Rann of Kachchh

IMG_0171Frankly, Rann of Kachchh somehow did not fascinate me before in my life, I perceived and assumed it will be an arid place with hot winds, without putting much thought into why do people even get so excited to visit it. Very ignorant of me, or so I chose to be for unknown reasons. It all started with a bunch of people in my group planning a trip to this place in the Republic day long weekend. It was then that while putting up the event for them on our group website and page, I came across beautiful images and ofcourse some information about the weather there. So it was going to be chilly, and colourful…to my surprise (ya I know how ignorant I am!!). The photographer in me literally wanted to run to the Rann..to capture all it had to offer.
Our group however this time did not follow a single common plan, We were 8 people traveling to Gujarat, but we got divided into 4 groups due to different choice of number of days, things to do, accommodation and also budget. I have tried to trace all of our itineraries into a single map, and the days spent vary from 6 – 3. Some added 2 more days to the long weekend, while some just opted to spend only the weekend.
Guj trip Map

Group 1 itinerary: (Red dot)
21st morning – Land in Ahmedabad, hire taxi -> Adalaj -> Modhera -> Rani ka Vav in Patan -> Haveli in Sidhpur -> Halt for the night at Toran Resort
22nd – Dholavira ruins & Little Rann
23rd Check into Dhordo Tent City -> inclusive packages for Bhuj sightseeing, Prag Mahal, Aina Mahal, Cenotauphs -> Night walk at Rann (full moon)
24th Tent City Package activities -> Kalo Dungar
25th hire taxi to Mandvi -> Vijay Vilas Palace -> Mandvi Beach -> night train to Ahmedabad
26th spend day in Ahmedabad, food and shopping -> evening fly back to Bangalore
Cost of 2-3 nights at Tent City – INR 13,000
Per head Approx total cost of trip – INR 35,000-40,000

Group 2 itinerary: (Brown dot)
21st morning – Land in Ahmedabad, public transport -> Ahmedabad city -> Adalaj -> night train to Bhuj
22nd Check in to hotel Oasis in Bhuj -> local bus to Mandvi -> Vijay Vilas Palace -> Mandvi Beach -> back to Bhuj in bus -> night stay in Bhuj
23rd pick up bus to Dhordo Tent City from Bhuj -> Prag Mahal, Aina Mahal, Cenotauphs in Bhuj as part of package -> check in to Tent city -> Sunset & Night walk at Rann (full moon)
24th Tent City Package activities -> Kalo Dungar
25th back to Bhuj -> Kutch Museum, Ramkund -> shopping in Bhuj -> night train to Ahmedabad
26th spend day in Ahmedabad, food and shopping -> evening fly back to Bangalore
Cost of 2 nights at Tent City – INR 13,000
Per head Approx total cost of trip – INR 25,000-30,000

Group 3 itinerary: (Green dot)
23rd land in Bhuj -> pick up bus to Dhordo Tent City from Bhuj -> Prag Mahal, Aina Mahal, Cenotauphs in Bhuj as part of package -> check in to Tent city -> Sunset & Night walk at Rann (full moon)
24th Check out Tent City -> Bhujodi village for craft shopping -> Kalo Dungar -> taxi to Nakhatrana (J.P. Resort) for night stay
25th taxi to Lakhpat Fort -> Narayan Sarovar -> Koteshwar Temple -> Nakhatrana -> Bhuj -> Vijay Vilas Palace in Mandvi -> Bhuj -> evening flight back to Bangalore
Cost of 1 night at Tent City – INR 6,500
Per head Approx total cost of trip – INR 25,000 – 30,000

