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Old 6th January 2013, 14:48   #61
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Yes, so suddenly the serenity had been transform into a sudden scuttle. People started running helter-skelter and we ran for cover in a nearby restaurant. It was a hail storm which slowly turned into heavy rain. Since we had to wait, we ordered coffee and sipped it slowly till the rains dwindled. After sometime the rain slowed and I borrowed umbrella from the restaurant and went to get the car. We were getting late and sadly for now it was end of our Hallstatt run. We started on a sad note vowing to return someday. Crossed the tunnel and were off towards Innsbruck.

The weather opened up as we went some distance. Typical Alpine houses.
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Villages past by..
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A group of bikers passed us. I can only imagine how it would feel on a bike on these roads. Amazing is the word.
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And then somewhere near Salzburg we got on to the Autobahn towards Munich.
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Soon we crossed into Germany and my German SIM rang into Life. It was a good opportunity to call home cheap so we stopped for some coffee and a chit chat with folks back home.
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We started back and somewhere near Rosenheim we took a left on A93 for Innsbruck.
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And soon entered Austria again.
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Innsbruck was still some distance though.
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Old 7th January 2013, 22:46   #62
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It was raining as we entered the city of Innsbruck. It was my second time here so I had bit of an orientation of the town but still it took us some time to find our hotel. Partly due to heavy rain. It was 8 already when we had settled in our room. We were tired and hungry and did not have any energy left to go out for dinner. But given the options we had, it was our tummies that won and took us to a nearby Indian Restaurant that I knew. After a hearty dinner, we drove back to our hotel and were in deep sleep by 10 for tomorrow it was to be one of the most beautiful towns I have ever been to. Innsbruck is like Manali of Austria. Small yet modern and surrounded by snowy peaks best discovered on foot.

Guten morgen came a bit early for us with a pleasant clear day. Filled our tummies to the brim at breakfast and we set out. Here go the pics.

The Triumphpforte or the Triumph Arch.
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My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf1050.jpg

The City Scapes
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The approach of the Innsbruck airport goes right above the town. You see airplanes hovering over every now and then.
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The Landestheater or the State Theater near the Imperial Palace.
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The Imperial Palace
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5645q.jpg
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Old 11th January 2013, 22:38   #63
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We spent some time soaking in this place around the State theater and the Palace for sometime. The horse buggies there ferried tourist around and the horse and the owner did the same dropping and picking business as seen in Vienna.
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We moved on and reached the river front. What a place it was. There was a small park with benches facing the river and a small bridge nearby.
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We spent nearly 2 hours sitting and watching the river Inn flow by. It was magical.
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It was then time to move on. Towards the Nordkette.
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We came to the same wooden bridge which we saw in my earlier Innsbruck post. These are the pics from it.

The famous colored row houses of Innsbruck.
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Vistas around.
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We reached the Nordkette. Its a kind of a train with two boggies made entirely into of frames with the actual passenger cart hanging in the middle so that it stays leveled to the ground when on flat land and when climbing a 60~70 degree slope. Something like this.
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Innsbruck city from the top.
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And some snow finally. Note the airport on the right.
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We enjoyed in the snow for some time before climbing down as it was very windy out there. It was almost dark when we came down. Roamed the streets for some time before calling it a day. It was a long and satisfying day with a memorable walk around Innsbruck. Tomorrow we will be crossing into Italia!

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Old 28th January 2013, 22:43   #64
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Last night it rained heavily and it made everything wet outside. Today's target was to reach Venice at least by 1pm and spend the rest of the day roaming in the floating city. Venice was not in our original plan due to dearth of time. But since wifey wanted it badly, it was squeezed in at the last moment. So I was more of following an order then anything else.

That meant, we will reach Venice, check into our hotel, see around till whatever late night time we can, call it a day and then start of for the next part of the trip early next morning. The only fast forward destination on our entire trip.

