TestimonialsSubmit TestimonialSubmit a Testimonial

Your input is important to us. Please provide your valuable feedback. Here are some testimonials from our clients:

ON JOURNEY TO TIBET

The sights were magical
The moments were memorable
A dream for us...like many others
I am glad this was our holiday mom... the true tibet adventure. ..
The beauty is beyond words
Even cameras dont do justice
The weather.. the cold and the oxygen has its own hiccups. ..but none that cannot be tollerated
But at the end.. it is like no other. We had a blast didnt we....Nimmi Belliappa Poonam Srivastava Neelam Srivastavaand Sindi Lidder
Deepti Belliappa's photo.
Deepti Belliappa's photo.

https://www.facebook.com/Deepti.Belliappa.Ganapathy/timeline
 
Date of Posting: 17 February 2015
Posted By: Deepti Beliappa Ganapathy
Travelled on the Tour to China & Tibet - May 2014, Bangalore
Dear Brig Lidder,
Hello! Am sending you my take on the Scandinavian cruise. Hope I have covered everything! Do give me a feedback after you have read it. Regards, Bulbul


OUR MEMORABLE CRUISE OF THE BALTIC

20 May 2010, DELHI

“Beware! The Scandinavian sun wreaks havoc on one’s skin. Remember to carry plenty of cream, Vaseline and suntan lotion....”

“Don’t block space in your suitcase with eatables as they are not allowed on board...”

“The winter is abating, but Indians will need scarves, gloves and light coats, along with the proper walking shoes....”

Such are the daily instructions coming to us over the internet since last week- as preparatory measures for the cruise on the Baltic Sea that Ranjan and I are taking shortly.

This morning in Delhi the temperature is 43 degrees Celsius, but the two of us have been happily immersed in sweaters, coats and shawls, sorting out what to take with us.

A group of serving and retired engineer officers of the Indian Army are setting out on this trip from Delhi on the morning of the 27th. Our travel agents are an Army couple too- a retired Brigadier SS Lidder of the Corps of Engineers and his wife, Amarjeet, who will be coming along with us. This makes it a very self contained excursion indeed! Most of us are well known to each other and are eagerly looking forward to some good days ahead!

26May,6.30pm

The Engineers Mess is coming alive with spurts of activity as members of the cruise are arriving and being allotted rooms where they will rest until we leave for the international airport in the wee hours. The atmosphere of excitement is slowly building up...we have just met some dear friends who are taking this cruise too...the long corridors are resounding to excited shrieks of recognition and loud hearty greetings. We have called up our children and parents and said our goodbyes...

27May2010

At around 2am in the international airport we met a few more fellow travellers. Official procedures took up some time, after which we looked around the duty free shops with their display of tempting wares.

4.00 am – It was time to board the huge Turkish Airways Airbus that was waiting for us at the end of the aerobridge. Extremely fair stewards in dark uniforms welcomed us and escorted us down the aisle to our seats to the accompaniment of strange music of the Middle East emanating from the amplifier of the static plane. A few important announcements later, we had taken off into the waning night.

Barely a half- hour after we were airborne, we were each given a large sandwich stuffed with white cheese and lettuce, along with a drink of our choice. The meal over, the lights were switched off and the window blinds pulled down. We were made comfortable with light blankets and pillows and the entire plane load of passengers dozed off. Three hours passed thus. The lights were switched on again. What do I see? The food trolley is coming again down the aisle. This time, we are plied with a sumptuous meal, followed by liberal portions of fresh fruit and dried apricots, figs and raisins... delicious fare indeed. I could not do justice to this repast, yet managed to sample their sour cherry jam with my bread.

This long journey of six hours and 55 minutes seemed to fly as I looked out of the window, at a landscape below, of snowy peaks, flanked by clear blue water. We tried to take photographs, but the sun was too bright. Soon the plane began to descend and the scenic beauty of Istanbul hove into view. Turkey is surrounded by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, with the Bosporus Strait running through it. We found the blue expanse a pristine sight, as we landed between the wooded hills and the sea. It was 8:45 am local time.

Having disembarked, we had to kill four hours within the airport, before checking in for the final flight of two hours to Copenhagen. We spent the time usefully, roaming within the Duty Free Shop, taking stock of what to buy on our return journey. At one point, I felt like having a cup of coffee, but on enquiry, I was told that I would have to pay the equivalent of Rs 350/- for that luxury! Hence I bravely desisted. As we were about to check in, we found that the wife of one of our friends was missing. Half an hour passed and there was no sign of her. People had begun to board the aeroplane. Her worried husband told us to move ahead, while he stayed back and had her name announced on the public address system a couple of times. More time passed and when only just a few minutes were left for departure, she emerged in a leisurely fashion from one of the toilets, where she had decided to have a bath. Talk of high drama in transit!

By the time our plane took off for Copenhagen, we were ravenously hungry and more than ready for the meal provided to us. Ranjan managed on an Indian vegetarian menu, but yours truly tucked into skewered chicken with Arabic spices, on a bed of rice and spinach, smoked salmon with beans, olive and yoghurt, followed by vanilla pudding, with great gusto. This was washed down with delectable sour cherry juice. A kindly hostess insisted that we have freshly brewed coffee later, and I was in Heaven! All traces of fatigue and sleep promptly vanished.

Dark clouds were hovering over the Baltic as we flew across it. Our plane had to land right through these clouds. Another group of thirty odd people chaperoned by Brig Lidder had flown into Copenhagen from Delhi via Helsinki and were waiting for our flight to land. We met and were escorted to a large, beautiful, yellow bus which carried all of us with our luggage to First Hotel Vesterbro, where we had been allotted rooms. It was six in the evening. We had fifteen minutes to freshen up and were driven to the Wallman Cirkus nearby. This is a famous high- domed edifice which hosts the world- renowned Wallman Show.

Inside, there is a well- lit stage below the high dome, and the huge seating area in front of the stage has at least a hundred tables laid out with snowy white table linen, crockery and cutlery. The chairs around these tables can seat a total of seven hundred people during one performance. Dinner is served in courses along with drinks while the spectators watch the agile artistes performing amazing feats of jugglery and acrobatics to the accompaniment of beautiful vocal and instrumental music. The heavy acts are well balanced by anchors with a tremendous sense of humour. There is never a dull moment and we were kept highly entertained through our dinner.

