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Monday, 31 March 2008

SWITZERLAND -Bern The Beautiful


Swiss Alps and Ancient arcades
25.02.2006 - 26.02.2006 -24 °C

In February 2006 we visited our son in Basel, he suggested we go to Bern. It was a weekend and the day was sunny and warm. So early in the morning we packed a lunch box and took to the road to Bern. The distance from Basel to Bern is about 75 kms but the road going out of the city was under construction and a long tail back was already forming when we reached the outskirts of Basel.

In Switzerland the traffic laws are very strict, heavy fines are imposed if you drive over the speed limit. Once for driving four kilometers over the speed limit, we were fined CHF11.00 and again for going 13 kilometers over the limit, the fine was CHF 185. The Traffic department took us for rich Swiss living on other people's bank accounts. So please beware. In Switzerland every body has a big automobile, most of the time you have to drive under 100kms per hour so I do not understand why people drive bigger and expensive cars. It must be the other peoples' money locked behind steel bank vaults which has enriched the country folk. I must say that gasoline also was cheaper, CHF1.16 per liter.

The scenery in Switzerland is breathtaking, while you drive along, the enchanting mountains, beautiful houses sitting on mountain tops, scattered here and there with long stretches of lush green in between, awakens the longing to be away from the clutter of cities, parking problems, noise and pollution. We city folk yearn for the quiet and solitude of the country side and slopping mountains. And Switzerland is just that.

We entered Bern from the east side and after more than half an hour of trying to find parking, we came over the bridge and were lucky to find a place right there, the fast flowing river Arre under us. On the left side of the bridge we saw a crowd of people and nearing the end of the road, saw a Bear Pit (Baerengraben) a large sunken arena with four or five shaggy brown bears. Bears are the symbol of Bern but the bears there looked forlorn and weary. I have posted some photos of bears on my Photo Gallery. But behind the Baerengraben, on the left side, if you go up the steep hill, you will reach the Rosen garten (The Rose Garden) with an enchanting collection of flowers and fantastic view of the town of Bern. Also at the back of the Bear Pit is a path leading to the wooded area where a small river runs through. An ideal place for spending an hour.

Bern is the capital city of Switzerland, my first impression of the city was of an Eagle jammed in a Canary bird's cage. It lies in the bend of the river and the view of the wooded hills and majestic Alps gives it a sense of quiet and peace. Although the city center was crowded with visitors, its cobbled streets and small lanes full of charming shops and restaurants, it gave a sensation of a monastery full of silent monks going about their daily chores. As if the hustle and bustle had nothing to do with it.

The old town center is wide, full of cobbled streets which run on both sides of the Marktgasse and the day we were there, some enterprising people had set up a charcoal grill in the street, selling Bratwurst with bread bun and a bottle of soft drink or mineral water for CHF 1.00. What a welcome idea and profitable too. We just sat down on the side of the arcade and had two helpings each. The road extends into lanes, old buildings with baroque arcades and many fountains. In Kramgasse there is an statue of an armoured bear holding the Standard of the city's founder Berchtold von Zaehringen. At the end of the street is a statue of Samson, a fountain and large figures on pedestals, which portray the city's guilds of various crafts. We tried to find out from the tourist office the year in which the city was founded but were given a tourist information leaflet instead. But I from a bookseller and gathered that the year may have been some where in the 11th century.

In Kramgasse is the house where Albert Einstein lived and worked on his theory of Relativity. He had studied at the University of Zürich. In one of the streets is the church of St. Peter & St. Paul, a Gothic building with a cool hermit like interior. From Postgasse (street) we went down to the old part of the city, window shopping, looking at the shops selling antique books and other crafts.

You can view the old medieval buildings clustered around the slopes of the river, all the main streets of the city meet at Nydeggbrueck where you can see Nydeggkirche (Church). Go down the steps leading to the riverside and you have a full view of the houses clustered on both sides of the river. ( I have posted some photos of the river and houses around it). The oldest part of the city is Matte, which for many centuries was the center of crafts made in the city. The streets and lanes are full of art centers. There were a few places where music is played, but they were closed. May be they opened in the evenings.

