Friday, 2 June 2017

21st century Solo adventure and sightseeing navigational travel across Europe.

Explorers have always fascinated my imagination and hence my passion for geography and history  in school with destiny favouring me with employment in  the Mercantile Merchant Navy as a "Marine Engineer". I really loved sailing in the high seas and could visualize the voyages of seafarers of the Golden era of discovery as unlike land  the sea has remained  unchanged since the first European Vasco Da Gama set foot in Calicut in India on 17th May 1498 leading to a era of trade as well as colonization of Country's by Europeans  through the sea route.As a Indian Catholic my ancestors were converted to Christianity by the Portuguese and it was time i discovered my Portuguese roots through a visit to Portugal.In 2006 post voluntary retirement from shipping began  my  own "SOLO TRAVELS" across various city's  around the Globe,the 21st century explorer in the era of jet planes , motor ships and mechanized land transport.Did i set a trend for Indian Solo travellers to foreign locales through blogs and photo's of my solo tours ? Today foreign travel from India is no more a luxury affordable only by the wealthy as economy  group tours to  normal tourist trails are  offered by almost every  travel company in India. My solo travels were to Country's and city's never visited during my shipping employment voyages  and definitely not on the itinerary of popular "Group Tour" companies from India. To date including my shipping voyages  have visited 54 country's and have navigated through the 7 oceans mingling with almost all nationalities of the World .Excellent credentials !

   SOLO TOUR LOGISTICS :- .Scandinavia and Western Europe was my next solo tour expedition. .Logistics is the most important ingredient in any "Solo Tour" since  you are your own travel boss akin to a navigator plotting a sea route. In 2013 American  travel writer Mr Matt.Kapries  alias " Nomadic Matt "  had written the New York bestseller ,"How to travel the World in 50 U.S $'/Day" .I myself  am a "LEVEL 6" contributor to the World's number one travel site "TRIPADVISOR" writing under the pseudonym "Mumbai Riders" with a total of 2,25,232 readers having read my travel advisories as on May 2017.All my travel blogs are in book format on this site  "www.blogger.com" as is this travel blog. Do read all my blogs to get a insight into "SOLO TRAVEL" of which i definitely hold the patent for "Braggers Rights" among Indian solo backpacker budget travellers. Reading a book or a blog is different from practically accomplishing the same and since 2005 have  managed my "Solo tours"  on a much lesser budget than "50 U.S $/Day" which also  included "Adrenalin Junkie sports".My present tour is to begin in Copenhagen on Monday(12-6-2017) and end in Madrid on Sunday(9-7-2017), a grand total of 28 days of hectic travel and exploration in some of the costliest city's in the World. A economic Marathon  on a frugal backpackers  budget. My "Solo travel " through various countries have proved that a average Middle class Indian can travel the Globe on a minimum backpackers budget . The journey is the adventure more than the destination !
View from Plane of Copenhagen landscape while landing.
                                                                                                        On Thursday(2/2/2017) booked my budget air tickets for "Mumbai-Copenhagen-Vilnius-Barcelona -Madrid-Mumbai"  costing Rs 46,383  through the economy budget travel site"www.kiwi.com" based in Prague .Thought provoking brand  trade name as the Kiwi is a flightless bird while the  aviation industry is always associated with flight advertisements or logo's ! As a Asian tourist had discovered a new economy  travel site and although the "Kiwi" bird  can't fly the travel site "www.kiwi.com" is a World wide Internet  travel agency based  in Czechoslovakia  in Europe .Air travellers  can search and book airline flights at the click of a mouse on the "Internet" at the  most economic price.Yes, the "INTERNET" was the modern era of sea navigation and discovery. After booking my main route flights booked the  internal flights from Stockholm to Helsinki and Barcelona to Lisbon through the now familiar "www.kiwi.com " costing Rs 3,592 and Rs 3,521 respectively. Later booked the internal land travel  "Swebus  tickets" from Copenhagen to Oslo  and  from Oslo to Stockholm which at Rs 3,851  and Rs 3,166 were slightly cheaper  than the local air tickets to the same destinations ! I preferred road travel  as could get a view of the topography of Scandinavian countryside and towns.The Internal bus tickets from Tallinn to Riga and  Riga to Vilnius at  Rs 1050 and Rs 900 as also  the bus ticket from Lisbon to Madrid costing  Rs 1318 were definitely much cheaper than "Swebus" coach tickets.Scandinavian Country's have one the highest cost of living indexes  in the World and it shows in the bus fares. Booked  ferry ship travel from Helsinki to Tallinn by "Viking Ships" costing Rs 1388. Later  booked my hostels in the visiting  city's  through "www.booking.com" and after all the logistics were completed  applied for my "Schengen Visa" through "Farshak Travels" at Prabhadevi. A travel insurance is mandatory for application of a Schengen visa and Farshak travels made the same for me through "Trawell Tag(12-06 to 28-07-2017)" costing Rs 4500 . Thanks to the "INTERNET" for making solo travel adventure possible which was unthinkable a few decades ago akin to Vasco Da Gama's pioneering voyage to India. My passport's  have been stamped with two previous Schengen visa's and had to submit the same personally with a booklet of other personal solvency documents to the Spanish embassy in Mumbai as Spain was  the country of maximum stay during my entire 28 days European discovery solo tour..Application for the Schengen Visa has to be submitted through the website of the Spanish embassy on the Internet.On Wednesday(3/5/2017) was allotted a appointment at the Spanish Visa application centre  situated near Apsara theatre at Grant road in Mubai. .After submitting my documents personally at the Visa application  had to undergo a bio-metric analysis, a recent addition of formalities for grant of the "Schengen Visa".The total charges for the Schengen Visa was Rs 5400 and after confirmation on the website collected the same within a week from the application office.
Monday(12/6/2017) :- Finally at Copenhagen Airport and my "Copenhagen Card" for sightseeing the city.

Monday (12/6/2017)  Departure Mumbai and arrival Copenhagen : - It started raining heavily when I left my residence in Prabhadevi and lucky to make it to the taxi and to the airport.Was early as usual and later after getting my boarding ticket next got a "European Schengen Sim Card"  with the telephone Nos 447839123341 costing Rs 1500 for 45 minutes "Talk time"  and to be activated on arrival in Copenhagen.
Copenhagen is a city of cycles.Cycles outnumber cars !

                The same sim card could be used all over European city's that i was visiting.Mobile connectivity along with Internet connectivity is the main navigational tool for the 21st century solo explorer on land , air or water  The  Turkish airlines flight No "TK721" was a bit late and the 6 hr 45 minutes  flight was normal with excellent Turkish meal and drinks.A large contingent of "U.T.I(Unit Trust of India)" free lance agents were travelling on the same plane  for a conference in Israel.On arrival at Istanbul after the security check was on  my way to the transit gates when i met a young I.T professional Mr Karthik from Chennai on his way to Copenhagen for a assignment.Yes , you are never alone on a "Solo tour" but busy meeting various co-travellers, tourists and locals exchanging ideas, guidance or simply saying a Hello.After a  transit  layoff of a few hours boarded the connecting Turkish Airlines " TK 1785" to Copenhagen.After  flying in two different airplanes for a total of 10 hours and 10 minutes finally touched down at Copenhagen airport. What is the definition of "Jet Lag" ? On arrival at Copenhagen airport purchased the "Copenhagen Card" valid for 24 hrs and costing 53 Euro.One Euro =  Rs 74 and One  Danish Kroner = Rs 10 approx.The Copenhagen card allows unlimited travel within Copenhagen city and free entrance visits to numerous sites where minimum entrance ticket prices could give the average backpacker tourist a money scare.
At "Tivoli Gardens".Second oldest park in the World.

                                                                                                                          Also exchanged Euro's to Danish Kroner @ 1 Euro = 7.5 DKr . Money is lost in value during foreign exchange transfer  from initial Indian rupees into various different currencies. From the airport at approximately 1815 hrs  boarded the "Metro Line" situated above Terminal 3 and was swiftly transported to Norreport Station, the city centre and location of hostel Jorgensen, my residence in Copenhagen.On coming out of the underground Metro station was greeted by the site of numerous cycles and cyclists on the main road in a city where cycles outnumber motor vehicles.With a little difficulty found Hotel Jorgensen situated just a few minutes walking distance from Norreport Metro station.On registration with the hotel receptionist was given a bed in a common dormitory in the underground basement of the hotel, the cheapest lodging in the hotel in one of the World's costliest and happiest city's.

The indescribable beauty of Tivoli Amusement park.
                                                                                                                                                  Quickly unpacked and had to make the utmost monetary use of my 24 hour Copenhagen card.Inquired for directions to Tivoli gardens and boarded the "S train(Red colourline)"  from Norreport to Copenhagen Central station.The park is situated just outside the main road facing Central station and was opened on 15th August 1843 making it the second oldest park in the World after the Dyrehavsbakken park situated just a few kilometers away in nearby Klampenborg locality of Copenhagen.It was drizzling slightly and i hoped the drizzle wouldn't turn into a downpour of Scandinavian rain. Tivoli gardens was visited by Danish fairy tale writer Hans Christian Anderson  on numerous occasions and Walt Disney got a few of his ideas for his future "Disneyworld" by visiting Tivoli gardens.The garden and amusement park with various rides   resembled a fairyland scene with a lake and a pirate ship restaurant. A band was playing in one corner of the large amusement park and i forgot tiredness and jet fatigue having not slept for almost 24 hours something i am accustomed through my former  employment  in the ships engine room as a "Marine engineer" on various ships.Spotted a beautiful peacock on the garden lawns which added to the natural and artificial designed beauty of this most popular amusement park in Scandinavia.Finally at approximately 2100 hrs in broad Scandinavian daylight made my way back to the hotel via the train quickly adjusting to local living conditions a thanks  decades of nomadic travel experience through shipping employment and now at my own expense.Did manage to get some sleep in my underground dormitory that resembled a bunker !
Who doesn't recognize this eternal fairy tale statue "THE LITTLE MERMAID" ?

Tuesday(13/6/2017)  Copenhagen :- Got up early as usual and was having some problems with the hotels free wi-fi system in my underground dormitory.

"CYCLE PARKING LOT" in Copenhagen.
                                                                           This was a  hotel catering for the lowest budget tourist as well as the upper class tourist with varying room rates and as usual i was living in my trademark  cheapest class dormitory as i do on all my solo tour expeditions.A young hotel employee from Nepal Mr Avash. Mishra a student in Copenhagen earning extra wages through  hotel employment helped me in learning to use the wi-fi and from then on could call myself wi-fi savvy.He gave me directions to visit the "Little Mermaid" and boarded the train from Norreport to Osterport station akin to a local .At  approximately 0630 was at Osterport station and had to ask for directions to the Little Mermaid statue situated at Langelinie promenade.It was a long early morning walk with a few local Copenhagen locals jogging and cycling on the lonely roads.
On the Express train to Helsingor:- Ultra Plush train.
                                                          The small harbour of Langelinie  was dotted with yachts  parked along the shore and myself the lone tourist in the vicinity.Asked a lady garbage collector of the statue location and was surprised to see this world famous symbol perched all alone near the shore on a rock.Very ordinary setting for a world icon and found it unbelievable that i was alone with this World recognizable symbol that has also been vandalized numerous times during  protests.The most recent protest was  in May 2017 when the statue was drenched in red paint by anti-whaling protesters.The original  bronze statue commissioned by brewer Carl.Jacbsen , son of the founder of Carlsberg  and sculpted by Edvard.Eriksen in 1913 is the symbol of Denmark and has been defaced numerous times by vandals and during political protests.
"Crownwork Gate" :- Access to Kronborg Castrle.

                                                                                                       When i visited the statue i found a Cyclist helmet placed in her hands, definitely some sign of a protest.School fairy tales were jumping out of my mind as i viewed this masterpiece of beauty all alone in the absence of the normal crowd of eternal tourists.If you visit Copenhagen and have not seen the "Little Mermaid" then its akin to a tourist visiting Agra in India and not viewing the Taj Mahal.After spending some prime solitary time with the eternal "Little Mermaid" walked my way back to Osterport station and boarded the train to Norreport. Today would test my solo tour management as i had to visit a few prime tourist sites to make maximum use of the 24 hour Copenhagen card.
A view of Kronborg castle(Hamlets Castle).

                                         As a fan of movies and the theatre i had planned my visit to Kronborg Castle , the source and setting for Shakespeare's play "Hamlet" months ahead of my visit to Copenhagen. Today was the day of realizing one of my lifelong ambitions .Took the train to Copenhagen Central station and from there boarded the express train to Helsingor station which at 0800 hrs was empty and resembled the business class suite of a plane rather than a train !.There were magazines/newspapers  for commuters and realized the reason for the expensive cost of commuting as well as the ultra high standards of public living in Denmark.The ticket cost was 108 DK which was free with the Copenhagen card. This was just a ordinary express train.
"Selfie" with legendary "Holger the Dane" in the castle.

                 A lady Ticket collector entered our train and seems that even in one of the World's wealthiest Country's  people do travel ticketless although the fines if caught could end the holiday plans of a average developing country backpacker ! At 0845 hrs reached Helsingor and through directions from locals walked the long way towards the castle through the picturesque harbour setting lined with a few fishing and sail boats..As i was very much  early before the opening of the castle gates  for tourists strolled along the sea beach of the castle and spotted a lone young man with a fishing rod along the waterline.Posed for a photo with the rod having never ever caught a fish in my life but a gourmet  of sea food.
A scene from "Hamlet" performed on Kronborg grounds.
                                                                                                                At 1000 hrs the castle gates opened for the tourists and i was one of the first entrants into this historic 16th century castle.Visited the Royal apartments,ball-room and chapel of the castle.Walked into the castle dungeon and took a selfie with "Holger the Dane".Visited the hall which had the photographs of  eminent legendary actors  who had performed for the play "Hamlet" in the castle.On the Castle lawns a few actors in costumes were performing scenes from the play "Hamlet" for us tourists. First time in my life i was seeing a play being performed on the actual location of its story.At approximately 1100 hrs made my exit from the castle complex and visited the "M/S Maritime museum of Denmark" situated in a former dry-dock  within walking distance from Kronborg castle.
  "Copenhagen Card".Denmark is a World superpower in the shipping industry and "Maersk Line", the World's largest shipping company is a Danish based shipping conglomerate.The film "Captain Phillips" based on shipping piracy hijacking of the "Maersk Alabama"  was according to me one of the best factual films depicting average living on a ocean sailing ship.The museum had a wealth of information on the history of Danish  shipping and its evolution into the 21st century.I was surprised by the absence of the contribution by  Indian sailors to the World Merchant navy fleet as the museum depicted mostly only Western World shipping and seafarers.A exhibition titled "Sex and the Sea" was  on display till 13th August 2017  with focus on the lust , longing and dreams of sailors."Daddy Cool" has seen it all in a career spanning 23 years of on-off sea sailing  and had a quick look around the exhibits.Excellent for students of shipping as well as veterans of the Industry. A wonderful shipping quote in the museum shown in the photo below sums up a average seafarer's lifestyle and employment, quote, " THERE ARE THREE TYPES OF PEOPLE.THE LIVING,THE DEAD AND MARINERS " !
"M/S Maritime museum of Denmark"
                                                                                                     This museum operated by a private foundation since 1915 was initially situated inside the premises of Kronborg palace and only after 97 years in 2013 was shifted to the present underground former 1957 built abandoned dry-dock designed in the shape of a large ship.The "B.B.C" rated this museum as one of the eight greatest new museums in the World. .Entrance to the museum was 110 Kr and included in the "Copenhagen  Card" list of free museum tours .Entrance prices of museums in Copenhagen when converted into my native Indian currency was expensive beyond comprehension.  Difference of cost of  living standards between the developed and developing World.
"Den Bla Planet" Ocean Tank section.Among the fish.
                                                                                                                                       The "Copenhagen Card" was worth the money and the best companion for a backpacker tourist on a budget and in decent physical fitness to travel to the different locations of various museums and tourist sites  within the timeframe of the card.I was in a race to maximum  sightseeing and travel within 24 hours of  my card in one of the World's costliest city's .Walked the long distance back to Helsingor railway station and after inquiries boarded the train to Copenhagen Central. Denmark is considered the World's happiest nation in a recent survey of various countries  and in just two days stay  in Copenhagen i realized  the reasons for this tag. The average Dane will go out of his or her  way to help a tourist as i found on a few occasions while asking for directions and would speak in English language if they could. Surprisingly most Danes i came across spoke fluent English.I was most worried about the language gap in Scandinavia and surprised to find English  definitely a link language in Copenhagen.
Elusive Tasmanian Devil.at the zoo.

                                                                                                                        On arrival at Copenhagen Central station inquired about the bus to the Copenhagen zoo and chanced upon a "Blue Line" tour bus parked on the opposite side of the station advertising a free ride to the "National Aquarium Den Bla Planet". Boarded the bus and as it drove along got a running commentary of the locales on the bus route and a insight into the lives of the average Danish citizen.The National aquarium is situated at Kastrup which is just one station away from Copenhagen Airport metro station.On entering the aquarium was surrounded by water on all sides which gives a feeling of being underwater with the fish.This aquarium is the largest in Northern Europe and definitely something different  in comparison to a average aquarium.
"Wooden Observation Tower" of Zoo.
                                                                                                                      In the Ocean tank section got to feel hammer head sharks and sting rays brush against the aquarium glass and it was akin to petting the gigantic fish.In the rain-forest section spotted Piranhas and the World's largest fresh water fish the Arapaima. Have visited numerous aquariums in country's outside India and this aquarium was definitely something different although the high ticket cost of U.S $ 40/person  was definitely not in the budget of the average backpacker tourist.In  Denmark a person above the age of 65 years and not the normal 60 years as in most country's  is considered a "Senior Citizen"  for discounts  and concessions.From the aquarium it was a long walk to Kastrup metro station and back to "Central Station" in the heart of the city..Had quickly adjusted to being a local Danish tourist  a side-effect of decades of sailing and visiting different ports.At Central Station after inquiries boarded the bus to the Copenhagen zoo situated in Fredericksberg. This zoo founded in  1859 is one of the oldest zoo's in Europe and was in 2014  in the news for euthanizing a healthy giraffe and later on also four lions.
Polar bear having a dip.

                                                                        A  43.5 meters wooden observation tower built in 1905  is the landmark identity of the zoo and also one of the tallest observation towers built of wood.Entrance to the zoo is 150 DK without the "Copenhagen Card" , the most expensive zoo i have visited around the World.Straight away headed towards the "Tasmanian Devil" enclosure which was in close proximity to the entrance of the zoo. To date have visited some of the best zoo's in the world but had never ever seen a Tasmanian Devil and hence my main reason for making the Copenhagen zoo my last tourist attraction of the 24 hour "Copenhagen Card" whose deadline was due in a few hours.The Tasmanian Devils of Copenhagen zoo are the first specimens to be in a zoo outside the Australian continent given to the zoo in 2004 as a wedding gift to Frederick,  Crown Prince of Denmark and his Tasmanian native wife Mary.Donaldson.Have seen Tasmanian Devils on T.v and films but seeing them personally was a different feeling altogether.They were noisy and threatening each other  akin to cat or dog  fights but never fighting or biting each other.Threat bluffs is a mannerism of the Tasmanian Devil.

Fish Market near Jorgensen hotel
                                                                                                                             Strolled briskly around the zoo seeing native Scandinavian animals and marsupials.The Polar bear was one of the best specimens i have seen in a zoo although its enclosure seemed small. Construction work was in progress for building a enclosure for a pair of giant Panda's that the zoo is to receive from China in 2018.Made my way back to the bus stop and hopped on to the bus to Central Station.From Central Station it was back to home in Norreport station. Norreport is the busiest  railway station in Denmark and is totally underground catering to the "S-Train","Main Line" and "Metro Stations". A first time novice traveller could end up in a maze trying to find the exit  of the station once underground.After making my exit from the station headed towards Jorgensen hotel  and entered the open air fruits/vegetable and fish   market situated adjacent to the hotel.Spotted some of the largest live lobsters in a tank costing upto 700 DK  ! Dinner was bananas and chocolate.
At Nyhavn :- Indescribable natural Port harbour with tall tourist sail boats and canal side restaurants.
Wednesday(14-6-2017) Copenhagen :-  After a few hours sleep was up and awake at 0500 hrs and after a quick hot water shower in the common dormitory bath dressed and got ready for my day's walking expedition tour of Copenhagen.
Rosenberg Castle.
                                                                                                                     Couldn't afford the expensive 24 hour card for the second day besides tonight  i was to depart by bus to  Oslo .Hotel multipurpose employee Mr Avash.Mishra was on duty as usual preparing the breakfast buffet for guests and he guided me regarding the sites within walking distance from Hotel Jorgensen. With my city map headed out into the cold summer morning of Copenhagen .With Norreport Station as my landmark walked  towards the left and came across the Botanical gardens and on inquiry of Rosenberg Castle was surprised to know that it was just a short walking distance across the road.Crossed the road across the Botanical garden and walked North reaching the gates of Kings Garden in which Rosenberg castle is situated.
Picturesque Nyhavn locality of Copenhagen.
                                                                                                                                                                        As it was approximately 0700 hrs the garden was empty and it was exhilarating being all alone surrounded by beautiful trees and roses with the Rosenberg castle towering on one corner of the garden.Rosenberg Castle was built by one of the most famous Scandinavian kings Christian IV in the 17th century.The crowns of the Danish kings and queens are kept in special vaults in Rosenberg castle.The castle is open to tourists between 0900 hrs to 1700 hrs in Summer with the ticket price being 110 DK. After a walk in the large expansive Kings garden  made my way back towards Norreport station.On reaching Norreport station spotted the  grocery department store "Netto" and on entering the same was surprised at the cost of everyday consumable food products that seemed very cheap when compared to travelling costs and entry fees of museums in Copenhagen.Purchased two loafs of bread a salami packet and curd milk costing 48 DK which was my breakfast for the day.
The Marble Church.

                                             Walked the short distance to Hotel  Jorgensen  and after a short rest  deposited my luggage in the hotel locker room and at 0900 hrs left the hotel for my last walking sightseeing tour of Copenhagen before departing for Oslo.Stopped at a cycle repair shop owned by  a Afghan origin Danish citizen and couldn't help admiring the variety and simple sophistication of the cycles sold at his shop.It was a long straight walk in the same direction of Kings Garden towards my destination Nyhavn.I wanted to know the location of "House N0 20" in Nyhavn which was the residence of Danish Fairytale writer Hans Christian Anderson. On reaching Nyhavn i felt i was transported into a imaginary fairyland rather than a natural port harbour. Postercard buildings joined together like a common chain  were on either side of the narrow canal harbour lined with boats.Tourists were all over the cafe's situated alongside the canal. Nyhavn was originally a busy commercial port packed with sailors,pubs and ladies of pleasure where ships from all over the World would dock.
Amalienborg Palace  Square.

         Today in the 21st century Nyhavn is one of the central tourist attractions of Copenhagen with plush canal side restaurants packed with tourists and   sail as well as motor boats providing joy rides to tourists.Inquired about House N0 20 but thanks to language communication difficulties just couldn't find the famous address of Hans Christian.Andersen.The fairy tales "The Tinderbox", "Little Claus and Big Claus" and "The Princess and the pea" were written at "House N0 20" .Nyhavn was Hans Christian Anderson address as he later also lived for twenty  years in "House N0 67" and for two  years in House "N0 18".The oldest house in Nyhavn is "House N0 9" dating way back to 1681 !.A local guide or interpreter is required if intending to research these famous houses of picturesque Nyhavn.
Amalienborg Palace :- Photo with a Palace Guard.

                                                          I just walked through this  picturesque canal street onto the main harbour quay. Walked along the harbour quay and sighted "Amalienborg Palace complex".  I was at the "Right Place at the Right Time" to watch the "Changing of the Guards" at 1200 hrs noon.The statue of King Frederik V stands in the centre of the palace square complex surrounded by four identical buildings.These Royal palace  buildings are 1) Christian VII palace(Moltke's Palace) used as a guest residence 2) Frederik VII Palace ( Brockdorff's Palace) and is home of the Crown prince family.3) Christian IX Palace ( Schack's Palace) the home of the Queen and Prince consort  4)  Christian VIII Palace (  Levetzau Palace)  used as guesthouse for Prince Joachim and Princess Benedikte.
Amalienborg Palace :- Changing of Guards. 

                                                                                                The Palace museum accessible to tourists is in this building. The crowd was gradually getting larger as 1200 hrs approached and i had a quick walk towards the artistic dome designed "Marble Church"  facing the Palace Square complex. The  Alexander Nevsky Church, the only Russian Orthodox church in Copenhagen stood a few meters away from Marble Church on the opposite street.First time i had seen a Russian Orthodox church in person , a familiar icon in the media when depicting Russia.Finally stood in the circular line along the periphery of the palace square  with the horde of tourists eagerly awaiting the "Changing of Guards" protocol ceremonial parade.
 Alexander Nevsky Church

                                                            The Guards come marching from their barracks in 100 Gothersgade near Rosenberg Castle onto the streets of Copenhagen and into Amalienborg Square.The ceremonial exchange of the guards of a royal palace in Europe is not a daily sight to a Indian tourist besides this was the first time in my life that i was observing this centuries old ceremonial parade.Fascinating.After the parade it was a long walk back to Norreport where i purchased a loaf of bread, a can of beer and luncheon beef costing a total of  30 DK. Drinking beer in public is allowed in Scandinavian Country's provided its from a can and not a bottle.Walked into the Botanical garden which had a few local picnickers and made myself comfortable on a bench facing a beautiful lake having swans and ducks.The Botanical garden has been in its present location since 1874 and covers a area of 10 hectares.The garden has 27 glasshouses and more that 13,000 different species of plants graded and kept in accordance to their habitat.I just sat on my bench and enjoyed my beer and lunch watching people  pass along and the ducks swimming in the lake.Botany is not my subject although have the "Braggers Rights" of visiting some of the best botanical gardens in the World which include Kew Gardens(England),Kirstenbosch National botanical gardens(Cape Town) and the Ooty Gardens summer flower show(India).
Stroget Pedestrian shopping Street

                                                   The weather was cloudy with a cool breeze blowing constantly.After a short siesta in the garden made my way to Norreport and asking directions  walked towards Stroget Street.Along the way came across the "Round Tower", a seventeenth century observatory tower that is the oldest functioning observatory in Europe.King Christian IV built the tower during a era when Denmark was famous for its astronomical achievements mainly due to the achievements of astronomer Tycho Brahe.Although no more used by scientists the Tower is still used by amateur astronomers and tourist visitors who climb up the spiral stairs for a grand view of Old Copenhagen city from the Tower platform.Walked past the tower as i had no intention to climb up the spiral stairs  since akin to a Marathon i had to preserve and pace  my physical,mental and monetary assets during the entire 28 days solo tour.
Rare motorcycle in a city with largest number of cycles.

                                          Now you know why people climb Mt Everest or swim oceans or simply just take a long hike in the wilderness.To quote Hugh.Mallory, " Because its there " ! Walking past "Round Tower" in a straight direction came across a parallel street that had a lot of shoppers and tourists and on inquiry realized that i was finally in Stroget street. Stroget Street which is 1.1 Km is one of the longest pedestrian  shopping streets in Europe.Just had a short walk of this kilometer long street and walked back to Norreport station. A day's solo self discovery walking tour was finally coming to a end.At approximately 1700 hrs was at Hotel Jorgensen and had a brief rest in the lounge uploading my photo's onto "Instagram" via the hotel WiFi  system.
My bus to Oslo :- Notice the "Cycling Lane"
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 .Next collected my travel trolley bag from the luggage room  and headed  to Norreport station.Purchased a ticket costing 23 DK  with the help of a local  from the automated machine at the 24/7 shop next to the metro entrance.I was doing a crash course in understanding First World automation with the massive escalators and line routes of the Metro station stimulating my thinking power !Copenhagen Central Station is just two stations away from Norreport and hence the unbelievable exorbitant price of simple commuter travel can be gauged.Boarded the "S" line train and in a few minutes was in Copenhagen Central..Finding the Copenhagen Ingerslevsgade bus terminus was the next hurdle and luckily was guided in the right direction by a foreign tourist.Had to walk over the station over-bridge finally reaching my destination which was the "Swebus" stop.When i boarded the bus at 2100 hrs it was bright daylight in Copenhagen.The bus had wifi but the leg rest seating was less than the normal long distance travel buses.It was a pleasant drive towards Oslo and the first time i had used WiFi inside a bus.Yes i was enjoying like a child with new toys on First World Internet  technology.
NATIONAL GALLERY OF OSLO  :- "THE SCREAM(1893) " by EDWARD.MUNCH .Unbelievable so close to the World's second most famous painting after the "Mona Lisa".This is one of the two original  painted versions in the  National gallery in Oslo.It was stolen in 1994 and recovered a few months later.
Thursday(15-6-2017) Oslo :- Our bus reached  Oslo Gallerian ,the city's International bus terminus at approximately 0515 hrs.I was finally in the "LAND OF THE MIDNIGHT SUN".
OSLO CITY HALL(  Radhuset).

                                                                                                                         The weather was cold and again i had to find my way to the hostel  in a new Country and a new city.Yesterday i was in Denmark and today i am in Norway ! Inquired about the way to the city bus/tram junction and money exchange bureau.It was a long walk  from the International bus terminus to the Oslo Central station through a overhead walkway.As it was early morning all shops were closed including the money exchange bureau. A grocery store was open and did some window shopping aghast at the cost of simple daily fruits and vegetable products in comparison to my home-city of Mumbai.A kilo of tomatoes cost 45 NK while Bananas which i consumed in Mumbai  like the cartoon sailor  Popeye's fascination for spinach  cost a princely  8 NK/each in Oslo. Yes , definitely one of the World's costliest city's ! Had to wait until 0800 hrs for the "Ria Financial services(Norway)"   to open and was greeted by a Sri Lankan  origin Norwegian  who exchanged my Euro's to   Norwegian Kroner @ 1 Euro = 7.852 NK. What shocked me was the fact that the DK change that i had carried forward from Copenhagen was invalid in Norway as they did't convert loose change.A large collection to my already overflowing coin collection at home in Mumbai. Carting it to India would be a problem ! After exchanging the money  made  my way to the city center tram/bus stop.Rang up Anker Apartment  and a lady on the phone gave me directions and the bus stop name of Daelenanua  for  stopping at Anker Apartment.Purchased a  24 hour travel ticket costing  90 NK  at the local tourist bureau office and also inquired the tram or bus to Daelenanua in Grunerlokka locality of Oslo.
Plush "Anker Apartment". My hostel in Oslo.

                                                                                 At the tram junction a young Filipino lady working in Oslo was on her way to the same destination as me and we both  boarded the N0 30 bus  to  Daelenanua.. It was a half an hour journey by the bus  and we both alighted at Birkelunden where the young lady pointed Anker Apartment to me and i thanked her and my luck for finding the address easily. Anker Apartment resembled a normal multistorey  apartment with  a small Franchisee  store named "Joker"  situated in one corner of the ground floor of the building.The entry and lobby of Anker Apartment hostel resembled a plush 3 star hotel lobby  and after registering myself was guided to the luggage room on the same floor for safe-keeping of my luggage  as "Check-In" time was 1500 hrs  and at 0900 hrs was definitely a early bird.
National Theatre.
                                                                                                                                           After a quick wash and some personal travel guidance by the lady receptionist   headed out of the hostel with a Oslo map  to explore Oslo, one of the World's costliest city's.Boarded the  N0 30 bus  on the main road a few meters away from Anker Apartment and headed towards Radhuset(City Hall) , the main city center of Oslo.The bus had a stop indicator and besides i received help from local commuters in alighting at approximately 1000 hrs  at the right spot,Radhuset(City Hall). On alighting from the bus was stunned by the beautiful sight of the enormous City Hall of Oslo.Here i was gazing at a edifice in which every year the "Nobel Peace Prize" was celebrated and awarded to the recipient.
A view of the ground floor of the Oslo City Hall.

                                                              My agenda was to first visit the "National Gallery of Oslo" which housed the original painting of "The Scream" by famed local Norwegian artist Edward.Munch.The National art gallery of Oslo  was established in 1842  formerly housed in the Royal Palace of Oslo.The present museum building designed by Heinrich .Ernst and Adolf.Schirmer  was built in 1882 and since 2003 the National gallery has administratively  become a part of the National museum of art,architecture and design.The entrance to the museum was "FREE" on Thursdays  and the penny pinching backpacker Rudolph was lucky to be at the right place at the right time to save a few Euro's that could be utilized elsewhere.
"Banquet Hall" on second floor of Oslo City Hall.

                                 I was  never a miser always  living like a billionaire with the income of a millionaire but with a "Braggers Rights" aptitude of excellent personal "Money management".Hence my "Solo Travel Tours" at my income  foxes reputed travel conglomerates let alone individuals trying to replicate my solo tours at my cost expenditure. Anyone can do what i have done but it would take a Sir Alex.Ferguson type of travel money management to complete a solo sights tour at my personal tour expenditure .Although free there was not much of a rush at the museum entrance gate and on entering straight away headed to the second most viewed painting in the World.
Oslo City Hall :- On a City Councillors chair.
                                                                                                                                                  On entering the large room didn't find it crowded akin to the "Mona Lisa" room in the Louvre and just couldn't spot the painting.A Asian origin guard was at the main entrance door and i embarrassingly asked him about the location of the World's second most viewed painting.He pointed out to a insignificant small painting at the opposite corner of the door entrance and to my amazement i was stupefied on seeing ,"THE SCREAM". A package tour of  Oriental tourists arrived mostly Chinese and there was photography all over the room.I was definitely a innovator in directing  the photograph taken of me with "THE SCREAM".
View of Oslo from the Ferry.
                                                                                                                                              Other tourists followed suit and i just couldn't believe that one of the World's most valued paintings was hanging in such a simple manner .Edward .Munch had created four versions of the composition "THE SCREAM" with two being paintings and the other two pastels.The "Munch Museum" in Oslo holds one of the original painting as well as the pastel version of "The scream"."The Scream(1893)" i am photographed with is the other original painting with the fourth painting(1894) sold for U.S $  119,922,600 in May 2012 to financier Leon.Black."The Scream" has been stolen on two occasions .The National gallery version in which i am photographed was stolen in 1994 and recovered a few months later.In 2004  both "The Scream" as well as "The Madonna" were stolen from the Munch Gallery and recovered two years later.
At the "VIGELAND SCULPTURE PARK".
                                                                                                                                                             It doesn't take a detectives knowledge to realize that even if successful in stealing such artwork it would be next to impossible to sell them unlike jewelry or cash. Stupid thieves ? There were a few other notable paintings by Edward Munch in the same room most notably being "The sick Child" and the "Madonna".Also viewed paintings by Monet,Degas and Picasso.The Asian guard approached me asking me if i was Indian and thus began a conversation in Hindi in distant Oslo between a Pakistani origin Norwegian and a Indian tourist.Finally made my way out of the museum and headed the short distance to the City Hall.
Vigeland Sculpture Park.
                                                                                                                                            Passed along the majestic "National Theatre" of Oslo as i made my way towards Radhuset(City Hall).The Oslo City hall is built of concrete  faced with bricks and having two prominent towers.One of the towers has a huge clock face while the other tower houses 49  bells that can be heard throughout the harbour area.The building faces the beautiful seaface of the Oslofjord and is a municipal building in Oslo housing the city council, the city's administration and other municipal organisations.The  Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is held annually  in the city hall on the 10th of December which happens to be the death anniversary of Dr Alfred Nobel.The Nobel laureate gives his or her speech and is awarded the medal and diploma during which the Norwegian Royal family and the Prime Minister are in attendance besides other World dignitaries. Entrance to the City hall is free and was crowded with tourists.The floor and parts of the walls were made of marble and the walls have a series of  paintings  depicting Norway and Oslo during the war and occupation.Various monarchs and the city's patron saint ,St Hallvard are also depicted along the walls.
Vigeland Sculpture Park.
                                                                                                                                                     Walked up the palatial staircase to the "City Council; Hall" which is semi-circular in shape and furnished with oaks and tapestries. Sat on one of the benches  wondering what was the responsibility of being on a city council seat.We armchair common citizens  always have opinions on politicians and being in a politicians seat wondered what the job actually meant from the politicians vision of his or her constituency and citizens.Next entered the palatial "Banquet Hall" which definitely resembled a Palace room and is the grandest hall in the entire city council building.yes i was in the City hall that annually distributes the "Nobel Peace Prize" and was definitely not daydreaming akin to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza .Didn't Folk musician Bob Dylan win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016 ?
On the Ferry with iconic "CITY HALL" in background.

                                  Finally i was in the edifice that yearly distributed the Internationally acclaimed Nobel Peace prize and definitely worth a visit by any tourist irrespective of a fascination for politics or the Nobel prizes.After strolling along the floors and corridors of the palatial Oslo city hall at approximately 1145 hrs headed onto the harbour wharf. There were a few large human nude statues and nudism is not frowned upon in Scandinavian Country's with nude beaches a common fact of Scandinavian lifestyle.Decided to take a ride on the Ferry as island hopping along the Oslo Fjord is popular in summer although to me the present summer  weather of Oslo at 16*C was definitely not for sea swimming on one of the islands.
Oslo Opera House.
  
                                         Besides i swam regularly in Mumbai  and hence akin to the Scandinavians lifestyle, swimming and cycling was a daily affair in my local living in India .Walked over to City Hall(Radhuset) pier 3 to board the route B9 ferry to Bygdoy Perninsula where the "Viking Museum" and "Kon-tiki Museum" are situated. The Aker Brygge  is a long promenade along the harbour beginning near the ferry station that houses fancy tourist restaurants and shops.The entire Aker Brygge strip  was crowded with tourists and after a short walk along this tourist strip  stood in queue to board the common ferry.The Ferry was large and excellent for a normal daily passenger ferry service and got crowded with tourists.Post retirement from the Mercantile Merchant Navy I normally always avoid sea joy rides akin to a jockey avoiding pony rides in a park.
On the Opera House roof.Excellent view of Oslofjord.

            This joy ride was different as it gave a beautiful view of Oslo city main landmarks from the sea which included the City Hall, Akershus Fortress and the Port harbour A large cruise liner was berthed in the port harbour, a beautiful sight from the sea.It was a half an hour ride to the island where passengers disembarked while others embarked and after a short stop the ferry returned back to the mainland. After disembarking  the ferry decided to board the tram to  Vigeland Sculpture Park. Boarded the N0 12 Tram  next to the ferry wharf and made the half an hour journey to Vigeland park .The Tram stops just outside the Park and as i walked across the park was surprised on seeing totally nude lifelike human statues.
A view of Akershus Fortress complex.

                                                                                                        This is the World's largest sculpture park made by a single human sculptor  Gustav.Vigeland and is one of Norway's biggest tourist attraction. Entry to the park is free and it is open throughout the year.There are more than 200 sculptures  in bronze,Granite and wrought iron.All the statues including those of children are nude.Vigeland was in charge of design and layout of the park which was completed in 1949 with the majority of sculptures placed in five units along a 850 meters axis.The artist wanted to show the relationship between men and women and most of the nude statues are of young men and women.
On Akershus Fortress with a Cannon.
                                                                                                                        Some psychologists have attributed the reason for all statues being nude so as  to depict human life in its true form as clothes maketh a human  and depict the time and era of a particular phase in human history as also status of the individual.Any of these nude Vigeland sculptures could belong from the   150 Bc era  or 2017 A.D.era ! In the Nude form all humans are equal.Now i understood the importance of "Fashion" and the multi-billion  dollar fashion industry. Vigeland Park is  a visit i will remember for my lifetime.From Vigeland Park caught Tram No 12 back to Radhuset , the focal point of Oslo city for tourists.Had a snack of a ordinary hotdog( Sausage in bread with salad) costing 45 NK and later boarded the N0 30  bus to my hostel home in  Anker Apartment,
Cruise ship"M.V. Brittania" docked  opposite Akershus 
                                                                                                                             Every city is a home away from a home to the backpacker traveller. At approximately 1415 hrs reached my hostel which was akin to a 3 - star hotel.A Asian male Mr Usman of Pakistan origin allotted me my bed in the common dormitory.Excellent First world dormitory, clean and neat as also the bath/toilets.After a quick bathe  changed my clothes and headed out of the plush Apartment hotel into the next door "Joker"franchisee  grocery which to my surprise was also owned by a Pakistan origin Norwegian..As usual all over Europe Asian owned groceries are cheaper than the average supermarket and relished a "Chicken Leg" piece costing only 20 NK in comparison to the 45 NK hotdog snack  at Radhuset pier.
Oslo :- A city of cycles.

                          After the chicken leg snack made my way to the N0 30 bus stop with the intention of making maximum use of my "24 hour Travelpass" since most of the major tourist sites in Oslo were within walking distance of "Radhuset(City Hall)".On alighting at Radhuset asked for directions to the Oslo opera house  which is home to the Norwegian National opera  and ballet.It was a long walk to Bjorvika neighbourhood of Central Oslo where the Opera House is a unique landmark building  facing the Oslofjord.It is the largest cultural building  built in Norway  and completed in 2007  after the Nidaros Cathedral completed in 1300 A.D.
Arkeshus Fortress as seen from the Ferry.

                                                                  The roof of the building angles to ground level creating a large plaza that allows pedestrians to walk up and enjoy the views of Oslo.After entering the Opera house and having a glimpse of the foyer made my way  to the roof of the building, a steep inclined walk to the top.The view from the roof top was excellent and after a brief rest at the top made my way back to the ground level and onto my next tourist exploration. Arkeshus Fortress is a visible landmark along the Oslo harbour coast and it was a small long trek to the top of the Fortress.This is a medieval castle used to protect Oslo and has also been used as a prison.
CYCLES AND HIGH CLASS FASHION :- Electric Cycle.
This Fortress has never ever been besieged by a foreign enemy although it surrendered to Nazi Germany in 1940 without any combat. The Germans executed numerous Norwegian prisoners in this Fortress and after liberation from Nazi Germany in May 1945  the Norwegian Government executed several Norwegian war traitors.The Fortress was used as a prison throughout its history housing rebels as well as criminals and hence definitely haunted with a bloody history of Norwegian politics and Royalty.In the present era the Fortress although still a military area is open to the public and hence i was walking on its ramparts with a classic view of the P & O cruise  ship "M.V.Brittania" docked on the wharf parallel to the fortress.
Brass Band with a Lady Conductor at "Central Station".
                                                                                                                          A live band was playing music inside the palatial cruise ship and the same was beautiful music to my ears.Norwegian Royalty has been buried in the Royal Mausoleum of the Fortress and the Kings guards are responsible for guarding the Fortress.From the Fortress i walked down to the wharf  onto the pier and got a close look at the "M.V.Brittania".This was the largest cruise ship i have seen from a handshake distance and too beautiful and majestic for words.Bizarrely the ship was undocking from the harbour and got a close-up view of this colossal sea palace leaving the wharf and heading out into the Oslo Fjord and finally into the deep Ocean.At 1815  hrs made my way from the pier along the wharf to Aker Brygge and just strolled around the strip packed with tourists before standing in the queue for another joy ride on the Ferry as my 24 hour travel card was very much valid.
     
Secret to survival in one of the costliest city's ?  HOTDOGS.
                                                                                                         Saw a young man with a classic modified cycle awaiting to board the Ferry and struck a conversation with him. This was a electric cycle and he was a whole sale distributor of the same .The second Ferry joy ride made me appreciate Oslofjord better and on returning back to the wharf made the short walk to the bus stop and boarded N0 30 bus. As the bus passed along Central Station heard a brass band playing music  and immediately alighted the bus and walked towards the crowd gathered around the band.The band was directed by a lady conductor and the presentation excellent.After the music programme boarded the No 30 bus and got down mid-way on spotting a grocery shop advertising "Hot Dogs" for  20 NK. Dinner was this  snack , the cheapest in one of the World's most expensive city's.I had to ration my money for my entire 28 days of tour and just couldn't afford to be extravagant on impulse or fascination for exotic food .Was back at Anker Apartment at 2015 hrs in bright daylight in the 'Land of the Midnight Sun"..It was a bright night when i finally slept on my bed.
Street-side cafe and restaurant  partying on a Friday " White Nights " weekend in Grunerlokka district  of Oslo.
Friday 16/6/2017) Oslo :- My last day in one of the World's costliest city's having fulfilled my city tour plans of seeing the major attractions of this beautiful city the previous day.Today also happened to be Dad's birthday and it was drizzling with  the rain having followed me all the way from Mumbai in India.After my normal routines relaxed in the hotel's plush lobby busy with the free WiFi .Later when the rain subsided  checked in my baggage into the baggage locker and headed out of the hotel into the mild drizzling rain.
Paulus Church view from Birkelunden park.
                                                                                                                                                       Decided to explore the Grunnerlokka district  of the hotel vicinity and hence just aimlessly walked along a road  and came across a large ground where young children as well as the youth were busy honing their football skills.It was still drizzling and cold.Walked further away and came across Birkelunden Park shaped in a rectangle like a city block.The park has four streets on all its sides with three  to four storeys buildings dating to 1870's to 1880's  in its vicinity.As it was drizzling the park was empty and i took shelter in the music pavilion of this small park.There are several monuments in the park. When the drizzle stopped walked towards the Paulus Church situated on the opposite side of the park but couldn't enter the church as it was closed to the public. Paulus Church was consecrated in 1892 and is made of bricks with a tall spire inspired by the German Gothic style.From Birkelunden park walked straight down the road and suddenly discovered that i was in a chic locality of Oslo having open air cafe restaurants and numerous other shops.Entered one of the large grocery stores and window-shopping through the large range of products came across a "Hindu" franchisee brand of food products selling pepper.Never ever came across a "Franchisee Food Product" brand named after a religion or race and this was something unique to me in distant Norway.
 Olaf Ryes Plass garden on a " Friday White Night".

