Have We Forgotten That “Travel Blogging” Is Also About “Blogging”?

A few years ago, blogging meant writing long, sincere articles on topics close to our heart. The very word “blog” comes from the term “weblog” which literally means “an account (or log) maintained on the web”. Over time, the wave of “microblogging” (think tweeting, Instagramming, etc.) has reduced this art to a shadow of its former self. These days, I come across a lot of people who claim to be bloggers but don’t have a website or even an article to their credit! Does an Instagram account with a bunch of selfies or a daily addiction to posting disappearing stories of one’s private life justify the title of a “blogger”?

Where Has Writing Disappeared?

Attila Jozsef's statue sits by the Hungarian Parliament building, this Hungarian poet's lines from one of his poems raised on the steps below.

Attila József’s statue sits by the Hungarian Parliament building, this Hungarian poet’s lines from one of his poems raised on the steps below.

I am reminded of the days when writers and poets had the courage and the strength to pen their thoughts down to be immortalized even as foreign armies mortified their will to live. They wrote so much in times of war. We write so little now that we have peace. I was strolling by the Pest side of Budapest one day, taking one step at a time on the cobbled embankment by the River Danube. There, beside the architecturally imposing Hungarian Parliament building, I noticed the bronze sculpture of Attila József, the poet who wrote: “By The Danube” (A Dunánál in Hungarian). A couple of verses from that poem stood out on the marble steps below the steps where he was seated. Is it not ironical that precious writing is engraved on stones and preserved in our museums with the same enthusiasm with which we delete e-books from our phones to make more room for apps that promote narcissism?

Are Pictures Really Worth A Thousand Words?

Lake Fatehsagar in Udaipur entices me to linger here a little longer.

Lake Fatehsagar in Udaipur entices me to linger here a little longer.

There was a time when travel blogging was about painting a picture of the place with the brushstrokes of words. Each article would at the max have a couple of pictures. Fast forward to today, and a DSLR, an editing app and a string of carelessly thrown phrases (as caption) are making photographers believe they are travel bloggers. A famous saying goes – “A picture is worth a thousand words.” I beg to differ. A picture does not show you what your eyes cannot see. It does not tell you of the sounds that accompanied the sights or what the touch of a feather felt like. A great photo may attract an audience, but only great writing can keep them there.

How Should One Swim Against The Current?

Few of us have friends who tell us where we're going wrong.

Few of us have friends who tell us where we’re going wrong.

If you too, like others, are guilty of introducing yourself as a blogger without owning a blog (and no, a Facebook page or a Snapchat / Instagram / Twitter account doesn’t count), it is time you rectified your mistake. Either acknowledge that you only do microblogging or (what I recommend) get your own blog! You will thank me later when you discover the joys of long-form blogging. If writing does not come naturally to you, practise different styles until you know what feels more authentic to your personality.

Do You Need To Be Tech-Savvy To Blog?

Just like saplings that need a pot to grow their tiny roots in, our thoughts need space to fledge in.

Just like saplings that need a pot to grow their tiny roots in, our thoughts need space to fledge in.

Many gifted writers I know do not write on digital platforms because they cannot be bothered with the perceived hassle of managing a website. They are intimidated by the thoughts of getting a design for their site and paying through the nose for web hosting. Setting up your own blog is not rocket science! ResellerClub, for instance, provides pre-installed hosting so you can hit the ground running with zero assistance even as someone with no technical knowledge. Use my promo code – OINDRILADE to get 30% off on all of their WordPress Hosting Lite plans. You also get an SSL certificate free for the first year (the secure sockets layer padlock green sign on the browser assures your audience that your website is trustworthy). Did you know that your site will be hosted by ResellerClub on the cloud, so it’ll be quite fast?

Did Anybody Say “Vlogging”?

If only blogging could be done this way... (The Serai Bandipur's welcome note on a leaf.)

If only blogging could be done this way… (The Serai Bandipur’s welcome note on a leaf.)