Group 4 itinerary: (Blue dot) this one is mine, so I can give more detailed costs
22nd land in Bhuj in evening -> Check in to hotel Raj Mahal in Bhuj -> dinner -> night stay in Bhuj
23rd walk to Prag Mahal, Aina Mahal -> Sharad Baug -> check out of hotel -> hire taxi to Hodka village -> Bhujodi Village for shopping -> check in at resort Mehfeel-e-Rann -> Kalo Dungar -> Night walk at Rann (full moon)
24th taxi to Kutch Fossil Park -> Lakhpat Fort -> Sunset at Rann, Moonrise at Rann -> evening at Rann Utsav shopping campus
25th taxi back to Bhuj -> check in to Divya Jyot Hotel -> Ramkund step well(missed Kutch Museum due to steep timings) -> taxi to Mandvi, Vijay Vilas Palace -> Ship building yard -> Mandvi Beach
26th check out from Bhuj -> morning fly back to Bangalore
Per head Cost of 2 nights at Hodka – INR 4,000 | Cost of stay in Bhuj – INR 1,200
Per head Flight BLR – BHUJ – INR 12,000 – 18,000
Per head Taxi fare for 3 days – INR 3,900
Per head Approx total cost of trip – INR 25,000 – 35,000

FOOD:

idli

Cocktail idli

Bhuj is famous for Dabeli, but finding a good Dabeli in Bhuj was not in my fate this time. Having a non-foodie companion does not help either. Our Taxi driver was also the most clueless guy and had basically no idea about a good Dabeli. We tried some in Mandvi at ‘Joshi dabeli’ thela which was again a wrong place. Group 2 apparently liked the Dabeli at Mandvi beach. I had a good enough one at Rann Utsav food stalls.
Farsani Duniya is a must visit in Bhuj, ask anyone for directions. Try to buy most of farsan items, all are equally good.
Green Rock gujarati thali is overrated, costs as much as it would in Bangalore, minus the good location or seating whatsoever.
Restaurant at Hotel Oasis is amazing with its south indian specialities, trust me when I say that as you won’t find those food items anywhere in South India itself. Cocktail idli-a truly amusing combination of spices I could not figure out, Chettinad masala idli to name some.
Meals served at Hodka/Mehfeel-e-Rann were awesome, Bajra Roti with Ghee and jaggery…yummy. Sabji was mostly undercooked, hence untouched by me.
Vegetarian food only, at best you might spot eggs through your trip.

STAY OPTIONS:

rann stay
As all of us took up quite different stay options depending on availability and affordability of the accommodation, here are some insights about them:
Rann Utsav Dhordo Tent City Accommodation – Costs about INR 13,000 per night for a twin sharing tent, one bed extra costs a bit more.
http://www.rannutsav.net/accommodation/
In all it is not a bad deal, unlike the reviews you will read on trip advisor. The cost includes scrumptious and freshly prepared meals, coordinated trips to most of important places of attraction, pickup and drop facility from Airports/Stations, with many other amenities within Tent campus.
Hodka Village, Mehfeel-e-Rann – This place offers an authentic mud hut stay, decorated Kachchhi style, neat and clean, well-maintained and extremely cordial service with absolutely no flaws. Costs about INR 2,000 per night including all 3 meals in a day. They accommodate your taxi driver without any questions (I think they have tie-ups), food for driver will also be provided without any extra costs. Tea is really nicely done, if you are a fan of perfectly prepared Chai. The hut facility in all is very scenic and comfortable.
hodka
Nakhatrana, JP Resort – According to Group 3, this was an excellent location to be in, as most attractions are merely at 1 hour distance from here. Lakhpat, Narayan Sarovar or Bhuj or Mandvi. They basically were able to cover all these 3 locations while their 1 night stay (2 half days).
Bhuj, Raj Mahal Hotel – A not so good looking or neat place, but as we got it for a good discount, costed INR 800 for a twin sharing room for 1 night. Worked. Walkable from Bhuj Bus station. All tourist atttractions mentioned in this post are at walkable 10 min radius from this Hotel. Reaching here from Airport or Railway Station may cost between INR 100-120.
Bhuj, Hotel Oasis – This is located slightly away from the central area of Bhuj, but you can manage to walk into most of town from here. Costed between INR 800-1,000 for 1 night. They have a good restaurant I already mentioned.
Bhuj, Hotel Divya Jyot – This facility is horrible for the price, worse than a hostel, rooms are almost without much privacy, you can hear the reception area all the time, with screaming guests. Its location is very near to the Airport though just 2 kms, auto will cost about INR 60. Costed INR 1,400 for a night (supposedly discounted)

