Heritage site hopping weekend

Our Weekend plan was to hop starting from Badami – Mahakoota – Patadakkal – Aihole – upto Bijapur. We did this on a July weekend, 2015.

Bijapur way

We started our planning about 2 weeks before it. Our itinerary was based on some research and discussions amongst us over emails. We were 7+1 kiddo.

We took a train from Bangalore, Golgumbaz express 16536, to Badami. It goes up to Bijapur, but we wanted to head up by starting at the bottom (see map). All of us boarded from different stations and finally set out of Bangalore by 6:30 p.m. The train ran on time, and we reached Badami at 8 am.
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At Badami Station, as we walked outside, it is easy to hire a 6 seater taxi to the only Govt.accommodation, Hotel Mayura, at a cost of Rs.100. We spoke to the same guy to take us around Badami, Mahakoota, Aihole & Pattadakal for the whole day. I think we fixed him for some 2000 bucks for the day.
At the hotel, they are quite humble and check-in or check-out timings are not very strict and they often cut you some slack. They let us check in early. We freshened up, had a nice breakfast at the hotel canteen itself, and headed out.
We decided that we will check out Badami caves at the end of the day, so we first headed for Mahakoota, as it seemed to be nearest from there.
mahakoota 1Thankfully, this beautiful site was not flanked with crazy noisy tourists. We spent way too much time there thinking where will we get this serenity again. We realised at about 12 pm that we had to move faster to cover rest of the places.
Next we headed for Pattadakal. We skipped lunch, because we knew if we stopped some more, we’d have to drop something for next day, but that was out of question. Next day was dedicated to Bijapur. None of us was sure what we had planned for Bijapur, and you will notice later that we regretted it badly the next day.
Back to Pattadakal:
pattadakalWe hired a guide to tell us about the UNESCO protected site, stories I really cannot recollect, but they were not special enough either, which is surprising. We spent about 2 hours there, before heading for Aihole.

Aihole, sadly, is a much more pretty site, and tattered as much – not cared for. But why and how does UNESCO decide to ignore such an intriguing site? Aihole, if you go inside the museum, is an entire town full of ruins and remains, but only a 20% of that part has been made into a tourist campus. Heartbreaking to see the state of rest of precious ruins on your ride through the village. Don’t know how it is still hidden from all history buffs and archeological enthusiasts.
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I almost unwillingly left from Aihole, as I had not been able to explore it fully. But we had to head for Badami, and did not want to stall everyone’s plans either. We rode off to Badami caves..our final heritage site for the day.

Badami caves are a less-expected surprise. I couldn’t help them compare with Petra in Jordan, but thats unfair as I haven’t been there. Badami is no less a marvel though, with what technology were these guys able to cut off the rocks and go deep in them?
badami caveIt was almost close to closing time at 6 pm, so we hurried up to check out the caves. The slight trek upwards is the one with a gated security, otherwise you can go walk at the foot of the same hill and go see some more caves at the bottom, there are some other interesting ceramic statues on that path as well.
badami 2But as the sun the was going down, we figured the site across the lake at Badami was an interesting spot to be, with many more heritage buildings visible on the hill that side.
badami 3We sprinted down the hill and asked our auto guy to transport us to other side of river through teeny tiny lanes of Badami town. In next 5 minutes were there, and the gate to climb up the hill to the monuments was thankfully still open. We hurried up, trying to touch every mandalam we could lays our eyes on. One of them has a specially narrow secluded way twisted between huge rocks, we somehow managed to climb through it. It was worth the view from top!
badami 4But the most breathtaking view is undoubtedly to walk till the end of the ghat.. at the rims of the lake, you see the beautiful temple with a great backdrop of a rocky hill.
badami 1We then headed for the resort to get dinner and a goodnight’s sleep, for early wake up next morning.

Next day, a sunday, we rushed to the railway station to catch the same train we had got off the last day. The Golgumbaz express to Bijapur. the train stopped unplanned for long breaks at a station called “Basavanbagevadi Jn”. We killed time by posing DDLJ and clicking several pics 😛
We arrived at Bijapur at about 9 am.
We had done absolutely no research about Bijapur, precisely because google does not have much helpful information, also many photos online are tagged and named wrongly.

