capital city

From Queen of Hills to Queen of Hearts

There is no other credential about me that makes people ‘Wow’, than the fact that I hail from Shimla.

Most people reading this post, if from India would have understood the above statement. If you dont know whats so great about Shimla, you may want to use Google Images to get a first hand feel. Or cruise thru this post as well.

Shimla is a small beautiful scenic hill town and the the capital city of Himachal Pradesh, a state in Northern India which cradles in the backdrop of the mighty Himalayas. Its cool summers and snowy winters made the Britishers feel at home making it as the ‘Summer Capital’ of colonial India in 1864. The era of the British ‘Raj’ gave this town a European facial with Victorian buildings, parks, town hall, hospitals, markets and even a railway line which is today protected by UNESCO.

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As if it hangs in mid air. The beautiful landscape of a busy town today, Shimla!

There are millions of sites and blogs which would tell you what to see and do in Shimla. Its so damn touristy. Its probably also the Honeymoon Capital of India. Since I have my entire family there, I generally dont do the touristy trips. However 2 months back, i did take a walk with my camera to capture some shots of places i liked the most

Mall Road : Heritage Walk

Very obvious place as its the center of the town. An arterial road flanked by shops, eateries, hotels and many old buildings. You can start walking from whichever end is nearest to you. A km walk from the Mall road will bring you to the opulent Heritage Hotel Oberoi Clarkes

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Hotel Oberoi Clarkes: The beautiful heritage building dates back to 1898. It boasts of Victorian era furniture, mantelpieces and heirlooms.

The Mall Road is local at the same time elite. It has some great views of the city thats now getting congested with concrete. However the misty mountains continue give it the young gal look.

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Queen of Hills, Shimla. Gentle valleys, sloping mountains and the red roofs, very European indeed.

As you walk ahead on the mall, there are some notable and beautiful Architecture to admire. Some of them are now government offices, some are hotels or bookstores.

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The Christ Church : You cannot ignore this incredibly beautiful Church at the Ridge. Clicked from the Mall Road

As we walk further ahead on the Mall, you come across Gaitey Theater. Dates back to 1877, this Victorian Theater has hosted illustrious British statesmen, Indian Cinema glitterati and needless to say abundant tourists. Much of this structure was destroyed in a fire few years back. The Theater has undergone a restoration and then reopened to public. On the other side of the same building is a Police Control Room

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The beautiful Victorian building housing the Gaitey Theater 

A stone’s throw from the Gaitey Theater is the majestic building of the Municipal Corporation of Shimla. This was the Town Hall of Shimla as established by the Britishers, which is now the local Municipal office. I was reminded of many Town Halls I have visited in Britain, indeed this is a clear reflection of the Victorian architecture.

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Dating back to 1851, The splendid building of Municipal Corporation. The police band plays here sometimes on Sundays in their uniform, its nothing less than a much awaited musical performance for both locals and tourists

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A local policeman dressed smartly yet bit dramatically

Probably the last stop on the Mall as you move towards the end of the bifurcation to the Ridge, next to the Scandal Point is the General Post office. This is a Heritage Building, dating back to 1883, it has appeared on Postal Stamps as well. This is my favorite. Iam told the colors of white and red are contemporary as per a government direction.

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General Post Office of Shimla. A well restored Victorian building. Love the white and red color combination

Right outside the Post Office are these filigree benches that you can even see all over in the UK. People sitting basking in sun. Conversations, gossips and some knitting.

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Shimla has a typical laid back hill resort kind of ambiance. People are not rushing, jostling or hurrying for something. Its relaxed; its like living.

And Britishers did leave their stamp behind till today.

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The Red Letter Box!

My last stop on the Heritage Walk on the Mall road is the Ridge. Its another road a level above or higher than the Mall Road which gives way to some amazing views of the other side of the city. On the Ridge are two iconic Heritage landmarks. The Christ Church that we earlier clicked from the Mall is now in front of us with the State Library onto the Left. I have fooled many folks showing this pic to guess this place and 9/10 guessed a place in Europe.

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This place is full of selfie lovers. There are many films shot in this area. One of recent ones was 3 Idiots.

Shimla is a total unwind place. Coming from a stressed worklife and a fast paced daily routine, I feel totally relaxed here. More because Iam not a tourist here, its Home for me. You can explore the markets and hike nearby places on foot. The peak winters can be harsh and experience heavy snowfall, however the summers are yummy. Bright sunny days and cold nights.

While Shimla still retains the charm of the era of ‘Raj’ it will be always preferred by tourists worldwide as a scenic spot giving access to the majestic Himalayas. Though I have been to Shimla a countless number of times, my favorite part of my stay every time has been to admire the wilderness, the dramatic skies, the misty mountains and cuddle in my quilt.

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This is one of the clicks when i was waiting for my parents to come out of a government office, as me and sis had nothing else to do, we kept firing our shots.