                                                                                                                            Walking further down the road came across the Olaf Ryes Plass garden that had a few food stalls as it was the "Friday weekend".Friday's in Europe is a partying evening upto Saturday morning and i will never forget the Friday night in Soho district of London in 2010.The stalls were being erected in Olaf Ryes Plass and i was one of the early birds in the park.There was a fountain in the center of the park and was surprised to see a multi-cultural food stall exhibition with Vietnamese, Pakistanis and Thai origin Norwegians  besides Dutch Europeans displaying their food stalls.A Norwegian stall was selling Norwegian food products which consisted of sausages and dried meat of moose, reindeer , etc.
Food stalls in  Olaf Ryes Plass  garden.
                                                                                                                              My namesake reindeer Rudolph of Santa Claus fame is a delicacy in Scandinavian Country's.All these normally wild Scandinavian herbivores are farm bred .A scooter salesman was exhibiting his product of battery scooters having a plastic body.These electric scooters were being introduced into Norway for the first time and as usual a gamble for the distributors. After a stroll around the park walked back to Anker apartment and lunch was a "chicken leg/bread/banana" along with a beer from "Joker" grocery.Got into a conversation with the young  Pakistani origin Franchisee owner of "Joker" and learnt that Oslo had quite a few Pakistani origin settlers speaking fluent Norwegian.
Friday "WHITE NIGHTS"  partying in Oslo.

                                                                                  I was under the impression that  England was the home of Indian and Pakistani origin Asians in Europe  and never expected a Scandinavian country to have such a large population of Asian Pakistani's.Both India and Pakistan have English as a link language and hence find it easier to settle and adjust to England or America than in Scandinavia where English is rarely spoken in normal daily life and business."Joker" brand is one of the largest chain of grocery stores  in Norway.Observed a man walking towards the store with a bulldog and tethering his dog to a umbrella post outside the store.A excellent specimen of the bulldog breed and definitely not aggressive or violent.
Oslo Central Station.

                                                                                       Whiled away my time in the spacious hotel lobby uploading my photo's onto Instagram and  Facebook absolutely  surprised at the speed of the wi-fi network in Scandinavia.Later in the evening went for my second round along the same familiar morning route and this time found the open air footpath cafe's and pubs filled with customers.The restaurants near the park was filled with customers and a few street musicians were singing outside the open air cafe's to earm some alms for their talent.I was now hungry and longing for a meal consisting of rice, my staple food back home in Mumbai.A Vietnamese origin stall was serving rice based  food and ordered a meal packet costing 60 NK  from this stall.Excellent hot Vietnamese fried rice which i gobbled akin to a starving man.
The bus journey from Oslo to Stockholm.

                                 Since leaving India on Monday(12/6/2017) this was my first meal in Europe consisting of rice.Was i getting homesick this early on the marathon economic/physical tour ? I had to pace myself and decades of travel and tough ship working conditions would be put to the ultimate test in this grueling 28 days odyssey.After dinner made my way back to Anker apartment with Friday Night revelry all over Grunerlokka district in broad daylight which was another first time experience in my life.In the "Land of the Midnight Sun" and Scandinavian Country's the Sun never actually sets until almost midnight and then its a brief twilight zone famously known as "White Nights" . In Oslo it is generally celebrated between June 11 th to July 2nd and hence i was in the city at prime "WHITE NIGHTS" celebrations. The partying would continue until morning while at 2315 hrs  i had to catch my bus for Stockholm  at the   Oslo Gallerian. Collected my luggage from Anker Apartment and walked the short distance to the now familiar No 30  bus stop and was surprised at the ticket cost of  55 NK purchased from the driver ! Now you know why Oslo is considered one of the World's costliest city's. On alighting at Central Station was confused about the jig-saw route to Oslo Gallerian bus terminus and after a few inquiries did manage to safely reach the bus stop in broad daylight.At Central station purchased a apple and a banana to get rid of local NK change as it would be invalid in Stockholm.The bus station had several numbered parking lots and my "Swebus 888" was allotted lane no 8.At 2245 hrs checked into my bus and as usual got engrossed in the WiFi while  at 2315 hrs the bus was punctual in departure from Oslo.Stockholm here i come.
VASA MUSEUM  in Stockholm  :- "VASA SHIP" is the only 17th century preserved ship in the World.
Saturday(17-6-2017) Stockholm :-
Stockholm Central Station with its "Hanging Tree" art.
                                                                                                       The "Swebus" service is more punctual than a plane and at 0630 hrs was at "Cityterminalen" the main bus terminus of Stockholm. situated in Normalm city district of the city. It was cold as usual and after inquiries walked through a underground tunnel from Cityterminalen  and reached the palatial "Stockholm Central Station".The public railway station resembled a plush airport terminal, absolutely clean and having art decorations.A rootless large tree hanging in the centre of the Station hall suspended  from the ceiling of the station was the centre of attraction in the station. .Signboards were posted cautioning travellers of "Pickpocketers", the first instance i had spotted this sign in a  wealthy Scandinavian Country. .Bizarre .Made inquiries at the tourist guide desk about the metro train system and tourist sites.
ACCO HOSTEL :- Entry Security code of a Swiss Bank !

             Was handed a guide map and the metro station map with my destination being Zinkensdamm metro station.As it was a Saturday the Foreign exchange counters opened a hour later and hence had to wait till 0900 hrs to convert Euro's into Swedish Kroner 1 Euro = 9.58 SK..After having my wallet filled with SK made my way to the Metro station and purchased  a 24 hr travel pass costing 90 SK.Inquired for directions and made my way through the underground Metro tunnel maze to the platform and boarded the "Metro "Red Line" train  going to Norsborg, the last stop.After 3 stops was at Zinkensdamm  metro station.Prior to my arrival in Stockholm "Acco Hostel" had e-mailed me the directions to their hostel from the metro station  and also my room nos and hostel entry key code.The era of locks and keys common in the developing world was being gradually phased out in the developed World with "Key button numbered  locks" replacing the age old lock and keys.
Disembarking the Ferry at Djurgarden Island.
                                                                                                             You no longer had to carry a key but if you forget the code number of your lock meant  either breaking the door or using other alternative measures.After exiting  Zinkensdamm metro and entering daylight on the main street  asked for directions and finally landed at the closed heavy duty door of "Acco Hostel".I didn't know the method of punching the operating key board of the door and tried ringing the security but to no avail. Luckily after about 10 minutes the door opened as a few hostelites exited and thankfully made my entry into "Acco Hostel".Check-In time was 1500 hrs as with all hostels and hence kept my luggage in the locker room and after studying the key punching method of opening the main door made my way towards exploring Stockholm city.I was gradually getting Europeanized , both in eating habits as well as lifestyle.In Europe do as the Europeans do was my mantra for surviving and enjoying my hectic 28 days tour odyssey on a minimum backpackers  budget.
1914 Yacht "S.Y.Moama" with its Owners/Crew.

                                                                                                              My destination was the "Vasa Museum" located on the island of Djurgarden and hence boarded the Metro train from Zinkensdamm heading towards Morby Centrum(Red Line) and alighted  two stops away at Gamla Stan station.At Gamla Stan station entered a grocery store situated inside the station walkway  and purchased a beer and a sausage pattice for the solo days picnic.Inquired   for the exit directions towards the Ferry terminal and it was a long walk from the station with other tourists along cobbled streets  and beautiful views of the Stockholm waterfront.The Ferry was house full with tourists and it was a short boat ride to Djurgarden island.
Inside the historic "VASA MARITIME  MUSEUM"

                                                                             At 1100 hrs on walking out of the Ferry terminal was surprised to see a identical copy of the Tivoli amusement park in Copenhagen  called"Grona Lund(Founded 1883) " which had a queue for entrance tickets. Tivoli Gardens amusement park is the second oldest in the World and hence definitely used as a inspiration for other amusement parks around the World with Sweden being a neighbouring Scandinavian Country..Entire Djurgarden Island was packed with tourists on their way to various tour sites or just strolling in the bright sunshine.There were direction indicators in English to the various museum sites on the island which is also accessible by tram and train through a bridge.Walked along the yacht harbour and as i was famished decided to have some rest at the edge of the small yacht harbour. A solo picnic along the yacht waterfront with beautiful sail yachts and motorized boats parked in the sea  akin to a car park.
Museum of "Royal Boats".
                                                                                                While relishing my drink and snack spotted a yacht tethered to the shoreline just ahead and walked over for some photography. A young man emerged from the yacht and on conversing with him was surprised to know that he was the co-owner of this 1914  year built sail yacht called "S.Y.Moama" .This Yacht was one of the oldest Yachts in Scandinavia and took part in Yacht races which is similar to horse racing and as costly or more expensive.A hobby of the   aristocratic Scandinavians.His co- partner also emerged from the small yacht and yes i was talking to partners of a historic sailing yacht.They were a group of passionate sailors and not billionaires  who purchased this boat on partnership akin to holding "Shares" in a race-horse and sailed it in regular yacht competitions.A very expensive hobby and they did their own boat maintenance akin to the crew of a normal ship  and after a formal talk with me went back to their work of chipping and painting their yacht. That's called a passion for the sea and sailing and if docked in a normal Cargo harbour these two young men could be mistaken as labour and not co-owner's of this historic beautiful yacht..After my picnic lunch and meeting with the yacht sailors cum owners  headed towards the "Vasa Museum".
"ABBA MUSEUM " in Djurgarden.

                                                                                       The ticket queue to the museum was the longest i have seen in a Country outside India. Such long queues can normally be seen at entry points to religious edifices  in India and i was aghast  at the thought of standing in the hot Swedish sun just for entry tickets to a museum.A group of Indian tourists from Delhi were also in the long queue with me and had a conversation with them discussing various tourist sites.Thankfully the queue moved rapidly and finally at 1230 hrs after a entrance fee of 130 SK was inside the museum .The Vasa museum is the most visited museum in Scandinavia.Viewers are accustomed to seeing wooden sail ships in Pirate and historical movies but coming face to face with a authentic 17th century wooden warship is encounters of a different kind.
Royal Swedish Opera.

                                                                           As a veteran sailor  my jaw just dropped a niche on seeing this massive warship sitting on a dry-dock floor with curious tourists gaping and photographing various parts of the sail ship.The "VASA" was a 64 gun warship of the Swedish navy that sank on her maiden voyage in 1628 and salvaged 333 years later in 1961..Bizarre similarities to the Titanic that sank almost three centuries later in 1912. Only difference was  that the Titanic was a steel built engine driven passenger ship and still lies in its permanent grave in the ocean.The Vasa is the only 17th century ship that has been salvaged with almost 97 %  of the ship in its original condition.The ship is decorated with hundreds of wooden carved sculptures and i joined a small group tour  with the lady guide explaining various parts of the ship .
"Sculls"  on  lake Malaren  facing Stockholm City Hall.

                                                  There are ten different exhibitions around the hall including skeletons that explain various aspects of life on board this ship.Saw a documentary movie explaining the Vasa and after totally scrutinizing the ship at approximately 1430 hrs made my way out of the museum.Entered the "Museum Of Spirits" situated a short distance away along the road whose entrance was free and which i mistook to be a museum explaining the "Supernatural Phenomenon".On entering i was surprised to be in a museum explaining the origins of various liquors with a attached restaurant serving various spirits .From the "Museum of Spirits" just a short walk ahead was another free museum that housed Royal boats and normal boats.
City Hall( Stadshuset)

                              Historic salvaged boats shaped in dragon and hog heads were on display  as also normal boats.From this museum just strolled around Djurgarden and came across the "Abba Museum". Djursgarden  also houses "Skansen" which is the first open air zoo and museum in Sweden having 150 farmsteads and dwellings on its complex that showcases five centuries of Swedish life.The zoo has 75 different Scandinavian animals  with geese and horses freely wandering around the zoo.My next destination was Stockholm city hall..Boarded a tram at Djursgarden and alighted after crossing the bridge. It was a long walk in the hot Sun but cool weather towards Stockholm City hall.On the way came across the Royal Swedish Opera which lies to the north side of the Norrstrom river.and connected to the Royal Palace through the Norrbro bridge.
The Tower of the City Hall(Stadshuset)
                                                                                                                                       The opera seats 1200 people and also has a Royal tragic history interwoven in its existence.From the Opera house the walk towards Stadshuset(City Hall) seemed endless akin to a walkathon. While the "Nobel Peace Prize" is presented in Oslo the Nobel prizes for Physics, Chemistry, Physiology(Medicine) ,Economics and Literature are presented in Stockholm.The Nobel prizes are presented in the Concert Hall of Stockholm  situated at Hotorget and which is home to the Royal Stockholm Phillharmonic orchestra. The "Nobel Prize Banquet" is held in the City hall on the 10th of December coinciding with the death anniversary of Dr Alfred.Nobel.After the Nobel banquet in the Bla Halleen (Blue Hall) the Nobel Laureates ,guests and Royalty dance in the Gyllene Salen( Golden Hall)  of the City Hall.Finally reached my destination at 1530 hrs with my leg muscles tested to the maximum.The most prominent feature of the City Hall is its iconic 106 meter tall tower  with its  spire featuring the golden three crowns which is the Swedish National coat of arms.The City hall tourist entrance was closed for the day and entry is only through paid guided tours in groups of 10 individuals.The City Hall was designed by architect Ragnar.Ostberg and its construction began in 1911 and completed in 1923  and built from eight million bricks.Akin to the Oslo city hall it is a normal Government civil building  having offices and session halls for politicians and officials..
At the CITY HALL(STADSHUSET)  park.

                                          The Gyllene Salen (Golden Hall) has 18 million golden mosaic tiles and hence the name Golden hall.If one of my favourite poet rock stars Bob.Dylan had to attend the Nobel banquet for his 2016 Nobel award for literature  then he would have been in the City Hall .Would his next music composition be on the subject of the "Nobel Prize" ? With the guided tours a tourist can also  walk up the towers 365 steps or take the lift for a aerial view of the city.The city hall also rents a portion for public marriages and got to view a just married couple busy posing for photographs on the lawns of the vast City Hall.Walked to the small park behind the building facing lake Malarens shore that gives a beautiful view of the islands of Riddarholmen and Sodermam on the opposite side.Spotted a group of  male and female sailors practicing the "Sculls" on the lake front.There were several sculptures in the Park and after just seeping in the beautiful views decided to head back " Acco Hostel".It was a long walk to the "Central Metro Station" and a quick train journey from there  to Zinkensdamm. Reached my hostel at 1700 hrs and checked into Room Nos 2 and Bed Nos 1.I was authentically living the "Backpackers lifestyle" where i could claim the title of "Daddy Cool Backpacker" being definitely the oldest backpacker by chronological age but not by heart ! After a quick bathe explored the vicinity of the locality which had a mix of residential and shopping areas.Did manage to get a few hours sleep in the Swedish  summer White Nights phenomenon.
STOCKHOLM METRO STATION ARTWORK.:- Travelling on a Metro train and alighting at various subway stations  viewing a part of  the World's Longest art exhibit in 110 Kms  length  of  Stockholm Subways . 
Sunday(18-6-2017) Stockholm :-  Managed some sleep in the induced darkness of the hostel room and at 0500 hrs after my normal toilet/bathe routines was the lone hostelite to walk out of the door into the bright Stockholm daylight.
"RADIOHUSET BUILDING " of Sveriges Radio

                                                                                                              My 24 hours travel pass was still valid and decided to make the maximum use of the same.My plan was to explore the Stockholm Metro subway artwork which is the longest  artwork in the World spanning through 110 Kms of the city's Metro network.While walking towards the now familiar Zinkensdamm station suddenly spotted a bus approaching in my direction and at 0515 hrs  just impulsively hopped onto the bus at the bus stop.I was the only passenger in the N0 4 bus heading to Radiohuset. The driver was confused on seeing me and after showing him my ticket told him that i was just a tourist  on a bus joy ride of the city.So far i had only travelled by Metro and a tram and now it was a different experience seeing the city from a bus at a very unearthly hour of the morning .
 "Morby Centrum"  with artwork on the Metro Walls.

                                   Akin to the Scandinavian city's i had visited Stockholm also was clean , spacious and having well paved broad roads.On reaching the last stop "Radiohuset" alighted the bus and just walked towards the Radiohuset building while the bus driver took some rest in the bus depot building as is normal with local city route buses all over the World.. Radiohuset is the main building that houses the offices of Sveriges Radio(Radio Sweden) which is publicly funded by the Swedish Government.The Company was founded in March 1924 as  AB Radiojanst and in 1957 renamed as Sveriges radio. Sveriges radio was initially responsible for all radio and television broadcasting in Sweden having hosted the 1975 Euro vision song contest.
Art work facing the tracks on T-Centralen Metro station.

                             The infamous "BOFORS GUN BRIBERY SCANDAL" that rocked Indian Parliament in 1987 resulting in the fall of the Congress led Rajiv.Gandhi Government was first broadcast  by Sveriges Radio of Sweden.The Indian and World media picked the news from there and that resulted in a change of Political power in India. Futurelogists had predicted the demise of the radio decades ago with the invention of Television but seems even in the 21st century with  the "Internet"shaping the media the common radio is still relevant and thriving in various new  forms. At  home in Mumbai the "FM radio" is perpetual music and radio discussions to my ears while i work on my desktop with the "Internet".
Classic Hornsgatan street in Sodermalm district.

                                            After approximately 10 minutes the driver got into his seat and myself onto the bus for the reverse journey to Gullmarsplan. Without any planning and just by chance i had discovered Sweden's prime broadcasting station building that a few decades ago played a major role in Indian politics.On reaching Zinkensdamm at approximately 0610 hrs alighted the bus and made my way to the metro station.Boarded the red line train heading to Morby Centrum with the intention of alighting at every station and viewing the World famous Metro art of Stockholm.Alighted at T.Centralen,Stadion,Universitet and finally at the last stop Morby Centrum station appreciating the artwork on the walls on the underground metro stations.Absolutely clean and not a speck of defacement on any of the artwork which is daily viewed and passed along by common train commuters.
Sodermalm Cat Fashion :- Store entrance on Hornsgatan

                                                                                        Yes this was what a "First world Metro station" resembled and that too with 110 Kms of artwork in all its underground metro stations.At 0715 hrs caught the return train from Morby Centrum heading towards Fruangen, the last stop on the opposite end and finally alighted at my home away from home station of Zinkensdamm..I had made maximum use of my 24 hour travel ticket.On alighting from the station entered the small supermarket situated on the opposite side of Zinkensdamm station.Noticed a spread of local salad/fish/meat  meal kept in closed  transparent  plastic containers  in a corner of the store in the food section and took a little of each with the cost being by weight.
Maria Magdalena Church in Sodermalm.

                                      Also took  two small bread loafs and after paying for the purchases came out of the supermarket and sat on the chair at the open air table  placed on the footpath in front of a closed fast food shop.Relished my breakfast of raw salted salmon fish/bread and sliced chicken.In Sweden the cured raw salted salmon fish is called Gravadlax. Had read about Japanese Sushi  and Scandinavian raw fish and today for the first time i was eating raw salmon fish which is also a common Swedish food and hence not very expensive but a delicacy in some corners of the Globe.Went to my hostel and after a wash decided to walk down Hornsgatan street to the Royal Palace.In 2014 Sodermalm was  regarded as the "coolest" neighborhood in the prestigious Vogue magazine and i was surprised to be  living in one of  the chic districts of Stockholm.
A view of Stockholm Royal Palace.

                                                                                                As i casually walked along the empty street of Honsgatan  street i realized the reasons for Vogue magazine's statement.As it was a Sunday shops were closed but observed the numerous boutiques and hip stores on either side of the main broad road.A pair of black cats posted at the entrance of a beautiful closed grocery store was definitely a aesthetic fashion statement of the locality.I was walking along the catwalk of one of Stockholm's plushest streets with elegant buildings on either side of the broad central road.On a working day Hornsgatan is one of Stockholm's busiest streets.Some of Sodermalm's plushest bars and clubs are on this street but all were closed on this Sunday morning.
Stockholm Royal Palace complex.

                                                   My destination was the Royal Palace which was a long walk with the cool climate helping my walkathon. As i walked heard the chiming of a Church bell and headed in the direction of a the Maria Magdalena church situated on a slightly higher elevation from the main road.It was a Sunday and i religiously attend a Sunday mass  whenever possible and decided to visit this church.On entering the church grounds came across the church cemetery   with tombstones dating back to over a century.The Baptimisal font of the church dates back to 1638 which is the oldest surviving edifice of this church that has been renovated since the 1700's.The Sunday mass in Swedish was in progress in the church and after a short  prayer made my way out of the church and onto the main road for the long walk to the Royal Palace.
Stortorget Square  with former Stock Exchange building.

                                             Walked down the pedestrian pathway of the Centralbron bridge to Gamla Stan.I was now in the Old town of Stockhoilm with its cobbled streets.Finally at 1145 hrs i was in the Royal Palace square just in time to see the "Changing of the Guards". Stockholm Palace  or the royal Palace is the official residence  and major royal palace of the Swedish Monarch.The present King Carl  Gustaf XVI and his wife Queen Silvia live in Drottningholm Palace and not at the Royal Palace..The Royal Palace  construction was started in 1697 and completed in 1760 and is presently owned by the Swedish State .A large crowd as usual had gathered to watch the ceremonial parade and exchange of guards.
Marten Trotzigs Grand:- Narrowest alley.

                                                            The entire ceremony takes about 40 minutes  .The military marching band and the parade is the highlight with the protocol involved in rotation of duty among the guards.After watching a part of the ceremony walked towards the main  waterfront which had tourists and stalls advertising the Red bus city tours.Sat down on the steps of a statue and later  made my way to the north side of the Stortorget Square. .Stortorget Square is the oldest square in Stockholm with the Stock exchange building that conceals  the Royal Palace and Stockholm Cathedral from view to view being the most imposing structure. This  former Stock Exchange building of Stockholm was now converted into separate sections containing the Swedish academy and the Nobel library.
Gamla Stan Old Town of Stockholm.

                                                                                         The Nobel museum was also in the same building having been opened in 2001 on the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prizes.There was a open air cafeteria on one side of this palatial historic building packed with tourists.The Stock exchange building was designed by Erik.Palmstedt and  built in 1773-1776 and resembles a private palace from the exterior.Erik .Palmstedt also designed the well in the centre of the square having the head of gargoyles spouting water. This well dried in 1856 due to land elevation and was relocated to Brunkebergstorg  but again refitted in its original location in the 1950's and is today linked to the city's main water conduit and has a perennial water flow.Took a photograph at the well and decided to explore one of the World's narrowest streets  "Marten Trotzig Grand(Alley of Marten Trotzig)".
A Park on a Sunday holiday in plush Sodermalm.

                                                                                                                                      This alley is named after the merchant and burgher  Marten.Trotzig(1559 -1617).Just one person in a single file can walk down the alley which is 90 cms at its narrowest path which begins from a flight of 36 steps with one exit/entry onto Stortorget. Have photographed myself with both hands touching either walls of the buildings between this narrow alley.In my native city of Mumbai we do have such narrow alleyways  but they are not as ancient  as Marten Trotzig alleyway.Finally at 1400 hrs decided to call it a afternoon and walk the long way back to Zinkensdamm.The weather was excellent and hence i didn't feel the tiredness on my legs and also thanks to a daily regime of 2 kms swimming/cycling in Mumbai that i was still in competition with myself to complete my 28 days solo odyssey.

Zinkensdamm stadium in Sodermalm.
                                                                                                                                                      On the way to the hostel came across a large garden that was crowded with locals having a walk with their family and mothers with prams.Inquired about the costs of taxi hires for short distances  and realized that hiring a taxi meant a days budget tour of my personal expenditure .On reaching my hostel just lay down on my bunk bed browsing through the WiFi .Two young Asian men were on the bed next to me also busy on the  WIFi internet . Suddenly i heard them speaking in Urdu which is similar to Hindi and on introducing myself realized that they were engrossed in the India V/s Pakistan Champions cup finals being played at the Oval in England.
Section of spectators watching "Women's Soccer ".

                                                                                                                       They were Pakistani students studying I.T in Stockholm and having never met a Pakistan citizen since decades was surprised at suddenly  coming across many Pakistani origin and Pakistani's on this solo tour.Although a fan of "20/20 Cricket" was never a cricket fanatic and realized that this cricket match  meant literal war between fans of India and Pakistan in their respective Country's.Pakistan had batted first putting on a mammoth score and India had just begun their batting.India were batting pathetically and i realized that we lost the game when Captain Virat. Kohli , the face and mega star of Indian cricket got out .Here in distant Stockholm there was no animosity between solo traveller Rudolph and the two Pakistan I.T student fans of cricket  although i was sad at the dismal performance of our Indian team.
"Women's Soccer".Corner kick in Zinkensdamm Stadium.

                                                                                                                                              I have started a game on "Facebook"  named after my late pet Alexandrine parakeet titled "Mittoo alias Mittoo the poppat" that bets on sports games results with no actual money involved, just notional money akin to the numerous "Stock market games". Its a roaring notional financial mega success and my aim is to get our Indian Government to legalize sports betting in India , especially "Cricket betting". How many crores of rupees were being wagered illegally on this mother of all  cricket matches in both India and Pakistan ? Did the Indian Government get any revenue from "BETTING TAXES" as it does on "Horse Racing", the only officially legalized betting sport in India  ?  A guess ! At 1800 hrs made my way out of the hostel and walked in the direction of Hornsgatan street when i suddenly noticed a large crowd gathered outside a stadium.A women's football tournament was in progress at the local Zinkensdamm stadium.Entrance was restricted but i was allowed into the stadium probably since i was a tourist.
WHITE NIGHTS :- Its 0200 hrs Monday morning !

                                    .It was a housefull crowd and was amazed at the high standard of football by two of Sweden's top women's teams.Surprisingly the spectators were mostly all men akin to watching a F.A. cup club match and every good move was cheered .For the first time in my life was witness to a top class women's football match  and also lucky to see two goals being scored by the winning side. Memories of a lifetime .Made my way out of the stadium before the end of the match and after loafing in the vicinity admiring the variety of cycles and motorcycles parked outside the stadium decided it was time for dinner.Dinner was Swedish take-away food from the supermarket and seems raw salmon was my new gourmet discovery on this tour.Went back to the hostel and did get a good "White Nights Sleep" in the darkened hostel room .Suddenly i woke up at approximately 0200 hrs and decided to step out of the hostel and film the "White Nights " summer phenomenon  of Stockholm.The sky remains blue as shown in the  photo  with partial visibility a at 0200 hrs in the morning akin to twilight in my home city of Mumbai.Its not pitch black dark and with the streetlights resembled daylight.. This is called "WHITE NIGHTS" in Scandinavia and Country's  at latitudes  close to the Arctic circle in which there is a continuous twilight even when the Sun does set for a few hours.St Petersburg in Russia is World famous for its White Night's summer festivities.After filming the "White Night" phenomenon went back to the hostel happy that i hadn't misplaced the door's opening code words  otherwise it would have been a lonely "White Nights" outside Acco hostel .
"THREE SMITHS SQUARE" :-  Main Downtown Helsinki city.

Monday(19-6-2017) Departure Stockholm and arrival in Helsinki :-  Officially woke up at 0530 hrs and after my normal toilet routine packed my trolley bag.Relaxed in the hostel and at 0800 hrs headed onto the street into the now familiar supermarket at Zinkensdamm. Breakfast was the now routine Swedish fast food takeaway with the main dish being raw salted salmon.
Swedish breakfast from the Supermarket( Raw Salmon).

                                   After breakfast returned to the hostel and at 1000 hrs  checked out and headed into Zinkensdamm station.Had to board the "S.A.S(Scandinavian Airlines System) " 1520 hrs flight to Helsinki.Purchased a train ticket and was within a few minutes at Stockholm Central station. From the Central station it was a short walk to the main airport shuttle bus terminus situated inside the World Trade Towers building next to the train station.Stockholm Arlanda airport is located 40 Kms north of Stockholm city  and i was taking no chances of missing the bus or being late at the airport .Transport is the biggest hurdle  when travelling "SOLO" as hiring a taxi for just a single individual in any First World country is atrociously expensive even by their own living standards.
Arrival Helsinki - Vantaa  airport on "S.A.S" plane.

                                                                                                                                                 I would have definitely hired a taxi if we were 4 travellers in a group or even two but definitely not just for my own luxury at my backpackers income .Many are perplexed about my foreign tours at my income and on one occasion a Rupee billionaire classmate of mine did ask me the same .  Although my lifestyle is that of a billionaire with a millionaires income i should say that "Money management" akin to Sir Alex.Ferguson's  football management is the secret of my legal 'Billionaire lifestyle". Besides i  have the time  for travel as i am my own anonymous boss while most billionaires and top Company paid executives although their own bosses are at a shortage of "TIME" as they are business celebrities  answerable to their shareholders.Its akin to actors  Shahrukh. Khan or Aishwariya. Rai not being able to walk on a Mumbai street for fear of being  mobbed by fans. Anonymity also has its own "Celebrity Status" and actors  Shahrukh .Khan and Aishwariya. Rai  would agree to the same !
Trams in Helsinki.My main mode of transport.

                                                                                                      Time means more money and prestige and hence less leisure for more money and fame  ! In life you win some and you lose some  and having more wins than losses is the secret of success irrespective of being a common citizen,a celebrity actor or a billionaire businessman.Another fact is that being a bachelor means less travel accommodation expenses as i live in common cheap hostels compared to travelling with your wife or children. My two cats at  home compensate the lack of a human  family in my house and in my absence my housekeeper Sabina.Dias babysits them ! Yes, my pets are a major handicap for my solo travels but then they are my non-human family providing me with real life  "Tom & Jerry" style humour at home. Flygbussarna airport coaches ply every 15 minutes from Central station bus terminus and on arriving at the bus stop  boarded a bus almost immediately.
Getting ready for the "WHITE NIGHTS" in Helsinki.

                                                                        It was a 40 minutes drive to Terminal 5 of Arlanda airport and language was a real handicap on arrival inside the departure terminus.I had to punch in my own boarding pass on a computer with the language being Swedish.Approached a airport personal and he punched the required data into the computer and after collecting my boarding pass went for the security check that  had now become a habit.Went to my boarding gate terminal and got busy with the free airport WiFi.After about half an hour i suddenly heard the name "Furtado" being announced on the public system asking me to report immediately at the main reception counter. I literally ran the 200 meters  to the reception dragging my bag along and under the impression that i had not checked in with my passport.
Helsinki Central Railway Station.

                                                                 On inquiry with the passport  security check i was told everything was perfect and my name was not called and seems my namesake  probably of Portuguese  nationality must have been called or it could have been a genuine error on the part of the  announcer.For the first time in my life had heard my surname called in any airport let alone a International European airport. After the mad-hatter chase came back to my seat panting and relaxed with the smartphone WiFi..The plane departure was a hour late and hence also reached Vantaa airport late at 1900 hrs in bright sunshine.From Terminal 1 it was a long walk to Terminal 2 to purchase the 24 hour travel ticket costing 14 Euro.From now onwards i would be using only the Euro as the local currency which was a great relief as the exchange rates eroded my travel budget besides causing a delay in my day's tour agenda. The bus terminus was a short walk from Terminal 2 but it was a long wait for Bus Nos 615 that would take me to Katajanokka district of Helsinki.
Daylight at 2200 hrs  on a side street in Central Helsinki.

            On boarding the bus was aghast when my 24 hour bus ticket was not accepted by the automatic ticket machine and explained to the lady driver of my recent arrival into Helsinki. Ticketless travel has a very heavy penalty and here i was with a 24 hour 14 Euro ticket that was declared invalid. Was i conned by the airport employee ? It was a long drive to Katajanokka and i rang up  "CheapSleep hostel" inquiring about directions and the actual stop for alighting the bus.Travelling "SOLO" in a new city in a foreign country  with a different language is the job of explorers and adventurers and seems the first con was played on me by the issue of a expensive bogus travel card ticket. Alighted at Katajanokka  and again rang up the hostel for directions, the smartphone being my non-human guide.Finally with human assistance reached the building housing "CheapSleep Hostel" situated on a prominent location of a main 4 road junction.Made my way to the hostel reception on the 4th floor and was assigned  bed 2A  in room Nos 202 on the second floor by the Vietnamese origin lady receptionist.

                                                    A elegant hostel having cooking facilities  as well as a large lounge room.After taking a guide map and consulting the receptionist  regarding travel modes to downtown Helsinki made my way to my hostel room.After a quick wash  made my way out of the hostel.Time was precious as tomorrow night  i would be leaving for Tallinn in Estonia.All the buses and trams that passed along Katajanokka went to Helsinki Central terminus  which was the main centre of Helsinki city.During my solo travels i interact and meet with  numerous strangers  with a few remaining forever etched in my human  memory computer. One such person was this young Asian  man with a heavily bandaged leg seated at the tram stop  with whom i asked directions to the city.
In Central Helsinki at "THREE SMITHS SQUARE".

                                                                                                     We both boarded the 7 Nos tram and it was a hilarious conversation with this young Iraqi Arab who spoke fluent English. Iraq is all over the World news since over a decade  and it was the first time i had come across a Iraqi national.Seems he injured his leg in a fight in downtown Helsinki and was now heading in the same direction although now definitely not for football kick of  a fight.We both got down at "Three Smiths square", the main locale in downtown Helsinki.Downtown Helsinki was really pretty and picturesque with the naked statues of the three Smiths dominating the square.It was 2130 hrs and the night was still very young with the street side cafe partly filled with customers.

Helsinki is a "City of Trams". Tram Tracks in Central.
       Walked alongside the broad main street towards Helsinki Central railway station, a landmark building in Helsinki with its towering clock tower.This station is used by approximately 200,000 passengers daily making it the most visited building in entire Finland.The station building was designed by Eliel.Saarinen and inaugurated in 1919. The "B.B.C " chose it as one of the World's most beautiful railway  stations in 2013.Its the major travel junction for Helsinki city with all the main buses and trams having their terminus on the plaza facing Central station.Spotted a McDonalds shop  and dinner was a mini "Happy meal" costing 3.95 Euro's, one of my cheapest meals on the tour road till date and worth the money.It was bright sunshine at 2200 hrs in the night with all retail boutiques closed and hence decided to call it a day and head back to the hostel.Boarded the 7 Nos tram  and was back in the hostel.Went to the receptionist and purchased a new 24 hour travel pass realizing that i had been conned off Euro 14 at the Helsinki airport.This is a part and parcel of travelling and the main goal is to avoid least financial pilferage as the solo tour progressed.Did manage some sleep in the darkened hostel room.
SENATE SQUARE  with HELSINKI CATHEDRAL overlooking the square.

Tuesday(20-6-2017) Helsinki :-  It was raining in the morning which continued as a slight drizzle. Today was my last day in Helsinki and the rain could just not spoil my day's tour itinerary.
"Havis Amanda"  statue  at  Market Square .

                      At 0600 hrs walked out of the hostel in the drizzling rain and boarded the Nos 2 Tram for a joy ride around the city with my new 24 hrs  travel pass that was genuine and synchronized with the automatic ticket machine on the tram.All the shops were closed at this unearthly hour in the morning with a constant drizzle of rain.Returned back to the hostel and kept my luggage in the locker room, a habitual routine that began in Hostel Jorgensen in Copenhagen.After depositing my luggage  walked out of the hostel into the partial drizzle and boarded the  Tram.Passed through the beautiful Senate Square that has  Helsinki Cathedral overlooking the square.On arriving at Market Square alighted the tram  and took shelter in the tram stop.The "Havis Amanda"  statue of a nude standing mermaid with a fountain dominates the square.This statue was sculpted by Ville Valgren( 1855-1940)  in 1906 in Paris but erected in its present location at Market place in 1908.
Finnish breakfast(Raw Salmon/Toast/Coffee) in the rains.

                                                       The Nude mermaid is cast in bronze and the fountain in which she resides is made of granite.Four fish spout water at her feet and she is surrounded by  four sea lions . Two to three tent stalls were opening up  for business in the heavy drizzle at 0730 hrs.My agenda was to board the ferry from Market square to Suomenlinna Sea fortress.As the drizzle increased ran from the tram shelter into one of the open tent stalls on Market Square.This was a food stall selling Finnish delicacies and the drizzle turned into a heavy downpour of rain reminding me of the Monsoon season back home in Mumbai.I thought this was the end of my tour of Helsinki as Suomenlinna Fortress was a expansive open air island requiring long walks to various museums situated on the Fortress island.
"Fish Stall" at Market Square.

                                                                                                                     My ambition was to visit the submarine museum Vesikko and understand the internal structure and working of a submarine although this was a antique 2nd World War era submarine and the only one of its type in the World..Decided to have breakfast in the stall which was brightly lit up, a totally compact flexible Nylon tent that could be assembled and disassembled in a few minutes.Breakfast was a thick chunk of salted raw salmon with toast and Finnish coffee.Local Finnish food and something different in my lifetime of tasting various different recipes in India and across the Globe. To my disbelief and good-luck  the heavy downpour abruptly stopped at 0830 hrs with the sky getting brighter.
Boarded the Ferry to Suomenlinna Fortress.

           Strolled around the tent stalls in the Market place selling various items from local recipe's to vegetables and fresh fish.The Market place square is infested with sea-gulls  that feed on tourist morsels at times literally grabbing food from packets.A sight i observed for the first time having visited numerous sea side resorts and city's.Fish is my main diet and watched the two fishermen slicing and sorting out the Salmon fish. At 0845 hrs boarded the Ferry to Suomenlinna Sea Fortress from the ferry terminal just across the fish stall  at Market Place Square.I will now give a detailed pictorial account of the engrossing day that began with a heavy downpour of rain  early in the morning.
SUOMENLINNA FORTRESS ISLAND                                                                                                 The journey by the Ferry was a half hour ride passing along the lighthouse of the Fortress and getting a view of the island from the sea.
Suomenlinna Fortress  Island  as seen from the Ferry.

Hissing Barnacle Geese of Suomenlinna Island. Akin to being in a wildlife national park.
Reached Suomenlinna Fortress island at approximately 0900 hrs  and was one of the earliest tourists on this Fortress island.Felt like Robinson.Crusoe on this lonely island at this part of the day totally devoid from the normal heavy tourist traffic. The rains were a indirect blessing in disguise as it had prevented the normal throng of tourist arrivals early in the morning. In fact i myself would have been exploring this Fortress island at 0700 hrs if it hadn't rained early in the morning.Came across these barnacle Geese whom i first mistook to be Canadian Geese but later realized that they were smaller in size.These geese allowed me to get close to them for "Selfie" photo's but the mother goose with chicks would hiss and charge at me with its beak open if i got too close to her chicks.I was all alone interacting with pure unpolluted nature.
View of the Fortress walls of the island .Suomenlinna Fortress island was founded in 1748.
In the above photo i am crossing one of the bridges on Suomenlinna island that consists of 6 different islands connected to each other by bridges.It is a inhabited island having about 800 residents and is on the U.N.E.S.C.O World heritage list
Bridges connecting the 6 Inhabited islands of Suomenlinna.
On Suomenlinna Sea  Fortress   outside the "VESIKKO SUBMARINE" museum.
As mentioned my main reason to visit this Fortress Island was actually to visit the submarine that was preserved on land in its original form.I was early and the ""Museum Vesikko" had not opened and hence just strolled around the vicinity all alone akin to having arrived in a submarine instead of a car   and having it parked along the shore.On this day this island fortress was akin to being in a National park and as a tourist from one of the World's most densely populated city's felt weird being all alone beside's a unprotected historic submarine.
Entry to Dungeon along Fortress wall.

The opening time of the museum was 1100 hrs.
Strolled along the Fortress walls and entered this dungeon door. Didn't enter right inside to explore the tunnel since i was alone besides didn't have a torch light.
In the engine room of the museum submarine ""VESIKKO".
Finally at 1100 hrs was one of the first person's to purchase a ticket  and  enter the submarine along with a lady tourist. On entering the submarine was surprised at the cramped accommodation of the crew and officers as also the machinery space. A Naval officer on duty in this authentic original submarine museum explained me various parts of the submarine and the lifestyle on board.The Vesikko was launched on 10th May 1933 as a commercial submarine for a Dutch Engineering company.She was later purchased by the Finnish Govt and served in the Winter War and World War II .Sinking of the  Russian Merchant ship Vyborg was  her only victory among the submarine fleet.After the War in 1944 she was retired and later converted into a museum ship that i was  now viewing.Finally at last i had been inside a submarine and was amazed at the similarity of the engine room in comparison to sailing ships although the technology of the era was different .
Manege of the Finnish  Military Museum.
Purchase of the  submarine museum "Vesikko" ticket entitled the person to also visit the military museum of Finland situated on the main island of Suomenlinna.
"Allas Sea pool " next to Market Place Square.

Hence i entered the military museum and glanced along the various military equipment and also a brief history of the Finnish military In warfare the soldier credited with the largest number of "SNIPER HITS" was Simo.Hayha of Finland who killed 505 Soviet soldiers in the "Battle of Kollaa" during the "1939 - 40 Winter War" against the Soviet Union.All the kills were made in less than 100 day's and in winter temperatures ranging from  -20*C to   -40*C.Finland was definitely not a walk-over nation for the mighty Soviet Union and the military museum was a showcase of Finnish warfare.This was my last visit to a tourist museum on this beautiful island  finally making my way to the Ferry terminal.At 1215 hrs boarded the Ferry to Market Square satisfied that at last i had been onto a submarine besides having the pleasure of strolling on one of the most beautiful fortress island.A cruise ship was docked in the harbour and got a view of the Allas sea swimming pool situated just next to the Market place. The weather was cold and realized that my ambition of attempting to swim the English Channel would be a dream as i just didn't like the cold weather let alone swimming in ice cold sea water.
A partial view of the interior of Uspenski Cathedral.

                                             This solo tour if successful would compensate for the attempt  to swim the  English channel as according to me it was a much tougher feat involving the balance  of money economics and personal safety. If a sea swim attempt is unsuccessful the swimmer could always opt out of the competition  by being hauled on to the accompanying safety  boat thus only having a monetary loss of a expensive sea swim expedition.In a solo tour  a economic or physical disaster midway meant  you were just totally shipwrecked on land ! Akin to Copenhagen spotted numerous pad-locks on the barrier gate of the wharf facing the sea swimming pool.The Uspenski Cathedral is a beautiful landmark situated on top of a small hill on the Katajanokka peninsula facing the Baltic sea and overlooking Market Square.
Uspenski Cathedral :- Largest Russian Orthodox church in Western Europe.

                                 Trekked up the small hill to Uspenski Cathedral and was transferred into another World of religious decor on entering the palatial church complex. Uspenski Church is a Russian Orthodox Cathedral dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos(Virgin Mary).
The Portable camp  markets at "MARKET SQUARE".

                                   On a religious pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 2008 as a  Catholic was stunned by the divisions and liturgical differences between  the Catholic Church  , Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the  Russian  Orthodox  Church at the most holy site of Christianity , The Church of the Holy Sepulchre.Uspenski Cathedral is the largest Russian Orthodox church in Western Europe a reminder of the Russian Empire in Finland. It is  just too majestic and  beautiful for words and resembled a religious palace, both from the exterior as well as interior.The Cathedral was designed by the Russian architect Aleksey.Gomostayev( 1808 -1852 ) and built after his death in 1862- 1868.The Cathedral has several valuable icons  and on 16th  August 2007 the 45 X 35 cms tall icon of  St Nicolas - The wonder Maker weighing a couple of kilograms was stolen in broad daylight in the presence of numerous tourists.
HELSINKI CATHEDRAL 

                                                                            Till date this statue has not been recovered  and the search is on in Finland and other Country's.Previously in 2010 the icon of  Theotokos of  Kozeltshan was stolen but recovered the next year in 2011.I have visited a  major part of  the  European Continent  and being a Catholic always marveled at the majestic churches in every European city.Also pondered at the lack of a large congregation attending religious services in these large palatial churches that resembled palaces.Seems that pilferage of priceless church relics and icons is another major concern of churches in Europe besides a decreasing congregation at Church services.From Uspenski Cathedral made my way down the small hill into Market Square bustling with tourists and various camp stalls displaying their products .
Inside Helsinki Cathedral.

                                                     At 1300 hrs boarded the tram at Market Square and after a short ride alighted at Senate Square.Senate Square and its neighbouhood make up the oldest part of Helsinki city.The statue of Russian  Emperor Alexander II erected in 1894 is located at the center of the square surrounded by  figures representing law, culture and peasants.After Independence of Finland in 1917 there were demands to remove the statue but the demands were nullified and the statue  is today one of the major landmarks of Finland as a reminder of Finland's close ties with Imperial Russia..The Helsinki Cathedral on the elevated northern edge of Senate Square dominates the  Square which has the Helsinki University ,Government Palace and the National library of Finland  around its periphery.Carl.Ludwig Engel (1778-1840) designed all these buildings.Helsinki Cathedral then  called the Church of St Nicholas in honour of Russian Czar Nicholas 1  until the independence of Finland in 1917 was finalized twelve years after Engels death in 1840.
 
Dome of Temppeliaukio(Rock) church  in a hillock.
                                                                                                                                                   This Cathedral has become the symbol of Finland and a landmark for ships arriving into Finland.Sculptures of the twelve apostles are erected on the roof of the cathedral.Walked up the steps into the Cathedral and was surprised at its internal austerity in comparison to the Uspenski Orthodox church or the numerous Catholic churches in various  European city's.After the visit to the church made my way to the tram-stop and randomly akin to a lottery boarded tram No 2 for a joy ride around the city.My 24 hour travel card was my "Hop-On/Hop Off" tour vehicle, a seasoned hardcore backpacker.On the tram i just casually asked a passenger about "Rock Church" and to my disbelief seems my bus was in the vicinity just a stop away.
Entrance Temppeliaukio Church  excavated inside a hill.
                                                                                                                                                       Thanked the passenger and alighted at the stop which had a tall watch tower overlooking the street ,a landmark building  housing the National museum of Finland. From this landmark  on Mannerheimintie 34 street as my bearing asked  directions for Temppeliaukio Church popularly known as Rock Church as this church has been excavated directly into a solid rock hill.It was a long walk from the main road towards Rock church and the final approach was a short inclined walk up a hill to Lutherinkatu in the Toolo neighborhood of Helsinki.Came across a small mound of a hill and walking up the small hill along with a few other tourists realized i was on the roof of Temppeliaukio(Rock) church.
National Museum of Helsinki.

