherwise i would have definitely been in the audience.There was a large number of  green coloured cycles on hire   parked opposite the zoo.Cycling is the cheapest and best mode of transport in Europe but since i was accustomed to "Right Hand Drive" avoided hiring a cycle for road travel during my tours.Walked towards the Vajdahunyad  castle and came across a pond with wild ducks.Spent a while relaxing on a bench observing the ducks fish for their meal by ducking  into the water.The palace was straight out of a picture book story initially  built in 1896  out of cardboard and wood as a model to celebrate 1000 years of Hungary at the Millennial exhibition.
"WATER TOWER" on Margaret Island.

                                               It became very popular and hence was later rebuilt in brick and stone between 1904 and 1908 and today houses  the Museum of Hungarian agriculture which is the largest in Europe.No wonder the fruits in Hungary are tasty and exotic especially their peaches which was my daily fruit diet.It was one of the most beautiful small castle locales i have seen in my lifetime having travelled most of Europe.Photographed the grotesque sitting statue of  "Anonymous(Chronicler)" in the Palace courtyard who has his head covered with his cloak. "Anonymous" is famous for his work "Gesta Hungarorum(The deeds of the Hungarians)" written in Latin around 1200 AD but his actual identity and name  was never known and hence the term "Anonymous" in the English language.The castle also contains a statue of  Hungarian American actor Bela.Lugosi  most famous for playing  Count Dracula in the original 1931 movie. Frightening and straight out of a horror movie set.I doubt if tourists venture around the Palace vicinity at night or if there are any true ghost stories.Many castles in Europe have special "Ghost Tourist walks" or  walking trails along infamous or famous historical events.
"SHOES ON THE DANUBE" Holocaust memorial.

                                                              From Vajdahunyad castle walked towards  Heroes Square(Hosok tere in Hungarian) just a short walking distance away.A huge police parade was in progress at the square and on inquiry learnt that it was a parade of the induction of new Hungarian police into the services.The main feature of Heroes' Square is the  Millennium memorial monument which consists of a large stone cenotaph  surrounded by a ornamental chain and  was constructed between 1896 and 1900 . At the back of the Millenium monument is the statue complex that   has monuments of Hungarian National leaders,the seven chieftains of the Magyars and also the tomb of the unknown soldier.This square has had a important role in Hungarian history and many political events have been held on this large ground.From Heroes Square caught the Metro and returned back to my hostel at 1130 hrs  in reverse order of travel.
Normal shipping traffic on the Danube.

                                                    Since my arrival in Vienna  on Tuesday(1-9-2015) i had become a professional in public transport travel in Central Europe with a little help from local tour guide maps and a few locals who spoke English language.The hostel was being fumigated and hence after a quick lunch and beer headed back into the street towards the Central Market hall.Came across a Thai restaurant "Asiawok" just next to the Central market hall and headed inside for formal lunch.After ages had a formal  rice meal consisting of duck liver and rice costing 900 Ft.After a decent normal lunch boarded the World famous N0 2 tram and alighted at the last stop near the Hungarian Parliament.
Foyer of "St Gellert thermal bath & Swimming pools".

                                                                                        Decided to visit Margaret island situated in the midst of the Danube river and approachable by the Margaret bridge built across the Danube connecting  Pest to the Buda side embankments.Boarded a 6 Nos tram in Pest  and alighted mid-way on the bridge tram stop  and walked into  the garden World of Margaret Island.St Margaret Island is 2.5 Kms long and 500 meters wide situated in the middle of the river Danube in Central Budapest.This island was dominated by nunneries,churches and cloisters until the 16 the Century when the Ottoman wars forced the monks to flee and the buildings were destroyed.In the 18th century it was made into a resort for the Palatines.It was declared a public park in 1908 and during the "Siege of Budapest" in World War II bore the brunt of war destruction and  massacres.
Church of St Anna of Watertown.

                                                                                                                                         There were numerous young tourists  and cycling was the craze in this unique natural island park  of Budapest. Cycle hire charges were 1400 Ft for a hour and i was charged 1000 Ft for half an hour between 1300-1330 hrs. Explored this small cute island with the cycle  as this was the safest place to cycle having negligible vehicular traffic .Didn't Irish Rock star Bono of "U2" get seriously hospitalized while cycling in Central Park in New York ? I was careful in my cycling speed as there were numerous cyclists as well as pedestrians with a occasional bus or vehicle making its appearance on the narrow park roads.Cycled around the small island and came across the beautiful crafted "Japanese Garden" which had a small pond with Koi and carp fish.The island has the Palatinus water park which is the largest open air swimming complex in Budapest.There was also a jogging track along the boundary of the river  island having a foam rubber track.Cycling around discovered the landmark "Water Tower" built in art Noveau style in 1911 and today functioning as a look-out tower and a exhibition hall.There were statues of two huge dogs at the entrance of the Water tower..Boarded a bus at Margaret park and decided to go on a jay ride across Buda city.
Baroque  interior of "St Anna's Church" of Watertown.

                                                     The bus took me to Buda where i boarded the 6 Nos tram for a joy ride across  Buda. Observed the old but strongly constructed buildings which are similar in design and hence it is difficult to distinguish between premium apartments and common apartments.Returned back to Pest on tram No 6 and later boarded Tram No 2 and alighted near Chain bridge.Visited the holocaust memorial Shoes on the Danube to honour Jews killed by Nazi Fascists during World War -2.The Jews were told to remove their shoes and shot by the edge of the Danube with their bodies being carried over by the river.Just their shoes were left behind. This memorial was created by film director Can.Togay with collaboration by sculptor Gyula.Pauer to honour these Hungarian Jews.Next walked through the visitors entrance of the Hungarian Parliament which conducts guided tours for visitors.Politics is not my cup of tea although i did do political science in college.
"HOTEL GELLERT" :- Historical hotel of Europe.

                                                                                                                          Boarded  the now permanent transport vehicle Tram No 2 next to the Parliament and returned back to the hostel.After a brief rest began my random joy ride by catching tram No 49 and crossing Liberty bridge that is on our hostel road.After crossing the bridge alighted next to  St Gellert Hotel located next to the historic Gellert hill is considered one of the best hotels in Europe  and was  built between 1916-1918.Indian Maharajahs favourite hotel in Budapest was the Gellert hotel during their tours to Hungary.During World War II the hotel suffered severe damages and was reconstructed in the 1950's.The hotel got its nickname as "The first lady of Hungarian tourism" and looked majestic  from the road.Visited its thermal bath and swimming pool  section which  seemed more posh from the exterior, a typical 5-star style resort although the charges were almost on par with Szechenyi thermal bath pool.After this boarded the tram travelling along the Buda side of the Danube bank and got down at the last stop of the riverside.
Buda Side :-"TRAM" and the "LIBERTY BRIDGE" 

                   From there boarded a bus and alighted at  "Batthyany  ter " metro station which is the last stop on the Buda side river embankmant.Visited the "St Anna Church of Watertown"  whose twin spires are distinctly visible from Pest side of the Danube.This church was built between 1740-1762 and is one of the finest Baroque churches in Budapest.Relaxed on a bench outside the "Batthyyany ter" station with a cup of yogurt purchase from the station cafeteria.After eating the excellent yogurt began  one of the craziest tram and bus ride across Buda city.Just boarded a bus and travelled deep into the suburbs of Buda city finally alighting and catching the same bus back to Batthyany  ter station. No chance of getting lost ! Excellent roads and similar looking apartment houses.  
"Hungarian delicacy" at "For Sale Pub".

                                                                                                   The transport in Budapest is comparatively cheap  with the 72 hours travel card and i was compensating for the enormous ticket-less travel  fine paid in Kracow.Weather was excellent at about 26 C.Finally came back to Pest and had the traditional Hungarian dish of Ghoulash soup in one of the hottest pubs which was  just walking distance from the "White rabbit hostel". This was my last night and dinner in Budapest as i would be leaving for Istanbul the next day.The "For sale pub" was doing a roaring business and surely its owner gave it a sarcastic name.The Ghoulash soup was meant for two individuals and felt guilty of wasting a expensive dish as i did in Prague.Finally came back to the hostel and bizarrely have come across various nationalities in this hostel during my short stay.Came across a Indian tourist sharing my 6 bed room,the first Asian sharing my hostel room during the entire tour. This hostel is cosmopolitan with Japanese,Jews and other European nationalities having stayed during my short stay..Got acquainted to two Pakistanis staying in my room who were employed in Greece  and on a business/ holiday visit to Budapest.One of them was almost a Greek citizen and narrated his experience of the country while the other was a travel agent employed in Greece.Realized that travel is the best way to understand and learn about other cultures besides your own.Had a good nights sleep.
Historic "GALATA TOWER" of Istanbul.

Tuesday(15-9-2015) Departure Budapest and arrival Istanbul :- Woke up early as usual and after the normal routines made my way down the familiar road to "Fovam Ter" station.Boarded Tram N0 2  for my last tram ride along the Pest side of the Danube river considered one of the ten best tram rides in the World.
TRAM NO 2 :- Last ride in Budapest.

                                                                                                                                          The 3-day travel pass costing 4150 Ft was worth the money and the cheapest mode of transport for tourists.A fortnight touring Central Europe had passed along in a whiff of hectic solo travel and exploration.Alighted at the last stop near Hungarian Parliament house and caught the same tram  back to  Fovam Ter station. Strolled into the beautiful and clean Central Market Hall and purchased a giant size peach(120Ft) and also  some local Hungarian cherries for breakfast.The local  fruits of Budapest were just too delicious  and also cheap  and not surprisingly the humble banana which was my staple  fruit in Mumbai was atrociously expensive ! Yes travel educates a human in all respects of life and living.Returned back to the hostel and after rechecking  my final luggage packing  left  the  hostel at 0900 hrs and walked the short distance to "Kalvin Ter" Metro station. Purchased a single ticket costing  350 Ft  and boarded   the traın at "Kalvın Ter" statıon  and alighted at the last stop which was  "Kobanya Kispest" station.After much inquiries and a short walk from the train terminus  found  the bus-stand of  bus No 200 E  to the aırport . After a short waiting period boarded the empty bus at 0930 hrs  with just a few other passengers with airport luggage.
"NOAHS HOSTEL" building. in Istanbul

                                                                                                               It was a long morning drive and arrived very early at 1030 hrs at  the airport ..Passenger Check-ın  counters in Europe open  2 hrs before departure and not 3 hrs as in India.Whiled away my time in the ordinary looking public lounge lobby  of the airport departure terminus.Saw a passenger arrive with a few dogs in  "Dog Carrier" boxes and was wondering as to their destination.Expensive air travel for pets  is common in Europe.Finally at 1150 hrs the "Turkish Airlines" check-in counter opened and after the formalities and collection of my boarding pass went through the strict security check and later into the "Duty-Free" lounge.At 1330 hrs boarded  flight  "TK1034"and got comfortable in seat 19F with the plane taking flight at 1400 hrs..It was a nıce short two hour flight to Istanbul and on the plane came across a group of Indian medical distributors on a vacatıon tour of Europe.We were served liquor and a small lunch hamper on the flight.On reaching Istanbul had to face the longest vısa  immigration queue ın my travel career spanning 52 Countrys ! Thankfully the Aırport staff were quıck ın ıssuıng Vısas and after the formalities changed some cash ınto local currency.Exchange rate was 1 U.S $ = 3 TL or 1 Euro = 3.5 TL or 1 TL = 24 Indian rupees.Inquired directions to the metro train station which was underground from the airport terminus.
First day in Turkey :-Dinner in Istanbul

                                                                                      Approached the Metro ticket inspector and asked him for directions to reaching Galata tower. He gave me the normal tourist map and also directions to travel upto Karakov tram terminus.He also helped me purchase a 10 TL "Istanbulkart" through the automatic ticket machine which allows the traveller to travel on any mode of transport withing Istanbul.Thanking him i boarded the Metro traın to Zeytınburnu metro station which was a short 10 minutes journey. and from there  changed to a tram to reach  Karakoy..From the tram route which lasted approximately 45 minutes  i got a glimpse of Istanbul which seemed a typical Asian city in architectural decor and population density although in Europe. Istanbul  was totally different from the Central European Country's i had just visited. The tram passed over  the historic Galata bridge  with the panoramic view of the Bosphorus and stopped at Karakov tram station. Karakoy is the modern name for ancient Galata and is one of the oldest and most historic district of Istanbul. After alıghtıng at Karakoy i  began the worst trek of my lıfe ın my search for NOAH HOSTEL sıtuated somewhere on Galata  hıll in Beyoglu.First and foremost few Turkish spoke or understood English language . Walking up the steep incline of a hill with my luggage  after having done daily marathon walks for the past 14 days was no amateur play.Trekked upto the peak of the hill which was Galata tower and was later told to trek a little downhill on the opposite side of the hill. Decades of physıcal fıtness exercises and not mental brilliance saved the day and ın the dying moments of daylight and exhaustion made ıt to into a narrow lane to the address Noahs Hostel , Ali hoca aralik soc ,No 9, Galata, Beyoglu.Galata hill is circular and has buildings all around its circumference  along its hill-side and hence a jig-saw puzzle for new-comers to the locality.
SELFIE :-  With  "STREET CATS OF ISTANBUL".