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This was literally a crisp morning…you can actually feel that crunch. Sun kissed valley, thick green forests, I feel blessed to be breathing these views right from my balcony.

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And this is not sunrise…the sunset on a very dark cloudy day.

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If there is anything that stole my heart in this place, its the flirtatious skies, they tease you every minute with different moods and you just cant get enough of it. 

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The most interesting time of the day; sunset on the valley; this is the best photo out of around 75 photos of the same sky at the same time

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When you are bored of the looking at the same mountains every day, there are enough interesting avenues to entertain you…Like staring back at these new fellas…And you dont have to go to a particular place to find them. From Mall Road to offices to terraces, they are omnipresent.

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Or eavesdrop at their deep conversations

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Or get envious at that back rub

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Oh no…dont think it that way…Its not doggy style at all….Its Platonic Langur play…

Vital Stats

  • Shimla really doesnt have a functional airport. I understand it would take sometime for it to be completely operational for civilian flights. So the best option to reach there would be by road. You would likely come from New Delhi. Take a bus (around 10 hours) or hire a cab (around 8-10 hours) or take a train to Chandigarh and a bus or cab from Chandigarh (around 4-4.5 hours) or take a train from Delhi to Kalka and take the toy train and experience the UNESCO Heritage railway track on narrow gauge cruising through mountains and a 100 tunnels. Its a lifetime experience so if you have plenty of time and fancy to go slow, this is the option you must take(around 6 hours)
  • Eat like a local. Step down from the Mall Road to the Lower Bazaar. Its where you get the real street food. Jalebis, Chaat, Pakoras to get the local flavours. And if you want to dine for a heavy meal, Shere Punjab or any other joint which has a place to sit is good. It will be essentially a north indian punjabi meal, chole (chickpeas), kadi, rajma, mixed veg, potato in everything, for a change you will love all of it
  • Stay at any hotel or guest house or B&B, there are a whole lot of new ones that have cropped up. For great views you may want to step a bit outside the city like Mushrobhra. There are three and five star like Oberoi Clarks, Wildflower Hall, Holiday Home etc who have good service and accommodation.

And for more tips or any suggestions, feel free to write to me.

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Categories: capital city, castle, cathedral, Christ Church, church, churches, europe, Gaitery Theater, Heritage Walk, hill resort, hill station, himachal, himachal pradesh, himalayas, honeymoon trip, incredible india, india, love, lower bazaar, Mall road, mountains, North India, old town, Queen of Hills, ridge, Scandal Point, shimla, solo travel, streets, Summer Capital, travel, travel blog, UNESCO, visit india, visithimachal, visitmyhometown, weekend trip | Leave a comment

Danube Bend : Exploring Hungarian Towns

In my short three days trip to Hungary, I chose one day to step out of the glitz of Budapest. As this was a last minute planned trip, I couldn’t do much of my usual research on where to go. So I browsed and chose a small group tour for a day, Danube Bend which would take me to few towns on the banks of the River Danube.

So here started my Day 2 in Hungary. A small matador picked me and few other travelers from the Chain Bridge in Budapest. As I introduced myself to the group of people from Japan, Spain, Argentina and Belgium, I found that other than the guide only I could speak English fluently. Amusing!

What is Danube Bend?

Danube is the lifeline river which flows from Slovakia into Hungary(Magyarorszag). The Danube Bend is a curve where Danube bends near the town of Visegrad to flow into Budapest. This map below which I clicked explains it all.

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The blue line is the depiction of River Danube’s route with a clear bend which is the theme of this tour

Our guide was a Hungarian-Spanish who was explaining in both English and Spanish. After a short 45 min drive from Budapest, we were on a bridge and voila, he announced we are in Slovakia. Were we being abducted?? Hell no! Slovakia and Hungary share borders alongside Danube. As a small treat to us, we had our first stop-over in Slovakia; so well we can technically say we have visited Slovakia though for a short 20 minutes.

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My first photo of the day from Slovakia of Hungary. While I was standing in Slovakia I clicked this beautiful site of Eztergom Basilica in Hungary across the Danube which would be our next stop

After grabbing a quick bite, we headed back to Hungary to explore our first town.

Esztergom

Esztergom is one of the oldest towns of Hungary and former capital city. It is the seat of the Catholic Church in Hungary. It proudly houses the Esztergom Basilica, the largest in Hungary and third largest church in Europe.

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Esztergom Basilica. Its massive structure is truly impressive.

The vast pillars of the Basilica is quite an intimidating site.

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Pillars of Basilica

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The interiors of the Basilica are equally impressive.

After a short visit inside the Basilica, we explored its backyard which gave way to some stunning views back of Slovakia from where we had come across to Esztergom

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The bridge on Danube that connects Hungary and Slovakia

There is this huge statue of the coronation of St Stephen which is equally massive.

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The white statue against the Blue sky

That was Estergom known for its Basilica and Catholic faith. The Basilica appears on currency notes of Hungary as well. We started back on our journey in the company of Danube to the next town.

