Saturday, May 26, 2012

This can be the best time of your life!

"Time flies by when you are having a bit of fun", remarked a member of the band 'Peter Jones and the lazy bandits' when there was only 5 minutes left for their performance to end for the evening at the Ludwigsburg street music festival. The band then went on to play a beautiful song.  
'Peter Jones and the lazy bandits'

The lyrics go like this > 

What´s the sense in looking back,
When looking back can be so hard?
Nothing there that you can change,
Can only change the one you are.

Time and time again we´ve learnt,
Tomorrow holds the golden key,
The key to open every door,
Keep the faith and you will see.

This can be the best time,
This can be the best time of your life,
This can be the best time,
This can be the best time of your life.

So you´re older now, my friend,
But I can see the child inside,
Give the child some room to play in,
Let him rest when he gets tired.

And don´t forget when times are hard,
And gloomy skies are all you see,
There´s a plan within the plan,
Tomorrow holds the golden key.

This can be the best time,
This can be the best time of your life,
This can be the best time,
This can be the best time of your life.
This can be the best time,
This can be the best time of your life,
This can be the best time,
This can be the best time of your life.

So what´s the sense in looking back,
When looking back can be so hard?
Nothing there that you can change,
Can only change the one you are...

  It was 10 o clock on a beautiful summer evening at the Blooming Baroque in Ludwigsburg where the yearly street music festival is held. The first day of the festival this year, the garden was teeming with families, kids, couples and the elderly, all immersed in their own worlds listening to some of the soul stirring music on offer. This song stirred something in me and I was spellbound until it ended...!

A few bands at the Ludwigsburg street music festival

Earlier in the evening, as I was waiting in the queue to get a ticket, a gentleman came up to me and asked if I have a ticket. A little bewildered, I replied in the negative. He then proceeded to tell me that he has an extra ticket and I can get lucky. Lucky, I did get. To be part of a festival that is renowned for attracting good bands from all over Europe, year on year was indeed some fortune! 

People moved in the vast garden area listening to one band and then the other. Many families let the kids play around. When a young boy casually climbed one of the stages and tried to grab a microphone (perhaps to accompany the lone singer and performer on stage then), the crowd was amused...Certainly, one memorable evening!

Check out the website of the band  'Peter Jones and the lazy bandits' here.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Zugspitze - Journey to the top of Germany!

No extent of imagination can prepare someone when reality strikes! Consumption of so many movies, songs and documentaries showing landscapes covered in snow as far as the camera lens could capture- yet, when one confronts reality, it is always different. Imagine yourself closing your eyelid on pure white - yes, that "movable fold of skin and muscle", when it opens and closes on pure white, can you imagine that? If you find yourself struggling, you should travel to Zugspitze!

Sometimes, in surrendering oneself completely to the simple joys of life, one gets to live life to the fullest. It is like sipping cool lemonade during a pleasant evening by the beach side with your favorite book beside! Can anyone plan for such an evening? To some extent, one can answer yes, but really? No way! However, this Saturday, in choosing to relish every moment of the day with my fellow travel companions, I experienced something special! No wonder, Shailesh remarked, "Siva is cool today, you ask him to get down from a train, he gets down, you ask him to hop back on, he is OK with that too, no questions..." :-)

A small group of 5 - myself, Shailesh and his wife, Suhas and Vaishnavi - went to Zugspitze, the highest peak in Germany. We started early on Saturday morning, our connections being Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof -> Ulm Hbf  -> München-Pasing -> Garmisch-Partenkirchen starting at 7 from Stuttgart and reaching Garmisch-Partenkirchen at 12PM.

View from the train windows..

Snow capped mountains in the distance

In the first connection till Ulm, the majority of the compartment was occupied by Indians and one could hear bits and pieces of all languages - Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi to name a few I can tell the difference between. With a clear weather, the view outside the window varied only in the degrees of beauty from being just positive to the truly superlative! At München-Pasing, while others grabbed coffee, I peered into the news stands and tried to make sense of the headlines in Deutsch.

Cyclists enjoying a ride..

We alighted at Garmisch-Partenkirchen on time and in our eagerness to get "tourist information" missed the 12.15 Bahn. With an hour to kill, we speculated whether such a long journey to reach until there would be worth it if we don't get to spend quality time at the peak - We'd laugh about it later in the day! At 1.15 PM, we were in the train that chugged its way up. We narrowly missed going back to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in an otherwise empty train when, oblivious to us, people were alighting to switch trains to go on to Eibsee.