A popular argument against old-style writing is the diminishing attention-span of the youth. Apparently, nobody has the patience to read a good, long article! But show them a video that takes just as much of their time, and they’ll watch it till the end. Video blogging or “vlogging” has become the latest “cool thing to do” for bloggers. But can that medium really give the viewer the freedom to vividly imagine a place guided only by the words of a writer? Don’t motion pictures put an end to the imagination by declaring what is and what isn’t? Can videos let the audience stay in their makebelieve world for as long as they wish? The second the clip ends, the magic is gone. Stories woven by the written word stay with people a long while, especially if they’ve taken a long time to read.

Will Blogging Ever Be Meaningful Again?

An early morning breakfast can get your creative juices flowing.

An early morning breakfast can get your creative juices flowing.

As a writer, I have daily wars to wage. Wars against naysayers who think I’m wasting my education and youth. Wars against the millions of mini Kim Kardashians out there who hog most of the social media attention, thanks to the ever-changing and degrading notions of what is “cool”. Wars against my dwindling confidence in my ability to make a living out of a career that I consider cathartic. And also those wars against blank pages that refuse to be filled. Then, I remember the writers who wrote all through all the big wars that have made History such a heartbreaking subject. And I know that the best writing happens in the middle of a war.

Do you still believe in long-form blogging?

Let me know through your comments below!

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Precious Jewels From Around The World

Every time I step out of my house, whether to explore a new country or a new place within my land, I mostly think about what my eyes can see. And, most of that is above the ground – the buildings and monuments, the streets, the mountains and valleys, the lakes and rivers, the trees, animals and the culture of the locals, and then, the sky. What I often overlook is what lies under the earth. I am not talking about tubers or roots or the exotic dishes that are made of those, but what lies further below – several feet under, formed by immense heat and pressure – precious stones.

Austria – Emerald Waters And Emerald Rings

The beautiful country of Austria is also a major producer of emerald.

The beautiful country of Austria is also a major producer of emerald.

When I went solo to Salzburg a couple of years ago, I was busy admiring the lovelock bridge that spans River Salzach, connecting the modern world full of gardens and courtyards to the Old Town paved with cobblestones. I gazed at the lime green grass carpeting the banks on either side of the emerald river and longed to hike on the moss-covered hills in the backdrop. But not once did I think about Austria’s prominence as an emerald producer and exporter to the world. Even my journeys back home yielded similar results…

Diamonds In Golconda?

Golconda (Hyderabad) is popular not only for its fort but also for diamond mining and trading.

Golconda (Hyderabad) is popular not only for its fort but also for diamond mining and trading.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have visited Hyderabad – both when it was a part of Andhra Pradesh and after it became Telangana’s. I have even climbed all of the steps that lead to Golconda Fort, and spent a lot of money buying Hyderabadi pearls. It is only now that I see Golconda differently after my mum inquires why I never brought back any diamonds from this place that has one of the world’s most famous diamond mines.

“Czeching” Out Garnet

Czech Republic might be famous for Kafka, but it stores some of the world's best garnet, topaz and opal.

Czech Republic might be famous for Kafka, but it stores some of the world’s best garnet, topaz and opal.

3 years ago, I was exploring central Europe, and my journey had brought me to Prague – the capital of Czech Republic. Over days of checking out the most vibrant Old Town, its cathedrals, sailing over the Vltava river, being surprised over Kafka’s fame and buying copper rings, I discovered Czechia is also popular for its gemstones such as garnet, topaz and opal. But I asked myself how far and wide I’d have to travel to collect beautiful stones from different parts of the world. Could I not get all such precious stones from the comfort of my home? Would expensive gemstones always be too expensive for me to own? I’ve recently found an answer to my quest:-

Jewel On Fire – Gemstone Jewellery In Your Budget

Did you know Germany's Alps could have gemstones such as beryl, topaz and emeralds under them?

Did you know Germany’s Alps could have gemstones such as beryl, topaz and emeralds under them?

I came across the online jewellery store Jewel On Fire which lets you buy precious stone ornaments priced up to 90% lower than their retail cost. This is possible only because they cut out the middlemen and source jewellery directly from jewellery craftsmen and manufacturers. And their online presence means you can shop without having to spend a bomb on travel. They have a splendid collection of low-cost genuine diamond jewellery and those of other precious stones. I have a sweeter information for you! When you use my promo code “OINDRILADE” to make a purchase on their site, you get an additional discount on their already amazingly priced items! 🙂

Won’t You Travel Differently Now?

