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Unbelong to Belong

Flesh, Blood and Awesomeness

Greece

The flight from Bucharest to Athens passes over beautiful Bulgarian mountains and Eastern Greece regions of Thessaloniki which can be enthralling. We landed in Athens without any delay and proceeded to take the metro to our Airbnb house. The metro runs from the Airport to the city quite often but we somehow managed to be late as it took us a while to figure out where the metro was.

 

The ride to the city was boring but it does seem like there are a lot of beggars in the metros asking for alms as we saw 4-5 beggars wandering in the train in the 30 mins journey. We took a walk to our house and the host arrived to show us in within 5 mins. The house was much better than expected and was a good choice for a repeat booking as we were again going to stay at the same place after a week. The washroom makes for an interesting tidbit: Toilet Paper is not meant to be disposed of in the WC instead in the dustbin near the WC because the Greek drains are not built to handle the dissolved TP and get clogged making for expensive cleaning expense. After settling in a bit, we sauntered out for a bite at Simply Burger which has some really good burgers on the menu. Disappointingly, there are no local beers on the menu as Heineken somehow assumes the local flavours in Greece. Post dinner, we headed for an R&R as we had 2-day long trip coming ahead.

Day 1: Athens- Delphi-Thermopylae-Kalabaka

We had booked a package tour from G.O Tours for Delphi and Meteora as the long distance public transport is not really great and making your own trip can be exasperating. Too many points of failure to simply state the risk of planning especially with tight planning and no days to spare.

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Balkans: Romania

Among the few countries left in the Balkans, Swapna and me decided to visit Romania and Greece this time. We have truly fallen in love with the Balkans as there are a lot of stories to hear without the extreme commercialization of West Europe. Greece is an exception and is generally considered a role model for the other Balkan countries. We were also looking forward to be joined in Greece by my uncle and his family who we are quite close to.

How Romania got planned first in the itinerary is an interesting story. When I was trying all permutations to book to the 2 countries, I was trying initially with the first country as Greece and then on to Romania, this was costing close to 225 euros per person. However, when i reversed the order, the cost dropped significantly. To the extent, that the cost of entering Romania first and exiting via Greece cost all of 125 euros per person. the cost of Eindhoven to Bucharest leg was 12.5 euros per person and considering it is a 3.5 hours flight, I could not believe it. I also received a survey from Airbnb if i wanted to be a part of a survey in return for a gift and of 150 euros. All I had to do was share my reviews and experiences 8 times during our stay in Bucharest.

Before embarking on this trip, I had booked many guided tours as the public transport between cities was not really great in Romania and Greece and hence covering what we needed meant spending excessive time and energy for minimal gains. In Romania, we found Interesting Time Bureau as the best folks for showing around Bucharest with plethora of attractions and themes, including street art.

Day 0: Eindhoven to Bucharest

We were greeted with crappy weather when we departing from Eindhoven and were delayed by 2 hours as there was quite a bit of turbulence up in the sky but that did not dampen our enthusiasm. We had an uneventful rest of the flight and arrived in Bucharest to some nice weather with slight humidity and warm climate. However, getting past the immigration turned out to be pain with the officer looking at my passport, visa and my face for a few minutes to verify my identity peppered with questions such as why I was there, How long I was staying for etc etc.

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Pizza Hut nostalgia

Ever since Pizza became a dinner option, I would constantly order from Domino’s or Pizza Hut. There was never a clear winner as to which was better until Pizza Hut made me an offer I could not resist.

When i started my MBA, I knew i was dipping in to my savings to get through the 2 years of education during which time, spending was only on necessities to avoid taking on a huge pile of debt. I had a group which i was always happy hanging out with. Whenever there was a birthday, the entire class would celebrate together with cake and birthday bumps. But when it was one of the members of the group, the day meant we headed for Pizza Hut to eat like a king on a pauper’s budget. Back then, Pizza Hut had released an offer of meal for 1 consisting of a personal pan pizza, 2 pieces of Garlic Bread and 1 Drink; all for Rs 99. This was a huge hit among the student populace and with us too. For us, it was a special day too where we would just go for some yummy pizza and bread.