ATTRACTIONS:

rann sun moon
Rann of Kachchh – Undoubtedly the most special thing of this trip. First tip is to carefully find a taxi guy who is really knowledgeable about which spot to take you to. Mostly you will find them along with Tent City packages, or if you are lucky to find one in Bhuj. Our taxi guy was clueless and repeatedly took us to all the most touristy spots only, heavily crowded, even at the Rann. Little Rann of Kachchh is way better to be at so I heard, try go there instead. The Moonrise is one of the most beautiful sights you’ll come across, plan for a full-moon night.
chi lamps
Luckily on our first visit to the Rann a night before full moon, we had a wonderful surprise – a group of people lighting and sailing off Chinese lamps into the sky. I tried very hard to capture on my cameras..but in vain (I just don’t know how to get my cam settings for the night!). What a beautiful sight was it, I wish it went on..they were apparently having a photoshoot going on there.
chi lamp 2
A night before full moon, the moon is almost full and rises early for you to be able to capture its image, so it was a good time anyway.

kalodungar sun moon
Kalo Dungar – Don’t  know why it is named as a ‘Black mountain’, it hardly appears so, but being the highest point in Rann, is definitely a breathtaking sight from here. Evening is a good time to visit this place, as you see the misty vast expanse of Rann of Kutch Lake that blends into the horizon. You can only wish that such a sight is of the Arabian sea from here..its not, its the lake enclosing Dholavira site. Life like installations of animals found in the area are displayed at Kalo Dungar.
kalo dungar

Prag Mahal & Aina Mahal – Located in the same campus, Prag Mahal & Aina Mahal are opposites that are evidence of contrasting cultures which colonialism brought into India. Aina Mahal is built inside a small portion of the dilapidated state of a Queen’s Residence, which follows traditional architecture and is ofcourse left alone to perish with time. On the other hand, Prag Mahal the completely out of place and the only European style building in the old city of Bhuj, is completely renovated and far better maintained than its Indian neighbour. They keep a bold sign board stating that the Queen’s Residence suffered due to 2001 earthquakes, but is that an excuse or a memorial for the earthquake itself? we’ll never get the logic.
Prag Aina 1

aina1

Few paintings of Mastani, the famous dancer-lover from Peshwa Bajirao’s court are displayed here. Wiki says she was exiled or prisoned somewhere at this site until she died.

Ramkund – A very small step well, almost unimportant. There may be stories about it, required to find someone who can tell you. From this place you can see the Prag Mahal across the Bhuj Lake, where is sits like a stranger in the otherwise traditionally build town of Bhuj.

Sharad Baug Palace – The Palace was damaged in 2001 earthquake, and as you will get used to listening to this excuse for most of heritage sights in this region, you will know how you are slowly being pushed to lose interest in these places. Don’t know why the authorities don’t get this, no tourist – no revenue. The belongings of the Haveli are being showcased in the outhouse of this Haveli, which is the usual aristocratic stuff like china ware, silver ware and dead stuffed wild animals owned by the Maharaja.
IMG_0078

Bhujodi Village – You will read a lot of about this place as one of tourist spots. Turns out our taxi driver did not have much idea and he left us somewhere at the beginning of the village, which had pretty okay sort of stuff to buy, and not such reasonable prices. The real village with all craftsmen is much inside, so please find out and go.
bhujodi

Kutch Fossil Park – This place is much less known, and clearly our taxi guy had never heard about it. Thankfully some road signs helped us reach the location, because when in Kachchh you just cannot rely on the phone network. Airtel stays perennially down. The Fossil collection is amazing, and thankfully a very well informed guide available at your service to explain everything to you.
fossil park

