Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Eurotrip-Part 2

In wait for the blessing
You can only pour more water into a jug that is not full. So too with knowledge you can only add more to a mind which is not full or willing to accept more information, or so goes an old chinese saying I guess. Why did I say this? Ah...just that the times suit such sayings.

Day-3: Zurich-Geneva-Interlakken
We said good-bye to Zurich early on day-3 after a sumptuous Swiss breakfast. Here as in most western countries, the drivers have a limited driving time. I guess it is near about 10 hrs. after which they have to stop for the day. This includes toilet stops every 2 hours and unannounced stops if taken. They have to log into the bus's system when they start the journey and can be checked anywhere enroute to see if they are adhering to the rules. The penalties are very severe and no one breaks the rules. So we were told that all toilet stops would have to be time-limited and any extensions would take their toll on our Geneva-visit. We would only pass by Geneva and would rest for the day only at Interlakken.
 What began then was a fun day in the bus. I had earned the nickname of 'laptop'. Everyone enquired whether the laptop was safe when they saw me. We started off with David maashu rendering a few prayer songs as also did a few of the girls and some of the 'aunties'. Then along came Sachin with his 'hit numbers'. Soon the bus was rocking to 'glucosum vellam' a hit number from north Kerala. I know this 'cos Muringa(mate from IIT) sings this at most of our parties, and I tried to join in too. Then along came the 'uncle' gang and sang a few golden old malayalam numbers. Some of which they might have sung to their spouses some time back, by the looks of it. Jina ma'am then suggested an ice-breaker where each couple had to speak about their 'pennu-kanal'(a ceremony in India particularly in Kerala where the prospective groom goes to meet his prospective bride at her place). It is a nerve-wracking encounter for some and makes for very entertaining narrations. So it was pleasantly surprising to see normally shy people come forth and share very amusing pennukanal stories with the rest of the group. I was very nervous when it came to my folk 'cos I really didn't know if they had some surprise up their sleeves. I guess most children are thrilled to hear how their parents tied the knot and so was I. I listened with bated breath as they narrated their tale, most of which I already knew. Still it is thrilling each time you hear it. But there are some love-stories which make for very amusing narrations. And there were few such as well. I love to hear such stories of love, bravery, destiny, divine-intervention, chance; there are many facets to them. But each of them is a thriller in its own way. There were stories of guys waiting around while the girl had almost 47 rejections to finally marry the girl, stories of long courtship where there were n number of love-letters written, postmen befriended to make sure that letters reached pronto, in short going the length and beyond for the love of their life. Fascinating tales I say. Meanwhile the bus was taking us through the eternal post-card that is Switzerland. We passed farm-houses, neatly planted crops, cows with cowbells lazing on the fields, on the slopes of rolling meadows looking content with the world around them. Munching grass and flicking their tails, beautiful creatures they were punctuating the scenery. Every now and then we would pass a canal or a brook, twisting and turning its way through the countryside. They were picturesque making their way through the landscape, making a turn here and a turn there, their muddy banks tracing a path through the lush green meadows and fields. Infact me and Fatso had a game where we would predict the arrival of the next brook. Needless to say I won; but Fatso won the name-the-car contest that we had. Reminded me that I have been away from the field of cars for a little too long; losing my grip on the subject that I treasured when I was Fatso's age.
We stopped by the lake in Geneva where there is the tallest fountain in all of Europe. We were let out for a bit of sight-seeing and shopping. After a spot of taking snaps Albert and I decided we should roam around the city in the half-an-hour that we had. Off we set with Fatso and negotiated zebra-crossings as any local would.  As we walked by the side of the lake we saw people relaxing on the bank as it was a sunny afternoon. There were people reading, couples relaxing, their arms inter-twined looking out at the water, musing, some kissing. There is this thing with the western world that you wouldn't find anywhere in the eastern world- public show of emotions. They have no qualms in letting off their emotions even extremely personal ones in public, whereas it is taboo in the eastern world. So it was that by the lake on the streets as we passed we saw couples hugging each other, kissing with not a care for the rest of the world. I being Indian am confused when it comes to this. On the one hand I am extremely inhibited when it comes to emotions and would chose to show/express them at an extremely private level; on the other I respect the western world for their devil-may-care attitude and expressing their feelings freely for the ones they love with not a care for the rest of the world. As we walked we saw first one and then another gang of people probably in their twenties, one of them in a bride's attire, some girls all in pink, both groups extremely loud and approaching strangers and asking them stuff, hooting. For all I knew it was a marriage party or a gay-pride gang, and I wanted to stay really clear 'cos I had Albert and Fatso too. Fortunately they didn't 'catch' hold of us and we enjoyed with a tinge of nervousness the 'show'. We admired the architecture around us as we walked, some renaissance and some modern from what I could make of. We passed by a church with tall spires in Gothic style and there was calming church music emanating from inside. As we were in no way dressed for church and there was a small crowd outside posshly dressed for the occassion and due to the fact that we had very little time left before Jina ma'am would start turning purple with worry, I skipped my urge to take a peek inside. From the lake we went on a city tour and passed by the various U.N buildings. We stopped at the U.N headquarters opposite of which is the Broken Chair. We took snaps outside the U.N Hq. and tried to spot the Indian flag among the two rows of flags that line the road leading upto the building from the gate, but to no avail. Dad says he spotted it at the fourth from the start on the right row, so if anyone can confirm it let me know. We took snaps under the Broken Chair named aptly cos one if its legs is built to show that it was blown off. It is said to be inaugurated by the late Princess Diana as a symbol of the fight against the use of landmines. Diana ws an active crusader against the use of landmines and tried her best to spread  awareness about children losing their legs on abandoned mine-fields after wars. Hence the blown-off leg in the Broken Chair.

