Notes from a journey

Srikrishna Chaitanya
Published on: 8th October 2014
"Traveling - It first leaves you speechless.....and then turns you into a storyteller" - Ibn Batuta

Nothing captures the essence of traveling alone in Europe better than this sentence by the Moroccan traveler of the yesteryears.

Many times, small acts of courage entail huge rewards and tremendously uplifting experiences. For any true travel lover, it's a constant endeavour to out vie clichés such as, "Don't travel alone", "Going without a plan?", "Are you sure?", "Oh! That sounds adventurous". While these concerns may have evolved in their own wisdom and point towards safety, such scenarios often present the opportunity to do what I call 'Travel deep'.

Deep travel goes far beyond 'sight-seeing'. It is the kind of travel that fosters a more profound perception of our own self in this vast fathomless creation. It helps throw light on duality in a whole new way.
notes from a journey,travel,adventure
The Alpine magic

Remember that small village you once fancied while reading a fable... with a King's castle... in the thick of the mountains... with placid waters and pure white swans leaving their beautifully symmetric trails on serene waters..? Halstatt gets every visitor thinking, 'Maybe it is this place that I always wanted to come to.'

The drive to this magical alpine village in itself is spectacular. Some places have an uncanny ability to instantly change your entire emotional landscape. Halstatt could well be up there on that list. Consistently rated as one of Europe's most beautiful villages, it's a must see for every nature lover. A profound serenity and depth completely encompass every comforting whiff at Halstatt. The serene turquoise blue waters show you your own reflection. The very vastness and depth of the whole surrounding consumes your being. Seeing the soft skin of the swan illuminated by sparkling sunlight against the silhouette of a mountain... some sights give you the feeling that the English language has to emend its arsenal of words to decrypt particular feelings. Add a light drizzle to the whole milieu and you're in the heart of heaven. One can't help but envy the residents of this surreal place. To walk from one end of the village to another won't take you more than ten minutes. A creamy pastry and coffee on a chair right next to the quiet waters - A memory that will stick with you for life.

Halstatt epitomizes Stillness, in every sense of the word; a divine stillness that is a universal source of all creativity and intellect. If you wish to revisit childhood dreams, find your way to Halstatt!
notes from a journey,travel,adventure
The Lover at Cesky Krumlov

Cesky Krumlov is a rustic Czech town about 2 hours south of Prague. While the lively Prague is inundated with tourists and offers a whole gamut of to-do's for any tourist, Cesky Krumlov is a welcome change. With a population of no more than 900, it boasts of an absorbing blend of simplicity and elegance. An aristocratic castle forms the center of the village, with a small river flowing through the center. While orange roofs that are typically Czech span the highview of the town, the deep brown shades on some of them are indicative of the senescent town. The whole town itself is seated in the thick of a lush green valley in true homespun glamour.

I stayed at the traveler's hostel- pretty Spartan in configuration but known to be one of the oldest hostels in the country. In the small cozy kitchen, I happened to meet Dylan, a philanthropist from South Africa. Dylan is married to a lovely woman from South Korea, whom he met while working in a rehabilitation center in Pietermaritzburg. They, from 25 years have worked without compensation for a non-profit Christian missionary that nurtures underprivileged children. The organisation, overwhelmed by their commitment, voluntarily sponsored a paid 6 month vacation for their first ever holiday in more than a decade. I could only listen in rapt attention as he went on to tell me about how a lot of sex workers abandon their children in the outskirts of Amritsar and parts of rural Kolkata and how he worked with a lot of Christian missionaries to raise awareness and establish grounding for all these children. Dylan had deep eyes- remindful of his boundless compassion, a very English accent and wrinkles on his face- testifying more to his sapience than age. Here I was, in Czech Republic -listening to a man from South Africa recounting tales about India. How small is the world getting?
"So, what is the final destination in your first world vacation?" I asked curiously.

Mentioning more countries in Eastern Europe, he said, "Finally, we plan to arrive in Seoul. My wife hasn't been home in 17 years. For all her sacrifices, the least I can do is to take her home. My children are really excited to see their grandparents".

He went to ask me about where I was heading to, about what my future plans were. Sharing my excitement, he said, "Wherever you go, just love people. That's at least what I have tried to do. It will make you so happy." I nodded in agreement. "Stay well Srikrish...." he said, signing off.
notes from a journey,travel,adventure
The Sound of friendship at Salzburg

Austria could well be called the 'Uttarakhand of Europe'. Nestled between Mountains and waters it's truly in the lap of nature. Over some breathtaking views continuing from Halstatt, I reached Salzburg - the birthplace of Mozart, the making place of Robert Wise's all time classic- 'The Sound of Music', the Salzburg fort, Mozart school of music, The Salzburg academy of dance and numerous brilliant street performers playing Beethoven and Mozart symphonies. It's a city with its soul firmly planted in music and is known to attract people with similar tastes. My hostel turned out to be one of the most vibrant places I had stayed in ever before.

Ira and Nanami are two friends from Canada on their first Europe trip. Ira is Thai by origin, soft spoken and has a lovely smile. She has a certain lilt in her voice that will keep you chained. It's yet another lively evening in the hostel kitchen. Some were trying to wash their clothes, some trying to cook and some singing for themselves. It was all happening. Ira began to sing beautifully with her Spanish guitar. What followed was almost a 'pied piper' effect. Slowly people gathered one by one and all were immersed in an impromptu concert. She floored us with her nightingale-like voice. The renditions and group songs went well past midnight. It was great to know about how passionate so many people are to explore this big world. I made great friends. Away from the overdone cry of 'finding your passion', it is sometimes a good idea to find joy in what is, rather than fret about what could be. Ira is now in Myanmar, where she volunteers to teach children music in a rural school. "I want to carry my passion around the world", she says. With huge faith in her abilities, simplicity and sincerity, I said, "You surely will. I really hope our paths cross again".

What makes people like Dylan commit themselves to such unimaginable limits of altruism? What makes Ira, who is still in her teens take such an unconventional path? It's a question worth deep thought. The globe is made up so many different kinds of people, and that is, perhaps, what makes this world such a magical place.

We only need to work with the whole range of characters in our lives to recreate that magic in this tapestry of emotions called LIFE.
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