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Old 9th December 2012, 14:25   #46
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As you move from the left of the building, you reach a large compound with scores of tourists all clicking here and there. We too were tourists and so we too started doing the same.

St. Vitus Cathedral from the front.
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I found it a bit similar to those haunted buildings we see in the Harry Potter movies and thought let me try something. This is what I got.
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The compound.
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5150.jpg

Some interesting looking Gargoyles.
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The Cathedral from the front.
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We spent some time there and then it was time to move on. To Vienna. Austria was calling. But it was more than 300 Kms away and there were some great views and roads on way.

We took the metro to our hotel as the station was nearer. The escalator that took us down greatly resembled the London Tube. Doesn't it?
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5166.jpg
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Old 10th December 2012, 14:12   #47
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Reached the Hotel. Since we were both, hungry and late, we decided to get lunch packed so that we can have it on the way. Lunch was packed in no time, bade goodbye to the guys at the Indian restaurant and came down. We also got some eatables of the leftover currency from the shop nearby as we did not have any use of it anymore on this trip and started off. Exit from the city took us through the modern part of Prague which was completely different than what we saw earlier. It all went pretty smooth thanks to Mr. GPS and we were on the motorway towards Brno in some 20 minutes. Stopped at a roadside Restaurant for lunch on way. After Brno, the motorway turns into a single road with an up and a down lane.

As we went on, it started to become lonely with hardly any traffic. I was not getting a good feel and at the same time, the irony was that nature started calling and it was becoming bad as we went on. After some distance, I saw a 'WC' sign. Not sure if I should feel releaved or tense, I decided of giving it a try. It was a proper restaurant complex, only thing, it was an abandoned one and looked haunted. Anyways, since I had stopped, I thought of going in. The toilet and the restaurant had all the Graffiti painted all over it and the doors were broken as if a loot had taken place. I went inside, it was even horrible, everything from the false ceiling to the wash basins was broken and there were cobwebs everywhere. The urinals were steel ones so thankfully they were not broken. I did my thing and just as I moved, it flushed automatically with a loud noise. I got scared like hell and the next moment I was not able to decide if I should be shocked or surprised. Imagine automatic flush working at a place like that. Not sure what it was. I came out, got into the car and sped off!!

Soon we crossed the border and entered Austria. I do not have a picture of the border but to give you a hint, am using one from Panoramio.com. (Copyright: Cassio Scomparin)
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5167.jpg

As we crossed into Austria, roads were much better and that scary feeling too had gone.
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5183.jpg

First Austrian village Poysdorf. Everything was German now and road signs were in Blue.
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5184.jpg

Another small town. Europeans are mad about art and you will see it just about anywhere.
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For some time it was village after village.
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And then there were miles of Wind farms. Kanishk got too fond of the 'Fans'. To the extent that we had to buy him a toy windmill.
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It was one of the best non motorway driving experience.
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Soon the first sign board for Wien which means Vienna in German appeared. It was around 6:30pm and we were almost an hour away.
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5198.jpg

They are converting this road into an Autobahn and we soon caught up with them. The newly built infrastructure was amazing.
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5202.jpg
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Old 11th December 2012, 21:54   #48
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As we near the city of Vienna, we encounter a maze of expressways and flyovers but thanks to Mr. GPS, we remain right on course.

The road we took was going onwards to Budapest.
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We finally reach our hotel at 7:45pm. The route taken today was this.
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It was not a very long drive today but not sure why, I was a bit tired. I had got a really great deal at the Radisson and the room we got was one of the best on this trip. We slept early and after a good nights sleep woke up fresh.
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Had a refreshing tea on this terrace overlooking a courtyard down below and we were ready to do Vienna.
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The plan was to do the St. Stephans platz and the Schönbrunn Palace and places around it. The car was to remain parked in the hotel parking and we were taking the metro. Just opposite was the UN convention center besides which was the metro station.
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A 15 minute ride later we reached St. Stephan's Platz and just as you get out of the metro station, you see the St. Stephan's Cathedral.
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There was the Sunday Mass going on and we were just in time.
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5239.jpg

It was as good as seeing the pope himself.
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My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5245.jpg

The candles. You put 70 Cents in a box and pick a candle to light.
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My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5256.jpg
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Old 12th December 2012, 12:10   #49
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Coming out of the cathedral was a struggle in itself as the exit door was not able to handle the rush of people just after the Bishop's Exit.