Since the Cirkus is about a kilometre from our hotel, we walked back through the well-lit streets after the dessert was eaten. Even at 10pm the night was not completely dark- the sky was pink and it was chilly! We were a little lost as all the streets were broad and looked similar – we could not identify the actual road on which our hotel stood. We stopped a young Danish cyclist and asked for directions. He had never heard of our hotel, but he had a GPS in his mobile phone which he consulted immediately and directed us on the right path in a matter of moments! We were very impressed. Reaching our rooms finally, we flopped on our beds and fell deeply asleep, secure in the knowledge that a wake-up call would rouse us for the next part of our itinerary.

28May,6 am

A ray of bright sunlight has crept in through a chink purposely left open in the curtains last night, causing us to awaken early. I have brewed cups of refreshing Earl Grey tea with the paraphernalia in our room, and we are sitting sipping it in our very comfortable beds. This hotel is vast and has some fifty such spotlessly clean and cosy rooms on each floor. Electric tea kettle, hair dryer, telephone, television, mini bar along with a well- equipped bathroom (instant hot water and toilet items)...our room has everything.

This morning we have exchanged our personal views of last night in this city, while Ranjan was editing the photographs and recharging the camera. There is a long day of sightseeing ahead – we have to be out of the hotel by nine after breakfast which will be laid out downstairs.

There are no dust storms in this part of the world. The roads and paved sidewalks are smooth and there is no exposed earth anywhere unless one moves out to the countryside. The citizens go about their daily business either in large fast moving cars or on speedy bicycles. We saw ladies wearing smart helmets sailing by us recklessly on bikes – needless to say, they look beautiful. The Danes are exceptionally fit physically and very good looking. Besides, cycling keeps the weight in check and the body warm... last night, a well- lit street signboard showed the temperature as 13 deg Celsius.

I forgot to mention that while we were being taken to our hotel last evening on arrival, we saw a profusion of lovely pink and scarlet Rhododendrons in front of the airport, in full bloom. We could not photograph them well from our moving bus, a fact that I regret. As we hit the mainstream traffic, there were a number of cars ahead of us. One car looked very familiar....and at close quarters it turned out to be our own Maruti Swift! It felt great to find an Indian car in the midst of these big and fast foreign cars – it gave us a sense of pride.

28 May 7.40pm

There are no beggars in Denmark. Even a dustman goes for his annual holiday with his family to Thailand. Everybody earns according to the hours of work they put in. The average pay package is good. Taxation is very high and consequently living is expensive. To every price tag is attached a large tax. The money that the Danish government collects in this manner pays the fees for all school going children and takes care of the medical needs of its citizens. Retired people are also looked after by the Govt. Gentle stirrings of protest can be seen in today’s young Danes who are reluctant to pay heavy taxes from their hard earned money which go towards the medical and daily upkeep of Denmark’s senior citizens. The winds of change have begun to blow, but the present state of affairs will not alter unless some drastic reforms come in. Cars are very steeply priced because they are all imported and there is a heavy duty on them. The Govt therefore encourages the citizens to buy bicycles and there are special paths for the cyclists on every road, where the cyclist has the right of way. This also saves fuel and brings down pollution.

All the above was told to us by Fatima, our English speaking guide who gave us a tour of Copenhagen’s landmarks this morning. She has roots in Goa but having married a Dane she has gladly embraced the Danish lifestyle. She was waiting for us outside our hotel and we boarded the bus together. Today’s breakfast was a lavish one, with an array of fruits dry and fresh, meats, breads, cereals, juices and beverages to choose from. The large hard-boiled eggs of Europe with peachy pink shells were very much in evidence, augmented by a few varieties of Danish cheeses. Fried mushrooms and tomatoes were there too, and we were a well- fed lot that Fatima accompanied, talking to us about her country of adoption as the bus sped towards Frederiksborg Castle.

This royal residence was built by King Christian IV in the seventeenth century and now is a museum of National Danish History. Fatima recounted to us many stories of politics, love and intrigue that had this palace as a backdrop in Denmark’s bygone days of glory. It was a time when the Vikings ruled the seas and plundered and looted, and brought their treasures back to Denmark. We gazed at huge wall tapestries, intricately carved wooden furniture and pieces of art, with Fatima weaving a story about each object. We clicked as many snaps as we could.

Denmark at present has a queen who has been reigning for the last forty years- the Govt pays her almost 20 million Kroner annually for leading a leisurely life- she has no political ties with the Govt whatsoever and is glad to remain a figurehead. She has a very grand summer residence called Fredensborg Palace which we passed on our way to lunch. For this meal, we were driven to a cafe on the waterfront which is famous for fish preparations and Danish beer. An overpowering aroma of fried sea fish assaulted us upon entering this restaurant. It was too strong for my nostrils and I decided to join Ranjan for a veggie meal. They served us a large salad of chopped vegetables and boiled oats (Oats, pork and cheeses are export items here).This was accompanied by cooked sliced brinjal, boiled potatoes and beetroot very liberally tossed in olive oil. Coffee came last, and we sat sipping it and looking out at the stormy grey Baltic Sea. Finally we boarded the bus, and sat in it for a while, wondering why it was not moving. It turned out that one of our ladies had managed to lock herself in the toilet of the restaurant and there was quite a to- do till the damsel in distress was rescued!

Our next halt was in the town of Elsinore to see Kronborg castle, which is on the shore of the Baltic Sea at a point where the sea is only four km wide. Clearly visible on the other side is the Swedish town of Helsinborg. Being at a strategic point, this castle was a bastion of defence and saw many wars and war- related events. It was built in 1420. It is said that the king enjoyed music and dramatics and ordered plays to be enacted in the palace regularly for himself and for his young and beautiful queen. A couple of Englishmen who worked in this palace at that time carried tales of the plays performed here to England, relating them to William Shakespeare there. The Bard of Avon was so inspired by these tales that he took the story line of one such play and based his own play “Hamlet” on it. This became a “bestseller” of Shakespeare’s era, without Shakespeare himself having visited Kronborg Castle! There is a carving on the outer wall of the castle of the face of William Shakespeare with this legend underneath. I must mention here that this castle so bewitched one of our elderly tour members that she got lost in one of its numerous corridors and the exasperated guide had a difficult time locating her. She was found after a while, to everyone’s relief.

At three thirty pm precisely we returned with Fatima to the bus. Our driver then took a very picturesque and circuitous road through the Danish Riviera. This is a road beside the Baltic Sea, with the most beautiful villas on it. We absorbed all the serenity and scenic beauty in silent awe, our cameras clicking till we reached Copenhagen. Fatima had us dropped in a pedestrian’s lane close to our hotel for shopping, and then took leave of us. We walked along the busy thoroughfare hunting for a reasonably priced memento which was no easy task. That done, we trudged back to our hotel, tired but confidently this time, ready for some hot steaming tea in the privacy of our rooms.