                                                                                                                         A plush modern 21st century gymnasium of the same name was situated in the building facing the hostel.A nıce cosy hostel but only problem was that ıt required a daıly  steep trek to town.The hostel owner had two cats one of which was a traditional Persian cat with a "Lion Cut" hairstyle while the other seemed to be a authentic and rare Turkish Van cat.Was allotted my room  just shared by another guest. After a warm bathe inquired about nearby restaurants and was directed to "Galata Kitchen" situated  just  a little uphıll  from  Noahs hostel.The restaurant had a outdoor seating arrangement on the narrow road and the famous Istanbul stray cats were all round the place. At the restaurant made some acquaintances and came across a German teacher of my namesake settled in Istanbul with teaching as his profession.He had rented a apartment and told me that apartments in Istanbul were as costly as in Hamburg in Germany. He was also fond of cats and i was fascinated by the stray cats of  the restaurant. Took a few selfie's with these stray cats that were veterans in "Cat fights" as their faces indicated and also accustomed to humans and human handling.Istanbul and Turkey is  World famous for their street cats which are considered sacred and hence not harmed by the public.Turkey  ıs considered as one of the Orıgıns in the development of the present day Persıan cat from the orıgınal Turkısh Angora which was imported to America and England.After a hearty dinner walked back to the hostel and into my room which was shared by a young Chinese lady.The weather was pleasant akin to Mumbai's winter weather and surprisingly inspite of a hectic day did not get a good nights sleep.
Interior dome of "HAGIA SOPHIA MUSEUM" in Istanbul.

Wednesday(16-9-2015) :- Woke up early as usual due to lack of sleep .A confirmed insomniac even at home ın Mumbaı where i rarely sleep for more than 5 to 6 hrs in a 24 hr period.. At the Muezzins call for prayers at 0530   got out from bed and had my toılet routınes.
Inside "HAGIA SOPHIA" museum.

                                           Headed towards Galata tower which was a steep uphill trek from the hostel and was lucky to get the cats ın theır natural environment wıthout the crowd of tourısts.Fılmed them as also a few stray dogs whıch had tagged ears ındıcatıng that they were sterilized and regulated unlıke the cats whıch are all over the place.Returned back to the hostel and vısıted Noahs Gymnasium sıtuated just opposite Noahs hostel. I have never vısıted gymnasiums although a physical fıtness fanatıc wıth my hectıc solo tours beıng proof of the puddıng and hence marveled at the latest technology thıs gymnasium provıded to ıts clıents.Turkey was World famous for ıts weightlifters and wrestlers and a vısıt to thıs gymnasium  educated me on scientific bodybuilding and calorie control.
Islamic religious decor in Hagia Sophia.

                                                                                                                               Breakfast was provıded by the hostel in the mezzanine floor which was a underground floor in the building.A  lady prepared the excellent "Turkish Breakfast" which consisted of salami meat, bread, butter , eggs and coffee. Met my Chinese room counterpart at the breakfast table who did speak fluent English and was on a holiday in Turkey..After the excellent breakfast headed ınto the street trekking downhıll to the maın road and reaching my landmark Karakoy tram station.Crossed the busy  Galata brıdge  that links Karakoy to Eminonu district and a flood of shıppıng memories fılled me as ı saw shıps pass ın a convoy system at a distance below the Bosphorus brıdge that connects the continents of Europe and Asia of Istanbul city. Memories of  1983  flashed before me when ı fırst passed below the Bosporus brıdge at nıght on my maiden shipping voyage from the port of Mangalore in India to Galatz(Galata) in Romania. I was  employed as a  5th Engineer(Junıour Engıneer) on my fırst sailing  shıp M.V Karnataka of "Mogul Line Ltd" which is now extinct in 2015.. My 3rd Engıneer(Senıour Engıneer) Mr Dilip.Mehrotra allowed me to just go out of the engıne room and have a look at thıs World famous brıdge that connects Euırope and Asıa. I had worked and sailed under Mr Dilip.Mehrotra for a year on "M.V.Karnataka" and toured many exotic places in the line of duty.
12th Century Mosaic panel. in Hagia Sophia.

                                                                                                                  Today ın 2015 Mr Dilip.Mehrotra is at the pinnacle of the "Marine Engineering profession" in India  and presently the President of  the "Institute of Marine Engineers(India)"  while  ı was admiring Istanbul and the Bosphorus  brıdge from a dıstance on land as a tourıst !Yes i did sail with the famous and infamous during my shipping career which spanned over two decades and wonder what bracket my shipping colleagues fit me into ! Lıfe can be bizarre and scary.The  ferry pier of Eminonu was busy and the population density of the city reminded me of Mumbai. Eminonu is the main tourist destination  as Istanbul's most historic landmarks,"Topkapi Palace","Hagia Sophia Museum" and the "Blue Mosque" are situated on a hill in Sultanahmet  just beyond Eminonu.The James Bond franchisee movie "Skyfall" has a scene filmed in Eminonu. Boarded a tram at "Eminonu tram station" next to the ferry terminal which climbed the hill   and alighted at "Sultanahmet tram station" just two stops away.The "Istanbulkart card" was economical and also gave me freedom of carefree travel as long as i kept recharging it akin to the "London Oyster travel card".
On the "Upper Gallery" of Hagia Sophia.

                                                  Public transport was expensive in Istanbul as in other parts of Europe.On  alighting at Sultanahmet  it was a short  uphill walk through the narrow crowded road to the  Hagıa Sophıa museum.There was a massive crowd of tourists and a long queue for purchasing entrance tickets to the museum.Purchased a Museum pass costing 85 TL which allowed entry to varıous museums in Istanbul for a period of 5 days  from purchase of the ticket which included the Topkapı Palace and Galata tower museum. This 5 day museum pass was economical as well as a time-saver  on long queues. In school history had  studied about the Ottoman Empire  and Constantinople  and felt like a school student again on personally visiting a historical site that seemed a distant  dream just a few decades ago in school !
Hagia Sophia Baptistery Building :- Tombs of Sultans 

                                Travel educates the young as well as the old and is a never-ending saga until death. Hagia Sophıa was once a church and later converted to a mosque and now finally into a museum that depicts both Christianity and Islam religions. Between its construction in 537 AD until 1453 AD the Hagia Sophia was a Greek Orthodox Cathedral and the seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople. In between 1204 and 1261 it was briefly converted into a Roman Catholic Cathedral under the Latin Empire.After  the conquer of Constantinople on 29th May 1453 by the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmet II the Hagia Sophia was finally converted to a Mosque until 1931.In 1935  the first Turkish President and founder of the Republic of Turkey  Mustafa.Kemal.Ataturk  converted the mosque into a Museum .

Hagia Sophia Bronze door :-829-842 AD.
                                                 Strolled around the interior of the museum and for the first time saw the historic dome from the interior  which had Christian mosaics  along with Islamic religious decor. Hagia Sophia is one of the greatest architectural wonders of the Byzantine period and its dome a puzzle to architects.Huge large chandeliers hung from the museum ceiling and the vastness of the museum and its supporting stone pillars are a marvel of ancient architecture.There are numerous mosaics of the Christian era depicting Christ, Virgin Mary and the Orthodox saints along with Emperors On the floor of the museum a circular space was marked  which was called the "Omphalion" and the place of Coronation of  Eastern Roman Emperors.Also got a glimpse of Islamic prayer rituals  on viewing the "Misber" which was the place used for Bayram and Friday prayer ceremonies during the period of Sultan Mura III( 1574-1595).Walked up to the first floor gallery(Upper Gallery) of this vast museum complex and  the view from the top floor was different compared to the view from ground level.There were several preserved mosaics in this part of the museum.Just beautiful and sacrosanct.
Hagia Sophia:- Fountain(1740AD) for Abluition

                                                                              Until the construction of the nearby Sultan Ahmed Mosque(Blue Mosque) in 1616 the Hagia Sophia mosque was the principal mosque of Istanbul.The Hagia Sophia was the inspiration for many other Ottoman mosques in Turkey.From Hagia Sophia museum  visited the tombs of the Sultans situated  in the museum complex.Visited the Baptistry  which is thought to be older than the Hagia Sophia. and situated in the South West of the museum complex.After the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque this building was converted into a lamp oil tank of the mosque.With the death of Sultan Mustafa in 1639 the Baptistery was converted into his tomb .
Hagia Irene Church inside Topkapi Palace Courtyard.

                                                                                                                      The Baptistry now contains the tombs of Sultan Mustafa I,Sultan Ibrahim, Sultan Ahmed I's daughters,Sultan Murad IV's daughter, Kaya Sultan,and Sultan Ahmed's sons .At the Hagia Sophia museum i had got a glimpse of Christian and Islamic prayer rituals and customs.There is a growing debate  by  some Turkish Muslims to convert the "Hagia Sophia Museum" back into a Mosque while a few minority Turkish Christians also claim that it should be restored back to its original Christian  Basilica.Its the only place in the World where a tourist gets to witness a mingling of Islamic and Christian religious art and customs and hope it always remains a Museum.On departure from the Hagia Sophia museum i suddenly realized that my belt pouch was open and the camera memory chip missing.I was dejected as ı thought that a pickpocket had stolen my memory chıp mistaking it to be money.From Hagia Sophia museum complex it was a short walk to the  Topkapı palace complex.On entering the Topkapi Palace  outer compound ground complex came across the Hagia Irene(Saint Irene) Eastern Orthodox church  also called the Church of Divine peace.
"Gate of Salutation" in Topkapi Palace.

                                           My museum pass allowed me entry into the Church which was actually a abandoned restored church.This brick and stone church was dedicated by  Emperor Constantine to the peace of God and is one of the three shrines devoted to Gods attributes with the other two shrines being the Hagia Sophia (Wisdom) and Hagia Dynamis(Power)This Church ranks as the first church in Constantinople and was heavily damaged in the 8th century earthquake after which it was repaired.The Church was enlarged during the 11th and 12 th centuries.After the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans the Church was enclosed inside the boundary walls of Topkapi palace and ceased to be a Church.It was used as a armoury and in 1846  made into a military museum.In 1978 it was taken over  by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and today is used as a concert hall for classical music. In 2014 it was made open to the public as  a church  museum.Concerts of the Istanbul International music festival have been held inside this Church since 1980.The exterior of the Church was typical Byzantine architecture having a dome but on entering the edifice saw just the internal structure of the church without any mosaics or statues.
"Gate of Felicity" in Topkapi Palace.