Bern is one of my favorite cities, its old cobbled streets, painters selling their paintings under the arcades, busy cafes and restaurants, shops selling arts and crafts with the exuberance of a big city, but at the same time exuding the timeless peace and quite of the Alps which have the city of Bern in a valley like atmosphere lying in the bend of fast flowing river Arre, like an impatient bride in a hurry to be with her lover.

Basel The Least Appreciated Swiss City

Switzerland In Summer

Basel, I was told by a visitor there, is the least appreicated city of switzerland. But he did not explain why. It is considered to be one of the wealthiest cities in the country, patron of arts, research headquarters of multi-national pharmaceuticals, full of historical museaums about its cultural pre-eminance in middle ages. Basel's borders with Germany and France and their cultural and linguistic heritage should have enriched the city, but I found the people more introverted than extroverted.

On the German border is the city of Freiburg im Breisgau, the capital of Black Forest. On the french border is the city of Mulhouse. Its railway is a gateway for trains from Paris, Brussels, Frankfurt and other european cities. There are easy connections with other major swiss cities too. The main city railway station is a hub of passenger activity and you can easily pass a few hours just watching the people, eating a snack or drinking a beer or a coffee. The prices though are high. A toasted sandwitch costs SF5.00.

My first impression of Basel was of a city in dismal state, East London in l960s. Derelict buildings which I thought were vacant, were occupied, roads in perpetual state of repair and traffic clogged motorway which leads you to the city center. Basel may be the wealthiest city in Switzerland but its residents go to France for their shopping in the supermarkets and to German towns for shopping for clothes and shoes etc. Switzerland is a very expensive country and Basel no less. A Bratwurst costs 1.50 Euro in Germany and in Basel 3.00 euros (CHF5.00). 100gms roasted chestnuts cost CHF2.00. The prices are double that in Germany and France. A cup of coffee CHF3.50 and in France and Germany CHF 1.50. When I was there we also went to Loerrach, the border town with Germany and to France for shopping. Swiss customs are sticklers for detail, one person is allowed to bring in only one kilo of meat, three litres of milk and so on, in the country.

But Basel is a quiet city, its tram network is perfect for going places and it is an efficient way of transport. In the city center is the Town Hall, renovated and quite popular, there is a daily fruit and vegetable market but there is not much variety of anything. But around the city hall are bars and restaurants and the majestic river Rhine which divides the city in two. From the Town Hall you walk a few hundred meters and are on the bridge leading to the commercial streets of the city.

The main attraction of the city is Barfuesserplatz (bare feet plaza), a hectic place and the Barfusskirsch (Church), which has been converted into a historical museum of Basel's pre-eminence of times bygone. What I liked most was the winding, steep streets full of small ethnic shops selling arts and crafts, jewelery and rugs, from India, Nepal, Tibet, Greece and many other places. We found a Spanish Tapa Bar but just looking at its menu and prices was enough to turn us away.

The old streets have names like Saddle Street, Tailor Street, Fish Market street etc. Just like in London, Brick Lane, Thread Needle Street, or in Spain where old streets were named Calle Camas (Beds) street, Calle Baños(Bath street) etc.

We first went to Basel in the summer of 2006. We traveled by road and from where we live in Germany, it is 660 km to Basel. It was not difficult to find where my son was living, it the street where the city railway station is. Mind you, the railway station for France and Germany is about 3 km away. But parking was a big problem, parking places limited for half an hour, two hours and places reserved for residents. In the night it was easy to park but before 8 0'clock in the morning ,I had to either move the car or feed the parking meter. And be on watch to move the car after two hours.

In the city center are many popular restaurants, our son took us to Papa Joe, famous for its Spare Ribs. The bar was full of young people, swinging to hard rock music. My wife and me were the only old couple and we were feeling out of place. After waiting for more than half an hour, we were given a table in a very busy restaurant. We all had Spare Ribs, the portions were large but the food was greasy and sat heavily on the stomach.It cost SF. 29.00 per plate. Next day we went to an Indian restaurant Called Bombay Restaurant. A very cosy place serving delicious food. By Swiss standards, the prices were not high, around SF30.00 per person. We went there many times during my repeated visits to Basel.

