Thursday, September 9, 2010

Frankfurt and Amsterdam – a quick taste of Europe in 4 days - part I

It was about 3am Eastern when the captain announced that the flight has started its descent. That is when it truly dawned on me that I have indeed made the long awaited trip to Europe. Its been about 2 years I and Vijai have been talking about making such a trip and have been dreaming about it for even longer.

The flight touched down at Frankfurt Airport at about 7am local time. The immigration was surprisingly quick (if I compared to US) and climate was quite pleasant hovering about 8 to 10 degrees Celsius. Outside the airport, Vijai was waiting to receive me as well as for an unforgettable travel experience.

We reached Frankfurt Hauptbahnof (where Vijai lives) in about 20 minutes. After breakfast and a few hours of random conversations, we headed out to do local walk-about around downtown Frankfurt. Frankfurt was the first foreign city I visited (about 6 years ago) and it still sort of remains one of my favorite cities. Last time, I was gaping at the wide difference between Frankfurt and the Indian cities.

This time, I was able to appreciate more than a few things in the city, the best part being the architecture.

The city does not have towering skyscrapers, but it has a nice mix of old buildings and funky new ones next to each other. Such variety in architecture means only one thing: nice opportunity for photographs.

We pretty much spent the rest of the day roaming around the city, a nice long walk along the Main river waterfront and ending the day with a visit to Frankfurt Main tower observatory.

We had an early morning the following day, as we had reservations made on the ICE train to Amsterdam. Amsterdam is about 550 kms from Frankfurt and the ICE train covered the distance in about 4 hours. The train hit a top speed of about 300kmph more than a few times and it was quite a comfortable ride, thanks to Vijai for booking first class tickets.

We reached Amsterdam at around noon. After a delayed visit to the Tourist information centre (with a long line of freaking tourists!), we quickly planned for a high-level agenda for the day.

Amsterdam is about as dirty as any European country could ever get. It could have been a lot neater – I, for sure, did not expect people to pee on the roads (they have some strange road side closets that people pee on – I guess only the Gods and the locals can understand the funda behind the concept. For us tourists, it was nothing but a disgusting stinking intersection!)

As much as the city is clumsy, it still had an inexplicable charm to it. Blame it on the unstoppable tourists or the undying activities happening in the city or perhaps the numerous canals that act as veins to the city. We started off with a customary visit to Madame Tussauds wax museum, which in my opinion was so-so. The exhibits were alright, but the museum layout was so poorly planned that there was absolutely no room in most places. After coming out, we were joking that the museum was so cramped that Gandhi almost seemed like he was touching Dalai Lama's ass and Dalai Lama was blessing Mandela's balls!

We then checked into the hotel and took the Canon ride tour in the evening. Idea of touring inside a city completely on canals was a nice experience and felt very European to me.

We then went to photograph the only Wind Mill (or Molen as the dutch call it) in the city and spent about an hour there. I wish we had the time to go photograph a few more wind mills.

Later in the night, we strolled across the red light district (and our hotel was right there!) and took a few more photograph the city's night life. City did not have too much of what a photographer might call a night life.

The story of day 2 at Amsterdam and the funny ICE train experience on our return journey here.

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