Lakhpat Fort – This place is probably the closest you can get to the Border area, its arid and dry, but offers a beautiful view nonetheless – a vast expanse of sand and sea which turns into nothing with shortcomings of human vision. Definitely a very important place from historical point of view.
lakhpat

Mata na Madh – A typical temple shrine dedicated to a diety/goddess. I was told that its a very holy shrine, where people from Mumbai side walk on foot to reach here during Navratri. I’m not so religious so hardly ever visit such places, because they are so damn commercialised, and lose their real structure or old architecture to cater to large volumes of devotees. Our Taxi driver was hell-bent on taking us there, and he did. Disappointment and nothing else. overcrowded and nothing too beautiful to marvel at. Only devotees know what it means, not me.

Vijay Vilas Palace – A beautiful palace, having featured in many films by now, is being badly maintained by the Govt. and why not, they barely charge a INR 5,000 per hour for holding family functions. That’s it? no wonder they can’t gather funds to maintain this place. When we went there, a tamboo-tent was being set up for some marriage function. Shame. Would have loved to walk to the little hilly side of estate around this property facing the sea, it would have given a nice view of the place. But my companion wasn’t keen as usual in doing anything out of tourist-list. We enjoyed the wind on Palace’s top floor for a while, thank god for that.
vijay vilas

Mandvi Beach – A relatively less crowded beach, you can sight this beach from top of Vijay Vilas Palace. You can see the windmills installed on this beach, which are out of use and in ignored condition. You can try the Dabeli here, please do not litter on the beach.

Mandvi Ship building Yard – If you happen to pass this place, you can view huge ships being built on the side of a very dirty stream of a river, clogged with human waste and neglect.

Dholavira Archeological site – Only one of our groups had been here, and as told it is definitely an important site from historical perspective, being the only place as old as Mohenjo-Daro-Harappa. Try to do it.

I have to admit, this trip was a fail for me as I did not plan it well enough to fulfil my photography endeavours at all. I learnt to follow one thumb rule this time – always try look for a photographer’s company, who will understand the importance of stopping in middle of nowhere just to click a perfect shot. Unfortunately this time even though the planned group comprised of so many photographers, I happened to choose a different itinerary than them. My bad. It was partially due to lack of time, and money as well. As always, even though I hate it, I end up following a tourist trail like crazy..because people often want to “Cover” all places they heard or read about. Its hilarious how I never end up traveling like I want to 🙂 just to please everyone around me.
Full moon light shining on the white ground was definitely a sight I will cherish forever.

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Monsoon at Gersoppa (Jog Falls & Around)

Yamini, an ardent traveler-mom from our group has been part of our most memorable group trips, she is also a travel writer for several Malayalam Magazines, and is very good at chalking out a unique itinerary for her fellow travelers (though, as a USP of our travel-motto, she goes with the flow and does not plan much) which is why I requested her to write for us, and enlighten us with the amazing trip she and the girls had exploring western ghat side of Karnataka over a weekend.

Write-up by Yamini Vasudevan

“Not all those who wander are lost”