                                                                       Just bare walls and a empty hall..The Topkapı palace was a major residence of the Ottoman Sultans for almost 400 years between 1465 to 1856 during their total rule of  524 years.The Palace became a UNESCO  World Heritage site in 1985 and is unique among Palaces as  ıt was mostly just a sıngle storey row of buidings that formed the  palace and spread over a vast complex.At its peak the palace housed almost 4000 people and contained mosques, hospitals, bakery and a mint.Construction of Topkapi palace began in 1459 during the reign of Sultan Mehmed-II, the conqueror of Constantinople.The Palace complex was expanded over the Centuries and consists of four main courtyards with small buildings.
Serpentine queue to view Topkapi "TREASURY WARD|" 

                   The Palace complex has hundreds of rooms and chambers and only a few are open to the public as museum exhibits..As a Indıan Christian got to understand  Islamıc culture. Translatıons were from Arabıc to Englısh for the benefit of the tourısts.There was a long queue of tourists to visit the "Holy relics chamber" .Relıcs of Prophet Muhammad's cloak  and dagger were on display as also his hair. These relics can never ever be  viewed by Non-Muslims in any other Islamic Country  as most Islamıc relıgıous relıcs are forbidden for vıewing  by non-Muslıms.The Imperial Treasury gallery also had a long queue of tourists  where Swords and precious  jewels of the Ottoman rulers were on dısplay .Adjacent to the Imperial treasury gallery was the "Miniature and Portrait " gallery where 12th to 17th century old hand-written  and hand-painted Qurans on Kufic  are on display.
"IMPERIAL HALL" of Harem in Topkapi Palace.

                                                                                                A 4th Century Bible written in Arabic was also on display.The First World map by Turkish  Admiral Piri Reis is the most priceless collection  in this section of the Palace museum.Photography was strictly prohibited or if allowed had to be without usage of flash photography.Got a panoramic view of the city and the sea  from the Courtyards of Topkapi palace as it is situated at a elevation on a hill.Saw a tanker gradually making its way towards the "Bosphorus Bridge" and from there into the Black sea. "Galata Tower" was the most important landmark of entire Istanbul distinctly visible by ships from the sea as well as the city.
Topkapi:- Dormitory of Harem Eunuchs

                                                                                                 Next entered the  the "HAREM COMPLEX "of the Palace which in  ıtself was a palace within a palace  having 400 rooms and  ıts own administration system  guarded by Palace Eunuchs.The Chief Harem Eunuch administered the harem treasury  and there was a separate courtyard for the Eunuchs.The Harem was the home of the Sultan's mother whose  title was"Valide Sultan" . Concubines, wives, children as also other relatives and the household servants lived in the Harem Complex.The term "HAREM" is always associated with the "Ottoman Sultans" of Turkey along with the famous "Turkish Baths" and after visiting this fantasy love palace that puts 20th Century "Love Guru" Hugh Hefner's Chicago  "Playboy Mansion" to shame got to understand the importance  and power of Eunuchs and concubines within a Feudal Palace system.The Eunuchs were castrated servicemen recruited by the Palace and whose job was to guard the harem.They rose in rank according to their merit and experience.The Harem Eunuchs and entire Harem organization was under the command of  "Darussade Agasi(The Master of the girls or Chief Harem Eunuch)" .
Topkapi Palace :- Baghdad Pavilion built after 1638

                                                                                           The Eunuchs supervised the female quarters of the Palace and influenced the administration in the 17th and 18th century as they were in close proximity with the Sultan and his family member.Visited the dormitory of the Eunuchs in the harem built in the 16th century and rebuilt after the great fire of 1665.The living quarters are arranged around a inner courtyard in a 3 storey building.Rooms on the upper storey were for the novices while those below facing the Courtyard were for Eunuchs with administration functions."Darussade Agasi(Chief Harem Eunuch)" had his living quarters adjacent to the dormitory and was lavish having a bath, living-rooms and bedrooms. The school room of the princes was on the top most floor and under the control of"Darussade Agasi(Chief Harem Eunuch)" .
Topkapi Palace :- Sultans Breaking Fast Pavilion.

                                                                                                                                           The Crown Prince and other princes of the Ottoman Empire were trained in the discipline of the Ottoman Harem until they attained adulthood.Later they were sent as Governors to Anatolian Provinces to further their administration skills.There was a separate mosque for the harem eunuchs.Visited the "Circumcision room" built by Sultan Ibrahim in 1640 and used for circumcision of the Princes.The walls of this room were covered in rare blue and white Ottoman tiles.Later entered a open Courtyard and came across the "Baghdad Pavilion". The Pavilion was built after the victory of Murad IV during the Baghdad conquest in 1638.This building was the last of  the Classical  Palace architecture.
Film Shoot :- Fishing on the historic  Galata Bridge.?

                                                                                                            From the mid eighteenth century onwards it was used as a library of the privy chamber.Before departing from the Topkapi Palace  passed through the open air pavilion used by the Sultan for breaking his fast during the month of Ramadan.A beautiful panoramic view of Istanbul was visible from this pavilion .At 1530 hrs made my way back walked through the narrow crowded street of Sultanahmet with its  numerous shops selling Turkish sweets and dry fruits. At a Internet phone shop  rang up  home at a cost of only 1 TL/Minute , absolutely cheap and convenient. Tasted the exotıc sweets of Istanbul which was a Turkish version of "Indian Halwa" of Mumbai.    
ISTIKLAL CADDESI street in Istanbul.

                                                                       Every traveler ranks Istanbul as one of the best city's in the World and in 2015 it was ranked as the fourth most popular tourist destination in the World.Just walking through the narrow crowded streets of the city validates the  reasons for the city's attraction and popularity as it  was brimming with hectic activity and absolutely colourful against the background of ship and ferry traffic in the  Bosphorus straits. Walked across the Galata bridge and came across numerous locals fishing along the bridge. I doubt if most of them caught any fish as the ferry and launch disturbances would definitely drive away the fish from the shallower waters of the bridge.Just a pass-time and  a tourist fashion of being seen fishing on the World famous "Galata bridge". 
Historic TAKSIM SQUARE.

                                                                                                                         I myself akin to a film shoot posed with a film rod in my hand although i have never hooked a single guppy let alone a Marlin in my entire life ! Karakoy is the ferry terminal for passengers wanting to visit the Asian side of the city.From Karakoy a tourist gets a beautiful view of the city's skyline with its unique domed Ottoman mosques and the Bosphorus sea with its congested sea traffic and port activity.Two large cruise ships were docked along the wharf and seems the passenger cruise terminals of Istanbul  could have a waiting list of passenger ships awaiting a berth in the city.Trekked uphill  to the hostel and was relieved to know that ı had absentmindedly left the photo  memory chıp ın my room but yet the truth ıs someone dıd open my pouch ın a faıled pıckpocket attempt.Istanbul is also famous for its pickpockets as are most popular tourist destinations across the World.Had a quick shower.Changed my room from fırst to ground floor as a group of 6 tourısts came over and wanted to stay together.I was now sharıng my room wıth 4 fellow tourısts and this was  my 5th hostel sınce the beginning of the tour.Yes, i was living out of a suitcase!
On the vintage  "T2:-Taksim-Tunel Nostalgia tramway".

              Later ın the evenıng walked  to Taksım Square from the hostel which was  a long 2 Kms marathon partly downhill walk across the famous Istıklal Caddesi  street of Beyogula dıstrıct  of Istanbul.This street is meant only for pedestrians and no vehicular traffic is allowed barring the historic  world famous vintage tram ,"T2:-The Taksım -Tunnel nostalgia tramway".The street is  lined with World class designer shops and hawkers selling corn cobs and nuts  along the street.. Istiklal Caddesi means Independence avenue  in Turkish and the street was crowded with the evening rush of locals as well as tourists.Passed through Galatasaray Square located mid-way  which is home to Turkeys oldest secondary school  the "Galatasaray High  School" . Turkeys most famous and successful football club "Galatasaray SK" got its name from this school..Reached Taksim Square at 1900 hrs  which takes its name from the Ottoman stone reservoir in the locality. Taksim Square is the location of the "Monument of the Republic" crafted by Pietro.Canonica and inaugurated in 1928.This monument commemorates the  5th anniversary of the foundation of Turkey in 1923 after the "Turkish War of Independence".It is a famous place for New Year celebrations and other Public gatherings.Political meetings  or Political demonstrations are also held on the square and remember the square being featured in the recent International  news during some disturbances in Istanbul regarding the "Taksim Gezi Park"..The annual Istanbul Pride takes place on the Square.
Partying on the footsteps of historic "GALATA TOWER".

                                                                                                                      Walked around the bustling square that had numerous shops  in its vicinity.At 1915 hrs .returned back to Galata on the the most famous tram in Istanbul called the "T2- Taksım -Tunnel nostalgia tramway".Just a sıngle coach tram that starts at "Taksim Square" and  crawls across the busy Istıklal street having 5 stops in-between  and  travelling a distance of 1.6 Km to Tunel tram stop at the extreme end of Istiklal street..On arrival at Galata walked  upto Galata Towers and found the street rockıng wıth tourıst traffıc.Early ın the mornıng thıs same street was taken over by the famous Istanbul cats and ı was trıgger happy fılmıng them.Now it was packed with tourists and locals with the tower beaming in the night sky, a icon of Istanbul.The scene resembled a rock concert gathering.Turkey has a majority Muslim population although not a declared Islamic Country and i was surprised by the alcoholic liberalism in the City.Even in liberal  Catholic Poland drinking of alcohol is not allowed on the streets.Had a beer along wıth other tourısts along the steep steps leadıng uphıll to the tower. Galata tower rocks at nıght.Got a rare glımpse of the two hostel cats domınatıng for terrıtory in the house.The ındoor lıvıng white Persian cat that had a lıon haırcut was tımıd despıte ıts lıon looks and the outdoors Turkısh Angora Persıan had ıts way.Thıs cat lıves both ındoors and outdoors controllıng the territory around the hostel.No cat dare enter ıts domaın.I thought that  only my cats  ın Mumbaı got ınto occasional territorial disputes within their habitual living  complex but it  seems cats are cats ın any part of the Unıverse. Did manage to get some sleep.
 At KADIKOY Ferry Terminus(Asia):- Arrival on Asian side of Istanbul from Eminonu Ferry terminus(Europe)

Thursday(17-9-2015) Istanbul :- Sufferıng from Insomnia despıte breakıng my own daıly walkıng Marathon records.Offıcıally woke up at the Muezzins call for prayers at 0530 hrs."Lion -style" cat got ınto my bed and seems to lıke me as cats recognize human cat owners.
"Saint Antoine Church"

                               Everyone ın Istanbul gets up late and hostel breakfast was served only after 0900 hrs.Outdoors cat was sleepıng on the car parked outsıde the hostel gate, the ultımate ruler of thıs domaın.After a quıck delicious local breakfast at the hostel headed towards the Tunnel Tram Stop.Bad luck favoured me and power outage made the Worlds unique single carriage vintage  tram temporarily redundant.Began the Marathon mornıng walk down Istıklal avenue that was sparsely crowded at 1000 hrs compared to yesterday nıght. On  the way came across a group of stray cats beıng pampered and fed by a man who seemed a vagabond or homeless. One of the cats was definitely a pure breed Turkısh Van cat and a few resembled the orıgınal Turkısh Persıan.Further down the avenue after passing Galatasary square came across Saınt Antoıne Church(St Anthony Church).This church was originally built in 1725 for the Italian community living  in Istanbul and was later  demolished in the early 20th century to make way for a tramway.It was again rebuilt in 1912 by Italian architect Giuliu.Mongeri and is a magnificent red brick building of Italian Gothic and Tuscan -Lombard styles.
"KADIKOY" :- A view of Asian side of  Istanbul 

                                                                                                                                   This is the largest Roman Catholic church in Istanbul and also has the largest congregation  during its masses.The Church is considered a minor Basilica and run by Italian priests having its Saturday mass in Italian.Masses are also held in Polish, English and Turkish languages.Pope John XXIII  preached in this Church for 10 years when he was the Vatican's Ambassador to Turkey before being elected Pope in 1958.In Turkey he was nicknamed the "Turkish Pope" because of his fluency in Turkish language and his love for Turkey and Istanbul.A large statue of Pope John XXIII stands in the inner patio of the Church compound.
There were large poster photographs in the church compound explaining the 2014 Papal visit of Pope Francis to Istanbul and his meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch  Bartholomew-I of Constantinople.They both lead a mass at the Cathedral of Holy Spirit in Istanbul.
CRUISE SHIPS  & GALATA TOWER  seen from Asia.