It's not only Sri Lanka's lakes that are associated with aquamarine!

It’s not only Sri Lanka’s lakes that are associated with aquamarine!

When I told my mum about this, she was elated. She won’t have to worry about lugging heavy jewellery back from her trips now. And travel would only be about the sights and experiences, not the expenses associated with shopping of gemstones. I will again be able to visit Germany for its castles, and not think about beryl or topaz or emerald. I will again be able to enjoy the forests and lakes of Sri Lanka without hunting for good quality yet affordable aquamarine. “Aquamarine” would only make me think of the water bodies again, and not the stone on my ring finger.

Still, You Should Know…

Hungary's creamy white skies know that that this country has a lot of creamy opal stones as well.

Hungary’s creamy white skies know that that this country has a lot of creamy opal stones as well.

Even though you will mostly shop online, lounging in your sofa, it helps to know a little more about the things you buy. It is the stories behind each earring, pendant and bracelet that makes the gemstones more precious!

Do you ever wonder where each of your jewels come from?

Write your comments below! 🙂

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A Travel Secret Up My Sleeve – Urby Passport Holder

So much goes into planning a holiday, especially if it’s a long one. I have a big trip coming up this week, and all of the planning is stressing me out. Yet, I know the tension is temporary. My joy on reaching that faraway land will drown even the memory of the hassle I’m going through right now.

On-Trip Euphoria Is Greater Than Pre-Trip Anxiety

Alone on a German Island - Old Town in Lindau.

Alone on a German Island – Old Town in Lindau.

This is not the first time I’m travelling to another continent (read – Lleida – A Reminiscence), but this will certainly be the longest I’ll be away from home. I know from experience that the jitters are only before I set foot in that foreign country. All that I explore afterwards, will make me smile ear to ear. It is always a good idea to have all your travel essentials in place – the bags, the documents and the cash. If you are travelling to a country with specific rules, ensure you are prepped for the immigration procedures. Your passport is your first document of importance. It helps to keep it easily accessible.

A Passport Holder Also Helps Hold Yourself Together

You need a handy holder for all your essentials at the airport.

You need a handy holder for all your essentials at the airport.

At airports when I’d mostly be in a hurry, I would often struggle to find my passport in my handbag. Some scrambling later, I’d catch hold of it, only to realize I’d have to keep digging for my boarding pass next. Sitting down for a snack at an airport cafe would require some more ransacking of my bag for currency or cards. I was starting to get worried my passport would fall apart with all of that frequent manhandling. I needed a saviour. That’s when Urby came to my rescue!

A Leather Sleeve Brought Me Sound Sleep

Traveling means exploring living rooms full of books and music.

Traveling means exploring living rooms full of books and music.

My Urby passport holder is essentially a jacket for my passport. It also has 4 slots for me to slip in my multicurrency prepaid card (which acts as an ATM cum debit card for all my spends abroad), credit cards and perhaps a business card. There is also a sleeve which I can use to slide in my boarding pass or air tickets. This elegant way of organizing my air-travel essentials is going to give me a smoother travel experience. That means more time to catch forty winks during layovers! 😉

Luxury Is Personal

Urby sent me a personalized passport holder to make my travels more comfortable.

Urby sent me a personalized passport holder to make my travels more comfortable.

True indulgence is not in plainly sporting a premium brand, but having it customized for you. My limited edition passport holder from Urby’s “Wanderlust” collection is handcrafted and feels great to touch. I have my name printed in gold on the baked-cherry coloured high-end grained leather. I also have a drawstring canvas pouch to store my passport holder when I’m not travelling. Genuine leather needs care, especially during monsoon. The pouch will help keep moisture away, so my little piece of luxury stays luxurious for longer.

I Like To Travel Every Season

I watched the trees change colours during fall in Austria.

I watched the trees change colours during fall in Austria.

When I was growing up, most of our family trips would happen in summer (because we had holidays). Monsoon was considered a bad time for vacation as my folks didn’t like rains (and the ensuing sludge on the roads). We were also quite cautious of getting out in the winters lest we should catch a nasty cold. These unnecessary restrictions made it quite hard to travel frequently and enjoy different climatic conditions. I had decided when I was very young that I would travel far and wide, in every season and every situation. I’m filled with delight as I tell you today that I’m doing exactly that these days! 🙂 (Read – For Travel Goals that are Long Term…)

Travel More, Work Even More!