After relaxing for a couple of hours we are now dressing to go down for dinner. So ends the second day of our tour.

29 May, 5.40am

A wayward sunbeam has filtered into our room again and I am up, bright and early. We are to check out this morning and board the bus along with our suitcases. After three hours of sightseeing we shall be taken to our ship which is due to leave the harbour at six in the evening.

This hotel is very centrally located. All landmarks are within walking distance. Yesterday, while on our way to the shopping lane, we crossed the Town Hall with its tall spire. The world renowned storyteller, Hans Christian Andersen (of Andersen’s Fairy Tales) hailed from Copenhagen and there is a giant sized statue of him in front of the Town Hall, where he is depicted seated wearing a top hat, overcoat and spectacles, holding a book in his hand. The statue is greenish in hue. The roof and dome of the town hall are green too. This is because all slanting roofs and towers of Denmark’s buildings are covered with copper for long- lasting protection. The statue too has lots of copper in it. The frequent rains and squalls have oxidised the initial rosy pink of the copper over the years, turning it into a dirty green. The weather is so treacherous here that all cars are driven with their headlights on during the day. This is a compulsory precaution all Scandinavians have to take.

Very close to our hotel is the Tivoli garden which is another famous landmark. We could have visited it last evening but we decided against it. It is a vast amusement park; our Appu Ghar in Delhi bears some resemblance to it. It was constructed in 1843, in the period of Denmark’s financial crisis, to bring in money to the country. The entrance ticket is expensive and one has to pay additionally for each amusement or game inside. There is a pantomime being staged continuously, along with a fanfare of music amidst a riot of flowers. Just like our elephant mascot Appu, the famous mascot in this park is “The Little Mermaid” from the story of Hans Christian Andersen. The statue of the little mermaid sits on a rock in the waters of the Tivoli Garden. Many replicas are found all over Denmark and tiny pieces are sold all over Denmark as tourist mementos.

29 May, 3.45 pm

I am looking out on a bright blue sea from our ship’s cabin as I write. We checked in around noon and are quite comfortable inside this massive ship.

We had moved out of our hotel in Copenhagen after a scrumptious breakfast where I feasted on fresh fruit, strawberry yoghurt, bread, cheese, sausages, apple juice and dried apricots. A new guide shepherded us into the bus which then drove through the city to yet another royal residence called Amelienborg Castle, which was the winter palace of the Danish Kings. This is where the Crown Jewels, arms, silver, ivory and porcelain of four hundred years vintage is stored. Clothes worn by King Christian IV that got bloodstained in his last battle are preserved here. I have never seen such exquisite and elaborate jewellery in my life. We stared at huge pieces of silver furniture and candelabra, and at beautifully carved pieces of Ivory with our mouths agape as we moved from room to room. The jewel encrusted solid Gold crowns of the kings glittered at us from their glass boxes. The porcelain, onyx and Jade pottery and crockery filled glass cabinets along the walls. The present queen, though she has her own personal jewellery, is allowed to borrow some of the crown jewels from this museum to wear on special occasions. She returns them promptly after use, of course!

At about noon we left the castle and headed for the pier where our ship, the MSC ORCHESTRA, was berthed. After getting our luggage screened and checked in, all of us stood in line holding out our cruise tickets and passports for identification before boarding. Suddenly, a plaintive wail was heard over the general hubbub. One of our senior ladies had forgotten her cruise ticket on her bed in the hotel back in Copenhagen! Fortunately, she remembered her cabin number and was carrying her passport. The people manning the reception let her board without much dispute.

We have a lovely and very comfortable cabin on deck eleven. Our ship weighs 92,000 Tonnes and has fifteen decks. There are two cane armchairs and a table in our own private balcony. There are at least a hundred cabins, if not more, on each deck. It is like a floating five star hotel. We were received on Deck 5 in a colossal reception hall done up in maroon velvet. Sparkling mirrored elevators carried us to our cabins on Deck 11. After freshening up, we took the elevator to Deck 13 where a buffet lunch is laid out daily for all cruise members. Salads, meats, fried and baked potatoes, breads, rice, pasta, eggs were presented in assorted preparations and we could eat as much as we pleased. There was a special cake station with the most mouth watering desserts. Both of us had two different kinds of pudding each. Wow...it certainly was an experience!

29 May, 11.45 pm

Punctually at six in the evening, the ship blew its horn thrice and slowly moved out of the harbour into the open sea. There was the faintest vibration to give us the feeling of motion, otherwise the huge vessel seemed to cut through the waters effortlessly and silently, moving quite fast as the churning waters in its flanks showed! A bottle of champagne, a bowl of fruit and a pretty pewter model of our ship arrived simultaneously in our cabin as complimentary gifts from the travel agents and the management. We sat in the balcony and took photographs.

Around seven, some of us gathered in Gen and Mrs Puri’s cabin carrying our own glasses and bottles of Champagne so that we could share it together. It was good fun! At eight we returned to our cabins and dressed for dinner.

Each cruise member has been given a cruise card which looks like a credit card and serves as one for shopping on board. On this card the member’s name is written along with his or her cabin number as well as the name of the restaurant in which he or she is supposed to dine and the number of the table on which to be seated. This card is also a key to open one’s locked cabin and switches on the cabin lights when we enter. On our card was printed “VILLA BORGHESE, table no 503, second sitting.” Going through the ship’s manual in our cabin, we discovered that the ship’s various restaurants serve meals in two sittings to accommodate the thousands of cruise members according to their accustomed mealtimes. Our mealtime is to be from 8.30 to 10pm. We took the elevator to Deck 5 to our restaurant and presented our cruise card there. We were led to our reserved table and shown the lavish Menu which was generally continental with a distinct Italian touch. We selected a cream of onion soup, a cheese and zucchini quiche, and a huge dessert consisting of two helpings of ice cream, cake and vanilla custard with chocolate. After dinner, we climbed the red carpeted staircase with shiny brass rails and full length landing mirrors up to Deck 6, browsing in the duty free shops until 10.40. We then moved through the Savannah bar on the same deck into the Covent Garden Theatre to see a show of acrobatics and dance set to Egyptian music, based on a story from the history of Egypt. It was amazingly good. Returned to the cabin after one hour and I am now getting ready to sleep. Ranjan is already snoring loudly!

30 May, 7.00 am, KIEL, GERMANY

Our ship has slowed down to a crawl. Through the French windows of our balcony I can see the scenic waterfront and buildings of Kiel, Germany. Last night through dinner our ship was making very good speed. So too, while we slept. The sailing has been so smooth because of the large size of the ship. The water too, has been calm. We shall shortly be going up to Deck 13 for breakfast – before disembarking at 10 am for sightseeing.