                                                  The first time in my life that i have come across a church carved inside a hill.Walked down the hill and walked the circle round the small hill to find the entrance of this unique church.There was a entrance fee of 3 Euro for entry as this church was a major tourist attraction besides being a place of worship for the  Lutheran Christian community of Finland.This church was designed by architect brothers Timo and Tuomo.Suomalainen and opened in 1969.The Church hall is covered with a dome lined with copper  and supported by concrete beams on the rock walls.A unique ice age crevice in the rock excavation serves as the altar while the interior walls are of rugged rock and rubble. A young lady was playing the organ inside the church which refreshed my tired mind and body.The Temppeliaukio church seats 750 people and is also a popular concert facility and a wedding church.After a  few minutes inside the church made my way back towards the tram stop for the long journey back to CheapSleep Hostel.Stopped at the National Museum of Finland for a few minutes and finally at 1430 hrs  boarded the tram to my hostel.
Houseful Queue to board"VIKING XPRS" to Tallinn.

                                .One observation was that English language was understood and spoken by a fairly large number of Finnish citizens.On reaching the hostel rested for a while  and checked out early as the rain was unpredictable and besides i was now on a new sea route to my next destination Tallinn in Estonia.Boarded the Nos 7 Tram to Helsinki Central and from there  changed over to Tram Nos 4 to Katajanokka Ferry terminal.It was a long ride to Katajanokka  district and on alighting the tram found it difficult to locate Terminal A of the Viking Line Ferry service.There was not a single person on the empty dock road  and finally with great difficulty and much anxiety  found a local who  gave me the right  directions to the Viking Terminal.on entering the terminal was happy to see a plush lounge akin to a airport terminal and walked to the ticket counter.Exchanged my xerox  E-ticket for the ships passenger boarding pass.
In the Saloon/Lounge of Ferry  "VIKING  XPRS".

                                                                              The departure time was scheduled for 2130 hrs with boarding time being 2100 hrs.At 1900 hrs i was one of the first passengers at the terminal and hence decided to board the tram back to Central for a nice departure meal before finally sailing on the Viking Ferry to Tallinn in Estonia.Waited for almost a half an hour at the tram stop just outside the terminal   before a young lady informed me that the tram only arrived during arrival/departure timings of the ferry and hence the delay. She guided me to another tram stop about ten minutes walking distance  from the Ferry  terminal .Boarded the tram and on alighting at central headed straight to the familiar  McDonalds Restaurant.Ordered a parcel of a large Double Mac / chips with a drink.Made my way back to the Viking Terminal and as usual got busy on the free WiFi  of the ship passenger terminal.
Palatial lounge &"Duty Free Shopping"on"Viking XPRS".

                                                                                                                                  As  boarding time approached the crowd in the passenger terminal began to swell and at 2100 hrs there was a long queue to board the beautiful sleek Viking Ferry parked along the wharf akin to a jet plane.Tallinn is a favourite overnight or a day's excursion for Finlanders as well as tourists visiting Helsinki as it is a mere two and a half hours voyage by Ferry.The "Viking XPRS" began her maiden voyage in April 2006 and has a service speed of  25 Knots( 46 Km/Hr) . In 2009 the "Viking XPRS" was voted as one of the top 5 medium cruise ships in the World by readers of the prestigious Conde Naste Travel guide. I have worked for over two decades as a "Marine Engineer"  in the shipping Industry having sailed on various ships but never ever on a luxury passenger ferry ship.The ambiance of the Ferry terminal was better than most airports and the boarding system into the Ferry through the narrow tunnel passageway was akin to entry into a plane.
"VIKING XPRS" docked in Tallinn Port.

                                                                                                                          On entering the Ferry just followed the passengers ahead and made my way to the topmost deck and onto the palatial enclosed dining/seating lobby.The entire  accommodation structure of the "Viking XPRS" was sealed with central air-conditioning and hence passengers couldn't wander into any open deck spaces for pure sea breeze .Seen the movie Titanic ? Departure was punctual at 2130 hrs and it was smooth sailing in bright sunlight  towards Tallinn which is 80 Kms from Helsinki port in the Gulf of Finland.At a corner of the lounge room there was entertainment for children while some passengers ordered for their drinks and food from the ships restaurant.After having my packaged McDonald's meal explored the ship and discovered a mini floating 5-star hotel cum casino. There was a palatial duty free shopping centre as well as a gaming room for passengers.The dining saloon was akin to the average 5-star restaurant with identical prices.Punctual E.T.A was maintained and at 2355 hrs our ferry berthed alongside Tallinn harbour with twilight  'WHITE NIGHTS" visibility.Exactly at Midnight 0000 hrs i was on the Ferry's gangway tunnel heading to Tallinn harbour terminal. At last i had experienced the luxury of travelling as a passenger  on a World class luxury ferry after over two decades of employment manning the machinery spaces of ocean and harbour ships.My life had revolved a full circle in the shipping industry !.
WHITE NIGHTS PHENOMENON IN TALLINN :- Its 0020 hrs and notice the light blue sky and also the "Twilight visibility".I have just alighted from the plush Ferry " VIKING XPRS" and tracing my bearings to Kohver Hostel from Tallinn port. A Early morning lonely walk i will remember for a lifetime.Today also happened to be the longest daylight in the Northern hemisphere.
Wednesday(21-6-2017 Tallinn :-  On alighting from the Ferry i was enthralled by the "WHITE NIGHTS" phenomenon of the sky being blue with twilight visibility.
0300 hrs :- Partying   view from Kohver hostel balcony.

                                                 All the passengers went to their respective destinations in private cars, taxi's or tour buses while i was the lone traveller walking on a lonely "White Night" in Tallinn Port. Spotted a tall tower in the distance which was my bearings towards Tallinn Old Town.As i walked out of the port onto the main road spotted  two Oriental men ahead of me , the only humans on a empty deserted street .Walked briskly towards them and realized that they were also budget tourists searching the way to their hostel through the "Google Map".As i neared the landmark tower spotted a man and asked him for directions.He did guide me into the fortified gates of the Old Town before heading to his residence, a Britisher settled in Tallinn.Inside the Old Town there was some human activity as it was "White Nights Partying" and chanced upon a young couple walking  towards me.
A Dachshund as a bench at Town Hall square

                                                                              Asked the man for directions and with his "Google Map" he went out of his way to guide me to the locked gate of the building housing "Kohver Hostel".The building lock was a coded password and to my horror realized i might have to spend the entire morning outside the locked gate of "Kohver Hostel".So close yet so far ! Suddenly spotted a young Oriental girl entering the building and to my relief she happened to be staying in the same hostel.The young Chinese lady came out of the building from the main door  and finally thanking the young couple for their kindness walked up the stairs to Kohver Hostel.I had not informed the hostel of my early arrival and thankfully the main hostel lounge door was open with two young ladies having a discussion within themselves.
"VIRU'S GATES" :- Entry Gates  into Tallinn Old Town

                                                                                                   After introducing myself inquired about the hostel manager who was asleep and hence just tried to make myself comfortable on the settee in the lounge room.Later walked into the gallery of the hostel lounge and realized that the day was still young with loud shouts emitting from the street below in the twilight morning at 0130 hrs, A phenomenon unbelievable in my home city of Mumbai in India.The hostel manager did wake up and after charging me for a extra day allotted me a bed in the hostel room.Finally at approximately 0330 hrs crashed onto my bed with the dormitory full with co-hostelites.
"VIRU STREET"in Tallinn Old Town./
                                                                                                                                                                                       Woke up at 0800 hrs and after a wash and bathe had the excellent free breakfast provided by the hostel.After touring four of the  World's most expensive city's Tallinn was a relief  on my wallet expenditure of the  28 days solo marathon tour  Odyssey.Akin to a Marathon runner or a sea swimmer pacing their physical energy i had to survive the entire tour on my planned monetary budget which was the actual adventure of the tour.I was in a race against myself !After breakfast made my way out of the building  into narrow Sauna street which was the name of  the hostels street.Walked a little ahead from the narrow Sauna street  towards the main road and suddenly found myself in the heart of Tallinn Old town on Viru Street .Kohver hostel has excellent location in the heart of Tallinn Old Town just a few minutes walk from "Viru's Gates"which are two old gate towers that was the entry into Medieval Tallinn.The Old Town is divided into two areas, the Lower town and the Upper Town(Toompea) and were once separated by two gates like two different city's.Tallinn Old Town situated on a elevation is visible from a great distance and that's how i walked all the way from the Port into the Old Town with the towering St Nicholas( Niguleste Museum) steeple tower as my bearing.Tallinn Lower Old Town is one of the best preserved city's of the medieval period and listed as a UNESCO heritage site..In the modern 21st century era Tallinn has been dubbed the Silicon valley of Europe having the highest number of startups/person in Europe and is the birthplace of numerous International I.T companies including "Skype".
Town Hall situated in Tallinn Town hall square. 
                                                                                                                                                          This tiny country Estonia with Tallinn as its capital has Tallinn ranked as one of the top 10 digital country's in the World ! From a developing World i was suddenly thrust into the heart of  the best of digital World technology.At 0930 hrs Viru street which is the main street in Tallinn Old Town was gradually getting filled with tourists .Strolled around the entrance gates which had numerous beautiful flower shops.Outside Viru Gates was the modern city of Tallinn with its broad roads and vehicles, a ultra modern city. My  solo exploration of Tallinn Old town with the help of a guide map  began from the entrance of "Viru Gates"  up along Viru road and into the Old Town hall square.
Indescribable flowers for sale.

                                                     A Market place with stalls selling various products  was in operation  on the outer periphery of the Town hall square .Tallinn Town hall square has been a market place  since the Middle ages.In the modern era Town Hall is the venue for numerous festivals  and open air concerts besides being a daily tourist market.The tradition of celebrating Christmas festivities is supposed to have first begun here  in 1441 when the "Brotherhood of the Blackheads" are thought  to have erected the World's very first Christmas tree.The majestic Town hall building faces the Town Hall Square and is the oldest town hall  in the entire Baltic region and Scandinavia having been completed in 1404..It is a two storey building having a 64 meters tower with the vane "Old Thomas"on the spire  of the tower as a weather indicator.From the Town hall explored the historic buildings of Tallinn Old Town that have been intact since the 13th and 14th centuries with regular repairs over the centuries.I will now give a pictorial description of my discovery of Tallinn Old Town.
St Nicholas Church (Niguleste Museum.)

A Short walk from Town hall square up a inclined hill is this magnificent church with the tallest spire visible all over Tallinn  due to its elevation on the Limestone hill.This was originally a 1230 A.D era church  but destroyed  in the 20th century by World War II bombing. St Nicholas Church (Niguleste Museum.) was restored in the 1980's and now functions as a museum specializing in religious art most famously Bernt.Notke's spooky painting "Dance Macabre(Dance with Death)" .The museum has artwork spanning seven centuries.The building also has excellent acoustics that makes it a venue  for organ and choir concerts.From St Nicholas Chuch walked back in the direction of Viru's street to discover "St Catherine's Passage".
14th to 15th century Tomb Stones along St Catherine's Passage.
St Catherine's passage  is a walk behind the ruins of what once used to be St Catherine's Church  connecting  Vene Street and Muurivahe street in the Old Town.Its a very narrow hidden passageway and until i was at the entrance didn't realize its tourist significance.As i walked through the narrow passageway passed along the ruins of what was once a thriving monastery with remnants of large tombstones preserved alongside the passage walls..The passageway also has a collection of small workshops called "St Catherine's Guild" where artists and artisans sell traditional local handicrafts.From St Catharine's passage made my way into the now familiar Viru Street and discovered the "Rimi" Franchisee supermarket .Lunch was beer along with cheese and ham pattices. Excellent.
6 Kuninga Street :- A late Gothic building .A Archaeological monument.
Old Tallinn Town has numerous Gothic buildings that have been refurbished and preserved.The above building "6 Kuninga Street" was first mentioned in 1359 .It obtained its present dimensions and room positions in the 15th century.It was rebuilt in the 17th century and refurbished recently in 1983 the 20th century. And you thought your building in your city was the oldest ! I entered this building which was hosting a art exhibition and it seemed as normal as any aged building.From here it was a long walk towards Freedom Square situated on the opposite end of Viru's gate.
"VICTORY COLUMN" at Freedom Square in Tallinn.
Freedom Square is a Plaza in the South of the Old Town that at present hosts military parades and concerts.During the Soviet Era "Freedom Square" was called "Victory Square" hosting parades  in honour of holidays like "Victory Day" and "October revolution".The "War of Independence Victory column" opened on 23rd June 2009   is located  on Freedom Square as a memorial for victims of the Estonian war of Independence.The memorial incorporates the Cross of Liberty which is Estonia's most distinguished award instituted in 1919.
Freedom Square formed the outer boundary of Tallinn Old Town  akin to Viru's Gate on the Northern end.From here i got a idea of the modern 21st century Tallinn city with beautiful plush trams and broad roads. From Freedom park walked up to Harju Hill.
On "Hill of the Harju Gates" park   with a "Bird's Eye view" of Tallinn city.

At 1300 hrs when i visited  "Hill of Harju Gates" park it was devoid of tourists and the "Bird's Eye View"  view of Tallinn Old Town surrounded by modern skyscraper buildings in the distant city was a beautiful postcard picture of old architecture existing with modern city development and architecture. St John's Church , a Lutheran Church founded in 1867 is situated opposite Harju Hill. on one end of  Freedom square.The "Vene Theater"  playing the latest cinema is situated on the main road facing freedom square.
TOOMPEA CASTLE :-  Seat of the Parliament of the Republic of Estonia(The Riigikogu).
From Harju gates it was a uphill walk along Toompea hill to "Toompea Castle" which is the seat of the Estonia Government.This castle is a ancient site in use as a Fortress  since the 9th century.The present castle with its  baroque facade was built between 1767 and 1773 on the crumbling ruins of the Fortress.The Blue,black and white of the National flag was flying on top of the 45.6 meter tall Hermann Tower as the symbol of Estonia Independence.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral on Toompea Hill.
The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral sits on top of Toompea hill facing Toompea Castle  and is a richly decorated Russian Orthodox cathedral built in the late 19th century.The Domes of the Cathedral  is beautiful as are all Orthodox Russian Church domes.Went inside the Cathedral  which has three altars.Observed a man in a open casket on one side of the aisle of the altar and initially mistook the human form to be a religious icon. Later observed a few ladies sitting next to the casket and realized that i was witnessing the funeral ceremony of a local Estonian.Tourists were casually walking inside the cathedral while the dead man lay in the open coffin with a glass casing. The first time in my life that i was witness to a funeral in a foreign country.
Hellemann Tower and Town Wall Walkway..
From Toompea hill walked down and entrered the precincts of the Town Wall.Walked up the three storey 14th century Hellemann Tower which was at various stages used as a prison  and a weapons store.Walked along Town wall  and got a excellent view of the medieval defenses of Tallinn.
At the "Hooded Monk" statue next to Town Wall.
Next to the town wall is the looming statue of a Hooded monk in prayer. Very popular with tourists for photographs and i also took a photograph with the anonymous monk seeking his blessings for the safety of my solo tour. So far so good.Walked up the stairs of the wall to Dannebrog Cafe  which gives a good view of the town  while sipping wine. The stone  stairs are treacherous and a fall could mean serious medical treatment.
Marketplace in Town Hall Square.
  Walked along Town Hall square which at 1400 hrs was buzzing with tourist activity
National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Tallinn.
. Walked out of Viru Gates  into Modern Tallinn and crossed the broad main road to enter the palatial building of the ""National Opera and Ballet theatre".
Common Scandinavian / Baltic dinner :- Raw Salmon

  This building was built in 1913 and totally destroyed by bombing by the Soviets  in 1944.It was reopened in 1947 after the war.From the Opera Theatre building went back into Old Town and strolled around the cobbled street.Later  again went out of the Old Town precinct and entered a artists studio shop displaying landscape paintings .Exhibition  artist Mr Dymtro.Dobrovolska  spoke to me about the paintings  costing between 300 to 400 Euro's.His wife Mrs Nina.Dobtovolska was a economist and also a accomplished painter  having addresses in Tallinn,London and Kiev.Aimlessly walked  along the periphery of  the Old Town and entered back into Viru street. Came across another Indian tourist and after a brief talk realized it was a small World and Indian origin New Zealander Mr Satish.Namala and myself were destined to travel on the same bus to Riga tomorrow evening.After a dinner of the now habitual salted salmon/bread and beer purchased from Rini stores made my way to Toompea hill.Within a day i had toured entire Old Town vicinity.
The View of Tallinn city  from Toompea hill.Tallinn has only 6 skyscrapers as  by Government decree no building can be higher than St Olaf's Church
  Toompea Hill has some of the plushest private buildings and all the Consulate buildings are situated within the vicinity of this limestone hillock.Walked through the maze of beautiful buildings finally reaching Toompea Hill viewpoint which gives a "Birds Eye View" of Tallinn city.Came across a sea-gull that was as tame as a pigeon.I have never seen such a tame sea gull before although have come across numerous seagulls during my sea voyages. The red tiled roofs of the houses in Old Town were postcard picturesque .  From Toompea Hill returned back to Lower Old Town and akin to a local strolled around the cute narrow streets.Observed numerous shops selling "Amber Jewellery" and wondered if buyers could differentiate between fake and real amber.Finally made my way down the narrow Sauna street and into Kohver Hostel.Today is the longest day in the Northern hemisphere which didn't make a difference to the "WHITE NIGHTS" phenomenon  of the Scandinavian cities and the Baltic city of Tallinn .Although sleep eluded me did manage my normal 3 hours of rejuvenating sleep !
WHITE NIGHTS :- In Riga Old Town at 2320 hrs in the night.
 Thursday(22-6-2017) Tallinn and the bus to Riga :-  Woke up officially at 0500 hrs and  after a hot bathe  had my breakfast of cornflakes and bread with coffee. Made my way out of the hostel into "Catharine's Passage" for the second time for a detailed study of this historic ruins.
St Mary's Cathedral( Dome Church) on Toompea Hill in Tallinn.
    From "St Catherine's Passage" walked up Toompea hill and visited St Mary's Cathedral also called the Dome Church  which is the oldest church in Tallinn.This Church was founded  in 1240  by the Danes  and is the only building in Toompea to have survived the 17th century fire.Originally a Roman Catholic Cathedral it became Lutheran in 1561 and now belongs to the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran  church.It is the seat of the Archbishop of Tallinn. later visited St Olaf's Church named after the sainted Norwegian king Olav II Haraldsson.  This church was first mentioned in  1267.
 
Great Guild.
          Post voluntary premature retirement from sea employment as a "Marine engineer" i was now earning my livelihood through investments. Hence a visit to the "Great Guild" in Tallinn was a mandatory sightseeing tour.Today the "Great guild" houses  the "Estonian History Museum"   but it was formerly a guild  for merchants and artisans operating in Tallinn from  the 14th century till 1920. This building was erected in 1407 -1410 with the interiors finished in 1417.Just opposite the "Great Guild" building is the "Church of the Holy Ghost or Church of Holy spirit" which is a medieval Lutheran Church.
"Maiasmokk Kohvik" , the oldest cafe in Estonia.
 Diagonally opposite the "Church of the Holy Ghost"  and the "Great Guild" lies a building housing the oldest cafe in Estonia existing in its present modern form .
Tallinn  International Bus Terminus(Bussijaam)

                                                               I walked into "Maiasmokk Kohvik" cafe   to taste a bit of confectionery history being a history addict.On entering it seemed like any common normal cafe.Pastries, pies ,cakes and hand made candy's were on sale and there were lots of customers at the counter.The Cafe has two floors and is famous for its "Marzipan".One floor has a museum dedicated to the history and uses of Marzipan. In the nineteenth century the Russian Royal family were one of the customers of Marzipan from this cafe.During Soviet occupation the Cafe  continued its business although Nationalized and in 1997 after the Independence of Estonia was again privatized. "Kalev" now owns this cafe and in 2006 the Estonian post office created a stamp  to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the cafe.
Plush "Lux Bus" :-  Tallinn to Riga.

                                                                                                   After purchasing a Rum chocolate i made my way out of this historic confectionery cafe and back to Kohver hostel.Checked out of the hostel and went into the now familiar "Rini Supermarket" purchasing 'Buffet salad fish/beer" costing  4 Euro and excellent as also the most economical food.After having my lunch in Kohver hostel at 1315 hrs checked out from the hostel. It was a short walk past  the iconic "Viru's gates" onto the main road to the Tram stop on the opposite side of the road.Boarded Tram No 4  paying a ticket fare of 2 Euro with the destination being "Bussijaam" which is the main international bus terminus in Tallinn.On reaching the bus terminus i realized i was too early as the departure time was 1700 hrs ! Whiled away my time on the free WiFi at the bus terminus.Mr Satish.Namala arrived at the right time and finally at 1700 hrs the "Lux Express bus" took off akin to a plane from platform No 8 and instantly i was on the superhighway of free bus WiFi. Was practically experiencing  the definition of "LIVING OUT OF A SUITCASE" !
Music  of "Abba" at "EGLE" :- 1970's Nostalgia in Riga.

                                                   As scheduled the bus reached Riga International bus terminus at 2130 hrs.On alighting from the bus  i headed in the direction of St Nicholas Church steeple while fellow tourist Mr Satish.Namala headed  in another direction towards his hostel.Once inside the historic Old Riga Town it was a long tiresome walk over cobbled roads and after asking directions finally reached my destination. Unlike Tallinn Riga Old Town was booming with music from every nook and corner of every cafe and restaurant reminding me of Kuta in Bali.I passed a cafe having a band playing live music and was absolutely surprised on realizing that "Doma Hostel" was situated in the thick of nightlife action in the very heart of Riga Old Town.The largest open air restaurant "EGLE" was   about 50 meters from  Doma hostel !
Different genres of "Live Music" in Riga..

           The Hostel was on the first floor of a vintage building having "Coded Lock" entry  and hence with great difficulty contacted the reception and made my way into the hostel.Loud live music and dancing was in progress in the  "Egle restaurant" facing Doma hostel and i was just anxious to get onto the main street. After the normal formalities and being shown my bed in the hostel room quickly washed myself and made my exit out of the hostel.At 2200 hrs it was bright daylight and seems it was "WHITE NIGHTS"  partying time all over Riga Old Town.In Tallinn Old Town  night entertainment is more indoors in pubs and nightclubs while in Riga Old Town it was open air restaurants and pubs.Came across a small ground where a group of young men were practicing archery.In Europe all Old Town squares are similar in topography and a newcomer can never get lost in any old Town precinct as long as he or she keeps  certain important landmarks in the memory bank .Most notable are  churches and the Town hall or prominent cafe's/pubs.. Travel trade secrets from a veteran solo traveller. Hearing the "Live Music" in various pubs and restaurants catering to different genres of music made me forget my fatigue having done immense walking in Tallinn during the day.
White Nights(Photo taken at 2210 hrs) :-"HOUSE OF BLACKHEADS"

 Church of St Peter is the landmark church of Riga Old Town and after strolling around the church   suddenly came across a beautiful building.On inquiry was told that this magnificent building was the "House of Blackheads". The "Brotherhood of Blackheads" was a guild of unmarried German Merchants in Riga and hence the "House of Blackheads" was originally built in the 14th century for these bachelor merchants.In 1941 during World War II the  building was destroyed  by German bombing and later the Soviets demolished the entire structure.This current edifice was reconstructed to the original design between  1995 to 1999.This building is now a landmark and one of the most beautiful buildings in Riga.

Elvis era :- Capturing the 1960's era music in Riga.

 I entered one of the pubs playing nostalgic Elvis Presley era songs with the entire pub decorated in 1960's/1970's memorabilia  of the Presley era. "WHITE NIGHTS" in Riga was really rocking and unlike Vasco Da Gama i had not discovered a new trading Country but a new entertainment centre in the European Country of Latvia  in the Baltic city  of Riga.There were pubs having aristocratic "Shisha " pipes while live music played and seems everything was available for a price.Bizzarely smoking is prohibited in public areas in Riga ! As a "Solo bachelor  Traveller" i have either been mistaken as a homosexual or a heterosexual depending on the person and Riga was no different.I was approached by a few peddlers for enjoying the unspeakable thrills of carnal pleasure or dope pleasure.Riga Old Town was the first city among the city's visited on this tour where i was openly solicited for various pleasures of sin !Wasn't i from the land of the Kamasutra ? Nothing to be embarrassed about. What made me happy was that everything was safe for tourists  and besides just a few questions by peddlers i was never ever harassed or felt the fear of being robbed.Made my way back to the familiar "Doma Hostel" after the open air restaurant "Egle" finally wound up its "Abba Cover songs" live music at midnight. Had my normal mornings sleep of approximately four hours.
Indian origin New Zealand tourist Mr Satish.Namala and self at "St Mary's Riga(Dome)Cathedral " Square in Riga.
Friday(23-6-2017) Riga :- As usual officially woke up at 0530 hrs and after my normal routines got dressed for the day's agenda .
Town Hall Square  with the "House of Blackheads".
                                                                                                                              I would be leaving for Vilnius tonight  at 2330 hrs.Walked out of the hostel with the entire Old Town still asleep from "White Nights" partying.Mr Satish.Namala and myself had decided to meet at St Peter's Church  and sight-see Riga together as akin to me although married and with a kid he loved travelling during holidays from his work place in New Zealand.As i was early decided to stroll around the now familiar locales in the vicinity of Doma hostel.The Old Town of Riga has been declared a UNESCO World heritage site with centuries old German buildings strewn across the Old city. Doma hostel is situated on the first floor  of a 1830's renovated building .
Riga Town Hall.

                                                                                  Made my way towards the "House of Blackheads" building which had a different look early in the morning devoid of the normal tourist crowd.The Town Hall faces the majestic modern reconstructed House of Blackheads with the Town Hall square  being the common space between this two landmark buildings of Riga Old Town.The Statue of Roland., a military leader known for his impartial governance and a symbol of of justice in Northern Germany  stands in the centre of Town Hall square. All the buildings in the vicinity were destroyed during World War II and have been rebuilt. I am not very superstitious although as a gambler/speculator i do believe in the factor of "LUCK/DESTINY" and seems strange that as a bachelor  i was drawn towards "The House of Blackheads", a former historic bachelor residence on my very arrival in Riga with no prior knowledge or a city map of the locale.Did a ghost lead me to the locale ? .At 0800 hrs made my way towards the Church of St Peter situated a short walking distance from Town Hall Square  and met Mr Satish.Namala .With the help of the city guide map and locals  we decided to explore the vicinity which i normally do by myself on solo explorations..As we were right at the gates of the  Church of St Peter had a walk around the Church .
Entrance to St Peter's Church  with its 123.5 meter tower.
St Peter's Church was a Catholic church until 1523 after which it became a Lutheran Church.Its wooden tower, the highest in Europe during that period has been destroyed numerous times.Its last destruction was during World War Ii in 1941 after which it was finally rebuilt in 1973.
A passion for horses.Horse Artwork in Riga.

                      A lift takes tourists to the top of the observation platform of the tower for views of the city.From St Peter's church traced the map  and came to square that had a large wooden horse akin to a pommel horse used in gymnastics.Having completed my "Silver Jubilee" in the World of Horse racing it was apt to take a photograph along with this wooden horse.Next came across Dome Cathedral where we both took a photograph together.The St Mary's Riga(Dome Cathedral)  is the subject of paintings ,photographs and television travelogues and hence the most recognizable landmark in Riga.Dome comes from the German word "Dom" which means Cathedral.It was built in 1211 and is considered the largest medieval church in the Baltic States.During the Soviet occupation from 1959 to 1989 religious services were prohibited and the cathedral was used as a concert hall.services .The Cathedral is also famous for its weather Cockerel on top of the spire that dates back to 1595.At present the Cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church and contains historical ,architectural and cultural of various centuries.Various music  concerts are held in the cathedral where music is played during church services as well as public concerts.
"THREE BROTHERS"building complex  :-  Oldest dwelling houses in Riga 
From Dome Cathedral  we began searching for the "Three Brothers".After much inquiry did finally arrive at the "Three Brothers" buildings.
St James Church(Jacob's Church)

                                                                                                        The three houses are joined together as seen in the photograph  and each building represents the period of development of construction in Riga.The first building is the oldest dating to the late 15th century while its adjoined building dates back to 1646 with a stone portal added in 1746.The last youngest green brother was built in the 18th century.At preset the "Three Brothers" complex houses the State Inspection for Heritage protection and the Latvian museum of architecture.Our next stop was St James Cathedral  also known as Jacob's church.We entered the Church and mass was in progress with the Holy communion being given to the congregation.The Church was dedicated in 1225 and was a  Catholic Church. Over the centuries it has changed denominations many times between Lutheran(Protestant) and Catholicism  besides being burnt, damaged and rebuilt a few times.In 1812 it was also  used as a food storehouse by Napoleon's troops.In 1923 the building was given back to the Catholics  by the Lutheran church.The total height of the tower along with the Spire of the church is 73 meters.
"RIGA CASTLE" :- Official residence of the President of Latvia.
From St James Church we next walked into Castle Square  which has the Riga Castle on its grounds with the castle complex situated close to the banks of the river Daugava that flows alongside the outer periphery of Riga Old Town.

A Photo with the Presidential Palace Guard.
                                                                                                                 This castle was founded in 1339 and continuously rebuilt or altered throughout its history with the  Latvian Government declaring the castle  its residence in 1938.The castle is the official residence of the President of Latvia and also houses several museums.The castle is heavily guarded and we spoke to one of the guards stationed on the square outside the castle later taking a photographs with him.I  looked small compared to his giant physique, the first time i had taken a photograph with a Presidential guard of a country..From the Castle square we walked back towards Riga Cathedral(Dome Church).Mr Satish.Namala wanted to visit the church dome while i had other plans and hence we split in different directions hoping to meet again.Now i was back to the "Solo" expedition of Riga city.As a owner of two Persian cats i couldn't leave Riga without discovering the "Cat House".Suddenly after much inquiry realized that the "Cat House" building with its custard yellow colour  was right in front of me with statues of two black cats on its conical  roofs.
"CAT HOUSE(1909)" :-  Notice the two black cats in crouching position on the conical roofs.
The "Cat House" is styled as medieval architecture and is a landmark because of the sculptures of  the two black cats  with arched backs and raised tails facing the Guild House.The purpose of installing the sculpture of these cats was to cause trouble as the Latvian owner of the building was excluded from the powerful big guild across the road by its German occupants.The superstition of the  curse of the cats resulted in the first sculptor falling to his death while fitting the cats.The Latvian owner initially had the cats backsides facing the Guild but after a prolonged court battle he reinstated the cats in their present direction facing the guild  besides he was also admitted  to the Guild.This case proves that at times ego clashes can at times result into historical edifices with a little touch of the supernatural.From the Cat house decided to head towards "Freedom Monument ".
"Monument of Freedom" of Riga.
It was a long straight walk from the Cat House towards Freedom monument. On the way i had a late breakfast at a fast-food store.
St John's Lutheran Church.
                                                                                                                                    The Freedom monument honours soldiers  killed during the Latvian war of Independence(1918 -1920) and was unveiled in 1935..The monument has the Statue  of Liberty holding three stars in her hand.The three stars symbolize the three regions of Latvia which are Courland(Kurzerne),Livland(Vidzeme),Lettgallen(Latgale). Two sentry guards were at the monument.Later came back towards St Peter's Church and while exploring the vicinity came across "St John's Church", a Lutheran church.The number of historical churches within the circumference of Riga Old Town baffled my imagination of religion at a time when the population of the city must have been minuscule in comparison to the 21st century.Its the same in all European city's i have visited with palatial Cathedrals and churches at almost every corner in the historical Old Towns of each city.Ironically in the 21st century with a much larger population most of these churches lack a large Christian  practicing congregation and some have become tourist museums and many churches are also music concert halls .Made my way to Central Market of Riga.
RIGA CENTRAL MARKET :- The largest market in Europe.At my favourite counter in any market around the World .The palatial spotlessly clean " Fish section" of Central  market.
At 1315 hrs was in Central Market, a landmark structure in Riga and also the largest market in Europe.
"CENTRAL MARKET"as  seen on "White Nights".
                                                                                                                                                        The main structures of this unique market  are five pavilions that are  constructed by using obsolete old World War I  German Zeppelin hangars.as the enclosed space and incorporating Neoclassicism and Art Deco styles.It was planned in 1922  and built between 1924 to 1930.In 1998  it has been included in UNESCO World heritage  site list together with Old Riga Town.The total area of the market is 72,300 Sq Metres  and it has  more than 3000 trade stalls.The markets pavilions are five of the nine Zeppelin Hangars remaining in the World.The market was spotlessly clean and was filled with tourists as well as locals.I just window shopped around the market walking across the Zeppelin Hangars  with each Hangar market displaying different stalls.
Rented "Open Air Market" outside Central Market.
                                                                                                As usual headed towards the fish section which  occupied almost a entire enclosed Hangar.Fish of all varieties was on display and sale with pretty young fisher-women slicing and packaging fish in a few stalls.I was amazed at the cleanliness of the fish market and the photograph speaks  more than words.Dry fish was also on sale with a large variety of different fish species.The Daugava river  flows alongside the main road facing the Central market where prior to the building of the  Central market  its banks were the location for selling commodities and goods.The Central market underwent major upheavals during Nazi occupation and also during the Soviet era and was later modernized after the Independence of Latvia .
"Gunpowder Tower"

                            Outside the five main enclosed Zeppelin Hangar markets is a open air market selling vegetables and fruits bringing back memories of my home city of Mumbai.This open air market has been rented on lease upto 2045.From the market walked back into Riga Old Town thrilled that besides seeing Europe's largest market i had also seen the World's last few Zeppelin hangars, akin to being in a open air natural museum.Walked towards the v"Swedish Gate" and came across the "Powder Tower" of Riga .The Powder tower was built in 1330 and was a part of the defensive armour of Riga city.It was at that time called the Sand Tower and later in the 17th century was used for storing gunpowder and hence the name "Powder Tower".Now the building houses the "Museum of War" and stands out in a corner of Riga Old Town.Gradually walking along  the town realized that today was a public holiday in Latvia although i didn't know the reasons for the same.Observed  a lot of activity going on along the riverside that is a natural boundary of Riga Old Town.Walked along Town Square and into the open road bordering the Daugava river  that was fenced with wooden barriers and made  traffic free.Destiny has been kind to me on numerous occasion and i realized that without any pre-planning i was bang in the middle of one of Latvia's most popular traditional festival called "Ligo(Pagan word for Summer Solstice)" or "Jani( Christianized name for St John's day)".
FRIDAY(23/6/2017)  "LIGO" / "JANI" day in Riga Old Town:- Road made traffic free for "Latvia Summer Solstice celebrations". Notice the temporary food/Souvenir  tents erected along the side of the road.
I had read about "WHITE NIGHTS" being celebrated in a grand lavish manner in St Petersburg in Russia but never thought that the tiny Country of Latvia also hosted a grand "Summer Solstice" celebration .
At "Doma Hostel Building" with the Cat of Riga.
                                                                                                                                             In Riga the city sponsors the "Ligo" celebration at 11 NovembraKrasmala(11 November Embankment) alongside the Daugava river bordering the Old Town. Honestly destiny put me in the "Right Place at the Right Time". When i arrived on the scene the stages were being erected and a band was practicing on one of the 4 erected  stages on the long road.Made my way back towards the hostel deciding to preserve my physical  energy akin to a Marathon runner. I was testing my physical fitness at the maximum since landing in Copenhagen on Monday(12/6/2017)  and was definitely feeling the strain of living out a suitcase syndrome. Old Riga Town entertainment seemed quite as today the entire city would be by the riverside celebrating the annual Summer Solstice day.
 Daugava  river traffic on "LIGO(Summer Solstice day)".
                                                                                                                                 On the ground floor of Doma Hostel building saw the giant effigy of a cat at the entrance of the souvenir shop situated  in the building.Took a photograph along with this giant Riga cat that must have definitely been a celebration of the landmark "Cats Building".Made my way into the hostel and got busy on the WiFi in the hostel lounge as i had already checked out my luggage from the hostel room.The Landlady of the hostel had to attend to some urgent appointment and hence requested me to be a temporary caretaker of the hostel in her absence.Learnt the job of a hostel watch-keeper in her absence attending to opening the remote controlled electronic door for guests. First World technology where just from a chair i could control the entire first floor of this hostel.When she finally arrived i made my way out of the hostel at 1900 hrs  heading to the Great Summer solstice entertainment on the banks of the river Daugava.
FOOD TENTS ON LIGO DAY :-  Grilled and sauteed food for the festival alongside picturesque Daugava River
There was a strong presence of the police force as also checking of bags as people made their way  to  the main entrance gate leading onto 11 Novembra Krastmala(11 November Embankment) where the Jani (Ligo)  celebrations were in progress.
Beer was flowing more than water which was costlier !

                                                                                                     Did the Rock group "Gun's & Roses" get inspiration for their classic "November Rain" from this embankment  in Latvia ? The road was gradually getting filled and bands were playing on the various stages set in different parts of the long road alongside the picturesque Daugava river.Inspected the food tents which with food being prepared in the open air and the fragrance tempting for my budget economy travel.Plenty of food is the norm on "Jani Day" as the celebration will last until early morning.Tents were decorated with wood, greenery and flowers giving it a countryside ambiance.Latvian Cheese made from caraway seeds called "Jani Cheese"  is the traditional food of the Ligo festival and available in every food tent.Beer was cheaper than water and being drunk  akin to spring water from the forests of Latvia.Began my introduction into the festival atmosphere with a beer.
Best of Latvian Folk music  on one of the 4 stages erected on "Jani or Ligo Night( 23/24/6/2017").
"Jani was originally a festival for Pagan farmers that existed long before the arrival of Christianity.It normally rains on "Jani/Ligo Night "and its a common Latvian phrase to say "Its raining like its Jani".The rains had followed me all over Scandinavia from Mumbai and bizarrely it was a bright  day on the eve of "Jani" night  in Riga. In honour of "Jani" homes are decorated with birch, oak and rowan branches and the same is visible on the stage of this Latvian group.There were a total of 4 different stages along 11 Novembra Krastmala(11 November Embankment) with each stage playing a different genre of Latvian music.
Packed crowd on " 11Novembra Krastmala(11 November Embankment)"  celebrating  "Jani(Ligo)" Festival.
The street got crowded as the night progressed with beer drinking and food tent hopping a feature of this unique carnival.There was a long queue for food at most of the tent stalls.
"Crown of Oak Leaves" :- Men wear Oak leaves on their head while women wear flowers.
The traditional headgear for Ligo is a crown of Oak leaves akin to a hat as shown in the photograph of the gentleman.Women wear a crown of beautiful flowers.Available in various colours and designs these crowns are sold in the stalls during the festival.
Different Latvian bands being introduced to the public by the lady M.C decked in a crown of flowers.

Every band played for its stipulated time allotment as is normal in any rock concert festival. These were the best Latvian talents showcasing their Latvian music to the local audience as well as tourists.Although i was illiterate in Latvian thoroughly enjoyed the music and the occasion with the sight of partying  of beer and food all over the street.
Total of 4 stages on " 11Novembra Krastmala(11 November Embankment)"  :- Stage showcasing Latvian Classical Music.
Latvia's best talent was on display on 4 stages set across the long embankment and i had a view at each of the stages while  also listening to the music.
Bonfire to last till early morning :- Pile of Logs for the grand "LIGO BONFIRE".

One of the traditions of "Ligo(Jani)" is leaping over the bonfire which is meant for people to get rid of their earthly burdens.Couples leap over the flames holding their hands  so that the flames magical forces binds them for eternity.
 
Lifetime memories of "Ligo(Summer Solstice)" in Riga.
                                                                                                                     This particular pile of logs was stacked  on a elevated platform  and was as tall  as the first floor of a building which  definitely prevented people from jumping over it while it burned to ashes.I would not be able to watch the lighting of the bonfire nor be awake till early morning the next day at the end of this grand annual celebration as i had to board the bus to Vilnius at 2330 hrs.At 2115 hrs reluctantly left the grand festival which was getting raunchier by the hours.On entering Old Riga Town  i was surprised to hear English music playing in the pubs and open air restaurants.Never in my entire life have i come across a density of such a large number of "Live Bands" in such a small locale which includes Kuta in distant Bali in Indonesia.
Riga to Vilnius on a museum Tricycle ?

                   .I had made a great nightlife discovery in one of the smallest European Country's.Went to my hostel and collected my trolley bag and absolutely sad to leave the partying of "Ligo" but thanking my luck for at least getting a glimpse of one of Latvia's most favourite festival.Always the eternal optimist.As i trudged along the cobble stone road of Old Riga town  there was English music emitting from all the pubs and i was surprised at the capacity of the tourist population that filled all these nightclubs and pubs.The International bus terminus was on the street opposite central market and on arrival at the bus station with great difficulty located the bus stand with the help of a local passenger.Was surprised on seeing a mini Volkswagen  bus arrive on Platform N0 1 at 2310 hrs and relieved to know it was my bus to Vilnius.The bus was punctual in departure but without WiFi or a toilet unlike  the other large palatial buses on my Scandinavian leg of the tour.
The Mini bus was full to capacity and thanks to the excellent roads the journey to Vilnius was smooth although i missed the luxury of  "Free Bus  WIFI" .
Saturday(24/6/2017) :- In The Presidential Palace Courtyard Garden of Vilnius on a rainy day .A Ceramics artwork exhibition was on display spread out at various places across this large palatial garden. Behind me is one of the "Ceramic Artwork".
Saturday(24-6-2017) Vilnius :- At 0330 hrs our mini bus arrived in darkness at Vilnius bus terminus. Realized that as Vilnius was situated further South  from the Arctic circle there was a absence of the "White Nights" twilight phenomenon prevalent in all the other city's i had toured. The partying in Riga must have been reaching its end with the huge pile of Bonfire logs being the culmination of Ligo festival  in Riga.At the Vilnius bus terminus it was absolutely desolate and silent , a World of difference in just four hours of road travel from Riga in Latvia to Vilnius in  Lithuania.Vilnius ,the Capital of Lithuania is 312 Kms away from the Baltic sea with Klaipeda being the Baltic sea Port of the Country.
At Vilnius Bus Terminus at 0330 hrs.

                                  There was a young Oriental lady at the bus terminus and decided to wait at the terminus until daylight to track my way to "5 Euro Hostel". A repeat of the brave feat of  walking all alone from Tallinn Port to my hostel at past midnight was not possible in Vilnius as it was dark unlike the twilight "White Nights" visibility in Tallinn.It would be a long lonely wait at the desolate bus stop barring the lone Oriental lady. I suddenly asked the lady about her destination and was told that she was waiting for her bus which was late and on asking her about "5 Euro Hostel" realized we live in a small Globalized World.The young Thai lady told me that "5 Euro Hostel" was just up the inclined hill facing the bus terminus  and she had just checked out of this hostel. Call it providence that i spoke to her at the right moment for within a few minutes  her bus arrived and she departed from the Bus terminus.
Vegetable market near Vilnius Old Town
                                                                                                                                          As a solo backpacker always ask questions with locals or fellow tourists if in doubt and thanks to this young Thai lady that i found my way to "5 Euro Hostel" situated a few minutes walking distance from the bus terminus.Imagine how foolish i would have felt  spending a few hours until daylight to realize that the hostel was within my eyesight from my bench seat in the bus terminus ! As a veteran solo traveller i hope novice  solo tourists learn the tact of adventure travel from my blogs and hence i have stressed on this particular casual  incident  for the benefit of other travellers and tourists.On arriving at the hostel front door building entrance found it locked and hence  walked towards a passage leading to the backside of the building and walked through the open entrance door into the hostel.
Touring Vilnius Old City in the rains.
                                                                 On arriving at the reception  the hostel receptionist woke up and allotted me my hostel room and bed.Surprisingly did get a good late mornings sleep and on awakening at 0800 hrs realized it was raining in  Vilnius.After my normal toilet routines got dressed and hoped that the rain would not ruin my tour of Vilnius  as tomorrow morning i would be boarding the flight to Barcelona.The rain gradually trickled to a thin drizzle and i had to take the risk of venturing into the city rather than wasting time in the hostel.My destination was Vilnius Old Town which on inquiry  realized was at least a half an hour walk from the hostel.The hostel was located in close proximity to Vilnius bus terminus from which i had arrived as also to Vilnius Central train station from where i would board the local express train to Vilnius airport.It was a long walk from the hotel to Vilnius Old Town in a trickling drizzle of rain. Came across the vegetable market and as usual entered this small market  which had lush fresh fruits and vegetables. There were a few hawkers selling their wares on the footpath outside the official market and as i made my way out of the main market suddenly observed these street hawkers running with their wares.A police car arrived and realized that even in First World Country's illegal hawking of wares was not unusual  and this incident  brought back memories of my home city of Mumbai.Inquired about the "Gates of Dawn" which was the main entrance to Vilnius Old city and was a  short walk from the vegetable market.
"GATES OF DAWN :- Main entrance to Vilnius Old Town.
On entering the Gates of Dawn from the main city road i was now inside Vilnius Old Town.Vilnius Old Town was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994. The Old Town of Vilnius is one of the largest in Europe at 3.6 Sq Km and akin to most medieval European City's  was developed around its  Town Hall.This "GATE OF DAWN"  is the only surviving gate of the original 5 gates of the Old City wall built between 1503 and 1522.
After passing the "GATE OF DAWN" entry to Old Town.
                                                         There is a shrine of "Blessed Virgin  Mary" in the chapel of the Gate of Dawn that is a pilgrimage chapel for Lithuanians as well as worshipers and believers from all over the World.There is a painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy inside this chapel.The painting which is also called "Vilnius Madonna"  is painted in the renaissance style in tempera on oak boards and later  repainted in oil paints. Painted  by a unknown artist in the 17th century  this religious painting  is said to have miraculous powers and hence this chapel is a place of pilgrimage from devotees all across the World. Entrance to the chapel is through a small entrance gate on the ground floor and up a flight of stairs into the very narrow chapel situated on the roof of the entrance arch of the Gate of Dawn.
Interior of Russian Orthodox Church of Holy Spirit.
                                                                                                                                                 Mass is held continuously by different priests and after hearing a part of the mass in a foreign language made my exit from the Holy Chapel.The drizzle increased and all tourists were with umbrella's.I somehow dodged the drizzle weaving my way through the sheltered footpath of the Old Town.Shops were closed and tourists with umbrella's was the only sight among the historical buildings lining either side of  the main street leading from the Gate of Dawn. There are a total of approximately 1500 buildings in the vicinity of the Old Town that are centuries old .Prior to World War II Vilnius had one of the largest Jewish population in Europe and was hence called the "Jerusalem of Lithuania" with Napoleon  naming the city as  the Jerusalem of the North when  he passed through it in 1812.Vilnius has a total of  65 churches belonging to different Christian sects  and i made my way into the "Russian Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit".This Baroque building in the shape of a Latin Cross was constructed in 1638 and later rebuilt in the 18th century after a fire in the building.The religious interior decor of all Russian Orthodox churches are beautiful and this church was no exception.Next to the Church building is the only active Orthodox convent and Monastery in Lithuania.It was now raining heavily and i took shelter under the umbrella of a closed open-air footpath restaurant.
Church of St Casimir.