Outside, Literally a fair was going on. It almost resembled the typical Mela that we see in hindi films, albeit a more modern style. There were all kinds of rides children were enjoying. There were stalls selling everything from small souvenirs to cloths to watches to chocolates to food. And there were street performers showing their own version of Tamashas. It was an experience in itself.

A Marry Go Round.
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People enjoying the mela Flee market.
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One of the many Street Performers.
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And amidst all this, my son is busy giving his own performance, throwing tantrums that is. He wanted a toy Ferrari he just saw in a closed shop.
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A statue known as The Pestsäule, You can see "The God the Son, the Redeemer" written in Latin on one side.
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St. Peter's Church.
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And in all this colorful panorama going on around us, we do not realize when its 1:00pm already. We were not too hungry but given the schedule, it was wise to have something here as we do not know if its available where we are going. Mind madeup, so it has to be the Sausages with some different kinds of breads with cheese for lunch available in abundance there. Being a vegetarian, wifey chooses different forms of potato dishes available. Tummies satisfied, we head towards the back of the Cathedral which was quieter than the front.

A net covered statue.
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There were horse buggy rides people were enjoying.
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A typical European tourist bus.
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Its now time to move, towards the Schönbrunn Palace. We head towards the Metro Station. But before that a final shot of the St. Stephan's Cathedral.
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Old 12th December 2012, 12:58   #50
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Default re: My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!

Beautiful tour of Europe. Thanks for taking us along. One thing you can see is how much of space is left for people to walk around. Here we are constantly widening roads and bringing down good buildings and spaces.
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Old 12th December 2012, 13:26   #51
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Beautiful tour of Europe. Thanks for taking us along. One thing you can see is how much of space is left for people to walk around. Here we are constantly widening roads and bringing down good buildings and spaces.
Thanks Srishiva! We are still too far from a comparison with the west. They have too many resources and too less people to devour. The main culprit being our gigantic population.
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Old 12th December 2012, 16:29   #52
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We say goodbye to St. Stephan and get to the underground train station. After two train rides(need to change trains) and some 25 mins later, we are at the Schönbrunn station. Its an open pit kind of a station which is under the ground but not covered. We get out and start walking with the crowd. Soon we see directions for the Schönbrunn Palace. Its a 10 min walk to the main gate.

The Schönbrunn Palace was built by Emperor Leopold I at the end of the 17th century as a palatial hunting lodge for the heir to the throne. I try to find out if there is any entry fee, am told that inside there are various parts of the complex which are free and some have an entry fee. And the rates can be found out inside. We enter the gate and see this.
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As we reach near the main building, I see people going in hords to the left part of the building. I follow them and see its the ticket counter. There are 3 types of guided tours of the Inside of the palace which are for 10.5, 13.5 and 15.5 Euros respectively. So free areas was it for us. The Palace had large gates leading to the gardens on both sides. We took the left gate and entered the gardens.

As you enter.
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You walk further towards the main palace building, and you see small gardens with various statues.
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Chal mere bhai?
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and then you reach the main area which has amazingly sculptured gardens.
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We spend some time here and then move ahead towards the building on the hill which is called the Gloriette.

Just before we start the climb, there is a fountain which was not running but seemed beautiful.
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Not sure if we have this kind of ducks in India.
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We start the climb but not before a peek from the back of the fountain.
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5384.jpg
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Old 14th December 2012, 20:17   #53
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We then continue climbing the hill and reach the Gloriette. It was only in 1775 that this building was built and named as the Gloriette which means Little Glory in French. Earlier, the plan was to erect the main palace building on this hill.

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The building is guarded by these strange looking statues on both sides. Can you spot the father son duo?
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The vast gardens and the palace from where we stood.
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There were people all around the lawns. Some were soaking in the sun, some reading books, some having chit chats with their families. Although it was written that the lawns are out of bounds, but still people were all over it.
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We 3 too decided to break the rules
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And Kanishk had the time of his life.
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We spent some time relaxing in the lawns and then it was time to go on. We came through the left side so decided to exit from the right. There was this big passage all covered with Red Rose shrubs.
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Beyond which was a small Rose Garden.
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The main palace building as we came out.
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The street just opposite the main gate.
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The sun was setting and it will be cold soon. When you travel with a kid this small, you cant have all the liberty you want. So back to the hotel it was. Ride back in the train was pretty uneventful.

