Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Time to CongArrest our nation

We the people of India are strange. We have planted the thorn on our seats, sit on it and complain that our rear is bleeding. The Congress or the Indian National Congress is one of the oldest parties in India and was formed in 1885. Right from 1947 to 1977, for 30 undisputed years, Congress had ruled featuring Nehru, Shasthri and Indira and yet again after a failed attempt by the Janata Party, Congress was back in power for yet another 10 years! By the way, why was the Congress ousted after 30 rocking years?! You know the answer, serious corruption allegations against it. The Janata assumed power of an economically eroded and weak India and people could not wait to have Congress back. We all know how the next 10 years ended after the operation blue star and assassination of Rajiv (also include the Bofors) and immediately after that we elected a new government, a side dish called the Janata Dal which was nothing but a part of the National Front (the Dal Makhini!). But we were too impatient to have the Congress back. So, the VHP started to dig up near the Babri Masjid in order to construct a Ram temple. The Dal platter goes empty in just a year and some one know as Chandra Sekhar Singh becomes PM for yet another year only to welcome beloved P.V. Narashima Rao for yet another glorious term which was marked by evergreen events Babri Masjid demolition and the Dawood Bombay fry. I am not telling that Congress has been responsible for these, just what did it do?! Oh, but we did something. We spend a royal amount from our tax money and voted just to make Vajpayee get a flavour of the PM’s seat for 13 days. And then people tasted the Dal for 2 more years and Vajpayee (he seriously looks like my grandmother!) for few more years. This was the longest gap when Congress was not in power. No, not good at all! We the people of India love the Congress, in spite of their corruption and in spite of their incapableness. We brought them back to power in 2004 and right from day one after this Manmohan Singh assumed power, we called him a puppet. We are good, we know everything but still we don’t want anyone to rule us other than the Congress. Seriously, what is wrong with us? 65 years after Independence and for 52 years Congress has been eating away. This time the portions became bigger with the 2G and CWG and suddenly everyone is awake.

What is happening now is good. Don’t change the government, but change the law. Pass the Jan Lokpal which gives us a chance to oversee the government’s corrupt officials. All though the years, corruption has been the key issue. Not that one government is going to be better than the other. India is a free buffet. You don’t need to pay to eat, but with the Jan Lokpal at least we hope people eat only half the stomach or may be in time less than half! (Here eat = eat peoples money! I don’t want the government screaming that I am trying to make them forgo food!!) But I doubt after what they have done to Anna Hazare, the government can stay for long.

This is one opportunity that has dawned upon the youth of India to make things happen their way. For long we have been ruled by old farts whose ideologies and mentalities are old and not worth preserving and now when the fuel is full, we need the right spark for ignition. I am feeling helpless sitting here in Germany now and the least I can do is vent out through this blog. Please, make us Indians who are living outside India now feel that we have lost the opportunity to participate in a revolution. Please don’t give us the feeling that we were clever to avoid rushing back home just to take part in nothing. Vande Mataram.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Polish Wedding !

Weddings are always exciting. It is a place where you meet new people, make new friends and reconnect with old friends/relatives. But this wedding I attended for me was an entire new world! I am just back from attending my first European wedding and it was a Polish wedding, right out of the traditional book. There was no dragging, no bored moments, no unpleasantaries and no panic. It was smooth, like cutting the perfectly baked cake with the right knife! The wedding took place in Damesławek, a small village in the Paluki region of Poland, 20 Km from Żnin. The bride was Marianna Adamska and groom, Krzysiek Hoffmann.

Agnieszka invited me for this wedding and I was excited about this even 6 months before the wedding date! Probably as excited as the couple when they decided on their wedding date! And even from months before, Agnieszka began her coaching for European dancing, for my legs yield only to Yuvan, Rahman, Harris and Deva! Ok, enough of prelude. Here starts my experience journal…