So we got up real early got ready and had a good breakfast. One of the best ones on the trip. By 8:30 we were off across the Brenner pass into our fourth country on the trip. It was by far the earliest morning start of the trip.

But before that, we had to get out of Innsbruck
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And had to fill Picasso's tummy too.
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It all was wet wet wet everywhere.
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And we were about to get onto the Autobahn.
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And the views started to get mesmerizing.
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And we were on the Autobahn.
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The road bifurcated and we took the road towards the south. The other one went towards Bregenz, an interesting city which we will be seeing as the last destination on our trip.
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The road across Brenner is one of the major roads that connect rest of the Europe with Italy and caters to majority of the truck traffic in the region. As we moved, we saw one of the biggest jams we saw in Europe (unfortunately no pics of the Jam). Majorly truckers, trying to pay some kind of tax or something. But I was worried about a different kind of tax. Will talk about it soon.
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The views, well they were just awesome!
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Clearing for a ski slope.
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I was anxiously waiting for the Brenner Pass. Wanted to see how an Autobahn passes over a mountain pass. But guess what, before we knew, we had already crossed it. Yes, its one of the most invisible passes I had seen. May be thanks to the development that has happened around it.

There was one more thing we did not realize until we saw this.
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Yes!! We were in Italia!!!
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Old 29th January 2013, 13:18   #65
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Till now I had relied on my research and everything came out to be 100% on track. So its only human to think I was thorough with my Italy research too. Not this time. I had mistook the Italian Autostradas to be using the same Vignette system which I had used till now, in Czech Republic and in Austria. I was wrong and this misunderstanding had me searching for Italia Vignette as soon as we approached the Brenner pass. I stopped at 2-3 Fuel junctions and no one was able to understand what I was talking about. This part of Austria/Italy do not have a lot of English speaking people. My misinformation coupled with language issue ensured that both sides were taking the other to be a fool.

We went on stopping at every fuel station that came our way and it continued till about 10 Kms. A feeling of getting caught was slowly setting in and right then, I saw a Highway Patrol car. I was sure they will spot the missing vignette and I surely will be stopped. Slowly and scarily I passed them but nothing happened. With a sigh of relief, we moved on and saw another fuel station with a coffee shop. I stopped and went on to check there. Luckily I spotted a car with GB plates and I went on to ask. This is when I was told about the system in place.

Italy has a similar toll system as we have in India. Yes, they have toll plazas like us, only difference is they are unmanned on the entry point. You just drive in push a big button and a toll ticket will pop out. It has all the information in a bar code. At every exit, there is a manned toll booth and you just have to handover the ticket and pay the applicable toll. Cash or card. BTW Italy has the most expansive toll rates in Europe. I paid a total of 65 Euros in two days over Brenner-Vanice-Milano-Bolzano strech which otherwise would have cost me just 16 Euros for a 10 day vignette in Austria no matter how many Kms I do.

Anyways, the journey continued. As you go about 15-20 Kms inside Italy, the Alps give way to the Italian Dolomites which go all the way till Bussolengo which is a bit north of Verona the first city you encounter as you hit the Italian Plains.

A Castle on a Hill somewhere near Bolzano.
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The great Italian Dolomites in there signature grey-white color.
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The Italian Autostrada (or Autostrade) is the what the highways are called in Italy. They have a maximum speed limit of 130 Kmph. However, on the streches I did, the general speed limit was 120. I mostly did it all on cruise control. Although the speed limit is what it is, it was quite common to see people taking it easy and doing well above the limit. Cars with IT plates were the ones doing it the most tempting me too to do the same. However sanity prevailed and I did not ever did so.

