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Copenhagen

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If Copenhagen were a person, that person would be generous, beautiful, elderly, but with a flair. A human being that has certain propensities for quarrelling, filled with imagination and with appetite for the new and with respect for the old – somebody who takes good care of things and of people.

                                                                         –Connie Nielson

Copenhagen is the epitome of Scandi cool. Modernist lamps light New Nordic tables, bridges buzz with cycling commuters and eye-candy locals dive into pristine waterways (Lonely Planet)

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Copenhagen break was planned as a long bank holiday weekend getaway. Highly recommended by my boss, who visited the city in May and my friend, who visited in March this year. We took our flight from Luton airport and the flight was only 1 hour 20 minutes. We had booked a nice apartment on Airbnb which was in zone 2 and one straight metro line took us straight from the airport to the apartment and also 3 stops to city center!!

The next day, we took the S line trains to the central station from where we walked to Tivoli gardens which was our first stop, then to the city hall square, Glyptotek Museum, Christianborg Palace (Ruins under the palace and view of the city from top of the palace is mind-blowing), Amalienborg Palace, Our saviours Church (climbed to the tip of the church and almost froze!!), Hans Christain Anderson’s famous Little mermaid, and various churches and museums.

Lunched at a place called  Papirøen (Paper Island) at the Copenhagen Street Food market. Based in an old warehouse with views of the opera building and Copenhagen’s canals, Papirøen provides a tasty and scenic escape from the crowded city center, and anything we ate was just heavenly…..street food at its best!! They also have foosball tables, perfect for a game with friends or family, and an events board. When the weather is warm enough, the fun continues outside with more picnic benches and spots for you to eat your food by the water!

  Papiroen

After lunch we headed off to Christania which is a free town, in the middle of the city, where photography and pokemon hunting is prohibited. You will have to follow rules laid down by the locals, weed is a common thing, chilled out music is a must and free-flowing alcohol everywhere; but remember to be a good sport and bin your rubbish!

Second day was purely based on Castle touring. Except for Rosenborg Castle, most are at least a 30 minutes journey on the train. The one castle that blew me away was the Kronborg Castle, where Shakespeare’s Hamlet was based. The castle inside is like any other castles, but the fact that we got to see each scene from the book being played live in the actual rooms was just incredible!!

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Take a walk beside the canal in Nyhavn and enjoy the  astounding architecture and the colours of the buildings. This city is full of surprises along with its rich history- from super modern brutalist architecture in every corner to places like Bob-Marley-themed chilled out Christiania. This city with its rich history and culture treats its people right and gives them the quality of life they all deserve.

 

Note: Experiencing Michelin food at Noma is a must but remember book to early, it took us 3 months on the waiting list!!!!

Book Review

The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbøl

Nina Borg, a Red Cross nurse, wife, and mother of two, is a compulsive do-gooder who can’t say no when someone asks for help—even when she knows better. When her estranged friend Karin leaves her a key to a public locker in the Copenhagen train station, Nina gets suckered into her most dangerous project yet. Inside the locker is a suitcase, and inside the suitcase is a three-year-old boy: naked and drugged, but alive.

When Karin is discovered brutally murdered, Nina realizes that her life and the boy’s are in jeopardy, too. In an increasingly desperate trek across Denmark, Nina tries to figure out who the boy is, where he belongs, and who exactly is trying to hunt him down (Good Reads)

Srilanka

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Endless beaches, timeless ruins, welcoming people, oodles of elephants, rolling surf, cheap prices, fun trains, famous tea and flavourful food describe Sri Lanka- I have been endlessly amazed by the Sri Lankans’ ability to overcome disaster, war and myriad other challenges as they work tirelessly to make their country match its potential, while remaining some of the most charming people on the planet

                                                                                                                            Ryan Ver Berkmoes

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Day One:

As recommended by a family, we rented a car with Driver from Orayan tours. Our driver picked us up from the airport, helped us exchange pounds to local currency, got us two local sim cards and dropped us at the hotel. The hotel was the Best Western Elyon Colombo with a roof top bar, where we had our first Srilankan dinner under the sky with a full moon.

Day Two:

We started our journey south and our stops included the picturesque Bentota Beach with its coral blue water, Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery where we saw our first white (Albino) giant turtle, Galle Fort with is beautiful Dutch-colonial buildings, went island hoping (Cinnamon, Nurugala Temple etc.) on the Madu River where I also tried my first King Coconut from a floating coconut shop, sat down for the worst coffee of our life at Unuwatuna beach (a bit touristy and crowded) and drove through Hikkaduwa beach with a few stops to take pictures, until we finally reached our tent at Yala Safari Camping where we sat down by the bon fire while they served us barbecued food.