The flight was from Dortmund. The nearest airport is Bydgoszcz, but there were no flights available for our travel itenary. So we flew to Poznań with an airtime of just 60 minutes. Agnieszka’s father and brother came for us at the airport and we drove to Żnin, 95 Km from Poznań. On the way we stopped at a highway restaurant for “Pierogi” and ice cream and finally reached Żnin at 10:30 PM. It was already dark and I could not already have a glimpse of the city where I would stay. In the house were Agnieszka’s mother, grandmother, uncle and aunt. They welcomed warmly with “Dzień dobry” and showed me to the room where I would be sleeping. After slipping into comfortable shoes, I went upstairs to the living room where the table was set with finger food. Tido also welcomed me by smelling me around and trying to climb on.  He was always licking my fingers, guess the Indian spices were still on! After exchanging pleasantries, I was taken on a tour of the house by Agnieszka. Then back to the living room and this time I was greeted by a large bottle of Polish vodka and Agnieszka’s father and uncle were smiling at me and said, “son, we need to train you for tomorrow! Are you up for the challenge?!” It felt a little strange to be invited by a family for alcohol, but when in Rome, there is no shame in being a Roman. Else you are just an observer, not a player! And for them, alcohol is not offensive; it is how you are judged as responsible. So, I was up for it! Discussions, juice and 8 shots of pure vodka was what followed. In between Agnieszka’s cousin joined us after his long drive from Warszawa. He is a vegetarian by choice and it felt nice to have a fellow herbivore nearby! After sometime, Piotr (Agnieszka’s brother) introduced me to his fabulous hobby of reconstructing 14-15th century battles and showed me his collection of armour, weapons and materials. It was really fascinating and I salute the effort. Then Agnieszka’s parents gave me memorabilia from Żnin (set of old pictures, playing cards and maps) and it was the most thoughtful gift! I gave them a collection of 8 Indian recipes, Cooking Indian with easy ingredients. I had written them in English and Agnieszka translated them in Polish. I referred to it as gift for the mother, punishment for the father and brother! At 2.30am, we decided to call it a day.

I was woken up by excitement and the sunlight piercing through the curtains. I opened them to discover that my room was overlooking the lovely garden! Apples, pears, cherries and walnuts all stood tall and colourful. Eventually the house woke up too and preparations for breakfast started. I and Agnieszka went into the garden to harvest fresh cucumber and onions. There was also cabbage, kohlrabi, beans, peas, carrots, marjoram, some spices and tomatoes. And in one part stood many rose shrubs with wondrous blossoms. The breakfast spread consisted of home made bread, variety of cheese, sausages, scrambled eggs, fresh tomatoes, cucumber with yogurt, tea and coffee. Immediately after breakfast Agnieszka took me outside to the city. We ran into her best friend from childhood and spent some time over cake and coffee. Then began my city tour. It is a very well planned city centre. The houses are with gardens and some with farms, 3-4 Km from the city centre. The centre has all the essentials with a little dash of modernity. There is no hurry and people know each other. I could see people giving me second looks and probably I am the first Indian to have set foot on Żnin! We visited the city museum and saw collections of traditional dresses, paintings and printing machinery. The first magazine for women was started in Żnin in the early 1800’s. There were also collections from local artists in painting and wood work.
We reached the church at 15:50. The bride and groom stood in the entrance and welcomed the guests. The bride was dressed in white and the groom in a suit with a black bow. Exactly at 16:00, the bride and groom walked in to melodious live organ music. The priest blessed the couple, announced the gathering, read some psalms, the couple exchanged the rings, the priest blessed the couple again, gave communion to the couple and the gathering and the couple walked out married at 17:00! Once they walked out of the church, people threw rice and coins on them and the couple had to pick up the coins. Then we started out in our cars to the reception hall which is a few kilometres away from the church. The children from the church’s vicinity blocked the roads with ropes and let each car only after we gave them some coins and or chocolates!