                                                                                At 1100 hrs the rains decreased and entered the "Church of St Casimir" that had a very chequered religious history.
Altar of St Casimir Church.
                                                        This was the first Baroque church in Vilnius built by the Catholic Jesuit priests with its foundation stone laid in 1604.This church suffered a great deal from wars and fires.In the 18th century its dome collapsed and was replaced with a new dome having a crown as also the main altars.The 13 Baroque altars were later destroyed by Napoleon's army .In 1868 the building was adopted for the Russian Orthodox Church and the towers of the church were lowered and replaced with Onion shaped helmets which is the normal exterior design of all Russian Orthodox Churches.All the former Baroque frescoes and Sculptures were destroyed and until World War II it was the Russian Orthodox Church.After World War II under the Russian Government the Church was turned into the "Museum of Atheism" .Next, after the Independence of Lithuania in 1991 the Church was returned back to the Catholic Jesuits and exists in its present architecture as a Catholic Church.Very few churches in the World could have had such a change of religious hands within the Christian Religion.Notice the difference in the interior of the "Russian Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit" and  "St Casimir Catholic  Church".
At Vilnius Town Hall.
From Casimir Church walked down the straight road in drizzling rain to Town Hall Square.The Town Hall was first  mentioned in 1432 and was initially a Gothic style building.
Modeling for Wedding expenses ?
                                                  Since then it has been reconstructed a few times and the present Town Hall building was rebuilt in 1799 in the neoclassical style and has remain unchanged since then.Its Gothic cellars have been preserved and tourists can visit the same.In the present era Town Hall is used for representational purposes as well as for the meeting of foreign officials and rulers visiting Vilnius. President George.Walker.Bush and Queen Elizabeth II have been a few of the most prominent guests  at  Town Hall. Observed a young group of girls posing for "Model Shoots" at Town Hall with one of the young girls dressed as a bride.Mistook them to be filming for a television shoot  only to realize that this was a means of collecting money from tourists.The Bride and her coterie require money for the wedding and tourists are to fund the same by magnanimous donations. A real innovative advertisement for earning a honest living through modeling.The rain had stopped and a few guides were organizing a "Free walking Tour" of Vilnius Old Town and i joined them as this was the most sensible way to sight-see the important tourist sites within a day. "Free Guided Tours" are common in all major tourist city's of the World and the tours are not actually free as the guides expect some "tips" from the tourists  for their free expertise.
 
Pagan Sculpture :- Woman riding a bear.
                                                                                                                                       The rain finally stopped and there was a large crowd of tourists for the "Free Walking Tour" and hence we were divided into two different groups under two different guides.The sky was bright and we began our guided walking tour with an explanation of the Town Hall .From Town Hall we walked along Gediminas avenue  and came across a fountain with the street known as German Street.The Contribution of German Merchants to Vilnius was enormous and hence the name German street with its mix of modern and old buildings on either sides of the road.Our next entry was into the former  Jewish Synagogue complex  that existed before World War II. There was a plaque on the grounds of the building complex giving a brief history of the former Jewish population of Vilnius.
"German Street" in Vilnius Old Town.
                                            Panerial a neighbourhood  about 10 Kms from Vilnius city centre  was the site of mass extermination of Jews and other prisoners by the German Nazi regime during World War II akin to Auschwitz  in Poland. During the Holocaust about 95% of the 265,000 Jewish population was murdered in Lithuania.A holocaust Jewish museum exists in Panerial. From the Jewish Colony we next made our way into a private building courtyard that had a beautiful statue of a naked lady riding  a bear.This is a Pagan Statue as Lithuania was the First Great European Pagan power before the arrival of Christianity in the 14th  and 15th century.The sky's suddenly changed to a dark colour and the rain started pouring into the courtyard as our guide explained us the significance of Paganism in Lithuanian culture and society.
St Nicholas Orthodox Russian Church.

                                                                                                                 Almost all the tourists in the group were carrying a umbrella and initially shared a umbrella but later realized it was not possible in the present  condition and made my way to the  shelter near the courtyard.The entire group walked away with the guide all carrying umbrella's and i cursed my bad luck.After sometime the rain decreased and i ran to the main road heading back into the Old Town.Again the rain increased in density  and took shelter in a fashion boutique shop striking a conversation with the saleswomen. Inquired if they had a toilet on their premises and they told me a restaurant was on the first floor and by sheer misfortune and co-incidence landed on the first floor of the "Kitchen",First visited the toilet which had excellent music blaring, something i experienced for the first time in a toilet .The restaurant is one of the most popular restaurants in the Old Town vicinity and was crowded with customers.Lunch at 1300 hrs was a omelette with bread prepared in Lithuanian culinary style, Excellent.The rain had stopped and it was bright and Sunny again, absolutely bizarre Lithuanian weather.
"Cat Cartoons" and "Posters" for sale in Old Town .

                        Thankfully the "Free Walking Tour" guide had given me a tour guide map and now this was my only hope of sightseeing Vilnius Old town all by myself.Walked along Gediminas  street and came across the Russian Orthodox church of St Nicholas.Got a view of the interior of the Russian Orthodox church which is very different from the Catholic church.There are no Pews in the Church as people stand during the two hours duration of the mass , double the duration of a Catholic or Lutheran(Protestant) mass.At the front of the Church is the Iconoclastic.From the Church walked straight down the road now crowded with tourists as the rains had subsided. Came across a pavement portrait seller selling comic posters and paintings of cats.Not very expensive and hilarious.The Sky again got dark  and i hurried towards the main road. Finally came across a large broad main road and on inquiries was told that Vilnius cathedral was on the opposite side of the road.
Vilnius Cathedral & Ball Tower with statues of  Saint Casimir, Saint Stanislaus and Saint Helena on its rooftop .

I made my way across the road and came across a large garden. After crossing the palatial garden  entered Vilnius Cathedral Square  compound that was  filled with chairs for a church ceremony to be held later in the evening..
 Part view of majestic Vilnius Cathedral.
                                                                                                                                     It was a long walk from the large  compound to the main entrance of the Cathedral.It is presumed that the site of Vilnius Cathedral presumed to be  originally built in 1251  is on a location of a  pre-Christian times Baltic Pagan God Perkunas .The present Church structure was completed in 1783 and is of the Neoclassical style.The Coronation of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania took place in this Cathedral and in its crypts and catacombs lies the remains of many people from Lithuanian and Polish history.Went inside the Cathedral  which was palatial as are all Cathedrals.Inside the Cathedral there are more that 40 artworks dating from the 16th century  and through the 19th century.During the Soviet Regime this Cathedral was converted into a warehouse. Masses were held again in 1988 although the cathedral was named ,"The Gallery of Images".In 1989 the Cathedral was restored to its original status a a Catholic Cathedral.The Cathedral and the Bellfry were renovated between 2006 and 2008.and the facades  with fresh multicolored paintwork giving it its present glistening look on a cloudy afternoon.This was the Cathedral's first renovation since Lithuania's Independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. Between 1786 and 1792 three sculptures by Kazimierz Jieski were placed on the roof of the Cathedral.
    
Classic Gediminas Avenue facing Vilnius Cathedral.
                                                                                   The Statue of St Casimir on the Southside,St Stanislaus on the North and Saint Helena in the centre. During the Soviet regime these statues were removed in 1950 and restored  by Lithuania in 1997.Deciphering the statues presumably means St Casimir symbolized Lithuania,St Staislaus symbolized Poland and St Helena  holding the cross represents the true Cross.Came out of the Cathedral and read the large posters honoring Fr Teofilius.Matulionis in whose memory the grand mass celebration was being held on the cathedral Square.Archbishop Teofilius. Matulionis(1873 -1962) was a Lithuanian priest and archbishop persecuted by the Soviet Regime and the ceremony was in honour of his beautification as a martyr.Tourists are allowed to walk up the stairs of the Bellfry for a "Birds Eye View" of the city but i had other intentions as i had to preserve my physical as well as monetary energy for the solo expedition undertaken.From the Cathedral walked across to the Gediminas  avenue facing the cathedral which was cleared off vehicular traffic with young children and adults cycling on the broad road.There were normal cycling tracks for commuter cyclists parallel to the footpath of the road.
"GEDIMINAS TOWER".
Gediminas Tower is a landmark structure in Vilnius and situated on a hill close to Vilnius Cathedral.It is the remaining part of the upper castle in Vilnius.
 
At the Bell Tower of Vilnius Cathedral.
                                                                                                     The first wooden fortifications were built by Gediminas,Grand Duke of Lithuania and the first brick castle completed in 1409 by Grand Duke Vytautas. The three floor tower was rebuilt in 1930 by Polish architect Jan.Borowski. The Tower is a historic symbol of the city of Vilnius and of Lithuania.A reconstruction of the Palace of Lithuania was completed in 2009 and is located at the base of the hill on which Gediminas Tower is built. I would have trekked up the small hill if it was a Sunny day but didn't like the idea of getting drenched mid-way up the hill.There is also a funicular that takes tourists up the small hill to the tower which also houses a museum.The sky now had dark clouds and i decided to head back towards Gediminas street into the Old Town.My last tour destination would be Vilnius university and the Presidential Palace.Once on  the familiar straight road of Gediminas street i searched for the street sign boards as well as my guide map for the actual location of the University and the Presidential Palaces situated in close proximity .
Cycling Tours : Ideal way for sightseeing Vilnius.

                  Had to take a right turn from the main road and a further long straight walk to the university campus..Entered the compound of Vilnius University which is the oldest university in the Baltic States having been founded in 1579 as a Jesuit academy of Vilnius by the Grand duke of Lithuania and King of Poland Stephen.Bathory. Just had a look of the University from the outside and walked towards the Presidential Palace a short distance ahead.On reaching the Presidential Palace  it suddenly started raining again and i took shelter in the archway of the main gate entrance to the Palace gardens.A Lithuanian couple along with their kids were also in the same shelter when i struck a conversation with the young gentleman who spoke fluent English and happened to be a jet setting top notch executive in the I.T Industry of Lithuania.
"International Ceramic Artwork" on Palace grounds.
                                    He had travelled to India and had fond memories of the Country.Vilnius has one of the highest Internet speeds in the World with an average download speed of 36.37MB/s and upload speed of 28.51 MB/s .The smartphone was like a toy for me on the"Free Wi Fi" networks throughout my Scandinavian and Baltic tour on par and definitely faster than India's Mega 4 G smartphone provider , the  revolutionary  "Reliance Jio" that i used back home in India.As we talked the rain suddenly stopped and i decided to enter the Presidential Courtyard gardens which is open to the public.Security was very strict akin to a airport check-up, complete with a x-ray machine.I was the only person in the Presidential Courtyard  garden and the feeling is indescribable.
  
"Gate of Dawn" entrance from City Road.
                    All alone on historic European grounds that traces its history to some of the most powerful rulers of Europe. The Presidential Palace is the official residence of the President of Lithuania and dates back to the 14th century having undergone various reconstructions over the centuries.In 1812 both the Russian Czar Alexander I and the French Emperor Napoleon used the Palace as their residence.After World War II the Palace served as a military officer's centre and later housed many Lithuanian artists.Finally in 1997 the Palace became the official seat of the President of Lithuania.A International ceramics exhibition was being held on the Presidential Courtyard grounds.A small portion of the Ceramics artwork created by 165 artists from 35 different country's  was spread across the Courtyard garden.I was the lone tourist in this palatial garden and it gave me a strange feeling.Finally at 1515 hrs  made my exit from the palatial Presidents Courtyard gardens and began the long walk back to the hostel.The street was now crowded with tourists as the rain had subsided and Town Square  was  crowded with tourists and temporary street cafe tents.Made  my exit from Vilnius Old Town through the narrow "Gate of Dawn" onto the normal traffic roads  of Vilnius city .
"5 Euro Hostel" in heart of  Vilnius City.

  It was a long straight walk from the Gate of Dawn to the hostel that was in the heart of Vilnius city.Entered the supermarket opposite the hostel building and purchased a beer and a snack.Relaxed in the hostel room and at approximately 1700 hrs walked out of the hostel and traced my way back towards Vilnius Old Town which was now a familiar route !Today would be my last night of the Scandinavian and Baltic leg of the tour having been on a whirlwind journey across 7 different capital city's in 7 different Country's for the first time in my life.Tomorrow i would be flying out of Lithuania  into Barcelona in Western Europe which are World's apart in climatic conditions as well as cultural differences although within the European Union and Continent. The occasion demanded a special meal different from my normal miserly budget of  snacks/beer.Honestly the best food was my home curry/ Indian massala  food back  in Mumbai !Yes i was homesick for my normal daily traditional food .There were numerous open air restaurants  catering to tourists and as i had eaten lunch at the plush  "Kitchen" restaurant  decided to have dinner in a traditional Lithuanian restaurant serving Lithuanian food.
"Deer Meat Balls" at Saula :- Lithuanian cuisine.
                                                                                                                       Just adjacent to Town Hall Square spotted the"Saula Food Cellar" which had chairs and tables spread out on the footpath for open air dining.The restaurant was situated underground in the basement of the historic building facing Town Square in the heart of Vilnius Old Town.Entered the underground restaurant whose interior decor of  white painted  low cave type ceiling  brought back memories of holiday  in a limestone cave in Cappadocia in Turkey during a hot air ballooning trip.The decor of Saula  restaurant  was a reflection of ancient Lithuanian characters,symbols and elements in a contemporary style.On reading the history of the building realized the importance of this restaurant as this building in which it was situated was in the 16th  and 17th centuries the venue for  the Small Guild and Merchants Guild.
Landmark Mural painting on a building.

    The waitress brought me the menu which consisted of food products grown and supplied by local farmers besides the restaurant grew its own herbs in its kitchen garden. Dinner was "Deer Meat Balls", with the deer's being farm bred akin to poultry and farm animals.When my dish arrived was surprised at seeing authentic gourmet food being served  akin to a television food show. Three balls of deer minced meat was served on bread on a large white plate. This delicacy of a meal  wouldn't suffice my enormous appetite for food but would definitely be on my "Braggers Rights" lists of having eaten in one of Lithuania's fanciest restaurants.Recently in 2017 Saula won second place in the Vilnius Gastro -2017 competition .After the dinner which was akin to a snack made my way back to the hostel.On the way passed along the landmark  beautiful Mural  advertisement on the entire wall of a small building.Made myself comfortable in the hostel with my normal few hours sleep.

After touring 7 Country's in Scandinavia and Baltic Europe now boarding the Ryanair plane  to Barcelona in Western Europe.
                                                                                     
Sunday(25/6/2017) Departure Vilnius and arrival in Barcelona :-  Woke up as usual and after normal hygiene routines made my way to the supermarket across the street.Breakfast was yogurt, a pastry and a banana with the total amounting to my miserly average  tour food  budget of 2.1 Euro/sitting on a average day's sightseeing expedition.
Classic and sleek "Vilnius Airport" express train.
                                                                                                                                             I had to balance my tour food budget after splurging  on yesterday's dinner  of "Deer meat balls"at the landmark expensive Saula restaurant .You can't legally live like a Billionaire on the income of a millionaire without sensible budgeting of your own economy.After breakfast spent some time in the hostel lounge, a large palatial hall.After having a espresso coffee from the automatic machine got dressed and at 0715 hrs checked out of the hostel.This was my seventh hostel on the tour trip that began on Monday(12/6/2017) in Copenhagen.I was actually practically  living the life of a nomad traveller although my tour destinations were planned months ahead and with great difficulty .
Barcelona from the Air.
                                                                                                            The Central train station was just a five minutes walk from the hostel and yesterday i had made inquiries  regarding the platform and ticket counter for the special airport express train.Language was a major hurdle and few Lithuanians spoke English and hence didn't want to get into last minute misadventures by missing the train or boarding the wrong train ! Vilnius Airport is the only airport among the Baltic Country's that has a direct rail link to the city centre. Purchased my train ticket costing 80 cents and headed to the platform .On arriving at the open air platform found the cute  "Vilnius Airport" Express train on the  tracks  and  a young Asian man eating a Pizza on the platform. Got into a conversation with the young Indian student who was employed in Malta and doing a language course in Lithuania.
"Center Rambles" my hostel

                                                              At 0800 hrs the train left the platform and immediately a ticket collector  started checking the few passengers on board for tickets.A good positive factor is that commuters can buy a ticket directly from the ticket collector on the train itself without being booked for ticket-less travel. Vilnius airport is a mere 5 Kms from the city centre and hence within 8 minutes we reached the airport station.On arrival at the airport train terminus we both walked towards the airport which was a simple one way route and not confusing.I was early while  my acquaintance was in time to check-in for his flight to Malta.Made my way towards the passenger benches where i came across a man clothed in a Indian monk's robes and introduced myself to a prominent Indian Yoga Guru from North India  who was on a yoga  tour with his entourage.
They were also on their way to Malta and after a brief conversation they made their way to their check-in counter.The airport free "WiFi" kept me engrossed and at the appropriate time collected my boarding pass and waited in the queue for the security check.
"Hospital Street"in El Raval Quarter

Bizarrely in the long queue of anonymous passengers i was singled out and a special check was carried out on my single trolley bag .Felt like a "V.I.P" for dubious reasons and couldn't help laughing at myself for being singled out for a special baggage check.The Ryan air flight  "N0 FR 2743 " scheduled to take-off at  1125 hrs was late by an hour and after three hours and forty minutes of flying time finally landed in Barcelona at 1515 hrs.Just walked out of the plane into the arrival terminal and at the tourist information counter inquired the location of the RENFE train  station. The lady at the counter sent me on a wild goose chase in the wrong direction and thanks to my years of travel expertise and "Sixth sense" logic that i sensed i was heading in the wrong direction.Language was again a hurdle  and on inquiring with a police personnel was told to cross the overhead bridge that linked the airport terminal directly to the RENFE Train" platform.After walking almost half a kilometer in the wrong direction had to walk all the way back into the airport T 2  arrival terminus. Went  up the escalators on the first floor to finally walk in the right direction along with other passengers onto the long overhead walkway and into the RENFE train  station. Purchased a "8 Stops Ticket" that could be used 8 times on rail as well as the  bus transport system within Barcelona city.
"Gothic Quarter" of Barcelona.

                                             The abrupt change in weather surprised me with Barcelona being warm akin to a Asian city and i had to discard my coat.The RENFE train was crowded with airport passengers and there were warning signs  regarding.  "Pickpockets" on the trains akin to Stockholm train station..Alighted the  RENFE train at "Sants Estacio(Barcelona Sants) Station" and after inquiries with local commuters found my way onto the main "Metro Terminus" of Barcelona city Boarded the green line Metro train heading to "Trinitat Nova" with my destination being "Liceu Station". It was a short train ride to Liceu station and on arriving at the underground station  headed  onto the main street and into the crowded La Rambla street in the heart of Central Barcelona.
At "Picasso Museum" tourist shop with a replica painting./
                                                                                                                                        After seeing sparse crowds and wide spacious streets in Scandinavia and the Baltic capital city's i was surprised on seeing the entire tree lined Rambla La street crowded with people and was wondering if i was in Asia or Europe ! If not for the majority of the tourists and people being of Caucasian descent a blindfolded man if led to  Rambla La street  on opening his  blindfold  could mistake it to be a Asian city.akin to my native city of Mumbai.My destination was "Center  Rambles" hostel situated on "Hospital " street,63 Ciutat vella. With great difficulty found "Hospital street " which was  a off-shoot  on the West side of the main Rambla La street that led to the quarter of El Raval . Walked straight along the narrow  "Hospital street" and had to rub my eyes in disbelief  to actually realize i was not daydreaming and was actually  in Europe in one of the World's most happening city's  Barcelona. "Hospital " street was crowded with  Asian origin Spaniards and passed along a small Sikh Gurudwara but none of the Asian origin Spaniards seem to know the location of "Center Ramblas" hostel while Caucasian Spaniards didn't understand English language.
"TXIRIMIRI Restaurant " :-"TAPAS" with drinks.
                                                   I was in a "Catch 22" situation ! Finally after walking to the end of "Hospital  Street" my travel experience told me that i was heading in the wrong direction and hence entered a Asian origin grocery leaving my trolley bag outside the shop.The Pakistani origin shop owner speaking in Hindi(Urdu) first warned me to be careful of my belongings and later explained me the address format of the locality and realized i had overshot my destination.Thanked the grocery owner and walked the short distance along the road back in the direction of Rambla La street  and discovered building N0 63 and  the entrance of  "Center Rambles" hostel a few buildings away from the grocery store.
"Wok to Walk" restaurant.:-  Chinese seafood/rice
                                                                                                                                                    After the formalities was allotted my hostel dormitory and bed, a veteran of living out of the suitcases in hostels all over the Globe.Realized i was the "DADDY COOL" in the hostel, the oldest backpacker among a crowd  of youth. Is Mick.Jagger and the "ROLLING STONES"  old among the rock generation of the 21st century ? I always plan my tour itinerary months ahead at  my home in Mumbai and my destination was a quick visit to the "Picasso Museum" situated in the "Barri Gotic" quarter of Barcelona  and walking distance from the hostel.The hostel receptionist gave me the direction to the Picasso museum and also a tourist guide map of the city.
"Placa d'Espanya" Square.
                                                                                                 At 1645 hrs made my way out of the hostel and began my discovery of Barcelona.I was utterly surprised at the number of African and Asian origin Spaniards residing and conducting businesses in  Hospital street locale.A Asian-African ghetto in central Barcelona. Rambla La street is 1.2 Kms long and is a open air shopping mall with street side cafe's on the cobblestone pavement.Was overwhelmed by the massive tourist crowd as Spain receives  maximum tourists among the European Country's and in Barcelona Ramblas La  is the Mecca of tourist entertainment.The fact was that i was also on the street in peak tourist season and hence the throng of people of various nationalities, sexes and ages.
"Venetian Towers" at Placa d' Espana.
                                                        Walked into the Barri Gotic Quarter that is on the east side of the long 1.2 Km Rambla La street.From Rambla La Street it was a very long straight walk in the Gothic Quarter through narrow roads and magnificent century  old buildings.Numerous cafe's lined the footpaths of the streets and tourists were all over the street, the weather warm and pleasant.Finally reached Montcada street  and my destination "Museu Picasso(Museum Picasso)" which houses the most extensive collection of Picasso's works beginning from his childhood and youth years in Barcelona.This museum was opened in March 1963 and was the only museum opened during the lifetime of Pablo.Picasso, the 20th Century's most celebrated and wealthy artist.Once in a week the entrance to the museum is free and today was one of those days and hence hoped to get a free entrance into the museum.Bad luck as at 1715 hrs  i was late and the "Free Tickets" were already distributed as per the normal quota.Visited the museum's souvenir shop and browsed through the Picasso replica's hung on the shop's walls.I was not in a hurry for viewing original Picasso paintings since some of his landmark paintings were in Madrid which was on my tour map.
Illegal Street Hawkers in Barcelona.
                                                                                                 From the Picasso museum made my way back towards Rambla La street  and was hungry as usual being forced to  fast on the Ryanair  3 1/2 hrs flight as they didn't serve snacks or lunch being a economy  airline. "Tapas" is known all over the World as a snack but not many know that its origin is Spain.Observed numerous restaurants in the Gothic Area displaying "Tapas" snacks through their showcase windows.Casually walked into the "Txirimiri" restaurant situated at Carrer de la Princesa that had just a few tourists and one of the best displays of a variety of "Tapas" snacks. My "Bonny(Hindi slang for First)" snack in Spain began with a Tapas which was a slice of pork sausage placed on a dried piece of bread  that had the flavour of  Goa sausages back home in India.After having satisfied my Tapas curiosity  walked down the street in search of real food and not snacks.Came across the fast food Chinese origin restaurant "Wok to Walk"  and the day's lunch cum dinner at 1745 was delicious hot fried rice with a mix of sea food along with a cold drink. costing 10 Euro's.
 Fountain along Placa d'Espana avenue.
                                                                                                            With my hunger pangs satiated walked leisurely to Rambla La street and into "Liceu Metro" station with my destination being the green line metro train to Espanya. All the "Metro Stations" in Europe are a maze of underground jig-saw puzzles to any newcomer from the developing World and although i was now half-European having travelled most of Europe and First World City's by public transport was still occasionally stumped regarding the train platforms.After inquiry was on the right platform and boarded the metro train heading to "Espanya ". Alighted at "Espanya  Station" and on emerging from the underground metro was surprised at the sight that greeted my tired eyes.The Roads were broad with modern skyrises unlike the old historic buildings in the Gothic and Raval Quarters of Central Barcelona.The former bull fighting stadium of  "Las Arenas" now converted into a shopping mall is a iconic building in the vicinity. Avigunda del Paral-lel(Avenue of the Parallel) street is so named  because it is parallel to the equator from Placa d 'Espanya to the seafront of Barcelona. Walked along the palatial broad sidewalk of Placa d'Espana coming across numerous Asian and African hawkers illegally selling their wares on the footpath of the avenue alongside the fountain.
Crowd watching the  "MAGIC FOUNTAIN".
                                                                                                                         The Asians were of Pakistani origin and seems life was not easy for these hawkers in Barcelona as a police van drove alongside the road evicting the hawkers. Humour was that as soon as the police van disappeared the hawkers were back to business on the footpath of one of the most popular tourist sites in Barcelona.The Placa d'Espana  was built on the occasion of the 1929 International exhibition held at the foot of the Montjuic.This site has a grotesque history as it was previously used for public hangings.My destination was the "Magic Fountain of Montjuic"located at the head of Avinguda Maria Cristina below the Palau Nacional on the Montjuic Mountain.The musical fountain show was held  between 2130 -2230 hrs from Wednesday to Sunday during  the Summer months from June to August.I was at the right place at the right time and couldn't afford to miss today's appointment with the musical fountain as i would be leaving for Lisbon on Tuesday.The "Magic Fountain" was designed  by Carles Buigas and was constructed for the 1929 Barcelona International exposition on the location of the  demolished "Four Columns" which represented the Catalanism movement.These "Four Columns" were later rebuilt in 2010 a few meters from the Magic fountain.The first light show took place  on 19th May 1929 a day before the exposition.The fountain was damaged during the Spanish civil war and was non operational until 1955.In the 1980's music was incorporated into the light show and the fountain along with the palatial Museu Nacional was completely restored before the start of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.I will now display a pictorial view of that unforgettable night in Barcelona at the "MAGIC FOUNTAIN OF MONTJUIC".
Entertaining the Tourist crowd with musical stunt shows to earn a living.


The "Musical Fountain" show is from 2130-2230 hrs and there was a local group of men performing acrobatic stunts  to entertain the public as well as earn some money.

"SELFIE" in front of Magic Fountain facing the Museu Nacional and Montjuic Hill.
      The musical Fountain show began at 2130 hrs and  is in the open air and free for the public.There are  choreographed shows  during which the lights change colour in tune with the music.The height of the fountain water jets are also adjusted in synchronization with the music.  
View of "Magic Fountain" facing the "4 Pillars", and "Museu Nacional" built on  the looming Montjuic Hill.
   
Beautiful memories of a lifetime. The "Magic Fountain of Montjuic Hill" is a unique  exhibit in the World let alone Spain  and i was lucky to have been a spectator with a vantage free open air  seat. Didn't wait till 2230 hrs  as i had to board the metro train back home to "Center-Ramblas" hostel and this was a jet lag day having spent the morning in Vilnius in Lithuania and the evening in Barcelona in Spain.Boarded the metro train to Liceu station  and on surfacing on Rambla La street seemed like the night was very young at 2230 hrs with the street side cafe's packed with tourists.Walked along "Hospital Street" where the youth were just beginning the young nights partying.Had my normal sleep and seemed like i had spent a lifetime sleeping and living in hostels !            
 
Breakfast in "Center Ramblas" hostel in Barcelona. Excellent "Free Breakfast" included in hostel charges.
 Monday(26-6-2017) Barcelona :-   All the hostels that i stayed in beginning from Copenhagen were mixed dormitory rooms with  women and  men in the same room on different bunk beds akin to a boarding school dormitory.
Guides for "Gothic Quarter Free Tour".
                                                                                                           Something unthinkable in India where the sleeping quarters of men and women would definitely be separate although co-educational study and campuses are common throughout the country Have backpacked almost entire India living in cheap hotels but never ever came across a men/women shared hotel or dormitory akin to Europe and other First world Country's that i have toured.During my 23 years of employment  on various ships always had a separate independent cabin allotted to me being a "Marine Engineer officer".In Mumbai i have the entire one bedroom apartment flat to myself along with my two cats and house caretaker and hence the hostel tour lifestyle was a World of difference in my normal living  lifestyle in India and on ships.As usual was the earliest riser in my small dormitory and had a early morning walk in the vicinity which bizarrely resembled my home city of Mumbai barring some of the centuries old buildings.The weather was typical Asian weather, warm  and hence i wore my traditional Indian fashion  "Kurta" which was impractical till yesterday !
"Palau Guell" :- Anton Gaudi building.
                                                                                                                                       Yes i was in the league of a "Jet Setter", at least for the length of the 28 days solo tour..Breakfast was at 0800 hrs in the hostel ground floor mess which was free with the charges included in the hostel rental.Excellent breakfast and it was a houseful crowd with "Daddy Cool" being the "Bonny( Hindi slang for first)" hostelite of the day for Free breakfast. In fact at 0900 hrs there was a queue that stretched almost midway to the reception ,a absolute young crowd of mostly Caucasian backpackers with women outnumbering men.There was a "Free Walking Tour" of the "Gothic Quarter" at 1000 hrs and i decided to join the same .At 1000 hrs Alessandro our Italian guide arrived at the hostel and after a headcount of prospective tourists told us to follow him to the next hostel for collecting the other group of tourists.We walked along the Raval Quarter  through a narrow road lined with early 20th  century  buildings.A few tourists from the next hostel joined the group and we now walked towards Rambla La street On reaching Rambla La street we crossed the street and headed into the East side of this street into the Gothic Quarter. I had been through this familiar street yesterday on the way to the Picasso museum but today it would be a educational history walk of the oldest Quarter in Barcelona.
George Orwell Square in Gothic Quarter.

The Gothic quarter is the Centre of the Old city of Barcelona and encompasses the oldest parts of the city which includes the Roman Wall and several medieval landmarks.On the way came across a landmark building "Palau Guell" built between 1886 and 1888  by the Catalan architect Antoni.Gaudi  for the Industrial tycoon Eusebi.Guell. This mansion is centred on a main room that entertained high society guests arriving in horse carriages.This building is on the UNESCO World heritage site .Antoni.Gaudi's  most incomplete building is   the  "Sagrada Familia" which is the landmark of Barcelona and a  universally  recognizable architectural wonder.We  stopped at a large square called the "Placa Reial" which was in close proximity to Rambla La street. There was a fountain in the centre of the square and the open air cafe restaurants on the periphery of the square were just opening up for business.Some of Barcelona's famous nightclubs the "Sidecar", "Jamboree" and "Karma" are situated on this plaza.Architect Anton Gaudi designed the street lamps of Placa Reial square. Allessandro's partner Pablo joined us with his group at the "Placa Reial" square where we separated into two groups with one group led by guide Alessandro heading for the "Gothic Walking Tour" while the other group with Guide Pablo headed  for the "Antoni Gaudi Tour".
"Castellers Monument"
                                                                                                                                   I was with  Guide Alessandro group and from "Placa Reial" we began our tour of the "Gothic Quarter" of Barcelona.Our first stop was  at the building on Calle Avinyo  that once housed the 'Fine Arts School" which was Pablo.Picasso's  art nursery  when he arrived in Barcelona at the young age of 14 years.This street later inspired many of Picasso's art works as a adult.From there we headed to  the "Plaza de George Orwell" named after the author most famous for the satirical novel "Animal Farm" which is also one of my favourite books.George Orwell had spent 6 months  fighting for the republicans in the Spanish Civil war and lived briefly in this square  and published the novel Homage  to Catalonia in 1938.The swirling metal installation by surrealist Catalan sculptor Leandre.Cristofol dominates the small square.Nearby was the monument dedicated to the "Castellers " for entering the Guinness book of records for forming the largest human pyramid or human tower.This monument  is  a 30 meter high  stainless steel sculpture by the sculptor Antoni.Liena and   some children were playing on the square next to sculpture.In India in Mumbai this type of a human tower is also made during the Hindu religious  festival of "Gokul Ashtami" where a hanging earthenware pot is broken by the human pyramid.It was a walk along a narrow street and old buildings.
Remnants of the "ROMAN TOWER" in Gothic Quarter of Barcelona.
The oldest historic structure in the Gothic quarter is the remains of this 4th century A.D Roman Tower that stands alone among the 19th and 20th century buildings.
Town Hall in Sant Jaume Square in Gothic Quarter.
Our next stop at 1115 hrs  was the Sant Jaume Square which houses Government buildings including the Town Hall. We were given a brief break for lunch and refreshments.I made my way to the nearby Tourism office and after inquiries purchased a ticket for touring the "Camp De Nou" stadium at 1600 hrs in the evening.

Carrer del Bisbe bridge..
      Just round the corner of the palatial Sant Jaume square is one of the most photographed buildings in the Gothic quarter of Barcelona that eerily resembles "The Bridge of Sighs" in Venice.The famous Carrer del Bisbe bridge built in the modern 20th century is eye-catching although very modern.          
At the "Placa de Sant Felip Neri" in Gothic Quarter.
 We stopped at the  Felip Neri church which has a dark history in Span's civil war when on  30th January 1938 a bomb dropped by General Franco's air force exploded in front of the church killing 42 people most of whom were children.A bronze  plaque in memory of these civil war victims of the church is installed at the location.
Barcelona Cathedral( "Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia").
  A short wal;k from the Felip Neri church is the Barcelona Cathedral whose actual name is "Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia".This cathedral was constructed between the 13th and 15th centuries with the major work completed in the 14th century. This is a Gothic Cathedral and the seat of the archbishop of Barcelona.The roof is notable for its Gargoyles featuring a wide range of animals from domestic to the mythical.In the 1960's my father had purchased three Leonardo Da Vinci replica's of the "Last Supper" from Barcelona through a cruise ship crew member and today i was in Barcelona.My house is filled with Catholic religious icons and this could be my reason for visiting almost all the World's religious Christian sites besides writing deeply about the various differences between the different Christian sects.                                                                                      
"RAMBLA LA STREET" in the afternoon.
     After the end of the "Barcelona Gothic Walking Tour" gave guide Mr Alessandro a tip as did the other young Australian and American tourist and  walked back all alone to Rambla La street.
BarcelonaLocal Metro Train

          The entire street was crowded , the largest population of humans  i had come across during my entire European  solo tour reminding me of my home city of Mumbai.Its a saying in Barcelona that if you haven't been to Rambla La street then you haven't felt the pulse of the city.Tourists are also  warned about the nuisance of pickpockets on this tourist Broadway of Barcelona.Walked the short distance from Rambla La street to my hostel and relaxed as i had a hectic evening ahead of me. I had paid 25 Euro for the ticket of the museum tour of "Camp Nou Stadium" , a princely amount of my tour budget.Football along with athletics  has always been my first love in the sports segment although India is a cricket crazy nation.
Normal and Electric cycles for hire. at Les Corts.

                                              Visiting Spain the Mecca of World club football akin to India being the World's cricket money bank  meant a mandatory visit to a football stadium.The Camp Nou stadium which is the home stadium of  "FC Barcelona" is also the largest stadium in Europe having a stadium capacity of 99,354. Sir Alex.Ferguson is my Guru on "Total Financial Management" as i use a combination of my "Ship Management" and "Sports Gambling Management" to  ,quote " Live the lifestyle of a Billionaire on the income of a Millionaire" !
     
"Les  Corts" street on the way to "Camp Nou Stadium"
                                                Its no easy balancing task and even a Billionaire would admit to the same.At 1400 hrs left the hostel and akin to a local Catalan boarded the green line train at Liceu  heading towards "Zona Universitaria" with my destination being "Les Corts" metro station.I felt Spanish as most locals spoke to me in Spanish and language is a real hurdle in Barcelona.On alighting at "Les Corts" station emerged into natural daylight from the underground Metro.Unlike congested  Rambla La street  with its crowd of tourists and locals this part of modern Barcelona was a reflection of the typical European city with broad roads , plush modern buildings and a lack of pedestrians on the footpath.After inquiries with the rare English speaking  pedestrian headed in the direction of  "Camp Nou Stadium".
Advertisement at entrance of "Camp Nou Stadium"

 During the long straight walk from "Les Corts" station came across a bicycle shop with a Asian man at the shop counter and decided to inquire about cycles as well as the way to the stadium.The Lady at Barcelona airport sending me in the wrong direction was fresh in my memory and tired legs and couldn't have a repeat of the same scenario..The young Pakistani origin shopkeeper  showed me the cycles on hire as well as for sale with some of the cycles being of the electric mode.Besides Football Spaniards are World cyclists with Spaniard Miguel Indurain winning the "Tour De France" five times. Normal cycles hire charges were as follows 1) One day cycle was  16 Euro/Day  and for a minimum of two hours  the charges were  6 Euro.
Long Walk from entrance to the Stadium Museum.
                                                                2)  A hire for 2 days was at a discounted 10 Euro/Day.Electric cycles hire charges were slight expensive at 26 Euro/Day and a minimum of  8 Euro/Hour.This could  definitely be one of the cheapest cycle hire charges in Barcelona . The shopkeeper also told me that any match at the "Camp  Nou" involving "F.C.Barcelona V/S Real Madrid" was akin to a India V/S Pakistan cricket match in rivalry and passion.These were two clubs from the same country and not two different Country's and yet the football passion of the respective club fans is difficult for a  non Spaniard like me to understand.Thanked the shopkeeper and walked the distance to the gates of "Camp Nou Stadium. Finally entered the daydream stadium of my youth.Now join me on  a  pictorial essay of my tour of the "CAMP NOU STADIUM".
Hello ! Yes its me Rudolph.A.Furtado at the Camp Nou Stadium in Barcelona. Barca is the football club with the most members in the World totalling 1,50,000.The members decide the club's present and  future by  voting the President and board of Directors to represent them.
In the Trophy hall of the "Camp Nou" stadium Museum.
"F C Barcelona" football memorabilia history in the  Camp Nou Foorball museum.
"BALLON d'Or" Trophy and "F.C.Barcelona" star player Lionel.Messi.
In the "Camp Nou " Stadium.For the Derby match between "F.C.Barcelona V/s Real Madrid" this seat could sell for 500 Euro's in the "Black Market " !
"MORE THAN A CLUB" is the motto of "FC Barcelona" that can be seen on the empty stands of the stadium written in Spanish. Camp Nou Stadium  was built between 1954 to 1957 as the previous Camp de Les Corts stadium couldn't be expanded further.Besides Football the "CAMP NOU" stadium has been used  as a venue for rock concerts with some of the World's top stars performing at this venue.In 1982 Pope John Paul II  celebrated mass for a congregation of over 1,21,000 at this stadium.
Camp Nou Museum Tour:- Inside the "PLAYERS PRESS CONFERENCE ROOM" of the stadium.
Change Room and "Sauna Pool " for the players.
"F.C.Barcelona Catholic Chapel" in Camp Nou Stadium. Spain is a Catholic Country.
Camp Nou Museum Tour.
Camp Nou Museum Tour :- In the Football Commentators box, " Its a Goaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal " ?
End of "Camp Nou Museum tour" and in the "F.C.Barcelona" sports merchandise department store.
Finally at 1830 hrs made my exit from the stadium absolutely satisfied of fulfilling one of my lifelong dreams of visiting a World class Football stadium
"Sant Agusti Church" on Hospital Street in Raval District.
                                                                    .It was the same long walk  back to "Les Corts" Metro station.Boarded the train and was back in the now familiar Liceu station.As usual Rambla La street was crowded and as i made my entry into Hospital street noticed the unique  ancient long building on the left side of the street that had its front gate open and hence just decided to visit this  building..On approaching the entrance realized i was entering a church which was  the "Sant Agusti Church" .I had passed down this street numerous times  as it was a short distance from my hostel on the way to Rambla La street  and mistook the building to be historic ruins or a abandoned building.
Inside Calle Hospital grounds.

                              This Church has a tragic history  and is also one of Barcelona's most unusual buildings  as the construction of the church is incomplete.This church was originally a Augustinian Monastery built between in the 1700's.It was rebuilt and destroyed during the Spanish succession and later  the anti-religious riots of 1825.Its last destruction was in the closing stages of the Spanish civil war after which it was again rebuilt."Santa Rita" is the patron saint of Sant Agusti church with May 22 being the feast day of this church when unhappy married women,unrequited lovers and hopeless sufferers line up with  a rose to be blessed  at the chapel of Santa Rita on the right side of the altar.This Church is also the Filipino community Parish church in Barcelona From the Church decided to explore the ancient historic Calle  Hospital  situated opposite Sant Agusti church.Entered the hospital arched entrance into a open  concrete park that had a large tall white cross in the centre. The Calle Hospital building was built of solid granite stone and formed the boundary of this small park  that had a few cafe's inside the building  and some youth sitting around the large park.
Artist on Rambla La Street

I was now discovering my own backyard of Hospital Street in the El Raval Quarter of Barcelona. El Raval was once considered the seediest Quarter in Barcelona city infamous for its Cabaret, nightlife and prostitution.Almost 48 % of the residents in El Raval quarter were born outside Spain making it a melting pot of immigrant  from various country's of the World and among Asians most notably Pakistani's,Indians and Filipinos.There is a large statue of a cat by Fernando.Botero located on the Rambla del Raval. Barcelona's most famous market La Boqueira is in the Raval Quarter and as i said before felt i was in a Asian city  in the Raval Quarter of Hospital street.Made my way to the now familiar Rambla La Street packed with tourists sitting in the outdoor cafe's while caricature artists made portraits of clients.The "Gran Teatre del Liceu" is a prominent landmark on Rambla La street situated on the Raval quarter of the street .This theater opened in 1847 and has had a tragic history of two fires,a bombing and a financial crisis to date and still surviving and a beautiful landmark of Central Barcelona.Entered the foyer of this theatre that  is considered one of the most prestigious  venues in the World with a auditorium capacity of 2,292 seats. Mozarts opera  "Don Giovanni" was presently being played at the theatre.
"Gran Teatre del Liceu" playing Mozarts "Don Giovanni".
Last Night on Rambla La Street in Central Barcelona.
After a brief stroll around Rambla La headed back to Hospital street which was busy  and dinner was a pizza .In my hostel room a young group of tourist  girls had taken residence and it was a truly "Mix-Dorm" hostel.
At the "1992 BARCELONA OLYMPIC STADIUM".
Tuesday(27-6-2017) Barcelona :- A normal morning as usual with the excellent breakfast at 0800 hrs followed by a short morning walk in the El Raval vicinity .Later checked out my luggage into the hostel locker room as i would arrive back late in the evening past the normal check-out time.
"PLACA REIAL" Fountain.