We decided to begin with Golgumbaz, as it was just near by to a hotel one of our attendees was staying at, she was supposed to join us in Bijapur. Also, we were duped big time by the Tonga-walas. They are such crooks across Bijapur, completely took advantage of our large group that was helplessly not together all the time, so they used miscommunication to their advantage and literally fleeced us of money for no reason. Later in the evening the same tonga-walas came around super drunk using all the money they made us pay in the morning. Useless assholes! try stay away from these crooks.
Golgumbaz was awesome. Entry fees of about Rs.5, the experience is close to rare. The Golgumbaz is a magnificient monument, looks almost larger than life, unless you think about Taj Mahal and the likes. However, very few such marvels of architecture exist in India.

This building is just at the entrance, the giant tomb is hidden behind it

This building is just at the entrance, the giant tomb is hidden behind it

We hired a guide to tell us about the place, he asked us to pay as we find it fit after the tour given by him. Our Guide was really a colorful guy, animated and a singer – as we found out later.
The Golgumbaz, was a building that held meetings for the King. The architecture was such that utilised principles of sound travel and propagation, in an era when electricity and having a Mic was out of question. The dome allows you to speak in few designated corners of the building, and the sound is beautifully distributed and delivered in form of a loudspeaker kind of voice experience to the entire hall. The King was probably sitting in the centre at his grand seat at the ground floor, where a string phone or speaker would allow him to speak at normal volume, the strings would transfer the sound to the designated corners at the top floor of the dome and propagate the sound all over the hall.

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We only understood the theory when our dear guide, asked us to wait at one side at the top floor. He almost disappeared in the large circular floor, suddenly we could hear his voice as if he was talking right next to us! and then we spotted him far far away across from the hall, speaking into a corner. That is bloody amazing! I mean centuries ago..these people were much more advanced than us. They really used science and maths in amazing ways. He sang a string of famous songs for us, and with us all the crowd within the dome enjoyed the Vividh-Bharati live.. 🙂
We hope we rewarded him generously. By the way, climb up the dome is a 7 floor climb through a really tiny staircase. If you are Fat.. god help you. I’m a size less 😛
bijapur 1

By lunch we were out of there. Rest day we planned to check out other heritage sites, that we had heard about. Mobile data was not working in Bijapur, we were clueless, my companions were rather least interested in finding about more locations as well. We were all acting too lazy. We visited the following places:
Jod Gumbaz – a twin dome, but its basement is flanked with homeless people beside the durgah
Jami Masjid – could be missed, if you have seen Jama Masjid in other bigger cities like Ahmedabad & Delhi ofcourse.
Ibrahim Rouza – this place is worth visiting, it was thankfully less crowded and it was raining a lot, so we had enough time to click many pics. Google tags pic of this place with a wrong name. Research a little more.
Baarah Kaman – 12 unfinished arches. This place also can be missed, though it has great history and story behind it, nothing much to see
Malika-e-Maidan – Looked like most tourists chose to miss this place, however would suggest to visit it, it has nice view of the city and serene little garden. With a small cannon, that has a water body for the firing guy to run and hide his ears to escape the sound of cannon fire. The caretaker of this place is a ex-military man, who insists on telling the history behind this place – which is very informative. Apparently this place was a gift by the King to one of his queens.
Asar Mahal – is a garden and unfinished kind of building, an auto guy duped us by saying it was Sangeeth Mahal.
We were recommended Sangeeth Mahal by the Hotel guy, who insisted it was 8 kms away outside town. However, girls were almost disinterested to even argue or find out about it from anyone, so we allowed a Auto guy to fool us by driving into a near by lane to a mundane kind of heritage building. Yes, I’m not very proud of us.
[I will update pics of all these places soon]

Commute in Bijapur:
There are close to no options to commute in Bijapur, and locals are more misguiding than helpful. Auto guys like Bangalore ones don’t know the localities much. It will be better to take maps with you, coz google just does not work in Bijapur yet. You must ask atleast 10 people to confirm something, because the town is full ignorant idiots who have no clue where they live and what is around them. In case you are traveling with a bunch of idiots, you are in deep shit then 😛

Wien – Vienna

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Train to Vienna can be easily taken from Salzburg station, it takes roughly 3 hours of time and ticket costs 24 Euros. September is a non-touristy season, so you can directly hop on to the train, and buy tickets after you’ve found yourself a seat.