We journeyed on from Geneva and on the way we stopped and did a little shopping. That was were I picked up something dear and Fatso bought himself  and me chocolates. I also became good friends with Jina ma'am enroute and we talked about a lot of things.We reached Interlakken late in the evening, but the sun was still up as it is until late 7-7:30 wherever we went.

Interlakken- "The city between two lakes"
Interlakken is called thus because it is nestled between two lakes- Thun and Brienz. It is a small town with 5000-odd people but it is extremely beautiful as it is situated at the foothills of the Swiss Alps. We passed by one of the lakes on our way into Interlakken. We were on the bus a few yards from the water, but from where I was seated I could see the bottom of the lake. So clean and clear was the water!. Greenish-blue pristine water for miles ahead, the lake was beautiful and few houses dotted the edge and at one place there was a dock with many yachts and boats moored. There were yachts on the water too and i can only the people there for the beautiful, beautiful lake that they have. Back home I have always admired our Chalakkudi puzha as I have spent evenings on its beautiful banks with my cousin and uncle. But that has a different feel to it; this is different with it is crystal-clear, greenish-blue expanse. We were boarded at the City Hotel Oberland and the rooms were neat and tidy complete with a bath. But the view was breathtaking . The windows opened onto a backdrop of the Swiss alps in all their beauty and out over the rooftops of the quaint old houses of the town. We went out for a spot of shopping and sightseeing. We set off on one of the roads out of the town-centre and were beheld to a jaw-dropping view of the Swiss Alps- black custodians with icy slopes, on one side. There were rolling meadows that stretched upto the foothills from one side of the road. We took snaps with the Alps on the background, on the meadow, near beautiful fountains on the roadside. I drank in the beauty as I walked, the folks enjoying the view too. On the other side of the road were shops of all variety that included the very famous casino that features in that first song in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. The film was shot partly here in Switzerland and Austria. At the end of the road we came upon a quaint old church with tall spires and a bell-tower. Now we were all for getting in even for a little time but couldn't find an open door. We were just leaving after looking around the beautiful church when someone rang for the vespers. Shortly though a boy came riding on his bicycle and opened the church doors. The church was beautiful on the inside too and there was even a grotto. After a few minutes of prayer we got back out. Fatso and me took snaps around the Church and we hurried back to the hotel for our dinner at an Indian restaurant.