The couple entered the reception hall and the live band began to play. The guests followed in pairs, gave their gifts and wished the couple and took their places at the table. After everybody assembled, they sung the traditional “sto lat”, which means 100 years together and the couple kissed to a joyful cheer. Everyone toasted with Champaign and the couple tossed their glasses behind them and broke it. After this they cleaned it together symbolising the hard work that needs to be done after marriage!  The couple took their seats along with the guests. Traditional chicken soup was served first. The table already contained salads and fruits. The salad was traditional polish, consisting of boiled vegetables cubed into small pieces, with pickled cucumber and mixed with little mayonnaise. The main course was an assortment of dished cooked with pork and for me, there was special vegetarian mini pierogies garnished with garlic-butter sauce. There was then coffee and cakes for dessert. Most important of all, there was incessant supply of vodka and the crowd raised a toast every few minutes! The toast was always followed by a chant of Gorzko! Gorzko! (bitter bitter) and the couple have to kiss. The entire song translates as “The vodka is bitter, bitter, bitter, and you need to make it sweet.” Hence the couple kiss to make the vodka sweet! After food, the couple came up to the stage for their first dance. The bride looked very cheerful and happy and I could sense the tension in the groom. Guess it’s the same everywhere, the men are always tensed!

I finished applauding their dance only to find the bride run up to me ask me to dance with her. This was not what I was expecting; nevertheless, I like the centre stage. So I stumbled across and danced what would have been the best entertainment for the guests. But I had a nice interaction with the bride and thanked her for inviting me and told her how much of a learning experience it has been. She was really nice and spoke good English to respond to me. The rest of the night I spent talking with Agnieszka’s cousin, some curious relatives and toasting with vodka to cheers of Gorzko! Gorzko! Exactly at midnight, the couple took centre stage again and sat on a chair. The young unmarried girls walked around them and when the music stopped, the bride tossed behind her veil and the girl who caught it took centre stage. The guy now did the same and tossed his bow behind and fortunately I was not the person who caught it. The guy who caught it took centre stage and the new couple opened the dance again. Now everyone started to dance together and go around in circles around the bride. After half an hour of intensive dancing there was slow music again and out came the wedding cake with fireworks! The couple cut the cake together and all the guests received a portion from it. I already began to feel sleepy and retired to an adjoining room where two little children started to teach me polish! We started back at 2:30 and reached home at 3:00 am in the morning. The longest party I ever attended.

There was absolutely no hangover the next morning and after yet another tasty breakfast spread (this time with krokiety), Agnieszka took me around the region. First was to her grandmother’s house which has a huge garden and a small chicken farm. We strolled around the garden eating cherries and smelling the roses and let the 10 chicken and one rooster out from their pen. People always speak about contentment but seldom realize it. But looking at their houses and life style and their city, I guess this is where it lies. Żnin is sandwiched between two beautiful lakes and every year in summer, boat racing championships take place here. Żnin is the capital of the region called Pałuki and there are totally 130 lakes. Poland owes its origin to this region and the first church in Poland was built in Poznań. The first place we visited was a narrow gauge locomotive museum and the ruins of a castle in Wenecja. There is a legend that the cruel count of Wenecja who terrorized nearby villages during the medieval times can still be seen sometimes in the night! Then we went to Biskupin which is an archaeological excavation site. The civilization existed 5000 years back and the site has preserved an entire part of their community with original excavations and some reconstructions.  

We came back home at 16:00 and got ready to attend the “after party”. This was a get together only for close relatives and friends. Before we started out, Agnieszka’s grandmother (who took a special liking to me), asked us to return home by 21:00 and help her put the poultry back and that she would show me her house. It was a very sweet invitation and so we returned home at 21:00. The party was a smooth get together and the couple spent a lot of time with me discussing different things about India. When we went back, grandmother was already ready. She showed me her garden and her roses and figured out that one chicken had strayed into the neighbour’s garden. 75 years old and she still chased down the chicken and caught it! Then she took us inside her house and showed me her favourite room with heavy furniture, piano and books from 1875! All conversations were translated to and fro by Agnieszka and I was amazed by her grandmother’s energy!

After coming back home, we spent the evening looking at childhood pictures and discussions about marriage traditions. The final day, we woke up early and after a quick breakfast, went to Lubiestroń. It is a small palace which now hosts concerts. Unfortunately it was closed but we walked around in the gardens identifying some plants and trees. Agnieszka’s parents drove us to the airport and we encountered a fine ice cream break and a tense traffic jam before we reached just 2 minutes before the gate could close!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Bleed blue, I and Cricket.