30 May, 4 pm

After a hearty breakfast of muesli, fruit, yoghurt, sausages, fried mushrooms and potatoes, cheese, vanilla muffin, fruit juice, cooked prunes and coffee between the two of us, we assembled on Deck 6 in the reception area so that we could move out together. We left instructions with our room steward to get Ranjan’s formal suit ironed for the pending cocktail with the ship’s captain.

On boarding the bus we were dismayed to find that our local guide had failed to put in an appearance. Brig and Mrs Khanna who are taking this cruise with us, found a quick solution to our problem. They have a son studying in nearby Hamburg. He had arrived in Kiel this morning to meet his parents, and he happens to have a smattering of German on him. After a brief conversation with the German bus driver and a peep into the local tourist bureau, this young lad undertook to show us around the city. His magnanimous parents gladly shared him with us!

Kiel saw a lot of maritime activity in the years gone by and still continues to do so. It hosted the Olympic Regattas in 1936 and again in 1972. It got heavily bombed and lost most of its monuments in World War II. However, the church of St Nikolai built in 1242 still stands. We were taken to see it. Today being Sunday, morning service was on, so we refrained from making noise and moved around the back of the church clicking snaps of the tall stained glass window and the huge cross above the altar. We also visited the Olympic Village with its clean houses and flats on the waterfront. I was intrigued by the words “Einfarht”, ‘Farhten”, “Ausfarht” that one came across on the street corners and on some walls. Ranjan who knows some German explained that the word “Farht” means path or way. We returned to the ship at 2.00 pm through the Farhts of Kiel, and went up to Deck 13 for a satisfying lunch. Today, in addition to the previous day’s items on the counter, there was mutton curry with potatoes and rice pilaff (Pulao) with peas the way we Bengalees make it. Those of us who were missing Indian food were quite happy with this change.

Today’s programme included an emergency drill at 3.30pm to familiarize us with emergency procedures. At 3.30 sharp the emergency siren blew seven short blasts followed by a long one. We collected our life jackets from our cupboards and walked down four decks (the lifts had been de-activated) to our muster station where we were taught the correct way of donning the jackets.

We are now waiting for our ship to sail out of Kiel, and looking forward to this evening’s gathering in Gen Noble Thamburaj’s room. Some champagne bottles are still lying unopened and he has invited us to his cabin so that everyone can share them.

30 May, 10.15 pm

There are a number of well got- up shops on Decks 6 and 7. They are all duty free and hence are a temptation for all of us who like to use quality perfumes, watches, goggles, jewellery, clothes, drinks, cosmetics and so on.

There are many restaurants, bars, theatres and lounges in this ship, all elaborately decorated and very beautiful. The gigantic vessel is a hive of activity twenty four hours of the day. Both of us went on an expedition of exploration in the evening through the ship’s carpeted corridors. Every shop had some concession to offer on certain selected items. I bought myself a gold-plated chain and received a bracelet with it free of cost. The wares were very tastefully displayed. The lounges had music playing. People were dancing to the beat, while others were sitting sipping drinks and chatting. A festive atmosphere prevailed because everyone was on holiday! It was time to visit Noble and Anita, so we went up to their cabin and knocked. Somebody threw open the door. There was bedlam inside...thirty people stuffed in a room meant for two, all very happy with themselves and talking at the tops of their voices! So much of positive energy and good feeling in that tiny space. After a few minutes we all said goodbye to the host couple and moved to our restaurant for dinner. The waiter who serves us knows our faces by now. He said that along with the normal menu the cook had prepared additional dal, rice, matter paneer and parantha for us. We had to try his Indian recipes because we did not want to disappoint him! The taste was a trifle odd, but not too bad on the whole.

Every night, a steward pushes a printed programme of the next day’s planned activities into our rooms through the slit under each cabin door. Tomorrow’s programme has arrived just now. We shall read it before turning in. Some of our crowd are going gambling in the ship’s casino at three in the morning while some are catching the late night dance show in the theatre...but we have decided to get a good night’s rest.

31 May, 9.00 am

Last night we had called the reception and asked them to send us bed tea, so this morning at seven thirty we were awakened by a soft knock on the door from the pretty stewardess who complied with our request.

The ship’s address system is now blaring with the announcement that it is 9 deg Celsius outside and windy. All the in- house activities planned for this morning are being apprised to the public, as there will be no docking today and we shall continue on the high seas till we reach Stockholm tomorrow morning.

After a leisurely bath each, we are now proceeding to the top deck for breakfast. Ranjan plans to visit the internet cafe and to try out the Jacuzzi sometime today. Some of our friends are going in for a massage at the spa. They say that a massage in this ship is a wonderful experience. The masseurs are polite and courteous and very good with their hands, though their handiwork is frightfully expensive. Ah, well...each one of us is free to do our own thing today, and we are doing it!

The entire ship is centrally heated and very snug and cosy. The icy blast hits you if you open the French windows and move to the balcony. Yet, you can sleep in your cabin without your blanket if you so choose!

31 May, 10.30 pm

This evening we had been invited for cocktails with the captain in the Amber lounge. All of us dressed up in formal clothes and met at the lounge at 6.15 pm. We were served all kinds of drinks and light snacks. After half an hour we moved to the theatre in the same deck. The Captain climbed up on the stage and called his crew members up one by one to introduce them to us. He thanked us for taking our holiday on his ship. Then followed a power- packed performance of Italian vocal music and dance, a very novel experience for us.

We have returned after dinner to our cabin and it is still not completely dark out on the sea. By midnight it should get dark completely outside. The next day’s bulletin says that the sun will rise at 3.40 am. Since the latitude of this zone is high, the nights are extremely short and the day lasts for 18 to 20 hours.

01 June, 7.00 am STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN

After yesterday’s rainy weather on the grey sea, today is a beautiful morning. The ship is moving along the heavily wooded coast of Sweden into the harbour of Stockholm. From the balcony we can see the beautiful houses on the waterfront, each with its private jetty. Coniferous and other trees in all shades of green surround these houses. The shore is clean, with trimmed grass growing right up to the water. Unlike the sandy beaches of other countries, the Swedish coastline is thickly forested. This is because the sea water in these parts has a very low salinity which is near normal. All houses in Scandinavia have sloping roofs because rain is extremely frequent. Fatima had told us that lack of sunlight causes a deficiency of Vitamin D in the people. This in turn is responsible for depression and drives a few of them even to commit suicide. All this in such Heavenly surroundings...who would have thought it possible? I guess the other side of the coin always exists below the shining and visible top.