The A22 connecting Brenner to Verona.
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The A22 merging into A4 which connects Milano to Palmanova Via Venice.
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The road passed through the Verona Airport.
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One of the tunnels on the A4 towards Venice or Venezia as its called locally.
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Super smooth roads were no different then any other highway system in Europe. But the best still remains the German Autobahns.
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Nearing Venice and the excitement starts to build up!!
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Old 30th January 2013, 12:25   #66
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Bhai sahab!!! Amazing writing, its almost like travelling with you.
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Old 11th February 2013, 23:03   #67
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Just realized I forgot to put the route map for this leg. Here it goes.
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-innsbruckvenice.jpg

Since Venice was added after I made most of the bookings, all the good hotels in main Venice had gone out of my budget. The lowest rates I got were 200~300 Euros per night. This made me think of other options. It took me some research to get some good rates and the All Seasons Venizia hotel was selected . It was around 4 Kms from the Island city on Italian Mainland. The best parts, it was located on the main highway, had good 'free' parking space, a rarity in Venice and there was a direct 10 Minute bus service from right outside the hotel to Venice every 15 Minutes.

We reached Venice dumped our luggage at the hotel had our MTR lunch and headed straight to the bus stand. We were at the Venice main bus station at 1:30 pm. From here our walk, one of the longest ones starts.

Venice is a cluster of small marshy islands connected by small bridges. The entire city has no streets but small canals and the only transport within the city is the boats of all kinds. From small dingy boats to the famous Gondolas to full fledged water taxis and buses. But our mode of commute was going to be on foot.

As you move inside the city, there are two three small lanes going in and you can choose any one of them. Any typical visitor here has two major destinations, the Rialto Bridge and the Saint Marco's Square. You would see almost the entire city while on way to these two places. Lets start our journey inside.

One of the many small bridges on the first of the canals we encountered.
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Me posing with two gondoliers or boatman. You really have to switch to India mode to bargain with these if you really want to take a ride in the gondolas. The cost ranges anywhere from 50 to 300 Euros for an half hour trip.
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Kanishk trying to snatch the camera.
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Another Venetian attraction, the Murano glassware mainly consisting of the masks and other small artifacts. There are thousands of such shops selling numerous of these around Venice. Another highly bargain-able commodity.
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And after an hour's walk we finally reached the famous Rialto Bridge. Note the water taxi rushing below.
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We three near the Rialto.
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And then we climb it.
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As we were on there, we had one of the most memorable moments which I was luckily able to capture on camera. A boatman singing a traditional Venetian song and playing a pump organ alongside. It was magical. Here is your share of it.



After spending some time there eating cherries, we continued our walk towards the Saint Marco's square. Its again around an hour's walk depending on the route you take. You pass numerous shops selling various things from glassware to snacks to beer to those imported item shops we too have in India. There were many a good restaurants too which again are a specialty.

We reach St. Marco's. You can see all along the fellow enjoying the most is Kanishk.
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The St Mark's basilica.
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And the Campanile of St Mark's church.
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Old 12th February 2013, 13:53   #68
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San Marco was a pretty site. There were people from all over the world and everyone seemed very happy as if they have achieved something in life. We sat there soaking in the atmosphere for some time over a cup of coffee.

It was almost 6 when we realized its becoming very windy and the wind chill meant we need something warm. However, being in colder areas for so long coupled with temperatures of over 30 degrees during the day made sure we dumped the warm cloths at the hotel it self. It was bearable for us but definitely not for Kanishk. We looked around and found some street vendors selling jackets and t-shirts and got an ITALIA jacket for him. Moral: No matter where you are in Europe and whatever the season, do not ever forget warm cloths.

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After this we walked towards the nearby coast which was more of a port for small yachts and boats.
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The San Giorgio Maggiore island from San Marco.
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After this the light began to fade and we started our journey back towards mainland. But not before a dinner at Cafe Del Sole which turned out to be one of the best dining experiences ever. Highly recommended.