To write something about this World cup victory at the winning moment would just be an expression of draught quench, 28 years for India and 21 years for me! I remember the first time I was introduced to Cricket matches on the television. Way back in 1991 and Sachin was already playing for India. I had a plaster of paris bat, more locally known as the mavu bat. It was gifted to me by preriamma during my various visits to Trichy and I used to beat the ball around, more like playing hockey!  Our black and white Solidare telivision used to be the big screen, turning our living room into the pavilion and Dad and Mom would eagerly wait for Krish Srikanth to play, since back then, he was India´s Shewag. Ravi Shastri and Kapil Dev used to be most referred names. And for me, as a young kid, Sachin and Vinod Kambli used to be heroes, since they too were very young looking in the team. Wearing the most comfortable dress for the Indian summer (just the underwear!), I used to stand in front of the television with my bat and copy the strokes that the batsmen used to play.

And like every kid's dream, I wanted to play cricket all the time. In school, in the streets, in the terrace and even in the corridors. Countless days and nights have been spent in the pure joy of playing this game. The underarm Cricket, Cricket at school with balls made of paper and cycle tube wound around it and text books with hard bound used to be the bat. I remember that during this time, my Science text book used to be my favorite for this purpose and perhaps this is why I am now a scientist!! Sports time (P.T) during school never allowed us to play Cricket and every time we had to request and cajole our physical trainer to allow us to play cricket! Well, the school had their own reasons, like to promote interest in other sports and to minimize damage done to the school property! Nevertheless, we used to play our own version of the book cricket during recess and sometimes even when the lectures were going on. Even book cricket would bring so much of satisfaction to us.

The moment I was back from school, in spite of the scorching sun, I would meet up with friends in the apartment and we used to play cricket in the terrace until the ball was lost or until it was bad light or until all our mothers used to drag us home by the ears to do home work. And on really hot weekends, cricket used to be played with a plastic ball in the corridor! After tired game, rest for us meant to play with cricket trump cards or sit down and discuss about the recent matches. 

Then came college and cricket was now even more and a serious part of life. By now we had matured more in following the game. I was not too good in playing cricket, but it seldom mattered. After all passion has many forms! It included bunking boring lectures at college and play cricket near the hostel! 

Indian cricket has gone through various transformations and yesterday's victory voices hard work, discipline and determination. There were times when when Sachin would be out, the Indian batting order would collapse like dominoes. The master has stood alone on so many victorious occasion and has been the lone fighter in desperate situations. Then came the match fixing controversy that wiped clean, players like Azhar, Mongia and Jadega. For long, Javagal Srinath stood as the lone epitome of bowling discipline and then was a time when Indian team was at its aggressive best, Saurav Ganguly. And there was a time when the Indian team lacked the young propellers to move forward and when the journalists were screaming for Sachin to retire and give place for youngsters. From all these controversies and misdirected anger, rose this team. First the team which won the T20 World cup and the team which won yesterday. A team balanced between the adrenaline and serotonin, to provide the thrust and to provide the calm and the point of balance still originating from the master himself.

The sail to lifting this cup has not been smooth either. A hyper energetic start and yet not a convincing victory against Bangladesh, a fantastic performance against England but an immediate lack of attitude during the chase, wrong decisions against SA, bounce back of bowling against WI, the real test of character against Aussies, exhibition of ultimate control under pressure against Paki and then, finally, the calm, composed and asserting victory to lift the World cup. 

I feel proud to have lived when the legends lived/live. M.S.Subbulakshmi, Rajnikanth and Sachin Tendulkar!
Go Hindustan!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How to tame your horse, after the fall !

What was it that inspired me? The fact that many great men in history is always associated with a horse? Or the marvelous picturization of horses in the various movie sequences or just the thought to control a magnificent animal which weighs nearly 500 Kgs and stands 2 meters above the ground with well toned muscles? Every single thing about the horse makes me feel like a tiny little guy standing on the ground. And there are certain things that make me feel jealous too, like its muscles and most importantly of all, the pampering it gets from the beautiful ladies who are there in my riding school! Three gorgeous girls spraying the horse with water and scrubbing him as he stands lazily enjoying it. I am sure this sight would about make you feel to stand there instead of the horse!