JRR Tolkein was completely wrong that day. We, a group of five – Mini, Nivedita, Karthi, Me and my son Shashank will wholeheartedly agree that. We were on a trail to Gerusoppa Jain Temple, located 34 kilometres from Honnavar near Shimoga. The expedition was part of a weekend trip to Jog Falls and some places in and around Shimoga.
We were strongly believing in Tolkein.
jog fall trip collage copy
“We’ve lost our way, said Nivedita.
Mini was confident that we’ll find the way. So was Karthi.
“I remember a hanging bridge landmark somewhere,” exclaimed Karthi.
Shashank was excited to be inside the forest with no idea where to go.
I told you, Tolkein was wrong.
As we stood on the banks of Sharavathi river, waiting for the boat to take us to the other side,first drop fell on my brand new phone, up from the sky. Rain has this magic. Sometimes, as a silhouette, sometimes pitter patter, or sometimes downpour. I have enjoyed everything all this while. But on the phone… Erghhh!
But this time it was a joy-killer. As we got engrossed in the various imageries that we saw about this Jain temple in blogs, our boat came right infront of us. It was just  less than a kilometre to the other side. But boats are the only mode of transport that takes you to the other side.
Giving  five rupees per person as boat charge, we reached the other part of Gerusoppa.
The place was extremely untouched that we ourselves felt dumbstruck.
One or two autos were waiting, but we decided to trek.
The three-kilometre trek was not so easy. Initial one kilometre was through tarred roads. Mini and Shashank were cruising along way ahead of us. We, the-supposed-to-be-young three were trailing behind. Yes… the lagging was only physical. Mentally we five were just excited about the awaiting wonder.
We walked on and on…
There began the trail through muddy tracks and unrepaired roads. For most of the parts, there were barely any roads. But still, we trudged along with no one soul to ask the way to ‘Chathurmukha Basdi Jain Temple’. We decided to move ahead. We spotted a few buffaloes and asked them if they can help us. The paths were getting murkier with occasional rains.
The road was ending there. We realised that we have reached the other side of the bank of Sharavathi river. Sharavathi is a 128 kilometre long river that flows entirely through Karnataka.
We were wandering and were lost too.
Mini and Karthi intervened and did some vague attempts to find the way. At the end of this road, where we were standing clueless, there was a road that traverse through dense forests. We took a diversion through this road but to no avail. The wanderers in us didn’t want to return.
It was then we realised that the only landmark that we can think of is a hanging bridge that we read in one of the blog posts. While we took our steps back we noticed a wooden bridge ( where we earlier spotted buffaloes) The wooden bridge was actually covered by the dense flaura and fauna and hence we missed it.
If you thought wooden bridge itself is tough to climb, then you should wait for some more minutes. The wooden bridge then gave way to a hanging bridge which lays across Netrani river.
And what a sight that was. Made of iron cables and wooden planks, the hanging bridge is adventure, fun and excitement combined. Mini led us while Nivedita and Karthi clicked every other frame from top. I don’t remember what I and Shashank did. Maybe standing still on the bridge and looking around, savouring the ambience.
We were just more than happy for getting back to the correct route. The bridge is around half a kilometre long and one person width. After more than 15 to 20 minutes photo session and zigzagging throughout the bridge, we almost reached the destination.
The density of the forest was just banging all around us. It was almost noon, but darkness set a veil around us. We traversed through the muddy track and finally there was light.
Every temple or Basadi there had something to offer.
Our first pitstop was Sri Parshwanatha Temple along with Jwalamalini Temple. This is supposedly the only temple where pooja is performed. As we entered the temple premises, a set of dogs barked upon us. The bravest among the five – Shashank and his mother – found a safe shelter somewhere. It was later known that those dogs are the temple priest’s companion and a
By that time rain thickened. We sat on the concrete bench and chatted with the priest. He said that Jwalamalini was the chief Goddess of Narasimharajapura. History suggests that there were more than 100 jain basadis in and around Gerusoppa. The area flourishned from 13th to 16th century. Besides, it was also the capital Saluva kings. But the time period of Rani Chennabyradevi is supposed to be the golden age of Gerusoppa. And due to such heritage connections,Gerusoppa was also called the Harappa of Jains.
True to its name, covered with greenery and without any human soul ( barring the priest and his helper, who was our guide as well) Gerusoppa Jain Temple will never find its name in any tourist’s itinerary.
Opposite to Parshwanatha temple was a small basadi which was dysfunctional.
The dog was accompanying us most of the time as if he owns the place. Yes… he too owns a big place in this world.
The sanctum sanctorum was almost nil except a stone structure. Outside this, we saw a few stone inscriptions,  There were some Jain statues, idols of some Thirthankaras and a few other inscriptions. Opposite to this on a higher platform are Mahavira Basadi and Neminatha Basadi, both practically not functioning and in dismay.
The main attraction of Gerusoppa Jain temple , Chaturmukha Basadi is around 400 metres further up. When we reached there, a group of labourers were beautifying the surroundings of the Basadi. I was literally happy to see the authorities taking time to preserve this ASI structure.
As the name indicates, Chathurmukha Basadi is a four-faced structure, the names being Ajitha natha, Sambhunatha, Abhinandana & Vimalnatha. Built with granite on an elevated star-shaped platform, the temple is very much constructed in Hoysala architecture style. But we didn’t get any official confirmation on this.
The temple is very much like how we see in blogs and travelogues. A beautiful lawn, that is well-preserved, adds charm to the temple. Cleanliness is maintained all over. We doubted if the cleanliness may be because it is still an untouched treasure.
Very less people take the pain to reach here. Maybe that’s why the priest, the helper and even the dogs were surprised on seeing four women and a boy coming here. But trust me, the three souls that we met there were very helpful and did no harm. They even took the pain to bid us goodbye by calling a boat for our return journey. As we boarded from another bank and as we were the only travellers, we had to pay 250 bucks. The guy, in a jiffy, took us to the other side of Sharavathi river where our car was parked.
We once again chanted what JRR Tolkein said long back: “Not all those who wander are lost.”
The end.

