2010 was a year of travel, not much in quantity but more so in quality. The first day of 2011 started on a special note. After stepping into the New Year at a beach in San Diego, I came back to my room, watching for updates on Ghumakkar when the latest post caught my eye. I was voted one of the “Ghumakkars” of the year for my “beautiful expression and far-n-wide travel”. Honestly, I could have asked for nothing more. You do not really log on to one of your favorite websites everyday to find your name there. Serendipity, is how Ghumakkar.com and I found each other. I remember spending an extremely hot and boring summer in Kolkata where I did not have much to do. Lazily surfing, I found Ghumakkar one fine day, a perfect forum where I could document my travel experiences. I had traveled extensively the last few years, but had never had a platform to write about it. Ghumakkar and I bonded instantly. For this was not a website where you wrote about mundane details of where you went, how long it took you, what did you eat, where did you stop to take pictures, which bus took you to what point, and so on. I am sure the internet has plenty of information on that. Ghumakkar is a platform where I got to weave my travel stories, where I not only wrote about where I went, but also wrote about what made me want to go there, and weave a story about my personal experiences there. So on this new year, I raise a toast to Ghumakkar, my journey into my travel world, a place where I weave stories about my sojourns.
Looking back at 2010, these are my favorite travel destination. I aim to write extensively about all of them someday. Someday soon hopefully.
Seattle, U.S.: Not much to do in a rainy and wintry Seattle, but a hike to the Big Four Ice Caves was my particular favorite.
Kolkata, India: The City of Joy. Victoria Memorial. Belur Math. Dakshineshwar Temple. Prince Ghat. The trams and buses. The rainy streets. The nostalgic smell of Kolkata. The smell of phuchka (paani puri) and egg rolls. A trip that lasted me for three and a half months.
Dresden, Germany: The city that smells of history. The city of beautiful architecture and the river Elbe. The capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. The city of beautiful trams and unknown languages. The city where my luggage never reached me and I was afraid I would be stranded in a strange place without my stuff and I would not be able to explain myself since I did not speak the language. The first city I visited in Europe.
Prague, Czech Republic: The city where most road signs look like gaalis (expletives) in Hindi. The city where I walked for hours to reach the top of a castle on a hot, summery day, almost convinced that I would faint anytime in between. The city with hundreds of bridges, the Vltava river, and the astronomical clock.
Vienna, Austria: My dream city, that lived up to my expectations, and more. The city where my favorite movie “Before Sunrise” was shot. The city I will remember for my “sushi-orgy”, a lunch place where I had unlimited varieties of sushi. The city with awesome metros, train systems, castles, palaces, beauty, and culture. The city of museums and operas. The city I would go back to in a heartbeat.
Salzburg, Austria: The city famous for the movie “The Sound of Music”. The birthplace of Mozart. A beautiful little place located near the Alps and with rolling valleys. Werfen nearby, where I visited the largest ice cave in the world. Then there was Untersberg at the foothills of the Alps. The landscape exactly out of a Yash Chopra movie. Of live music and hot chocolate. A very pretty place to visit.
Rome, Italy: I will always remember Rome as the city of ruins. The city of granita, something akin to a “baraf ka gola”. Vatican City and Michelangelo. Museums and culture. Another city that richly smells of history. The Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain. The city that otherwise looks like an Indian city, with crowded streets and packed metros.
Sicily, Italy: Italy is the land of handsome men and fashionable women. It is the place that will remind me of breathtaking views of the sea, of the live volcano Mount Etna, of cobbled streets, and of injured ligaments. It will remind me of how just before dawn, my train boarded a ferry and was carried across the little stretch of water between mainland Italy and Sicily. When the ferry reached the shore, the train un-boarded the ferry and was back on rails.
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon: Known to be the deepest lake in the U.S., with breathtaking blueness that makes you wonder if someone poured thousands of gallons of blue ink in it.
Mount Rainier National Park, WA: I have been to Mount Rainier dozens of times. But this trip was very different. A group of us spent the entire night on the pavement in the forest, watching the meteor showers. Every time we spot a meteor, we would scream in excitement. We were huddled inside our sleeping bags, but there was no campground or park this time. It was on the pavements inside the forest. The next morning, we woke up to get some amazing views of the sunshine lighting up Rainier.
Shenandoah National Park: I had always heard great things about the fall colors in the east coast, but never once did I experience it for myself. I was simply awestruck by the breathtaking colors of fall this time, that ensured multiple trips to various scenic drives, stopping and taking pictures, and sifting through hundreds, if not, thousands of pictures.
Florida: Florida was a state I had always dreamt of visiting, but never had the chance to. When I did, Florida lived up to all my expectations. I had totally skipped the Disney parks of Florida, focusing just on the ocean, the national parks, and the scenic drives. It started with various sunrises and sunsets in Tampa Bay, Miami, and Key West. Then there were the alligators in the Everglades National Park, the night life of the South Beach in Miami, and hours of sitting by the sea waiting for the sun to either rise or set.
California: Northern California or Southern California? Luckily, it was both this time. I was on a 10 day vacation, and after visiting places in and around San Francisco, I went on a road trip, my second this year after Florida, from San Francisco to San Diego. While I-5 would have taken less time, a group of us decided to drive all along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway (U.S. 1), stopping at various points, checking out the beaches, the Hindu temple at Malibu, and catching some breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Does anyone know why the Pacific Ocean is so blue while the Atlantic is so green? I don’t, but I would love to find out. In San Diego, we visited La Jolla Cove, Old Town, and the Safari. What a memorable way it was to end the year, and to start a new one.
So that was my 2010 in summary. This year, I am not very hopeful of traveling much, since I am already into the PhD program, leading the life of an underpaid and overworked graduate student. But if you are visiting any of these places and need some advice, feel free to send a message. And yes, since I could not attach every picture of every trip, I am sharing the link with a fairly well represented sample of the pictures.