Accommodation is not cheap in Basel, shared room in YMCA was CH27.00 per bed per night. A double room (with 4 bunk beds) was CHF 75.00. There were two bed and breakfast hostels, rooms to share with 4-6 other persons was CHF.30.00 per night. But the places were untidy.

Freiburg The Green Capital of Black Forest





In April 2006 we went to Freiburg for the first time. My wife, myself and our son Alexander, who at that time was living in Basel (switzerland) travelled by train. He had been to Freiburg many times and was enamored of the city and wanted very much that we go there together. We went by train and were there in one hour. I think it is about 45-50 kilometers from Basel to Freiburg by train.

Freiburg is known for its world famous university. But Freiburg is also known for its cherry & chocolate cakes, Kaas Patzle (noodles covered with cheese), trout and asparagus and cukoo clocks. As a young boy I had read German history and culture but when it came to knowing anything about Schwarzwald ( Black Forest), I had always imagined it to be really a black forest, dense and cold and shrouded in dank fog and rain. A place where sun's rays never penetrated the forest.

The tribes which inhibited this part of Germany, the Rhine Valley, were constantly at war with Rome and refused to accept the rule of Roman empire. Augustus, Tiberius and Claudius failed to bring the tribes under control of Rome. His brother Gaius, fatther of brutal Caligula had gained the title of Germanicus for bringing some German tribes under control but I think it was a Roman General named Varus, who had fought them before, had lost three Roman Eagles ( Heralds with Eagles embossed on banners and shields and poles) carried by Roman soldiers in war. This was a great shame for Rome as without conquering German tribes, they could not march on to England. Although two Eagles were eventually recovered by Rome, the third was lost for ever. I suspect that the Eagle on German flag is that same Eagle. I have to do some research on the subject, but this is what I remeber from my school days.

Freiburg is the capital of Black Forest, a verdant city indeed. The day we went there, it was sunny and very warm. I would say a hot day. The city was full of visitors. We came out of the railway station and crossed the road and were in the city. We bought some baguettes at the corner supermarket as we were hungry. Then we entered the city center. The street which leads to the center is long and narrow, shops and restaurants on both sides and a narrow canal "Buttergasse" running in the middle of the street. This canal, we found out later, runs through the whole city. Imagine a stream of cold clear water running through a city, a rare sight nowadays. I just slipped off my shoes and sat down with my feet in the running water. What a refreshing feeling it was, it uplifted my spirits.

As we progressed towards the center, we came to a plaza, with restaurants and people sitting in the sunshine, eating and drinking. I had the feeling I was in Malaga or in Paris on a summer's day. The place was full of teeming visitors, young and old and when we reached the center, we saw street musicians playing, a young girl painting and another juggling dumb bells in her hands. The shops were full of people and so were places selling food. A wide variety of good food on display.

We plunged in the lanes and squares of the city. We first went to the Muenster Platz and the flower and fruit market and took some photos of Muenster Cathedral. There was a marriage ceremony taking place so we went to Augustin Platz, then to Colombin Park. Every body was eating ice cream so our son took us to a restaurant which is famous for fresh fruit juices and ice cream. Next to it was a Japanese antique shop with a wonderful collection of Japanese art. Later we went back to the Muenster Platz and bought some fruit. The wedding party was still there, bride and bridegroom were on the verge of emerging outside when it started to rain. But it did not last long and things brightened up.

Freiburg being a university town, was full of students. It is full of historic monuments, museaums, plazas and streets and full of fast food shops, bars and restaurants. We found that the price of food and drink was not expensive, comparing the prices in other German cities.

From the city center you take a Tram to Guensterstal and take a Cable Car tour of the surrounding mountains and the deep valley in the middle of Schauinsland mountains. A breathtaking trip, favorite with hikers, mountain bikers and skiers in winter. We sat down on the terrace of a restaurant and I had one and then another glass of Weiss Beer, the thick dusky white beer made from wheat.

By the time we were back in the city, we were hungry and tired and our son suggested we go and eat pizza. But my wife and me were keen on eating fish, so went in a restaurant and had grilled trout and potatoe salad. Our son had noodles baked with cheese. The nearest thing to eating a pizza. Also we wanted to eat the food for which Freiburg is famous.