The first thing you learn is how to groom your horse. Clean its hooves, scrub his body and legs. It so well co operates with you and its amazing how it will lift its hooves automatically with you bend down to clean it. Next is to learn how to put on the saddle and secure it. And when you walk with your horse, it needs to know who the master is. The more confident you are, the more the horse is going to like you. It wants to be controlled, in a loving manner and when you sit on the horse, your posture already becomes confident. I guess my mom would very happy to see me now. She used to tell me that I always slump whilst walking and sitting, a casual laziness that used to be a part of my posture. But not anymore. After 5 weekends of riding, my posture has become more straight and my backbone seems to be relaxed only when its straight now!

The horse responds to your body language. A slight relaxation in your body and the next second the horse relaxes too. The slightest kick and a knee push, it starts trotting and the instant my right leg is raised a little bit, it starts to gallop. As much as you work, the horse also works. I cannot judge how tiring it will get for the horse, but I know how tired we get after our course is over. The last class, especially, after my historic fall, was the best one ever.

Men who do not fall down, don't have the opportunity to learn. And men who do not rise after a fall, arn't men at all. It was the fall that mentally prepared me for the best. Before falling down, I thought may be, I am not fit for riding it. I was unable to lift my body during the trot, it was not synchronized, it was not high enough. But last Sunday, things got different. My trotting was nearly perfect. Before I mounted the horse, a rush in me told me that I am the boss and no longer is the horse going to make me feel small. I guess that is exactly what the horse needed too. My adrenaline was its feed. After gaining confidence in the trot, the instructor asked me, so, ready to gallop? Of course I am, is the horse ready?!

I did it. Sitzen, sitzen, sitzen.. was the instruction from my instructor (sit, sit, sit). The idea is to maintain your perfect seat position. When the horse gallops, its energy and force will try to fling you over and your mission is to act against 500 Kg of well toned muscle, galloping at nearly 30 Mph, and maintain seat position. Sounds easy?! Well, to describe it, I felt connected to the horse. The uncomfortableness of irregular bounce vanished once the horse started to gallop. Felt like I had gained the 500 Kg from the horse. It was just tremendous. I had to take a break after 3 galloping rounds. I have never sweated so much in Germany, not in any sport till that day. Finally when I got down after nearly 7 rounds of galloping, my legs were just shaking, but my face was glowing!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Nostalgia in a fall

When was the last time I fell down before this? Hmmm... 2001 after my quarterly exam results, I was cycling back home when my friend crashed into me on the kotturpuram bridge and I fell down and encountered a green stick buckle fracture in my right arm. I rode the cycle back, single handed before I went to the doctor for the casting. Escaped a good trashing for my poor results!!

After nearly 10 year, it was today, during horse riding. Though there was no physical injury, this fall brought back a lot of memories. Last weekend, my instructor was pleased with my body language during riding and she said, next week, we start with galloping. That already had my adrenaline rushing. I was mentally prepared this week, to encounter the muscular beast and reign my command over it even during galloping. Reading and watching videos cannot prepare you for what I encountered today!

I started with the walk, then the trot to find the proper seating position and now the instructor said, ready to gallop?! Of course was my spontaneous response. Ok, left leg should kick the horse, right leg should be a little behind the usual position and power forward with your knees was the instruction. The next instant the horse started to gallop. 40 Mph and in circles. The centripetal force was too much. Too many instructions and the instructor was repeating, bend your body back, back, back, power with knees, good, go on, faster! Everything was a blur. The blood flow to my brains was tremendous, I could hear my heart beat and I was losing balance. Managed to stay put during the first two trials, though my seat was slipping! The third time, I was determined to make the instructor proud. I am going to bend my body back, I told myself. Patting the horse friendly, I started with the trot and then, kick with the left leg, right leg behind and he was galloping. A desperate attempt to bend my body back and I knew I was falling. Not a single thought in my mind. It was like one of those slow motions they show in Matrix, when Neo jumps up before the kick, but it was that instant. The next instant I was on the ground. Thrown from the horse from a height of 2 meters and when galloping at a speed of 30 plus miles per hour! My legs were shaking when I got up, with a smile on my face! My instructor was also smiling, now you know how it is and now you will not make a mistake! Get back on the horse now, it should not feel you are afraid. Now I rode him alone, without the instructor holding the string. It felt majestic!