Urby passport holder has a pocket at the back (so you can easily slide in a business card).

Urby passport holder has a pocket at the back (so you can easily slide in a business card).

My friends often wonder how I’m jobless, yet not penniless. Conservative culture has led them to think there are only traditional ways to earn a livelihood- you slog all day if you are not born rich. I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. And contrary to popular belief, my parents are not funding my travels. Over the past 5 years that I worked hard in the corporate world, I managed to save up a little bit. And now that I am a full-time freelance travel writer, I work even harder. More travel means meeting more people and developing lasting relationships, many of whom later become my clients. This is why I always carry my business cards on me. (Check out my friend, Grenville, who designed my card!) Urby’s passport holder has an extra slot at the back of the jacket (which I use to carry a couple of extra cards for serendipitous meetings at airports). You can also use it to carry loose change or some currency notes.

Carry Your Belongings The Way You Would Carry Yourself

Some parts of the world are so bright, you need sunglasses at night! ;-)

Some parts of the world are so bright, you need sunglasses at night! 😉

Immigration desks across the world have convinced me that sharp dressing goes a long way in having a trouble-free clearance. When you carry yourself impeccably, wouldn’t you want your passport to be carried in a similar fashion?

Do you ever struggle to find your passport in your bag?

Are you a fan of leather?

Let me know in the comments below! 🙂

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Disclosure: The passport holder was gifted to me by Urby. However, the review reflects my honest opinion.

Sharjah at First Sight

I was time-traveling last month when I sat on the Air Arabia flight to Sharjah in the wee hours of the morning. Flying to this emirate did not just mean winding back my body-clock by 90 minutes, but preparing my senses to witness the striking contrast between the modern metropolis polished by technology and the historical quarters washed by time. Before I could get under the skin of UAE, my eyes captured what distinctly stood out in this city.

The Emirati patriotism in an island of its own

The Emirati tricolour flutters in the flag island

The Emirati tricolour flutters in the flag island

The national flag of United Arab Emirates is hoisted on a tall white pole at the centre of the Flag Island. This flag pole is incidentally the 7th tallest in the world! I caught this panoramic view of the island from the window of my hotel room.


Antiques in sepia at the Blue Souq

Teapots of yore, forevermore.

Teapots of yore, forevermore.

Before my jet-lagged body could get any rest, I strolled over, the very afternoon I had reached Sharjah, to the nearest marketplace – the Central Souq, fondly known as the Blue Souq, after the ink blue finishing on the tortilla coloured walls of the building. Souq, in Arabic, means marketplace. I noticed, however, that most souqs are elaborately decked up exhibition centres. If you are a retrophiliac, you will revel in wandering through the countless shops that display Persian brass-ware, Turkish ceramics or Mesopotamian paintings reproduced on carpets larger than the carpet area of your apartment. I had to make my peace with window shopping for my pockets were not very deep.

A dream in the dusk

Sharjah's skyline glitters in the auburn evening

Sharjah’s skyline glitters in the auburn evening

In the month of February, the afternoons may be a little too warm for comfort, but the evenings more than make up for it. A leisurely walk along Al Majaz waterfront gave me gorgeous views of the setting sun. If you are a runner (as I am 🙂 ), you should pack in your sneakers to run the entire stretch around the lagoon. When the sun just begins to set, start from Al Noor mosque, which draws its architectural inspiration from the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, and make your way through the Al Nakheel oasis and cross over to the other side of the Khalid Lake until you reach the tall buildings, which by now will glitter against the stark black night.

Hajar’s call to hike

Hajar Mountains separate the sky from the desert

Hajar Mountains separate the sky from the desert

I expected Sharjah to be all desert and plains. It surprised me first with its lagoon. But it literally took my breath away with its mountains! The mountain-lover in me could not sleep a wink when she learnt she would be visiting Al Hajar mountains the next day. The rocky giant is inviting enough for a hike. Visibility here is uncertain though. Sandstorms are quite common when you are in the Arabian peninsula.