Update: Google maps just recently furnished the Digambar Jain ruins at the Gerosoppa Reservoir map. Screenshot for reference :
Screen Shot 2017-10-26 at 1.59.14 PM

You can also read another post about this same trip by Nivedita Datta, who is also part of our group – http://words-of-the-fallen-angel.blogspot.in/2015/08/juggling-jog-falls-and-other-places.html

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.
IMG_3706
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.
aihole 1

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.

bijapur 2

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.
krumlov 1

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(refer my Prague trip). 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, would be carried by horses or some vehicle.
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. Sad for the captive bears.

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 Ondrej 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 within the enclosures of this 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 complete opposite of Krumlov, so 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.

Prague – Präha

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The Wenceslas Square will probably be your most visited spot if you are a walker and wanderer kind of traveler. It turned out to be our starting point on all days. Unfortunately the National Museum that is visible in the centre is closed for renovation till 2018.

We arrived in Prague after a 14 hour flight including a 3 hour stop at Frankfurt. Lufthansa surprisingly was more uncomfortable than our domestic flights, better seats were expected considering the long duration of the journey. Since we flew in he middle of night, about 3 am, I could not make any sense of any food being served to me at 4 am, that too with wine. Little did I know that I should’ve eaten it then nonetheless, because the wait for next meal was way too long. In the morning when we asked for breakfast, we were told it will be served in 30 mins, which didn’t happen for another 2 hours, and it was finally served right before landing – so you need to hurry up!
We finally ate something in peace at Frankfurt as we were hungry, next 1 hour flight to Prague from Frankfurt wouldn’t serve you anything either.

In Prague, we had booked a taxi for airport pickup and drop to our hotel (https://www.prague-airport-transfers.co.uk), as we were not sure how to even get there. It costed us € 17 for 2 people in a shared taxi. The taxi picked up and dropped several other passengers along with us. We were provided with 2 useful maps each, and a booklet about all attractions in Prague. 1 map for city, another for metros and tram routes.

Most countries here follow the culture of leaving tips for any service you avail, condition yourself to add few € into your final bill. In Prague, it is considered decent to tip upto 10%, anything beyond that is also considered somewhat obscene as told to us by locals.