                                                              I would be flying to Lisbon tonight and the day's agenda was the hostel's  morning "Antoni Gaudi Free Tour" and later a visit to the Olympic Stadium.Realized that the hostel tour guides had left without me and quickly went alone to"Placa Reial" hoping to find the "Free Tour Group" at the iconic fountain. Alas , seems they had forgotten "Daddy Cool" and were on their respective guided tour walks somewhere in the city ."Necessity is the Mother of Invention" is very true and on the spot decided to explore Architect Antoni Gaudi's masterpiece the Sagrada Familia by myself as visiting Barcelona and not seeing this building is akin to visiting Agra in India and not seeing the Taj Mahal. Quickly walked the short distance back to Rambla La street and inquired about a direct metro route to Sagrada Familia at the local tourist guide centre on Rambla La Street.Was told by the guide to walk the short distance to "Paral-Lel Metro Station"  and catch the purple line  metro heading directly to Sagrada Familia. It was a very long walk on a street in the El Raval Quarter before i finally reached "Paral-Lel Metro Station".After walking through the underground maze found the purple  line track platform and boarded the train heading to "Badalona Pampeu Fabra"". At 1045 hrs  alighted the train at "Sagrada Familia Station" and on surfacing out of the underground Metro was floored by the sheer beauty of the "Sagrada Familia".Reminded me of seeing the Taj Mahal from the entrance as the Sagrada Familia although not included in one of the Wonders of the World will definitely be there some time in the future.I will now give a photographic 360* tour of this Basilica as entrance tickets for a visit inside the Basilica was houseful.
Yes i have seen the  Basilica Sagrada Familia(Selfie).
 Construction of Sagrada Familia began in 1882 under architect Francisco Paula de Villar and was continued in 1889 by Antoni Gaudi after Francisco resigned as head architect. Gaudi transformed the structure with a combination of Gothic and Art Noveau forms.At the time of Gaudi's death in 1926 at the age of 73 less than a quarter of the project was completed.

Construction still in progress and expected to be completed  in 2026,the centenary of Gaudi's death.
    The construction of Sagrada Familia was through private donations and hence construction was slow.The Spanish civil war interrupted the construction which resumed in the 1950's finally passing its midpoint in 2010.Hopes to be completed by 2026 and if i am alive and fit for "Solo travel"  would make the pilgrimage for its inaugural ceremony.
A different angle view of Sagrada Familia under 21st century construction.
 
Sagrada Familia :- Main entrance gate for tourists.
   
View of Sagrada Familia from Entrance/Exit of "Sagrada Familia" Metro station.
At present there are 8 completed spires and a total of 18 spires is the ultimate structural design of Sagrada Familia. The tallest spire is intended to be 170 meters.
View from Barcelona Olympic Stadium.

                                                             In November 2010 Pope Benedict XVI consecrated and proclaimed this church a minor basilica.This Basilica which is now 135 years under construction has a history of dividing the citizens of Barcelona over the fact that it might compete with Barcelona's Cathedral or the possibility that Gaudi's design was disregarded after his death.I myself personally identified Barcelona through the media images of Sagrada Familia and the "1992 Olympics" besides the game of  football and "F.C.Barcelona". Entered a souvenir shop on the street opposite Sagrada Familia and got a view of miniature models of the Sagrada Familia. Finally at 1200 hrs made my entry into Sagrada Familia Metro station and boarded the purple line line train  back to "Paral-lel Metro".".
Games :- Emulating "MOTO GP" stars.
                                                                                             From "Paral-Lel "  boarded the green line train  to   Espanya Metro station. .On entering the main road was greeted by the familiar sights i saw on the first day of  my stay in Barcelona  during my visit to the "Magic Fountain". Inquired about the 150 Nos bus and was told that it was on the opposite side of the Espanya metro station.Boarded a empty bus and it was a scenic journey up Montjuic hill to the entrance of the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys stadium(Barcelona Olympic Stadium). Entrance to the stadium was  free and this was the first time in my life that i had entered a former Olympic stadium .Had previously  seen the Montreal Olympic Stadium from the outside during a shipping voyage to Montreal in the 1990's but never ever inside a Olympic stadium.Various parts of the stadium grounds were being used for different sports by different age group of young boys and girls.Normally most Olympic stadium degenerate after the games due to lack of maintenance as well as proper utilization of the stadium.The Barcelona Olympic stadium was definitely a picture of good health with the grounds and tracks glistening  as also being utilized by the local students and sports fraternity.
View  of Barcelona  from "Las Arenas"  terrace.

There was a restaurant on the main entrance  gallery of the stadium where i spotted a black stray cat, the second  time i saw a stray cat in a European city after Riga.The cat  was accustomed to being fed tourist morsels and could be the property of the restaurant.Strolled around the visitors lounge that had a games section  with a large cut-out of Moto GP legend Valentino Rossi. Simulated stationary "Moto GP Rides"were on offer akin to being in a authentic Moto GP race and maneuvering through simulated traffic on the video screen.The riders and the young kids  seemed to be enjoying this game as  Spain produces some of the World's best Moto GP riders and cyclists. The view of Barcelona city from the Olympic stadium is beautiful as it is situated on a elevation on the Montjuic hill.

Terrace viewpoint of "Las Arenas" 
                                                                                                                 I had finally come a full circle in satisfying my enthusiasm for sports by seeing a World class Football stadium as well as a former World class Olympic stadium.Destiny had been kind to me in realizing a few of my life's dreams.Remember watching the opening ceremony of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics on television in Mumbai and  the archer lighting the Barcelona Olympic flame with a arrow is as fresh as yesterday in my memory bank.of sports.Made my way to the main road and boarded the 150 Nos bus back to Placa Espanya. The most imposing edifice in the beautiful square is the former bull fighting ring of "Las Arenas" now converted into a shopping mall.Opened in 1900  this  Bull ring which was one of the three bullfighting rings in Barcelona  went into decline as the popularity of bull fighting declined in Barcelona. The last bull fight held in this arena was  in  1977.It became a relic of a outdated Spanish tradition of Barcelona although Bullfighting is still a tradition in most Spanish city's with the Pamplona  running of the bulls being a World media event.The City decided to preserve the building as it represented a historical significance of Spain's traditional past.Giant shopping centres were not prevalent in Barcelona and hence British architect Richard.Rogers was given the task  of transforming the "Las Arenas" bull ring into a commercial complex.Architect Richard.Rogers  preserved the original  external facade as a landmark of Barcelona while totally transforming the interior  of this former stadium.There is a glass lift that takes tourists to the top of the circular  terrace of  Las Arenas for  a fee of 1 Euro and hence  i took the lift to the top.The ride to the top was exhilarating and the bird's eye view of the plushest locales of Barcelona city a real thrill.                        
"LAS ARENAS" :- Former Bull Ring now a plush 6 floor shopping center."Glass Lift" tower on left side of building.
 Walked round the Circular terrace of Las Arenas getting a 360* "Bird's Eye View" of Barcelona city from Placa Espanya. Can imagine the view from the terrace at night with the "Magic Fountain" spouting its musical multicolored water fountains on the nearby  Mountjuic foot  hill.
Plush shops inside "Las Arenas" shopping centre
                                                                                                    The terrace had restaurants on the inner circumference of the building, a ideal tourist viewing point.This new  building was inaugurated in March 2011  This former "Bull Fighting Ring" was opened in 1900 was designed by Augusto Font I Carreras who completed the facade of Barcelona's Cathedral.Hence the significance of this bull ring can be gauged  and also the reason for preserving its external facade without demolishing the entire structure.From the sixth floor  terrace roof-top made my way down the five floors by the escalators.There are a total of 115 shops, a fitness centre, a multiplex cinema with 12 cinema halls,a event hall and restaurants in the enclosed shopping complex.Had one of the longest escalator rides of my life beginning from the Ground floor mall to the sixth floor restaurant terrace of the shopping complex .
 
Palau del Lloctinent(Lieutenant Palace)
                                                                                                           Who would believe that once upon a time as recently as 1977 violent  bull-fighting took place inside this palatial luxury shopping complex.At approximately 1400 hrs made my way out of this grand building and into Espanya metro station.The Metro train frequency is every few minutes and  with Liceu station being just three stops away was at my destination in a instant .Decided to revisit the Gothic quarter although i was tired and it meant a long  street  walk.In Barcelona i encountered the maximum population of a European city during my present solo tour and didn't miss Mumbai city barring the spicy Indian food.Local Spaniards also mistook me to be one of them or a Asian Spaniard always speaking to me in Spanish language.Spaniards are very proud of their language as they once colonized the World and Spanish is the official language in a many country's akin to French and Portuguese.Beside's akin to Indian Cricket feeding World cricket so also Spanish football to a very large extent  feeds World football.In Spain be like the Spaniards. In most of the bars and shops in Barcelona i observed Pig legs being hung across the shops or exhibited in stores and bars.
Palau Reial Major(Grand Royal Palace)
                                                                                                                                               On inquiry was told that these legs were pork ham and the older the seasoned leg the more expensive is the ham from that leg.Having toured almost most city's in Europe Barcelona was the first city in which i came across this exotic manner of displaying pork cuisine.Strolling across the Old Gothic Quarter came across  the Palau Reial Major(Grand Royal Palace) that is a complex of historic buiildings located in Placa del Rei .It was the residence of the Counts of Barcelona and later of the Kings of Aragon.The Palace complex consists  of three distinct edifices of which one is the Palasu del  Lloctinent(Lieutenant Palace) that housed the "General archive of the Crown of Aragon.The Lieutenant Palace had a small courtyard with landscaped gardening on the historic building portico. Founded in 1318  this archive was the centralized deposit system for the administrative,economic and political memory of the Crown of Aragon's monarchy.Over the centuries the archives became a time capsule  of documents generated  by the administrative apparatus of the state and other entities.
Palau Reial Major(Grand Royal Palace) complex.
                                                                                                   It is one of the largest and most important  documentary collections of medieval, modern and contemporary Europe.A copied text of the "Articles of Admiral Christopher.Columbus" was on display  for the public in the courtyard . From the Palace courtyard went onto the main street and found a Asian Grocery store and purchased a beer and a snack from the Pakistani origin owner cum receptionist with beer being cheaper than water !With Pork legs dangling or displayed akin to food fashion from almost every pub and grocery shop in Barcelona it surprised me that Barcelona had a large Pakistani origin Muslim population.In fact the young lady Pakistani receptionist handed me the beer can ,something unthinkable in Pakistan or any Islamic country.
"Advertisement Film Shooting" at  Placa Reial.

    Made me realize that we humans are very adaptable according to circumstances and situations and in Spain you do as the Spaniards do.Took my beer can and the snack  into the courtyard of the Palace buildings and sat on a bench opposite a fountain.Relaxed sipping my beer watching the Barcelona pigeons bathe in the fountain water as it was a hot day by tropical  Indian standards let alone European standards ! After about an hours of rest in the Palace Courtyard made my way into the street and decided to taste the hanging pig legs ham.Its a tradition in Spain to process Iberico ham in this manner which takes two to four years for curing akin to whisky brands. and real expensive.After purchasing some cheap  ham  from a "Pork Leg" that was definitely not Iberico walked down to Placa Reial  which was crowded with tourists. Sat down at the fountain munching my ham along with a small loaf of bread.
"Pork Legs(Ham)" on display in a shop.A Delicacy.
                                                                                                                                                  Later the crowd sitting around the fountain including me was requested to vacate the same temporarily for the filming of a advertisement.Witnessed the filming of  the  advertisement with  a young couple taking their child in a pram for a stroll around the iconic fountain.I have seen  film shootings in India and in a foreign city saw a World War II era filming at Prague Castle in Czechoslovakia. This advertisement film shoot was definitely tough on the child toddler star and his screen parents not to mention the cuts and re-shoots of the photographer/Director.Please don't grudge actors and actresses for their lavish lifestyles or unbelievable salaries as their job is definitely tough besides being competitive and unpredictable akin to race horses.
Multicultural El Raval Quarter.Moroccan Restaurant.
                                                                                                                                     Few actors or actresses make it to the big league among the thousands that try their luck in the glamour world.Where is child star Macaulay. Culkin in 2017 ? Would this young toddler or his screen parents be future stars ? Bored watching the advertisement retakes made my way towards Rambla La street and into the hostel.My flight was scheduled for 2220  hrs and so far a little luck and my own efforts kept me safe from either missing a flight or a  bus journey.Since El Raval Quarter had a large Asian/African population decided to scout the locality for some food with rice.Walked down the street and came across a Moroccan  restaurant "Restauraunte Maghrebi Hallal"and purchased a parcel of 'Chicken/Rice" costing 6 Euro's, my last dinner in Barcelona
Rambla La Street:-  Caricatures.
                                                                                                                            There were no shops hanging "Pig Leg Bacon" in this locality of the El Raval quarter .Walked back to my hostel and relished the rice dinner.At 1830 hrs bid adieu to "Center Ramblas" hostel and headed to Liceu metro station.Boarded the green line metro to "Sants Estacio" station.It was easier finding my way through the maze of underground platforms onto the right Renee train platform due to sheer habitual public travel in Europe, besides, i had arrived into the city by this same route. ! It was the same reverse journey back to the airport terminal 2 platform.On alighting from the train and climbing up the stairs towards the walkway i suddenly turned my head  back at the same time holding my pocket just in time to see a young Caucasian man  remove his hand away from my pocket.He walked behind me for some time and then soon quickly walked back with his accomplice who was following him.Providence and my "6th Sense" saved me from being a advertisement for a "Barcelona Pickpocket". After crossing the long railway walkway onto Terminal 2 was on time to board the shuttle bus to Terminal 1.
Would have loved to end Barcelona tour seeing this play.

                                                                           The distance between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2  is 4 kms and it was the longest airport shuttle journey of my lifetime of travelling through various airports of the World.Made my way into Terminal 2 and easily found the "TAP Portugal" airline counter. For the first time got my trolley  carry bag checked into the luggage compartment relieved off my hand luggage.Came across a very slim young Caucasian  lady whom i mistook to be a hitchhiker due to her youth and casual manner of speech.After checking into the main departure lounge   i struck a conversation with this young lady and was surprised to know that she was a full fledged doctor on her way to a African nation for treatment of some epidemic disease."Never judge a book by its cover" as mere  appearances or mannerisms  can be deceptive and on telling her the truth she was thrilled for being mistaken to be a young hitchhiker ! Finally we boarded  "TAP Portugal Flight N0 TP 1047 " with the take-off punctual at 2220 hrs. Excellent airlines and was thrilled on being served excellent Portuguese dinner along with beer.We touched down in Lisbon at 2330 hrs and after collecting my bag inquired about the metro to the city.I was finally in the land of Vasco Da Gama  whose epic sea voyage to India  i was replicating in reverse through land and air travel across Europe.It was midnight and the public metro train  transport was available till 0100 hrs.                                
 
Historic  Remodelado "TRAM N0 28(1930's)" sightseeing through Alfama and Castello  in Lisbon.
 Wednesday(28-6-2017) Lisbon :-  The weather in Lisbon was cool and pleasant in contrast to the warm weather in Barcelona.Excellent weather , not too cold nor too hot.
 
"Aeroporto Metro Station""  next to Lisbon Airport.
                                                                                                                  The Metro station was a short walk from the Airport terminal and purchased a ticket with the help of a local traveller. Realized language  would again be my nemesis in Lisbon.My image of Portugal   was that of a poor European Country in comparison to a majority of  the  wealthy  European Union Country's .Reasons through the fact  that most Indian immigrants to Portugal from the former Portuguese  colonies of Goa, Daman and Diu holding Portuguese passports  migrate first to Portugal and then remigrate to England or some other wealthier European nation !I was also a bit nervous about the crime rate in Lisbon due to my near miss a few hours ago of being pickpocketed by a local Spaniard in Barcelona.At the spacious  and spotlessly clean "Aeroporto Metro" station  boarded the red line "San Sebastiao" train at 0005 hrs and during the long journey consisting of 11 metro stops rang up " Hostel Fairy" and a lady answered the phone.After explaining my early arrival asked her for directions from the train station.

Marques De Pombal Square on a rainy morning.
                                                                                                                         She  messaged me the route as well as further  instructions to be followed  on reaching the guest house .The phone was my compass and lifeline on this tour without which i would have definitely got into serious logistics problems.Alighted at the last stop "San Sebastiao" and on inquiries was lucky to meet a young gentleman speaking fluent English heading to my destination "Paque Metro" station which was just one stop away.The deadline for the last train was 0100 hrs  and was happy that i was at least only one stop away  in case of catching a taxi.We went to the blue line platform and boarded the train heading to "Santa Apolonia." Alighted at the next stop and heaved a sigh of relief little realizing that the actual treasure hunt for the hostel was about to begin on the roads of Lisbon.The young  gentleman gave me some directional guidance through the google map on his phone and thanking him headed in that direction.It was 0045 hrs and barring a few cars passing along the road i was the lone hero trying to prove my bravery walking all alone on a dark night in Lisbon.Marveled the broadness and cleanliness of Lisbon's roads, absolutely First World infrastructure.
Classic open-air breakfast.
  Walked straight down the broad road with not a human in sight  and after a long walk chanced upon some youth sitting in a outdoor cafe. Asked them for directions and with their google map realized the hostel treasure hunt was narrowing also noticing that the youth of Lisbon did speak or understand English language compared to the older generation.Nearing the hostel locale came across some Fire brigade men rigging their Fire ambulance hoses and asked them for directions realizing that at last the treasure hunt was coming to a end .On nearing the hostel building saw a Asian man sitting outside the building and asked him if i was at "Rua Camilo Castelo Branco  22"   to which the Bangladeshi gentleman replied that he too was residing in the same building but  in a different hostel.He punched in the main door lock code number and we both entered the building with me having to walk four floors to"Hostel Fairy". The front door was opened by hostel caretaker Mr Mauro and on entering the large palatial flat was first charged a full amount for the previous day's boarding akin to "Kohver Hostel" in Tallinn  as "Check-In" was  at 1300 hrs. Was shown my room  and was happy to realize i had the entire small dormitory room to myself.

Inside  the historic "TRAM N0 28".
                                                                                                           Had a quick wash in the palatial aristocratic bathroom fitted  with a tub and realized this was the best hostel of the entire tour as far as accommodation was concerned.There was a long balcony attached to my dormitory room and the view of Marques De Pombal statue from my balcony was beautiful.Did get a little bit of early morning sleep waking up at 0700 hrs and having a excellent hot Jacuzzi style bath in the spacious tub. Seems like i had the entire palatial hostel flat to myself with just a few guests in the two other rooms.There was a kitchen and a laundry along with free desk top internet  besides the normal free WiFi available throughout First world Europe.
"Historic "Tram N0 28" ride 
                                                                                                            My image of Portugal being a poor Country in comparison to other European country's  was shred to pieces in just a few hours of  being in Lisbon.Dressed up and ventured out into the early Wednesday morning of Lisbon city. My first view was of the magnificent Marques De Pombal statue with a majestic lion on his left side towering above the  circular square.This square in a major junction of Lisbon city with 4 cross roads leading to landmark avenues of the city. Seabastiao  Jose De Carvalho E Melo .1st Marques of Pombal  was the powerful Prime Minister who ruled Portugal from 1750 to 1777 and after whom the Statue was erected.This statue was in honour for  his rebuilding of Lisbon after the disastrous 1755 earthquake that destroyed most parts of this historic city.
Rickshaws in Baixa Chiado locality of  Tram N0 28 route.
                                                                                                                 It suddenly began to drizzle and as usual the rain had followed me to Lisbon.The drizzle was partial and stopped after a short while  and hoped the rains wouldn't ruin my day's  exploration  of Lisbon.Walked around the vicinity facing the square and came across a plush restaurant "A Padaria Portuguesa"  doing brisk business with a queue for morning breakfast.Ordered the local "Pao Chorica" with coffee and the famous Lisbon sweet "Pastel De Nata".Sat outside the restaurant and akin to Royalty had a lavish breakfast watching early morning office goers walking along the street.After breakfast walked into the underground "Marques De Pombal" metro station and at the tourist information counter inquired about the "24 hour travel pass" and also  the closest stop to board historic "Tram N0 28".The receptionist gave me a map of the city and directed me to the counter selling the '24 Hour Lisbon Travel Ticket".
A part of the vast Prazeres cemetery.

   After purchasing the ticket it was the same jig-saw puzzle of finding the right platform in a maze of underground escalators and walkways.Finally found my platform and boarded the blue  line train heading to Santa Apolonia. Alighted the train at "Baixa Chiado" station and changed over to the green line train heading to Telheiras. Finally after just one stop got down at my destination "Martim Monez" train station. Headed out of the metro underground into the open Lisbon morning and inquired the directions to "Tram N0 28" junction stop. It was a short walk from the train station and at 1000 hrs a tourist crowd was already in queue for the morning's  tram service.In September  2002 notorious Indian Mafia Don Abdul Qayum Ansari better known as "Abu Salem" was arrested along with his paramour Sana Malik Kamal  better known as Bollywood actress Monica .Bedi from " 284 Rua Da Palma Apartments" in Martin Monez. Here i was in the same vicinity and was not surprised that a multimillionaire Don chose Lisbon as a safe haven for permanent residency from the law.He was deported to India and is cooling his heels  in jail in India.Money definitely can't buy you freedom if on the wrong side of the law although a few Don's have proved that money does at times buy you freedom provided you don't get caught !   Boarded the small 1930's era vintage tram that has a total capacity for 30 passengers and a frequency of approximately 15 minutes as this mode of transport is always house-full .
Private Mausoleums in Prazeres cemetery.

                    The first thing i noticed on the tram was the bold signboard stating "BEWARE OF PICKPOCKETS". I escaped a attempt on my precious pocket in Barcelona and would i be second time lucky or unlucky in Lisbon regarding pickpockets ? The tram ride was indescribable through a  narrow street  with gradual ascents and descents through the oldest neighbourhood of Lisbon. This tram passes through the historic Lisbon districts of Graca ,Alfama, Baixa,Chiado and Sao Bento with the last stop being the Campo de Ourique (Prazeres Cemetery).Just before reaching the last stop two men boarded the packed tram checking for ticketless travellers and seems that beside's the menace of pickpockets on trams a few travellers also took the risk of ticketless travel ! At 1115 hrs reached the last stop and made my way to the largest cemetery in Lisbon.Majority of Indian Catholics from  Goa and Mangalore  in India including me have Portuguese origin surnames as we are converts through  Portuguese colonization as a result of Vasco Da Gama's discovery of India.I was in search of the "FURTADO'S" and "GONSALVES'S" of Portugal and no better place then visiting the cemetery although bizarrely didn't expect the cemetery to be my first tourist site in Portugal let alone Lisbon.
Prazeres Cemetery.
                                                                                                                                     Historic"TRAM N0 28" brought me to the cemetery.Entered the cemetery and was definitely one of the first morning visitors. Prazeres cemetery was created in 1833 after the cholera outbreak in Lisbon.Some of Portugal's eminent personalities are buried in this cemetery.Strolled around a small area of  the expansive cemetery grounds.The Mausoleums were of various different designs which also indicated the status or wealth of the deceased.The Pazares cemetery is also called the "Cemetery of Pleasures" and i do find walks in cemetery's very peaceful especially in Mumbai which is one of the World's most populated city's.Cemetery's are gardens for the dead and Prazeres cemetery was a real large garden although i didn't come across a single "Furtado" name but did come across a "Goncalves" name spelt with a c and not s besides the names of Pinto, Fonseca,Dias and Fernandez. Common Catholic surnames in India. Prazeres Cemetery is situated on a hill and the view of a part of Lisbon from this viewpoint was excellent.As i was making my exit from the cemetery decided to enter the office to collect a brochure and hence met the tourist information guide.
Main entrance to Prazeres Cemetery.
                                                                                                                                    In fluent English he explained me the cemetery and the tourist locales of Lisbon.Its a common  saying "Weddings and funerals are a common meeting place for people " and a visit to the historic Prazeres cemetery made me understand the origins of Indian Catholicism a bit better although i met no one nor did i find a "Furtado" tombstone or mausoleum. Canadian singer Nellie.Furtado is the most prominent Portuguese origin personality and in Portugal "Fado" music is a passion having its origins in the Alfama district of Lisbon.The famous Portuguese Fado singer Amalia .Rodrigues who popularized Fado worldwide  was initially buried in the Prazeres cemetery but later on public demand her mortal remains were transferred to the National Pantheon in Lisbon.Amalia .Rodrigues is the best selling Portuguese artist of all time  and attending a Fado show in Alfama, the home of Fado music  was definitely on my tour list. Made my way back to the tram stop and being the starting point managed to immediately board the tram.After a long downhill ride and various curves alighted the tram at "Portas Do Sol" viewpoint.I will now give a pictorial essay of my walking tour.
Se Cathedral (Lisbon Cathedral).
The Se Cathedral is the oldest church in Lisbon and the seat of the Archdiocese of Lisbon.
Pulpit of Lisbon Cathedral.

            Since its construction in 1147 the Cathedral has been modified several times and was structurally badly damaged in the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake.The Cathedral was partially rebuilt after the Earthquake and got its present structure in the beginning of the 20th century.Entered the Cathedral and the entrance to the church  is free with regular mass services during which tourists are not allowed for photography.There were tourists inside the church clicking photo's as usual.After a brief look inside the church made my exit  and walked over to the Portas Do Sol  terrace  . Akin to Spain  where all the tourist sign boards are in the local Spanish language so also in Portugal the tourist sign boards were in Portuguese language.If a non Britisher or non U.S.A Citizen tourist  could learn English then why not Spanish and Portuguese as these two languages colonized much of the World before Britain or the U.S.A ! Besides tourist Paris try speaking English language in other parts of   France. Its not only ordinary humans but also Country's that are very egoistic about their own national language.Now i realize the reasons for  Indians emigrating to Portugal who  later migrate to England as English is the link language in India and most working class  Indians speak and understand English while Portuguese as a practical  language is almost non-existent in India.Hence Indians migrating to Portugal would find it difficult to learn a new language at a late age in life unless they have a aptitude for languages. Finding a local job where the only language would be Portuguese would not be possible unless fluent in Portuguese.Mr Paulo the caretaker of "Fairy Hostel" requested me to speak slowly in English as he found it difficult to understand me  although he spoke reasonable English that made his job relevant while dealing with non-Portuguese tourists.Now only  hoped  i could learn to speak Portuguese and Spanish akin to Mr Paulo speaking English.Sadly i am no linguist and learning New languages is my Achilles heel.
At  Portas Do Sol Viewpoint with a partial view of the Alfama district of Lisbon.
There was a large tourist crowd at Portas Do Sol  which means "Gates of the Sun" in English.  Definitely the view of the sea and surrounding landscape  made this locale a gateway of natural beauty.During Moorish domination  this was one of the seven gates into the former Arab city of Alfama.
Oldest Building "Palacio Belmonte" now one of the World's best exclusive  hotels.

Walked uphill and came across a "Alfama Free  Walking tour"  group and joined them although it was almost the end of their guided tour.
Simple looking "Palacio Belmonte".
                                                                                                     Next place of interest in the Castello locality was  the oldest building in Lisbon ,"The Palacio Belmonte" perched on the outer walls of Sao Jorge(St George)  castle. .The First section of this Palace was built in 1469 and the Palace has 3 towers of which one dates back to 138 B.C.This house was the Portuguese residence of Marques De Atalaia Figueiredo Cabral Duque Loule, the Earls of Belmonte for over 500 years. Vasco Da Gama himself was received at the Palacio after his triumphant return from India.In 1640 the entire Palacio was enlarged adding the east terrace and five facades in classical style. giving the Palacio its present look.and it did not suffer any damage in the 1755 earthquake.This house was officially classified a National monument in 1910.It is now a hotel and considered one of the best in the World winning numerous awards.The Palacio was a setting for the movies "Lisbon Story"  by Wim.Wenders and "Afirma Pereira"  with Marcelo Mastroianni. From the exterior this building resembles a ordinary white coloured bungalow building.In 2015 the Palacio Belmonte received  the award of "Best Boutique hotel Worldwide".

Entrance to Sao  Jorge Castle (St George Castle) complex .


Outer Walls of Sao Jorge castle.
  My next stop was at the entrance gate of Sao Jorge  castle which dates back to the medieval period of Portuguese history. This castle and Lisbon were freed from Moorish rule in 1147 by Afonso.Henriques and Northern European knights in the Siege of Lisbon during the Second Crusade war.The 1755 Lisbon Earthquake damaged the castle and the place where i am standing  was one of the castle complexes damaged in the earthquake.Notice the graffiti on the walls.The Castles plan is a Square and was originally encircled by a wall to form a Citadel.From the castle we walked down the hill towards Portas Do Sol where i came across a tourist stall "www.cooltourlisbon.com"selling guides as also guided tours.Inquired about the guided single day tours to Sintra and was explained the same. Booked a tour for Friday and paid the tour agency in advance also confirming the tourist company's phone number.I was taking a big chance as this was just a pavement  tourist stall and in case of a refund or some discrepancy it would be difficult to contact this company.I had made the biggest monetary gamble by undertaking this grueling economic cum physical marathon  tour and small gambles like sightseeing tour advances would be a petty loss if cheated.
"Santo Antonio Church" built at the birthplace of St Anthony.
Fernando de Bulhoes(St Anthony) was born in Lisbon in 1195, the son of a wealthy family.In 1220 he entered the Franciscan Order adopting the name Antonio and during his  missionary travels settled in Padua in Italy.
At the outdoor  altar of St Anthony outside the Church.
                                                                                                                                         Due to his popularity he was canonized less than a year after his death in 1232.The site of his birth located next to the Lisbon Cathedral was turned into a small chapel in the 15th century. In 1755 the church was completely destroyed just leaving the chapel intact This church was rebuilt after 1767 in a  Baroque-Rococo design  by architect Mateus.Vicente de Oliveira. June 13th is the birthday of St Anthony and since 1755 a procession leaves the church on that day passing through Lisbon Cathedral and the slopes of Alfama neighbourhood. Special bread is given to the oldest woman in each family.Little altars are kept in the oldest neighbourhood of Lisbon Alfama during the month of June  with a traditional request for coins.
Inside "Santo Antonio Church(St Anthony)".The Altar.

       My mother a staunch practicing Catholic was a great devotee of St Anthony.On May 12 1982 Pope John Paul II visited the church and inaugurated the statue of the saint in the courtyard of the church sculpted by Soares.Branco. .He was on his way to Fatima to thank Mother Mary for his miraculous escape from a assassination attempt by Iranian Mehmet ali Agca at St Peter's Square in the Vatican exactly a year ago on Wednesday 13th May 1981.St Anthony is revered as  the patron saint of lovers and of Lisbon city  .Newly married couples lay flowers at the statue of the Saint. There is also a tradition of young unmarried men and women throwing coins  at the statue hoping the coin falls into the open book for finding a new or a better life partner or a better boyfriend or girlfriend.With "Homosexuality" and "Gay Marriages"  being a fact of living in the 21st century  seems a minority  of the unmarried men and women would definitely be hoping for a better same sex partner while throwing the coin.

                                                                                                            At the age of 57 circumstances and now my lifestyle has kept me a bachelor and in hindsight  happy for being the same .Altered   the words of one of India's prominent celebrity  bachelor's ,a former model/actor  and now a long distance  runner akin to my Solo Marathon European tour  , quote, " I could be a very good boyfriend but not husband material due to my lifestyle and free-living attitude ".During my younger years i presume my mother was praying to St Anthony  for a good match for her only child as do all parents irrespective of religious faith.On entering the small church made my way into the Crypt where St Anthony was presumed to be born.After the normal prayer rituals left the chapel and strolled around the locale that was gradually getting crowded with tourists.Strolled back towards the Castello  and came across a local tourist wine shop selling the famed "Porto Wine" .Tasted the exotic Portuguese Ginja liquor given in a tiny chocolate cup costing  1.5 Euro.Real exotic chocolate liquer.
Baixa Chiado Square:

Walked over to the tram stop and after a short wait boarded "Tram No 28" to the city.Alighted at Baixa Chiado.
Baixa Chiado :- A Tourist haven in Lisbon.
                                                                                                                                       This district  is in the heart of Lisbon having magnificent plaza's and boutique shops besides the street side cafe's.Every Country has a few tragic historical dates and the 0940 hrs  Saturday 1 November 1755 Lisboa(Lisbon) Earthquake  along with the accompanied Tsunami leveled this district to ruins killing thousands. Marquis De Pombal rebuilt this district with a new grid pattern also incorporating the  earliest known  architectural  methods  for earthquake resistance buildings.The locality was bustling with tourist activity with a large  open air cafe at the entrance of the main square and auto-rickshaws lining a part of the long street..A few street musicians were providing excellent free music to the tourists and pedestrians hoping to make some good money.
Kitchen /Laundry of plush "Fairy Hostel".
                                                                                                                                       Made my way to the Metro station and boarded the blue line train to Marques.De Pombal station. On alighting from the underground jigsaw maze realized i had come out from a different exit on a different cross road of the grand Marques De Pombal Plaza.Literally lost my way all the while realizing that "Fairy Hostel" was somewhere inside one of the four gigantic cross-roads.After some inquiries with the rare English speaking local finally got onto the right path and realized that in a haste i had forgotten to notice the landmark locations of my hostel.As a Solo traveller always remember you are your own guide and hence logistics is the key to a successful solo tour.On entering "Fairy Hostel" at 1530 hrs  was told by Mr Mauro that clothes could be washed in the washing machine. Got my clothes washed with the help of Mauro's guidance and kept it for drying in the hot sun. Lisbon had excellent cool weather with bright hot Sun with definitely no sign of rain as in the early morning.Had some rest in my palatial hostel room that was empty with the entire building having a hostel on each floor.Only drawback was that the building didn't have a lift and climbing four floors regularly was additional mileage on my solo tour track-work.Till now i definitely had a charmed fairy-tale solo tour with minor hiccups along the journey.At 1830 hrs made my way out of the palatial hostel flat and straight into  Marques de Pombal metro station. Alighted the train at Baixa Chaido  and walked to the tram stop akin to a local Lisbon citizen with a few pedestrians asking me questions in Portuguese ! Its a bizarre World at times .
Alfama District of Lisbon. The Night open air street partying has just begun.
Alighted the tram at Lisbon Cathedral with the evenings agenda being the exploration of the oldest sailors  district  of Alfama , the Largo do Chafariz de Dentroalong situated  along  the Tagus  river estuary and also  visiting a Fado restaurant.Walked down the hill's steps and on reaching the river level street made my way down  the old narrow medieval  alleyway's  housing small buildings on either side.Portuguese music was playing from the loudspeakers of the outdoors cafe's .
A "Tapas" of  baked olive sardine fish  on bread with draught beer in a  restaurant.
Originally Alfama was associated with poverty and squalor where only the poor and disadvantaged of Portuguese society lived.
'SARDINES" a Lisbon delicacy.
                                                                                                                      The growth of Lisbon into a major Port didn't alter this district's status and it now evolved into a tough neighbourhood where sailors and dock workers resided.Yes i am also a sailor of the 20th/21st century and proud of  my former  profession  being a bit different from the average of our human species.I am what i am today in my second profession  as a successful investor because of my "Merchant Navy" employment experience ,both, good and the bad.Sailors are a tough breed as the Ocean is unforgiving besides the loneliness of sailing was one of the reasons i am a blogger as reading became a passion on the high seas.How many have read Herman.Melville's "Moby Dick" or "The Old Man and the Sea" by Ernest .Hemingway ? Both are sea classics .I could feel the cultural and topographical  difference between Alfama and Marques De Pombal Plaza and was charmed by the uniqueness of this fishing cum harbour district of Lisbon.Not a single street in Alfama is straight except on the Tagus river estuary  and a person is either climbing up or down in Alfama district.Walked into a open air restaurant and began the evening with a Tapas and Beer.The freshly baked sardine fish dripping with olive oil on a small hard piece of bread was a typical "Thanda(Hindi slang for cool)" starter by Indian standards and the evening was still young while i was a tired traveller getting rejuvenated in every city.Inquired about "FADO RESTAURANTS" and was told to go down the stairs towards Rua De Sao Miguel.
Artist in Alfama .
After my Tapas snack just strolled along the narrow cobbled street of Alfama bustling with artistic activity. This artist was painting his sketches with coffee and Porto wine !
Steep steps  linking Alfama riverside to the Castello part of the district.Buildings on the hillsides.
After a stroll upto the end of the street walked back and up the stairs to the Portas Do Sol viewpoint as i felt i was too early to enter a Fado restaurant.Not recommended  for aged tourists or people with mobility defects.
Fado Restaurant in the plusher modern locales of Alfama district.
Made my way back down through the "Santa Luzia " free  lift that transports people from the top of the hillside to the old Medieval Alfama at river level. Excellent for the aged and people with mobility handicaps.
Street Side restaurants in Medieval Alfama  at the river-side.
Fado Museum in Alfama district.
Medieval Alfama District with its cobblestone narrow streets at the bottom of the hill near the river side.
Outside the "S Miguel D Alfama" restaurant savouring a glass of wine before the "Fado Show".
Walking down the narrow medieval cobbled street came across "S Miguel D Alfama" restaurant  on recommendation from the owner of the Tapas restaurant.The First show was house-full and had to wait outside for a seat in the small restaurant.The receptionist at the entrance offered me a free glass of wine as the waiting queue was of a at least half an hour.Very informal atmosphere and they don't force you to enter their Fado restaurant as its reputation precedes it with the owner Fatima Moura receiving very good reviews from tourists and locals.Remember that competition for tourists is fierce as entire Alfama district barring the historic sites  has a "Fado Restaurant" along its streets. A tourist is spoiled for choice !
Introduction of the "Fado" musicians on stage  at "S Miguel D Alfama " restaurant.
Finally at 2015 hrs did manage to get a seat in "S.Miguel D Alfama" restaurant that was house-full.Modern "FADO"  can be traced to the 1820's in Lisbon but could be much older.
Ambiance of "S Miguel D Alfama" restaurant.

                     Fado Historian and scholar Rui Vieira Nery says that the only reliable information on the Fado was transmitted orally in the 1820's and 1830's and today is regarded simply as a form of song that can be on any topic but with a certain traditional structure. Fado is a form of music classified by mournful tunes and lyrics most often about the sea  and the life of the poor.The Portuguese word "Saudade" meaning  longing(Symbolizing a feeling of Permanent irreparable  loss and its lifelong damage) perfectly describes the lyrics and music of Fado. Fado means Destiny or Fate.There are two main styles of Fado 1) Lisbon Fado  2) Coimbra Fado The Lisbon style is more well known and popular with legendary Fado Singer Late Amalia.Rodrigues  being the most popular exponent of this style. Coimbra Style  is traditionally linked to the city's universities with its style  linked to the medieval serenading Troubadours. As per tradition Fado is applauded in Lisbon by clapping while in Coimbra one coughs as if clearing one's throat.In November 2011 Fado music was added to the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage lists.
Portuguese Dinner of "Bacalhau a Lagareiro c/Batatas a Murro". while watching the Fado music

Ordered a dinner of "Bacalhau a Lagareiro  C/Batatas a Murro (Baked Cod Fish with baked potatoes, garlic and olive oil)" costing 15 Euro while watching the Fado recitals which was performed in absolutely darkness with a dim light. Flash photography was not permitted.
"Bacalhau a Lagareiro c/Batatas a Murro"

                                                                                                                                                    The typical instruments  in a Fado performance are 1) Guitarra Portuesa(Portuguese guitar  using steel strings 2)Viola Baixo which is a four string version  of acoustic bass guitar developed during the 1960's.Lisbon Fado evokes Urban Emergence themes concerning  the daily narratives of mostly the marginalized sections of Portuguese society and was normally sung at the locales visited by Prostitutes,sailors,coachmen and Marialvas. A male fado singer resembled the typical  bully with a hoarse voice,tattoos and skilled with a flick knife while using slang language.Portuguese Intellectuals rejected Fado. The amorous relation  between Count Vimioso and Maria Severa Onofriana(1820-1846), a Romani Gypsy prostitute who enchanted the aristocrat with her Fado songs transformed into one of the greatest myths in the history  of  Fado music.The International spread of Fado began in the 1930's as it became popular in Portuguese African colonies and in Brazil and later Amalia.Rodrigues took Fado onto the modern International music venue.I got to witness male singers singing the Fado between two half an hour intervals.Reminisced about my own sea voyages with wonderful memories of a dinner  in 1988 of the largest fresh King Prawns in Maputo a former Portuguese colony undergoing a civil war during our ship's port stay. As the Fado was sung in Portuguese i couldn't understand the lyrics and the music was soft unlike rock or pop music.The Cod Fish tasted like salted fish and was literally floating in Olive oil.                                                                                                  
One for the road at "S Miguel D Alfama"
                                                                                                        Relished the Portuguese cuisine as i was hungry besides  this dish was a new collection in my list of food eaten around the World.At 2200 hrs made my way out of the restaurant and walked the long distance along the river wharf to  Santa Apolonia Station. It was my first day in Lisbon and i was behaving like a 28 year old ship's staff having a quick nights out in Vasco Da Gama's Lisbon before reporting for duty.Those were the days my friends when port stays were long unlike  the 21st century where modernized Container ships and specialized vessels as well as modern port cargo handling has made a Port stay of 24 hours a luxury for officer's and crew of a majority of ships. .During my Ocean sailing years  upto the 1990's  the  ship's crew as well as officers could leisurely have a good tour of a country's port savoring the Good, the Bad and the Ugly in almost every Port city. Wonder what was sea sailing during the day's of Vasco Da Gama ? Alfama left me with lingering memories as i boarded the train to Marques De Pombal station and walked  to the hostel building  and into  my plush dormitory room. Felt  i owned the palatial fourth floor hostel flat that occupied one half of the building.This was my ninth hostel since arriving in Copenhagen on Monday(12-6-2017) and the best accommodation  of the tour to date with excellent  WiFi and a scenic view  from my balcony. 






At the "Sanctuary of our Lady of Fatima".
Thursday(29-6-2017) Lisbon. A Day's visit to Fatima :-  Woke up early as usual  and after a luxurious bathe in the tub dressed and made my way out of the hostel.My destination was the holy shrine in Fatima.
  
International Bus terminus at Fatima.
                                                                                                                                 Mr Paulo had told me to board the bus for Fatima at "Jardim Zoologico" station and hence walked over to Marques De Pombal Station.Traced the right platform and while waiting for the train observed a young lady with trolley luggage and confirmed with her regarding the International bus terminus at Jardim Zoologico station. Providence favoured me and she spoke English and  was also heading to the International bus terminus and hence we boarded the same train and alighted at "Jardim Zoologico".It was a short walk from the station terminus to the International bus terminus "Terminal Rodoviario de Sete Rios"situated at a slightly higher elevation and having escalators.She was travelling to Porto and  guided me regarding the bus services to Fatima .Redee Express buses ply all over Portugal and i headed to the ticketing office.
A View of Sanctuary of our Lady of Fatima.

                                 Purchased the bus ticket costing 12.5 Euro for 0800 hrs departure and relaxed in the passenger lounge of the large International bus terminus. Breakfast was a snack along with coffee at the bus cafeteria . Fatima is situated in the centre of Portugal and is 127 Kms  north of  Lisbon by road.The "Redee " bus was punctual at 0800 hrs and it was a pleasant  one and a half hour journey to Fatima.On arriving at Fatima bus terminal booked a return ticket for the 1700 hr bus  to Lisbon costing 12.5 Euro. I didn't want to risk being left stranded in Fatima  due to buses to Lisbon  being fully booked as this was a pilgrimage city.Fatima is the most common one day trip from Lisbon and it was peak tourist season in Portugal with excellent weather.Fatima the city was truly picturesque,post card perfect.Absolutely clean with broad roads and palatial buildings lining the main highway roads.Why did i always have this image of Portugal being a poor European Country ? I could hardly see people walking on the roads while i had a image of  a crowded street as is normal with pilgrimage towns or city's.It started drizzling and i couldn't believe that the rains seemed to be trailing me and hence waited at the bus terminus for a while until the drizzle stopped.It was a long walk from the International bus terminus to the  Sanctuary  of Fatima.When i arrived at the gates of the Sanctuary of Fatima at 1000 hrs the complex was almost empty with few pilgrims and tourists.
View of the entrance pathway  to the "Basilica of our Lady of Rosary" in Fatima.
In 1916 on three separate occasions Lucia Santos and her two cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto began witnessing apparitions of a angel in the region of Querem.
Pilgrims offering candles .
                                                    These visitations persisted until 13th May 1917 when while tending  their family's sheep  they witnessed a apparition which they assumed to be  the Virgin Mary.They began doing penance  and self sacrifice for sinners  and soon the news spread and a crowd  flocked to Fatima and Aljustrel to witness these apparitions along with the children.The children were jailed for being politically disruptive.The Apparition of Virgin Mary divulged three secrets to the children and the last apparition occurred on 13th October 1917.The region of Fatima  became a destination of pilgrims.Cousins Francisco(1908 -1919) and Jacinto.Marto(1910 - 1920)  died young  being victims of the 1918 flu epidemic.Lucia Santos(1907 -2005) lived  to the ripe  old age  of 98 years. The "THREE SECRETS OF FATIMA", and the children's stories became the foundation of what is today one of the most sacred pilgrimage site for Roman  Catholics all over the World.The entrance to the Fatima sanctuary to the south of the rectory has a segment of the former "BERLIN WALL"  indicating that rosary prayers was the reason for the fall of the Berlin Wall.Saw a lady pilgrim doing penance by walking along the courtyard of the shrine on her padded knees.This is a common form of penance by pilgrims visiting  the sanctuary of our lady of Fatima.Majority of the pilgrims and tourists were Caucasians.

   
"Sanctuary of Fatima" was initiated on 13 May 1928 and completed  in 1954.Statue to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
     
Inside the Basilica.
 Visited the Basilica of  "Our Lady of Rosary" and the "Chapel of Apparitions.Later visited the much larger "Basilica of the Holy Trinity" which is circular in structure and constructed after 1953 to accommodate the large number of pilgrims.It started drizzling heavily but stopped after a while.
Saints Francisco and Jacinto Marto  were canonized by Pope Francis on 13th May 2017 .
The year 2017 is the Centennial year of the apparitions seen by the three children .Every year on May 13th and October 13th there is a large gathering of pilgrims at Fatima as these dates are the significant apparitions of Fatima.Approximately four million pilgrims visit the shrine annually .
The large  complex of  the "Sanctuary of Fatima".