Fatso if you are reading this, you should know that we didn't take you 'cos you are not old enough for this and I will certainly take you when you are old enough. I would suggest that you stop reading here but the inquisitive idiots that you and I tend to be I hardly believe that. So read on at your own peril.

'Cos we are guys:
Me and Partner(as he shall be called) set out after dinner to visit one of the casinos or pubs/discs. The aim was simple- 1. Enter a local pub. 2. Enjoy the music and if possible shake a leg. 3. chat with a local girl(that was my personal aim..don't know if Partner had it in his mind). Now Interlakken is a predominantly German-speaking town and I soon found out that my "il y a des boites ici?" was practically useless. We asked a teenage guy and some school-girls who shrieked at the mention of beer, but they all pointed to a region down the road. And that was where we found probably the only disc in town way before the opening time of 10p.m. We roamed around till 10 and [I] entered with a pinch of nervousness. 'cos I knew the scene could ugly if the locals were not friendly and I was worried more so because I had brought Partner into the equation. My strategy was to leg it with him at the first sign of trouble. We entered to find the place pretty empty except for two bar-maids. There was some German rock music (I guess) playing and disco lights scrawling on the dance floor. We took seats near the counter. We gradually got talking to one of the barmaids, the prettier of the two and also the more friendly of the two.
Me: Comment sappelle vous mademoiselle?
Her: Uhh..What? (Dash it no French!??)
Me: You don't speak French?
Her: No. Only German and English.
Me: Nice place you have here. What is this music? Is it German rock?
Her: Thank you. Yes.
Me:  Which band? (As though I knew any except for Rammstein)
Her: I don't know. We just play it from the CD.
In walk a couple of guys and a girl, one guy on a wheel-chair. They sit opposite to us at the circular counter.  I look for signs of trouble. The girls move over to talk with the newcomers. They get talking after initial greeting kisses. The scene looks ok. Me and Partner sit enjoying the music. Grins on our faces, so far so good. After sometime the girl we were talking to returns and asks us if we'd like anything.
Me: (Pointing to a board "Our house wine Jaggermeisser") what is that? How much does it cost?
Her: Oh..that is a joke. Jaggermeisser is alcohol actually.(she goes over to the tap and reads the label as to how much percentage was alcohol) It is very strong.
Me: (Huh! she thinks we're too young?)So how old do you think I am?
Her: Twentyy-eiight -thirrrty?
Me:(laughs) No not that old. 25 actually. Me and friend Partner are from India. So what is your name?
Her: Laila(name changed). So you are staying in the town? At a hotel?
Partner: Yes. We're staying at the City Hotel Oberland. We just arrived here in the evening. So you are from here?
Laila: Yes. My father is Saudi Arabian.
Partner: your mother is Swiss?
Laila: Yes.
Me: So you have stayed here all your life?
Laila: Yeah except for teo years when I stayed in Zurich. I didn't like it there, so I returned.
Me: So when you are not working what do you do? Do you study?
Laila: I am not a student. I am a mother, I have two daughters. I actually work here only on Fridays and Sundays. They(pointing over her shoulder to the others at the counter) work here except on Sundays.
Me: Come on! Two daughters, why you don't seem more than twenty-eight! seriously?
Laila: Yes.
Me: Wow.(She could be easily more beautiful than most women I have seen in my life. Not that being a mom makes you less beautiful. But there are some signs of aging; this woman looked near-about perfect.) So when does this place get crowded?
Laila: Usually at 3-4 in the morning. Today is a Sunday. So it will be less crowded. People have to go to work the next day.
Laila took a snap of me and Partner. We said goodbye to her and returned to the hotel, happy that we could do something a bit wild.

To be continued...


  1. Great leo, u narrated the journey very well. waiting for the continuation :)

  2. very well narrated... especially the countryside..

  3. @ Eliza and Sundeep thankya..