01 June, 11 pm

Sweden is a bejewelled collection of islands, so pretty yet so many of them are uninhabited. It is amazing how a massive ship like ours manoeuvres itself and moves between these numerous islands. For this we have to praise the ancient sea- faring Nords and Viking warriors and pirates, who have mapped out the deeper channels and marked them with buoys and lighthouses.

We set out for a tour of the city at 10 am. We had five hours to do so, and that seemed very little for covering the beautiful and historical spots. We had a double decker bus to ourselves and an able guide in Cecilia who told us about Stockholm’s past and present. She took us to the Town Hall where the seven political parties have their parliamentary sitting. On the floor above is the Hall of Gold where marriages take place. Tiny squares of gold leaf are hammered on the entire walls to create pictures depicting the major historical events of Sweden. We are told that 10.5 Kg of gold was used to decorate the hall in this fashion. We were then taken to the Old City Hall and the Royal Palace which we saw from outside due to lack of time. From the bus we were also shown the building where the Nobel Laureation Ceremony takes place and the Nobel prizes are distributed. The fact that Alfred Nobel was a Swede was news to me. Sweden is as expensive as Denmark but here we saw fewer cycles and a lot many cars. In fact this large number of cars creates congestion on the narrow island. To decrease the congestion during the working hours (6.30 am to 6.30 pm) the Govt has imposed a tax. All car owners who drive into the city during these hours have to pay this tax! Imagine what it would feel like in our country if we had to pay money for moving in our own transport from place A to place B within the city! To avoid tax, many people move about before and after this time period....consequently creating congestion outside working hours.

After some good camera- clicking and shopping for souvenirs, we returned to the ship. It was 3.30 pm and we were famished. All of us raided Deck 13 and had either a late lunch or an early tea. We had both! Our ship glided out of port at 5.00pm.

This evening there was a sale of perfumes. I convinced Ranjan to buy two good ones for himself at a concession. We have returned after a prolonged dinner at Villa Borghese. Tomorrow we shall dock in Tallinn, Estonia.

02 June, 10.00 pm, TALLINN, ESTONIA

Tallinn is a small port city, yet it is the largest in Estonia, housing one third of the total Estonian population of 1.3 million. It has a history of wars like Denmark and Sweden. It has a very well preserved Old city which was built during the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries. Parts of the old city wall still stands with the City gate and many guard towers.

As usual we had five hours of touring for today, having started at ten in the morning. We were driven to the open air museum where the Estonians have preserved their rural culture. Wooden dwellings with thatched roofs were standing in clusters in grassy clearings in a beautifully verdant forested area through which we walked. We saw old and young people in peasant garb working around their homes. The ladies were busy knitting and weaving. Wood whittling, knitting and weaving is their local craft and pottery to some extent. They create exquisite objects with their hands. We saw the mode of transport of their farm gentry- a horse drawn cart. Their eighteenth century pub was the place where people gathered and socialised. Though only men were allowed inside, there were rustic wooden benches outside where the wives and marriageable daughters of the farmers could sit and be given the once- over by aspiring young grooms and their parents.

Our next halt was at Nevsky Cathedral which is famous for its Turkish architecture and beautiful domes, a gold altar and many stained glass windows. Photography was not allowed, more is the pity. From this point we did the rest of the tour on foot, as the town is small. We passed the old church of the thirteenth century inside the hall of which the Estonians have been burying their deceased nobility for a fee. Layers of dead bodies built up in the limited floor area over the years, literally creating a stink. Hence the practice of burial within the church was stopped in the eighteenth century.

Walking on through the narrow winding cobbled streets of the town, past wayside pubs flaunting their ales, we arrived at a gaily colourful market square with white canopied stalls selling the craft of Tallinn. Our guide told us that this town has no heavy industry and generates income only through tourism. There was very pretty lacy linen, knitted and woven woollens, jewellery and pottery items, smooth wooden boxes and other numerous gewgaws for sale. There was a cafe in the square, with its tables covered with checked cotton cloth and chairs neatly arranged under a striped awning where the husbands immediately seated themselves and placed order for beer! The wives in our group and the single ladies broke up into groups of two and three and went merrily shopping. There was a red toy train that was tooting its horn and taking old people around the square for a price. There were cute solar powered rickshaws, some of them manned by young girls! A gay and festive atmosphere prevailed, as the sun overhead played hide and seek with the clouds.

Amber is a precious commodity extracted from the Baltic Sea. I had seen numerous shops in Copenhagen, Kiel and Stockholm selling Amber Jewellery. In Tallinn there are twice as many shops and I ventured to buy a set of earrings and a pendant here.

It was already thee in the afternoon and the ladies had been shopping with abandon for a fairly long time. Our guide had great difficulty in pulling them out of the shops and herding them towards the waiting bus. Somehow we managed to reach the ship before it pulled up its gangplank. Like yesterday, we returned ravenously hungry and descended on the buffet counter of Deck 13 for lunch and tea!

In all the ports we have seen so far, we have found a profusion of pretty flowers in every possible hue and shade. Tallinn was no exception. Just before we boarded the bus to return to port, we walked through the most abundant and blooming flower market. All we could do was take photographs. There was no time for a closer look at the flowers of this lovely country, much to our regret.

03 June, 7.00 pm, ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA

St Petersburg is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities of the world. It has about two hundred museums that preserve its history, art, culture and maritime activities of the past four centuries. The buildings are unparalleled in their architecture, the most important and beautiful ones standing on the banks of the river Neva that runs through the heart of the town. Known as Petrograd after the Tsar Peter the Great, it came to be known as Leningrad later. Finally in 1992 it was christened as St Petersburg, in memory of the saint of that name.

We were let loose on this city at 8 am and 9degrees Celsius, pouring out of the ship wearing all manner of jackets, coats and caps. The cruise management in collaboration with the Russian Govt had given each one of us a single day’s visa into this town. We found these papers lying on our bed when we arrived in our cabin after dinner last night. Hence it took the Russian Port Authority only a couple of minutes to check our credentials before we were whisked away in the bus. We drove alongside the river Neva past their stock exchange building and the tall red columns of victory. Every time a ship was captured in the olden days, its bow was sculpted on the column. We stopped outside the imposing Cathedral of Spilled Blood, so called because it was at that precise site that Tsar Alexander II was killed by a bomb. It has lovely domes of Turkish origin and we were given time to photograph its splendour.

The Tsars of Russia were known for their tyranny. They oppressed their subjects, amassed wealth, built the most extravagant and elaborately decorated churches and other edifices and looted and plundered to such an extent that the irate public rose in rebellion and killed these monarchs one by one, going so far as to extinguish their bloodline completely. Their royal remains however are interred with due respect inside the Cathedral of Peter and Paul. I guess this is the least that the people of Russia could do for their erstwhile rulers!