However, outdoor camping is not for you if you are a light sleeper! I could not sleep the whole night with cacophonous calls of the peacocks and the mooing of the cows near our tent!!!

 

Note: if you are not hiring a 4×4, please note that you would not be able to take your car all the way to the safary camp site because th roads are unsuitable for small cars. In this case you may need to call the campsite for a pick up.

Day Three:

By 6am we were out for our Yala Safari tour in search of Leopards. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the luck to spot one but we did see lots of Peacocks, Water monitors, wild Buffalos, Deer and Elephants. After our Safari, we headed for the pretty little town of Ella, where we stopped to see the beautiful Ruwana (Ravana) Falls, road side stops to capture the scenic hill top areas until we stopped for lunch at the town center. After lunch, we took a 45 minuts walk on railroads to find the 9 Arch bridge and finally headed towards Nuwara Eliya, which is also known as the ‘Little England’. It is very popular for its colonial hotels, tea estates and the beautiful rose gardens. We sat down near the Gregory lake for a cup of tea before heading to Hatton for the night.

 

Note: If you have time, take a ride from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy or vice Versa on the train, which is supposed to be the most scenic train journeys of all time. It is better not to buy tickets in advance as the trains are frequestly cancelled due to weather and weather in Srilanka can be quiet unpredictable (Click for more info).

Day Four:

Our third day started at 1.30am at the foot of the Adam’s Peak. Adam’s peak is well known for the Sri Pada, i.e., “sacred footprint”, a rock formation near the summit, which in Buddhist tradition is held to be the footprint of the Buddha, in Hindu tradition that of Shiva and in Islamic and Christian tradition that of Adam (Google)

I must admit, it was one of the hardest trek of my life so far. 7359 ft. and 19 miles covered on foot to the summit. We stopped at several tea shops for a cup of tea and something sweet to give us energy and it took us nearly 4 hours to get to the top. Once we got there, it was just in time for sunrise. The Sri Pada temple was closed and everyone waited for sunrise. The wind was cold and it took a while for the sun to come out from behind the mountains but when it did, it blew us away and the beautiful shades of colour and the horizon in tune with the early morning prayer….

 

It took us only an hour and half to get down. However, this was the most difficult part for my partner as cliimbing down tends to put a lot of pressure on your knees. After a hard nights work, we had the best breakfast in a small local roadside restaurant which only served homemade food. We then headed off to the beautiful town of Kandy, tried the local Wattalappam dessert, enjoyed a colourful Kandyan cultural dance show and visited one os the gem stores nearby before calling it a day.

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Day Five:

The next day after breakfast, we did a tour of beautiful Kandy city, strolled along the Kandy lake, visited Buddha Tooth temple (the tooth is only shown to public on special occasions), Dambullah Cave temple (Climbing stairs, stairs and more stairs!! but worth it), Hindu temple in Matale and finally the Medieval city of Polonnaruwa which is now an UNESCO World Heritage site.

Today the ancient city of Polonnaruwa remains one of the best planned archaeological relic sites in the city, standing testimony to the discipline and greatness of the Kingdom’s first rulers. Must see sites in complex are: Parakramabahu, Council Chamber, Kumara Pokuna, Hatadage, Rankoth Vahera, Gal Vihara and the Lotus Lake.

We had an 80-year-old tour toothless tour guide who took us around and explained the sites with their historical background in just an hour. You can pick up tour guides from infront of the ticket ofice and remeber to negotiate!

Also as a bonus we saw a wild elephant walking in the middle of the road!

Day Six:

It started raining the day before and didn’t stop the entire next day but it still did not stop us. Can not believe it had already been 5 days and we were almost towards the end of our round trip…we managed to climb up the Lion Rock at Sigiriya early in the morning and got caught in a storm half way there. is an ancient rock fortress located near the town of Dambulla. The name refers to a site of historical and archaeological significance that is dominated by a massive column of rock. According to the ancient Sri Lankan chronicle this site was selected by King Kasyapa for his new capital. He built his palace on the top of this rock and decorated its sides with colourful frescoes. On a small plateau about halfway up the side of this rock he built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion (Wiki-Click for more info)

sigiriya

We then went to a traditional village tour on a Cow cart, boat, tuktuk and on an elephant back whose name was Sita… finished the day with a relaxing Ayurvedic body massage.