We checked into our apartment hotel at V Tûních 14 Praha, the room was beyond expectations, large, well-lit and well-equipped kitchen, also a good location – just few minutes walk to Wenceslas Square, a frequent visit that will happen over next few days of stay. Wenceslas Sq is just 5 mins away from the Old town square, the famous spot that brings you in vicinity to everything famous in Prague.
prague aptt

prague map

After check-in we were given another pamphlet with maps and ads for various tours and packages. As per our initial research we were anyway going to do a “Free walking Tour” of Prague 1 town centre. We chose to do the New Prague free walking tour (http://www.newpraguetours.com/). The tours thrive on tips and rewards given to the guides by the attendees, if you don’t find it interesting you can simply leave the group anytime, but inform the humble guide. It starts daily at 10:45 am & 2:00 pm continuing for 3 hours.

praha tour 1

Our Tour was being conducted by Filip, who says has been born and brought up in Prague. Ironically, that allows him to be more critical and sarcastic towards the place and its peoples’ achievements, he made a point to mention all the greatness of Czech history but with some sarcastic notes. The tour began in Old Town Square, where we were lead to by one of Tour guys who picked us up at Wenceslas Square at 10:30 am. It was luckily a sunny morning, with a complimenting chill in the air. Good weather.
The tour starts from explanation of the Astronomical clock, whose 11 am chime we missed by 5 minutes, as Filip couldn’t stop cribbing about how disappointing a tourist attraction it was in his opening speech at the Old town square. I think from a tourist’s perspective it may not be that bad a sight, however silly, it is nonetheless a mechanical achievement done back few centuries ago when we hardly had even electricity.
From there we headed towards Carolina University building & Mozart museum. There was a lot of information being fed to us by Filip, but I simply could not hold my attention.

Carolina Universitas & Mozart's Residence sometime in 18th century - now a museum

Carolina Universitas & Mozart’s Residence sometime in 18th century – now a museum

Further we were lead to Museum of Fine arts (Museum Ceskeho Kubismu), and the Old New Synagogue. I remember that as its name, because I had a good time while listening to Filip how he ridiculed landmark naming sensibilities of the Czech public. It was funny for sure!
praha tour 3

The third image is a monument of an important personality who kindled the movement to bring back a slowly diminishing Czech language, whose name I’m sorry I cannot recollect, neither could I find it online. The tour takes a short break in a near by pub here for about 30-45 mins where you get a chance to interact more with the guide, they patiently answer everything you ask. Last stop to our 3 hour tour was at the Rudolfinum, a music auditorium and art gallery. Here our host for the day, told us some dreading stories from his personal accounts of war while he was young.
This video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cO7iCbtlcIc is shot at Rudolfinum.

Rudolfinum - Prague Castle across from Manesuv Most (vehicular bridge) - Malostranska tram station

Rudolfinum – Prague Castle across from Manesuv Most (vehicular bridge) – Malostranska tram station

After the tour we walked across the Manesuv Most to reach Charles Bridge on the left. Next day we had plans to visit Petrin hill, which is visible from this side. We discovered however, to get there we need to take tram either from Malostranska near Charles Bridge or any other station that goes up to Ujzed – the only station that is at the
foot of Petrin. Apparently a funicular train runs on Petrin to transport you to the top, unfortunately it was closed due to some reason, may be due to non-touristy season.

Transport within Prague:
Prague offers transportation passes for using all public transport for 24 hour – 48 hour – 72 hour. A 24 hour pass costs 110 Kc (crowns), which can be bought off at any grocery or small shops. You can buy a station to station ticket, which is in terms of time at a minimum i.e. valid for 30 mins, costs 24 Kc. Once you enter a tram, you need to punch the ticket into a small yellow machine installed at entrance – it prints the time you have started using the service. There are heavy penalties if you don’t punch your ticket or don’t have one on you.
Exchange:
It is better to carry Euros while you travel here, you can change them for Crowns at any “Zero commission” shops, please do not go into any shop that does not say so, you will lose money. Many places would accept Euros itself, but they may apply conversion rates as per their will irrespective of current market rate.
Food:
Most restaurants in and around Old town square are expensive. We found a relatively cozy and less crowded eatery near the I.P.Pavalova Metro stop, called Pizzerie U Melsneho – very warm hosts and a good menu. The portions were however large for our apetite, we often had to pack half of it and take away, but it could be just us!
Do not forget to taste Trdenik, a Czech traditional savoury sweet, an outlet on road after Charles bridge towards Old town square serves it with name Chimney, serves variations of it like with strawberry cream & chocolate.
Ofcourse we tasted few of local Beers, more than me my friends did and they seemed to enjoy them. I enjoyed the Dark Beer a lot. Apparently Czech people are one of largest consumers of Beer in the world, and tourist consumption is counted in to it 😉
The farmers market is high on recommendation by locals, it is an interesting place to find fresh fruits and veggies if you are in mood to cook
prague farmers market
Mini-markets/shops:
Most of the little markets around town are run by Vietnamese migrants, sorry for sounding racial but I do that because we had really bad experiences each and every time we went to those shops when we needed something. They somehow scorned at Indians, and would be rude in general. Once a guy even started abusing us for nothing, we had to rush out. So just be careful if you are brown skinned 😛 as they were behaving well with others. Sometimes they accept cash-only, sometimes Euros too.