Rejuvenation at a beach retreat

Massage for the body, mountains for the soul! ;-)

Massage for the body, mountains for the soul! 😉

If you are a trekker, you will agree that the pleasures of a deep tissue massage are underrated. When your back is tired from carrying your rucksack, and your feet ache to get out of those shoes, your best friend is that masseuse who will knock you unconscious with the technique of her hands. At the Oceanic Khorfakkan Resort & Spa, it’s not just the muscles, but also the eyes that relax, for the parlours look out to the Hajar range and offer visual elation in abundance.

Dining with all your senses 

Food you can eat with your eyes

Food you can eat with your eyes

My lunch at Khorfakkan was set at Al Murjan – the capacious restaurant at Oceanic which serves cuisines from around the world. All through my Sharjah trip, I would fill my plate with assorted Arabic dips, irrespective of the other cuisines that made their way into my meals. At Al Murjan, specifically, I had a memorable dining experience as I ate by the Gulf of Oman. Delighting also my ears was the live music that a Spanish duo put up that afternoon. I regretted not bringing my dancing shoes, for they sang my all time salsa favourites by Gypsy Kings.

Desert safari minus the crowd

Dune bashing in the undulating Meliha Desert

Dune bashing in the undulating Meliha Desert

Perhaps the best thing about Sharjah is that it doesn’t have Dubai’s crowd. When my guide, Romell, from the Sharjah Tourism Board told me we’d go dune bashing, I was expecting a typical touristy ride with a zillion cars dotting the desert, but I was pleasantly surprised to see the Meliha Desert relatively empty. We also made a couple of stops to examine some fossils which the archaeological department has been monitoring for a while.

Sharjah’s night life

The Eye of the Emirates shines all night

The Eye of the Emirates shines all night

Being the cultural capital of the Emirates, Sharjah takes its duty to uphold the Islamic values very seriously. Alcohol is strictly banned at public places and hotels here. So is smoking. Even though you can buy hookahs at the souqs, you cannot smoke unless you do it inside the precinct of your house. So, if you prefer a family-friendly vacation or wish to go on a detox from your alcohol-filled weekends, Sharjah is the place to be! You cannot go clubbing here, but you will discover how to enjoy a beautiful night at Al Qasba, especially if you visit during the Light Festival.

It is easy to hide in the Heart of Sharjah 

The old world charm of the souqs is worth window shopping

The old world charm of the souqs is worth window shopping

Souq Al Arsa is known to be one of the oldest markets in this emirate. I enjoy looking at pretty things, even if I know I will never own them. This gives me unbridled joy in idly walking in and out of every single alley, admiring the colourful display of jootis, lampshades, kaftans and spices that are meticulously placed to make me stare at them a little longer.

No, they are not shy!

We're different, yet all the same!

We’re different, yet all the same!

The world that lives outside the hijab often makes the mistake of assuming Muslim women are reticent and obfuscated against their will. It is only when I spoke to abaya-clad, sheila-wrapped ladies in Sharjah that this veil of misconception was lifted from my eyes. These women consciously decide to conceal their beauty from the opposite gender, so they can focus on things that are more important – such as praying, getting an education, obeying their parents and forming strong bonds of friendship with their female friends. I often think we should learn the art of being single from Islamic girls.

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Have you ever been to Sharjah? Did you notice something I didn’t? I would love to hear your stories in the comments below!

Disclosure: I was hosted by the Sharjah Tourism and Commerce Development Authority. However, all views are entirely my own.

What Warsaw Whispers – A Photoessay

It is India’s Republic Day today. I will take this opportunity to take you to the Republic of Poland, a relatively new republic in our world. The word ‘republic’ politically means a country which has chosen to be governed by its own representatives. However, on a personal level, it signifies equality – a state where no one is above another, and all are equally valued. Poland’s story is inspiring for its unwavering spirit of perseverance in the face of multiple wars and public strife.

I was in Warsaw last September, and I was moved by a lot of things I saw. I could not keep it all to myself, so I have decided to share those moments with you. Everywhere I went, the city whispered its secrets into my ear. Today, I will let you in on those secrets through the pictures I captured in this extraordinary city.