Note: Take the full body massage called the Abhyanga which includes the oil drip

 

 

Day Seven:

Last day of our round trip. After breakfast we went to the Scared city of  Anuradhapura. Anuradhapura is a major city in Sri Lanka which now an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Anuradhapura is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, famous for its well-preserved ruins of an ancient Sri Lankan civilization. It was the third capital of the Kingdom of Rajarata, following the kingdoms of Tambapanni and Upatissa Nuwara.

 

Finally, back to Colombo after a short stop over at Negombo Beach for the best seafood lunch at a seaside restaurant called the King Coconut.

Day Eight and Nine:

We attended both Christain and Buddhist wedding ceremonies of the beautiful couple Pearl and Clive. The Galle Face hotel is a must visit and visit the rooftop restaurant/bar at the Kingsbury hotel around the same area.

Final Day:

Colombo city tour on a tuktuk… Galle Face Green, Old Dutch Hospital, Clock Towers, Lighthouse, Beira lake, Independence Memorial Hall, Raja Vihara Temple, Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque, Pettah floating market, Ganga Rama Temple, Slave Island, and so on…. Ended the day at the Ministry of Crab with a kilo of Crab (must try the Chilli Garlic one!). A city for all religions, all cultures and all thoughts……The city where old meets new in every corner

Note: Try the Ministry of Crab, King Coconuts whenever you go and Everything Devilled and remember Srilanka is beautiful and there is a lot to see, but you need to plan it right. Self-driving is not a good option as the roads are not very well marked and it’s very easy to get lost. Try to get local help and advice as much as possible. It is a land of amazingly nice people!

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Book Review:

The Amazing Racist by Chimi Tenduf-La

An English school teacher in Colombo, wants to spend his life with a vibrant Sri Lankan beauty, but there’s an obstacle- her orthodox terror of a father who wants his daughter to marry someone of the same race, religion and caste, and if possible from the same locality.

In a desperate bid to make his dream a reality he tries to connect  in other ways – eating curries that make him bleed spice and breathe fire, driving drunk through red lights, threatening co-workers with violence, and sleeping with snakes.

Sparkling with wit and featuring an endearing cast of characters, The Amazing Racist is the story of a man who finds a home among strangers, of a father-in-law whose bark is worse than his bite, and of bonds that grow to be stronger than family ties

Highlights of Switzerland

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“Swiss cities remind me of the kid at high school who’s great at sports, has perfect hair, the best girlfriend, and the teachers all love him. He’s just too perfect.”

Rick Steves

Switzerland is a natural beauty. However, it is very expensive too! It has been rated one of the most expensive countries in the world. With a little planning, you can experience all the main sights this famous European destination has to offer without breaking the bank.

The best way to get there is to fly with budget airlines. However, you always have to remember one thing, the cheaper the flight the more expensive the city/country is likely to be. So if you want to do Switzerland on a budget, try to drive if you can. Hire a car from one of the neighbouring countries like Luxembourg or Germany or even Belgium instead of hiring a car in Switzerland which is again likely to add up to your expenses, plus the drive is very scenic and you can make quick photo stops wherever you want.

You could use the intercity trains as an option but most intercity trains are around 50 CHF. Another option is to use the Rail passes. There is no better way to travel around Switzerland than by train. Travel passes can be a budget-friendly way to avoid expensive intercity ticket prices. Remember, booking online is always cheaper than buying tickets at the kiosk and the more in advance you book, the better deals you are likely to find.

You could also use the ride-sharing website BlaBlaCar to avoid the trains and meet locals. This website lets you rideshare with people. However, be advised that many rides cancel, so the service requires some flexibility. But when it works, it is awesome.  Or you may also want to enjoy free public transport in some of their most well-travelled cities including Bern, Basel, Geneva, Lucerne and Lausanne. It is worth noting that Bern, Geneva, Zurich and Neuchâtel offer free bikes too — another great way to save some money on transportation!

Airbnb is a great way to save money on accommodation in big cities as well as in the country. It also gives you the opportunity to meet locals and have a more authentic experience. Or try to find affordable hotels/ accommodations on Booking.com throughout Switzerland.

What to do in 3 days in Switzerland?

Day 1:

Rhine Falls: Europe’s Largest Plains waterfalls. A trip to the rock, a round trip in the river basin or a leisurely cruise to Rheinau are simple unforgettable experiences.