Visegrad

A quaint town on the Right Bank of Danube. Famous for the remains of Royal Palace of King Charles I.

It is more significant as near this town is where the Danube bends. We stopped at a viewing point from where we could see the famous curve of the Danube as it bends and makes it way into Budapest.

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Danube Bend

After clicking some photos of this picturesque sight, we made our way to grab lunch in the town of Visegrad. the streets were isolated and it did give a village feel.

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A small village ‘mall’ which had some cute handmade knick knack shops. There was a lot of wooden furniture and handicrafts as well

After our lunch we headed to our last destination. A short ride and I took a nap behind my sunglasses and woke up when our matador halted.

Szentendre

Finally we came to a town which looked very touristy. Szentendre is a charming town on banks of Danube close to Budapest. It has every element of a quaint European town. Cobbled streets, quaint interesting antique shops, baroque churches and a small town square.

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Szentendre town

We were given one and a half hour to explore the town. Its just one long cobbled street with many narrow offshoot streets. Most of the time I spent was stepping inside each shop. What I bought? Well the most well known Hungarian Paprika for my sister and some wooden Hungarian dolls. And since it was horribly hot and sultry weather, in the short time, I gobbled two large ice creams.

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There was something very quirky about this whole town. Jazzy shops, cars, bling.

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A beautiful street with lemony colored umbrellas and antique shops

And some interesting alleys…

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An alley with some graffiti.

With aching heels, I was exhausted walking around. And it was time for us to head back. Interestingly our journey back to Budapest was not in our rustic Matador but in a big boat. Our guide met us and bid goodbye handing the boat tickets to us.

A beautiful day was coming to an end. It was almost an hour journey cruising through the beautiful Danube and taking last morsels of its enchanting sights. I would remember this peaceful cruise back as I sat and thanked my stars above for these lovely blessings.

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Starting our cruise on the banks of Danube

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And my last click from the boat as the skies turn crimson

 

Some help?

Booking a Danube Bend Tour is easy. Book through any credible operator online. I booked through the City Discovery Tour which costed £36.

http://www.city-discovery.com/budapest/tour.php?id=699

 

 

Categories: capital city, castle, cathedral, cathedrals of europe, churches, europe, hungary, river cruise, travel, travel blog, travel europe, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Budapest by Night!

Its no Las Vegas, no Dubai, nor a Japanese spangled city.

This is the snazzy, flamboyant and ‘youthful’ historical city of BUDAPEST!

Of all the East European capital cities I have visited, my favorite stands the Hungarian capital city. It resembles Prague in many ways; however I felt Budapest to be so congenial, a city that seemed to be speaking to me through its streets, the beautiful Danube, the different shades of its vast skies and its glittering nights.

Every traveler has to ‘consume’ Budapest at night. Its a Must. The city changes its mood, sheds its formal day clothing and starts the night long party. River Danube glitters with centuries old historical jewels on its banks. I spent three hours at nightfall sitting by the banks of Danube admiring, clicking and not getting enough of the lovely views. A dreamy hour of river cruise, what I would say was one of the best I have ever done. Here are my pictures of Budapest at Night, a must do!

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Iconic scene, most clicked and most loved. Chain Bridge on River Danube. In the background is the illuminated Buda castle.

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On the banks of Danube, a glittering monument

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St Stephens Basilica. A massive structure with busy eating joints around it.

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Hosok tere: Heroes Square known for its imposing statues and the column of victory. A UNESCO World Heritage Site

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Archangel Gabriel holding the holy crown of Hungary. Quite an impressive sight when you zoom in your lens.

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The left colonnade of statues of statesmen at Hosok tere

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And the right colonnade of imposing statues.

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The statues at the Basement of the victory tower of 7 chieftains.

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Back to Danube. In the background you can see the Mathias Church, the Fisherman’s Bastion, churches and the illuminated streets

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One of the most impressive structures of Budapest, The Buda Castle in the Castle District. The lit up castle was truly a fantastic site from the other side of Danube

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While Chain Bridge hogs all limelight, there are many more beautiful bridges on Danube. A night cruise will take you underneath many of them.

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And my favorite, The most beautiful monument in Budapest which dazzles both at night and equally at day, The Parliament. Gothic architecture at its best!

Note to Travelers

  • River Cruise on Danube can be purchased from any operator which you will find at all tourist spots. Some of them are operated by the City Sightseeing Tours which i took as well. Cruise prices vary according to timing and also according to the services. The one i took was at 10 pm and the duration was 1.5 hours. It costed 4200 HUF, around 12-13 Euros. They served a welcome drink (champagne) and another drink of your choice. There are options of dinner and music as well.
Categories: budapest, budapest at night, capital city, eastern europe, hungary, monuments of budapest, places to see in budapest, places to see in hungary, places to visit in budapest, river cruise, what to see in budapest | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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