September 30, 2019

7 Days guide to Germany


What makes you happy in life? A drive with friends or family in your car with the all time classic songs in the background would be a great way to relax and be happy. Did you know that Germany is a country which is known for its cars, music, rail transportation and beauty in abundance? If this interests you then there could be nothing better than planning a trip to Germany. Other than visiting the birth land of Beethoven, you can enjoy the embedded beautiful landscapes. A trip of 7 days would be ideal to explore this beautiful country. One of the exciting parts of the trip would be rail transportation, and is convenient to access it any time.


List of things to carry while travelling to Germany

Here are the things you should carry for your holiday to Germany:

 Documents: Do not forget to carry your passport, air tickets, identity proof, and visa.
 Cash/Cards: Don’t forget to carry cash or international cards with you.
 Medicines: Make a pouch of medicines you would need.
● Clothes: Winters are pretty cold in Germany. Make sure to carry enough woolens if travelling during that period.
 Gadgets and power banks: Carry your camera, glares, mobiles and of course the power bank for the time when the mobile runs out of battery.
 Baby Essentials: If travelling with a baby, pack some light ready to eat baby foods and medicines.
● Travel Insurance Policy: Germany is an expensive country where the expense of the medical treatment would be high. Hence, buying an International Travel Insurance  policy would be wise as it protects you in the following cases:

1. Emergency medical evacuation and illness.
2. Loss of belongings like money, passport, luggage, etc.
3. Delay in flights.
4. Cancellation costs for flight and hotel bookings.


Here is a 7 day guide to Germany:


Day 1 Munich: Start early after breakfast and head out to see both the contemporary and traditional architecture of the city. Visit St. Peter’s Church to get a sight of the beautiful Alps. The Viktualienmarkt (Victuals Market) would be a great place to shop and eat where you can discover Munich’s beer culture. Be here until lunch and then move to the Jewish Museum, an antique museum that remained even after the Second World War. Munich has vibrant street art scene, so make sure to capture them with your cameras.

Day 2 Black Forest: Buy a ticket and reach the Black Forest as early as you can in the day. It is a dense forest which borders France. The Black Forest is home to many small villages with remarkable architecture. Go boating on Lake Titisee in the afternoon, grab lunch, and make a quick stop at Germany’s highest waterfall in the town of Triberg. For the next day, buy your rail tickets for Lake Constance.

Day 3 Lake Constance and the Alps: As soon as you arrive, freshen up yourself at the lodge. Then visit Lake Constance which is 53kms long and it borders Switzerland and Austria too. Make sure you eat something at the lodge before leaving for Neuschwanstein, your next destination. It is 2hours and 35 minutes away from the lake.

Day 4 A day at Neuschwanstein: You can get a glimpse of Neuschwanstein from Marienbrucke- the Queen Mary’s bridge. You can have your breakfast or brunch at Schlossrestaurant and relax for some time. Soak in the splendid beauty of the surroundings and take a stroll at the Fussen’s City Centre. Visit the Hohenschwangau Castle and feast upon some delectable cakes at Konditorei Kurcafe.

Day 5 Off to Rothenburg: Enjoy the beauty of Rothenburg, and keep your cameras ready to capture the beautiful frames. Take a walk of 2.5 miles that stretches to the city wall. Don’t miss a visit to the iconic Plonlein corner. For the next day’s travel, buy tickets to visit Wurzburg.

Day 6 Wurzburg: Get started early and head straight to Wurzburg Residence. Go to Old Main Bridge to get a view of the statues of saints. Do not miss eating falafel at Veggies Bros. If adventure is in your blood, then hike up the Kappele Church on the hill to get a panoramic view of the city.

Day 7 Nuremberg: You can catch a Eurorail early in the morning. Freshen up at the lodge/hotel and then head to Kaiserburg Castle for pretty city views. The city has one of the largest churches in the country - St. Lorenz. You can then stroll around the Hauptmarkt. Stay here until evening, and later enjoy some drinks at Cafe Bar Katz.


Where do I buy a Travel Insurance policy?

