Eurotrip 1998

So when they selected me under the XLFTS Scholarship-97 programme, the Global Friendship Division of the Children’s Education Trust of India entitled me for a scholarship for an Educational tour to Europe. At that time, I was a small town boy in Dehradun, and in class 5th, which meant there was more of anxiety than excitement as far as ‘abroad’ and ‘foreign’ were concerned. The official procedures over, 10 days in April 1998 were to be the ones which changed my outlook forever.

Here is how those 10 days shaped up…

APRIL 24th, 1998 : Delhi-London, Day 1:

International Airport Debut for me… I think i was more amazed by the automatic hand dryer in the Airport Toilet than the Airbus Jetplane… We were flyin by Tarom Air(Based in Romania I guess)… ‘We’ were a group of 48 students and 3 guides from all over the country… I wondered why so many students from the south had made it in.. but now, years later, I think I know the correct reasons. I was the second youngest in the group, and the sole person from UP… the kind of uniqueness I really wasnt proud of… I felt my state had let me down.. !! We took off at 445 Hrs.. ensuring a proper nightout for my parents… Direct flights for such long distances hadnt burst into the scene till then.. So the first one took us to Bucharest at 1015 hrs.. and then another one with a lot more food and drinks landed in London at 1130 hrs… It took hours to get out of the heathrow… and the no. of Indians out there were comfortin enough to feel at home… Currency exchange at a Thomas Cook office… and i decided to be the first one to try out the pounds.. at INR 78 per pound.. it cost me 1.5 pounds for a cuppa coffee and 2 pounds for a hotdog which was really worth it… Mathematically, I had lost 7 dollars of the 200 I had carried with me…Sudden Dip…We were put up at Hotel Midland near Kings Cross right in the middle of the town… My first conclusion : There is a severe shortage of car-parkin space in London… wasnt really true.. just that they dont keep their cars away from the streets…WE spent the rest of the time just roamin arnd on our own.. and checkin out the video games in the Hotel Lounge…

APRIL 25th, 1998 :Full Day in London, Day 2:

8 varieties of Bread, 3 of butter, 12 of cheese, 4 flavors of tea, 3 of coffee, 2 other kinds of drinks, omlettes of various eggs of various animals, creatively designed spoons and forks of various shapes and sizes… that was the buffet breakfast table in the Hotel… I figured the no. of varieties I needed to try everyday so as to theoretically cover all that was displayed… Food was great.. yepp.. even Bread Butter had a different taste.. !!

Post the marathon, the sight seein begun… Madam Tussauds, Trafalgar Sqaure, dozens of Catherdrals.. etc etc… a tirin day.. and back to the hotel…

APRIL 26th, 1998 : Full Day in London, Day 3:

After tryin out the next set of varieties… we were taken to some schools for interaction with the local kids… Its amazin the kind of infra they had.. and i still dont see such levels here even today… After all,  how many schools in India actually have music rooms full of enough instruments, and people to teach the children.. Music is just an example… We had Indian Buffets for Lunch and Dinner… and the Chicken Curry tasted good… That was followed by a Shoppin extravaganza.. for abt 3 hours.. and I decided to keep my account in check.. I just bought a callin card… 20 pounds… Midnight, we were seated in a bus and proceeded to Dover.. biddin farewell to UK’s capital.. and enterin mainland Europe.. through the Channel…As a kid..  I didnt really appreciate the train goin thru a tunnel under a waterbody as much as a bus goin inside a train..

APRIL 27th, 1998 : Arrival in Paris, Day 4:

We reached Calais on the French shore at around 0300 hrs.. and continued our way to Paris..  The bus was a top end volvo with an AC powerful enough for 5 buses.. 2 TV screens and a state-of-the art toilet system… Breakfast enroute.. we were taken to Disneyland… 0600hrs.. Disneyland is one hell of a place.. Huge by all standards.. we were told its bus parkin can accomodate 600 buses… and it was true… the 12 hours we spent in this Theme park, we just managed 5 rides… none of the rides more than 9 minutes… the rest of time was spent munchin and waitin in queues watchin the french parents french kiss each other and their kids watchin their counterparts all around… the place is too big for one day… !!

we checked into Hotel Premiere, Rue Anne Franck, Marnela-Valle.. the digital password lockin systems again amazed me.. !