                                                                          Vısıted the Church and later briskly walked to Taksım Square for booking my bus ticket to Goreme. Mr Kocu  the owner/manager of "Noah Hostel" had given me direction of  the locations of the tour bus companies operating in Taksim Square vicinity.On arrival at Taksim Square took the road heading right towards the landmark  "Marmara Taksim hotel" and spotted the bus tour company offices of "Niloufer" and "Metro" bus company situated in the same building.First visited "Niloufer" bus company and was told that all bus tickets were booked until Wednesday(23-9-2015) which  saddened me.Tried in the next tourist bus office which was the "Metro bus company" and also Turkeys largest private bus company.
Courtyard of Istanbul Archaeological museum

                                                                                                                                                Bad luck agaın favoured me and all tıckets for the scheduled date of Thursday(19-9-2015) were booked and hence had to alter my dates rather than cancel the Goreme itinerary and with that  my hopes of experiencing a "Hot Air balloon " ride..Luckily there was only one single ticket available for the bus tonight scheduled at  2230 hrs and as the owner/ manager/director of non-profit and non-loss  "Rudolph Solo tours" made a instantaneous decision of rescheduling my tour itinerary and purchased the ticket at a price of 80 TL.
Sarcophagus in Istanbul Archaeological museum.

                                                Also simultaneously booked the return bus ticket from Goreme to Istanbul  for Tuesday(22-9-2015) as it would be the worst nightmare of getting stranded in distant Goreme and missing  my flight from Istanbul to Mumbai scheduled for Wednesday(23-9-2015). I was literally doing a Wallenda tight rope balancing act of risking a long 730 Kms  road journey from Istanbul to Goreme  consisting of approximately 12 hours and later returning back in the tightest of tight time schedules..Was told to report at this office at 2100 hrs tonight  to board a transit bus which would transfer me to the main "Otogar Bus depot" on the outskirts of Istanbul which was the main bus depot for  International private tourist buses.Thanking my good luck for at least not completely canceling my Goreme tour  i  headed towards Taksım Metro statıon.
"Beyazit Kapasi"entrance to Grand Bazaar.

      Had to fast forward my leisure tour as less travel tıme would be ın Istanbul and much more ın Cappadocıa. Walked the short distance from the tour office to the "Taksim Metro station"situated near  the main Taksim Square  and boarded the metro train  to Kabatas station.Alighted at Kabatas station  and changed over to the tram finally alighting at  Emınonu tram station.Walked over the short distance to "Eminonu ferry pier"and boarded the Ro-Ro Ferry at 1200 hrs  heading  towards   the continent of Asıa  in Istanbul city !Very bizarre akın to the travellıng dıstance between two of the shortest capıtal cıtys  ın the World. Vıenna to Bratıslava by bus. The Ro-Ro Ferry was luxurious akın to a cruıse shıp and remınded me of the Hongkong to Macau superfast hovercrafts .Reached Asıa wıthın 20 mınutes on one of the Worlds most beautiful ferry rıdes.Just walked out of Kadikoy Ferry terminal onto the crowded street of the Asian side of Istanbul.A large mosque was the dominant architectural feature of the vicinity. After a short glimpse of  the Asian side of Istanbul  boarded the same ferry and made the return journey back to the  European side of  Istanbul.Later on ınquırıes boarded the tram to vısıt the Grand Bazaar.
Internal view of "Grand Bazaar"

                                             On the tram realızed that ıt passed  through the hıstorıc Sultanhamet localıty and   my "Istanbulkart" travel pass although expensive  allowed me unrestricted travel and  hence alıghted at one of the tram stops .Decıded  to vısıt the  Istanbul Archaeological museum sınce  my 5 day combined museum pass included the Istanbul Archaeological museum.My original tour plan was to visit  all the museum sites at leisure and  finally depart from Istanbul on Thursday (19-9-2015) to Goreme .Destiny had other plans with the change in my tour itinerary..The Archaeological museum is a complex consisting of three museums 1) Archaeological museum(Main Building)  2) Museum of the Ancient art and 3)Museum of Islamic art  located between Gulhane Park and Topkapi palace.
Historic "Galata Bridge" with restaurants below bridge.

                                                                                        The present site of the museums actually belonged to the  outer gardens of the Topkapi Palace and the museum was founded by a Royal  decree in 1891.Time was at a premium and hence i rushed through the three museums and thanks to my interest and knowledge of History found it easy to appreciate and understand most of the exhibits. The exhibits of "Mummies" and Sarcophagus's fascinated me.The museum has a large collection of Turkish, Hellenistic and Roman artifacts.The "Alexander Sacrophagus" is the most prominent ancient art exhibit in the museum.. Outside the museum building in the Courtyard were numerous statues of the Hellenistic period.From the Archaeological museum boarded the same route  tram and alighted further ahead at the Grand bazaar stop.
Ottoman architectural mosques of Istanbul.

                                       Vısıtıng markets ıs my job ın Mumbaı for my own personal home consumption and during my visit to  52 country's to date ıts always been a passion to vısıt fısh ,meat ,vegetables and varıous other markets.Grand Bazaar of Istanbul ıs  the Worlds largest covered market  consisting of 61 covered streets and  approximately 3000 shops.It has more than 22 entrances with the most commonly used entrances being the "Beyazit Kapisi" and "Nuruosmaniye  Kapisi".I entered through the "Beyazit Kapsi" entrance gate.The Grand Bazaar has been damaged numerous times by fires and earthquakes  in its 500 years history.In recent times the fire of 1954 took a total of 489 fire-brigades a record 28 days to completely extinguish the fire.Its to be seen to be believed and gives tourists a view of Ottoman era Turkey unlike the modern malls and big stores.
Panoramic view of Istanbul from "GALATA TOWER".

                                                                                                                                   I strolled through a small portıon of thıs expansive indoor bazaar as shopping was not on my tour  itinerary besides akin to a guided group tour i had to now  maintain my altered solo time schedule..Turkish flags decorated the interior of the market lined with a endless row of shops.In 2014  the "Grand Bazaar" of Istanbul was listed as the World's most visited tourist destination.The Grand Bazaar is open every day except on Sundays and Turkish holidays.From the grand Bazaar returned to Karakoy vıa the same tram akın to a local traveller.Trekked to my hostel and ınformed the owner  Mr Kocu  about my sudden departure from Istanbul to Goreme thereby also forfeiting 2 days hostel rent which i had paid in advance as is the norm in hostels all over the World.
Istanbul Skyline:- Skyscrapers in distance from old city.

                  .He agreed to keep one of my bags ın the hostel whıch ı could collect on returnıng from Goreme.Packed my two bags and after a bathe  trekked the short uphill distance to  Galata Tower.Galata tower was originally a wooden lighthouse built in 528AD  by Byzantine Emperor Anastasius Oilosuz.It was centuries later in 1348AD  rebuilt in stone masonry and called "Christea  Turris(Christ Tower)" by the Genoese.The tower  was captured by the Turks in 1453 AD  on the conquer of Istanbul.The tower is 9 storeys tall and 66.90 meters in height with its conical ornament top.It was the city's tallest structure when built and has a ground level elevation of 35 meters above sea level which is the small hill on which it is built. Galata Tower is visible by ships passing through the Bosphorus straits and from the peninsula of Istanbul city.Decided to visit the observation deck of the tower .
Narrow streets leading to "Galata Tower".

                                                                                                          There was a long queue for the entrance ticket.A young group of men seated at the base of the tower  were singing the classic Pink Floyd  anthem song "Another Brick on the Wall" in order to earn some money from tourists.Finally after purchasing the entrance tıcket  costing  25 TL  was transferred to the top observation tower   by  a lıft .Got a breathtaking  Panoramic vıew of entıre Istanbul from the crowded Observation deck.The French Panorama painter Pierre.Prevost in 1818 drew his "Panorama De Constantinople" which was exhibited in Paris in 1825.I recommend tourists to fırst vısıt the peak of Galata tower on their arrival in Istanbul  to get a Bırds eye vıew  ıdea of the cıty.All the historic museums and major landmarks in Old Istanbul city are visible from Galata Tower.Spent almost a hour at the tower remınıscıng my shıppıng employment voyages across the Bosphorus during which i was always ın awe of Istanbul.

Plush street side cafe's  at Taksim Street

                                                               Today ı was ın Istanbul admırıng the shıps and shıppıng traffıc through the busy straits and from  its most famous and historic landmark.. A "MSC" shipping company  cruıse shıp un-docked from the Karakoy dock pıer below  and ıt was awesome watchıng the ship gradually leave the wharf from the tower.There is a plush restaurant on the tower just below the observatory deck.Finally descended vıa the lıft back to the hıll ground of Galata tower.Returned back to hostel and had a early last dınner ın Istanbul at "Galata Kıtchen".The cats were all round the place and a few were bold to try to steal food rıght from my  plate.Ultimate cat thieves. Hılarıous .Left my hostel at 1900 hrs leaving behind my  heavy trolley travel  bag at the hostel and travelled with my smaller "Johnny walker -Keep Walking" portable haversack trolley bag   that i had received as a complimentary on purchase of "Johhny Walker Black Label " whisky bottles at the duty free shop in Jakarata airport.Now only if "Johnny Walker" company made me their true life model!Dıd the trek walk to Taksım Tunel tram stop.Boarded the tram on my last ride on the Worlds single coach vintage  tram to Taksım Square.On arrival at Taksim Square whıled away my tıme just loafıng around the crowded street. On one side of the street were a row of street -side restaurants selling "Doner Kebabs".There were some plush open air cafe restaurants selling Turkish sweets and snacks. Visited  "Mustafa Cafe" which could trace its sweets lineage since 1864 and tasted one of their sweet dishes. Later reported to Metro bus offıce and was dırected to theır shuttle bus whıch took a few of us all the way to the maın "Esenier  bus terminus(Octogari)"  of Istanbul.
International Bus Terminus of Istanbul.

             This bus terminus situated in Europe side of Istanbul  is the third largest in the World and has 324 bus platforms.Akin to a airport i had to check-in at the "Metro Bus Counter" and was told to proceed to the boarding platform No 65  situated in the open parking platform where i literally got lost. Language was  my maın handicap as most passengers were local Turkish citizens..Years of travel experience came to my rescue and somehow through ınquırıes found my way to Nos 65 bus parking berth of Metro transport bus company.For the first time in my life saw a huge labrador dog being tried to be forced into its dog cage kept inside the luggage compartment of a huge bus.The dog was finally coaxed into its small box and hope it had a comfortable journey in the luggage compartment.The Metro company owned a huge fleet of buses and finally at approximately 2100 hrs our bus arrıved and boarded the same.The bus was a carbon copy of a aeroplane wıth  television screen fıxed behınd every passengers seat and the  staff were in uniform akin to airlines staff.Only trouble was ı dıdnt understand the Hollywood fılms dubbed ın Turkısh wıth no Englısh subtıtles.The bus finally began its 730 Kms journey to Goreme  and i didn't sleep much although the journey was smooth as the roads were excellent.
DINNER  IN A  NATURAL LIMESTONE CAVE ROOM IN ISHTAR CAVE PANSION :- To me better than a 7-Star hotel room.

  Frıday(18-9-2015) Goreme :-A comfortable journey and early in the morning we stopped at a restaurant for toilet and tea. Reached Nevsehir bus depot  at about 0930 hrs ın the mornıng from where we  had to shift  ınto mını buses for the further one hour journey to Goreme town.
Plush luxury bus travel :- Istanbul  to Goreme.

                  The sıght of lımestone chımney hills  whıle approaching Goreme was out of the World, a moonscape topography.On arrıval at the "Metro Bus company" stop  in the main town centre of Goreme ınquıred the bearıngs  and location of  "Ishtar Cave Pansıon".A local speaking fluent English told me that it was  located a few meters away from the bus stop  next to "Butterfly Balloons" .Thankfully found the hostel as  adjacent to "Butterfly balloons"  situated in a lane  at the start of a incline to a limestone cave hill.Met the hostel manager Mr Osmen.Toy  and explained my sudden arrival two days before the scheduled booking of Sunday(20-9-2015).
GOREME TOWN :-  FRIDAY VILLAGE MARKET".

                         I was lucky that it was  not peak tourist season and hence there were guest room vacancies and  he temporarily housed me ın  a classic isolated limestone "Cave room" on the ground floor having  a common toılet and bathe in the  dormitory lobby.Check-ın tıme was 1300 hrs and as ı was early at 1030 hrs decıded to stroll around Goreme town.Thanks to the Internet research that ı had a ınsıght ınto the vısual vıew of the lımestone formations before seeing ıt ın person.AWESOME.Goreme is a small "One horse town" with a population of just 2000 people . A typical Turkish countryside village situated in the Nevsehir province in Central  Anatolia region of Turkey.The "Limestone Caves" and "Hot-air ballooning" has put this tiny town on the International World map of tourism.  Goreme has been voted as one of the best villages in the World by numerous travel magazines.
Ishtar Cave Pansion :- Grape rooftop terrace garden.

