Account of travels across the world. This blog provides descriptions of travels in different parts of the world. Pictures related to many of the blogs can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/7330879@N05/ and for more information I can be e-mailed at ananda@wfu.edu

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

June 25, 2004

This was the day of the presentation. I got up early in the morning and walked out of the Hotel Alberta, a BW hotel near the railway station in Lugano. Took the walk up the hill to the station. It took a while to figure out the ticket system, eventually bought a day pass for Lugano for 5 Swiss and took the funicular down to the main town area. Then walked to the Convention Place where learnt that much of the conference was at the University. That was another fifteen minutes away, but had some company in a person from Brisbane. Checked out the location of the University and then took Bus number 2 back towards Paradiso to come back to the station. It was about 9:15 by then. Went to the station café and had a croissant and coffee. Called Mikku to get them out of bed and then bought the day passes for them. Finally walked back to the hotel and had some more breakfast with them. Then all of us left for the city. Took number 2 to Centro and then took number 1 to the bottom of the funicular for the travel to Mount Bre. It was a nice trip up and there was a spectacular view of the lake from the top. Had lunch at the restaurant there and I finished working on the presentation. Bebo enjoyed the sound of cow bells and the general odor of cow dung so typical to Swiss countryside. Took the funicular back down to the base and then took the trolley tour to the square by the lake. There dropped off Mikku and Bebo and I headed out back to the University. Spent the rest of the day at the conference doing the usual conference stuff. Finally, that evening, Bebo took a swim at the hotel pool and Mikku had her phone interview for the PHS job. Eventually went back to the lake side where we all played chess on the street chess sets and had dinner at a café and took the funicular back to the railway station and walked back to the hotel. It was also at the conference that I accidentally switched bags with another attendee.

June 26, 2004

Spent the morning packing and getting the car from Avis. Then went to the conference again, checked e-mail, returned the lost bag, hobnobbed and Mikku had kebobs at the kebob place. Also played some more chess at the street chess place. Finally, started heading out of Lugano around mid-afternoon. The road took us through Benenzoa off Highway 2 and we stopped there for a late lunch, and did some grocery shopping for the drive. Took Highway 2 to the St. Gotthard tunnel point and then left the high way and began the climb up to about 9,000 feet to pass the St. Gotthard mountain pass. Stopped often to take pictures of the alpine landscape. Switzerland is mostly about taking pictures, having coffee and eating pastries. Nearer to the top stopped at a restaurant to do all three! Here the ice was nearly all around us. Sustained some injury from a fall when was trying to explore a glacial lake. Nothing broken. Bebo thoroughly enjoyed the scenery and hanging around the ice in mid-summer. After the pass reached the Aldermatt from where got on a smaller highway towards Meiringen in the Bernese Oberland (the Alpine highlands around Bern). This road was equally spectacular and this went through the Sustenpass. Again there was ice all around until the treacherous climb down to the Meiringen valley. Possibly went through about a 100 hair pin bends along the way, which by miles was about 100 miles but took a good 6 hours with all the stops and photographing. Bebo has declared that he wants to be a photographer when he grows up and also wants to get training from Cameroon. The good thing with digital photography is the nearly endless number of pictures that can be taken. Anyway, eventually reached the Minotel Sherlock Holmes hotel. Was not very impressed by the hotel at all. The room was comfortable with a bunk bed for Bebo, but the view was average and hotel houses the package tour groups which can be a pain particularly with really loud teenagers (mostly from the US) which can distract from the pristine nature of the mountain hotel. Later walked over to the centre of this tiny town and had dinner in the square. It was curious to see that there appeared to be several families from Sri Lanka who appeared to live in Meiringen and they were all playing at the park. Eventually got back to the hotel (it did not have air conditioning and the room faced the sunny west side and so was warm). I walked back to the town to take a stroll as it was getting dark and the town looked pretty.

June 27, 2004

I got up early and strolled over to the railway station. Had a cup of coffee there and then checked out the train options. Then walked down to the town and checked out the laundry options. Being a Sunday everything was closed. Got back to the hotel and was greeted with a great Happy Birthday and gifts from Bebo and Mikku. After breakfast left in the car and first bought the regional pass for the Oberlands on train, and took the highway through the meadows, which Bebo really liked, to Interlaken Ost (East) Station. Parked the car there. The weather was not good and it was rainy. So generally walked through the city of Interlaken which is overrated I thought, and walked on to the Interlaken West station. From there took the boat to Lake Thun. The boats here are more like trains and busses and they stop at several towns by the lake. We got off at a little town called Fullensee and there had lunch by the lake. The weather had gotten sunny by then and so sat in a small park by the lake and watched the mountains as Bebo did some swinging. Then took the boat to Spiez. This was a slightly bigger town with a beautiful castle. Took a long up hill hike to the train station. Bought some snacks there and then took the train back to Interlaken and picked up the car and drove back to Meiringen. The drive was beautiful both ways and went right by Lake Brienz and through small towns and lake-side meadows. We stopped by a meadow so Bebo could enjoy playing in the meadow. Finally got back to the hotel and ate dinner in the room with food from the hotel’s restaurant. Food is generally expensive here and so we always shared dishes. Finally called it a day after a night stroll in town.