View from the Royal Castle in Warsaw

View from the Royal Castle in Warsaw

Some Gates Open into Warsaw’s Past

Warszawa (as the Polish call Warsaw) has built its entire Old Town from the ground up. From inside the Royal Castle, the Castle Square looks like a  page out of a fairy tale. The Baroque architecture is a reminder of its 16th century history. Behind the beauty lies its devastating past – the invasion by the Swedish army in 1655, and later, destruction by the Nazi Germans during World War II. Yet this UNESCO World Heritage Site was reconstructed in the 1970’s, silencing its plunderers.

These roads are made for speed

These roads are made for speed

The Road to Prosperity

Warsaw is an Alpha global city, and the 32nd most livable city in the world (as of 2012)! Zloty, the Polish currency, happened to be one of the few currencies in Europe to retain their worth when the recent economic turmoil plagued most of the continent, especially those in the Eurozone. This central European country’s progress is evident in its express roads that make driving an experience of sheer pleasure and speed.

Modern trams run noiselessly through the night

Modern trams run noiselessly through the night

Tram Cars to Sports Cars

Poland is one foreign country in which I have tried all the modes of transport! 🙂 Most of that was unplanned, but it reinforced my faith in the Polish infrastructure and mass rapid transit system. I spent very few days in this city, and managed to take the tram, the bus, the train, the metro and also a taxi to get from one spot to another (not to forget the plane I took to reenter this city from Prague). I had initially planned to take on Warszawa solely on foot. But the city is HUGE!!! Even a consistent half marathoner like me could not wing it just by brisk walking. I did not want to miss any corner of the city, so I had to swallow my pride and buy tickets to one mode of transport or another. But I’m glad I did that, for Poland charmed me with its speed and environment friendliness. Given the number of cars and other vehicles that throng the busy, wide streets of Warsaw, its air and noise pollution levels are rather low (almost negligible).

How can there not be a horse-drawn carriage in the Old Town!

How can there not be a horse-drawn carriage in the Old Town!

The “New” Old Town

Compared to its contemporaries, Warsaw perhaps has one of the youngest Old Towns in Europe. Not because it lacks history, but because everything that you see here is an exact replica of what once stood before its repeated demolition across centuries. With every step you take towards the centre of the Old Town, you come to terms with what the residents must have been through during those disturbing times. You are allured by the spotlessly clean cobbled streets and the groomed horses that draw tastefully upholstered carriages. At the same time, you weep inside at the horror of the Holocaust.

No dearth of walking spaces in Warschawa

No dearth of walking spaces in Warszawa

Pedestrians’ Right of Way

If you think Warsaw only has broad roads, think again! The city’s sidewalks are arguably just as wide as the main roads. If you went absolutely nowhere in the city and chose only to walk along its extensive maze of roads, you would still fall in love with Warszawa! The picture above is not that of a park but of a walking lane alongside an important street full of foreign embassies. The main streets are separated from the paved walkways by patches of green grass with deciduous trees shielding from the pedestrians the view of traffic. These promenades are great for rollerblading and skateboarding. For the cyclists, there’s a separate lane. 🙂 There is no dearth of wooden benches to rest those tired feet or if you just decide to sit quietly and meditate on the canopy of arresting greens and browns in the sky.

Gardens that can colour your whole world green

Gardens that can colour your whole world green

Streets are Green; Gardens, Greener!

On my first evening in Warsaw, I decided to walk to the Łazienki Park – the largest park in the heart of the capital. The park is 76 acres of paradise! <3 I was in Poland just before autumn could set in, and I was lucky to see the green trees in their full splendour before they would start shedding their leaves and colouring the city in hues of yellows, oranges and browns. Although that would be another sight to die for! Those walks through the gardens did a whole lot of good to my lungs.

Łazienki Palace - a wonder on water

Łazienki Palace – a wonder on water

Palaces, Guardhouses, Towers and Temples

The Łazienki Park and Palace Complex is an indulgence in grandeur and culture. Labyrinthine tree-lined paths lead to more than a dozen gorgeous structures. There is the Palace on the Isle, a Bath House with a Latin inscription that literally translates to “This house loathes sorrow, loves peace, offers a bath, recommends a happy life and strives to host sincere men.”