The Cathedral of St Isaac is the richest cathedral in Russia and its dome is second only to that of St Peter’s in Rome. Our guide Natalia took us inside and left us to admire the magnificence of the mosaic paintings, sculptures and wall panelling. The inside of the church was glittering with gold artefacts and gold wall frescos. The roof above the altar was supported by smooth graceful columns wrapped completely with squares of bright blue Lapis Lazuli and green Malachite. I have never ever set my eyes on anything so gorgeous and breathtaking. The next halt was a large souvenir store where we could buy gifts and souvenirs for our friends and family. We were told to return in twenty minutes, but the range, variety and beauty of the souvenirs, especially those famous Faberge eggs, so entranced us that we had to be torn away to resume our tour after an hour and a half! We were taken to the “Hermitage” which comprises four regal buildings on the banks of the Neva and houses the massive art collection and treasure accumulated by the Tsars. Earlier, the Hermitage was a royal palace. Some of the original parquet flooring still exists there. As we moved inside looking at the astounding collection, we realised that this museum is probably comparable to the Louvre of Paris. Unfortunately, photography was forbidden.

After we had got sated with the beautiful pieces of art, pottery, furniture and so on, were taken to a Russian restaurant for lunch. I enjoyed a plate of tasty baked fish. Ranjan always asks for a veggie meal since he became a vegetarian five years ago. All he got was a plate of raw salad and soup. During this entire tour, hotels found great difficulty in producing vegetarian fare. Their cooks add chicken/mutton/beef stock to every dish. They get stymied by the pure vegetarians!

Post lunch we drove to the Cathedral of Peter and Paul which is on an island on the Neva and approached by a prettily curved bridge. It has a spire 125 metres high, wrapped in a thin layer of pure gold. All Tsars and their immediate kin are buried here in shiny white marble coffins in front of the altar of the church. The walls, ceiling and pulpit of the church are done up in gold in the usual fashion of Imperial Russia, but the rows of cold marble coffins with the big gold crosses on them are a macabre sight. Well, we got busy taking snaps.... suddenly it was past five in the evening. Time to return to the ship! As this is the last stop of our cruise, we were a little subdued as we boarded the bus. Soon the city was left behind us. There was so much yet to explore....for instance, the deepest Metro in the world is sets and a series of plays, amusements and other performances continue throughout the night in public places in the pink twilight. There was just no time to sample these joys, not to mention the two hundred other museums that were waiting to be seen in this city. Our guide had so many more stories up her sleeve about this country that has produced famous and notorious people like Rasputin, Pushkin, Gorky and Solzhenytsin. A little regretfully we returned to the ship, saturated with the beauty and grandeur that we had absorbed during the entire day.

04 June, 4 pm AT SEA

The ship has been moving continuously since last night. Today and tonight we shall spend at sea, docking at Copenhagen tomorrow at eight in the morning. After leisurely bed tea in our cabin and a substantial breakfast on Deck 13, we moved to one of the theatres for instructions for landing at Copenhagen. Each city that we visited had a time difference from the previous one, so we had to set the watches forward by an hour every day. Now we are returning, so the process is being reversed and we have to set our watches back by an hour daily. Brown luggage tags were distributed to those of us disembarking tomorrow.

The sea was squally, but the Jacuzzi was warm and frothy, so Ranjan went for his much- postponed dip in it on the top deck. I kept myself amused looking at all the items on sale in the Grand Bazaar organised on Deck 6. Curios from Russia, branded jewellery, handbags, perfumes and beauty products, clothes, watches and cameras- all were on sale. I bought a few things and we proceeded for lunch- our last lunch of this cruise. We have a farewell get- together in the evening followed by the farewell dinner.

Tomorrow morning we have to clear out of our cabins by seven, hence all packing must be done tonight. All in all it has been a wonderful experience for us- the trip of a lifetime.

Looking forward to two days in Istanbul now!

05 June, 9.30 pm, ISTANBUL

This morning we rose even before our cabin telephone rang with our 5 o’clock wake- up call. Dinner last night had been a gala affair at the end of which uniformed cooks entered the hall in a long line each carrying a flaming pudding. In the background, a chorus was being sung in their praise as the flames of brandy died down. Employees of the ship’s photo shop had been clicking snaps of us throughout the last week, and now they had been displayed in the hope that we would buy some of them.

Very late at night, after attending part of an after- dinner show in the ship’s theatre, we watched the sun set on the sea...the whole ship was lit up and talent contests and dance competitions were carrying on till the small hours. We had been told to leave our packed luggage by 1 am outside our cabins in the corridor. Stewards were busy wheeling it all into the ship’s hold on stealthy feet so as not to disturb those passengers who chose to sleep...

At 6.30 am we checked out of our cabins and took the elevator to Deck 5 to the accounts section to square up our accounts. The young people on the counter cleared our dues and returned our balance with smiling efficiency. We then went up to Deck 15 for breakfast, after which our Sapper group assembled in the Amber bar on Deck 6, waiting for our call to disembark. Our brown coloured luggage tags had been delivered to our rooms the night before and we had tagged our suitcases with them.

On disembarking, we looked at the neatly stored rows of luggage which were awaiting our arrival on the pier. It was easy to spot the row with the brown tags, which we identified and loaded into the bus that carried us to Copenhagen airport. We checked in and showed our documents at three different counters before we could finally board the plane to Istanbul.

At Istanbul airport there was a huge crowd of tourists and it took us an hour and a half to move outside. Our guide was patiently waiting for us with a placard bearing our names. Her name is Shukran and she is a pleasant lady. She summoned a coach and dropped us to our hotel. We are only four couples touring this place now. Shukran informed us that the hotel does not serve drinking water, and that the tap water of our bathrooms is not potable. I remember having heard a similar warning from my brother who had visited Istanbul last year. Hence, having sent our luggage up to our rooms, we set out to the shops outside our hotel to buy bottles of mineral water. On Shukran’s advice we had exchanged some Euros for Turkish Lira at the airport itself. Armed with bottles of drinking water we entered the dining hall of the hotel together. It was eight o’clock already, and a buffet dinner was in progress. There was lentil soup and all manner of raw chopped vegetable salads. There were some cooked salads too and bread, rice, fish cutlets and a delicious pudding. We ate well and came upstairs to bed, clutching our precious bottles of water. It had really been a long day of travelling, queuing again and again, walking and waiting for us. We were dead beat and all of us tucked in early.

