Monday, January 03, 2011

Amsterdam - Copenhagen - Hannover !!

Yes, three cities-- visited Amsterdam in August, Copenhagen in October and Hanover in November. Also went to India in September, and a couple of other trips too in these months but those have nothing much to write about :P. So let me talk about each of these three cities in turn. Yeah, my travelogueing skills are depleting by the day and hence I need to have travelled to at least three different places to be able to produce one substantial post :P.

AMSTERDAM: Hmm, let me see, what do I remember about this city? It was the city with the most canals/streams that I have ever been to. And if you are asking- no, I haven't been to Venice yet. Boating around on those canals seemed to be the favourite activity of tourists. With most roads neighbouring the canals, and innumerable bridges criss-crossing them, it is quite pretty in the central city area. And that is also where you will find the famous 'coffee shops'. Some of them, especially those on the main roads, are obviously set up for tourists. However, those in the back alleys seem to be the proper ones, having a genuine feel to them, and the stuff you get there is pretty strong too ;). Also if you are strolling around in the city-centre, you will at some point, find yourself in the centre of the other notorious attraction, the red-light district, having no clue how you got there. And it is literally, a 'red light' area.

As Amsterdam is reputed for its art museums, we had to visit some. Van Gogh museum had unnecessarily long queues, so we didn't go in. The other museum next to it, the main one- Rijksmuseum, is mostly under renovation. But we did manage to see some really nice and grand paintings in the little area open to visitors. The public transport system, mainly based on trams is decent. Finally, have I mentioned the bicycles? Biking is the first nature of the Dutch, walking might be second :P. There are bikes everywhere, and at the parking areas, there are such huge piles of bikes, chained and locked, that I really wonder how one would manage to find his/her bike among the hundreds and hundreds of bikes mashed together.

COPENHAGEN: If bicycles form the image of Amsterdam, cycle-paths are the lasting memory of this city. They are unique because they are not just the usual coloured strip at the edge of the road that no one cares much about. Rather, the cycle-paths in Copenhagen are raised platforms on the side of the road, much like footpaths/pavements. So yeah, the roads appear really wide. They contain the traffic lanes, then a raised platform for the bikes, and then a proper pavement for the pedestrians. And if that is not enough, at the bus-stops there is an additional raised platform to wait and board the buses! Of course in some places, exiting the bus might leave you standing on the bike path and before you realise it, there will be cyclists whistling past you, silently cursing at these tourists who can't step away quick enough :P

Actually, it is a wonder why people even bother to use bicycles here. The transport system is pretty convenient and cheap, though a bit confusing. They have the metro, a non-metro train system, and buses and more. A ticket is valid on any many of these within its validity period. Okay enough about the transport. The city is really neat and well-maintained. Architecture is a mix of both old and new. There don't seem to be any cheap places to hang out though, only posh restaurants. Did I mention how expensive the city is? Well, it's Denmark after all.

HANOVER: What's special about Hannover you might ask. Well, I don't know apart from the fact that it has cheap and convenient flights from Southampton. Actually, it didn't end up being that convenient for me anyway, as the flight was delayed by 3 hours, and when it finally reached Hanover, I was held up at the immigration for an additional hour as the immigration officer found me, my visa, and my reasons for coming to the city suspicious! So the highlight of my trip might have very well been in the first hour of landing in the city, as I was escorted out of the arrivals by two machine-gun totting, tall, hefty, bullet-proofed security personnel ;).

The central market area of the city, containing the railway station, the cathedral and big shopping malls is nice to walk around. Oh, and it has an area, marked by a statue which acts as the commonly recognised meeting point in the city-centre. You can find quite a few people standing there waiting. The 'Rathaus' contains four miniature depictions of Hanover- one showing Hanover as it was in 1689, one showing the 1939 version, one the 1945 version, and finally the current one. The 1945, post World War II depiction, is stark and disquieting; all of the city is just debris with only a couple of buildings left standing here and there. When we were there, there was one marriage party exiting the building, and another preparing to enter. A procession of weddings ;).

Well, that's all about these three cities. Who knows where I will go next. And when!

PS- did you expect some mention of the advent of the new year, the new decade, the new era blah and blah? Well.....