June 28, 2004

Had a slightly late start but eventually were able to make the 10:00 am train from Meiringen to Interlaken Ost. Also dropped off the laundry on the way. The train went by the lake and it was a pretty trip. At Interlaken changed to a small train for Lauterbrunnen. This took about 20 minutes and went winding up the mountain. The next change was at Lauterbrunnen. A curious thing happened here. As we got off the train I saw the train for Klein Scheidigg and was going towards that when the train official stopped me and asked me if I was with the tour group, said no, and he directed us to a different train. Then we looked closely at the train I was wanting to board and it was full of people from India. On more closer observation saw that the train was called “Bajaj Express” and the station was full of Indians all working for Bajaj and wearing a Bajaj blue jacket. Bajaj is a major Indian company that manufactures two-wheelers (or scooters as they are called in India). It soon felt like we were in an Indian station. The people were all Bajaj dealers on some kind of a vacation/work with family and had obviously chose that day to go to the Jungfrau as we were doing. All of a sudden the hills were alive with the sound of Hindi and the tranquility of the Swiss mountains were interrupted (often rudely) with “Aabe Oe, kaha jana hae re?” (Hey there where do we have to go?). This was a bizarre and not a very good experience. But little did we know what awaited us. From Klein Scheidigg we started on the last leg up towards the glacier of Jungfrau. Of course the Bajaj train was ahead of us. Every time the train stopped at the little stations (they have to stop to let the cogs cool down) the Bajaj people would disembark and stand on the tracks as the Swiss rail employees would chase them around and try and get them back on the train. The entire Lauterbrunnen line was messed up that day and as an English lady said, “This is the first time I have seen trains running later in Switzerland.” As we quickly leant the Bajaj group had reserved 4 such trains and they were causing total chaos with the time schedule of Swiss rail! Eventually after another 40 minutes through a tunnel the cog train reached the highest railway station in Europe – Jungfraujoch – at 11,333 feet. I felt a little ill from the lack of oxygen at that altitude and Mikku and I were both out of breath. When we entered the station we were greeted with nearly 300 Bajaj employees and the restaurant at the top which is called – Bollywood – an Indian restaurant which was attempting to feed about 450 Bajaj employees who were generally creating a merry mess there. We ended up eating at the Crystal restaurant. Then we took a stroll through the ice cave which is built under about 30 feet of permanent ice of the glacier. Bebo loved that, except we were constantly reminded of the “tourist” behavior of people from India which is quite different from what we are used to. I think the part that bothered me most was the noise. Almost everyone that went into the ice cave realized that it creates some amazing echoes and so everyone was shouting at the top of their voices in there. I was afraid it would cause an avalanche. Actually, overall the experience was not pleasant, and Mikku and I decided to come back down to a quiet town and so took the cogwheel down to Wengen. There was no more blue jacketed Bajajians here and we had a quiet coffee and pastry watching the mountains. Bebo bought his Swiss Army watch here in Wengen. Then strolled around the pretty little town and took the train back to Lauterbrunnen and then to Interlaken and back to Meiringen. I went and worked in the Internet Café for a few minutes and then we had dinner together and Mikku and Bebo played chess in the park. Overall the visit to Jungfrau was spectacular but the atmosphere was more like going to Kedarnath! In fact I have changed plans to avoid further Bajaj encounter and have dropped the plan of going to Mt. Titlis knowing that is a popular visit with the Indian tourists. In general, we have seen a lot of Indian tourists here and they are really good to meet. But the group from Bajaj was somewhat of an overdose. Finally called it a day at about 10:30 pm.