Prague Castle:
On the 2nd day of our trip we ascended the hill to see Prague Castle, it has various circuits defined, with varying fees of entrance. Circuit A has all the zones included, if you have all day or are good at zooming through things, you can choose it. Circuit B has 3 things lesser than A, costs about 100 Kc lesser. Circuit C seems silly. We chose B and It took us about 3 hours to completely finish it off.
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Charles Bridge:
It is always so crowded! but a nice place early morning or late night. Lot of art and handmade stuff being sold here, but if you are finicky about prices, might be worth it checking out market on the street towards Old town Square.
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Petrin Hill:
As I mentioned earlier, we had to take a tram to station Ujzed, where we had to trek up as the funicular track wasn’t functional. On way to top there is a small cottage called Magic house, it has a lot of paintings by some long gone painter, if you are into art you may like to walk in. The caretaker, does not have a fixed entry fee..he reduced it to 25 Kc for us. The souvenir shop at the hill tower is particularly nice, if you like to collect nifty stuff. It costs another 120 Kc to climb up the tower to get a panoramic view of Prague, plus 60 Kc if you want to take the elevator.
petrin hill

National Gallery of Art / St.Peter’s Gallery:
This gallery is not easy to spot, it is in some alley not easily findable, but it is nice. However, most painting are nameless, and nothing famous, you can check it out if you are into medieval era art. They have a lot of beautifully wood-carved Church alters collected from all over Czech Republic. Just follow what google says, you’ll get it. Its opens 9 am – 6 pm. 240 Kc. Expensive for painting by unknown artists, but worth those intricately carved wooden structures. No pictures allowed.

structure art prague

Various arts and structures around Prague

Prague was in all a hit, loved the people who are extremely friendly and helpful. Except …..

Prague to Cesky Krumlov bus ride:
We had advance booked the 9 am bus run by Student Agency by paying online. About 12 Euros per head, as it is usually sold out. It was a mistake, we rushed that morning to catch the bus at 9 am, due to various logistical issues like finding the right stop and tram to take to our final bus stop, buying a ticket etc. Bus stop has no signs or message boards to direct you anywhere, we asked a ticket counter lady, she directed us somewhere, saying no.1 with her fingers. We could not figure it out and it was already 9 am. We were standing near that spot, but somehow were confused, when we finally reached the bus it was 9:04. And the bus conductor turned us down. She said, we were late and she already sold our tickets. She was still in process of selling the tickets to others standing there, I could make that out. She simply didn’t let it go. We lost that money. After an hour of cluelessly waiting at that stop, the 10 am Student Agency bus arrived. They wouldn’t even look at you, or answer anything you ask. This bus conductor started taking people in at 10:50 am, and when we asked, pat came her reply, I’m sorry we’re all booked …no extra seats. It appeared as if Student Agency were determined not to let us in. How the hell did the previous bus sell our tickets before it was even 9 am? when this lady wasn’t doing it before 10 am?
Just behind this bus was a general bus in white color, no WIFI or other services, but it did sell us tickets on spot and we got in for 190 Kc per head. We reached Cesky Krumlov in 3.5 hours.

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