As we finished our dinner and started back there was a sudden downpour that started and everyone was caught unaware. First it was chilly winds now it was a thunderstorm. We had to wait for it to subside and then walk some distance to take a water bus to the main bus station. Had to run after the bus to catch it and reached our hotel at 11 all drenched.
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Old 12th February 2013, 17:42   #69
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Next day it was to be Livigno for us but via Bergamo and Stelvio Pass. It was to be the longest run in a single day on this trip. Why Bergamo? It was coz dad wanted us to meet some relatives who live there. And although it was to be a touch and go only, I agreed. So the final route map was going to be like this.

My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-venicestelviolivigno.jpg

Since it was a very long route, we had to start really early. The breakfast started at 7 and we were already waiting with packing and checkout done.

Had our breakfast and were off towards Milano (Bergamo is a small satellite town there). Since we were bang on the highway, it was a matter of minutes before we were cruising on the A4 Autostrade.

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I was using Cruise control almost everytime on the highways.
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On the A4 towards Milano.
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It took us approx 2 hours to reach the relative's place. We had forgot to charge the camera battery last night so it died right after the above pictures. Used this stop over to charge it. Spent around an hour there and we were back on the road by 10:15 am.

Back on the Verona-Bolzano stretch.
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Spotted this New Pendolino ETR600 tilting train operated by Italian State Railways. This train tilts to the opposite direction on a sharp curves to counter the centrifugal force and therefore can achieve higher speeds on curves. Intelligence.
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Apple orchards and Vineyards on both sides.
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Dolomites again.
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We took a left from near Bolzano and were on a two lane road towards Stelvio. All throughout there were Orchards and Vineyards along the road.
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After around an hour on this road, Stelvio seemed approaching.
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My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5738.jpg
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Old 25th February 2013, 17:37   #70
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Just as the real ascent to Stelvio starts, we missed a left turn we were supposed to take and drove on for 8-9 kms before I sensed there was something wrong. First and only time we had to ask our way to someone on the road. Took a U turn soon we were on the right path.

When I say 'real' ascent, I mean the 41 hairpin bends that take you to the top of the Stelvio Pass. Yes, you almost gain 2000 mts with these 41 hairpins within 24 Kms. That's almost same as the climb to Rohtang la but within half the number of Kms and almost same as Gata Loops but double the hairpins.

Since our destination of the day was Livigno, which is a duty free town and fuel is cheap among other things, I had refueled with an estimation that I should be running almost dry when I reach there. Some miscalculations later I was running dry before Stelvio and had to take 10 liters of fuel to make it to Livigno. Anyways, lets get back to the pictures.

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All the road signs in brown mean a place of tourist interest throughout Europe.
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The climb to Stelvio is hugely popular with bikers of all kinds. You would see lots of them climbing up and down.
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I wish I had a Porsche Carrera GT AWD. No wonder Top Gear considered this one of the best driving roads in the world.
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Me posing.
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And then we encounter the first hairpin in the reverse order.
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Then second.
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And then we lose count.
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Beauty stayed with us all the throughout.
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My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5754.jpg

Another Biker.
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Beauty again.
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Finally top is in sight but still a long way to go.
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What we left behind.
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Lots of loops to go.
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We saw a small road side spot where we pulled over for some pics. Before us there was a lone NL Passat parked with an old Lady reading a book near it. Started a conversation and found she was on a roadtrip all alone from Northern Holland. Yes this sounds strange but these people live the real life.

As we talk we spot these Marmots crossing the road nearby.
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5776.jpg
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Old 25th February 2013, 18:39   #71
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vinayrathore View Post
We saw a small road side spot where we pulled over for some pics. Before us there was a lone NL Passat parked with an old Lady reading a book near it. Started a conversation and found she was on a roadtrip all alone from Northern Holland. Yes this sounds strange but these people live the real life.
Attachment 1055611
Those blasted Dutch are everywhere! But seriously, I've enjoyed your post tremendously and have visited many of these places myself.

Many people, especially those from West and North Europe travel extensively throughout Europe. Especially the parts that you're traveling through. It's beautiful with an excellent infrastructure. Western Europe is small compared to India.