Vienna felt way better than Salzburg to be in, it was raining still here too, but atleast the apartment we checked into was pleasant. It had a kitchenette, and was reasonably priced, also very spacious. We stayed at Liechtenstein Apartments situated on Nicklegasse 2 street. It is near to underground stations U2 & U4 at the Schottenring Station, on Hermeinegasse Exit gate.
There is a Vienna card available for purchase but as per my research it does not have many benefits. It allows you free transportation on public systems, and merely some 10% discount at the museums and art galleries. My main plan was to go to the famous Art galleries & museums of Vienna, where I did notice a difference of 1 Euro in the prices for the Vienna Card holders. I anyways somehow had taken the decision to buy a public transportation pass for 48 hours instead. It costed me 13 Euros. It is imperative you buy such a pass, because if you try buy for each ride that you take on underground or on road transport, it costs about 2-3 Euros each time. I bought my pass from a Kiosk right outside U2/U4 station exit that was next to my apartment hotel. You can use your travel multi-currency cards to make payments here. Keep your ticket safe.
If you take a underground train, you will need to punch the ticket at one of the machines installed before you enter the actual platforms, they are not easy to spot, but you can ask around. Whenever you punch the ticket, thats when your 24/48/72 hour period will start.
You will be provided with good maps at the Railway station information counters itself, they are crowded with text and complicated, but keep your patience and the map will guide you properly. I have probably never ever travelled alone in a metro-city like this, but even I was able to figure the maps and routes out very quickly referring the map. Or don’t hesitate to ask a local, people there are very helpful and they will definitely guide you correctly. Two words “Bitte helpfen” may sound more local, mostly all will understand english as well. ‘Entschuldigung’ is often a word used by people there which means ‘Apology’/sorry/excuse me.

List of places on my list for visit were:
Leopold Museum, Albertina Museum, Karlzplatz, Belvedere Palace & Schloss Schonbrunn.
I was basically in Vienna to see all the originals of my favourite artists I’ve admired for long. I didn’t really care much for rest of the things. As told, Vienna pub crawls are bloody good, and I would be game to do it if I had some interesting company with me. I’m not much of a open person to go engage with strangers, so company matters more.
vienna 1

I took the U2 to Museums Quartier station, where I had to visit Leopold Museum. Here some originals of Gustav Klimt & Egon Schiele are displayed, along with many other less known masterpieces, which are worth your time nonetheless. The entrance fees is 13 Euros.
After this I roamed around a bit around the area to check out the streets and just get a feel of the city. Got myself some coffee and muffin, then headed for the Albertina Museum.
Entrance here is 12 Euros, and this museum was much more fun than Leopold. Simply because my other favourite Edvard Munch original’s were displayed here, they were a delight!
By the time I wound up with filling up my eyes with what I could only etch in my memory, it was 5 pm. I decided to cover Karlzplatz as well on the same evening, as it was just the next station after Museums Quartier. But walking till there seemed more simpler to me, as I was in no mood to go underground in such good weather. Karlzplatz was slightly disappointing, as the church was literally ruined by scaffoldings and aluminium structure interfering with the entire view. I paid 8 Euros to enter there but it was a complete waste. The Lift set up to go and get a panoramic view of Vienna is a epic-fail. The view is not possible as they have put up a closely meshed wire-cover on top. Anyway, I should’ve researched more before going there.
From Karlzplatz I took a direct U4 to Schottenring, U2 can also be taken.