APRIL 28th, 1998 : Full Day in Paris, Day 5:

Breakfast had lesser varieties.. but tasted good..Paris is about so many places of historical interest.. so many sculptures.. great works.. i think I felt saturated.. I have never appreciated art that much.. I saw Hindi Movies in great demand there.. even in theatres.. and too many couples around.. I think if your are rich and single.. and are still unable to find another single.. then Paris is the place for you..  we were given our 3 hour shoppin time out of which I spent 2.5 hours in a perfume shop.. before buyin 25 ml of perfume for 350 francs..(around 50 dollars).. apart from fragrance, my shoppin bag contained wrist watches for my parents, and some general gift item stuff.. !!

Paris Nightlife is amazin… The number of couples increases, the number of Singles go down.. I think its a simultaneous process too..  There is somethin abt Eiffel which charms all.. the ligtin, music, boat ride by the river till late midnight.. It was the best day of the tour…

APRIL 29th, 1998 : Paris to Brussels, Day 6:

Post breakfast, our super luxurious bus took us to Brussels.. and I saw Air Force One or some movie like that… Lunch enroute… we struggled to find water bottles.. it was just Coke and Fanta all around.. Brussels seemed a much quieter place.. with more natural elements of beauty.. the Catherdrals and sculptures were all seemingly the same.. and there is enough of that in India too.. i think more than anywhere else infact.. We had a panoramic tour of Brugge and Antwerp, and our tired lots were rested in Hotel Jean Nihon, Rue De L’Elephant, Brussels… In between, I bought chocolates worth half my money left  !!

APRIL 30th, 1998 : Brussels to Amsterdam, Day 7:

Breakfast was light.. pretty good.. and we were on our way to Amsterdam, Holland…  the most beautiful roads in the world.. for most of the time.. there was just the road.. and seas extendin infinitely to both sides.. color yachts.. dozens of them… a clear show of human power over nature… Enroute, we visited many sites includin Volandam, Cheese and Clog factory (Clogs are wooden shows wore by the peasant and labor class there, and each pair hardly takes time to prepare), Zann Damm Windmill Village, where you cannot stand at a place and count their numbers.. and sites of interest in Amsterdam… Interest for us was only ‘educational’ and nothin to do with what Amsterdam primarily offers…

Overnigth stay at Hotel Vondelpark, Zandpad, Amsterdam.

MAY 1st, 1998 : Amsterdam to Frankfurt, Day 8:

Breakfast again.. this time a lot of cheese.. !! we then departed for Frankfurt (Germany)… Lunch was enroute and the struggle for water continued… There were numerous Rhine Valley sites right throughout.. and the natural view was amazin..  frankly.. i felt like being in Mussorie.. never realised what the big deal about Rhine Valley was actually… but nevertheless.. times were good.. We were checked into a Hostel this time which had nice ping pong tables… the name read Hostel Haus der Jugend, Deutschernufer… Midnight.. 4 of us left the hostel for a walkin tour arnd.. Now Germany those days didnt really feel like makin its citizens learn English… it took us more than 20 minutes and a lot of sign language to get a pizza made at one small outlet.. his preparation was excellent.. We loafed arnd for quite sometime before drownin into bed…

MAY 2nd, 1998 : Full Day in Frankfurt, Day 9:

We went around some places in Frankfurt.. esp of Technological interest.. It must be remarked that Germans are a smart race.. and Hitler has done somethin about their morale… They are dilgent and of course this diligence is backed up by very good infra and resource utilization… Frankfurt being a commerical town.. there was extravagance all around…

It was also our last day out… Another Tarom flight flew us back to India the next day… mixed feelings for me… The place was awesome… but I think India is much more comfortin…

I am still awaitin my next chance.. !!


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