If I set of early in the morning from our house near The Hague in the Netherlands I can reach the Belgium border in 50 minutes. The French border in under two hours. The German border in just an hours. Luxembourg in 3 hours. Before dinner I could pass through 4-5 different countries! on my way south.

Europe, by and large is very, very safe and there is no reason why this lady shouldn't be out there by herself. Women, young and old alike travel freely and by themselves, by car, by bike, by bicycle (you must have seen a lot of those too and public transportation. My own daughter went onto an European train tour with three friends when she was seventeen. Not that it did not worry us, any parent would at that stage. That's just how you live in Europe.

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(also Dutch)
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Old 26th February 2013, 14:20   #72
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Default re: My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!

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Originally Posted by Jeroen View Post
Those blasted Dutch are everywhere! But seriously, I've enjoyed your post tremendously and have visited many of these places myself.

Many people, especially those from West and North Europe travel extensively throughout Europe. Especially the parts that you're traveling through. It's beautiful with an excellent infrastructure. Western Europe is small compared to India.

If I set of early in the morning from our house near The Hague in the Netherlands I can reach the Belgium border in 50 minutes. The French border in under two hours. The German border in just an hours. Luxembourg in 3 hours. Before dinner I could pass through 4-5 different countries! on my way south.

Europe, by and large is very, very safe and there is no reason why this lady shouldn't be out there by herself. Women, young and old alike travel freely and by themselves, by car, by bike, by bicycle (you must have seen a lot of those too and public transportation. My own daughter went onto an European train tour with three friends when she was seventeen. Not that it did not worry us, any parent would at that stage. That's just how you live in Europe.

Jeroen
(also Dutch)
Thanks for liking it Jeroen!

Being in touch with European culture for so long, I am completely in sync with what you have mentioned above. Its just when it comes to an average Indian that this becomes a bit strange. No one in India who do not have a hint of western culture can think of his or her Grandma driving down 1000 Kms for a road trip.
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Old 1st March 2013, 12:15   #73
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Default re: My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!

Hi Vinay, have been following this travelogue since day 1. Been silent since was a non-member till yesterday. Fantastic travelogue and awesome photos.

I wish I could do such a circuit soon. Sonata Europa and this thread is what I will take as a reference If I DO EUROPE.
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Old 1st March 2013, 12:57   #74
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Default re: My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!

After spending some time there, we went on to climb towards the top. In about 15 mins or so, we were there. There was no specific parking area and the cars were parked at designated parking on the road side.

There was this interesting looking building that looked like some kind of observatory from down below. Turn out to be a Chinese restaurant named Tibet.
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5779.jpg

Cars parked at the road side.
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5781.jpg

From the top.
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5782.jpg

Me and Kanishk with the Alpine Tibet at the back.
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5783.jpg

The shops and eateries around.
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5795.jpg
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5804.jpg

The board announcing the province of Bormio and Stelvio Pass. People put stickers of clubs/groups they belong to log their visit. I have seen this at numerous other spots elsewhere too..
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5786.jpg

Our Team-BHP also has a presence here as Tanveer pasted a sticker when he visited in 2011. Can you spot it?
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5787.jpg

Here it is.
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5788.jpg

A Hotel out there.
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5806.jpg

Can you identify the flags here? Note the Church behind.
My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!-dscf5805.jpg

Last edited by vinayrathore : 1st March 2013 at 12:58.
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Old 1st March 2013, 13:22   #75
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Default re: My European Sojourns: The making of a dream road trip!

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Originally Posted by narsi_6989 View Post
Hi Vinay, have been following this travelogue since day 1. Been silent since was a non-member till yesterday. Fantastic travelogue and awesome photos.

I wish I could do such a circuit soon. Sonata Europa and this thread is what I will take as a reference If I DO EUROPE.
Thanks Narsi! Welcome to TBHP!
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