Our Hotel
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The IZD tower.
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The UN Convention Center. Note the small Koptische Markus Church in the foreground.
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Old 16th December 2012, 16:43   #54
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It was a long day and we were tired. After a quick munch on MTR Aloo Matar with bread, we call it a day for its gonna be another long day tomorrow. A very long one.

We had an entire country called Austria to cross. The plan was to reach Innsbruck via Hallstatt. Which will have us crisscross Austria North-South. Thanks to Tanveer's thread, Hallstatt was on our must visit list for this trip.

The Route would be something like this.
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We wake up early and have a hearty breakfast as there was no time for a proper lunch today. We packed some bread and cheese for lunch and by the time we set off its already 9:00am. No matter how much you try, there cannot be early morning starts when you are traveling with a kid. Soon we were on our course. Towards Hallstatt.

We cross the Danube and are on the A23.
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My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5478.jpg

This road leads out to a lot of countries around.
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And soon we are on the beautiful open road with clouds playing hide and seek.
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Clouds are increasing. Looks like its gonna rain.
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And in the middle of it, here comes a construction zone. Everywhere in Europe, whenever there is a diversion due to any construction activity, the orange lane markings takes precedence over the white ones.
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And right then, it starts to rain. The auto wipers swing into action. Still not sure how the sensors judge the intensity of the rain and adjust the speed automatically.
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The rains do not last long while we enter the foothills.
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And then its time for a break. With a kid in the back seat, these breaks can sometimes come too often.
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Old 16th December 2012, 20:48   #55
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After the break we carry on. Approaching the tunnels. Speed limit on Austrian Autobahns is 130 KMPH in general. In the tunnels the limit drops to 80.
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We amble along through the middle of the beautiful valley.
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Note the wooden noise barriers besides towns and villages. These are to isolate the populated areas from the road noise.
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And then we get the first glimpse of the snow capped mountains this side of the alps.
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A closeup of a nearby peak.
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As we munched some more miles, it was time for another break. It was a beautiful parking bay with automatic coffee/drinks/confectionery vending machines. No one was manning it. Unlike Germany, where every few Kms you get a proper food court/Fuel station kinda parking bay, in Austria you only find them every 20~50 Kms. The area was dotted with small lakes and airstrips. There were many people with boats and gliders in tow on the road. I also saw a powerless glider being towed by a Cessna just above us while on break. Could not capture it as by the time I grabbed the camera, it crossed over to the other side of the mountain.
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We started again. After some time left the Autobahn and turned left towards Hallstatt. The route passed through many small towns and villages.

A roadside VW Dealership.
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Note a glider being towed at the bottom of the picture below in a covered trailer.
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5530.jpg

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Old 17th December 2012, 14:06   #56
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More towns pass by as we move along. An Opel Dealership.
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5535.jpg

The road slowly gets curvier and the valley, narrower.
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This beautiful mountain plays hide and seek with us almost for half an hour before showing up.
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In the mean time Mr. Kanishk wakes up and looks for his toy cars which kept him occupied for most parts of the trip.
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Picture perfect villages complete with beautiful houses, cows and horses et al go past in the valley.
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And then the valley gets real narrow and we cross kind of a small pass. Looks like its raining on the other side.
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Its not raining but it will any time now. We are nearing Hallstatt so we keep our fingers crossed as we have a very small window and rain can spoil it real bad.
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But it starts to drizzle.
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Which stops soon.
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Only to return with a heavy downpour. The visibility drops drastically and so do our hopes. Luckily, as we start our climb towards the Knoppen Pass, the rain subsides and it starts to clear up.
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5549.jpg
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Old 17th December 2012, 16:42   #57
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Default re: My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!

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I did my thing and just as I moved, it flushed automatically with a loud noise. I got scared like hell and the next moment I was not able to decide if I should be shocked or surprised. Imagine automatic flush working at a place like that. Not sure what it was. I came out, got into the car and sped off!!
Hello Vinay,

Firstly let me congratualate on such a wonderful jouney across Europe & also thank you for the picture perfect photos & great narration.