There are many Travel insurers but here are the reasons for you to choose Digit Insurance:

  • Beneficial and economical travel insurance. With a travel plan worth INR 500,000 for 2 people for 7 days in Germany, the insurance costs would be around INR 1338. This would be less than 1% of the total cost of the trip.
  • They cover injuries happening during adventure sports which are not covered by most of the other insurance companies.
  • They have an easy claim process enabled online. You can just give a missed call and their team will get back to you.
  • They will issue a policy with Zero Deductible. It implies that you don’t have to pay for anything. Your insurer will manage the expenses.



P.S.: This post is in collaboration with Digit Insurance.

September 25, 2019

Ravanahatha



Predominantly seen across Rajasthan and Gujarat, Ravanahatha is a stringed instrument which functions similar to a violin. However, the origin of this instrument is not believed to be India, but Sri Lanka, where it was played by the Sinhalese people during the times of the king, Ravana. The instrumrnt also gets its name from the king. While the sound box is usually made of a coconut or gourd shell, the cover is made of goat hide and the neck is a wooden piece. The string which was earlier made from horse hair, is now replaced by steel.

Though it was quite popular during the rule of the royals in western part of India, presently Ravanahatha is commonly played only by the street musicians. Music aficionados can buy this instrument from any of the numerous shops in Jaisalmer, Jodhpur etc. 






The first four pictures were captured from Jodhpur and the last one from Jaisalmer.

September 19, 2019

Places to visit and things to do in Bikaner


If one makes a list of must visit places in the state of Rajasthan, Bikaner might struggle to make it to that list. Bikaner might lack the exuberance of Jaisalmer, the hues of Jodhpur, the vibrancy of Udaipur, the festivities of Pushkar or the popularity of Jaipur. However, the city which was once the capital of the princely state of Bikaner was founded in late 15th century by Rao Bika, who was until then a member of the Jodhpur royal family. Structures such as the fort, palaces and others that were built then still stand tall. However, it wasn’t until the last few years that Bikaner started garnering attention through tourism.

The attractions in the city and nearby can be covered over a period of two days. The city is well equipped with numerous hotels and restaurants. Autorickshaws are the easiest and fastest mode to commute across places within this city.

Here is a list of must visit places and things to do in and around Bikaner.

Junagarh fort

Junagarh fort is a landmark structure that sprawls across the centre of Bikaner. While the original fort was built in late 15th century by Rao Bika, the present structure was built a 100 years later by Raja Rai Singh. Built in red sand stone, the outer fa├žade might not be a very impressive one, but once you enter through seven large elephant gates such as Karan Prole, Daulat Prole and Fateh Prole, the pathway opens to courtyards with numerous intricately carved windows and pillars. Some portions of these courtyards are of marble and have splendidly perforated windows. Further ahead of the courtyards lie numerous palaces that are adorned with beautiful art works all across. From walls to doors to floors to ceilings, spectacular colours and designs splash all across these palaces. All these palaces are connected by courtyards. Anup Mahal is the grandest palace inside the fort, and is emblazoned with magnificent art and lacquer work. Raj Tilak Mahal which was the coronation hall is inside Anup Mahal, and is known for its lavish works. Karan Mahal which has carved balconies and stained glass works was the public audience hall built to celebrate the victory over Aurangazeb, the Mughal eperor in late 17th century. Badal Mahal has beautiful art work on its walls in the form of blue clouds, apart from many paintings. Chandra Mahal was the royal bedroom of the king, and has a beautiful decor. Phool Mahal has subtle art work with a shrine dedicated to Krishna. Dungar Niwas has lovely inlay works all over, and is an absolute stunner. Ganga hall which was earlier a durbar hall (audience hall) is now a museum and has a huge display of royal memorabilia, artefacts, artillery and a World War I fighter plane. Outside the fort is Prachin, another museum which has a display of royal costumes, souvenirs and various other items.
















Lallgarh palace and museum

In typical Indo Sarcenic style architecture, Lallgarh palace was the former royal residence built by Maharaja Ganga Singh. Also referred as Laxmi Niwas palace and built entirely of red sand stone, it is presently a luxury hotel. Access to this palace is restricted to guests and outsiders aren’t allowed inside. However, one can view the beautiful structure and its sprawling lawns upon entering through the magnificent entrance gate. Inside the premises is Maharaja Sadul Singh museum, which has a display of artefacts and photographs from the Lallgarh palace.