Then there’s the Myślewicki Palace which has managed to survive WWII. Łazienki Lake covers a large part of the complex, and a number of bridges connect the monuments scattered all over the park. The Egyptian Temple and the Temple of Sybil were constructed at the behest of the Russian Tsars in 1822. There are still more structures which would serve as guardhouses and observatories and even theatres.

Chopin is omnipresent in Warsaw

Chopin is omnipresent in Warsaw

The City of Chopin

Throughout Warsaw, Frédéric Chopin, the famous composer and pianist, has been immortalized through statues, museums and even musical benches! An interesting aspect of the Old Town is the ubiquitous ‘Chopin bench’ – a granite bench which plays different Chopin compositions at the press of a button. These benches also act as maps and location identifiers. Your current location is marked by a brightly coloured stone on the map of Old Town etched on the surface of the bench. The walk through Old Town becomes incredibly romantic in the company of such beautiful music.

Stage of the Roman Theater on the Isle

Stage of the Roman Theater on the Isle

Multiple Cultures in a Single Park

Somewhere along the Łazienki Park, you come across a Greco-Roman style amphitheatre, complete with a circular stage bordered with white columns. This stage is still used for live performances. The park is home to more theatres, the Old Orangery and New Orangery being two of them. Most buildings in the palace complex have been converted to museums. But what strikes one the most is how these man-made edifices exist in harmony with nature. One can spot numerous birds, both in the sky and in the lake and ponds, gliding and paddling softly throughout the park. I was in a different world in the middle of palaces with quacks of ducks, honks of swans, cries of peacocks and songs of many airborne birds ringing in the air.

Inside the Uprising Museum - war on the walls

Inside the Uprising Museum – war on the walls

The Museum of War

Poland deserves to be applauded not only for rising from its own ashes as a phoenix would but also for accepting its past. The country has carefully maintained proofs of the holocaust and the wreckage caused by multiple battles. Warsaw does not bury the horror stories that would make the dead turn in their graves. Instead, it displays the pain and pillage of its past. Muzeum Powstania Warszawskiego (The Warsaw Rising Museum) is an experiential museum where you can touch and feel everything you see. You can pick up the phone-receiver to listen to actual conversations in the voices of former political leaders. You can walk into the War Room to hear gun shots and feel what it is to stand in the middle of a battleground. You can touch replicas of bullets and guns that were use to kill millions of innocents. You can also watch short films inside a theatre.

The tall buildings of Warsaw gleam at night

The tall buildings of Warsaw gleam at night

Modern Warszawa at Night

The city that once wept now knows how to celebrate. The skyline of Warsaw is impressive with umpteen skyscrapers that glitter when the sun goes down. Amidst office buildings and hotels, you will find the Palace of Culture and Science – the tallest building here. Nighttime is also perfect to go pub-hopping or shopping at its numerous designer stores. I smiled from ear to ear when I found elegant skirts to fill my bag with.

Bottles of kvass and jars of honey beg to be picked off the shelves

Bottles of kvass and jars of honey beg to be picked off the shelves

Don’t Forget to Drink! 😉

One does not just leave Warsaw without having some beer! Or for that matter kvass – the local drink made of fermented rye. I had my best craft beer at Dzik Malina, a nice place with walls decorated with bottles of kvass in different flavours and also flavoured honey. To go with your drink, order a plate of the national dish – pierogi (pronounced pee-row-zhee) stuffed with sauerkraut, mushrooms or anything else you like. You will be surprised to know that bagels originated in Poland, so don’t forget to eat some of that while you are in the country.

Ending the day with a party with my Polish hosts

Ending the day with a party with my Polish hosts

Learn to Say ‘Dzięki’

You remain an outsider in any new place until to make the effort of learning their language, or at least a few words. You will be so moved by the graciousness of the Poles that you will want to thank them again and again. On my trip, I discovered how warm and loving these people are. At my hostel (Warsaw Downtown Hostel – the best one in all of Warszawa <3 ), my hosts picked up some Hindi phrases because they wouldn’t teach me Polish without also learning my language from me! 🙂 I also had an interesting situation when a man caught me off guard and proposed to me in front of the giant bronze Chopin Statue in the middle of a park.

Warszawa, I want to say ‘thank you’ for making those days so memorable for me. Dzięki (pronounced jenky) from the core of my heart!