After so many years I fell down. A travel back to childhood when you constantly fall down when you learn. You get up, and get going. I felt just the same. But I missed my mother. Back then, when I used to come home with a hurt knee, it was a scolding first and then the dettol cleansing. Unmatchable care. Nostalgia in a fall!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

s(f)oulful search!

Inspirations to blog always come during the most uncanny times! I am just finalizing my thesis outline and I am hit by this incident and forced to blog than finish compiling my chapter list. 

It was an usually cold end February morning and I was on my usual walk up to the institute. The road bisects a park which is usually heaven for sun bathers during peak summer, but in winter its seldom populated. My walking pace slows down when my mind perceives happenings that could turn out interesting and so I started to walk slow and I was observing a woman. Ok, I am not going to describe to you how she looks or tell you that she was around 35. I dont want to emphasis on her height of 5.5 feet or her well maintained anatomy because I did not notice all these and I seriously dont know her age or height! What interested me was the anxiety in her face and her restlessness to find something.

Yeah, she was searching. I wouldnt call it search, it was most probably like frantic hunting. I could see the sweat drop down from her forehead on such a chilly morning and I could gather that she had probably paraded the entire park withing a few minutes. She took her fingers to her neck and let an exasperation "schiße" ( schisse in German means shit ). I though may be she had dropped her locket and probably it was precious and dear to her. But then she started to crack her fingers with repeated schiße, schiße,schiße and I thought it was probably her wedding ring. That could be trouble or at least a very expensive loss. For a moment I thought I should offer to help her to search for it, but my instinct told me not to interfere. And probably if it was really something expensive she would have already called for help from other passerbys or probably called out to me.

Her search intensified and so did her voice. Her eyes were scanning so intensively and nothing could distract her. Nothing actually did, even "ME" walking past didnt distract her!! Then suddenly, her face broke into a smile and she put both her hands to her hips and stared down and said "da ist es" (there it is!). She pulled out her gloves, scooped it, rolled it and thew it into the garbage and exactly at the same time, her dog came running from behind the bushes!

And then I saw the sign board : A heavy fine would be imposed!!

Friday, February 26, 2010

BARCELONA, Winter 09 : UNFINISHED but published

This is my third winter here in Germany and I wanted to travel to somewhere warm. Two freezing winters had already saturated my want for snowfall. Barcelona it is. Before my previous trips to places like Rome, Prague and Paris, I did a lot of research on the internet to learn about the history and map the places I wanted to see in depth and detail. Those were carefree days of my research life, but this time, the flame is on the penultimate thread of the wick and this pressed me to backpack and experience the insitu planning. Nevertheless, trips to historical cities always keep me on the edge with an overdose of adrenaline to last for even weeks after returning from the holiday.

It had snowed heavily in Germany and all the flights were delayed by more than 2 hours. Luck be praised, our flight was planmeßig, which means 'on time' in Germany. One quick look at the display board and my friend Vimal read it as 'plane missing'! It was a clean 2hrs 15mins flight from Düsseldorf Weeze airport to Girona Barcelona and the bus from Girona took an hour to reach the Arc de Triomf bus station. This Arc is not to be confused with the likes of the historical one in Paris. In Barcelona, this was constructed just as a gateway to an exhibition in the late 1880's.
Taking the red line of the metro from there to clot station, we changed to the purple line to Pep Ventura. This is the last stop of the purple line, 20mins from the main city center and just outside the metro stop is the Barcelona Dream hostel. A perfectly calm location near the beaches(calm during winter) and the hostel was amazing. Clean and neat dorms and absolutely nothing to complain of. It was already 6PM when we reached the hostel and after checking in, we found company in the form of an Indian couple to travel with us. Buying the unlimited metro pass to last for 4 days, we proceeded to the city center in search of food and for the first contacty with the city of Barcelona. 
Placa Catalunya is the center of the city. This is a massive square where the Gothic city meets the advent of modernism and the center is the origin or the confluence of the main streets Passeig de Gràcia, Rambla de Catalunya and La Rambla. A walk through these streets will make you experience Catalunya. Why do I keep referring to this place as Catalunya and not Spain. Well, in principle, they were(are) different. Catalunya means land of the castles or the land of Goths and its capital was Barcelona.