Sursagar lake

Located opposite the fort, Sursagar lake was built when there was a shortage of water in the city during the reign of Maharaja Sur Singh. The artificial lake with steps is a nice place to spend the evenings in Bikaner.  


Rampuria havelis

Apart from the fort, Bikaner is also well known for its Havelis, which are large, impressive and well decorated homes of the mercantile community. Tucked away in the narrow alleys of the city, they stand tall, intimidating, colourful and with gorgeous designs on their outer facade. Located near the Kote gate, Rampuria havelis are the most impressive ones in Bikaner. The lattice and stone works apart from the beautiful windows are the major attractions of these havelis. There are usually large numbers of pigeons fluttering around, and they create beautiful frames. Access inside these havelis is denied to tourists as they are private homes.




Deshnoke temple

There are quite a few temples in the city, but the most popular one that gets hordes of visitors is the Karni mata temple at Deshnoke, which is a short ride away from Bikaner. The temple was built in early 20th century, and its entrance door has beautiful intricate carvings. Believed to be an incarnation of Durga, the temple is dedicated to Karni mata, and is also referred as Rat temple of Rajasthan. The temple is filled with rats and don’t be surprised to find a few of them running between your feet as you pay obeisance to the goddess. It is believed that there are about 25000 rats in the temple which are revered and considered as devotees of Karni mata. 



Royal Cenotaphs

The royal cenotaphs at Devi Kund Sagar are memorials of the members of the Bikaner royal family. Located just outside Bikaner in Gajner, these cenotaphs which are known as Chatris are built in a blend of Rajasthani and Mughal style architecture. While most of them are made of marble and lime, a few of the older ones are made of red sand stone. The cenotaphs of princes or kings have a vertical slab, while that of princess or queens have footprints engraved on a horizontal slab. Some of these have exquisite art works and frescoes on the ceiling, and display beautiful artistic creations.





Bikaneri bhujias

Bikaner has in the last few years become well known for its Bikaneri bhujias (snacks). Made of moth beans, gram flour and groundnut oil, these are popular across India. There are numerous shops selling these crispy bhujias across Bikaner, but the recommended ones are Bikaner Bhujia Bhandar, Chotu Motu Joshi and Haldiram’s. Apart from the bhujias they have a wide range of local Rajasthani short eats. One can also try the traditional Rajasthani thali at any of the restaurants near station road.



How to reach Bikaner:

The nearest aiport is at Jodhpur, which is 252 Kms away. The railway station at Bikaner is well connected to other cities such as New Delhi, Mumbai and Jaipur by frequent trains. There are also public buses plying from cities such as New Delhi, Jaipur and Agra to Bikaner.

Food and Accommodation:

There are numerous restaurants in the city, and most of them serve vegetarian fare. Bikaner offers budget and mid range options near the fort and station road. For the luxury travellers, Lallgarh palace, Basant Vihar palace and Bhanwar Niwas are a few options. I stayed at Metro Palace, a mid range hotel which is a decent option in Bikaner.

September 9, 2019

Pushkar: Beyond Fairs and Festivities


The sun was about to set and it spread its golden glow all over the sky. There were people who soaked themselves in the surrounding serenity, couples who enjoyed their moments, kids ran everywhere, a juggler entertained the people, a dancer enjoyed the trance music, a few performed yoga, cows strolled around and there were photographers who captured each of these frames.  That’s how tranquil my evenings were in Pushkar. This small town in Rajastahan comes alive during the yearly Pushkar festival when people from all the surrounding towns and villages head here for the popular camel and livestock fair held in the months of October and November. The fair attracts numerous visitors from other parts of India and the world as it also has numerous competitions and attractions apart from the animal fair.

However, Pushkar has other attractions too and definitely offers more to the visitors beyond the fair. Located close to Ajmer, Pushkar is one of the prominent attractions in Rajasthan, and a must visit while exploring this beautiful state. It is surrounded by hillocks and has a lake at its centre. It is believed to be one of the oldest towns in the world and is a popular pilgrim centre. 