Now, coming specifically to your peeing experience in haunted (abondoned) hotel in Czech Republic, it will most probably be the vacuum enable drainage system which was running on Solar energy. Czech Republic boasts of having one of the cleanest rivers in world, which is to a large extent, attributed to it it's very strict & efficient drainage systems.

Thanks,

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Old 17th December 2012, 17:09   #58
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We start the climb and the road suddenly becomes narrow with a steep gradient. So narrow that one would need to backup if two vehicles were to pass. This is a small valley which branch out from the earlier valley we were in. To my utter surprise, in such a narrow and closed valley, we come cross a railway level crossing and I soon notice the railway track we left down below is keeping up with us as we climb. They have built railways everywhere in the mountains. The valley slowly opens up and the road widens to two lanes. The weather too seems to opening up and so do our hope of having a good time in the limited window that we have.

Meanwhile the surrounding mountains.
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We stop by for a quick click. Note the Sign for mandatory Snow chains/Winter tires beyond this point.
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5552.jpg

We pass many small villages. By now we have got used to empty streets, towns and villages and this part is no exception. Being a tourist town, Hallstatt and around see most of the people renting out their properties as guest houses. There are lots of Zimmers (German for "Rooms") available in each village we pass.
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Note the white London Taxi car in one of the pics above.

And then suddenly out of nowhere, we see this. I stop by at the next available parking bay and click these.
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Excitement builds up and we continue. Searching for a parking was a story in itself. No, not that we did not find the parking bays, we were actually confused with too many parking lots and did a few rounds to find the one nearest to the town center. One mistake we did was we did not get past the tunnel which ran right next to where the restricted area started which would made it a lot easier for us to get to the town center. Yes, Hallstatt is a car less town where all the vehicles(barring local ones) have to be left out of the town. Car parked and we start exploring the place.

As we walk towards the town, we see many Indian honeymoon couples. Europe is fast catching up as a honeymoon destination and is even more accessible now.

A strange horse installation at the Hallstatt tourist office.
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Some more art installations. Probably they used the left over pieces from various construction sites.
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And then comes the real thing. Bliss!!!
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5577.jpg
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Old 18th December 2012, 10:40   #59
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Default re: My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!

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Originally Posted by Jignesh View Post
Hello Vinay,

Firstly let me congratualate on such a wonderful jouney across Europe & also thank you for the picture perfect photos & great narration.

Now, coming specifically to your peeing experience in haunted (abondoned) hotel in Czech Republic, it will most probably be the vacuum enable drainage system which was running on Solar energy. Czech Republic boasts of having one of the cleanest rivers in world, which is to a large extent, attributed to it it's very strict & efficient drainage systems.

Thanks,
Thanks Jignesh!

It was a normal IR triggered water based flush that we see normally in toilets. These kind of IR triggers mostly run on pencil cells. Not sure if this one ran on Solar power. What shocked me was the facility looked like its abandoned at least since 2-3 years.

Also the fact about drainage and keeping their rivers isolated is true for the entire Europe. You can drink from any river/stream without thinking twice.
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Old 19th December 2012, 16:00   #60
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Default re: My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!

There is this drop off point just outside the town where the tourist buses and cars drop people and get to the parking. There is a view point with some benches facing the lake and the view from there is amazing. I fetch some flavored milk from the supermarket nearby and we decided on to sit there for some time and have our packed lunch there. We soaked in the heavenly ambiance around as Kanishk played and chased around the swans roaming nearby. Just as across the valley behind, there are think black clouds gathering and light is fading slowly. We decided on quickly finish the lunch and get to the town. But before that a few more clicks from here.

Beautiful swans.
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5589.jpg

The town center.
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5595.jpg

A mansion across the lake. Whoever lives there must be termed as 'God'.
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5578.jpg

The light fades while I click this.
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5598.jpg

A closer look at the god's mansion.
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5602.jpg

Clouds start to gather and the light gets even worse. We decide to rush.
[My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5611.jpg

We head towards the lane that takes us to the town center. We had barely walked about 50 meters as suddenly there is strong gust of dusty winds followed by a burst of hail. Its a storm!!

Last edited by vinayrathore : 19th December 2012 at 16:12.
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