Next day I went to Belvedere, I was already dreaming about Gustav Klimt’s more famous originals, and I was finally going to see them. I paid 20 Euros for the entire gallery. I followed the route map, had to change trains, and decided to walk a little upto the Belvedere palace campus. No photos were allowed in this one 😦

Later I had a large lazy lunch at Vapiano in the Museums Quartier area. It was a nice open kitchen, where you can watch how your food is cooked. Incidentally that day a rally of 50 years of all modes of transportation was taking place, saw some trams as old as 1950. Was too tired to click pictures 😛
Another friend of mine who was visiting Vienna at the same time, took the cycling tour of Vienna, and I came to know of many more things-to-do that I was going to miss. Nevermind, I have always been a lazy traveller 🙂

There are a lot of famous Vienna monuments and building visible other side of bridge on Schottenring station, that I noticed daily, but was not very interested in seeing architecture. Area around my apartment was often mostly closed, very few cafes and restaurants visible, even markets or shops are not available, across the bridge the city gets more vibrant you can simply cross and get almost everything you need. If you are a walker, and believe in doing things at leisure, you can literally walk upto Museums Quartier and you will find amazing views of the city that the underground trains will deprive you of.

If you are flying out of Vienna, you can take the trains or buses to Airport train station. The train takes you to the airport for a ticket of 14 Euros. If you buy this ticket as a package with a regular commute for 24/48/72 hours, it will cost 11 Euros. I bought it separately on the same Kiosk near my Apartment. The train was a good choice because a taxi would’ve costed me almost 50 Euros from this far.

I bid adieu to Vienna, now I was more inspired to visit places like Paris and London to view more Art.

you can read all about experiences in blog posts for Prague, Cesky Krumlov & Salzburg.

The Salty hill – Salzburg

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It kept raining in Salzburg for almost a day and half when we arrived, so couldn’t really go for the Fortress or the Dom Quartier square to hang out. We were staying at the Amedia Express situated nearby the Railway Station.
Salzburg map

To top the misery, Hotels in Salzburg, however expensive, do not provide even a electric kettle or glasses or cups in their rooms, for you to have some tea/coffee..We stayed at Amedia Express & Lehenerhof and both were equally disappointing. Its a weird place, not very tourist friendly. All food outlets close by 6 pm, some may stay open till 7 pm, but all food will probably be over. Interestingly, Bellini a Pizza outlet just across from Amedia has permits to serve food till late into midnight, we managed to get some dinner the first night of Salzburg. Thank god!
At Bellini the owner got very friendly with us immediately as soon as he found out we were Indians, as he was a Pakistani 🙂 He gave us a whole lot of tips and information about Salzburg. Looking at our craving for tea he invited us to have some tea with him at his outlet in the next days when he prepares it for himself. We took that seriously .. haha. There we were, the next evening, inviting ourselves in for a hot cup of tea. He and his friend made us a milky sweet tea, which was good enough for our craving. Thanks to them 🙂

Bellini Pizza

Bellini Pizza

Another nice place for a reasonable breakfast and coffee is BackWerk, situated just on main road you take to reach the Residenzplatz Square.
Once we had dinner at Sofra, a turkish outlet, in case you are craving for spicy food, like curries and bread. Reasonably priced too. I somehow got an upset stomach due to that dinner, but after I had some yoghurt and did fasting the next day, I was fine by evening.

It appears some outlets near Dom Quartier will also remain open till late as that is the tourist area, but couldn’t see that the other day we roamed around that side till late. Its almost empty by 8 pm.
Another tip would be to carry cash with you mostly, as most outlets do not accept card payments.
Salzburg is a rather lazy place it turns out, most places will be closed more often than closed. The Government offices we were told remain open only between 8 am to 12 pm. If its a long weekend coming up you might as well not expect those offices to work a day or 2 in advance either.

We took the ‘Sound of Music Tour’ by Panorama, we bought the tickets at the information counter at the Station, for 40 Euros (its overpriced I would say for no reason). This will be the same place where you can buy the Salzburg card too. Salzburg card is quite a good bet, as it provides you free access to all public transportation within Salzburg, and free entry into all the Museums, Palaces etc. Its not actually free, you buy the Salzburg card for a fee, but then you wouldn’t pay anywhere else. 24 hours card is for 27 Euros, available for 48 hours, 72 hours too.

