Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Only in....

I learnt in Istanbul (much to my relief) that buttermilk is their national drink (I actually happily had more sadham for dinner when they had no vegetarian dishes). It is also the only place where I saw that driving was worse than in India. Imagine the same scenario but with much higher speeds. A taxi driver actually went 600m in reverse in a tunnel (where traffic flows only in one direction) just because he missed his exit - the fun part, I was in the taxi. The chance illa part - before he went in reverse, he turned to me and said something in Turkish that I assume was ''Dont be scared''...ROFL !

Restaurant bills in Italy contain ‘Table Charges’ – this means if you enter the restaurant, sit at a table, see the menu and leave, you still have to pay for occupying the table (this is usually 3-4 euro). To be fair, all tables usually have bread, olives or olive oil and someone occupying the table even for a little while means loss of business to them. Since menu cards are displayed outside the restaurant (like in most European countries), you would be wise to check it before you enter the place.

I felt like a millionaire in Jakarta - I literally had a million rupees, Indonesian rupees. Tipping is a huge part of life (more or less like in India) there. Everyone, I mean everyone, expects a tip. When my taxi driver took the luggage off the cart and placed it in the boot, there was a guy who was idly chatting with his friends. When one of bags was about to fall, I stretched to save it and we caught it at the same time. I said thanks but he is still standing, yes, waiting for his tip and since I only had 100,000, 50000 and 10000 notes from the exchange counter, I had no idea what to tell him and the driver stepped in to save me and gave the guy a 1000 rupee note !

In Spain, if you attempt speaking in broken Spanish, the Spaniards will start off talking non-stop in Spanish even though you have a ''I am completely clueless'' look on your face. They love to talk and obviously they love their language, so be prudent and confess ''no habla espanol''. Also, dinner is more important than lunch. People hardly have more than a sandwich for lunch. Warm heavy meals are reserved for dinner.

In Malaysia, I saw prayer rooms at the airport for the first time.

In Netherlands, there are 24 hour non-stop bike (bicycle) races where the participants have to cycle around the same track again and again and the one who does the maximum in 24 hours is the winner. You can stop for drinks or a snack but no sleep or long pauses. The winner did 400 kms !!!

In Belgium, much to my delight I found Tintin souvenirs everywhere.

In Egypt, you can look at the pyramids while eating pizza ! Yup, the pyramids are surrounded by restaurants and is not really in the middle of the desert. Everyone there knows Amitabh Bachchan...seriously !

In Malta, there is an island where no cars are allowed. You can reach it via a boat and explore the island only on foot. Also, I was really surprised to learn that there are a number of wealthy Indians who settle down in Malta after retirement.

In Marienbad (Czech), every meal in a restaurant will take 2 hours. The service is really slow and the food is completely bland - healthy living, you can take your time to chew and digest the food and most of it is raw. Cops there love stopping tourists for traffic violations and enjoy insisting that one has to pay only in the Czech Koruna and not in euro.

In the Vatican city, the pope addresses the people in Latin every sunday at noon.

I was very amused to see alpha, beta, gamma as alphabets in Greece (knowing and seeing are 2 different things). My name would most likely be - sigma, teta, omega, myu, upsilon, alpha...I am beginning to sound like Einstein right :D ?!

In Canada, I have never seen anyone yell at anyone in the traffic or fight for parking spots. Everyone always seems patient, easygoing and nice ! The only time I saw a parking spot fight was in a desi parking lot in the Toronto desi market. Lakes in Canada are breathtaking, they make one believe that webshots pictures are actually real.

In France, it is impossible to find good vegetarian food (Bread and cheese do not count as a warm meal) and until today, I have not understood why the French cuisine is so acclaimed.

I always look for cows and sheep with bells around them in Austria and Switzerland (DDLJ effect). Warm bread and the farm-fresh butter and cheese are a boon in these places and make me look forward to breakfast.

I was completely flattered by the customer service at the Denver Residence Inn Marriott. I had a suite with a kitchen and they had a service where if you dropped off a list, they would buy groceries. Besides cereal and milk, I had written 2 vegetarian microwave dinner packages since I knew I will have no time to cook. When I arrive at night, not only are the groceries purchased, but they have been placed in the right shelves and I open to find 2 Indian microwave dinner packages in the freezer !

I have been asked to show my ID (for proof of age) every time I purchased wine in the US. I can be vain and assume that I look younger than 18 but that would be pushing it too far :D. Portland is the only place where I could use the public transport. As a pedestrian, I have had the ''are you crazy'' look quite a few times.

In Ammersee (Munich) during sailing, a motor boat caught up with us and asked us if we had beer to spare !

I had the best hot chocolate in Verona, the best pizza in Venice, the best bed in Berlin, the best milk chocolate in Switzerland, the best icecream in Utrecht, the best cruise in the Nile, the best train ride in Germany, the best flight with Qatar airways........

PS: I intend to update this post from time to time, hopefully.....

Disclaimer: I am just describing my experiences and there is no offense meant. I have nothing against any of these places and/or people and would be more than happy to visit them again.

PPS: Oru kadasi bit bakki irukku.....Sorgame endralum adhu namoora pola varuma.....


  1. Nice post!!! I can do noth but envy ur odyssey!!! Experiences in India would be good addition.

  2. @Gautam

    this is a one or two line description of what affected me most in each country, I would never be able to do that for India - its home and there are too many things to write about.

  3. Thats quite true!!!India with its diversity from autos to metro rails wud turn out into a novel by itself..truely Incredile India!

  4. Yappa ... Kodoora scene da saamy ...
    "Ulagam sutrum Vaalibhi" nnu kaatraangalaama ...

  5. @Gokul

    chance kedaikarche use pannika vendama :D ?!

  6. SG:

    Fantastic post .. light read.. but truly well captured snippets .. it's always nice to hear from well traveled people like you!


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