06 June, 6.30 pm, ISTANBUL

The wakeup call awoke us at 6.30 am. Our hotel is very comfortable. We have a room on the sixth floor with a large window overlooking a busy street. An additional feature in the bathroom is a sparkling white bathtub. The Turkish are renowned for enjoying occasional and leisurely baths in Hamaams- I guess that is why the tub is there. Bathing in public Hamaams was a social custom in the days of yore. Lack of fresh water prompted it and entire families moved together once or twice a week to avail of this facility. Paradoxically, there is no dearth of SEA water in and around Turkey! We shall not have time for a Turkish bath- I would have certainly liked to try it. Well, this morning we took hurried baths standing in the tub under the shower (the local people would be very disappointed with us if they get to know this) and descended for breakfast. There was Turkish bread with three kinds of fresh homemade transparent runny jam inside which I could actually see the grapes, apricots and pineapple pieces. Plenty of meats, cheeses, fresh fruits and yoghurt along with boiled eggs, olives and beverages made up the menu. At eight thirty Shukran arrived and we were taken to the Sofia Church. Churches date back to the time when turkey was called “Constantinople”. King Constantin ruled then and was very active in propagating Christianity and building churches for his people, though he did not embrace this religion himself. We got off the coach and walked to the famous Blue Mosque nearby; “blue” because the engravings inside the marble walls of the mosque are all in blue (turquoise to be precise). This mosque was built by sultan Ahmed in the sixteenth century and has the traditional four tall towers, one at each corner of the large cobbled courtyard. It is still in use and lit with chandeliers for us to see the intricacy of the stained glass windows and engraved walls, the old pulpit from where the Imam spoke and the raised balcony where the king sat. In those days there were no lights and tall candles were used, which produced a lot of soot. However, the air circulation was so planned that all the sooty fumes were directed to a particular place where the soot was collected to make printers ink! There were no microphones. Large clay pots were used and placed at strategic points to increase the acoustics of the main hall so that the Imam’s voice could be heard by all.

On the way out, we saw a little boy dressed in fur and velvet, looking like a prince, heading towards the mosque. Shukran said that his parents were taking him for his circumcision ceremony. No wonder his face was grim!

Right next to the blue mosque is the Hippodrome which dates back to the time when the Romans had a hold of Turkey, before the Turks took over. Large public events like races and galas were conducted here. In Turkey, every public place has a large fountain constructed by the rulers for making drinking water available to people. At present these fountains do not function, but look very decorative. We have photographed some of them. A tall obelisk stands in the centre of the Hippodrome. It was brought from Egypt in pieces and the stone blocks were assembled and erected here. It has Egyptian hieroglyphics engraved on the granite.

Turkey produces and exports a great variety of leather products ( jackets, handbags and coats for brands like Gucci, Armani et al ), Shukran took us to one such leather factory showroom where we were welcomed and made to sit down in a hall around a catwalk. Small glasses of cold Apple Tea (a Turkish speciality) were served to us. We were tired from the constant roaming and gladly accepted the drink. Suddenly, lively music began to play and two petite young maidens and two handsome young men came down the catwalk wearing the most up- market leather jackets in all shades of cream beige and tan, posing with confidence and showing off the exquisite cut of the garments. The urge to possess such beautiful pieces of clothing was becoming irresistible. Ranjan was clicking snaps to record the beauty and ambience of the scene. Suddenly one young man stepped down from the ramp, pulled me up from my chair in one fluid movement and sashayed up the catwalk with me into the trial room beyond. The models inside found a lovely fur- lined red leather coat to match my red salwar suit and made me wear it. The music was catchy and soon the young man had me modelling with him on stage, to the audience’s delight! Soon, basic good sense prevailed. The coat was too expensive and I had no need for it so we did not buy it. But I have a photograph of myself in it....it was a grand heady feeling....I know now what a boost one’s confidence gets when one wears very pretty and very expensive clothes, One of our friends managed to buy two jackets for his sons after bargaining and beating down their prices.

Time for a cruise on the Bosporus, which is a strait that divides Turkey into two parts. We boarded a powerful launch and took off down the seaway for a beautiful ride lasting an hour and a half. Shukran pointed out important landmarks on both shores and we all enjoyed hot coffee on the boat. It was very windy on the top deck so we sat downstairs in the lounge with glass windows on the sides, which was cosy. We came back soon to where we started from. We were intrigued to see three small boats anchored near our launch, with their owners frying pieces of sea- fish on skillets and selling them to eager buyers. There were chairs and a table in each of the boats for their guests to sit and enjoy the fried fish. When our launch arrived, it churned up the water around it and these three boats started rocking violently. Their owners seemed to be quite used to this movement. They did not turn a hair nor did their fish pieces fall out of the griddles. I would have felt very sick if I had to eat in such shaky circumstances!

Lunchtime had arrived unbeknownst to us. Shukran took us to a Kebab House since everybody wanted to sample Turkish cuisine. We were served mushroom soup with Turkish “Pita” bread which is like a cooked pizza base, with buttered salted rice and tasty chicken kebabs. Ranjan was served with a Turkish version of Pizza- a large helping of cheese and cooked vegetables placed on Pita bread and then baked a nice golden brown.

After lunch we were taken to see the Topkapi Palace which was the seat of the Ottoman Dynasty for some centuries. It is on a hill by the sea, and has three big courtyards. The first courtyard with the entrance houses a church dating back to the sixth century. The dome is like a Turkish mosque and sports a half moon with a star on the spike atop the dome. Very Muslim- looking, yet it is a church.

The second courtyard had the cookhouses, the harem and the Diwan, or Parliament. The unwanted ladies of the Royal Harem ( once they dropped from the sultan’s favours) were married off to the noblemen of the Sultan’s court. The Diwan hall has a beautiful ceiling. The king did not sit with his courtiers to discuss official topics. His place was overhead, hidden from view by a grill of gold behind which he sat. He could see his subjects but they could not see him.

The third courtyard accommodates a museum in four dark stone walled rooms, inside which photography is forbidden. The exhibits were laid in locked glass cases embedded in the walls with intermittent lighting. We walked round the rooms in a queue with the other tourists, gaping at the opulent jewellery, bowls, flasks, writing boxes, chalices, swords, medals of honour and even coats of arms, all of gold with large colourful gems encrusted on them. The wealth of these kings knew no bounds, it appears. One room had a collection of gem- encrusted thrones. Among these was a throne from India that Nadir Shah took from the Moghuls and presented to Mahmud of Turkey. One room had a huge 86 carat diamond, which, so the story goes, a street peddler exchanged for three spoons! When he took it to the jeweller to get it valued, a hue and cry arose because the jeweller declared it as priceless. It was brought to the Sultan who had it cut and polished and made into an ornament for adorning his head dress. Now it glitters in the showcase and catches every eye in the room.

