After three long months of intense research and execution, finally, when I woke up on the 2nd of August, I felt quite relieved. A day earlier, I had spent my last working day at Axis Bank, the brand I was associated with for the past four years. On the other hand, I was excited that later in the evening, I had a flight to Delhi, where I would meet two of my friends and we will embark on our first-ever road trip across Europe!
We boarded the flight from Delhi the next day, but since there is a stopover at Kuwait Airport, we reached our first destination, Frankfurt, only on 4th August. After arriving at the airport, we went straight to ‘SIXT’, a car rental company. We chose SIXT because all of their cars weren’t older than three months, and they had a better range of convertibles as compared to their competitors.
When we reached the SIXT counter to claim our car, an Opel Astra convertible, the staff informed us that there was another car available for the same rental. We decided to check it out and we were surprised to find that it was a two month old BMW Series 4 convertible. We couldn’t have asked for more! Now, do remember, to insure the car for the length of your trip. We took one for around 200 Euros. After acquiring the beast, we drove to our hotel in West Frankfurt to plan for the following day.
The Amsterdam HighLights
Next morning, we drove out of Frankfurt towards the city of my dreams – Amsterdam! It was a 454 km drive via Cologne, Arnhem, and Amersfoort. We finally arrived at Zaandijk, a small village across the countryside of Amsterdam, where we had booked an apartment through Airbnb. Zaandijk is well connected to Amsterdam by rail, which takes about 20 minutes.
It is hard not to be mesmerized by the beauty and friendly neighbourhoods of Zaandijk. In fact, during most of our trip, we stayed in villages or the countryside. The reason is because we wanted to meet the voxpopuli; and also, from an economist’s point of view like myself, the lifestyle of the people in villages speaks a ton about the governance and welfare of its citizens. We stayed a couple of nights at Zaandijk. During the day, we would explore the countryside, and after enjoying lunch at our apartment (which included daali bhaat, aloo pitika, ghee and bengena fry), we would take the rail to Amsterdam.
Amsterdam never ceases to amaze me; I felt the same way even I was there for the first time back in 2012. A lot of things had changed, but that just made it more beautiful. I stopped by a couple of cafes, to try some variants of weed and hash brownies, to get ‘legally’ stoned. The different streets and canals of the city was a treat to the eyes thereafter! Late evening, we visited the famous main district (the ‘District’ for the initiated!) swarming with tourists from all over the world. We visited a couple of nightclubs, named ‘Hospital Bar’ and ‘Cassa Rosso’, and a few others, the names of which escape me as I write this. We used to stay out until 2 am in the morning, so we would take Uber cabs to get to our apartment in Zaandijk, as the last train leaves at 11:45 pm.
Sightseeing in Paris
On 7th August, we bid farewell to Zaandijk and headed to Brussels. We reached the capital around noon and after having lunch, forfeited our plan to stay the night and headed straight to Paris, which was a 350 km drive, via Henin-Beaumont, and Croisilles. We reached the fashion capital in the evening. We stayed at a hostel, St Christopher’s Inn, located right in the heart of the city, in Crimee. Here, I made a friend from Australia named Roardt, who was my roommate.
Parking is a big problem and an expensive affair in Paris and so we decided to use its vast network of subways and metros. We visited The Eiffel Tower, went all the way to its ‘sommet’ (the top of the tower), and other popular attractions like Napoleon’s Dome, Versailles Museum, The Louvre, and also took a river cruise named ‘Croisiere Bateaux Parisiens’. After roaming the streets of Paris during the day, we would come back to the hostel. I would share a champagne with Roardt on the balcony of our hostel room, and go to sleep.
The Swiss Connection
After spending 3 days in Paris, we finally embarked on a 657 km drive to Interlaken, Switzerland. The view throughout this drive was breathtaking; you get a glimpse of the Alps, along with beautiful lakes and meadows. We stayed at a hostel in Sonnenof, called ‘The Backpackers Villa’.
After just 5 hours of sleep, we woke up early the next morning, to catch a train from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen, and then to Jungfraujoch, the highest point of Europe. It was quite chilly, around -10 degrees. The view throughout this journey was also spectacular, with valleys, waterfalls, cliffs, meadows, just like the ones you see on postcards and calendars.
It was during this stretch that I decided to go for a solo hike, called the Eiger Trail, across the ‘Eiger’, a 13000 ft mountain of the Bernese Alps. During the trek, I was scared to death to wander across a no man’s land with a thick cover of snow and face a fierce snow storm. Luckily, I made it out in one piece. I then headed back to Lauterbrunnen, where a local beer helped warm me up.
The same afternoon, we headed to Lucerne, a beautiful city in Central Switzerland with a population of around 81,000 people. We visited the famous Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge), Lake Lucerne, and the Lion Monument, before leaving Switzerland.
Soaking in the History at Innsbruck
Our next stop was Innsbruck, the capital city of Tirol, Western Austria, which was a 350 km drive from Lucern. We also stopped at Rhine Falls, the largest plain waterfall in Europe, on the way. The medieval architecture, museums, and the scenic beauty of Innsbruck made quite an impression on me. We roamed around the city, visited the Innsbruck Pillar, War Memorial and The Ambras Castle. Ambras used to be a town in itself during the medieval times, and was the epicentre for trade and commerce. It was a visual treat to witness the weapons, musical instruments, art, poetry, paintings, and literature of the subsequent regimes and royal families that once reigned Ambras.
After Innsbruck, we drove another 520 km east, to the capital of Austria, Vienna or ‘Wien’, via Bayern in Germany. We booked a cosy apartment in Koloniestrasse, in the middle of the city. We visited the famous St Stephen’s Cathedral, the Historic Centre of Vienna, the Schonbrunn Palace, and a Beer Garden at Prater.
Saving the Best for Last
Finally, we headed to our last destination. Our drive to the capital Prague, from Vienna was via Stockerau, Wullersdorf, Znojmo and Vystrkov. Prague was very beautiful and organized, the streets were well connected by trams and buses. We stayed at an apartment in Konevova 118, and were lucky to have a wonderful host named Stepan.
The Vltava River and its banks really beautify the city with the Charles Bridge and the view of Lobcowicz Palace in the horizon. We also visited Tower Park, the television and broadcasting tower, which offers a breathtaking view of Prague from a height of 93m. In the evenings, we went to ‘Showpark’, a night club and a major tourist attraction. Prague was surprisingly very cheap, the prices of commodities was almost the same as ours. For example, a litre of milk would cost 29 korunas, which is around Rs 87.
After travelling for 16 days, across 8 countries, experiencing millions of emotions, smiles, and new connections, we finally drove north 520 km to get back to Frankfurt, where we stayed our final night in Europe.
On the day of our flight back home, we drove to the airport and handed over the BMW. The staff inspected the car and found a small dent on the left side of the car, probably caused by someone else. This is where our 200 euro insurance came in handy, without which, we would have ended up paying 850 Euros per dent!
This trip really helped me rediscover myself and become spiritually richer by interacting with people of different cultures, religions, countries, languages and thoughts.
Written by Shaunak Bordoloi
Photographs by Shaunak Bordoloi
*To see more photos from his trip, check his Facebook profile.