We liked Freiburg very much and on a later date when I visited my son in Basel, we went to this fabulous city once again. In all I have been there three times.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Antwerp The Beautiful Top Travel Destinations




Antwerp The Beautiful
Diamond In the Crown of Belgium

13.07.2007 - 15.07.2007

Antwerp is one of my favorite cities in Europe. I would like to go there every weekend, just for a few glasses of dark and cold Effe Beer, in one of the corner restaurants in The Meir, the beautiful and fashionable city center. Antwerp is at a distance of 260 kilometers from where I live in Germany and to my regret I can go there only infrequently. In fact the last time I was there was in July 2007 and me and my wife stayed there three days.

My wife found an hotel offer to stay at Ramadan Inn for 50.00 euros for a double bedroom for the first night and 150.00 euros for the next night. So we booked a double room for one night and on a sunny Friday morning started by car. It being a weekend, there was not much traffic on the roads and we made it to the hotel in three hours. A part of the hotel was being renovated and we were given a very large room with a view of the street, with a large double bed. Very well decorated and comfortable room it was. Well, we parked the car in the underground hotel parking (10 euros per night) and came out of the hotel and took a trolley bus to the Central Station (1.70 euros pp).

At the entrance of the city of Antwerp, is a castle, The Steen ( The Stone in English) a small fortress, one of the earliest buildings made of stone. That is why the name The Steen. In front of this fortress is a large statue of a man with his legs spread apart. This statue of a man used to have a large Penis and infertile women of the city used to venerate the statue. However, the Jesuit priests of the time found this endowment the most offending and cut it off. That is why I believe that Religion is for Sinners.

We came out of the Central station, a grand and imposing building which reminds you of a Cathedral, its interior made of marble and with its imposing Staircase, making every visitor's arrival a grand entrance in the city. The Meir (the shopping center) starts from the station itself which goes all the way to the Groen Plaats (The Town Square). The whole street is pedestrian, no motorized traffic and it was full of people from all parts of the world. Young people from Asia, Africa and the Middle East thronged the street. The summer breeze was filled with the perfume of youth and tantalizing goods displayed in the windows of shops. The shops were full as there was Summer Sale on, goods reduced up to 40-50%. We walked on, window shopping, looking in the bakeries selling fresh bread, rolls and croissants and chocolate in the shape of Hands.

In the Town square is Brabo Fountain. The statue of Brabo was sculpted by Jef Lombeaux in 1887. The legend about Brabo says that a terrible giant called Anti goon lived on the shores of river Scheldt, the mother of the City of Antwerp. This giant demanded a toll from every sailor who crossed the river and on refusal to do so, cut off the sailor's hand. This shows you that the practice of exerting Toll is not new. Well, to continue the legend, a Roman Centurion named Brabo who was passing through the city, refused to pay the Toll and on being threatened, cut off the hand of the giant and threw it in the river. Hence the name of the city is Hand-Werpen. You will see the Hand in the shape of sweets, chocolates and even on the City Flag. Every ancient city needs a legend and the beautiful city of Antwerp deserves one too.

The Town Square in the heart of Old City is the most popular place to hang out. In summer on sweltering hot days the Square is full of tourists, visitors and students, sitting around the statue of Brabo, on the terraces of restaurants surrounding the Square, drinking cold beers, chatting, looking at the passers by and having a good time. In Belgium there are 185 different brands of beer brewed, and like Belgian chocolates, Belgian Beer is famous. In the Square there is the beautiful Cathedral of Our Lady. And the statue of Baroque Master artist Rubens, who lived there for many years.

Antwerp is full of museums, art galleries and fine old buildings. Its Latin district, Jewish district and Diamond street are world famous. The Jews who settled here in the 16th century, came from Spain and Portugal, mostly Hassidic Jews who were expelled from there and settled in Antwerp. However, even in Belgium they were persecuted and prosecuted and many of them resettled in Holland. Jews are mostly in the Diamond Trade but even today they live a very quiet life, as if they do not want to draw any attention to themselves.