Mater Dei Exhibition  in Sanctuary of our Lady of Fatima. (13th June to 13th September 2017).
 After visiting the shrines in the Sanctuary of Fatima  visited the exhibition titled "Mater Dei" which in Latin means "Mother of God" and is the title of Mother Mary.A collection of  historic religious icons and the Catholic religion was on display. The language was in Portuguese and hence i couldn't understand  the  description of a few of the religious artifacts on display.This was a temporary exhibition that would be on display from 13th June to 13th September 2017.
Mater Dei Exhibition  in Sanctuary of our Lady of Fatima. Painting of the "Apparition".
There were a few religious  paintings on display and also umbrella's of different era's. Just walked along the exhibits understanding a few but unable to understand most of the works due to the language handicap.                                                              
Mater Dei Exhibition  in Sanctuary of our Lady of Fatima. Camera exhibit 
After viewing the exhibition exhibits made my way out of the Sanctuary of our Lady of Fatima.
A typical street in Fatima.Modern Planned city.

          Walked all alone down the beautiful broad road amazed at the lack of a crowd at one of the World's most religious pilgrimage sites.Decided to now explore Fatima City.Came across a restaurant and lunch was the now familiar snack of "Chowruse Pau" with Expresso  coffee and "Free WiFi". Realized that Goa cuisine and the Goan Konkani culinary  language  had borrowed a lot from Portuguese cuisine being a former colony of Portugal.Travel educates.After the snack walked towards the main road and was surprised at the lack of people in the afternoon. Not surprising considering that Fatima  was previously a small town that developed and grew economically after the construction of the Sanctuary of our Lady of Fatima. As economic development increased  the town of Fatima was given the status of a city  in 1997.
                                                                                       
Fatima City.
                                                                                                                               As usual decided to check the cost of marketing in Fatima and was surprised at the cheap cost of raw food products in comparison to the average wages of the Country.Entered a large department store with typical first world presentation and was amazed  at the  cost of raw Turkey which at  1.99 Euro/Kg was slightly costlier than chicken available at 1.45 Euro/Kg.From the grocery store  made my way to the city park  and marveled at the maintenance of the city and its parks.To quote a phrase from a  famous John Lennon song,from his album "Imagine" quote, "I am just watching the wheels turn by " was what i did till 1645 hrs in Fatima city. Sat on a bench all alone  and just watched the World pass me along marveling at the picturesque beauty of Fatima city.Hope the rare pedestrians didn't mistake me to be loony !
Dinner "Confeitaria Marques De Pombal"

                                             Made ,my way to the bus stop which did have a queue for the various buses heading to different towns or city's in Portugal.At 1700 hrs boarded my bus and it was a pleasant road journey to Lisbon.Alighted the bus at  Lisbon bus  Terminus and walked the short distance to Jardim Zoologico station.Finding the blue line platform to Marques De Pombal station  was again a jig-saw puzzle which i quickly resolved and was finally back at the palatial "Fairy Hostel". I call the hostel palatial because it was a large 4 bedroom flat in a private building with bunk beds in a room for the guests . In my room i was the lone tourist and it made a world of difference in the definition of luxury living.Inquired with Mr Mauro if i could use the oven to which he replied in the affirmative with the charges being 2 Euro.Had plans of playing the chef  and cooking fried turkey for dinner. There were groceries in the vicinity  and raw turkey  was too cheap to be overlooked costing a fortune back home in Mumbai.Cooked fried turkey was better than the average pastries that was my staple diet along with the odd fruit on this European tour .Realized cooking and then cleaning would be a headache and hence abandoned the idea of cooking fried turkey in the palatial clean  kitchen.Had some rest and later in the evening explored another cross road of Marques De Pombal plaza  discovering a restaurant "Confeitaria Marques De Pombal" selling pastries and meals.Dinner was a local Portuguese dish called "Quiche with rice and salad".Missed my Indian curry but the rice was a great relief from the normal daily diet of bread,potatoes and pastries.After the sumptuous dinner walked back to the hostel and had a good nights sleep.

At "CABO DA ROCA", the Western most tip of the Continent of Europe.
   Friday(30/6/2017) Lisbon .A Days visit to Sintra.:-  Woke up early as usual and after my normal routines got dressed and ready for the day's tour to Sintra.
Boarding the "Cool Tour Lisbon" van 
                                                                      Went out of the hostel to the confectionery restaurant  and breakfast was a snack with coffee.I was told that the tour bus would pick me up at 0845 hrs and after breakfast went back to the hostel.At 0815 hrs while getting down the hostel stairs  twisted mt right ankle and was in excruciating pain.Thought this sprain would require medical attention but after a lifetime of sporting activities didn't give up hope and decided to bear the pain .Hoped  that the ankle would not swell thereby  making mobilization of my right leg next to impossible and also the end of my sightseeing in Lisbon and Madrid. The "Cool Tour Lisbon  " travel company Volkswagon van arrived at 0845 hrs which surprised me as i was expecting a large tourist crowd as is normal in package tours.
Cascais  seaside.

              They had advertised of small tourist groups and were true to their advertisement.Made my way into the van with my ankle in pain but holding steady without any swelling or walking hindrance.The "Cool Tour Lisbon " staff consisted of lady driver/guide Mrs Michele, lady guide Ms Angelica and male guide Mr Andre Costa. We were a total of 5 tourists, a young  Hongkong Chinese gentleman , a young Chinese Britisher lady ,two elderly Argentinian women and myself. I was on the back seat with the two elderly Argentinian tourists who spoke only Spanish.The Chinese tourists  could converse in English while the Argentinians only in Spanish or Portuguese  and hence it was a truly multicultural and multiracial small tour group .Sintra is only 30 Kms from Lisbon and belongs to the district of Lisbon.The drive would be along the N247 highway and we  would be first visiting the seaside resort of Cascais  and then travel onwards to Sintra. All the three young staff members  of "Cool Tour Lisbon" spoke fluent English as also Spanish and Portugal with me marveling at their linguistic aptitude.Driver Michele, guide's Angelica and Andre explained the Chinese tourists and myself the sights in English while driving and occasionally breaking into Spanish for the Argentinian tourists.Got a view of the suburbs of Lisbon with its palatial sea facing apartments that cost a fortune.                                                                                                                             
  1916 built Casino Estoril which was the inspiration for Ian Fleming's "Casino Royale"
At 0930 hrs reached Cascais and stopped at Casino Estoril built in 1916 and having a history that made it a inspiration for Ian Fleming's first spy novel "Casino Royale". During World War II this Casino was reputed to be a gathering for spies, dislodged royals and war time adventurers.Hence this was the casino that was  instrumental in starting the World's most successful franchisee films "007 James Bond Spy Thrillers" through the writings of Ian.Fleming who visited the casino during his stint as a intelligence officer.Portugal was a neutral country during World War II.It is one of the largest Casino's in Europe and famous for its nightlife welcoming V.I.P's from Show-business, sports,politics and Royalty. The "Salao Prete a Prata" hall in the casino building has had performances by  Liza .Minnelli and some of Portuguese's most famous artists and musicians .Its  week-end poker tournaments are also well known for the high stakes as prizes.The peak summer months has a full house every night.
Cascais Beach with its Medieval Fortress in the distance.
A short distance from Estoril is the suburb of Cascais , a former fishing village and now a resort  and one of the wealthiest municipalities in Portugal.It is located at the mouth of the Tagus river estuary and was also a strategic post in the defense of Lisbon.The Portuguese Royal Family patronized and developed Cascais in the late nineteenth  and early twentieth century followed by Portuguese Nobles building palatial mansions and  turning the town into a resort .The Cascais beach was clean and excellent but too cold for my swimming comfort. Besides, i had not brought my swimming costume since this was a group tour  and a few minutes dip in the sea would be  a joke for a regular daily  2 Km pool swimmer .
Ahoy ! Just landed at Cascais and going ashore ? A photo-shoot with a boat in Cascais.
We were given half an hours time to stroll around Cascais riverside promenade and beach.Came across this boat parked at the jetty bringing back memories of a lifetime employment at sea.
Maritime Police building in Cascais.

             In the land of Vasco Da Gama did finally get close to a actual sailing boat.The weather was one of the best i had experienced in decades,cool and pleasant with bright sunshine.Its not surprising that the exiled wealthy aristocracy of Europe chose Cascais as their home and now its fame as a International tourist resort.There was a special Maritime police building on the sea face promenade.A James Bond style beach patrol vehicle with special tyres and design was parked  at the entrance of the maritime police building.During World War II due to Portugal's neutrality Cascais became the residence of numerous exiled Royal families of Europe.King Umberto II of Italy, the last Italian monarch spent his last days in Cascais after being deposed as King in 1946.Strolled around the vicinity that was devoid of tourists ass the day was still young and the water a bit too cold.
                                   
CABO DA ROCA :- A view of the Atlantic Ocean from the Westernmost point of Portugal and the European Continent.Until the late 14th century this place was believed to be the end of the Earth !
  At 1030 hrs we left the beautiful seaside resort of Cascais and headed towards the Westernmost tip of Europe.
 "Cabo Da Roca" with "Lighthouse on hill.
                                                                                                                                             On the broad cycling track of the highway  road spotted a few cyclists  in professional cycling gear and although a Portuguese is yet to win the "Tour De France", cycling is a popular sport in the country.Came across vast stretches of desert sand amidst greenery reminding me of Mui Ne in Vietnam.Finally at 1100 hrs we reached "Cabo Da Roca" situated high on a cliff. Cabo Da Roca  is a cape  in the Portuguese municipality of Sintra and the westernmost point of Europe. Before Vasco Da Gama's voyage to India this point was considered as the end of the Earth. This place is one of the windiest points in Portugal and there have been instances of people falling over the cliff into the rocks below.A barrier fence has now been built around the edge of the cliff which is popular for tourist 'Selfie" photographs.As we walked from the car park to the cliff edge the wind literally swept me off my feet and realized that standing on the edge of the cliff meant suicidal death. The Cabo Da Roca headland site is marked by a tall stone monument with a cross at the top.There is a inscription at the side of the monument which has a quote from the famous Portuguese poet Luis.Camoes(1524 -1580) that states ,"Where the land ends and the sea begins".I took a photo at this site as do all visitors for its not everyday that a person visits the westernmost tip of a continent.At a higher elevation from the Cabo Da Roca viewpoint situated at a height of 150 metres above sea level is the Cabo Da Rocca lighthouse.This was the first practical Lighthouse  built in Portugal in 1772 although the present Lighthouse dates back to 1842.Its 1000 Watt light can  be seen 46 kms away at sea . After a stay of approximately fifteen minutes we began our onward road journey to Sintra.
Entrance gate and tourist ticketing for the "Quinta da Regaleira " in Sintra.

At 1215 hrs after a long drive though a hill ascent we finally reached Sintra whose beauty is to be seen to be believed. The Sintra mountains is a granite massif ten kilometers long  that emerges abruptly between the vast plain to the north of the Tagus river estuary The Mountain range then forms  a serpentine chain  to the Atlantic coast with Cabo Da Roca being the termination point of this small mountain range.Our first stop was at the  entrance gates of "Quinta de Pena estate and Farm Building". After parking our van Michelle went and booked our tickets and we made our entry into a wonder-world of forest in a palace estate. Plays are held in the estate complex and there was a hoarding of Shakespearean plays currently being enacted in the Palace estate.
QUINTA DA REGALEIRA" Palace estate also nicknamed "The Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire".
The property consists of a romantic Palace seen in the photograph above, a chapel  and the sprawling luxurious park that has lakes,Grotto's,wells, benches, fountains and other building construction.
At the "Quinta da Regaleira Palace" building. 

      This estate had many owners over the decades with the original land belonging to the Viscountess of Regaleira a family of wealthy merchants from Porto who in 1892  sold it to its most famous first owner Carvalho.Monteiro. The Construction of the current estate began in 1904 and much of it completed by 1910.The owner Carvalho Monteiro had interests in Alchemy.Masonry, the Knights Templars and the Rosicrucians and with the help of Italian architect Luigi.Manini constructed  various buildings and locales in the estate that  have symbols reflecting these sects.The estate was later sold in 1942 to Waldemar d'Orey  who used it as a private residence for his family .He carried out extensive repairs and restoration of the palatial estate.In 1987 the Palace was again sold and this time to a outsider which was the Japanese Aoki Corporation.finally ceasing to be a private residence.The palatial estate was closed to the public for ten years  until 1997 when it was acquired by the Sintra Town council.Extensive repairs were carried our and in 1998 the palatial "Quinta Da Regaleira" was finally opened to the public as a museum exhibit.This sprawling private Palace estate that reflected the peak of Portuguese aristocracy and wealth is also called the "Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire" , the owner who was responsible for creating this fairyland in the Sintra hills.
" Portal of the Gardens" :- Entrance to "INiTIATIC WELLS" of Quinta Da Regaleira
                                                                      
        Walking through the entrance of this 4 hectare former private residential palace  we came across the sprawling lawns of the "Workshop of Arts" building that originally housed the workers and employees of the estate which had a towering incinerator totally camouflaged by the tall trees.I felt i was in a imaginary fairyland within the cultural landscape of Sintra as such was the beauty of this once palatial private estate now classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO  .We passed along the Cycad gardens landscaped with a pond and finally reached the gate of the "Portal of Gardens". The gate has two small twin towers flanking the central pavilion which has a hidden gate leading to the Initiatic well.
Scary and bizarre ""INITIATIC WELLS(Inverted Towers) " in Quinta Da Regaleira estate. 20th century Best Seller Author Dan.Browm must have derived some inspiration for his "Da Vinci Code"  novel from this fairy-tale estate.
Crossing the gate of the "Portal of Gardens"  walked up the stairs of  the " Terrace of the celestial Worlds " which had a pathway akin to the walls of a castle.
"Selfie" inside the "Initiatic Well".

                                                                Got a bird's eye view of the surroundings from this elevated  pathway.From the "Terrace of the Celestial Worlds" walked down the stairs back to level ground and across a beautiful garden path to the entrance of the "Initiatic Well(Inverted Towers)".Looking at the Initiatic well from the top was frightening as it resembled a deep empty well while it was actually a subterranean tower about 27 meters deep into the earth .As we walked down to the bottom of the larger well through the narrow spiral stairs guide Angelica explained the various mysticism  symbols concerning  the well.The spiral stairs had several small and narrow landings whose spacing combined with the number of steps to reach each  landing was directly linked to"TAROT MYSTICISM".This well was used for occult ceremonial rights that included "Tarot Card Readings".The smaller well has straight stairs that connects a series of ring shaped floors to one another.This well is also called the unfinished well.The park has a series of interconnected tunnels and the Initiatic  Well is connected to these tunnels  through underground passages.

Beautiful Underground waterfalls and streams in Quinta Da Regaleira.
From the well we walked along the underground tunnel stream that was straight out of a "Indiana Jones" treasure hunt film.Although the water was less than knee deep the floor was slippery due to algae formation and tourists were warned about safety while walking.The entire vicinity and walkway along the stream resembled a Amazon jungle.Explored the estate along the pathways.
Eternal "FOUNTAIN OF REGALEIRA" :- Drinking spring water from this perennial fountain.
Inside the Catholic Chapel of  "Quinta Da Regaleira".
Without a guide a tourist could get lost in the sprawling estate although the guide map could be of some help.
  
Entrance to  Chapel of  "Quinta Da Regaleira"
                                                                                                                                         This Chapel  built in the Manueline style has complex iconography  that revolves around the life of mother Mary and Jesus Christ.There are also symbols from the "Knights Templar Order" and its successor in Portugal , the "Order of Christ".There is a crypt in the chapel that links it  to the main house through a subterranean tunnel.Although small the chapel has several floors and stands in front of the Palace's main facade with its architecture akin to the Palace's.Religion and Catholicism was a part of living in Portugal which along with Spain is responsible for the spread of Catholocism in most parts of the World including India.As a Catholic i thought Christianity was a complicated religion having various different sects but after  visiting Barcelona and now Portugal realized that Catholicism itself was very complicated in its feudal structure.
Quinta Da Regaleira :- Promenade of the Gods facing the residential Palace.

From the Chapel we entered the palatial Palace which contains five floors.There is a ground floor, three upper floors and a basement.The upper three floors were under some renovation and closed  for tourists.
Mantlepiece of "Quita Da Regaleeira Palace"
                                                                                                                                                   We could tour only the ground floor and hence walked through the Renaissance hall decorated in Italian renaissance style with iconography references to Carvalho Monteiro and his wife Perpetua Augusta.Most impressive was the "Dining Room"which had a massive fireplace that had a statue of a woodsman.The Mantelpiece depicted hunting scenes and the theme of the "Cycle of Life" is evident throughout the large hall.From the Ground floor made our exit from this palatial private Palace into the landscaped gardens and onto the avenue of the "Promenade of the Gods". The Promenade of the Gods links the  Pisoes Loggia  to the main Palace house with the statues of Classical Gods ,Fortune,Orpheus,Venus,Flora,Ceres,Pan,Dionysus,Volcan and Hermes standing alongside in a single file.The tour of the fairytale lifestyle and living of the occupants of the  "Quinta Da Regaleira" was finally over for our group of common tourists.The Sintra weather was just excellent and colder than Lisbon since it was situated at a elevation from sea level.At 1345 hrs we made our way to the Car park boarded the van and headed to the National Palace  of Sintra which also called Town Palace.
National Palace of Sintra(Town Palace).
At 1400 hrs we reached the main town centre of  Sintra where the National Palace which is now converted to a historic house museum is located.
Tulhas restaurant in Sintra.

                                                                                  All of us were hungry  and it was definitely lunch time.Michele asked me if i would join them for lunch which was not included in the group tour charges and hence decided to try out the local Portuguese cuisine in a exotic local restaurant.The ladies guided me to "Tulhas Restaurant" and hence i split from the group for a solo lunch. The restaurant was crowded with tourists and the menu although typical Portuguese was atrociously expensive by developing World standards.I plan my tour food  budget and also have allowances for occasional splash spending on exotic food or some exotic restaurant unique to the city or country.Lunch was "Cod fish in olive oil with rice".I had to wait for almost fifteen minutes before lunch was served and again the cod fish tasted like salted fish soaked  in rich olive oil very similar to the menu eaten in  Alfama at the Fado show. I presumed it was the normal Portuguese cod  fish  recipe.The bill floored me as the price mentioned on the menu differed considerably from what was presented and i presume it was because i had ordered rice along with the normal bread.After paying the lunch  bill of 19 Euro's walked out with my food budget financially shaken and stirred ! I always write my travel reviews on "Tripadviser" and was surprised to receive a reply from Mr Carlos.S(Diretor -Geral ) at Tulhas Bar angry at my review and also educating me a bit on Portuguese cuisine culture  saying that the Cod fish is imported from Norway as salted and cured fish  Tulhas's rates are higher than average as it is one of the three restaurants in Sintra recommended by the travel bible "Lonely Planet". Remember that if you order Cod fish in Portugal or Spain it will always be salted.
Town centre of Sintra.
                                                                                                                                I also realized  that my normal food appetite in Mumbai would cost a fortune in any First World city.Made my way to the National Palace which had two police mounted guards at the Palace square with the entire small town buzzing with auto-rickshaws and tourist activity.The National Palace is the best preserved medieval Royal Palace in Portugal being inhabited continuously from the early 15th  century to the late 19th century.With the foundation of the Republic in 1910  it became a National monument.In the 1940's it was restored by architect Raul.Lino who tried returning it to its former splendour by adding vintage furniture from other palaces and restoring the tile panels.It is now a popular historic tourist site.This was the main Town centre with narrow winding roads and the odd musician playing street music for the tourists.Resembled Alfama in Lisbon but picturesque clean and shining with cute buildings and cobblestone streets. Vintage cars like the Volkswagen beetle  and the World's smallest electric 2 seater car  ,the "Estrima  Biro  "  along with elongated  modified auto-rickshaws  were busy  on the streets conducting tourist drives. The first time in my life i had seen this cute 2 seater electric car which resembled a  children's toy car.Guide Angelica had finished her lunch early and i  had a discussion with her about life in Portugal. Her frankness surprised me and got to understand a bit of Portuguese history and living conditions.
Sintra Town centre.

                       Her grandmother had grown up as a child in Goa later migrating to Maputo in Mozambique which was then a Portuguese colony.The great Portuguese footballer Eusebio was from Mozambique. She  told me that "Furtado's" in Portugal were mostly based on the island of Madeira and that  a income of 700 to 800 Euro's was sufficient for single living in Lisbon. Having travelled almost entire Europe i now secretly  called myself  a  "N.R.E(Non Resident European)"  and would have definitely set home in Lisbon then either the U.S.A or England  if i had ever thought of emigrating from India.Now i realize the reason for India's first commercial  Goan  English music  folk singer Mr Remo.Fernandes taking  Portuguese Citizenship although he still resides in Goa.The best of two World's as do all "N.R.I's".Finally everyone was at the meeting point for our next tour agenda with the young Chinese origin travelling  couple  buying some expensive Porto wine. Sintra is famous for its wine as is entire Portugal.Call it a miracle as my right twisted ankle  although slightly swollen remained stable with very little pain.I could walk normally without a limp.Physical fitness does pay dividends in the long run  and mine was a real long long run.Boarded the van and drove up the hill and at 1545 hrs we were in the  parking  lot of  "Pena Palace" the most popular palace  in Sintra mountains.
Pena Palace as seen from the entrance gate at the base of the hill.:- One of the 7 wonders of Portugal..
Pena Palace stands at the peak  of a hill in the Sintra mountains and the parking lot is at the base of the tall hill and hence its a long uphill trek to the castle.There is a entrance fee and we were given  a time limit until 1730 hrs for sightseeing the palace.
View of the plains fron Sintra mountains.

    A balanced gambler i didn't want to risk my ankle climbing up the hill and besides i felt that one and a half hour was too short a time to sight see this palace castle termed one of the 7 wonders of Portugal.To the average tourist once you have seen one palace in a European Country then most of the palaces in that Country  would be identical in the interior decor unless  you were a  qualified historian interested in the detail  history and architecture of the castle or palace.It was akin to a European tourists visiting the palatial palaces in India would and finding the interior decor  identical unless they understood and had read Indian history or the history of that particular Palace.I was still recovering from admiring  the beauty of the "Quinta Da Regaleira " and hence seeing another majestic architectural wonder of Portugal would be just a formality without any aesthetic value. The main beauty of Pena palace was its location at a elevation of 476 meters ( 1561 feet) the topmost point of a Sintra mountain and hence the view from the Palace would be a memory of a lifetime.On a clear day Pena Palace is visible from Lisbon.The aged Argentinian lady tourists and myself opted out of "Pena Palace" sightseeing with the young Chinese tourists being the only ticket purchasers for the palace.Pena Palace  is a national monument and constitutes one of the major expressions of 19th century Romanticism.in the World.It is also used for State occasions by the President of Portugal and other Government officials.
Ruins of the Walls of "Castle of Moors".

                                                                                     The Castle's history started in the Middle ages when a chapel was built on the site after a apparition of the Virgin Mary.The chapel dedicated to "Our Lady of Pena" became a centre of pilgrimage  of the Portuguese Kings and a Monastery was built on the site.The Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 reduced the Monastery to ruins but miraculously the chapel escaped major damage.It was King Ferdinand who built the castle between 1842 and 1854 as a summer residence for the Portuguese Royalty.After Portugal became a Republic in 1910 the castle was classified as a National monument and transformed into a museum.The last Queen of Portugal Queen Amelia spent her last night at the palace  before leaving the country in exile.The guides told me that i could explore the nearby "Moorish Castle" as they allowed tourists upto the entrance gates and hence decided to have a walk in that direction. Sintra is a National park and heavily forested  although i didn't spot a single mammal.It was a long downhill and the again a uphill walk to the ruins of the " Moorish castle".Came across the ruins of the walls of the "Castle of Moors". Akin to Pena castle the castle of the Moors is also situated on the top of a hill.
                                                        

Ruins of the Moor castle in Sintra.
     It was a long nature walk through beautiful greenery and flowers lining the pathway leading to the top of the hill that housed the Moor castle.
A walk along ruins of "Moor Castle".

                                                                                          This castle is situated at a elevation of  420 metres(1,378 ft) and was built by the Moors in the 8th and 9th centuries.After the conquest of Lisbon  in 1147 by forces loyal to Afonso.Henriques this castle surrendered voluntarily to Christian forces.A chapel was constructed  in the 12th century within the walls of the castle that became the Parish seat.In 1375 King Ferdinand I of Portugal rebuilt the castle although its military importance diminished.The 1755 earthquake damaged the chapel and affected the castles stability.In 1840 Ferdinand II of Portugal conserved and improved the castle  and at the end of the nineteenth century several projects were undertaken  in the castle and chapel.
 Later in 1939  its ruins were  maintained as also the castle walls  and the lateral door of the chapel.

Broad highways of  Portugal.
                                                                                     It is now a source of tourist revenue . Walked upto the main tourist entrance gate of the castle and then made my return journey back to the car park. At 1745 hrs we left the parking lot of Pena Palace and began our homeward journey to Lisbon. I was in the front seat  with Michele the expert driver cum guide steady at the wheel.Excellent roads with no traffic jams .This was akin to a personal private guided  tour with just five of us being tourists.On the way we passed along "Amoreiras"  the first shopping mall in Lisbon which in 2017 is dwarfed by other malls in Lisbon.. Finally reached Marques de Pombal square where i alighted the van thanking everyone for a wonderful and safe day's sightseeing tour.
Portuguese top brand "Super Bock" at "O Sinal"

                                                      As i approached the hostel building observed a large young crowd of office-goers drinking beer outside a restaurant situated just next to the hostel building.The "O Sinal" restaurant   which i failed to notice earlier  seemed to be the most happening restaurant in the vicinity.Walked painfully up the flight of four floors to the hostel and after a brief refreshing wash and change of clothes decided to visit "O Sinal" restaurant.It was crowded with many customers dressed in ties standing on the pavement outside the restaurant.Definitely office goers having a drink before catching the Metro or private transport to their respective homes. Draught tap  beer was cheaper than water  with a glass of the local brand "Super Bock" beer costing 1 Euro while bottled mineral water cost 1.5 Euro ! Quenched my parched throat with a glass of "Super Bock" draught beer followed by  a glass of stout beer from the same brand. "Super Bock" produced by Unicer brewery of Portugal since 1927 is the best selling Portuguese beer brand in the World.. It was the week-end and as usual the week-end partying in Lisbon began on Friday as in all of Europe most notoriously in Soho of London. Sushekath( Konkani language meaning  Happy) after the beer and walked up to the hostel and onto my bed for a nights sleep.
"ROSSIO SQUARE(Praca Dom Pedro IV)" with "National Theatre D.Maria II" :- The Heart of Lisbon city.
 Woke up early as usual in the palatial flat with the magnificent view of Marques De Pombal statue from my balcony.
  
Avenida Da Liberdade:- Lisbon's main Boulevard.
                                                                                                                           Honestly i was living a "5 Star" hotel lifestyle at the cost of a normal European dormitory hostel.My ankle pain was dormant with my right foot slightly swollen.Luck  or destiny had been kind to me .After my Jacuzzi style bath in the tub  got dressed and walked out of the hostel to "Balcao de Marques" restaurant situated at a corner of the building.Breakfast was the now  staple diet of  Chowrico Pao with Coffee .At 1.5 Euro the "Chowrico/Pao" was a money's worth snack for a thrifty backpacker akin to the Maharashtrian vegetarian snack of  "Vada/Paav( Hamburger/bread)" in my native Mumbai.  Goans and the Goan  Konkani language has borrowed some of its recipe's from the Portuguese Colonizers and "Chowrico Pao" was one such recipe .
"Monumento Restauradores" 

                                       The Goan method of preparation deferred from the Portuguese recipe  being more spicy as we Indians love spicy food. "O Sinal" restaurant and beer bar was closed as the Friday partying must have ended early in the morning on Saturday, very normal in European city's. After breakfast began my days exploration of downtown Lisbon.Marquess de Pombal square  has the Avenida da Liberdade(Liberty Avenue) at one cross road and the EduardoVII park  on the opposite side of the Square.The Lisbon "Hop-On Hop Off  buses" park at the Eduardo VII parking lot which is one of  the starting points for tourists using  the bus for the sightseeing  of Lisbon city. This park was named  after Edward VII of England who visited Portugal in 1902.
At Rossio Square.

    The Lisbon book fair is held annually at the Eduardo VII park. Decided to walk down the Avenida da Liberdade road  to the riverside of Lisbon city.The broad Avenida da Liberdade is Lisbon's main boulevard with International boutique shops ,expensive restaurants and shops which  were  closed barring the odd restaurant.This boulevard has road space for 10 car lanes which was deserted in the morning as also two 19th century Plaza's that run the length of the avenue upto Reatauaradores square.Excellent cool weather on a bright morning and the  broad roads , spacious parks with trees brought back memories of Daman and Goa  in India as also Macau in China .These were  former Portuguese colonies and realized that all Colonizers loved to replicate their own Country in their colonies besides spreading their country's language or religion.Certain locales of Daman city in Gujarat and  Panjim city in Goa were similar to parts of Lisbon. Alfama district of Lisbon  in certain parts bizarrely resembled the once famous beautiful  East Indian villages of Bombay city before some of these isolated pockets of city villages gave way to urban skyscrapers and in some worst  cases urban slums.Bombay now renamed Mumbai  has a population that is expanding by leaps and bounds  and with real estate prices being one of the costliest in the World its no surprise that landmark heritage villages of Mumbai are gradually disappearing which deeply  saddens me as everything modern is not beneficial to human living and lifestyle.
Historic Rossio Train Station.
                                                                                                             East Indians were the locals from Bombay city who converted to Christianity on arrival of the Portuguese colonizers in Bombay and their mother tongue is the local Marathi language unlike Goan and Mangalorian Catholic converts whose mother tongue is the Konkani language.They took the name "East Indians" in order to be differentiated from other Indian Catholics.A typical Political reason as language and regionalism play's a very important role in India's social, religious and Political hierarchy irrespective of religion.Only 2.3 % of the Indian population are Christians and from this minuscule number  1.55% are Catholics of which the Catholic Church is the largest Christian church within India.Within our tiny Catholic population in India  we have our own regionalism system ! I  am ancestrally a Mangalorian Catholic and hence my deep interest in Portugal besides an  aptitude for travel.So i have given a brief account of the cultural and religious links between Portugal and India akin to the links between England and India or France and India.All these Country's were colonizers with the United Kingdom finally ruling a large part of the Globe beside's making their  language English the World's link language.
" Praca da Figuiera"
                                                                     It was a very long walk to the first landmark ,"Monumento Reastauaradores (Monument to the Restores)" at Restauradores. This monument memorializes the victory of the Portuguese Restoration war of Independence from Spanish rule.This war saw the end of the House of Habsburg (Spanish Rule)and the rise of the house of Braganza(Portuguese Royalty) which lasted from 1640 until the Portuguese revolution  of  1908.The first Portuguese Republic flag was hoisted at the monument in 1910 and is the same flag as used in the present day.The monument is a white coloured  Obelisk located in the center of the square.Walking a little further down the road came across Rossio Square (Praca Dom Pedro IV). Rossio Square name pays homage to Pedro IV King of Portugal on which his statue stands on a tall column erected in the middle of the square.
 Rua  Augusta Arch seen from Rua Augusta.

            Most buildings in the vicinity of Rossio were reconstructed  after the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755.       The magnificent "Teatro Nacional D Maria II" built in the 1840's in the Neoclassical style by Italian Fortunato Lodi  stands at one end of this  large square . Rossio when translated in English means "Common Land" and a square for Lisbon's commoners  although the construction of the Teatro meant that more of Lisbon's elite gathered at the square.The Rossio train station is another landmark on the road opposite the square  that was built between 1886 and 1887. Rossio has been a meeting place for the people of Lisbon since centuries and a few cafe's and shops in the vicinity date back to the 18th century.Most interesting to me was the "Ginjinha shop " beautifully decorated with liquor bottles of  the local Lisbon spirit "Ginjinha". There is a seaman's tale that if you visit Lisbon then please  don't depart without a peg of "Ginjinha".  From Rossio took the left turn and entered " Praca da Figuera" which has a large equestrian statue of King John I(1357 -1433) at a corner of the square.
"Conch D'Oura seafood" :- Live Lobsters
                                                                                                                         This area is part of the Baixa Pombalina redevelopment that took place after the Great Lisbon earthquake of 1755.There was a temporary enclosed food market at one corner of the square  and this square ironically is the least significant square of Lisbon. The square is the main transport hub in Baixa with trams and a metro station.There are  many four storey buildings around the square that have shops,cafe's and cheap hotels.Strangely the name "Praca de Figueira" when translated into English means "Square of the Fig tree" although no fig tree has existed in the square for centuries.From  Praca da Figuera walked back again diagonally towards Rossio and took the main Rua Augusta  road towards the riverside. Spotted few tourists  along the broad beautiful street with a few restaurants open as this was prime tourist locale.While walking along the footpath suddenly noticed giant lobsters swimming in a tank showcase in a shop facing the street akin to other shops.Never before have i come across a sea food restaurant stocked with the best quality of live as well as dead sea food .Walked into the small "Conch D'Oura" restaurant and wouldn't be surprised if people also mistook it to be a lobster aquarium.Lobsters cost 115 Euro/Kg while crabs cost 30 Euro/Kg.I could just window-shop the seafood reminding me of Hong Kong where sea food is sold live in the markets. Finally walked across the majestic Rua Augusta Arch into the "Praca do Commercio" which is the largest plaza in Lisbon situated on the banks of the Tagus river .
Arco Da Rua Augusta :- Entrance to Rua Augusta from Praca Do Comercio
 " Praca Do Comercio" translated in English means "Commercial Square" and was the traditional location where traders sold their foreign wares while financiers funded perilous voyages of trade by ships.The entire wealth of Portugal was once channeled through this single location.
Edge of Tagus river in  Praco Do Comercio

                        The equestrian statue of  King Jose I is in the centre of the large plaza while to the north as shown in the photograph is the entrance to the Rua Augusta. through the decorative "Arco Da Rua Augusta" gate.. The Praca do Comercia  was constructed in 1755 after the Great Lisbon  Earthquake which destroyed the entire Baixa district of Lisbon.Before the earthquake the Rebeira Palace stood at this site which was totally destroyed in the Tsunami that followed the earthquake.The Ribeira palace library had a collection of over 20,000 Portuguese books totally destroyed along with the palace.King Jose I was the Portuguese ruler during the reconstruction of Lisbon and his statue was inaugurated on his birthday 6th June 1775.The Marques de Pombal whose statue is at the square named after him is credited for rebuilding Lisbon after the 1755 earthquake.Walked along the large plaza and noticed a stage being set up towards the river end of the square.Realized that there was some public function and on inquiry was told that the "Gypsy Kings" would be performing a free concert tonight beginning at 2100 hrs.
Police Dog Squad :- Police with the dog
                                                           Lightning can't strike twice and i couldn't believe my luck that without any pre-planning i was getting to watch another free concert  after the unlimited entertainment of "Ligo(Summer Solstice)"on Friday last month in Riga.Now i practically understood the meaning of the word  "Jetsetter" ! Bizarrely years ago  i had attended a expensive   paid concert of the "Gypsy Kings" in Mumbai  and this would be the second time i would be seeing them perform and that too free of cost.Its a small Globalized World. Went to the edge of the Tagus river  and did some meditation realizing that the International  age of World trade discovery and colonization  began from this locale of Portugal.Strolling across the square noticed some military type vehicles parked at another end of this palatial square.On closer observation realized that the Lisbon Police were having a exhibition for the common citizens of the city.I have viewed Army exhibitions but this was the first time in my life that i was viewing a "Police Force Exhibition" and that too in a foreign country.
Photo Shoot with a Lisbon Police Force dog.
                                                     The Police dog squad was also in attendance as also a display of the various types of weapons used by the modern 21st century police force.Young kids were given the privilege of wearing a police  bullet proof vest.Robot machinery was also on display. The Police dog squad consisting of 2 dog's  was kept inside  a van in separate cages .A young  police dog handler released one dog from its cage and gave us commoners a demonstration of Police dog obedience and dog handling.He allowed me to handle the large German Shepherd dog which was easier handling than my small ferocious male Persian cat "Matata" back home in Mumbai.I owned dogs and have attended numerous dog shows but this was the first time that i had petted and handled a ferocious police dog. I marveled at the discipline inbuilt into this ferocious police dog whose appearance and bark  was definitely worse than its bite for any criminal.The Policeman took a photograph of me with his dog and a memory of a lifetime.It was a bright sunny day although not hot and in the photograph the dog can be seen panting as a result of the strenuous obedience tests.
In "Mercado Da Baixa".My sausage  under preparation.

                                                                          From the Police exhibition made my way out of  Praco Do Comercio and walked a short distance down Rua Augusta which was now packed with street side cafe's and tourists. Walked back towards Arco Rua Da Costa and took the road to the left deciding to explore the vicinity little realizing that this route would lead me to the Se Cathedral and Alfama Old Town.Visited Se Cathedral and later walked back towards Rua Costa  entering a tourist information office on the route. Inquired about the transport to Belem for sightseeing the Jeronimos monastery and was told to catch Tram N0 15 from "Praca Da Figuera".
"Sangria" home made wine in "Mercado Da Baixa".

     Walked the long route to Praca Da Figueira which was now crowded with tourists and was pleased to find the location of Tram N0 15.Decided to explore the tented food market and on entering it was greeted with the sight of numerous different food stalls akin to the food court of a city mall.The small food market was bustling with tourists and mostly pork products were on display.On inquiry was told that this was a week-end traditional farmers market called "Mercado Da Baixa" in operation since 1855. I was at the right place at the right time and today  was the last day of this temporary local traditional farmer's  market. Beside's the smoked  sausages seen  hanging in most stalls there was also local delicacies like suckling pig sandwiches,cheese,convent sweets, chocolates and various types of bread One stall had Fado music playing  and  also selling Fado music..A taste of local authentic traditional  Portuguese cuisine.
Promenade to Tagus river side.

 .Lunch was "Prato de Chowrizo grand" costing 7.5 Euro along with a glass of local produce wine called "Sangria" which comes in red and white colours akin to red and white wine.Excellent and something different although i was accustomed to the daily diet of "Chowrizo/Pao". This particular "Prato de Chowrizo" was akin to barbecued sausages and hence costlier as also large enough to satisfy my normal enormous appetite.. Listening to the Fado music consumed the sumptuous lunch. Later walked all the way back to my hostel in Marques de Pombal, and at 1430 hrs was on my bed relaxing after  a real very long walk on a cool sunny day in Lisbon. This was just  half  a day's Marathon walking in Lisbon. At 1715 hrs began the second leg of my exploration of Lisbon .Walked over to Marques de Pombal Metro and purchased a 24 hour travel ticket.Boarded the blue line train to S. Sebatiao station just one stop away.On alighting at S.Sebastiao station began the hunt to trace the red line platform for Oriente station.Finally with great difficulty found the right platform and boarded the train heading to Aeroporto which was the same line by which i had arrived from Lisbon airport to the city.It was a long train ride and on reaching Oriente station inquired the direction to Vasco Da Gama bridge.
Vasco Da Gama Shopping complex attached to Oriente
                                                                                                    The Orients called "Gare Do Oriente"is Portugal's busiest station having a combination of train, bus and Metro handling  more passengers than New York's Grand Central station.Luckily i met a young man from Nepal speaking English heading towards the exit of the station  and he guided me through  this massive station complex..The "Gare Do Oriente" station was constructed as part of the "EXPO 98" construction programme and is a modern reflection of Gothic architecture. It was the main passenger terminus for the "Expo 98" show held on the west side of the station.From the station we walked to the West side of the station passing across the large Vasco Da Gama shopping complex that is attached to the station .Thanked the young gentleman and began my walk towards the river promenade .Passed along the "Parque Das Nacoes( Park of the Nations) " promenade  which has a  row of multinational flags stretching right up to the river.Passed  the  Oceanarium which was  constructed as one of the main attractions of "Expo 98" and  is a landmark with its unique design resembling a aircraft carrier. The Lisbon aquarium is the World's largest salt water aquarium
At the Tagus river with Vasco Da Gama Bridge, the longest bridge in Europe  in the distance.
 On finally reaching the riverfront was surprised at seeing a thin narrow insignificant looking bridge in the distance totally disappointed at the sight.
Overhead Cable Car rides over Parque Das Nacoes 
                                                                                       I was under the impression  that it would be a large closely visible structure.Cable-cars were plying overhead which was used for joy rides with a view of the river and bridge from the  elevated height of the cable car.The Vasco Da Gama bridge is a cable stayed bridge across the Tagus river  that is flanked by viaducts and rangeviews. It has a total length of 12.3 Kms(7.6 Miles) and is the longest bridge in Europe.Construction of the bridge was started in 1995 and it was opened on 29th March 1998 in time for "Expo 98".The World's fair was celebrating the 500th anniversary of the sea route discovery of India from Europe by Vasco Da Gama.Tomorrow,on my bus  journey from Lisbon to Madrid i would be crossing this bridge and actually experiencing a ride on the longest bridge in Europe.
View of Lisbon from "Jardim de Sao Pedro de Alcantara"  belvedere  in Bairro Alto district of Lisbon.
At 1830 hrs made my way back towards Orients Metro station and boarded the train to "S.Sebastiao station".
"Ascensor da Gloria" Funicular
                                                                                                                                                    At S.Sebastiao station changed over to the blue line train heading to Santa Apolonia station and alighted at Restauradores station.From Resrtauradores metro it was a short walk to  Praca Restauradores to board the historic."Ascensor da Gloria" funicular to Bairro Alto.This Funicular was initially inaugurated in 1885  first propelled by a water-weight counterbalance system and in 1886 changed over to  steam engine propulsion..Between 1914-1915 the propulsion was changed to electric power by providing electric overhead cables.On 11 March 1997 this tram was classified as a National Heritage monument and very popular with tourists.A single ticket is excessively priced at 3.6 Euro but the Lisbon "24 hour travel card" is valid on this tram and the cheapest method of utilizing this once in a lifetime ride on a historic tram.Boarded the tram at 1930 hrs and it was a short inclined 17.7*  ride uphill passing along 19th century buildings situated on both sides of the tram tracks.The trams descend and ascend simultaneously  and hence cross each other while passing in either direction.
Narrow streets of Bairro Alto district.

                       A historic tram ride to remember for a lifetime as trams are non existent in entire India except in the city of Kolkatta(Calcutta).The Continent of Europe is the last stronghold of the Tram system of transport and i just love riding on trams when visiting a European city.It was  a short tram ride of 265 meters  to the top and in fact its quicker trekking up the hill if young or physically trekking fit.On reaching the top walked along the inclined hill to Sao Pedro de Alcantara belvedere which is a small garden perched on top of Bairro Alto.This is one of the most popular tourist sites in Lisbon.The Panoramic  view  of  central Baixa  with the landmark St George Castle(Castelo  de Sao Jorge)  is beautiful as also the cool Atlantic sea breeze blowing across the hill..From the garden viewpoint of Sao Pedro de Alcantara made my way towards the nightlife locales of Bairro Alto  observing the shabbiness of the narrow streets in contrast to downtown and Central Lisbon i had toured in the morning indicating a seedier side of  City. Bairro Alto is a replica of Alfama in many aspects  and both also compete for the tourist nightlife of Lisbon. Alfama is famous for its "Fado Restaurants" while "Bairro Alto" is famous for its all night restaurant partying.
Dinner in "Tapas do Bairro & Wine bar" restaurant.

                        At 1945 hrs i was very early into the nightlife partying of the locality. Akin to Alfama all the small narrow streets in Bairro alto are either uphill or downhill and rarely a straight pathway.Every narrow street had a small restaurant advertising the partying menu of the night along with the food menu.There were very few tourists on the narrow alleyway streets as i walked into a liquor  shop and purchased a quarter of
"Ginjinha".Walked along the narrow streets with a few  houses having graffiti artwork.Finally decided to enter a restaurant and experience the trademark Barrio Alto nightlife with a lavish dinner as the night was still very young.My main agenda was the "Gypsy Kings" show scheduled to begin at 2100 hrs at the Praca Do Comercio on the Tagus riverfront.
 "Tapas do Bairro & Wine bar".

                                                                                          As i passed along Rua Da Rosa street building No 71 came across a restaurant advertising its menu in front of the main entrance door.The small restaurant seemed empty and inquired with one of the staff about the menu and most importantly the price list of the menu.Entered the small and cosy  exotically decorated "Tapas do Bairro & Wine bar" restaurant..Dinner was " Roasted Sardinas  with rice" served in a frying pan.Took out my cute "Ginjinha" bottle and should say it was one of the best solo  dinners in a long time that made me nostalgic of my port outings during the sailing years at sea.Life had turned a complete circle and the Ginjinha tasted sweet  akin to wine and definitely not as intoxicating as normal liquor.After i had  entered the restaurant it gradually got crowded to capacity and the atmosphere was excellent with non-stop music in the background.Wonder what the place would look like past midnight ?After dinner made my way back to Sao Pedro de Alcantara  tram stop  only to find the funicular service cancelled due to a breakdown.It was a trek of a different kind walking 265 meters down the inclined tram track.From Praca Restauradores it was the normal route to Praca Do Comercio. The entire street  along the way was packed with people .
Santa Justa Lift.