When i was talking to Mukul, i realized, half a decade has passed by but some memories and moments are cherished and treasured alike. Mukul reminisces of the days when he passes by a Pizza Hut. I practically make it a point to visit a Pizza Hut when i am in a city with one (P.S. Netherlands does not have a Pizza Hut). When Swapna and me were in Berlin, I made her walk 4 kms to get to Pizza Hut and also in Ghent, Belgium when we had lunch at Pizza Hut when the city had so many better options to choose from Whenever we meet up, we will make it to a Pizza Hut and have new moments and memories to cherish

Nik

BeNeLux: Belgium

Belgium trips in the past have mostly been day trips or weekend trips, this was the first time we actually did some slow travel and not covered a whole lot of places in one day and decided to stretch out the stay a bit. This trip was also the first with Yeshwin and Deepika for us 🙂 . This trip was somewhat put together after exploring quite a few options on whether or not to take Yeshwin’s car and the possibility of public transport and so on. The trip was planned around Liege, Ghent and Bruges.

Day 1: Eindhoven to Liege

I have passed by Liege before on my way back from Spa and also knew it would be a changeover location for Aywaille towards Remouchamps caves. But I have never considered Liege as  city to explore on its own.

We started off from Eindhoven by taking a train towards Maastricht and then switching over towards Liege from Maastricht. The entire journey went off quite smooth and without a hitch while we managed to get some shut-eye as we had risen quite early to make it to the trains and at Liege, we got on to the bus for the caves. The Liege station is actually remarkable and is absolutely a delightful design to look like a mountain itself a single peak.

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Kwak and La Corne du Bois Des Pendus

Baltics: Krakow, Poland

Although, We have not visited other Baltic countries of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, I am still naming this post as Baltics as we might visit those countries in the future.

A visit to Krakow was hastily thrown together within days as I realized that the trip has been extremely delayed and that the ticket prices are only increasing as days pass and the winter season comes to an end.

In Poland, the main attractions for me were infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration camps and  the famed Tatra mountains. After research of exactly 15 minutes, I found organized trips on Viator which would take us to Auschwitz Birkenau and Tatra mountains. Due to scheduling issues, we had to Tatra mountains first when we would have preferred the other way round. Also, these organized trips were our third and fourth organized trips as the entire trip was hastily cobbled together.

Our trip began by taking a flight to Katowice which is the neighboring city of Krakow and an hour away. We had airport transfer bus taking us directly to the Krakow on arrival. getting out of Katowice was a breeze as it is a very small airport and no checks courtesy Schengen agreement.

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Balkans: Bosnia i Herzegovina

The bus journey toward Mostar was long and winding. Even though we had to travel just over 45 kms into Bosnia to get to Mostar, the bus was creeping slowly and had taken nearly an hour just to get even half way. the bus then turned toward Međugorje which was not even on the route map. At Međugorje, the bus stopped, a different bus came to take us to Mostar.

As the Bus entered into Mostar, the stark scenes of conflict come into picture. Buildings shredded by bullets and left to rot. Sharp demarcations of conflict areas are visible. Amidst all this, the thought that was running in my mind was what had i got us into. but as we were already here, i thought let us go ahead with the trip.

We had been given ample instructions to reach the room by Miran and was sufficient to get us comfy, The weather outside was a raging -18C and the heater was hardly sufficient for one of us to be warm. Turns out we had arrived in the harshest winter in the last 10 years in Bosnia. I got a message saying we would been heading out for a trip in the morning to Tito’s secret bunker as Vjetrenica Cave was not available as the ground was covered with ice. We had dinner at a restaurant nearby. To our surprise, the entire Bosnian cuisine is reliant only on 3 elements: Pepper, Salt and Vinegar. No other spices or herbs are used. Method of cooking is either grilled, baked, or fried. meat is beef, fish or pork, nothing else. Chicken and vegetarian dishes have only recently arrived to provide more choice for the tourists.

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Bright day ahead

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Pool time

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