For the next two days we had booked hotel room with Ibis Hotels, at the rate of 70.00 euros for a double bed. However, the hotel staff had made a mistake and booked us for the day after. So when we went there to check-in, we were told that the hotel was full and we could come the next day. But the hotel receptionist arranged that we could stay at another nearby hotel at the rate of 50.00 euros for a double bedroom. This was perfect.

It was Saturday and outside the Hotel Ibis is the Saturday Market, a must for every visitor to Antwerp. You will find a wide variety of antique goods, jewelry, ethnic clothes and wood carvings and much more.

Antwerp offers a wide range of food, the national cuisine tends to be French, but you will find many Pizza restaurants,
Argentine Grills and restaurants selling fast food. On our first day we both had pizza with soft drink and a beer and paid 9.00 euros. The owners and waiters are Italian, talkative and very friendly and the beer and soft drink was served with fresh bread, garlic butter and fresh olives. Large pizzas with salad. The Argentinian Grill served Beef Steak with baked potatoes and salad and we paid 18.00 euros for the food and drinks apart. Near the square, there used to be a small place selling hot dishes, soup etc, for 0.85 cents, this time we found the place closed. They always served fresh food and was very popular with young and old crowd.

Antwerp is the second largest container port in the world and this is thanks to river Scheldt. You can travel by boat from Holland to Antwerp and go to France and reach Paris. U.S.A. General George Patten, who liberated Belgium and Luxembourg from Nazi Germany is buried in Hamm, Luxembourg. He suffered mortal injuries in a road accident and died there.

We have planned to go to Antwerp in the month of May this year, when the weather is warmer and I can enjoy a few glasses of Effe, my favorite beer.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Afghanistan The Tortured Country

Nomads and their Caravans

06.03.2008

I have started reading Bob Woodward's book Bush at War. I have read the first 71 pages and it is clear to me that neither George W Bush, nor his close advisers, the CIA Chief, or his assistants nor Donald Rumsfel, the arrogant warmonger defense Secretary, had any clue about Afghanistan, the country they had decided to go to war with. Taliban were the creation of U.S.A and Great Britain to offset the growing influence of Mujahedin whom U.S.A helped militarily in the first place to defeat the Russian forces. The U.S.A has, throughout its history, created its own monsters and when these monsters grow out of control, they become Evil in the eyes of American politicians, and every thing is done to destroy them.

History shows us that no nation has ever conquered Afghanistan. England tried three times to conquer it and was defeated. So were the Russians and now American and Nato forces are struggling to control some areas and failing drastically. U.S.A is a warmonger country, since its inception as a nation, it has been involved directly or indirectly in more than 70 conflicts around the world. But what is disturbing is that Europe is waging a war ten thousand kilometers away in a country which has not raised its finger against them. The excuse is that they want to bring democracy to the country and defeat Taliban, but people who know anything about Afghans, know that it is wishful thinking and not only Europe but even U.S.A and Britain will be defeated in the end.

My intention is not to divulge in the present situation of war and its aftermath, but for some time I have been thinking about the Kochi nomads who have been wandering from the plains of India to the north of Afghanistan and Central asia since centuries, carrying their trade goods and their families with them, and no country has been able to sustain them.

I think the word Kochi is the English corruption of the word Kutchi, the people who live in the north west province of Kutch in the state of Gujarat (India). Kutchi people have been traders for centuries, from the shores of Arabian Sea they established trade with East Africa in the 1600s and had trade links even with somalia.

From the desert of Thar they traveled in caravans through the north-west frontier, crossing the province of Sind (now in Pakistan) up the Khyber Pass and crossed the whole length of Afghanistan, reaching Central Asia, returning to India in summer. These people have always been wanderers, always outside the laws and recognize no borders or governments. They can be friendly if they choose but seldom are, they are fiercely protective of their women and children. Their women are totally independent and wear gypsy dresses, no head scarves and no burkas, and when they camped, they camped outside the limits of the town or city they will be passing and discouraged any stranger who was foolish enough to approach them. Even Afghani people know that any physical contact with them could be dangerous.