Sound of Music tour was okay, but it would have been better if it wasn’t raining so much. The tour took us around many locations, shown from far off. Beware, whatever locations the tour claims to cover, will not be actually covered, not even the Hellbrunn Palace (Schloss Hellbrunn)! They barely show things to you from within the bus. Somehow I think this tour was invented only and only by lazy Americans. It is quite a waste I guess. You can rather take bus no.25 to any of these locations mentioned in their brochure. The tour also takes an hour break at Mondsee where they encourage you to buy food at one of the many restaurants lined up across from Mondsee church. It would have been better instead of taking their break, they could’ve given us some more time to check out the Hellbrunn Palace from inside.
Apfelstruddle with vanilla sauce at one of restaurants in Mondsee was quite yumm.
SOM tour

Next day we did the Fortress tour, and the Dom Quartier or the Residenz art gallery. Thats the only thing I enjoyed in Salzburg. At the fortress tour the guide told us about how the Prince & Lords earned loads of money to splurge in such expensive art and craft and make huge mansions and fortresses, from their trade of Salt to the eastern countries. We know where that was. Also some of money came from Silver mining I guess.
Anyhow, luckily that was our last day in Salzburg and the sun had decided to show. the Dom Quartier Square was full of people and looked vibrant with colors.
salzburg fair

A good thing about Salzburg card is that once you’ve bought it, you need to write down your name and time of first use of the card yourself with a pen. At the Museums or the funicular tram to top of Fortress requires you to swipe it on the machines, but on local buses, you just need to show it to the bus driver or anyone who asks for it.
The Beer hall is a famous spot in Salzburg, I guess the Vienna one is a bigger one than this, but if you are into Beer, you may like this place. Its noisy, full of people enjoying Beers.
The view from top of Fortress was mind blowing, with all the clouds and jazz all around. I couldn’t care less, cause personally I think I’ve seen much prettier sceneries here around India 😛 Sorry if I sound such a patriot. Salzburg sucks and is a boring place. But thats just my opinion. lol!
salzburg top

you can read all about experiences in blog posts for Prague, Cesky Krumlov & Vienna.

Cesky Krumlov

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We arrived in Cesky Krumlov from Prague by afternoon 3 p.m. We were dropped at Krumlov’s only bus stand, which about 10 min walk away from the town centre Square i.e. the Centrum square.

Map Cesky Krumlov

Map Cesky Krumlov

The Traveller’s hostel is housed in a centuries old Krumlov house, that has a long history and used to belong to a trader at first. It is a nice little place, quite expensive for backpackers but thats the kind of pricing Krumlov has in general (32 Euros per night). Washrooms are not attached to rooms, but you can try your chances to use that nice little private one on 3rd floor, we kept trying our luck both the days we were there ;). It has a nice common Kitchen, which is quite well equipped with appliances and cutlery for use. Rooms are slightly claustrophobic, but one can imagine them as cozy in chilly winters.
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After making some oats in the kitchen to have our late lunch, we headed to book our shared cab for the next day, to salzburg, we suspected seats may run out. Just a walk into next alley outside hostel the taxi office was right there. Luckily there were 2 seats available on next day taxi at 4 p.m. anything earlier than that was already booked. There is no other way to reach Salzburg, atleast not an easier one from Krumlov. We paid 800 Kc/30 euros (according to rates that day) per head.
After that we wandered around Krumlov’s tiny streets and enjoyed the little shops with nifty things. We walked up to the open areas of the Castle, also the huge garden that evening, most of it so surreal – I wanted to just stay there couple of hours. Its open till 7 p.m. daily without any entrance charges.
krumlov garden

Next day we did the free walking tour, and our guide informed us that the amphitheatre inside the gardens is functional upto September 15 every year, we were 10 days late, or else as described by him the show is quite a thing. He also mentioned an ongoing debate among authorities to close it down due to various difference in ideas. So catch it before its gone!