We were supposed to do some shopping in the Taksim area and were taken there to do so. It is a busy and sophisticated shopping zone, but before our bus could reach it the rain came down in torrents and puddles accumulated on the roads. As soon as the bus stopped and we alighted, hawkers materialised from nowhere and surrounded us, selling transparent plastic umbrellas; quite attractive they were too! Two of our ladies were happy to buy them. The rain refused to stop, so we took a general vote and decided to go back to our rooms for a nice cup of hot tea. We are now resting before we move out again at 8.30. There is a belly dance show in a showhouse named “Gar” where we shall be served dinner as the night unfolds. I have seen belly dancers before in India, and now I shall see them in their home ground....

06 June, 11.55 pm

We have just returned from the entertainment. The management of ‘Gar” had sent a coach to bring us to their venue. It arrived at 8.40 sharp. The manager was waiting for us outside the theatre. He led us into a gigantic hall with long tables covered with white cloth, where about three hundred people were seated. We sat down at a table reserved for us which had a small flag of Turkey and one of India standing side by side at one end. We were served with wine of our choice and our dinner arrived in three courses. The platters were so full of different preparations that I had to very regretfully waste food each time. In the mean time, folk dances of Turkey were being performed on the stage in front of us by three young couples dressed in their traditional costumes. Their dance items were but fillers....the actual belly dances came later, skilfully and confidently executed by three belly dancers whose graceful and rapid vibrations of stomach and pelvic muscles quite captivated us. There was nothing vulgar about them...one of them smilingly posed with us for a photograph. They kept calling people from the audience on stage and invited them to imitate their movements, keeping us amused and connecting with us at the same time. The Middle Eastern music was superb.

At 10.45 pm, after the dancers had departed, a short slim lady with an immensely powerful voice came on stage along with the musicians who had been behind the stage so far. The hall was filled with Indians, Iranians, Koreans, Turks and Greeks; all sitting in their own groups on separate tables. This lady began by singing Turkish songs in her golden voice. She had a very warm smile and she made everyone relax and feel special, addressing each table in turn. Suddenly she called all eight of us on stage and asked the audience to give her Indian friends a big hand, which they did. She then amazed us by singing old familiar Hindi film songs, one after another in perfect tune and beat! She handed us a second microphone, and soon we were all singing along with her....some chose to dance too. After four songs, she thanked us and clapped for us. Brig Chaudhry who sings rather well and cannot resist a mike, also gave a song which the audience appreciated. We were all warm and glowing because each of us felt welcomed and important. We experienced the same warmth this morning at the fashion show in the leather factory. These people are hard core professionals but they also know how to look after their guests.

The show ended at eleven thirty and we got into the coach after thanking the manager who saw us off. We should have reached our hotel in two minute but four minutes passed and we realised that we were driving in circles...the next minute, our driver stopped outside “Gar” again. Surprised and mystified, we looked out of the window. The manager was standing outside the closed theatre holding a small satchel belonging to Brig Tipsy Chaudhry. It contained his ticket, passport and all his money.....he had left it hanging at the back of his chair and forgotten about it! When he saw the manager holding it out to him quietly, he had the grace to blush. Thus ended another long day.

07 June, 4.15 pm

This morning we were up early, finishing our packing in record time. We were down for breakfast and had checked out by 8.45 am, just as Shukran arrived. We piled into the coach along with the luggage.

Our first stop was Spice Bazaar where all the exotic spices of the Middle East are available. We were mostly interested in buying Saffron and the delicacy called Turkish Delight. There were hundreds of shops selling a multitude of things. Shukran took us to a reliable shop and we bought some Turkish Delight and some preserved fruit for ourselves.

The bazaar is a magical place- the cottage industry flourishes and there are a hundred kinds of inexpensive curios on sale. The Turkish evil eye, the small hanging candle stands of coloured glass with metal chains, the colourful ceramic bowls and pitchers, the carpets and bags, the spices and olive oil, leather belts and purses, rare pashmina shawls and cloaks- oh, the bazaar was full of all this and it was really a feast for the eyes. The most beautiful objects were the pieces of Turkish jewellery in gold and silver- plain as well as gem- studded. Their craftsmanship is amazing and very superior. We bought tiny gifts for all our loved ones and assembled at the appointed time in the bus which drove us to the Grand Bazaar. This is an even bigger maze of lanes and by lanes and one can easily get lost in them because all lanes look similar- they glitter with the bright colourful goods of Turkey. There were many, many shops displaying gold and silver articles of jewellery, all of them beautifully finished and very alluring. We were four couples altogether, and I think each of the four ladies bought some jewellery for herself. It was too tempting and our husbands tolerated our extravagance with smiles....they had little choice! We all had to do a tremendous amount of haggling, but it was highly enjoyable.

One hour flew by swiftly and it was time for lunch. We were taken to a lane of eating houses opposite the fish market of Istanbul which is on the waterfront. Small square tables and chairs were laid out on the paths bordering the cobbled lane on both sides. These eateries served different preparations of sea fish cooked in olive oil and seasoned with herbs. We ended our lunch with a liberal helping of watermelon slices, peaches and cherries. The fruits are plentiful here and fruits and yoghurt are part of the Turkish staple diet. Brinjal ( eggplant ) is their favourite vegetable and is very much in evidence in every meal. Shukran has given us many recipes for cooking brinjal.

All too soon, we had reached the airport and it was time to say goodbye to Shukran who had become a friend. We hugged fondly and exchanged email IDs.

Our luggage has been checked in and we are sitting in the transit lounge, looking at the parked and taxiing aircraft outside. It is drizzling and the sea and hills on the horizon are grey blurs. We are carrying wonderful memories with us; memories of a great trip in the company of friends, a trip in which we saw and discovered many new facets of the culture and lifestyle of yet another part of our great, wide world.
 
Date of Posting: 17 February 2015
Posted By: Mrs Bulbul Goswami
Went on Scandinavian Cruise for Sappers - May 2010, Pune


Contact Us

Address

208-209, 'A' Wing,
Parmar Trade Centre,
Sadhu Vaswani Chowk,
Pune, India - 411001

Phone +91-20-26055156/57
Fax +91-20-26055158
Email contact@holidaybash.net
conference@holidaybash.net
tours@holidaybash.net

Branch Offices

  • Delhi
  • Chandigarh
  • Shimla

Facilitation Offices

  • Australia
  • New Zealand
Members