The U.S.A's war against Iraq destroyed the ancient civilization of a millennium and its past history and they have achieved the same in Afghanistan. The great cities of Balkh, Ghazni, Qala Bist and Bamian are destroyed by daily bombardment of American and Nato troops. The footprints on the pages of these ancient places left by Alexander the Great, conquerer of India, Darius, Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, are destroyed for ever. And the great travelers like Ibn Batuta, Hsuan Tsang and Marco Polo who wrote fascinating accounts of their travels through Central Asia, Samarkand, China and India, are destroyed by military invasion of so called civilized countries of Europe and America.

Many of you travelers might have heard about these nomads and I would like to hear from those who have been to Afghanistan recently or read about it. What has happened to these romantic wanderers of Central Asia and Afghanistan?

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

London A Short Visit-III




When A Man Is Tired Of London He Is Tired of Life

12.12.2006 - 15.12.2006 rain

On the third day of our stay in London, in the morning we took a bus and went to see Trafalgar Square.We got down at Piccadilly Circus and after strolling round Leicester Square, we went down Hay market and Pall Mall, and walked all the way to Trafalgar Square. The day was clear and a shy Sun had come out, many young people were sitting in the Square and on the steps of National Gallery. I think the Square has become a symbol of people's freedom, from here mass protests are organized or they end here, political and social leaders lecture here to the audience of thousands. The Parliament and No. 10 Downing Street are nearby and although nowadays this street is many times closed to general public, in the old days you could enter the street and reach No.10 and have your photograph taken.

Trafalgar square is surrounded by many famous monuments. On its left hand side is the famous st. Martin's Church and the National Gallery. This is also one of my favorite places to visit when I am in London. When I lived there, I used to go often and look at the paintings of Botticelli, Da Vinci, Rembrandt and Von Gogh. Gainsborough and so many others. When we went there, there was an exhibition of works of Velázquez. You could easily spend one whole day there. If you like to visit art Galleries of course. Then you have the famous Charing Cross station, and further down you will come to St.Paul's Cathedral. On the other side you have Soho, the strand and can go back to Shafts bury Avenue. If you go up the Charing cross Road you will see Foyles, the famous Book store.

It was getting late and we were tired, but we wanted to go to st. Paul's Cathedral. Our son instead wanted to see Buckingham Palace. So we retreated back to Piccadilly Circus and had some food and then walked down all the way to the Buck House. A long and tiring walk and by the time we reached there, it was totally dark and raining and few tourists outside the gates. We lingered there, took some obligatory photos and went walking (again) to Victoria Station. Now it was raining hard and we were cold, so we decided to go back to the hotel.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

LONDON CALLING





If a Man is Tired of London, He is .......

12.12.2006 - 15.12.2006 rain 5 °C

If it is your first time in London, you have arrived at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted (City) airport, travel to central London is easy. From Heathrow you can either travel by underground or by Airport bus Al & A2 which will bring you to Victoria Station or Paddington station. Both are in the heart of London. Around Victoria there are many budget hostels and hotels and you can also inquire and acquire a place at Hotel Reservation desk inside the station. At Paddington you have a whole row of hotels at Sussex Gardens, the street is lined with hotels on both sides. You can travel by underground and by bus to Marble Arch, Piccadilly, oxford street and Oxford Circus and even can go to Petticoat Lane Market near Liverpool street station. Number 15 bus will take you there from Paddington Station.

On our second day in rainy London, we bought a one day travel ticket (useful for both train & bus) and went to Covent Garden. Covent Garden is one of London's most popular tourist attractions. It has a very fascinating history. Much of its existence (it was created by Queen Henrietta, the troublesome wife of Charles I, who was beheaded by Cromwell. I mean the king and not the queen. She went in exile in France until her son Charles II was restored to the throne of England), first as pasture land in 1600 was subsequently converted as fruit & vegetable market in 1700. However, the gentle folk who resided there, with the expanding of the area as a market, moved out and London's seedy society of gamblers, prostitutes, public bathhouses, gin places and pubs, moved in. But even from these early times, the whole area has been associated with Theaters. Its narrow intertwining streets are full of history. It is worth strolling in some of these places. In mid 1960s the GLC (Greater London Council) took over the whole area and in order to avoid mass development by individual promoters, build about two hundred buildings.