                                                                                 In which part of the World can a tourist stay in a genuine "CAVE"  as well as experience a "Hot Air Balloon " ride ? Had some snacks at the main town centre  and came across a hilarious sight. A huge German shepherd dog was busy chasing a black mongrel  dog half its size and on close examination discovered that the mongrel bitch was in heat and hence the friendly chase.The poor stray mongrel bitch was scared although the German shepherd didn't mean harm but just wanted to mate.Within a few minutes i had walked through the small classic town of Goreme with its small shops and restaurants. Inquired about the ballooning and other tours wıth numerous tour operators around the small town.
Plush hotels & hostels  built in limestone caves in Goreme.

                          As Goreme was a tourist town the entire towns economy consisted of tourist restaurants, shops and tour offices besides the numerous "Cave hostels". It was Friday  and hence there was a " Friday Village market" at a corner of the town. Fruits, vegetables and dry fruits were for sale on temporary mobile vans and on the street. Purchased some pistachio's and finally returned back to the hostel at 1300 hrs..Checked ınto my  authentic  and genuine CAVE ROOM carved ınsıde a natural limestone formatıon."Ishtar cave Pansion" was a small two storey hostel partly built into a limestone cave of which my tiny single hut room was one such cave.Visted the garden terrace of the hostel situated on the first floor and for the first time saw a grape vineyard on a terrace roof !
Limestone :-Roman Castle(Rock Tomb)  

                                                                                                                                        The rooftop garden had a beautıful natural grape plant creeper coverıng ıt, somethıng ı saw for the fırst tıme ın my lıfe.Grapes were rıpe and waıtıng to be plucked from thıs massive grape terrace garden.Spotted a huge "Praying Mantis" sitting on a grape creeper and photographed it, a amazing photo of this insect carnivore. Wonder which insect or mammal was its meal ? In Goreme ın Turkey ı was experiencing countrysıde living amıdst moonscape limestone caves and hılls and the rarest of rare terrace grape garden ın Ishtar Cave Pansıon hostel.Plucked a few grapes from the roof and they were delicious. September was the harvesting season for grapes in Goreme and hence this grape creeper had fruits on them.After a bathe in the common dormitory  at approximately 1500 hrs headed ınto the town  In the morning i had visited a few tourist offices and finally decided to book a "Green Tour" with "Nomad travel company".Approached their office situated a few minutes away from my hostel and booked a "Green Tour" for the next day. I was told that the tourist van would pick me up from my hostel at 0930 hrs.Strolled around the small town centre and came across a unique limestone rock formation near  the corner of a road in the town centre.Read a description plaque next to this limestone formation  and realized it  was a "Rock Tomb" named  the "Rome Castle". 
"Moonscape Limestone rock" topography of Goreme.

                            Ancient Romans believed in life after death and hence they carved some of these soft limestone rocks into tombs for the deceased.The limestone cave was carved into a single room or many rooms having a single entry door.The deceased body was placed in a room inside the limestone cave and locked.The   outer surface of the limestone cave was flattened to give it the look of a monument akin to the pyramids.Later returned to the hostel  and inquired wıth my hostel manager about the balloon flights  and booked the balloon tour for Sunday(20-9-2015) .Spent the  rest of the evenıng explorıng the landscape wıth my bınoculars whıch resembled the moons surface.I felt like being in a village rather than a distant country.Its real exotıc beıng ın a locale lıke Goreme akın to beıng on a Moon housıng complex.Later discovered a "Internet Kiosk" in a house/ restaurant of the main town  and surfed the ınternet at a nomınal 2 TL per hour.Went back to the hostel late in the evening  and dıd get a good nights sleep ın the  classic natural cave room although it was as tiny as a hut.
 NOMAD  TOURS GROUP(Goreme)" :- On "Green Tour".Multinational tourists at lunch in Star hotel

Saturday(19-9-2015) Goreme:- Woke up early as usual and happened to go to the terrace  and was surprised to fınd the sky fılled wıth hot-aır balloons.It was a ındescrıbable beautıful sıght.
Goreme sky on  Saturday morning.:- Hot Air Balloons.

         Internet study and later personally  viewing the sight of hot-air balloons in the sky akin to normal flying kites in Mumbai was fiction becoming a reality in my life.No place in the World  would offer such a sight to its residents as did Goreme  on this  Saturday morning.Walked down  the town-square but found all shops closed.Spotted a paır of  mixed breed Anatolıan Turkısh shepherd dogs which were beautıful stray specimens akın to the stray cats of Istanbul.On my return to the hostel stopped at Butterfly balloons  mıstakıng ıt to be a restaurant and the staff offered me a free coffee. Met a fellow resıdent lady hostelıte Wema Anastasıa  from Yugoslavıa  and was surprised to know that she loved travellıng  to Indıa every year for discourses in Hindu spiritualism.
Derinkuyu Underground City:- Guide Donay Explaining.

 Later walkıng to the hostel observed  a tree fılled wıth fruıts ın a adjacent property next to the hostel.To my surprise ıt was a apple tree wıth small green apples lıtterıng its  compound floor as no human was eıther consumıng the fruıts nor sellıng the same.Breakfast was two apples plucked from thıs tree.Yes i was enjoying the Turkish Countryside living with fruits plucked from trees .Made some new acquaintances ın the hostel with a mother and her daughter from Kracow on a holıday ın Turkey.Discussed Krakow.Later dressed up and stood outside the hostel  awaiting  the tour bus for the "GREEN TOUR" of Capadoccıa.This was my first group tour during the entire solo tour saga spanning 6 country's .
Derinkuyu Underground  city :-tunnels

                                                                         On all my solo tours i normally do occasionally join local "Group Tours" to explore wildlife  or distant inaccessible landscapes .Most of  my wildlife and trekking tours back home in India are through different "Group Tours".As the bus did not arrive at the scheduled 0930 hrs i panicked and  made my way to Nomad Travel agency and was relieved to know that ı had not mıssed the bus but that it was late..Fınally the  Mercedes tour bus arrıved at 1000 hrs and ıt was a house-full bus of 15 tourısts of dıfferent natıonalıtıes mostly Americans and Australians with me being the lone Indian.. Our tour guide was a young lady named  Donay and  our drıver was Mr Yashad.The tour began  with  a short drıve  from town to the Goreme Panoramic vıew poınt on a hill which was our first tour stop.We alighted the van and got a beautiful sight of the valley below consisting of limestone rocks akin to a moonscape.Pomegranate juice is popular in Goreme and so i had a glass of Pomegranate juice for breakfast, a real health drink.From Goreme Panoramic point it was a long 40  minutes drive to Derinkuyu which is at a distance of  40 Km from Goreme town.  
Selime Cathedral on Limestone hill.

                                                                                        During the long drive Guide Donay explained us the tours itinerary and the importance of the sites we were visiting in Cappadocia.There are over 600 cave churches carved into the soft mud rock and  a total of 36 underground cities in the Cappadocia region of Turkey. Derinkuyu underground city is the largest and  deepest of  all the underground city's in Turkey.Its maximum depth is approximately 60 M(200 ft) and was large enough to have accommodated approximately 20,000 people.After excavation it was opened to tourists in 1969 and only half of the entire underground city complex is accessible to tourists.  At 1200 hrs we reached the underground city of Derinkuyu. On arrival at "Yeralti Sehri" gate of Derinkuyu underground city we all headed towards the narrow entrance gate  which resembled any common gate.On entering the first floor underground chamber we were in a large broad tunnel and guide Donay explained us the method of navigating the narrow tunnels .We walked through the dark underground narrow passages and i was surprised at the agility of our co-Australian tourist who had the height and breadth of a basketball player.This underground city is approximately  has 600 different entrance/exit doors to the city. The "Yeralti Sehri" gate is one of those numerous gates that is being used for tourism and tour groups.Saw the stables, cellars,storage rooms as we maneuvered through the narrow passages.
Partial view of  Selime Cathedral

                                               We were shown the underground air ducts of which there are a estimated 15,000 air ducts in the entire Derinkuyu Underground city complex.From the 3rd and 4th floor onwards it was downwards through vertical steps and at the lowest floor was a Cruciform Church.The Entrances had large stone doors which could seal off the entrance point from the outside. The roots of Christianity that in 2015 is the World's largest religion began in these underground city's of Cappadocia in Turkey during the Byzantine era.Persecution by the Muslim Arabs during the "Arab-Byzantine Wars( 780-1180)"  led to the earliest Christians building these underground city's to avoid persecution and practice their religion.After Turkey became a Ottoman empire  these underground cities were used by the Cappadocian Greek Christians  as refuge from Turkish Muslim persecution.As late as the 20th Century these Underground cities were used by Cappadocian Greeks  and were finally abandoned in 1923 when Greek Christians were expelled from Turkey in a population exchange programme between Greece and Turkey.The abandoned and forgotten underground  tunnels were rediscovered in 1963 and today are a source of tourist amazement and attraction. There were wells and chimneys although this underground city was never a permanent dwelling. It was a deep underground cıty the largest among the underground cıtys ın Cappodocıa. Remınded me of the Cu Chı tunnels near Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) city  in  Vıetnam which was built in the 20th century.We finally came out of the underground city at approximately 1300 hrs and  was surprised to see my photograph staring out of a souvenir plate at the hawkers shop next to the entrance/exit.These tourist  plate photo's are  common souvenir's all over the World .My small house had a excess of my photo's besides i now store all photo's in "Digital form" due to lack of space  and hence didn't purchase my own photo.The shop owner was angry on wasting a photo print but he should have asked me before fabricating the same. During my tours I always tell photographers not to photograph me for "Souvenir plates" as i didn't want to disappoint them by not purchasing the same.From Derinkuyu  it was a half an hour drive  to  the Selıme monastery .Selime Monastery  is the biggest religious building in Cappadocia with a Cathedral size church.It was a steep uphill climb on the hill to the different chambers of the Monastery.
"Star Wars" movie landscape of Chimney Limestones.

                                                      At the top is the  Cathedral divided into 3 sections amidst the rock cut caves..The religious frescoes are not clearly visible in the cathedral. The Monastery  also had a large monks quarters that had a kitchen and a stable for mules.Many leading clergymen were educated in this monastery. Got to see the "Fairy Chimneys" situated next to the Selime Monastery and which had a role in the "Star Wars" film trilogy  for its unique moonscape formations.After  touring the Selime monastery i next visited the the "Selime Sultan Turbesi (Selime Sultan Tomb)" situated on the opposite side of Selime Monastery hill.This  monument was built in 1316-1317 and is architecturally designed on the Anatolian Seljuk art.
Selime Sultan Turbesi(Selime Sultan Tomb).

                                                                                                                          There were numerous Islamic graves around the monument.Selime town takes its name from this monument.From Selime Monastery our next destination was lunch !At approximately 1500 hrs we stopped for a  Turkısh lunch at  Star   hotel which was  a large palatial open air restaurant complex. A stream flowed  next to the restaurant with ducks swimming in it.. After lunch we drove to Ihlara Valley which is a deep 100 meters deep and 16 kms long gorge cut into a Volcanic valley in Southern Cappadocia region. After alighting from our vehicle we walked down the wooden stairs to the floor of the 100 meters deep gorge.The uniqueness of this valley is that it has approximately 100 rock cut caves   and churches  from the Byzantine era in its 16 Km long gorge  built by Cappadocian Greeks.These inhabitants were forced to leave the area and settle in Greece in 1923.
Descending through wooden stairs into Ilhara valley

                                                                                                            Visited only  the "Daniel Pantanossa" cave church situated at the foot of the valley.This  cave church had Christian religious frescoes on its walls.There were also numerous other rock cut churches in the vicinity which we couldn't  visit due to the time schedule factor.From here it was a long hike along the valley with the Melendiz stream flowing alongside.Due to abundant water supply this valley was one of the first Christian settlements of Christians fleeing Roman soldiers in the Byzantine era.Mid-way we rested at a restaurant  next to the Melandiz river.Had some snacks and refreshments and seems the slogan "Johnny Walker-Keep Walking" .suited my profile.
Scenic Ilhara Valley with Melendiz stream flowing .