At Eibsee, we took the Eibsee cable car to get to the peak. As the car with its swaying rhythm made its way up, the views were a feast for the eyes. As we moved up, the lake slowly came into view and became a large dot of beautiful blue surrounded by greenery all around - it looked like a blue giant was sleeping peacefully flanked on all sides by protective cover. On the other side, we could see the sides of shorter peaks with a spattering of pure white here and there.
View from the peak
Snow Panorama

At the peak, the views only got better. One could behold stunning vistas of snow. In no time, we were taking aims at each other with balls of snow. Since I was always with the camera, I escaped :-) In the distance, a dog was rolling over and over in the snow. It was so delighted and enjoyed itself for a complete 2 minutes until there was some pressure on the leash. We took a cable car from the peak to the glacier below. Minutes later, Shailesh scanned the copy of the map he was holding and quizzically spoke aloud, "Yeh glacier ko inhone yahan kyun rakha hai". That had us in splits...
Our small group

We walked, jumped, hopped and sauntered. Vaishnavi even built a snowman with the help of Suhas. Lying down in the snow, albeit briefly was bliss. Probably, there is no lighter, softer and whiter canopy! At one point, I looked around and found nobody...the silence was all pervasive, in that moment, my memory raced and I remembered another such moment nearly a year and a half back that was equally magical! Beaches or snow covered mountains - nature, when splendidly beautiful, has the same effect perhaps.

Tikka Puri at that height tasted awesome! Close to 4 o clock, we went to the open air restaurant for a drink and then proceeded to the waiting cogwheel train (Zahnradbahn) which took us until Garmisch-Partenkirchen directly. Perhaps, if we had left a little earlier, we could have spent some time at the lake in Eibsee. But then, we had had our share of fun and good, it did not really matter.

During the journey back, we had our share of excitement when we suddenly found that the connection we were sitting in would not go to Ulm. Thanks to Vaishnavi's memory, we however realized, we can still make it to Stuttgart for the night :D Until München-Pasing, it had been an amusing journey to see three hyper excited kids playing with a sportive guy who laughingly indulged their every whim. In the train to Aalen, we played Antaakshari - old songs ruled the roost.

At 12 AM sharp, I was back in the hotel room at Ludwigsburg with a lot of happy memories of the day. To feel close to nature and to take a sojourn in its lap is perhaps, the closest mankind can come to experiencing life in heaven while still being on earth!

For those more interested, this link is a wealth of information

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ludwigsburg - A beautiful piece of Württemberg's rich history

There are towns that are materially rich and there are scores of such towns and then, there are towns that are materially and culturally rich. Ludwigsburg is certainly one such town in south west Germany, part of the state of Baden-Württemberg. Tradition, history, art and technology converge beautifully in this state to make it a perfect cultural mosaic. 

Landing in the town of Ludwigsburg after a scenic journey by the ICE Deutsche Bahn from Frankfurt Flughafen (airport) till Stuttgart on a pleasant Saturday evening - well, perhaps, it was the best way for my Deutschland journey to begin! The ICE whizzed past vast lush green swathes interspersed with huge factories.  

Situated about 20 kms from the Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof (Central Rail Station), Ludwigsburg can best be described as a quaint little town. I immediately fell in love with it! 

The little homework I had done before the travel helped on Sunday morning. I made up my mind to head straight to the Schloss Ludwigsburg (Ludwigsburg Palace). A detailed map at the entrance to the palace gave some hint of the treasures inside. I purchased a combi ticket (costs 16 Euros) that would permit me to see the palaces, museums and the blooming baroque. 

Schloss Ludwigsburg

"To a baroque architect, a building was to some extent a large kind of sculpture", says this elaborately informative piece. If one sees the Ludwigsburg palace, one would too readily agree. Such splendor, extravagance and opulence! Our guide for the tour of the Residenzschloss, a burly and cheerful gentleman recounted the history of the palace and alongside that account, the fascinating history of Württemberg undulated itself. The lineage spans France, UK and Russia with each country's art enriching the palace over a long period.

Began as a "hunting lodge" under the duke Eberhard Ludwig, the palace is now one of Germany's oldest and largest intact baroque structures. With 452 rooms, it was certainly not small and the guided tour covered 73 of those rooms. Rich tapestries of silver and deep red yarn, intricate embroideries and mahogany furniture were some highlights. The symmetrical queen's and king's staircase, assembly rooms, study rooms, libraries, conference rooms, waiting rooms, servant rooms, toilet rooms and bedrooms - we covered them one after the other. 

Of special mention should be the palace theatre, the oldest preserved palace theatre in Europe. I couldn't believe my ears when our guide remarked that, in those days, what happened on stage was inconsequential compared to the opportunity theatre provided for the audience to move around, flaunt power and network! 

Fashion Museum

Ceramic Museum

The museums housed in the palace area - including the Fashion, Ceramic and theatre museums - are worth a stroll around for a complete understanding of the heydays of the dukedom. The "Blühende Barock" (Blossoming baroque) garden, thanks to King Friedrich is awe inspiring! I concluded the day after a visit to Favorite Schloss which is surrounded by another vast garden!

The blossoming Baroque

A view from one of the palace rooms

The Favorite Schloss