The main garden area is now full of pubs and restaurants, small shops selling ethnic products. It has a wonderful laid- back atmosphere, street musicians playing instruments, people thronging the whole area. The first street to develop with small businesses was Neal Street in 1973, and I used to go there quiet often to absorb the atmosphere of Herbal products, copper ware, leather goods and handicrafts and hand made chocolates. When we went there this time, there were new shops selling clothes and shoes and take away food. Nothing remains the same in today's world. There are 15-20 street markets around central London, notable are Church street Market near Piccadilly, Camden market (which has largely been destroyed by fire recently). This was my favorite market, I would go and spend a whole day looking at art & crafts, antique jewelry, paintings and even out of print second hand books. Then there is the famous Portobello Market and Shepherd's Bush Market which has, since many years now, gained popularity for selling clothing and ethnic food. Worth a visit. Last but not least is Petticoat Lane market. In 1960s and 70s, it was only a weekend market, I used to go with a friend to sell second hand articles, clocks and wrist watches. We had to pay One Pound sterling to get a table and in order to get one in the centre of the market, it was necessary to be there by five O'clock in the morning. Most mornings in winter or summer it rained and it was miserable. But so were the wages and one had to work on weekends to make the ends meet.

Posted by IsleHopper 02.03.2008 18:44 Archived in Air Travel | Engla

London A Short Visit-II

If a Man is Tired of London, He is .......

12.12.2006 - 15.12.2006 rain 5 °C

If it is your first time in London, you have arrived at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted (City) airport, travel to central London is easy. From Heathrow you can either travel by underground or by Airport bus Al & A2 which will bring you to Victoria Station or Paddington station. Both are in the heart of London. Around Victoria there are many budget hostels and hotels and you can also inquire and acquire a place at Hotel Reservation desk inside the station. At Paddington you have a whole row of hotels at Sussex Gardens, the street is lined with hotels on both sides. You can travel by underground and by bus to Marble Arch, Piccadilly, oxford street and Oxford Circus and even can go to Petticoat Lane Market near Liverpool street station. Number 15 bus will take you there from Paddington Station.

On our second day in rainy London, we bought a one day travel ticket (useful for both train & bus) and went to Covent Garden. Covent Garden is one of London's most popular tourist attractions. It has a very fascinating history. Much of its existence (it was created by Queen Henrietta, the troublesome wife of Charles I, who was beheaded by Cromwell. I mean the king and not the queen. She went in exile in France until her son Charles II was restored to the throne of England), first as pasture land in 1600 was subsequently converted as fruit & vegetable market in 1700. However, the gentle folk who resided there, with the expanding of the area as a market, moved out and London's seedy society of gamblers, prostitutes, public bathhouses, gin places and pubs, moved in. But even from these early times, the whole area has been associated with Theaters. Its narrow intertwining streets are full of history. It is worth strolling in some of these places. In mid 1960s the GLC (Greater London Council) took over the whole area and in order to avoid mass development by individual promoters, build about two hundred buildings.

The main garden area is now full of pubs and restaurants, small shops selling ethnic products. It has a wonderful laid- back atmosphere, street musicians playing instruments, people thronging the whole area. The first street to develop with small businesses was Neal Street in 1973, and I used to go there quiet often to absorb the atmosphere of Herbal products, copper ware, leather goods and handicrafts and hand made chocolates. When we went there this time, there were new shops selling clothes and shoes and take away food. Nothing remains the same in today's world. There are 15-20 street markets around central London, notable are Church street Market near Piccadilly, Camden market (which has largely been destroyed by fire recently). This was my favorite market, I would go and spend a whole day looking at art & crafts, antique jewelry, paintings and even out of print second hand books. Then there is the famous Portobello Market and Shepherd's Bush Market which has, since many years now, gained popularity for selling clothing and ethnic food. Worth a visit. Last but not least is Petticoat Lane market. In 1960s and 70s, it was only a weekend market, I used to go with a friend to sell second hand articles, clocks and wrist watches. We had to pay One Pound sterling to get a table and in order to get one in the centre of the market, it was necessary to be there by five O'clock in the morning. Most mornings in winter or summer it rained and it was miserable. But so were the wages and one had to work on weekends to make the ends meet.

Posted by IsleHopper 02.03.2008 18:44 Archived in Air Travel | England

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