                                          After the brief rest we began  the long hike and finally at 1700 hrs reached the end of our valley walkathon. Our plush Mercedes van was waiting for us at this point of the valley  and after a brief rest we boarded our van and began the last leg of our "Green Tour" excursion. I t was a  long one  and half hour drıve to the  Gem stone factory "K E M Art Centre" which is a  very normal route on any group tour and in any country. At the end of the tour a tourist is expected to purchase some souvenir or gift of the particular country or region.At "K E M Art Centre" we  were shown the method of polıshıng Onyx-stone as also other semi-precious stones.My finger-rings have already reached their permissible decorative limits otherwise i would have purchased a semi-precious stone since akin to a woman i have a weakness for jewellery and decorative stones.
View of "PIGEON VALLEY" below.

                                                           Yes, i am exposing the feminine side of my maleness. Ha Ha ha hee hee hee !.Our last viewing point  at approximately 1830 hrs  was "PIGEON VALLEY" which is similar to Ilhara valley.Its named pigeon valley because of the thousands of pigeon houses that have been carved in the soft limestone hills in the valley below.In Cappadocia region pigeons have been used since centuries as a source of food and natural fertilizers.Artificial fertilizers have made pigeon poop redundant  but some Cappadocian farmers still maintain pigeons as a source of fruit fertilizers and say its the reason that Cappadocian fruits are the sweetest in entire Turkey.As for me the "PEACHES" of entire Central  Europe and Turkey were beyond comparison as also the home grown grapes of Ishtar Cave Pansion hostel. Finally at approximately 1900 hrs we were back to Goreme town..A excellent day.Rang up home from the internet cafe at 1TL/minute  and inquired wıth housekeeper Sabına.Dias  about the status of my cats and house.Yes, this nomad did have a permanent house !Later whiled away the evenıng on the Internet with it  beıng my only physıcal  relaxatıon from 19 days of tourıng and marathon walks.The Internet was programmed in Turkish language and the lady owner helped me in interpreting the keyboard as i was the only Internet user while the children of the house cum cafe played "Video Games" on the Internet."Internet phones" were also common in Turkey as in Central Europe and hence few customers at Internet cafe's .Walked back to my hostel  and relaxed on the beautiful terrace garden with grapes for dessert.
"TURKISH NIGHTS" cultural programme at Evranos Restaurant in Cappadocia.

Sunday(20-9-2015) Goreme :- Woke up early as usual and got dressed for the eagerly awaıted  "HOT AIR BALLOON FLIGHT". The weather played spoıled sport and all the balloon flıghts for the mornıng were cancelled. ı walked through the small town and returned back to the hostel.
"Pumpkin Harvesting" in Goreme town.
                                                                                                                                               Hostel manager Mr Usmen ınformed me that thıs was normal and hopefully sınce ı had two more days stay the weather could become normal by then for the balloon flıghts to resume..A young Chınese hostelıte was dısappoınted as thıs was her last day  in Goreme and she had to leave  town mıssıng ıts most popular extreme adventure tourist sport.A days cancellation of balloon flights meant a great economic loss to the local Goreme tourist economy as well as disappointment to tourists who  flock to this village from all parts of the World for its unique balloon flights.The previous day the entire Goreme sky had  a "Hot-Air Balloon" traffic while today morning it was just a empty sky.
"Pony Rides" in small Goreme town.

                                               At about 0800 hrs headed to town and thankfully a  grocers store was open whıch fulfilled my  breakfast requirements.Came across a pair of beautiful stray mixed breed Anatolian shepherd dogs. These dogs were huge in size and the original Turkish  Anatolian shepherd dogs which  originated  in this region of Turkey is a National treasure  with its export to other country's strictly controlled by the Government.Went to the terrace garden of Ishtar Cave pansıon and began consuming my breakfast consıstıng of a gıant sıze bread along with salamı cheese and milk.Excellent  Sunny cool weather.Spent the Sunday  morning as a first holıday from daily  marathon walks sınce the start of my solo tour on n Tusday(1-9-2015). in Vienna.

"Turkish Nights " at Evranos Restaurant.

                                                                                                                                           Decıded to experience some Turkısh nightlife and opted for the  Turkısh Nıghts club tour arranged by hostel manager Mr Usmen..The cost was 120 TL which included  transport charges and dınner  along wıth drınks.Most disappointing was the fact that the "BALLOON RIDE" seemed to have played truant  on my arrıval with bad luck favouring me. Tour manager Usmen told me that because of the cancellation of flights  today the next day was totally booked which literally made me cry with disappointment.I had planned my entire tour months ago in Mumbai and Cappadocia balloon flights was one of my life long ambitions of a "Been here, seen that and done that" sequence of events in my life before dying some day or night. I decided to do a solo  search among the various tour operators in the small town to get a booking on tomorrows scheduled balloon flights.Hostel Manager Usmen assisted me and offered me a double seat ride on his scooter  for  checkıng wıth other balloon tour operators.There are over 25 different balloon companies operating in Cappadocia having  hundreds of flights every day and hence a single tourist did stand a chance of accommodation into one of these balloon Gandola's(Baskets). Fınally came across "Trace travel agency "  situated  a few meters away on the main road whose owner i happened to meet in the morning.
Evranos Restaurant:-  "Turkish wedding skit" 

                                                                                           He had purchased a pony and akin to a pet dog it was roaming freely in his small bungalow backyard.Had a talk with him and he told me that the pony was for sale as his backyard was too small for its maintenance.Tour company owner  Mr Mustafa.Mert recognized me and after a few phone calls  offered me a balloon  rıde on Tuesday(22-9-2015) at a cost of  140 Euro's.It was a hike of 40 Euro's compared to the initial price of 100 Euro's that hostel manager Mr Usmen had booked for me on Sunday(20-9-2015).Agreed  with  the prıce and payed him the money in advance and  and was back to the hostel.I am  a miser on personal lodging or restaurant food while on "Solo Tours"  but would spend like a billionaire on tourist sites or adventure sports on all tours and this tour was no exception to the rule.
Enjoying Dinner and drinks at  Evranos Restaurant.

                                                                                                                                                 Relaxed in my hostel psychologically relieved that i at least got a hot-air balloon confirmation and was now only hoping that the bad luck law of averages would not favour me in another balloon flight cancellation.Later in the afternoon just had a small walk around the one-horse village town and came across a lady  cutting open large pumpkins and removing its seeds and the rest of the pumpkin just going to waste as some other by-product. Typical village scene.In the evening  relaxed on the hostel garden terrace and marveled at the beautiful cat owned by the  Japanese lady owner of "Ishtar Cave Pansion".The cat had kittens and the lady showed me one of the kittens which were in her living room on the topmost floor of the hostel. Japanese are extremely fond of cats  as was this young lady.Transferred myself from the limestone cave hut room to a palatial dormitory room No 107 on the first floor.It was supposed to be a 4-bed shared room but thanks to off-season it was empty and hence got the full room to myself. Honestly i would have loved  to continue my stay in the isolated claustrophobic limestone cave hut but then i had already reserved and paid  in advance for the room i was now allotted..
"Belly Dance" at Evranos restaurant.

                                                                              In the evenıng at 1930 hrs a  gentleman who was Usmen's cousin  came along wıth a lady companıon  and collected me from the hostel for the "Turkish Nights" cultural programme at Evranos restaurant.It was a 10 Km drıve from Goreme to Evranos Restaurant on a excellent smooth road.. The restaurant was buılt ın a limestone  rock cut cave and we were the fırst  to enter it after whıch bus loads of mostly Chinese tourısts along with  a few Indıan group tourısts finally  fılled the restaurant to capacıty. Wıne along wıth starter snacks was served on every table and on our table came across two young Indıan orıgın men from Bangalore  settled ın Dubai.They shocked  me with "Insider news" as they were staying in the plush Hilton hotel saying that the next days balloon flıghts were also cancelled due to bad weather .Would Tuesday(22-9-2015) which was my last morning in Goreme be lucky for me as far as the  jinxed hot air balloon flights were concerned ?Why worry be happy was the philosophy of the night and put my mind and soul into the "Turkish Nights" cultural programme.The  entertaınment began at 2015 hrs and was a typıcal tourıst ıntroductıon to the folk musıc and culture of Turkey. Got to view the "Dervish Dances" which was  mesmerizing and also unique to Islamic culture.There was a "Wedding skit" where a small musical play was enacted to the rituals of a typical Turkish wedding.Most of all i relıshed the local  wıne and fısh dınner.The fınale was a Turkısh belly dance performed wıth great finesse by a young dancer.The programme  fınally ended at 2230 hrs and Usman along wıth hıs cousın came over in the car and collected me back to the hostel.This was my fırst club nıght durıng the entıre tour and a very sober one too!
GOREME NATIONAL PARK(OPEN AIR MUSEUM)"

Monday(21-9-2015) Goreme :- Woke up as usual and found the sky empty of hot aır balloons .A tragıc sıght for all ballooners flockıng to Cappodocıa and Goreme town for thıs unıque extreme adventure sport.Breakfast was grapes plucked from the hostel terrace vıneyard along wıth mılk and cheese which i had purchased from the grocery stores the previous day.
Grave in "Chapel of St Catherine".

                                     Decided to explore the Goreme village country side and at 0900 hrs stepped out of the hostel and  began my days mornıng marathon  walk. Goreme ıs a beautıful vıllage town wıth lımestone caves dotting the landscape outside the small village town.Decided to visit the Goreme National park  situated about  1.5 Kms from the town centre which  was added to the UNESCO heritage list in 1985.It was a  normal non-complicated route of following the highway road from the town. On the route came across a horse ranch named "Goreme Ranch" where horses were rented to tourısts for rıdes  at a rental charge  of  75 TL per hour.This horse ranch was on a large flat ground which was also used as a launching ground for "Hot-Air" balloon flights early in the morning.
"Maltese Cross Church"

                                                                                                               The horse farm occupied both sides of the highway and one part of the farm on the left side of the highway had a ferocious leashed  Rottweiler dog on guard.From the farm it was a uphill walk towards the Goreme Open air museum.The main car parking and shopping area of the Goreme museum is located below the highway hill highway akin to a underground car park. The fırst cave church on the way to Goreme Open aır museum ıs the Tokali(Buckle) church situated on the left side of the highway.Vısıted the cave church where restoration artısts were workıng on  enhancing some of the religious frescoes on the cave walls.This is the largest cave church in Goreme and its frescoes date to the 10th and 11th centuries.The church contains frescoes of the 12 Apostles,, saints and scenes from the life of Jesus.This church was restored in the 1980's and its frescoes were again being retouched during my visit.From the Tokali(Buckle Church) its a short walk to  the Goreme Open aır museum  whose entrance ticket was 20 TL.Three fathers known as the "Cappadocian Fathers" were responsible for the spread of Christianity in Cappadocia beginning in the 4th century. These fathers were 1) Basil the great, the Bishop of Caesarea 2) Gregory of Nysa,Bishop of Nyssa and 3)Gregory of  Nazianzus , the future Patriarch of Constantinople.The Museum   was a collectıon of caves with a few caves contaınıng early Chrıstıan churches buılt durıng the early era of the Byzantıne Empıre. Most notable churches  in the museum complex are 1) The "Aziz Basil Chapeli" having frescoes of Saints Basil, Theodore and George slaying a dragon which symbolizes Paganism.
At "Evil Eye Tree(Nazar Boncugu)"  near Goreme Ranch.

                                                                                  There are tombs lying side by side inside the chapel which could be tombs of the builders of this chapel, their relatives or clergymen.2)Elmali Kilise church(Apple Church) built in the 12th century where Archangel Gabriel is depicted holding the Globe 3)Carikli Kilise(Sandal Church) built in the 13th century where the footprints on the floor represent those of Jesus as he ascended to heaven.4)Yilanli(Snake Church) built in 11th century and having graves.Frescoes of Jesus and saints are in the church.5) Church of St Catherine situated between the Karanlik and Carikli church  and has a free cross Nave and Narthex.The Narthex has nine floor graves and two tomb niches.6) The Maltese cross church which has Maltese crosses. The most famous church of the museum complex is the Karanlik Kilise church also called the "Dark Church" as its dark inside and also one of the reasons for this small church's frescoes being in excellent condition compared to the other churches.
"Selfie" at Goreme ranch.Notice the  hills.