               Entered a shop stacked with sardine tins that resembled a lottery shop.Portugal is famous for its sardines and i had just eaten one of the best sardine dinner in Barrio Alto.As i entered Rua Augusta was greeted by the sight of the entire street  filled  with street side cafe's and the Santa Justa lift looking magnificent. in the distance .This lift was first put to use in 1902 and rises to a height of 45 meters covering 7 storey's. Was experiencing the high class night life scene of Lisbon in the plushest locality of the city. It was 2130 hrs when i crossed the "Arco Da Ruo Augusta" and  happy to see that the "Gypsy Kings" show had not begun.Made my way closest to the stage although the front rows were packed to capacity . My entry was at the right moment for at 2200 hrs  the compere introduced the "Gypsy Kings" concert to the audience in Portuguese language.English language was totally absent barring the main advertising hoarding that stated "Festas Lisboa, Lisboa 2017".This was the last day of the Lisboa(Lisbon)festival that was  held in different locations in Lisbon  throughout  the month of June.Different artists had performed at different venues and today was the last day and grand finale of the month long musical festival.
"GYPSY KINGS" performing at Placa do Comercio.
The night of  "Gypsy Kings" music was in Spanish language  and the plaza packed with a house-full audience.
"Flamenco dancers" at "Gypsy Kings".concert
                                                                                                                                                In between their vocal music a group of female  Flamenco dancers entered the stage and divided themselves into two groups and danced their Flamenco moves on either sides of the stage.Very similar to the numerous International concerts i attended in Mumbai with the only difference being the language which was Spanish , the locale and the crowd which was a majority of  Caucasian. Music fans all over the World are the same and depict the same emotions and hysteria .In Mumbai when i heard them years ago they sang in English with "La Bamba" being my favorite song of that night .Tonight i couldn't understand the lyrics although the music tune was familiar. A added entertainment of the evening was the occasional appearances of the beautiful Flamenco dancers gyrating their Flamenco steps to the music of the Gypsy Kings.After a entertaining night of "Gypsy Kings" music and Flamenco dancing made my way towards the homeward bound journey.The partying was all along the street as i boarded the train at Restauradores station.Strangely on reaching Marques de Pombal station and walking out of the underground found the area calm and quiet with the happening pub/restaurant "O Sinal" closed. Made my way into the building and walking up the four floors was the major drawback of "Fairy Hostel".On entering my room was surprised to see a young guest sleeping on one of the beds and  at last my private room resembled a dormitory.
In Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon.
Sunday(2-7-2017) Lisbon :- Woke up early as usual and after my normal morning routines headed out of the hostel with my destination being Belem.
The 21st century "Tram No 15" to Belem.
                                                                               In the evening i would be leaving beautiful Lisbon and heading to Madrid by bus.Walked the short distance to Marques de Pombal station and boarded the blue line train to Restauradores station.From Restauradores walked the short distance to Praca Da Figuiera to board the 15 No tram to Belem.The Red Lisbon tourist city bus was parked in the plaza square and there was a lot of tourist activity at the plaza. Stood in the queue of tourist crowd for the tram and at 0930 hrs boarded the plush modern Tram No 15 to Belem.The Tram had free WiFi and was luxurious akin to the trains.It was a  comfortable 6 Km  journey to Belem situated at the mouth of the Tagus river  located  to the west of Lisbon.
The Unbelievable queue to enter Jeronimos Monastery.
                                                                                                          The name Belem is derived from the Portuguese word for Bethlehelm .On reaching Belem at approximately 0950 hrs was surprised on seeing the long queue for entrance to "Mosteiro Dos Jeronimos(Jeronimos Monastery)" which was definitely longer than the queue for the "Vasa Museum" in Stockholm.,The entrance gates open at 1000 hrs  and it was a bright sunny day with cool breeze that made standing in the queue tolerable .I was under the impression that Sunday was a "Free day" entrance to the Monastery and hence the long queue Never in my life have i stood for an hour in a queue with the longest queues being usually at the International Rock concerts attended  in Mumbai.I casually picked up a conversation with two elderly American lady tourists standing ahead of me in the queue of whom one was a retired school teacher and got to understand the American education system.Was surprised to know from them that there was no "Free entrance" and entry was on purchase of tickets.Most tickets are booked on-line through the Internet as had the American tourists.Hence i quickly made my was to the ticket booth  informing the tourists in the queue and purchased a ticket at the counter costing 12 Euro's.Returned back to the queue and at last after one of the longest queue's in my life made my grand entrance into  Jeronimos Monastery .I will now give a photographic description of the tourist section of "Mosteiro Dos Jeronimos(Jeronimos Monastery)"
"Mosteiro Dos Jeronimos(Jeronimos Monastery)" as seen from the main road.
The "Mosteiro Dos Jeronimos(Jeronimos Monastery)" is historically associated with the early Portuguese  sailors who in that era were  also  explorers.
Courtyard of  "Mosteiro Dos Jeronimos(Jeronimos Monastery)"

                                                               
"Selfie" inside Jeronimos Monastery.
 Sailors of that era  were very superstitious and prayed with the monks for a safe return from perilous voyages.Vasco Da Gama spent his last night before sailing to the far east  in this Monastery which was then  then a small church called the Ermida do Restelo  Hermitage  built by Henry the Navigator in 1450.
   "Mosteiro Dos Jeronimos(Jeronimos Monastery)" was originally constructed to commemorate the safe return of Vasco Da Gama from his voyage to India.The foundation work of the Church began in the reign of Manuel I(1515-1520) and it was he who dedicated this church to the monks of the Hieronymites order. The Hiereonymites order was dedicated St Jerome , the 5th century scholar who translated the Bible into Latin and hence the name Jeronimos Monastery.The Monastery was inaugurated almost a century later in 1604 by Spanish ruler Fellipe II.In the Great Lisbon earthquake of 1755 this monastery received minimum damage compared to other large buildings that collapsed. In 1983 "Mosteiro Dos Jeronimos(Jeronimos Monastery)" became a World Heritage site .
                                                                                       
The Refectory  inside Jeronimos Monastery
Walked around a section of the Monastery open for tourists.Visited the Refectory that has Azulejo tiles dating back to the 17th century and also the  tomb of Portuguese Writer/Historian  Alexander.Herculano kept in a separate hall within the monastery.The Church and the Monastery symbolizes the Portuguese age of Discovery and the ceremony of Portugal joining the European Economic  community was conducted at this Monastery in 1985.On 13 December 2007 the Treaty of Lisbon was signed at this Monastery laying down the basis for the reform of the European union.
View of " Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge and  Statue of Christ the King seen " from Belem  Waterfront.
At 1215 hrs finished my tour of Jeronimos Monastery  and headed towards the waterfront of Belem.It was a very long walk in the bright Sun although the weather was pleasant and cool.Had to cross over the  footbridge across the railway tracks to land on the opposite side of the highway facing the river.Traditionally Belem was a district in Lisbon where the elite and nobility resides and unlike Central Lisbon is not hilly but  flat even land.
"Torre de Belem(Belem Tower)" 
                                                                                    . My first stop was at the "Torre de Belem(Belem Tower)" constructed in 1521 in  the centre of the Tagus(Tejo) river on rocks to guard Lisbon from Sea raiders.
Not everyday you see a Ferrari !
                                                                                                                                                Over the centuries as the river flow changed extending the Northern bank so also the Tower of Belem location changed in topography  with the tower now standing majestically on the edge of the river and accessible to tourists.The Belem Fort which looks trivial and small  has African Moorish style watchtowers, shield shape battlements and the first European stone carving of a rhinoceros.For sailors and explorers the Tower of Belem was the first visible  landmark on arriving home in Lisbon after a perilous voyage,There was a long queue of tourists for entrance into this small sea fort.Relaxed  on the riverside  barrier wall watching the tourists and locals busy in various activities along the waterfront.After a brief rest strolled along the waterfront  and to my amazement came across a Ferrari car.As a sports enthusiast never ever  owned a car although a qualified driver and a two wheeler rider. The Ferrari car always fascinated me for its logo and status, besides. during those years i was a horse racing fan. The Prancing horse logo was the sports shirt i was wearing and providence made me realize my curiosity of seeing and feeling the touch of a Ferrari.At last i could retire my favourite sports shirt that i had purchased in 1985 during my Marine Engineering college attendance at South Shields in England.After a brief photo-shoot with this beautiful car walked ahead towards the landmark "Padrao Dos Descobrimentos( Discoveries Monument)".
"Padrao Dos Descobrimentos( Discoveries Monument)".
"Padrao Dos Descobrimentos( Discoveries Monument)" is situated at the mouth of the Old Harbour  which no longer exists and was the locale from where the Portuguese explorers began their sea voyages and discovered the New world which  began the era of trade and colonization by European Country's..
                                                                            There are carved statues  reaching out to the heavens on the monument which resembles the forecastle of a ship.The statues on the West side of the boat are those of the explorers and on the right side are those of their supporters.A lift takes visitors to the top of the monument for a spectacular view of the Tagus river.There was a flotilla of sail boats anchored in the bay and sailing should definitely be a passion in Portugal.There is a large stone map(Rosa Dos Ventos)  on the ground  in front of the monument that gives a detail account of the voyages of the early explorers and was a gift from South Africa.  In 1488 Portuguese Explorer Bartholomew Dias was the first European  to have sailed round  the Cape of Good Hope and  into the Indian ocean in search of India but had to return back as his crew revolted.His voyage convinced Europeans that a sea route to India was possible  and  Vasco Da Gama was later successful in landing in India and the rest is trade and colonization history.After viewing the Discovery Monument walked straight ahead along the waterfront   and used the subway to cross the railway tracks finally exiting at Praca Do Imperio.
Flotilla of sail boats in Belem quay.

                               This is a square of beautiful planted trees and flowers and is one of Europe's largest squares.The Jeronimos monastery forms one of the boundaries of this palatial garden park.Walked across the park and onto the main street towards tram No 15 stop.Any visitor to Portugal  can't leave the country  without a taste of  "Pastel Da Nata", the Portuguese egg tart pastry.The "Pastries de Belem" situated near the tram stop is considered the home of the "Pastel Da Nata" and hence crowded with customers wanting a piece of this cake.At 1330 hrs boarded the tram and in approximately twenty minutes was at Praca do Figueiro. Had a late lunch at the "Mercado da Baixa" which was crowded with tourists with the last day being extended to today.If in Lisbon during the last week of the month please make it mandatory to visit the "Mercado da Baixa" food market at Praca do Figuiera to get a taste of authentic local Portuguese cuisine while listening to recorded  Fado music.Boarded the Metro at Restauradores station and alighted at my home station of Marques de Pombal. At Marques de Pombal  traced the jig-saw puzzle yellow line and boarded the train heading to Odivelas. My destination was Campo Pequeno station.
At  1445 reached Campa Pequeno Metro station which had bull fighting artwork  on the railway track walls, the first Metro  artwork i observed in Lisbon's metro network akin to the metro stations in Stockholm. From the station went up the stairs and emerged into broad daylight at the  Campa
Pequeno Square.
Campo Pequeno( Praca De Touros do Campo Pequeno) Bullring.

Food court and shopping mall inside Campo Pequeno.
                                                                                             I had seen the exterior design of  a bull fighting ring for the first time in my life in Barcelona and hence was not in awe on seeing the beautiful  Campo Pequeno bullring of Lisbon.Portuguese bullfighting differs from Spanish bullfighting in the fact that the bull is not killed by the matador in the bull ring at the end of the fight.King Miguel(1828 -1834) of Portugal passed a decree of not killing the bull as he found it inhumane  having observed the same in Spain. The Portuguese word for bullfighting is Tourado and Campo Pequeno means "Small field" in Portuguese.The Campo Pequeno bullring was built between 1890 and 1892 under the supervision of Portuguese architect Antonio Jose Dias da Silva to replace the older stadium at Campo de Santana .The design is strongly influenced by traditional North African design.    
At Campo Pequeno  Bullring.
    The beautiful large Orange brick building with  four octagonal towers and domes on its top is unique in  entire Lisbon.The Western tower as shown in the photo is flanked by two turrets and is the main entrance into the bullring amphitheater.In the 21st century this bullring underwent renovation with a extension of the stadium spectator capacity to 10,000 and carving a underground shopping mall below the stadium bullpit. The most importation renovation was construction of a portable roof that made it a all weather stadium for holding music concerts and other functions.The stadium was reopened in 2006 and is a major tourist attraction. The Portuguese bullfighting season lasts from Easter until late summer but the fights are not weekly and are always held on a Thursday.In the photograph the day of the next  bullfight  set for Thursday the  6th of July is boldly visible above  the Campo Pequeno entrance .Entered the underground shopping center that was ultra modern  having a large  food court in the centre with boutique mall along the circumference of the mall. Memories of the palatial  "Las Arenas"shopping mall in Barcelona.
Campo Pequeno Metro station with"Bull art" on the walls.
                                                                                                 After a circular tour of this subterranean shopping mall at 1515 hrs headed out of the Bullring stadium and boarded the yellow line metro back to Marques de Pombal. During my short stay in Lisbon i had travelled like the common Lisboner on the public transport and barring my  Portuguese language illiteracy felt as if  i knew the prime locales of this city better than the average Lisboner ! This is the definition of a true blue-blooded "NOMAD" with no Royalty bloodline ! Yes i just love travelling and observing locales ,city's and Country's and of late also blogging the same for future adventurers or people just interested in travelogues
"Marques De Pombal " Square.
                              .My lone young room-mate was on his dormitory bed and surprisingly for a Brazilian he  conversed in English. Akin to the Russians have you ever heard a Brazilian International footballer speak to the media in the English language ? Not even  the Great Pele ever spoke in English during his playing years.Relaxed in the palatial hostel flat with the WiFi being my entertainment after a day's hectic city exploration.At 1800 hrs bid goodbye to palatial "Fairy Hostel" and walked down the  floors with luggage all the way to Marques de Pombal station.Boarded the blue line train to Reboleira alighting at the familiar station of Jardim Zoologica. Walked the short distance from the station to "Terminal Rodoviario de Sete Rios" International bus terminus. As usual i was very early at the terminus and after inquiries at the terminus got my boarding pass from the bus company's ticket counter.Later  whiled away my initial  time observing a young drunk black Lisboner creating a commotion with a few tourists and later  two local policemen intervening to stop the ruckus.I didn't observe any abject poverty  in the locales i toured in Lisbon and this was the first instance of seeing the darker underbelly of the city.The burly policemen were restrained in their handling of the absolutely drunk young man who was blabbering loudly in Portuguese.
Driving along "Vasco Da Gama Bridge".
                                                                                                                          After watching this scene for a while relaxed in the bus terminus cafeteria with the now familiar Bock beer and a snack which would also be my dinner.At 2100 hrs boarded the bus to Madrid and as usual got busy with the bus WiFi.Crossing the Vasco Da Gama bridge was the highlight of this bus journey from Lisbon to Madrid with the length of the bridge seeming endless in the twilight visibility.The bridge has 6 road  lanes and our bus was at the steady speed of 100 Km/Hr while the maximum permissible speed on the bridge as well as highway's is 120 Km/hr.The road distance between Lisbon and Madrid is 625 Kms and tomorrow early morning i would be in Madrid.
At the entrance of "PRADO MUSEUM" in Madrid.
Monday(3-7-2017) Madrid :-  At 0630 hrs our bus was finally in "Estacion Sur" in Madrid which is the largest bus station in the city.
Excellent Breakfast in "Cat's Hostel"
                                                                                                          The Mendez Alvaro Interchange bus terminus  is linked to the train as well as Metro services of Madrid. Hence i was totally lost in this maze of different transport modes interlinked through endless escalators and passages with sign indicators in Spanish language.First and foremost was the purchase of a train ticket which was done with the help of a local commuter.Next was finding the Metro train links to "Anton Martin" station. Thankfully after a long wait at the train ticket counter  managed to come across a English speaking Spaniard who guided me on the right path to my destination.Boarded the grey line  train at "Mendez Alvaro" station and alighted at the next station "Pacifico"
Plaza Mayor with Equestrian statue of King Philip III
.                                                                                                                                                         At "Pacifico station"after much inquiry managed to find the blue line platform and boarded the train heading to " Pinar de Chamartin" .At 0715 hrs i was at "Anton Martin" metro station  and on emerging from the underground Metro saw a coffee shop restaurant catering to customers and entered the same for my mornings breakfast.The restaurant was playing  English classic rock and was hoping that my next six day's stay in Madrid would not be prone to language  handicaps.Breakfast was the standard "Chorizo/Coffee"  and  began inquiries about "Living Cat's Hostel" with the restaurant
"Arco De Cuchilleros"
staff.

                                                                                                                                                They had no clue of "Cats Hostel" but indicated the probable road direction of the hostel and so after breakfast walked straight along Atocha road in the direction of  Plaza Mayor  inquiring with pedestrians along the way.Heaved a sigh of relief when i came across the bold name  "Rajasthan-Curry, Restauraunte Indio-Pakistan"",the only Indian origin restaurant i sighted  during my tour  which was to be my landmark in case of getting lost in the vicinity.Just a short distance away from this restaurant  was directed into a by-lane from main Atocha road  and was finally at my Madrid hostel residence.Check-In time was at 1400 hrs and the young Italian receptionist Mr Jacopo checked in my luggage in the locker room.
 Seems i was the "Daddy Cool" as the reception and entrance was filled with a very  young crowd of  backpackers ,mostly Caucasian tourists.The hostel is situated in a 17th century building and the ground floor lobby was a large square decorated in Moroccan style with floor cushions for lounging.
The second oldest barber shop in Europe.

                 Akin to a Picasso mural the walls of "Cats Hostel" had beautiful cat murals and i definitely felt myself in familiar surroundings  reminding me of my own cat's back home in distant Mumbai. Receptionist Mr Jacopo gave me a guide map and brief instructions of the places of interest in the vicinity as also  the Metro stations.There was to be a  free guided walking tour at 1000 hrs and after a quick wash relaxed in the palatial Moroccan lounge awaiting the arrival of  our tour guide.The hostel has breakfast for hostelites in its basement dining lounge costing 2 Euro and so had my first breakfast in "Cats hostel". Excellent value for money.There was a large young crowd for the walking tour and exactly at 1000 hrs  our Italian guide Mr Giapaolo.Guerico walked into the hostel and after a head count explained us the day's walking tour schedule.
"BOTIN" :- Oldest working restaurant in the World.

                      We walked along the main Atocha road  which was now a bit crowded with pedestrians and road traffic. Our first stop was at Plaza Mayor(Main Square)   which is the centre of Madrid city. I realized that i was residing in the heart of Madrid city and no wonder "Cat's Hostel" was overcrowded with backpacker tourists.The large rectangular plaza opened in 1619 is encircled  by three storey rectangular buildings having 237 balconies facing the plaza.A beautiful sight .There are a total of nine entrances into the Plaza square with  a bronze statue of Philip III in the centre of the square created in 1616 by sculptors  by Jean.Boulogne and Pietro Tacca.  Over the centuries the Plaza's name was changed a few times and during a certain phase in Spanish history  the plaza was the site of executions of heretics and criminals.
Cathedral of Almudena bordering the "Arab Wall"
                                                                From the Plaza we made our exit through the "Arco De Cuchilleros" leading on to Calle de Cuchilleros street.This 17th century arch is one of the most popular entrances as well as exits to Mayors Plaza with the Calle de Cuchilleros (Cutlers Street) having its own romantic history.The street has numerous restaurants and shops with the most prominent and historical being the World's oldest working restaurant "Sobrino de Botin" as well as Europe's second oldest barber shop "El Kinze de Cuchilleros" . I couldn't believe that i was staring at the Oldest Restaurant in the World as well as the second oldest barber shop in Europe situated next to each other in buildings joined together in a row.
"ROYAL PALACE" as seem from Almudena Cathedral
                                                                                                                                 .The "El Kinze de Cuchilleros" barber shop was opened on January 2 1900 and hence 117 years in the business in 2017."Sobrino de Botin" was founded in 1725 by Frenchman  Jean.Botin and his wife.and was then called "Botin". The restaurant was later inherited by his nephew who added the "Sobrino de " to the restaurants name which in Spanish means "Nephew Of". Hence the name "Sobrino de Botin" which is today run by the third generation of the Gonzalez family Mr Antonio.Gonzalez whose family purchased the restaurant from the "Botin Family" in the 1930's.The Gonzalez family didn't change the name of the restaurant and hence "Sobrino de Botin" is still in existence as the World's oldest restaurant.Its additional claim to fame is that the Spanish painter Francisco de Goya temporarily  worked here as a waiter  while he was awaiting admission into the Royal Academy of Fine arts.From Calle de Cuchilleros we walked  quite a long distance to Cuesta de La Vega  to   reach the "Muslim wall of Madrid( Arab wall of Madrid) which is the oldest fortification in Madrid having been built in the 9th century by the Muslim rulers of  Madrid.
"TEATRO REAL" 
                                                                                                                                                 The Arab wall faces the Cathedral de Almudena and it was a Fortress around which the city of Madrid evolved.In 1954 the ruins of these walls was declared a Artistic historic monument.From the ruins of the Arab Walls it was a short walk along Calle de Bailen to the Almudena Cathedral which faces the Royal Palace of Spain.This Cathedral completed  and consecrated by Pope John Paul II in 1993 is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madrid.The Cathedral seems to have been built on the site of a Mosque that was destroyed in 1083 when Alfonso VI reconquered Madrid.The Cathedral building is massive in size whose interior is architecturally blended in the opposing Neo- Gothic  and Classical style.The Cathedral is dedicated to Madrid's patron saint Santa Maria De La Almudena.
Statue of King Carlos III in Sol.

                                  The Cathedral is constructed on a North-South plain to blend with its neighbour  the Royal Palace.There was a long queue for entry into the Royal Palace and after a brief  tour of the Cathedral and the Palace courtyard walked along Calle Arenal street  which is a traffic free pedestrian street and came across "Teatro Real(Royal Theatre) which is one of Europe's great Opera theatres. Hoardings of the classic opera "Madama Butterfly(Madame Butterfly)" whose version  i had seen in Mumbai and a Universal musical concert featuring prominent musicians including  Sting were exhibited on the facade of the theatre. There were also a few  tent markets  near the theatre  selling oriental and Spanish handicrafts.The most popular opera's staged in this theatre has been "Rigoletto" which co-incidentally i had seen in Vienna.Please don't accuse me of being a World city name dropper as i can't help being too modest ! I quote my favourite saying that at times describes my lifestyle ,quote, "Living like a Billionaire on the income of a Millionaire".

Cinema theatre in Madrid.
                                                                                                                          Calle Arenal  is one of Madrid's busiest cross junctions linking Puerta Del sol with Plaza Isabel II and Plaza De Opera with Palacio Real.In Spain and Portugal all the street names are in the local language even on tourist map's and hence confusing to a novice English language tourist.Observed numerous bars and restaurants  with the street famous for its nightlife including discotheques.Finally we reached the end of our walking tour at "Puerta Del Sol" which is the centre of Madrid and Spain.It was from this point in Madrid from which the five historic routes stretching to all corners of Spain originated and is the 0 Km distance marker  for  measurements in Spain.In the English language "Puerto" means gate and "Del Sol" means of Sun  which indicates the importance of this plaza which was once the main gateway to the East.
A Spaniard walking the dogs on Calle Huertas

            The emblem of Madrid which is the statue of a bear and Madroda tree lies within the square.The Equestrian statue of King Charles III lies in the centre of the Square with the "Sol Metro " station  situated under  the square.The Square was crowded with tourists and we were shown the "Zero Kilometer Plaque" stamped on the ground  serving as the symbol center of Spain.This Square is also the locale for various protests and rallies especially against war and violence.This Square is also the center for the official New Year celebrations in Spain  with the event being broadcast live on Spanish National television since 31 December 1962.As for me i had got a brief introduction idea of the main tourist locales of Madrid city and would later explore the same at my own convenience.
A partial view of Museo Del Prado(Prado Museum).
                                                                                                                     Thanked guide  Mr Giapaolo.Guerico  and handed him a tip as did all the other youth  tourists.Walking back to Cats hostel was again confusing as i was just a few hours old in the vicinity and overshot the hostel walking towards Anton Martin Metro station. Thanks to the landmark "Rajasthan-Curry, Restauraunte Indio-Pakistan" that i realized i had overshot my destination and retraced my way back to "Cat's Hostel".Honestly i am a very Westernized Indian but total Indian in habits and sentiments.Receptionist Jacopo allotted me my dormitory/bed and on entering my dormitory was not surprised to find the name "Living Cat's Hostel" a  very apt name for this chic hostel.
Stalls selling art replica's  and posters outside Prado
                                                                              The entire large dormitory hall  was pitch dark akin to night with the odd bed lamp throwing some light in the darkness.A cat could find its way through the darkness and luckily a few hostelites had their personal bed lamps onn which helped me find my bed.It was a mixed-dormitory hostel with young men and women in the same dormitory something i am used to living although at home in Mumbai i live all alone with my house-keeper and two cat's.My Dormitory in "Fairy Hostel" in Lisbon was  a palace compared to my top bunk bed in "Cat's Hostel".This is the adventure and beauty of  "Solo travel" and living in various types of hostel's where the traveller get's a feel of various lifestyles and cultures..The Nomad was finally on the last leg of the unbelievable 28 days solo tour of Scandinavia and Western Europe. Apologize for the comparisons, but, the dormitory reminded me of my visit to Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland  due to the overcrowding of the bunk accommodation and the fact that all guests were Caucasians except  me the odd Asian.
Statue of Goya at Prado Entrance.

                                 Thankfully the air-conditioning   of the dormitory was very effective and "Daddy Cool" adjusted quickly to being in one of the World's best youth hostels with one of the worst cramped dormitory accommodation.Had a quick bath in the common bath cum toilet which was akin to a slum  in comparison to the palatial tub bath of "Fairy Hostel" in Lisbon.This would be my tenth and last hostel of the tour .Realized that "Cat's Hostel" catered to the youth and if you think you  had the youth mentality of a twenty year something but the chronological age of a fifty's something  then you better adjust to the youth in you."You are as young or as old as you think ". Now i understood the secret of  the youth longevity of  Mr Ram.Jethmalani, Mr Hugh.Hefner the "Rolling Stones" and Sir Mick Jagger.After a hot bath  went back into the perpetual darkness of my dormitory finding my passage  with the help of my phone light  and at 1700 hrs headed out into Atocha street. From Atocha Street cut across to Calle Huertas and from there it was a tiring straight uneven walk towards Prado Museum. At 1730 hrs reached Prado museum and was not surprised on seeing the long serpentine line of visitors awaiting the "Free Entry" to the museum between 1800 to 2000 hrs.I was only hoping that akin to the Picasso museum in Barcelona it wouldn't be house-full before i entered the museum.
At "Cats Hostel" bar with a Beer Measure" mug .
                                                                                         The Prado museum founded in 1819  is the main Spanish National art museum considered to have the finest collection of European art dating from the 12th to early 20th Century.Prado means meadow as it was this meadow on which this museum building was built during the reign of King Charles III. El Prado museum is one of the most visited sites in the World and  thanked providence when at 1815 hrs  my turn came to enter the museum through the Goya Gate.The management issues a certain number of 'Free Tickets" and once that "Free Quota" is exhausted they close the entry gate for further visitors.This time i was lucky unlike in Barcelona  at the Picasso museum,
Fancy Ducati's casually parked alongside Atocha street.
                                                                                                                                       .Walking through the halls got to view the gigantic canvases of Hieronymus Bosch,El Greco,Peter Paul Reubens,Titian,  Caravaggio, Goya and Velazquez .Goya is the most represented painter in the museum  and his statue stands at the entrance of the North gate of the museum called the Goya Gate.Velazquez's painting  "Las Meninas" is considered the best artwork displayed in the museum.As i am a art semi-literate could just associate with the names of the painters but did not know the reasons for the paintings being priceless art .What was the reason that a certain painters art was held in higher esteem then another although the art work of both seemed  equally good to a common art viewer ?
The Bohemian hostel of Madrid ,"Cat's Hostel".

                                    At 1930 hrs  finished my tour of a section of the palatial Prado museum that would actually require a complete day for just serious casual viewing let alone serious study by a art connoisseur.Walked the long way home  to exotic"Cats Hostel" admiring the motorcycles and cycles  on the roads.Spain has produced some of the world's best cyclists and MotoGP  riders and the variety of exotic motorcycles indicated the passion of the vehicle to the average Spaniard.I was given a free dinner coupon along with a free drink .At 2000 hrs made my way into the small bar of the hostel and took a seat hugging  my mug of beer as a companion. The crowd gradually increased  and i was lucky to be early in getting a seat.Free dinner was Chowrizo/pasta which was excellent  and the beer definitely better than water."Daddy Cool" just sat there sipping beer, listening to music and watching the backpacker crowd remind me of my own boisterous sailing years in various ports during  a different era of the shipping industry.From the Bohemian open air ambiance of the hostel went to my dingy hostel room and did get my normal few hours sleep.
"The Sun also Rises" ? :- At "Las Ventas" museum watching a recorded bull fight.
Tuesday(4-7-2017) Madrid  :-  Woke up early as usual and in the pitch darkness carefully made my way to the dormitory exit as a commotion would disturb the "House-Full" dormitory which included a few young women.
 Historic"ME(Madrid Reina Victoria)" hotel
                                                                                                                                In the common toilet/bath was not surprised to find young women awaiting the toilet queue bringing back memories of  six  years of my youth living  in one of Mumbai's infamous chawls that also introduced me to Bombay now Mumbai's street survival and street language.Some of India's  household name gangsters of the 20th century  emerged from a radius of 5 kilometers from our single room chawl in Byculla in Mumbai. Apologize for "Bragging Rights" but my growing up  years from age  eight to fifteen was in one of the toughest neighborhoods of  Bombay  and also in one of the best schools in Bombay now Mumbai !
Cycles on hire to the Public..

                                   In hindsight i am grateful for the same upbringing as the  neighbourhood  toughened me while the school gave me a strong educational foundation and  at the age of 57 years after decades i was reliving the "Byculla Chawl" lifestyle in distant Madrid.I was living a "First World Caucasian Chawl"  lifestyle in "Cat's Hostel".The World is truly Globalized in the Internet era. Yes the boy from the one room chawl had travelled a long distance from India  for re-living the vanishing chawl lifestyle of Mumbai.After my normal  morning routines got dressed in the pitch darkness of the dormitory and headed into Atocha street.It was 0715 hrs and heading towards Sol  decided to explore the by-lane street across Atocha and after a short walk was in the magnificent Placa Santa Ana.(Plaza De Santa Ana).There were two  monuments in the centre of the Plaza dedicated  to the  17th century Spanish Golden age writer Pedro Calderon de La Barca  and the Granadian poet Federico Garcia Lorca. As it was early morning all the cafe's were closed and just couldn't avoid visiting the palatial  "ME(Madrid Reina Victoria)" that stood out on the west side of this palatial square.
Teatro Calderon celebrating its Centenary.
                                                                                                    This hotel derived its fame from the fact that the most popular bullfighters stayed in this hotel.The hotel's  regular guest was Manolete(Manuel Laureano Rodriguez Sanchez), Spain's most popular celebrity Matador  and also  considered the greatest bullfighter by many Spaniards who  always  reserved "Room 22" in the hotel.Yes, all sportsmen are superstitious, especially bullfighters.Ironically Manolete died in 1947 in the bull ring in Linares  from a goring of  the Miura bull Islero. His popularity and the importance of "Bullfighting" as a Spanish tradition can be gauged by the fact that General Francisco.Franco declared three day's of official mourning on the death of Manolete. Entered the "Madrid Reina Victoria" hotel  and inquired at the reception regarding the rentals per  night  and was not surprised at the minimum price of  275 Euro's/Night. After all Spain's legendary bullfighter had made this hotel his home during his fights at the Las Ventas bullring in Madrid.From the hotel walked the short distance back to my hostel realizing that "Cat's Hostel" was actually situated in the heart of Madrid and hence the "House-Full" accommodation
Carretas street in Central Madrid
.
 .After the lavish 2 Euro breakfast got dressed and planned my day's exploration agenda which would first begin by visiting the Las Ventas bullring..At 0930 hrs left the hostel and walked down Atocha street towards  Sol Station. On the way came across the "Teatro Calderon" situated on Plaza de Jacinto Benavente  which was a landmark as my location finder for Central Madrid. "World Pride Madrid (June 23 - July 2 )2017" which is Europe's largest "LGTB(Lesbian,Gay,Transgender and Bisexual)"  pride week  had just got over in the city. This 100 year old theatre was celebrating its centenary by playing the box office success  all male Gay cabaret play "BRIEFS".Strangely no Gays approached me and  neither did any women as i scrutinized the facade of this theatre ! From Teatro Calderon it was a short diagonal walk along Carretas street  to Sol Metro station.Within a day i was walking around Central Madrid like a local although  totally illiterate in Spanish language and also at times  mistaken for a Asian Spaniard.Purchased a combo "10 station ticket" which could be used ten times on any transport within Madrid city and with great difficulty traced my way to the red line platform.Boarded the train heading to Las Rosas and after 6 stops alighted at Las Ventas station.Emerged from the underground Metro station and  just round the corner was the majestic Las Ventas Bullfight ring.
"LAS VENTAS" bullring in Madrid.

The Las Ventas bullring was designed by architect Jose.Espeliu in the Moorish style with ceramic incrustations and inaugurated on June  17 1931.
At Las Ventas Monument 
                                                                                     It has a seating capacity of 25,000 seats and is the largest bullring in Spain .The bullfighting season starts in March and ends in September.During the San Isidro fiesta bullfights are held every day but otherwise during the season its only on Sunday's or holiday's. The Las Ventas bullring is also used as a venue for International concerts with various pop and rock groups having performed  at the venue over the decades  beginning with the "Beatles" who  performed here in 1965 at the zenith of their popularity.Inquired about the bullfights and was disheartened to know that Sunday 9th on the day of my departure was the next scheduled bull fight. During my youth i have shot birds with a air-gun  and now a staunch conservationist.Have witnessed illegal Cockfights in Indian villages and legal cockfights in the Mecca of cockfighting which is Manila in the Philippines.As a adventurer i am a big fan of the American novelist  Ernest.Hemingway having read all his novels and hence my interest in seeing a bullfight.I  personally felt that bullfighting as a sport was one-sided and akin to "Canned Hunting" in South Africa.Would you enjoy hunting a National park lion or tiger accustomed to seeing  humans ? This to me was "Bullfighting".
"Museo Taurino(Bullfighting Museum)"
                                                                                                               At least "Cockfighting" was between two birds and read my blog on the same.Decided to visit the Las Ventas museum  since it was useless taking a expensive guided tour of the bullring without ever having witnessed a bull fight.Its akin to walking along a golf course without knowing how to play the sport.Finding the entrance to the museum after  a circular round along the circumference of the bullring was another major hurdle.Not a tourist  was in sight in the vicinity of the bullfight plaza and the rare few Spanish  workmen i met couldn't understand English.In Russia during the 1990's never faced such language problems.Finally after much difficulty discovered the entrance to the Las Ventas bullfight museum situated to the north of the bullring  and hidden from street sight by some barricades. Entry to the museum was free and photography strictly prohibited.A excellent museum that showcased the history of prominent bullfighters with the heads  of  a few legendary bulls sacrificed for the sport.Bullfighting paintings and sculptures were also displayed The most famous exhibit in this small museum is the suit of lights worn by the legendary Manolete(1917-1947).on the day he died after being gored by the Muira bull  Islero on August 28 1947.
Crowded Mercado de San Miguel market

                     A few matadors have succumbed to the horns and trampling of the bull but those statistics could be akin to humans being struck by lightning. Very rare human bull fight deaths in the history of bullfighting.The last exhibit was the "Theatre room" in which a complete bull-fight sequence is shown in a mini theatre. I was the earliest and only tourist in the mini theatre and at last  understood the sequence of a bull fight which was pathetic torture to the poor animal. The bull when let into the bull ring is first pierced and injured with a spear on its neck muscle  by a horseman(Picador) which considerably weakens the animal. It is next inserted with two barbed sticks into its shoulder  as it charges into one of the three Banderilleros(Flagmen).
Photo-shoot with largest crab in Mercado De San Miguel.

                                                 After this insertion of stick arrows onto its shoulder  the bull is exhausted by loss of blood and futile head charging.Finally the Matador enters the screen alone and does the finale by inserting the long sword straight into the bull piercing the spinal cord.Rarely this picture perfect sequence doesn't play to the gallery script  with the occasional serious injury to the Matador or in worst case death as happened to the legendary Manoleto. He died doing what he loved best.After seeing the film numerous times made my exit to Las Ventas station and Boarded the red line train heading towards Cuatro Caminos station . Alighted the train at Principe de Vergara station. At Principa de Vergara changed over to the purple line and boarded the train heading to Paco de Lucia finally  alighting at Avenida de America.

Fish monster at Mercado De San Miguel.
                                                                                                                                           My destination was the bus terminus for booking a bus ticket to Pamplona. Avenida de America is the largest station of the Madrid Metro in terms of train transfers and hence finding my way to the bus terminus connected to the station was a jig saw puzzle.With difficulty made my way to the large bus terminus building and after inquires booked a bus  ticket for Friday  to Pamplona costing 37 Euro's .Made my way back to Avenida de America station and reached Sol station after interchanging trains at Principe de Vergara.   From Sol Plaza walked the short distance to Plaza Mayor which was crowded with outdoor cafe's and tourists. Walked out through the gate leading into Mercado De San Miguel market.Established in 1916  it received a major renovation in 2009 which gave it this modern 21st century appearance and is  the definition of the Madrid tourist Industry.The market was constructed of iron and glass, a complete see-through enclosed market.The market was packed with tourists and there were various different stalls selling various food products including fish and meat products.Most prominent were the Tapas bars and Tapas stalls .There was literally a queue for purchasing Tapas and a drink.Came across a monster crab and fish kept as prime exhibits in the fish section of this beautiful market.After a snack of  Squid Tapas made my way out of the colourful market  onto Cuchilleros street and into the second oldest hair cutting saloon in Europe.
"El Kinze de Cuchilleros" :- A insiders view of  the second oldest barber shop in Europe.
I entered this saloon hesitantly since as it was obvious i was not inside for a haircut or a shave. Was impressed by the dress code of the hairstylists in pure jet black clothes resembling a rock group which was  a self advertisement to their profession.They allowed me to photograph their 117 year old shop that was established in 1900.Absolutely clean with antique photo frames hanging on the walls.Have never visited a barber except for the occasional beard trimming after  i started sporting my "HALF BALD FASHION" which is now a fashion statement among the youth let alone ageing Lothario's.
RARE HERITAGE  LOCATION  IN MADRID :- Oldest Restaurant in the World ""Sobrino de Botin""(Extreme right brown coloured entrance) and Second oldest Barber shop in Europe  "El Kinze de Cuchilleros (15)" situated in neighbouring joined buildings on Cuchilleros street.
From "El Kinze de Cuchilleros" barber shop   walked back towards the hostel  along Atocha street that was crowded and came across the "Church of Santa Cruz" which is one of the smaller churches in Madrid.
 Botin  Kitchen :- Suckling pig roasted.
                                                                                                                                        Relaxed in the hostel ground floor Moroccan lounge for a about two hours .Excellent Oriental decor although the cushions and seats were  always packed with resident  backpackers.Decided to book a dinner reservation at "Sobrino de Botin" for "Braggers Rights" of having dined in the World's oldest restaurant.Many people spend a fortune in dining at various hotels  but few could claim that they dined at the World's oldest restaurant.Its akin to dining in a "Michelin Star" restaurant  due to its sheer history with painter Francisco Goya having once served as a waiter in this same restaurant.At 2000 hrs walked out of the youth hostel and into the now familiar Atocha street.On entering "Sobrino de Botin" restaurant was surprised at the small size of the restaurant..The bookings were house-full and managed to get a dinner date seat  for tomorrow at 2330 hrs  just before closing time of the restaurant.Requested the waiter if i could have a look at their kitchen as well as photograph the same to which he agreed making me feel like a "National Geographic" photographer cum reporter.
"Jamon Iberica(Iberica ham)" dinner amidst Pork legs.
                                                                                                                Pork and duck meat is the specialty of Botin and got a look at the restaurant's  cook roasting suckling pigs in the fire furnace.Cleanliness was the other name of this restaurant and no wonder its been in business since 1725. How many can claim they have been into the kitchen of the World's oldest restaurant ? From Botin restaurant walked back  to Atocha street past my hostel and into a restaurant bar stocked with pork ham.Akin to Barcelona and Lisbon pork restaurants this bar cum pork restaurant had pig legs hanging  around the shop's interior.Ham cutting is a culinary art and the same advertised in this restaurant. Dinner was  a small portion of the expensive "Racion Jamon Serrano" with a few slices of bread and sauce costing 5 Euro.The bread was identical to the local bread of Mumbai and the ham was definitely something out of the ordinary.After dinner walked the short distance to the hostel and found the hostel bar house-full and at 2200 hrs the Madrid night was still young.
Plaza Espana in Madrid.
Wednesday(5-7-2017) Madrid :-  Went to the common toilet bathe early at 0500 hrs to avoid the queue and later just lay on my bunk bed browsing through the WiFi network.
outside "Santiago Bernabeu" stadium.

                                     At 0700 hrs got dressed  in the semi darkness bringing back memories of working in the ship's engine room during the rare blackouts that occur due to generator failure.Once outside the dungeon style dormitory it was a excellent early morning relaxation on the ground floor lounge of the palatial hostel.Purchased my 2 Euro breakfast coupon and as usual was the "Bonny( Hindi slang for First) " guest of the day relishing the breakfast along with excellent music playing on the Bose speakers."Cat's Hostel" was a living advertisement of the definition of "HOSTEL LIFESTYLE", the ultimate in youth lifestyle..The breakfast hall gradually got filled and before it could be house-full made my exit out of the dining hall into the lobby. After a quick consultation at the receptionist began my day's tour agenda.At 0845 hrs  walked out of the busy hostel and made my way to Anton Martin Metro station..Boarded the blue line train heading to Pinar de Chamartin and alighted at Tribunal station.At Tribunal Station changed over to the dark blue line and boarded the train heading to Hospital Infanta Sofia station.Its very important to board the train heading in the direction of your destination otherwise you would be heading in the opposite direction.
Plush Chamartin District of Madrid.

                                       Alighted the train at Santiago Bernabeu Metro station with my walking destination being the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.On exiting the underground Metro and surfacing into bright daylight was surprised at the topographical difference between central Madrid and the Chamartin district of Madrid.This district is one of the wealthiest and most exclusive in Madrid  and i could see the reasons for the same.The four tallest skyscrapers in Spain are in this district.The office district of Madrid with the Gate of Europe inclined skyscrapers is  a prominent landmark of the vicinity.At 0945 hrs i was early at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium with the tourist crowd just forming a queue for  purchasing the 15 Euro entrance tickets into the stadium museum which is the home of "Real Madrid".As i had already toured  the "Camp De Nou" stadium museum in Barcelona it was my intention to just have a external look at the stadium and location of the home of one of the World's best football clubs.The Santiago Bernabeu stadium has been the home of football club Real Madrid since its completion in 1947 with its present seating capacity being 81,044 seats.It is the first stadium in Europe to hold both the UEFA European championships and a FIFA Word cup final.Over 200,000 people toured the stadium in 2016 of which 60% were foreigners.After a circumferential inspection of the stadium made my way back to San Bernabeu Metro station and boarded the dark blue line heading to Puerta Del Sur station.Alighted the train at Plaza De Espana station in Central Madrid.Walked over to the vast expanse of the "Plaza De  Espana(Spanish for Spain Square)".
At the stone sculpture of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in Plaza De Espana.
Two of the tallest buildings in Madrid , the Torre De Madrid( Madrid Tower) built in 1957 and the Edificio Espana( Spain Building) built in 1953 dominate the skyline of this palatial plaza.
Yoga  being conducted in Parque  de la Montana.

             Gran Via street  called the Spanish Broadway which is one  the streets having the most nightlife in Europe ends at the west side of Plaza de Espana. Walked through the meadow of the Plaza which has a tall  tower monument to Spanish novelist, poet and playwright Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra . The Tower has  Stone Sculpture of  a seated Cervantes on a lower portion of the tower watching over the bronze statues  his literary  creations Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.There are two stone statue representations of Don Quixote's  "True love" on extreme sides of the statues of Quixote and Panza.One statue is of the simple peasant woman Aldonzo Lorenzo and on the other end is the statue of the beautiful imaginary Dulcinea del Toboso. As a growing up student i was a book worm and a big fan of Don Quixonte  and hence took a photograph along with these two legendary fictional adventurers. From Plaza de Espana  walked up a small hill to Parque de la Montana.
Temple de Debod in Parque de la Montana.
The "Park de la Montana(Mountain Park)" is named for its location on top of a small hill.
"Jardines De Sabatani " gardens

             From this park  got a bird's eye view of the Casa de Campo below which is Madrid's largest park having a area of  approximately 1800 hectares (4500 acres).Tourists come to this hill park to view the  "Temple de Debod" which is a authentic Egyptian temple reconstructed on the former site of the Montana barracks.This temple  was originally 15 kms south of Aswan in upper Egypt.In 1960 due to construction of the Aswan Dam UNESCO made a International call to save some of Egypt's historic monuments.The Egyptian state donated the temple of Debod to Spain in 1968.The Temple was disassembled from its original location in Egypt and reassembled between 1970-1972  in Parque de la Montana.The reassembled gateways have been placed in different order than in the original construction in Egypt.This Temple is one of the few works of ancient Egyptian architecture seen outside Egypt.
In  "Jardines De Sabatani " gardens in Madrid with the North facade of the Royal Palace in the background.
From "Park de la Montana" walked down the hill and into "Jardines De Sabatani" garden. This Neo-classical style gardens are part of the Royal Palace.In 1933 the Royal stable buildings were cleared and construction of the garden began which was completed in the 1970's.
Mounted Police Guards at Royal Palace

                                       They were opened to the public in 1978 by King Juan Carlos I and is named in honour of Francesco.Sabatani(1722 -1797) the Italian architect who contributed  to the design of the Royal Palace. This garden is situated in the North side of the Palace in the exact location where the former  Royal stables existed and has a area of  2.54 hectares.The garden has beautiful manicured conifer  trees and statues of Spanish Kings.Strolled around this beautiful garden that resembled a artificial film set rather than a natural garden.Such was the perfection and maintenance of this large Royal Palace garden. From the garden walked up the short inclined hill onto Calle de Bailen  and was in the nick of time to watch the "Changing of the Guards" ceremony at the Royal Palace.The Royal Palace of Madrid is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family but is used only for State ceremonies.The Palace has 135,000(1,450,000 sq ft)Square Meters of floor space with 3,418 rooms and hence by floor area is the largest Palace in Europe.Several rooms in the Palace are regularly open to the public  on a admission fee  except during state Functions.The interior of the Palace is notable for its wealth of Artwork by noted artists as well as decorations of the Palace rooms.The world's only complete Stradivarius String quartet(Violin)  exists  in the Royal Palace.Every Wednesday from 1100 hrs  to 1400 hrs the changing of the guards takes place every 30 minutes
"CHANGING OF THE ROYAL GUARDS CEREMONY" in front of Royal Palace in Madrid.
There was a large tourist crowd lined along the barricade in front of the Royal palace to witness the ceremony of "Changing of the Guards..Today was the First Wednesday of the month and hence i was lucky to witness the Grand ceremony of the "Changing of the Guards" with the march-past of 100 guards and 100 horses that began at 1200 hrs in the Plaza de la Ameria  which is the square in front of Almudena Cathedral..
Tent Hookah parlour street restaurants next to Teatro Real.
Bizarrely i was always at the "Right Place at the Right Time" in witnessing the "Changing of the Guards" during the Scandinavian leg of this  tour and now here in my last  Capital city got to witness the prime day of this ceremonial routine.
Estacion de Atocha (Atocha  Train Station).

