HOT VACATION – PRAGUE, VIENNA AND BUDAPEST

Vacations are the time when my spouse and I spend some quality time away from the humdrum of life.  This year has been a roller coaster with work, and planning for a good vacation did not happen till the first half of the year.  The time to plan was just not happening, and we decided on Mussoorie as a destination as it was easy to plan and execute.  Three nights and four days was just enough with a Club Mahindra package – the flip side was that most of the trip was washed away due to rains.

We returned, not really having had the feel of a holiday when dear friends from TiE talked about an European holiday – Prague, Vienna and Budapest.  It was a four family group – all the other three had exited their full-time work life and into the “pursue your passion” zone.  It seemed exciting and when my wife agreed with me, all was set.  My friends had already made the plans and it seemed to be a good sunny option in comparison to the rainy Mussoorie.  This holiday meant being away from work for five days – and the group was talking about an easy tour at our own pace, etc.  I checked on the weather before I took the final call – 24 – 27 degrees centigrade.  That clinched it and I gave the go ahead to Racquel at my office to coordinate with the holiday planner and get it all set.

The week before the European holiday was hectic as it involved two within India travels and one Malaysian travel officially.  I rechecked on the weather – 32 max and 18 least in Prague and similar weather across the other two destinations…. So cotton and linen and no heavy clothing… packed and ready.

We flew Emirates via Dubai to Prague.  We landed in Prague – the Capital of Czech. The currency of Czech is Koruna which we exchanged at the airport.  We had already been severely cautioned about pick pocketing as part of an organized crime – and we knew that we had to be as careful as we were in Chennai J

It was the weekend – the roads were empty and the drive was good in the Skoda – except for the air conditioning that was insufficient.  As we entered the old town, the view was out of a storybook – picturesque buildings, churches, and people sitting out and drinking beer.

This was the view throughout our trip – Vienna and Budapest too.  Each place had their architecturally designed building that was well preserved with a world war history.  There were castles, churches, citadels, palaces, Roman Empire ruins – and travel guides who were so knowledgeable and passionate about their history to describe it all.

One fact that stood out was each place had its own special beer and beer was consumed much more than water – and water was indeed a scarce commodity.

India has its own beautiful architecture and temples of worship of all religions, like our Meenakshi Temple or the Taj Mahal – the difference was in the overall approach to these small towns, the cleanliness and the overall maintenance.

Prague had a sad history – torture cells, nuclear bunkers, etc., and we opted out of visiting these sites.

We travelled by train between the three cities – and the short journeys were comfortable.

The weather prediction of 24 -27 degrees turned out to be wrong and the temperatures ranged from 37 – 42 degrees centigrade.  The air-cooling systems in the hotels were grossly insufficient and we were in a furnace most of the time.  The vehicles we travelled in were also not equipped to moderate the temperature.

To add to our woes, water was indeed a scare commodity.  We had to remember to carry water along with us all the while.  Restaurants did not serve water and we could get a glass if we asked for it multiple times.  The world global warming, climatic changes, etc made real sense to me.

Our tour plans included whole day site seeing and by the time we reached the hotel it was 6 pm – and all the shops were closed around that time except for some food and ice cream joints.

The holiday was indeed a change over rainy Mussoorie but it turned out to be too hot for our comfort.

I learnt quite a few lessons after this European holiday.

Traveling to multiple countries – however close they may be – is not a good option.  You can cover two countries max – not more than that.

Do not get into any predetermined tour packages.  This is arduous and leaves very little time for a relaxed holiday.  Just going into a city, walking around with a route map, talking to new people, using metros, buses and trams to visit places that really interest you is the best option.  History beyond a certain point goes over your head.  You cannot take into much of a good thing.  After a point, all the churches looked the same.

These places had cultural events such as Opera and ballet – making our own plans would give us the option to enjoy these shows.

Food was another experience by itself.  We spent about 25 euros per person per day, and finding vegetarian food and the ice creams was an interesting ordeal.

In a nutshell, this is my list of dos when you take up a holiday to these destinations.

  1. Do not travel in summer
  2. Spend at least four days in each city to get a real feel of the place
  3. Make your plans on the go, after you get in there – no predetermined tours.
  4. Carry light luggage if you are traveling between cities by train.
  5. Use more of Metros and trams.
  6. Be prepared to enjoy beer
  7. Have time for walking or jogging early in the morning
  8. Try the different culinary delicacies.

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