The La Rambla is the most fascinating street I have ever come across. From the center of the city it leads right down to the Harbor. A walk down the La Rambla is an experience by itself. This street is actually a dried river bed and during the dark European ages, this river was used as a quick dump for transporting waste right into the sea. Now, it is highly crowded and is the exhibition street for street performers and hawkers. They even sell animals like hamsters, rabbits, several species of birds, monkeys, reptiles, tortoises, porcupines, mice and several unknown but fascinating species.

Turning left into any of the small alleys in the La Rambla will take you right to the Gothic part of the city with the Cathedral of Santa Eulaia standing magestically over the Roman constructions. This is the seat of the archbishob of Barcelona. Outside the church, one can still see the only part of aqueduct that reminds the city of its Roman foundations. Just behind the Cathedral is the museum where you can take a lift down to visit the preserved parts of Barcelona as founded by the Romans. The city plans, the baths, wineries, laundry and the watch towers are preserved inside the well designed and informative museum.

The entire trade and history of Barcelona could be understood with a visit to the Maritime museum and the Museum of Catalonian history. Unfortunately, these were closed on 25 and 26th Dec. I guess another trip to Barcelona during the summer is on the cards just for these and the beaches!!

Walking down to the end to La Rambla from the city center, I reached the Columbus monument. It stands at the port where Columbus returned after discovering America. His hands don't point out to America in the West, instead deliberately to the East. The maritime museum is situated just around the corner from here and so is the Port Vell. Cruises are offered here that could take you even until Mallorca. There are also the shopping complex and cineplexes making this place bustle with activity and entertainment.

The most impressive place in Barcelona is the Montjuic. It is a hill offering the most brilliant panoramic view of the city and the harbor. The best way to reach up the peak of this hill is to walk from the Palau Nacional(National art museum) to the Poble Espanyol(Spanish village) and further up to the Olympic stadium and finally reaching the fortifications on the hill top by a cable car that can be taken from the Montjiuc funicular stop. Though I followed the opposite route, I figured out this is the best way to start the evening and reach Montjiuc peak before sunset. The fortifications served as a prison and also to protect the city from the naval attacks. There are several long range cannons at strategic locations. One can spend hours during and after sunset enjoying the glimmering lights of Barcelona up from this place.

Enter Barcelona and the most heard name will be Antoni Gaudi. He is know as the son of Barcelona and its most celebrated architect. His most famous church, the Sagrada Familia is still under construction due to his untimely death(1926) and economic recession(1914). Yet another incomplete work of his is the Parc Guell. This showcases loads of ceramic work and very different styles of pillars. Gaudi's non catholic architecture includes the Casa Batllo and Casa Mila.  This is the list of his must see works in Barcelona. The walk to Parc Guell from its nearest metro stop is grueling but then it is totally worth it. There are several shops selling Gaudi stuff and I would recommend people to shop here for curios and memoirs rather than in the La Ramblas for the Ramblas, its expensive and low quality.

This should pretty much give you the historic experience of Barcelona. But a visit to Barcelona is incomplete without a visit to its beaches. Ha! Talk about beaches in winter. Well, for me, I have grown up on the sea side and nothing can attract me more than the Marina and yeah, goes without saying that you are not bound to see any bikini clad beauties in Winter. Still, I walked up to the beach near my hostel to set foot on the Egyptian and Sahara sand strewn over the rocks to make an artificial beach and to smell the Mediterranean sea! In better beaches in the summer, the palm trees are shipped from Arabia to make the landscape more attractive!

An added attraction in my trip was the Flamenco opera. I booked a show in a VIP restaurant, Tablo de caramen, inside the Spanish village. It was a choice I made after reading internet review and it really stood out! worth the money! 90 minutes of amazing Spanish guitar and Flamenco. The energy possessed by the dancers were amazing. Even after a month now, I can still feel the electricity when I think about it!