Details of our walking tour are as follows:

krumlov tour

Our tour was conducted by Ondrej, who unlike our Prague tour guy was not a local. It worked better for tourists because Ondrej knew exactly what interests tourists, to know the amusing stories about a place, and probably not its shortcomings.
1. That is a hand painted life size map of small town of Cesky Krumlov on Traveller’s Hostel wall I was staying at. Krumlov is a beautiful little hamlet whose actual shape, as you can see, is defined by the River running around it.
2. The Centrum Square, where our tour commenced, a landmark that acts as a measuring point of how far or guiding point to where you need to go find something. Interesting stories about this place are numerous. Like this square has trees growing in it during the brief summer they have. Like the price of a house near this square in 1991 was as low as $2000, now its obviously gone up as high as $200,000!
3. The name of the square as the signboard says “Nam Svornosti”, is changed once every year. In the month of May, Cesky Krumlov has a peculiar traditional belief, that kissing your girlfriend under the cherry tree that grows on the square, keeps her fresh for rest of year. Thus, they change the sign boards for the month of May to call it something else. As our guide said, in May, you’ll find a lot of couples kissing at the square, and probably some lost tourists who can’t find the damn street given in their maps!
4. Walking away from square, you will spot the castle tower, The Ves, that requires you to buy a ticket worth 150 Kc to walk up and get a panoramic view of Krumlov.
5. A church and a Music school we visited during the tour. The Music school is supposedly haunted, and you will enjoy an animated story told by the guide. You are also welcomed to volunteer and stay over in the building at night 😉
6.Narrow streets of Krumlov, apparently that handle large amount of vehicular and people traffic in the tourist season. We were there at a good time i.e. September, very very less tourists. Delight!
7.As you are guided around the town, there are 2 peculiar things you may not notice on the walls. First is the style of tile painting done, another is the fake windows that are painted to fulfil a wierd compulsion of symmetry for the architects. There are 2 styles of painting the tiles, Moravian or Renaissance facade which gives a 3D feel to the tile & Bohemian or Renaissance painting which is done on wet plaster itself.
8.On entering the Castle campus, this is an open viewpoint to take amazing pictures and gaze over Krumlov, while a cafe here serves you Beer!
9.A long closed bridge built to connect the entrance courtyard, and the garden, for lazy Kings and Princes who did not want to walk all the way on the ground.
10.Entrance to the actual castle has this bridge under which there are wild bears in an enclosure. As told, as prevelant practice Nobles liked to keep wild animals in castle premises to showcase their opulance and ofcourse..nobility. The tradition has been carried on.

We also had some interesting landmarks shown over the tour that I missed to click a picture of, like the house that had 3 different styles of architecture built on it on every added storey. Also a cloth dying company that was being run in earlier centuries and their ingenious solution to fit a certain machine through the door (you may not notice it unless Andre tells you!). There was also a story about a faking Alchemist who owned a very big mansion, it was currently being renovated for a hotel to function in next few months.
We also did the tour inside the Castle, which costs about 240 Kc, it happens 2-3 times a day. You aren’t allowed to take any pictures inside, but as a brief I can say there are lots and lots of paintings and art, on the walls, on canvas and some stuffed bears that died from the enclosures of castle. It is a nice tour, better than Prague Castle 😛
You can catch few glimpses of these on my instagram @suruchika, as I chose to click them on my phone instead.

View of Castle from Traveller's Hostel

View of Castle from Traveller’s Hostel

While in Czech, you’ll know about its most famous foods like Tredlnik and fried cheese. Though I had tried the first one in Prague, I had missed out on fried cheese. Krumlov’s quaint tiny little eateries are an excellent choice to enjoy supper. On my last night in Czech, I finally had the chance to taste Fried cheese, and it was superb. Trust me it isn’t anything like you will imagine it, savoury and filling.
cesky food
On our taxi from Krumlov to Salzburg, the guy who was driving us was quite knowledgeable and kept telling us a lot about Krumlov’s history, Czech politics and things like that. It was nice! on our route, just 5 kms from Krumlov there is a industrial town, which is an opposite of Krumlov, it was ugly. He said, it was built by the communists in the time when Czech had communist leaders, and they never cared about beauty or culture in the first place. The town currently houses all the hippies who are basically good for nothing and do not do anything ever for a living. Also we were shown some summer homes, where local people come down to fish in the river and have a relaxing time. Surreal… everything.

Krumlov was a beautiful experience, and I would recommend this place to everyone atleast once.

you can read all about experience in blog posts for Prague, Salzburg & Vienna.