Pushkar is known for its numerous temples that are located across the town. There aren’t many Brahma temples in India, and the one in Pushkar is the most prominent one in the country which is frequented by numerous devotees through the day. The present structure was built in the 14th century, but the origin of the temple dates to more than 2000 years. Made of marble, the inner sanctum of the temple houses the shrines of Brahma and Gayatri.



Rangji temple is another popular temple in Pushkar, which has a blend of Rajasthani and South Indian temple architecture, and is run by Vaishnavites of Ramanujan clan. Built in 1844 CE, this temple houses the shrines of Krishna, Ranganath and Laxmi, and the rituals are performed by priests from South India. It was wonderful to walk around the temple which is adorned with beautiful sculptures and paintings of mythological characters. Varaha temple, another important temple here was built in the 12th  century, and is dedicated to Vishnu in the form of a boar, which was one of his incarnations. The temple was also destroyed to an extent by Aurangazeb during the Mughal rule.  I was quite impressed by its beautiful entrance foyer. Savitri temple on a hillock behind the Brahma temple is another must visit temple in Pushkar. Though the climb is a tiring one, the views from the top are spectacular. The 12th century Atmateshwar temple which has an underground shrine dedicated to Shiva is another prominent temple here.




The most popular place of interest in Pushkar is undoubtedly the beautiful Pushkar lake which is located in the middle of the town. This is a sacred lake and is believed to have been built by Brahma. The ideal time to visit the lake would be in the evening when the sun mellows down and the setting turns into a serene one. People sit here until it gets really dark and enjoy the surroundings and views. The old buildings that are lined along the lake apart from the numerous ghats form a beautiful frame. Jaipur ghat is where all foreign tourists and pilgrims enjoy their evenings.







The lake is surrounded by 52 ghats and all of them are at least 300 years old. Most of these ghats have small shrines dedicated to various gods, and a nice way to explore these would be to stroll across them, most of which are connected. Gau ghat, Varaha ghat, Jaipur ghat, Holkar ghat and Brahma ghat are some of the prominent ghats that surround the lake. The evening prayers at Varaha ghat is a delightful treat. Gau ghat with a nice entrance foyer is the main ghat in Pushkar where numerous rituals are held and has many small shrines adjoining it.






Behind the ghats runs the main road in Pushkar with numerous shops selling myriad items. From temple paraphernalia to souvenirs to fabrics, this long road from Jaipur ghat to Brahma temple sells everything. There are also cafes and small restaurants interspersed along this stretch. A stroll through this road is one of the ideal ways to experience Pushkar by gazing at the displays and taking in the aroma emanating from the nearby cafe. I nonchalantly walked multiple times through this street, which seemed more like a vibrant market with a quaint charm. Surprisingly I found more foreign hippies with tattoos and Rastafarian hairstyles here than Indian travellers. Another attraction on this street and its alleyways are the beautiful old structures in typical Rajasthani architecture emblazoned with lovely colours. Shops selling curios, jewellery, t-shirts, pyjamas etc. are everywhere, but make sure to haggle hard.








If you would like to get out of the bazaars and temples, head to the sand dunes in the outskirts of Pushkar and go on a desert safari. There are numerous agents who can take visitors on a desert ride.



Pushkar is where one can relax, stroll through bazaars, relish local chaats (quick bites), shop cheap, enjoy sunsets by the Pushkar lake, and take it slow instead of running around from one attraction to another.

Travel Tips:
  • Cameras aren’t allowed inside Brahma temple.
  • Make sure to haggle while shopping at the market.
  • If you would like to visit Pushkar fair, make sure to book your accommodation in advance as the place gets quite crowded during those days.


How to reach Pushkar:

Pushkar is 145 Kms from Jaipur, the nearest major city. The nearest airport is at Jaipur and the closest rail head is at Ajmer, 11 Kms away. There are frequent buses from Jaipur and Ajmer to Pushkar.

Food and Accommodation in Pushkar:

There are numerous food stalls in the market and near Brahma temple. The restaurants here mostly serve vegetarian fare. From budget hostels and home stays to luxury hotels, Pushkar caters to the requirements of all types of travellers. I stayed at Moonlight homestay, which is a nice colourful place, and well recommended.
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