June 29, 2004

I had a bunch of things to do this morning. First, however, went to the Bakerie and had a pastry and coffee. Then got money out, picked up the laundry and then went to the Internet Café to deal with the current crisis at SRC. Then got back to the hotel and picked up Mikku and Bebo and went to the station. Got the tickets for Lucerne and then strolled in the town and Bebo also played in the park some. After that got back to the station and took the 11:00 am train ostensibly for Lucerne. However, quickly realized that this train was on its way to Interlaken, in the opposite direction. So quickly got off at Brienz and walked by the lake, picked up some snacks and then tool the 11:47 train from Brienz to Lucerne which went through Meiringen again. As always, the train ride was spectacular and we eventually reached Lucerne at 1:30. Lucerne is a big city but is made famous on Swiss chocolate wrappers because of the covered bridge across the river. Walked there. On the way Bebo fell into the river while trying to annoy a swan. Not much damage other than wet shoes and socks. Had to buy a sandal for him. So now he has a Swiss sandal from Lucerne. Then walked around the town did some window shopping and picked up a few souvenirs. Bebo was bored with the big city and so got back to the station and took the 5:34 train back to Meiringen which got us back at 7:00 pm. I had a meeting at 9:00 so I had to get on with that while Bebo and Mikku went to bed.

posted by Ananda  # 3:31 AM

Friday, June 25, 2004

June 24, 2004

On this day, Srijoy was in 3 different countries. We got up reasonably refreshed at the hotel in London (Slough Marriott) and took the taxi to Terminal 2 for the Alitalia flight to Milan. The flight was delayed an hour for no apparent reason and there were no announcements. The flight itself was only about an hour a half long and we reached Milan at about 4:15 pm Milan time. The immigration was easy and after we got our bags I tried to rent a one way from Milan to Lugano, but that was not possible. However, this was Srijoy”s second country of the day. Eventually we took the bus express from Milan to Lugano. It was quite convenient and we reached Lugano, the third country – Switzerland at about 7:40 pm and took a taxi from the station to the Hotel Alberto (a BW hotel). The room was tiny as is usually the case with Swiss hotels but we were comfortable. Had dinner at the Pizzeria across the street. Lugano is very Italian and so the food was mostly Italian. The city is built by Lake Lugano and was surrounded with mountains. In the evening the Lake looked beautiful from the “Terrazzo Panoramic” of the restaurant. It was also the night of the England vs. Portugal Euro 2004 game and so we ended up staying up late to watch England lose! There appears to be enough to explore in Lugano.

posted by Ananda  # 4:53 PM

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Travels of June 23
The day started early since we had the morning flight from DC. Got up about 4:45 in the morning and Mikku and Srijoy were up at 5:15. Got ready and took a cab to the airport. The entire taxi cab business in the Washington Dulles area is no run by people from Somalia. Had a spat with the cab driver about overcharging for luggage. The line at the counter was long. As was the line for security. Dulles is a strange airport since all the gates are reached by trolleys and so all passengers do security at the same place. It was a 777 Boeing to London. We had 27 jhk, so Bebo got a window seat. The pond crossing was fine. The flight was only about 6:30 hours though we left an hour late from DC and then were again put on hold at Heathrow. The airport was really busy and the plane did not get a gate and so we were bussed to the terminal. Immigration was slow but baggage was quick. The taxi from Millennium Cabs was not there so had to call them. Eventually got to the hotel about 10:30 GMT. Had a quick room order dinner and then packed Mikku and Bebo to sleep and came to the lobby for a drink. There were a lot of dissatisfied customers since the Marriot was overbooked and people did not get their promised rooms. Anyway, such is the fun of travel. Need to call it a day now. Watched a good movie on the plane called Cody Banks 2. Overall a good crossing.

posted by Ananda  # 3:16 AM

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

We started our trip today. Antoine, my graduate student, was kind enough to drop us off at the Greensboro airport. We got there about 12:30 in the afternoon. After checking in, we had a quick lunch and then went through security to the US Air Club. We hung around there for some time and met with Dr. Fuberg of PHS there. That was nice. Then we went to Gate 51 for the United Airlines flight at 2:45 pm to Washington, DC. The flight left on time but about 30 minutes in the flight, the pilot informed us that there were bad storms in the DC area and so we were to circle in the sky until the storm left. This went on for about 30 minutes when the plane needed to refuel and so we ended up landing in Richmond in Virginia. We waited on the ground, in the plane, for nearly an hour and half and then took off for DC. Eventually reached DC around 6:30 pm instead of 4:00 pm when we were supposed to. Srijoy was also not feeling too well having developed a slight cold. We eventually reached the Fairfield Inn in Chantilly around 7:30. Got a take out order from the restaurant across the street and finally called it a day around 9:00 pm. Early flight to London on Wednesday morning.

posted by Ananda  # 9:59 PM


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