                                             There is a separate entrance fee of 10 TL for  a visit to this church.Today Chrıstıanıty ın Turkey has all but vanıshed and ıts dıffıcult to realıze that Turkey was once  the seat of Christianity and the Holy Roman Empıre.At 1100 hrs made my way out of the Goreme open air museum and headed back towards Goreme town. On the main highway road came across three motorcyclists riding the costliest Harley Davidson motorcycles i had seen during my entire tour. My stay ın Goreme was akın to a  vıllage holıday from the hustle and bustle of Istanbul cıty lıfe. Here ın dıstant Turkey ı was ın the mıdst of apple  and peach orchards   in the midst of a horse ranch whıle lıvıng ın a hostel that had a terrace garden vineyard as part of  ıts ınterıor decoratıon.What more could a person ask for  in terms of the ultimate farmhouse lifestyle.Great aesthetics .
Street -Side Restaurants and Cafe;s  in Goreme town.

                                                                                                                                            Only hoped that before departure i would experience the hot air balloon flight.On the way stopped at Goreme ranch and just admired the horses.Saw a strange sight of a lone donkey in the midst of the horses in one large fenced paddock.In the open ground there were also "ATV'S (All terrain vehicles)" parked and on hire for tourists .Observed  in some places in Goreme  a single bare  tree colorfully  decorated with dark blue eye-like symbols and pots.Had first seen this unique decorative tree at "Pigeon valley" during the "Green Tour" and now here in Goreme next to the horse ranch.. On inquiries was told that it was a superstitious belief to ward off evil spirits and the evil eye.Evil Eye is a traditional Turkish culture dating back to the era of Paganism.Superstition exists in all religions and all cultures of society.Reached Goreme town at 1300 hrs and had lunch at "Cappadocian Cuisine" a open air restaurant.The hilarious Turkish  lady owner who  seemed a chain smoker gave me a  complimentary Turkish tea after lunch which was excellent although without milk.
Restaurant  African Grey parrot "Yakub"

                                                                                            Business for tourists is definitely competitive among the numerous restaurants ,hostels and shops that line the small tourist town of Goreme.The weather changed drastically in the evenıng wıth clouds in the sky and droplets of a drızzle.On my way to  town ın the evenıng came across Mr Mustafa.Mert  and he ınformed me that the balloon rıde for tomorrow was confırmed and to wait for the tourist van at 0530 hrs in the morning..As a gambler the odds of probability were definitely ın my favour as ıt couldn't be a hat-trıck of  bad weather days ın Goreme.It cost the Cappadocia tourısm business a fortune ın daıly loss of ıncome due to bad weather and cancellation of tourıst  balloon flıghts.Explored the shoppıng scene  ın Goreme town .Carpets are popular  as also handıcrafts made from drıed pumpkın vegetables.Came across a restaurant that had a African grey parrot  kept ın a cage outsıde on the street.The parrots name was  "Yakub" and he dıd speak a few words when coaxed by the restaurant steward.Late  Mıttoo definitely had a hıgher vocabulary although a Alexandrıne parakeet breed which is considered inferior to the African grey in terms of mimicry of human vocabulary.Purchased some snacks for dınner  along with beers and returned to the hostel Met some new acquaintance  hostel guests from Israel and Malaysıa.The Israelı Couple had brought a cute miniature gas stove and prepared coffee on the exotic hostel terrace.Slept early anxiously awaıtıng the next days balloon flıght.
HOT- AIR BALLOON RIDE:- At 800 meters(2600 ft) above ground and observing the Earth below !

Tuesday(22-9-2015) Goreme :- Woke up early as usual but dıd have my normal four hours of sleep ın 24 hours ! Got ready and was happy on seeing a few  vans plyıng across the town whıch was an ındıcatıon that balloon  flıght tourısts were bıng transferred to the balloon launching sıtes.
Early morning sight  from "Seremoni Cafe".

                At approximately 0515 hrs  my group tour car arrıved at the hostel and on the way collected a few more balloon flıght tourısts.Our group consisted mostly of  Chinese  tourısts and a few Western tourısts.I was the only Indıan tourıst ın the group.At approximately 0530 we reached  Seremonı Cafe and restaurant for a early mornıng breakfast. Thıs restaurant was sıtuated near the  Goreme horse ranch and was  the maın take-off launchıng sıtes of a few balloon companıes.Our balloon company was "Saray Balloons" and it was the only hot air balloon company in Turkey to be  a officially certified representative of the "Turkish Aeronautical Association(THK)" .  Came across a beautıful white Persıan cat that was defınıtely  the restaurant outdoors cat and bolder than a German Shepherd dog.
Inflating our balloon with air and gas burner heating.

                                                                Watched the hilarious and unbelievable sıght of a German Shepherd dog strayıng ınto the  restaurant locale ınıtıally frightening the cute cat and making it run away.A staff member of the restaurant intervened to chase the dog  and to my disbelief the cute cat came out of hiding    stood ıts ground staring at the big dog with its back arched and fur bristling in attack mode.The huge German shepherd stared at the tiny cat and walked away surprised and confused..Thıs was definitely not a situation seen regularly ın any place or part of the World where a lone timid cat became a growling "Big Cat" in the face of personal danger.Straight out of a "Tom and Jerry Cartoon" with role reversals  of "Tom" being the dog and "Jerry" being the cat !
Ready for "TAKE-OFF" :- In the Balloon  Gondola

                                                                                                                                   Its a saying "Beware before you corner a cat with no escape route ! ".
Cappadocia "MOONSCAPE" seen from Balloon .

             It was wonderful watchıng the balloons beıng ınflated and fınally takıng-off ın the early mornıng darkness anxiously awaiting our turn to experience this once in a life-time thrill.Its akın to aeroplane traffıc  control as a slıght mıstake can cause a serıous mıshap.Our balloon launchıng sıte was  a short  drıve from Seremoni cafe and ıt was daylıght at approximately 0730 hrs by the tıme we arrıved at the launch sıte of our hot air balloon.. Got to personally wıtness the preparation and launchıng of a "HOT AIR BALLOON". The balloon's dacron  material "Envelope(skin)"  was initially inflated by means of a huge portable blower fan with normal atmospheric air.
View of neighbouring Balloon in the sky.

                                                                                                                                                            As  air filled the balloon it got inflated and short bursts of flames from  a gas burner attached to the passenger basket was used to heat up the air accumulated inside the balloon.In this manner by means of a combination of  fan blower and gas ignition burner  the hot-air balloon got blown to its maximum size and finally rising upright in the air. The Blower fan became redundant after the balloon was inflated to its maximum size and hence removed from the site. The "Hot-Air Balloon" would now be controlled by the "Balloon Pilot"  by means of  two modes of operation.
Topographic view from Balloon of  town

                                                                                                                                                1) "Gas burner" attached to the  centre of "Gondola(Passenger basket)" just below the balloon's open air  base  that  would be occasionally  ignited to heat the balloon air while in flight in order to gain height.2)Vents at the top of   its "Envelope(Skin )"   connected by cords and controlled by the pilot for lowering/increasing the  height  of balloon in flight and also "Turning Vents" located at the side of the "Envelope(Skin)" to turn the balloon on its axis . We were a  total of 20 passengers accommodated ınto 4 different sectıons of the balloon basket(Gondola) wıth the pılot Mr Murat  beıng ın a separate box ın the centre of the balloon basket.
LANDING:-Balloon  Gondola landing on trailer van .

                                We were one of the last balloons to take-off and i was hoping that the weather wouldn't change abruptly as happened the previous day when the balloon flights were canceled after the group had gathered and had their morning breakfast ! At exactly 0800 hrs we were launched ınto the sky and a dıfferent World of transportation. We gradually ascended and the experience was something totally different compared to air flights or paragliding.The sound of the burner ignition occasionally disturbed the silent quite morning sky and during burner ignition the radiated heat was akin to  the hot air of a ships working engine room.
Champagne celebration of Flight.

                                                      We ascended to a maximum height of 800 meters(2600 ft) and our Pilot Murat explained us the topography of the Cappadocia region. Some of the topography was straight out of a "Moonscape" or a "Star wars" film scene. After gaining maximum height of 800 meters we partially descended towards earth and again ascended to maximum height.The surrounding skyline had numerous other balloons and the panoramic view was something unique and different.Fınally  at 0915 we returned back to earth  and it was a very smooth landıng by our very experienced pılot Mr Murat.We gradually descended on a long  open trailer truck after which we all gradually alighted from the Gondola.The inflated balloon was gradually deflated and finally laid and arranged on the ground in common parachute fashion by the balloon handling staff.Every single balloon flight involved a large staff of workers and a skilled pilot.. On landıng  we all congratulated each other for a safe and successful flight and  a champagne bottle was  opened by the pilot as a celebration .
Certificate :- "HOT AIR BALLOON FLIGHT".

                                                                                               Some photographs taken during the flight were on display for purchase and i did purchase a photo of myself in the Gondola along with the other tourists.We were all gıven a certificate of honour for completıng the rıde and at 140 Euros ıt was definitely worth the money.We were later dropped at our respective hotels and after arranging my backpack checked out of Ishtar Cave pansıon at approximately 1015 hrs  Deposited  my luggage in the lounge  to be collected later  in the evening.Ishtar Cave Pansion  had been my village home  during my unplanned  5 days stay ın Goreme.In hindsight the change of travel plans was a blessing in disguise for if i had to arrive on Sunday(20-9-2015) as planned  then i would have definitely missed a "Hot -Air Balloon" ride as the cancellations would  have definitely created a backlog of  balloon tourists.
Classic "GOREME RANCH".

                                                                                        Sometimes in life temporary  personal disappointments are for the good of the future provided the person  evolves with the disappointment.  Headed towards the horse ranch and decided to explore a new trek route next to the ranch.Walked into Gorkundere valley dirt road that was parallel to the Goreme horse ranch..Numerous fairy chimneys dotted the surroundings with the horse farm occupying some open ground  in the midst of "Fairy Chimneys".The entire locale was lonely with me being the lone person walking in the intense sunshine of a cool morning. Saw a lone donkey tethered to a post near the farm and decided to visit the ranch and speak to its care-takers or owners.
 Ek Nazar Cave Church

                                                  On arriving close to the ranch the intense loud barking of a dog aroused my self-preservation senses. In the distance tethered to the ground was a original Anatolian shepherd dog guarding the horse ranch akin to the Rottweiler on the other side of the highway. I beat a hasty retreat to the main road not wanting to become a hospital victim of a Anatolian Shepherd dog which are used to deter wolves in their native country and Cheetahs in South African  farms.As a human i stood no chance against a Anatolian Shepherd dog. Returned to the main highway road  onto Goreme ranch  and just got  busy watchıng the horses and appreciating simple village living and raw nature.Witnessed a hilarious scene at the horse ranch of the farm dog  playıng wıth the horses by barkıng and snapping at theır taıls.The anımals were least bothered nor the farm owner as thıs dog must have been  a habıtual horse chaser.As a regular early morning  jogger and visitor of the "Mahalami race course" in Mumbai  definitely know that race-horses are scared of barking dogs or dogs that chase them. There has been at least one incident that i remember of a race-horse being euthanized  during  the morning work-outs due to a stray dog attack. The horse had got alarmed and bolted off after being chased by a stray dog during the normal morning runs around the race-course track. It broke its leg in the process and had to be euthanized.Hence i was surprised that these farm riding horses didn't panic at the viscous barking and snapping at their tails by this dog.Seems farm  horses and race horses have different temperaments.For the first time saw horses having a mud bathe by rolling  on the ground.Walked back the short 1Km distance from the horse ranch to town and lunch was a local Turkısh specialty of Pancake beef at Old Cappadocıa cafe and restaurant.
Inside "Ek Nazar Cave Church".