 

 

It took us about an hour drive from Zurich to Schaffhausen. The sight of the Falls is amazing! Although it is not very high, you can sense and feel the might of the Rhine River as it plunges 23 meters. You can also get very close to the Falls- there is a kind of walkway that almost touches the falling waters. The sound, the wind, the water, the sight of the roaring waters all add up to an amazing experience. There are boats that will take you close to the Falls along the Rhine River.  We did the Kleine Rundfahrt Erwachsen for 15 euros. No long line or wait for tickets or boat. Bring light jacket or rain scarf if you dont want to get splashed or sprinkled with little bit of water.

Lauterbrunnen Valley:

On our way to Interlaken for the night, we stopped in this picturesque valley for few hours. The entire valley was like a dream! Perfect in every possible way.

 

Lauterbrunnen is situated in one of the most impressive trough valleys in the Alps, between gigantic rock faces and mountain peaks. With its 72 thundering waterfalls, secluded valleys, colourful alpine meadows and lonely mountain inns, the Lauterbrunnen Valley is one of the biggest nature conservation areas in Switzerland (My Switzerland).

Because we had only 3 days, we could only visit the ten  Trümmelbach Falls hidden amongst the rocks . You will get wet so be prepared and take waterproof cameras if you wish to take photos. Tip: Best pictures are from the bottom of the falls not the top! The steps can be slippery and not recommended for people with claustrophobia!

 

Other attractions you could visit if you have a bit more time are:

Staubbach Falls – on the edge of the village of Lauterbrunnen. The water plunges almost 300 metres from an overhanging cliff face. It was the inspiration for one of Goethe’s famous poems.

Schilthorn – UNESCO world heritage themed trail in the depths of the Lauterbrunnen Valley

Kleine Scheidegg – impressive view of the north face of the Eiger and the four-thousand- metre peaks of the Jungfrau and Mönch. Also the starting point of the rack railway to the Jungfraujoch.

Jungfraujoch – the Jungfrau railway has been plying its way through a 7-km-long tunnel to the ‘Top of Europe’, the ultimate excursion destination in the Bernese Oberland, since 1912.

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Day 2:

Interlaken: Interlaken lies in the Bernese Oberland on an alluvial plain, between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. The vacation destination, which is presided over by the three mighty mountains, Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, is the starting point for numerous activities (My Switzerland).

‘Being brought up watching Indian films, Switzerland has always been on my top list of places to visit. Little did I know that Switzerland acknowledges the fact that a large proportion of it’s tourism depends on Bollywood movies and the Indian born Yash Chopra film fanatics who are eager to visit Switzerland, even if it means taking out a bank loan!

Interlaken is where you will find a Yash Chopra statue, who has been the ambassador of Interlaken

Things to see in Lauterbrunnen:

Schynige Platte near Wilderswil – nostalgic rack-railway, fascinating view of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, Alpine garden with about 500 plant species and a lot of hiking possibilities.Jungfraujoch and Schilthorn – the rides by rack-railway to the highest railway station in Europe and the cableway to the Piz Glora revolving restaurant: two top mountain experiences in the Bernese Oberland.

Harder Kulm – a cableway takes passengers up to Interlaken’s „house mountain“ which affords a view of the health resort and the whole Jungfrau region. The Alpine wild animal park near the valley station is an experience for children.

Heimwehfluh – a nostalgia funicular provides transport to the vantage terrace with a restaurant, all-weather toboggan run, model railway display and large playground.
Jungfrau Tourism Museum in Unterseen – the regional tourism museum shows 200 years of tourism in the Jungfrau region.

St. Beatus Caves – one kilometre of lit limestone caves with stalagmites, impressive halls and waterfalls accessible by boat, car, bus or on foot on the historic pilgrims way.
JungfrauPark – explore the world’s great mysteries.

Magic ice-skating experience – from mid-December to late February the center of Interlaken transforms into a winter wonderland.

Day 3:

Lucerne: the gateway to central Switzerland, sited on Lake Lucerne, is embedded within an impressive mountainous panorama. Thanks to its attractions, its souvenir and watch shops, the beautiful lakeside setting and the nearby excursion mountains of the Rigi, Pilatus and Stanserhorn, the town is a destination for many travel groups and individuals on their journey through central Switzerland (My Switzerland)

Lucerne

Walk around, you also have the option to take an hour cruise or shop around the beautiful little town. A must visit is the Lion monument, built in memory of the soldiers in World War II

Zurich: The cosmopolitan city by the water combines creative urban life with nature in all its glory. Zurich is abuzz with activity day and night with its countless events, diverse museums, own food festival and Switzerland’s most vibrant nightlife. And if you’re after rest and relaxation, you can be in the Swiss mountains in less than an hour (My Switzerland)

Zurich

Book review

 

Adultery: Paulo Coelho