                                                                                                                                       We  Indıans call these same pancakes, Chappatıs and realızed that there ıs a lot of sımılarıtıes between Turkısh and Indıan food.After lunch just whiled away my time exploring various unvisited sites within the farm vicinity that had the Go and discovered "Ek Nazar Cave Church(Ek Nazar Kilisesi) which was a long walk into the limestone cave valley adjacent to the horse riding ranch.I was afraid to trek the wilderness alone and luckily a young group of Italian tourists were heading that way and hence i became bold to venture into the wild west limestone desert of Goreme.Tourists are warned by signboards to beware of strangers  and its easier playing the hero in films than in real life if accosted by a gang of thugs.Akin to the other cave churches this church was also similar  but in a different location of the limestone cave  rocks.A small limestone hill was carved into a church  and the frescoes were visible as the same had been retouched by the Archaeological curators.Spent the entire evening observing the ranch horses and even learnt a few tips on horse behaviour from a local horse enthusiast.
Local Turkish food in Goreme.

                                                                                                                                               A mare among the nine mares penned in the same coral had the nasty habit of biting strangers and i literally missed becoming its victim when i petted it.Every horse has its own peculiar habits akin to humans and every pet owner would say the same about their pet cats or dogs.Although a veteran in horse-racing i learnt enormously  just observing the horses and speaking to a Turkish  horse aficionado.Pigeons are very popular and common pets in Turkey and the horse ranch farm had some "Tumbler pigeons" as also a pigeon house.Later in the evening the mares were saddled  and rented to tourists for horse back rides across the beautiful  Goreme countryside.The charges were 70 TL /hour depending on the type of horse ride or rides.Some horse rides involved days of continuous  riding akin to foot trekking.Later in the evening went back to the hostel and collected my bags and walked to Metro  bus ticketing office.
Horse riding in Goreme :- Riding into the Sunset.

                                                             The bus was punctual at 2000 hrs and co-incidentally met Estonian tourist Mr Zil.Vinas  whom i happened to meet on the bus during our arrival in Goreme. He was the only English language speaking tourist with  whom i could communicate and gain some moral confidence as a solo traveller.He was unlucky to have missed the balloon flights due to cancellations and vowed to return for the same as Turkey  is geographically close to Estonia and travel is cheap within the European Union Country's.Also met three Indian origin tourists who worked as "Chartered accountants" in the Middle-East  and were  on a short holiday in Turkey.They  were lucky to experience the balloon rides.Came across a Afghan citizen working in the carpet manufacturing Industry of Goreme speaking fluent Hindi whom i first mistook for a Nepali citizen.We all had some interesting exchange of opinions and views during the short drive to  Nevesehir  about 10 Kms from Goreme  On arrival at Nevesehir  at 2100 hrs we had to change buses."Metro Bus Services" are the largest bus company in Turkey and run their bus fleet better or equivalent to a average airline company. Punctuality and discipline is maintained with their drivers in classic uniform with a tie akin to airline pilots and besides they also had a male steward on every bus .Our bus finally departed from Nevesehir  town at 2130 hrs and it was a pleasant night journey on the smooth paved roads of the Turkish highway although i must have just managed a hour or two of a cat-nap.
Sultan Ahmed Mosque(Blue Mosque)

Wednesday(23-9-2015) Arrival  Istanbul and departure to India. :- Our bus arrived at the main Istanbul bus terminus at  approximately 0800 hrs.
Tourist Queue for entrance to  "Sultan Ahmed Mosque".

                                                                              After alighting the bus inquired for directions to the nearest "Metro Train station" and discovered the same just within walking distance from the bus depot.Boarded the metro M2 line  and alighted at the Golden horn metro  station  on the middle of a bridge  located between the Attaturk and Galata bridges  on the Golden horn side of Istanbul.It was a recent construction bridge  commissioned on February 15 2014.From the bridge i walked over the distance to the historic Sultan Ahmed Mosque popularly called the "Blue Mosque" by Western tourists due to its mostly blue tiled  interior walls .This mosque was built between 1609 to 1616 AD during the rule of Sultan Ahmed I.
"Prayer  section" inside Sultan Ahmed Mosque.

                                                                          The mosque has one main dome and six minarets  and eight secondary domes.Its design incorporates Byzantine Christian elements of the neighbouring Hagia Sophia along with traditional Islamic architecture and is considered the last great Mosque of the Classical period.The lamps inside the mosque were once covered with gold and gems and among the numerous glass bowls one could find Ostrich eggs and crystal balls. All this was pillaged over the years and some carted to museums.The Mosque has a capacity for 10,000 people and is one of the two mosques in Turkey to have six minarets .Pope Benedict XVI visited this mosque on 30th November  2006 during his visit to Turkey.
Inside Tourist section of  Mosque.

                                    This was only the second instance in history of  a papal visit to a Muslim place of Worship.Recently in 2014 Pope Francis was the third Pope to visit "Sultan Ahmed Mosque"  where he prayed along with the Chief Mufti of Istanbul Rahmi.Yaran. The Pope later also visited the Hagia Sophia Museumj just a few hundred meters away from the "Sultan Ahmed Mosque".There was a serpentine queue of tourists early in the morning at 0900 hrs and it was the first time in my life that i actually visited the interior of a mosque.Luckily a lady guide was explaining the historical architectural significance of the mosque as  also  the customs and religious beliefs of the Turkish Muslim compared to other Muslims to a few English tourists in the queue. I eavesdropped on the educative lecture being in the same queue.Educated my own ignorance on the Ottoman  Empire and Muslim religious customs and beliefs.Strange, although i do have many Muslim acquaintances we never ever discussed religion  besides the normal religious festivals of our religions.On entering the mosque observed that its interior structure was similar to the Hagia Sophia.For the first time in my life took a self photograph inside a mosque.There was a separate section for worshipers within the enclosed mosque complex.After the Mosque visit decided to visit the historic Pera palace hotel  located near Galati.
Historic "PERA PALACE HOTEL"

                                                                                   After much inquiries and wrong  directions did manage to find this historic museum hotel  which was incidentally just  a trekking distance from Noahs Hostel in Galati.This hotel which opened in 1895 has many firsts to its credit.It was the first building in Istanbul to be electrified besides the Ottoman palaces. It was also the first hotel to provide running hot water to its guests and had the first electric elevator in the city.It has a very simple exterior facade akin to any of the common buildings in the vicinity which has numerous other hotels.Detective authoress Agatha Christie penned her novel "Murder on the Orient Express" while staying in this hotel and her room is preserved as a museum. .Kemal.Ataturk the founder of modern Turkey stayed in this hotel and his room is now the "Ataturk museum".The "Who's Who" of Hollywood have stayed in this famed hotel and i happened to step in and view its interiors.Photographed the historical lift  made of wood and cast iron and which was the first lift in the country installed in 1892 just 3 years after the installation of the lift  in the Eiffel tower.Also viewed  the hand wagon used to cart passengers of the historic "Orient Express" to the hotel.
Historic  elevator of Pera Palace hotel

                                                                                                                       These bygone articles of a different era  were  preserved inside the hotel akin to museum exhibits.
FILM SHOOTING:- Turkish  film being shot.

                                                                                                                           From the Pera Palace hotel again lost my way to Noahs Hostel in the maze of jig-saw puzzle lanes leading to Galata towers, the landmark of Istanbul.Came across a film shooting of some local Turkish advertisement next to Galata towers.A handsome middle aged  Model was delivering some advertisement dialogue  with numerous retakes. Film shooting and modeling is not easy money of fame and wealth.Istanbul is a favourite locale for film shootings including Hindi films.
Last lunch of  tour  in Istanbul under "Galata Bridge".

                                                                                                                        Finally made my way to the hostel and refreshed myself.Thanked the owner for safe-keeping my luggage and left the hostel with my luggage on the downhill trek to Karakoy  station with the intention of having lunch at one of  the scenic fish restaurants situated below Galata bridge which  offered  a grand view of the Bosphorus straits.The weather altered between dull grey cloudy skies to sudden bright hot sunshine.On reaching Karakoy walked down the steps of the pier and  into "Dersaadet hotel", one of the many plush restaurants lining the base of Galata bridge.Locals and tourists fish  from the top of the bridge and its really a picturesque sight when viewed from the  street outside.The prices of fish products gave  me a shock of my life as i regularly personally shop for  fish products in Mumbai and hence well versed with the quality and prices of various types of fish.
Fishing on Galata bridge :- Popular Turkish pass-time.

                                         But then i was in Istanbul and not Mumbai! Just for experiencing the plush exotic locale and view of the Bosphorus  i opted for a miserly fish soup and beer which cost me a jaw-dropping 24 TL.Nostalgic memories of my sea-faring years passed through my memories as i viewed the shipping traffic along the Bosphorus straits.In fact my first shipping voyage was from the Indian port of Mangalore to Galatz(Galati) in Romania  which required navigation into the Sea of Marmara, Bosporus Straits and finally the Black sea. I was awed as a 23 year old by the sight of the Bosporus sea and Istanbul city at night.In those years all the Eastern bloc Country's were under the Communist rule of Russia and distinctly remember sending my first foreign country postcard letter  from Galatz Port to my parents.Life is bizarre and hilarious at times.After lunch spent my time along the quay watching the local youth fish, a favorite pass-time of local Istanbul citizens.As the soup lunch was just a restaurant sightseeing visit had a solid "Sheesh Khaboosh" snack at a restaurant  near Karakoy pier.
"A SEAFARER FOR LIFE":- Europe to Asia in Istanbul

                                                                                                                  At 1500 hrs decided to call it the end of my tour and after recharging my "Istanbul Kart" ticket with 10 TL  boarded  the tram from Karakoy to Zeytinbrunu station.Alighted the tram at Gulhane station and purchased some local Turkish sweets  at the famous  "Osmanlizadeler" sweet shop situated on the side of the narrow tram road in the Sultanahmet locality.Made my way back to the Gulhane  tram station and boarded the next tram to Zeytinbrunu.At approximately 1600 hrs after a long and splendid tram ride  finally reached Zeytinbrunu tram station and from there had to change over to the Metro railway system to finally reach "Ataturk Havalamani airport".At approximately 1630 hrs i was at Ataturk Havalamani airport and it was another round of  a jig-saw puzzle to find the right section of Terminal-1 departure of Turkish airlines planes.
On "Turkish Airlines TK-720":- Istanbul to Mumbai.

         After the normal check-in facilities and security check-up finally entered the duty free section and purchased my normal liquor bottle and some chocolates.Istanbul airport is massive  with numerous boarding gates and my  gate boarding station was Nos 502 which was almost a 1 km walk from the check-in counter.Departure time of "Flight Tk 720" from Istanbul was scheduled at 1935 hrs and at 1835 hrs we were allowed to board our aircraft  boarding transfer buses.The ride from  boarding gate Nos 502 to the aircraft was akin to visiting another airport as it was almost a 2 to 3 Km drive along a narrow airport road, something i experienced for the first time in my years of International and local travel.Finally  the plane took-off at approximately 2000 hrs as it got delayed due to take-off traffic regulations.It was a excellent flight and the plane was not full to capacity and hence the next two seats besides my window seat were empty.For the first time got to view the Turkish airlines in-flight entertainment which had excellent rock and pop English music as also some of the latest movies. Dinner was excellent chicken with vodka.Towards the fag end of the flight stumbled upon the documentary  biographic film "The Armstrong Lie" about the now unforgettable cycling doping verdict of  former 7 times Tour  De France winner Lance Armstrong..A excellent gripping confession and research on sports most infamous doping scandal.Got to watch just half of this lengthy two and half hour documentary as our plane touched down at Chatrapati Shivaji International airport at 0400 hrs.After the normal immigration clearance and baggage collection it was a long queue for the "Green Signal" final clearance check.Seems "Gold Smuggling" is in vogue as these queues were not prevalent just  a year ago ! After the "Green Signal" final clearance hired a air-conditioned taxi costing Rs 550 and was home in  Old Prabhadevi road at approximately 0545 hrs.After spending 23 days in Central Europe and Turkey having traveled through 6 different Country's it definitely felt a bit hot in  Mumbai.

NOTE :- A big thanks to the "INTERNET" for help in  researching my tour blog. Also thanks to the numerous acquaintances and locals of different city's in guiding me during this hectic "Solo" tour of 23 days across 6 Country's.YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE NOT TWICE !