      It was a cool sunny day and now thanks to map's, the "Free guided tour"  and Hostel receptionists guide tip's that i was now  almost a self  taught guide in Madrid. Decided to make my way back to home sweet home , "Cat's Hostel" and walked down Arenal street passing the famed Teatro Real and admiring the chic open air Tent Hookah parlour restaurant ,typical Arabian Night's fairy tale atmosphere.On reaching Atocha street entered a departmental store and purchased a can of beer costing 80 pence and was absolutely not surprised that it was cheaper than a bottle of mineral water as was the case throughout my tour.Entered the hostel whose entrance and palatial lobby was always full with young hipster's with  the girl's outnumbering  the boy's.I wouldn't be surprised if many of them were school student's as travelling within Europe is as common among European teenager's as is trekking and hiking among Indian teenager's.First World Country citizen's could travel entire Europe without a Visa. ."Daddy Cool" went to the dormitory and whiled away my time on the desk top Internet kept outside the dormitory.
Open air cafe Restaurants on Santa Isabel street.

            The language on the website  was Spanish but managed to get the English version and finally bored as it was too slow compared to the lightning speed of the hostel WiFi. While i was on the Internet a young Asian hostelite joined me in using the desk top Internet and so got acquainted to young student  lawyer from Delhi. Mr Ansh.Aggarwal .He and his colleague Mr Vishesh.Gupta  from Delhi were on a backpacking tour of Europe .These two young student backpacker's  were the youngest  Indian backpackers i have come across on a  European tour and speaks volume's about the present young wealthy Indian generation who have taken a passion for solo adventure travel.Indian International travel   tourist Industry is booming but most Indian tourists love the safety and  guidance of "Package Tours" .Unlike in the West and First world Country's its rare to find Indian students travelling solo and staying in cheap International hostel's.The  wealthy Indian parent is very protective of their kid's as also the average middle class parent ."Cat's Hostel" would now attain popularity among young  Indian backpacker's.
Typical Madrid  residential locale near Santa Isabela.

             .After consuming the beer decided it was time for lunch and went onto Atocha street and straight into the McDonald's restaurant  a short distance down the road.I had to save some stomache space for the lavish  solo dinner date in the night with "Botin" restaurant and hence lunch was a simple 2 Euro  potato chip's packet.After lunch went back to the hostel and just lay on my bed browsing the "WiFi.At 1700 hrs got dressed  and began the next phase of my day's sightseeing which was the "Museo Reina Sofia(Reina Sofia Museum)".Walked upto Anton Martin Metro station  and from there took a right turn and walked straight along Santa Isabel street to finally reach Reina Sofia Museum.The "Free Entrance" timing's were from 1900 hrs to 2100 hrs and i was very early and hence decided to walk further down the road.A short distance  walk from the Sofia Reina brought me onto the main road which gave me a magnificent view of the Atocha railway station..Atocha railway station is the biggest and also the first  railway station of  Madrid having been inaugurated on February 9th 1851.
Museo Reina Sofia Square.

                                                                       The steel and glass design of the railway station  is something different compared to normal stations. Made my way back to Reina Sofia Museum and at 1815 hrs was third in line for the "FREE MUSEUM TICKET" to Reina Sofia museum.Initially i was a bit embarrassed of queuing for "Museum Free Tickets" but the Barcelona experience and now in Madrid the Prado museum queue made me realize that i was not the only miser saving a few Euro's as a endless queue of First world Caucasian tourists joined me in the Reina queue. At the time of the gates opening at exactly 1900 hrs the end of the queue was beyond my line of sight and i was within the first three in this endless queue ! Deserved a prize for patience .
At the "Museo Reina Sofia(Reina Sofia Museum)"
Finally at 1900 hrs checked into the museum after being in the queue for almost a hour.In my native India in recent years i have rarely stood in a queue for more than a hour and here in Europe with a minuscule population in comparison to India a one to half an hour queue seemed routine at tourist attraction sites. 
Salvador Dali :- Gypsy from Figueres.

                                                                                              Proves the fact that tourism is a  booming industry in the west.The Reina Sofia museum was officially inaugurated on September 10th 1992 and is named for queen Sofia.The locale of the Reina Sofia museum is nicknamed the "Golden Triangle of Art"  as the "Prado Museum:" and also the "Museo Thyssen Bornemisza" are all situated in close proximity within walking distances.This museum is mostly dedicated to Spanish art and walking along the different halls got to view Spanish artists with my focus being on Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso. Honestl;y as i mentioned earlier i am a semi-literate in art just remembering a few household names of famous painters including Indian artists.I viewed my first Picasso at a Indian art exhibition in Mumbai as he is the World's most prolific artist with his exhibit's travelling  all over the World's museum's on loans.To me Indian artist Maqbool.F.Hussain famous for his "Horse painting's"  was the closest painter whose life mimicked  Picasso in being a prolific Indian  painter commanding astronomical Indian rupees for a painting until his death at a grand old age in England. Rarely do painters get to enjoy their wealth from their paintings during their own lifetime being at times either persecuted for their controversial art  or as in most cases  having their paintings appraised in value after their death.. I liked Dali for his "Moustache Style" and crazy unbelievable eccentricities  I have read volumes on "GUERNICA" and finally was realizing my  academic dreams of seeing this painting in its true form as it lay in the Reina Sofia museum as the prime exhibit. If i had not got the "Free Entry Ticket" then i would have definitely purchased a ticket the next day  to  view this one single painting..Entered the Picasso room in which various of his paintings were exhibited and among the human life forms most prominent was his portrayal of women.In the 20th century long before Hugh.Hefner invented "Playboy" in the West  it was artist Pablo.Picasso who had the most number of girlfriends while also  immortalizing a few of his mistresses through  his paintings.I was anxiously  awaiting to get to the "GUERNICA" exhibit and when i finally did enter the hall  was almost felled by the painting akin to being knocked out by a sudden impact. 
"Bust of a smiling woman"  :- Picasso.
                                                                                                                                                                         Almost the entire  half portion of the wall was covered by this Mural.Standing at 3.49 meters(11 ft 5in) tall and 7.76 meters (25 ft 6in) wide  the painting has a prominent composition of  a gored horse,a bull and flames along with human forms symbolizing the suffering's of war.This painting was created in 1937 in response to the bombing of Guernica, a Basque country village in Northern Spain.This painting when exhibited for the first time at the Paris International exposition in 1937 helped bring world wide attention to the Spanish civil war.There is a art saying that  "GUERNICA is to painting what Beethoven's NINTH SYMPHONY is to music".Another uniqueness of this painting is that since there  is no time reference to the attack it makes the subject a Universal appeal against the atrocities of War.There was a film show at a corner of the hall explaining Guernica and my human computer absorbed all the art education on Guernica. From Guernica made my way to the Salvador Dali room and viewed his paintings while also taking a illegal "Selfie" with his painting "Gypsy from Figueres" akin to a few other tourists.Photography is banned in most museums in the West  but its common to see tourists using smartphones to make the illegal legal ! Also clicked a photo of  a few paintings of Pablo Picasso  of which i have portrayed the painting "Bust of a smiling woman" painted in 1901 .At 2045 hrs made my exit out of the museum with my entire lifetime's art dreams being converted into reality . Had  finally completed my  solo art circuit tour across museums around the globe although a art semi-literate.Another secret akin to my fascination for art  is the fact  that at present i earn my livelihood from "Investments" akin to 'Art Investments"  although a illiterate in deciphering a "Company Balance sheet" ! Unbelievable but true. "Daddy Cool" walked all the way to "Cat's Hostel" that was thundering with bar music and bar conversation  and relaxed in the Moroccan lounge. My dinner appointment with "Botin" was at 2330 hrs and today really seemed to be a day of unlimited walking, sightseeing  with the grand finale of a dinner.
Open air restaurants on Mayor Plaza at 2230 hrs.
At 2200 hrs left the hostel and made my way towards Mayor Plaza.The street was crowded  and all the restaurants seemed full as this was peak tourist season.  A few artists were making a living through caricature portraits as well as portraits of clients mostly tourists.Strolled around the magnificent Plaza as the Classical  concert venue gradually got filled  with guests.
Dinner at "Sobrino de Botin" , the World's oldest working restaurant."Sobrino de Botin" was founded in 1725 by Frenchman  Jean.Botin and his wife .The restaurant was then called "Botin". The restaurant was later inherited by Botin's  nephew who added the "Sobrino de " to the restaurants name which in Spanish means "Nephew Of ". Hence the name "Sobrino de Botin" which  today in 2017 is run by Mr Antonio.Gonzalez , the third generation member of the Gonzalez family who purchased  the restaurant from the "Botin Family" in the 1930's but didn't change the name or the location of the restaurant.Hence "Sobrino de Botin" is the oldest restaurant in the World being in continuous business since  1725 ! What's in a name ? A history if the name happen's to be "Sobrino de Botin".
At 2300 hrs made my exit from Mayor's Plaza through  "Arco De Cuchilleros" and onto Cuchilleros street for  a early entrance into "Sobrino de Botin" restaurant.
"Pork Chops/Jacket Potatoes & Bread" in Botin.

                                                                                                               Requested the waiter for a seat and he got  me  a seat on  the first floor of the restaurant. Botin is a simple two floors restaurant  and was surprised at the small size of this restaurant expecting something real palatial and large.Resembled a normal ordinary restaurant with a palatial bar as are most plush  restaurants in Europe except that it had history on its side certified by the "Guinness Book of World records".Renowned Spanish  painter Francisco .Goya  temporarily worked here as a waiter and  the writer Ernest.Hemingway mentions this restaurant in his novel"The Sun also rises"having dined here during his visits to Madrid.The main specialty  of Botin is "Cochinillo Asado (Roast suckling pig)"  which was beyond my tour budget as also too large for a single person to eat in a single sitting.I was the only"Solo Diner" in the dining hall  and  dinner was "Pork chops with Jacket potatoes".Excellent ambiance and a excellent dinner.The restaurant is very punctual in closing hours and at midnight  it was closure time with new entry guests being politely declined a dinner seat.After Dinner it was a nice long walk amidst a lot of night activity in the restaurants.Made my way into the dormitory and now akin to a cat i had got accustomed to finding my way to the double bunk bed in dim light.
 
"Fuenta Del angel Caido(Fountain of the Fallen Angel)"  in Buen Retiro Pasrk.

Thursday(6-7-2017) Madrid.THE WORST 24 HOURS OF MY ENTIRE  TOUR :-  Woke up early as usual and as mentioned before  the dormitory  common toilet/bathroom had a queue if a bit late in the morning in attending nature's call or having a bathe.
On a Rainy day in Buen Retiro Park in Madrid
                                                                                                                                                                                         Tonight i was also to leave for Pamplona by bus and hence decided to have a early morning bathe.At 0500 hrs left my  double bunk top bed leaving my purse under my pillow and after brushing my teeth and having a hot sauna bathe came back happily refreshed and just lay down browsing the WiFi Internet.At 0730 hrs  got formally dressed and went down to the lobby and on purchasing the 2 Euro breakfast coupon realized that a 100 Euro note was missing from my purse.I immediately realized that during the time spent in the shower someone stole the money from my purse that was kept under my pillow.I am normally extra cautious with my money while on "Solo tours" as there is no monetary back-up in case of robbery .Hence had kept only a 100 Euro note in my purse  for daily expenses  and almost a thousand rupees as taxi fare for my return journey from the airport to my house  in Mumbai.The entire money from my purse had vanished and miser "Daddy Cool"at last realized that being too much of a miser on saving personal  holiday tour money for the next holiday is not good for one's personal monetary health. 
 
Gay Play "Briefs" at Teatro Calderon 
                                                                                                                                               Complained to the hostel  management and they told me that the cop's could be called and the "Dormitory C.C.T.V" could be viewed to catch the pickpocket.For that i had to lodge a personal complaint at the local Police station and hence realized the futility of informing the police as it would be nothing but a wild goose chase with me wasting precious tour time.Beside's, i was a Spanish language illiterate.  Having sailed on numerous ship's as well as having lived in various hostel's and hotel's in different city's and country's h
ad never expected a theft of this quality where the thief was a "INSIDER".My purse was definitely shaken and my mind thoroughly stirred by this bold thief.As a Speculator/Gambler have faced very big losses and very big win's in my life and today was one of my big losses.Worse was the local weather as it was raining quite heavily.After my lavish breakfast despite the big financial  hole in my pocket remained  relaxed and composed waiting for the rain to subside.At approximately 1030 hrs made my way out of the hostel in the light drizzling rain with my destination being Buen Retiro Park.It was a very long walk upto the end of Atocha street and then a inclined upward walk towards Buen Retiro Garden in a continuous drizzle.
  
Puerta Del Sol
                                                                                                                The Garden was absolutely empty  barring a few walkers with umbrella's. The Buen Retiro Park is one of the largest parks in Madrid which initially belonged to the Spanish monarchy before being made a public park at the end of the nineteenth century.Walked upto the  "Fuenta Del angel Caido(Fountain of the Fallen Angel)" .This statue has a remarkable history in its installation having been inspired by  John.Milton's "Paradise Lost" and  sculpted by Ricardo Beliver. The architect Francisco.Jareno designed the pedestal of the statue which is Octagonal and having Devil's on each side gripping fish's lizard's and snake's and situated at the centre of the fountain.. The Monument is 7 meters tall with the statue installed on top of the monument being 2.85 meters and is considered the only monument dedicated to the devil Lucifer as it also stands 666 meters above sea level.Admired the loneliness of this large garden also still sad about  the loss of my money as any miser would.

Street Performer in Puerta del Sol.
                                                                                                                                                        Moral of my loss was in future never ever to be a fool in trusting location's or people at face value.Made my way back towards the hostel as i had to take some rest since tomorrow would be my date with the "Running of the Bull's".The rain had stopped and it was a pleasant walk along Atocha street  where i first purchased a can beer from a shop and later entered the Chinese shop"Take Wok" for lunch.Lunch was excellent Chinese fried rice with beer. After lunch  went back to the hostel and just relaxed in the ground floor lounge engrossed on the Internet..Later had a walk in the opposite direction of Atocha street towards Sol with the rain having stopped.I was now like a local in the vicinity and while returning back to the hostel visited the "San Sebastian Church (Iglesia de San Sebastian)" situated just on the opposite side of the road facing our hostel. I had mistaken this church for a normal building as it was always locked and never ever saw a few people let alone a large church  crowd enter this church.
The Bus from Madrid to Pamplona.
                                                                                                                                                   This is a sixteenth century church that was destroyed during the Spanish civil war  and was rebuilt between 1943 -1949.Just within a walking distance of  five minutes from "Cat's Hostel" were two churches and i wonder how many Christian hostelites  attended the occasional mass or visited a church beside's viewing it as a museum  ? Having travelled almost entire Europe i was sad to see the decline of "Practising Christians" with most churches being converted into "Part-Time Museums" or "Part-Time Concert Halls" .Went back to the hostel and relaxed in my dormitory before finally making my Metro travel to "Avda De America" train station.Boarded the blue line train at Anton Martin station and alighted at "Gran Via" train station .From "Gran Via" boarded the green line to Avda de America station..Made my way to the bus terminus and after inquiries dis locate my bus platform akin to a train platform..The bus was punctual in departure and it was a 395 Kms drive to Pamplona. The Journey would take over 5 hours and somewhere midway during the journey i dozed only to be woken at 2300 hrs  with a commotion of  passengers alighting the bus.Mistaking the bus terminus to be Pamplona i alighted the bus and also visited the toilet  and on returning  to my horror realized not a single passenger at the bus station spoke English language.The bus was about to depart and the driver didn't speak English and in fact was angry with me and  not allowing me into the bus. i presumed the bus was going back to Madrid  and once it left the bus station realized i was not in Pamplona  but in Logrono which was about  one  hours drive from  Pamplona. That was the last bus of the night and i would have to spend the entire morning until 0630 hrs at Logrono bus stop to board the first bus of the day to Pamplona. I can distinctly  remember very few instances in my life when so many things went wrong in such a short span of time in my  my personal life and this was one of those day's.
"Friday(7/7/2017) :-  At the "SAN FERMIN FESTIVAL"  on the First day of the "Running of the Bulls (Encierro)" in Pamplona. The traditional  standard "Uniform" during the festival is white pants, white shirts, with a red scarf round the neck and a red sash round the waist. I was one of the few odd dressed tourists in a sea of revelers.
Friday(7-7-2017) Pamplona "San Fermin Festival" of "Running of the Bulls" :-  I was stuck in Logrono Bus station in the open cold as the main enclosed bus terminus booking office lobby was locked and closed for the night.
 
Logrono Train station.

                                            Madrid was warm and hence as seen in the photograph i had worn hiking shorts along with  my favourite African "Katanga" shirt purchased last year  on a visit  to Cape Town during my South Africa tour. Logrono is a wine  country town  situated on the Ebro river  in Northern Spain and not Atlantic sea coast and hence colder at nights .At 10*C temp  i was the only freak without warm jacket or even a sweater.The Local Spaniards who boarded or alighted  their respective buses all had warm clothing and  thank God i was not mistaken for a loony.Past midnight a few passengers did come to the terminus to board their connecting buses but otherwise i was the lone Ranger at the bus stop. Suddenly spotted two Asian men walking towards the bus-stop and approached them for guidance thankful that they could speak Hindi as they were Pakistani origin Spaniards living in Logrono.They had come to the bus stop to hand over some package  to a bus heading to Madrid but were late and hence had to depart to their residence.A Pakistani family had come to the bus stop to board a bus and the two gentlemen exchanged greetings with the family.
Logrono Town near Bus terminus.:- Unforgettable Night.
                                                                                                                                          They asked me to accompany them to the train station for a cup of coffee and at 0100 hrs we three walked the short distance to the  train station whose coffee shop was also closed.They told me i could try to hitch-hike a lift from the highway but didn't want to risk anymore daredevil gambles in travelling solo in a country where i couldn't speak or understand the local language.They reached me back at the bus stand and thanked them for the guidance realizing that Spain has a large Pakistani origin population. Sat on a bench and thanked my physical fitness discipline for keeping me sane and standing in this extreme hopeless situation.A lone taxi was parked next to the bus station and i casually asked the taxi driver  the hire charges to Pamplona which at 120 Euro was equivalent to being held at ransom ! It's in such circumstances that the disadvantages of "Solo Travel" is  felt for if i had a travel partner or partner's the taxi bill could have been shared between us.At one stage i was the only human in the entire bus depot and it was mugging that frightened me rather than a chance of spotting the odd ghost . Was awake the entire morning and at 0600 hrs the bus depot lounge gates were opened and i took shelter inside the warm depot lounge.The Ticket counters opened but the ticket seller was  missing  and a man approached me to sell a extra ticket which i hesitantly purchased only hoping it wouldn't be a fake ticket. Pamplona is the capital of  the province of Navarra and is a former Fortress Town   built on a hilltop   located a mere 80 Kms from the French border. and only 86 Kms from Logrono. After boarding  the bus at 0630 hrs bus i was in Pamplona main bus terminus at 0745 hrs. Literally ran towards  Pamplona Old Town inquiring directions along the way as it was a short distance from the main circuit of the "Running of the Bulls(Encierro)" . 
0800 hrs :-"RUNNING OF THE BULLS(Encierro)" being watched by a packed crowd along the side of the street  being separated by a 8 feet wooden barrier .
Today morning luck was on my side and exactly at 0800 hrs when the first cannon shot was fired signifying the start of the bull run  was in the right place at the right time  time  to get a glimpse of a bull running along with the crowd.The bulls run along the barricaded street of the Old Quarter into the bull ring  being led by runners.
Costliest seats :- Watching the "Running of the Bulls(Encierro)" from private balcony's above the street.The demand for these building  balcony's is unbelievable and they are all reserved about 6 to 8 months before the start of the festival.
Prices of the balcony viewing seats as seen in the photograph above are expensive beginning from  U.S $150 .From the elevated height it is safe as well as guarantees the best view when the people and bulls run on the street below the balcony.At Ground level there are barricades as well as a massive crowd that makes viewing difficult.I was lucky to get a glimpse of  a bull as it ran past our barricade.If you have the megabucks or willing to spend the same then "Gran Hotel La Perla" is the hotel to stay during the San Fermin festival. 
Old Quarter Street of Pamplona after the completion of the  "RUNNING OF THE BULLS(Encierro)" into the "BULL RING".Over 1,050,000 participated in the 2016 festival.
In Pamplona the "San Fermin" festival is held annually from July 6th to July 14th with the "Running of the Bulls(Encierro)" being the prime attraction of this Catholic religious festival.The Runners pay homage to the statue of San Fermin before the start of the bull run.
 
"San Fermin(St Fermin)" portrait 
                                                                                                                        In  1926 American author Ernest.Hemingway brought this festival to a World audience through the publication of his book
"The Sun also rises". With the introduction of television and later the Internet  this festival is now a Global phenomenon with participants from all over the World eager to run along with the bulls and also later make merry in the festivities.The "San Fermin" festival  starts at noon  on the 6th of July and hence yesterday was the first day of the festival which is opened by setting off pyrotechnic  Chupinazo  at noon.This  festival will continue until midnight on Friday(14-7-2017).The festival is held in honour of  Saint Fermin " who is the patron saint  of Navarre.Author Ernest .Hemingway was fascinated by this festival and even after publishing his book visited Pamplona numerous times until 1959. 6 bulls and 6 steers are made to run down 825(0.51 miles) meters of the narrow barricaded street of the Old Quarter into the Bull ring.The entire bull run takes 2 to 6 minutes with the bulls finally entering the bullring stadium.Sometimes a bull gets separated from the herd and has to be guided into the bull ring arena by expert professional runners.The "Running of the Bulls(Encierro)" is dangerous and 15 people have died since record keeping  started in 1925.At least 200 to 300 participants  are injured every year due to falls while running which are at times not very serious.As i walked along the narrow street didn't come across any ambulances or scene of a serious injury . If i had not made the gross error of alighting at Logrono then i would have also been a runner in today's opening day's bull run.A popular Hindi film "Zindagi Na Milegi Dubara" released in 2011  has its climax with the "Running of the Bulls" which also  introduced this festival to the common Indian audience. 

 
A restaurant showing the replay of the "Running of the Bulls(Encierro)" on Television.
After the bulls had completed their run down the barricaded  street  and into the bull ring  the barricades are opened and the crowd allowed to walk freely along the narrow street.Entered this restaurant that was repeatedly screening the day's just finished  recorded "Bull Run" and got to view the same.The run seemed tame as people just ran ahead of the bulls or behind the bulls.Saw  a man receiving a light horn butt  and this  was nothing serious and everything seemed normal .
Street Garbage collection after the "Running of the Bulls(Encierro)". Notice the "Barricades" through which the bulls and participants run with the public standing and watching behind the barricade.
As i walked along the street that had its first day's inauguration of the "Running of the Bulls(Encierro)" was surprised at the amount of litter on the street. The entire night before the run is spent in drinking and partying  and this would be a regular feature until midnight of  Friday(14-7-2017).
Crowded narrow street of Pamplona Old Quarter as the day's revelry begin's after the "Running of the Bulls(Encierro)" .
Camera action only :-  For "Bragger's Rights" pretending to avoid a "Running Bull" on its way towards the"Plaza de Torros(Bullring Stadium)" .The "Bull Run Alleyway" is very  narrow throughout the "Old Quarter Street" and finally here into the Bull Arena. It is just 20 to 25 feet wide and hence stumbling and getting trampled while running is one of the major causes of injury.The Bulls run between the wooden barricades past the "Red Door" and into the stadium along with the crowd.The entire running of the bulls ends when the bulls enter this "Bullfight Stadium" and lasts between 2 to 6 minutes.Today's "Bull Run" was completed within 3 minutes.
   Later reading the"Guardian News"  of the Pamplona Festival-2017 was surprised to know that  two American's and a Spaniard  were seriously injured today although i didn't spot any ambulance.
Strolling along the narrow cobbled Old Quarter 

        The 46 year old  Spaniard received serious head injuries while  the U.S Citizen's aged 29 and 35 years received injuries in the scrotum and abdomen.Seems two of the bulls separated from the pack and the entire run was completed in just under 3 minutes.The Bulls that ran today were from the "Cebada Gago Ranch" in Andalucia  and are famed for their ferocity having gored 53 people to date since first being introduced on Pamplona's narrow Old Quarter street bull run in 1985. In hindsight at age 57 in a attempt to emulate Ussain.Bolt in the bull run wonder what would have been the fate of "Daddy Cool" if i had participated in my  "Bonny (Hindi slang for 1st) Bull run".A matter of  debate.I met many young American's and Australians and  they really were enjoying the San Fermin festival.You had to be there to actually understand and feel the festivity .Beer flowed like tap water.Also read in the new's that today's first day  of the "Running of the Bull's" was marred by a few "Animal Right's Activists" campaigner's smeared in fake blood  and turning up topless wearing horns .I didn't spot any topless women along the street or in the crowd.There were 1000 CCTV camera's installed at various locations with a central control room for monitoring law and order during this year's celebration's.
                                                                                                                                                       
Queue outside the  "Plaza de Torros(Bullring Stadium)"  to purchase tickets for the afternoon's bull fights.The stadium built in 1922 has a capacity  for 19,720 seats and its difficult getting ticket's during "San Fermin" festival bull fights.The 6 bulls that ran today would be slain  by some of Spain's most famous "Torero's(Bullfighters)".

Its partying time in Pamplona Old Quarter with beer and Iberica ham from dangling Pork legs. 
At the  Monumento al Encierro Statue dedicated to Sanfermoines(San Fermin) festival.
Strolled outside the Old Town(Old Quarter) of  Pamplona and came across the modern city of Pamplona with large buildings and modern shopping complexes.Cycles and motorcycles were parked  along the street and cycling was very popular among the tourists.Took a photo  at the  Monumento al Encierro Statue dedicated to Sanfermoines(San Fermin) festival.This stature with bulls and human runners running together with a few  runners falling in the process describes the annual  Pamplona San Fermin festival of "Running of the Bulls". trampling  I wish i had a cycle to tour this small city but decided hiring a cycle would be additional worry against pilferage of the cycle while parking.Once bitten in Madrid and hence twice shy in Pamplona ?
Plush 21st century Pamplona city outside the Old Town(Old Quarter. Notice the difference in the street and the buildings between "Pamplona Old Town" and this locality having boutiques and departmental stores. 
Salas de Amas in Pamplona.
Strolled around the city walking along the straight road from Plaza de Castillo and came across this beautiful fountain building.
"Iglesios San Antonio Church":- Said a little prayer.
                                                                                                                  Met Mrs  Vora.Long a Thai origin  American tourist who like me liked travelling solo taking the occasional vacation from her kid's and husband.As a bachelor i was free to travel  while married veteran travellers find it difficult to tour once married.Had a nice conversation ,took some photographs and proceeded on our respective solo tour of day.Walking along the street was surprised to see mostly Black  hawkers selling counterfeit branded shoes on the footpath of Pamplona. Came across numerous Pakistani and Black hawkers selling petty goods  in Barcelona but was surprised to see the blatant selling of  designer counterfeit goods in a First world Country.Travel educates !Visited the "Iglesios San Antonio Church" and did some meditation.Whichever city i visit i do make it a point to visit the Churches irrespective of its branch of Christianity.This was a Catholic church and during my visit a mass was in progress.
The Bandstand of the "Plaza Del Castillo" in Pamplona.
Strolled past the magnificent Plaza Del Castillo which is the main centre of Pamplona having been in existence since the 14th century. Pamplona bullfights were held on this plaza until 1844 and in 1943 a bandstand was installed on this plaza as seen in the photograph.A temporary stage was built at one end of the Plaza for the San Fermin festival.It had cafe's  and few people as the entire tourist crowd was mostly in the Old Town centre of the city.Nocturnal activities would definitely be concentrated around the Plaza Del Castillo which is nicknamed "Pamplona's Living room".
Procession and Parade of "Gigantes y Cabezudas( Giants and Big-Heads" in Old Quarter of Pamplona.
At 1100 hrs made my way back into Pamplona Old Town and was again lucky to be at the right place at the right time to watch the procession parade of the Statue of Saint Fermin  along with different political and religious authorities
Giants Procession in Progress.

   The"Gigantes y Cabezudas( Giants and Big-Heads)" procession  was in progress and these giant figures seen in the photograph are more than 150 years old.These 8 Giant figures  were built in 1860  by the painter from Pamplona Tadeo. Amorena .The Giants represent four pair of King's and Queen's of different races and places  in Europe,Asia,America and Africa.They are carried by a dancer inside a wooden structure and   were dancing to the rhythm of the traditional music .There are 17 other figures built between 1860 and 1941 which consist of 6 kilikis,5 bigheads and 6 Zaldikos.The Cathedral bell was constantly pealing while the entourage of the Giants danced .

San Fermin (Saint Fermin) Procession through the Old Town:- Brass Band accompanying the procession.
Religious Clergy in the San Fermin Procession.
This Procession is held only on the first day of the "Running of the Bulls" on 7th Jul;y and i got to witness the same.The Procession  carries the image of Saint Fermin from the Church of San Lorenzo where the saints actual remains are kept  through the street of the Old quarter.During the approximately two hours of the procession through the street there is pomp and ceremony.The city corporation  with its official entourage are also in this procession parade of the Statue  of Saint Fermin. After a parade through the street  the Statue  of Saint Fermin is  brought back to  San Lorenzo church.
The city corporation  with its official entourage in the San Fermin Procession parade.
Excellent local street performances in Old Town of Pamplona. Making musical notes from log's of wood !

Church of St San Nicolas in Old Town of Pamplona.
This church was built in the 12th century and beside's being a religious church was  also a defensive bastion of the Old Town having watch-tower for its military role.
Street entertainment in front of "Palacio de Navarre(Palace of Navarra)" in Pamplona.
After walking along the absolutely crowded narrow streets of the Old Town ventured into a restaurant and relished a snack with a beer mug.
"San Fermin" festivity for all ages.
                                                                                                Beer was flowing like water and for the first time in my life saw a mobile  tanker akin to a fire engine  filling draft beer into the storage tanks of a restaurant.At my age and having toured 62 Country's across the world should say that the Pamplona San Fermin festivities were on a different elevation in comparison to the numerous festival's i have witnessed in a lifetime.There was everything for someone in the audience ranging from the ceremonial street parade to the street musicians and performers.I couldn't spot a single restaurant in the Old quarter that was empty or doing slack business and the "San Fermin festival uniform" was all over the small old Town.The  enthusiasm of the crowd and surrounding environment was infectious to the point that even a man like me who hadn't slept for almost 36 hours was looking as fresh as Ussain.Bolt in his prime. Did i  miss a opportunity of breaking the "World Bull Run Record "in a attempt to outrun the bulls ! After a drink walked out of  Old Town and came across a group of street acrobats performing in front of the "Palacio de Navarre(Palace of Navarra)" which is a palatial building designed by Jose de Nagusia in 1840.
Not a Fire Engine but "BEER TANKER" .

                                   This building is the official seat  of the Presidency of the regional government and also has a number of administrative offices of the Navarre region.The Garden's of this palatial building  contains a giant Sequoia tree that is the tallest in the city.Spent the rest of the afternoon on a bench in Plaza del Castillo  just watching the crowd and activities around as well as getting some well needed rest .Finally at 1600 hrs decided it was time to say goodbye to the "San Fermin" festivities and headed towards the bus terminus. En-route came across some fragments the fortified walls of the Old city of Pamplona.The bus terminus was crowded and managed to get tickets for the 1730 hrs bus to Madrid.The bus was punctual and at 1730 hrs began the long 395 Kms journey back to Madrid. On the way we encountered very heavy rainfall akin to the Mumbai monsoon's and thanked my luck that it had not rained in Pamplona. Finally at 2300 hrs reached Madrid and was in awe of the driver's prowess in driving through heavy rainfall at a very constant speed. From the Bus Terminus walked across to "Avda de America" Metro terminus and boarded the green line train to "Gran Via" station. From "Gran Via" changed to the blue line and was finally home at "Anton Martin" station.From the station walked the short distance to my hostel which was just coming into "Night Partying" mode and headed straight to my dormitory.End of one of the most fascinating and frightening  24 hrs of my life.
"Selfie" at  Cibeles fountain. Statue of  Cybele the Greek Goddess of Fertility and nature being pulled by two lions.Spanish team "Real Madrid"  has unofficially  adopted this fountain as its rendezvous  for celebrations of  Football Victories.
Saturday(8-7-2017) Madrid :-  Woke up earl;y as usual refreshed after my  36 hours sleepless adventure travelling from Madrid to Pamplona and back.
"Cycle Tours :- Cyclist on a tour of Madrid with a guide
                                                                        I thank my shipping profession as a Marine Engineer for surviving this grueling sleepless solo tour of Pamplona  which was definitely more dangerous than if i had run behind or in front of the Bulls.We ship engineer's  are accustomed to occasional  mid-sea "Emergency ship repairs" where its sleepless  non-stop   engineering work round the clock to get the broken down ship sailing.Remember that i was a "Marine Engineer" for 23 years of Onn/Off sailing and definitely have encountered numerous episodes of "MID-SEA ENGINE BREAKDOWNS".Yes,we sailor's are a tough breed of  working Professional's.At 0800 hrs went to the plush hostel dining hall for my sumptuous 2 Euro breakfast and had a grand agenda for my last day's tour of Madrid as tomorrow morning i would be leaving for India.
Plaza De Cibeles.

After breakfast walked along Atocha street  with my destination being "La Plaza de Cibeles". Walked past Sol  and onto the longest street in Madrid named  Calle Alcala. The Calle Alcala street starts at Puerta del Sol and ends 10.5 Kms away on the outskirts of the city.Madrid's most iconic landmark buildings are situated along this street. My destination was not a jay walk of 10.5 Kms and at 1015 hrs was at the iconic "La Plaza de Cibeles".Plaza de Cibeles  was originally named Plaza de Madrid which in 1900 was changed to Plaza de Castellar and finally to its present name Plaza de Cibeles.  .The Cybele Fountain stand's at the centre of Pl;aza de Cibeles and the  view of the landmark  Cybele Palace(City Hall) from my location was perfect akin to a picture post card.
On the Mirador(Viewing point) of Cybele Palace.

           The Cibeles Fountain was created in 1782 and installed in its current location in 1895.The Roman Goddess Cybele sit's atop a chariot drawn by two lions and this fountain is where "Real Madrid FC" and the Spanish National team celebrate their victories with their fan's.Four prominent buildings dominating  the landscape surrounding the Plaza de Cibeles are Bank of Spain,Palacio de Beunavista, Palace of Linares and the Cybele Palace.From the Fountain walked to the iconic "Cybele Palace" .Until 2011 this Palace  was the "Palace of Communication"having been opened in 1919 as the headquarters of the Spanish Postal and telecommunications service.At present this Palace is the seat of the city council.Entered the Palatial building which also houses a cultural centre called "Centro Centro" and went to the  tourism guide office situated at a corner of the reception.The Central tower of the building has a viewing tower for visitors and after purchasing a ticket entered the lift that took me to the terrace of the "Centro Centro"..
"Bird's Eye View" of Plaza de Cibeles from the Mirador ( viewing point) of Cybele Palace.
On reaching the top of the eight floor  was fascinated by the view of Madrid from this terrace viewpoint situated at a height of only 70 meters..

"Bird's Eye View" of  Madrid  from the Mirador ( viewing point) of Cybele Palace.
   Took a round along the terrace getting a view from different angles of Madrid's skyline. Strangely although this building was not a skyscraper the views were excellent as there were no other taller buildings in the vicinity.The average building height in downtown Madrid  is 5 - 6 storey's  and hence being on the eighth floor was akin to being in the tallest skyscraper in the vicinity.After spending about ten minutes on the terrace viewpoint made my way back to the ground floor by the lift  and headed into the open Plaza. Walked along Calle De Alcala and spotted a restaurant that was crowded with tourists. Entered the "James Joyce Irish Pub" which had television screens televising live sports to the customer's.It was packed to capacity and most of the clients must have definitely been Irish tourists . Walked straight ahead along Alcala street and  reached "Puerta de Alcala " monument.
At the "Puerta de Alcala" in Madrid.

The "Puerta de Alcala" is a Neo-Classical monument inaugurated in 1778 in the Plaza de la Independencia and is considered the first Post-Roman triumphal arch built in modern Europe.It is older than the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
Estanque del Retiro ( Retiro Pond) with the  Equestrian Monument to King Alfonso XII on top of a tall central cone.
From the "Puerta del Alcala" it was a short walk to the northern entrance gate of Buen Retiro Park
Performers in Retiro Park.

  .On Thursday when i had visited this park from the Southern entrance side it was a rainy day and hence the park empty.Today the park had quite a large crowd as the weather was pleasant although cloudy at times.The lake had a few rowing  boats and the ducks and carp fish of the lake were accustomed to humans and busy seeking eatables from tourists.There is also a solar powered boat that can be rented by tourists for leisure boating on this pond.There was a band of street musicians playing excellent music inside the park.There are different sports courts withing this 1.4 Sq Km park .The Park also features a annual book fair beside's people can drop off their used  books and print material  on shelves kept in the park for the benefit of other's.Concerts,Firework show's and cultural event's are regularly held in this park. "The Forest of Remembrance" in the park commemorates the 192  victim's of  Thursday 11th March 2004 Spanish train bombings.The memorial comprises 192  Olive trees and cypresses planted for each dead victim and is surrounded by a channel of  water symbolizing life.From the Park  returned back to Puerta del Sol..
Landmark  "Metropolis Building" at corner of Calle de Alcala and Grand Via.
Walking back towards Puerta del Sol came across this unique landmark office  building of Madrid , the Metropolis building (Edificio Metropolis) that was inaugurated in 1911.Its beautiful white facade is decorated with numerous sculptures and ornaments.
'San Sebastion Church"  near "Cat's Hostel".

                                                                        The rounded tower of this building has a black dome decorated  with 30000 leaves of 23 carat gold.The statue of the winged Goddess Victoria  is on the top of the dome tower.On arriving at Puerta del Sol walked over to the tourist shop in the vicinity and inquired about Flamenco restaurants in Madrid.I wanted to view a authentic flamenco dance and not the Hollywood  type that i saw in Lisbon or in a 5 star hotel in Mumbai decades ago.As mentioned before  i am a miser on hotel and food expenditure during all my tours but a billionaire spendthrift on the rare food ,adventure sports  or exotic cultural sites of a city or Country.I wanted to visit the Flamenco Nightclub patronized  by the "Rolling Stones" during their tour of Madrid but the same was booked for the night and hence opted for "Tablao villa Rosa" situated at walking distance from "Cat's Hostel". Satisfied at finally getting a ticket for a Flamenco show made my way towards the hostel.
Landmark  Indo-Pakistan origin restaurant on Atocha street.
On reaching the hostel decided it was time for a sumptuous lunch and decided to visit "Rajasthan -Curry" restaurant situated a few meters down Atocha road.  To  a Indian or a Pakistani the restaurants name would be a reminder of the odd combination of perpetual cold war diplomacy in the Country's of origin of this restaurant in neutral Spain !
"Salmon curry/Rice" lunch  in  "Rajasthan - Curry".

          Don't Hindi films do a roaring business in Pakistan  and was impressed by the owner of this restaurant who chose a very culinary crowd titillating  diplomatic name for his restaurant. I only wished that India and Pakistan could live in a more mutual friendly manner akin to the advertisement of this restaurant in Madrid after undergoing three wars and now 21st century militancy in Kashmir . I was the only customer in this plush restaurant and lunch was "Salmon curry with rice" along  with a can of beer which compensated for water.. It was ironic that my last lunch of the 28 day's solo tour would be in this Asian restaurant with one of the most enticing name for either a Indian or a Pakistani tourist. . I normally always avoid eating Indian food during my tours outside India always indulging in the local culinary of the country.The lunch was excellent and relished the Asian papad although the curry was  less spicy.The steward was of Bangladesh origin and the owner of Pakistan origin with the missing link Indian connection missing .The young Pakistan origin owner was friendly and thanked the staff for the excellent lunch that was worth the money. After a  sumptuous lunch walked the short distance to my hostel.
Iberian Ham legs in  "Viandis de Salmanca" Cured  ham bar  near  Puerta del Sol.
After a brief siesta in the hostel at 1530 hrs  got dressed and stepped out of the hostel for the last night exploration of Central Madrid.
"Sex Shop" near Puerta del Sol.
                                                                                              Walked to Puerta del Sol and on Calle de la Montera street  entered a shop stacked with pork legs akin to a butcher's shop.Only difference was that this shop was a plush "Cured Ham Bar"  and one of the best in Spain let alone Madrid. Portugal and Spain are famous for their cured hams that dangle in "Ham Bars".The "Viandis de Salmanca"  sold various types of ham and sandwiches with its Iberian ham being its signature product.From the restaurant strolled around the street and came across a sex shop and hence entered the "Sextienda " shop to keep in touch with the latest in sex gadgets and sex toy's.Today in most parts of the developing World including India  the era of the "Internet"  has made sex topic's, video's and literature passe.
Emblem of exclusive Casino De Madrid.

                         Entered the sex shop which had a woman and a man at the sales counter and was not shocked by the sexual gadgets on display as well as for sale.Akin to new electronic products i was at times confused on the method in which some of these sexual toy's were used in the confines of  the sexual theatre ! After a brief look at the sex toy's made my way out of this attractive shop and just loitered in the locale around Calle de Alcala and stumbled across "Casino De Madrid" which i mistook to be a gambling casino.Entered the 19 the century building  and on inquiring with the reception was told that this was a private gentleman's club.This club officially dates back to 1910 and the building consists of 5 floors.Some of the painting's inside this club are important enough to be listed as National treasures.The public can visit the roof-top terrace restaurant beside's various cultural events are held for the public  inside this oldest  of private Gentleman club's in Madrid.
In Peurta Del Sol at the "Bear and Madrono tree" statue.The Heraldic symbol of Spain.
Took a photograph at the sculpture of the "Bear and Madrono tree" sculpted by Antonio Navarro Santafe and inaugurated in 1967.This statue that stands 13 ft(4 M) tall is made of stone and bronze and rests on a cubic pedestal of granite.It represents the coat of arms of Madrid with the tree taller than the bear who has its paws on the tree attempting to eat a fruit.
Crowd gathering for a open air classical music concert at Plaza Mayor.
From Puetra del Sol  visited Mayor Plaza which was bustling with activity.In Mayors Plaza  a classical concert was scheduled for the night and chairs laid out on one side of the square along with the erection of a temporary stage as shown in the photograph above. If i hadn't booked for the Flamenco show then could have viewed this open air  concert although i am no big fan of classical English music My scheduled appointment for viewing the Flamenco dance show was 2300 hrs and hence still had a lot of time to take in the sights and sound's of prime central Madrid.Spent the rest of the evening at the Mercado San Miguel market .
"Tapas with beer" in San Miguel Mercado
If you have been to Madrid  and not tasted the "Tapas" at San Miguel Mercado than you haven't seen much of the city.
"Paellas Sea Food" dinner in a Vietnamese restaurant on Atocha street.
Finally  at 2200 hrs after strolling all over Central Madrid had a quick dinner at a small Vietnamese restaurant on Atocha street."Paella" is a Valencian  rice dish.Non Spaniards like me view Paella as Spain's National dish but for the Spanish themselves it has its origin's in Valencia. As for me i was having Paella prepared by a Vietnamese origin Spanish citizen and the Vietnamese are real good at rice preparation.I had ordered a "Seafood Paella" and after approximately ten minutes it was brought to me steaming hot on a frying pan as shown in the photograph.Paella is always served steaming hot and that too on a frying pan and never in a normal plate.Ground nuts were served along with the Paella  and my last dinner of the tour was exotic and different.
Entrance to "Tablao Villa Rosa' on Plaza de Santa Ana .
After my dinner it was a short walk from Atocha main street past San Sebastian church into Plaza de Santa Ana.The entire Square was bustling with activity and the outdoor cafe restaurants filled to capacity.ME(Madrid Reina Victoria) hotel stood out like a comet in the vicinity.
At  the table of "TABLAO VILLA ROSA" founded in 1919.
The "Tablao Villa Rosa" was founded in 1919 and is one of the oldest Tablaos(Flamenco Venues) in Madrid.
Audience eagerly awaiting the start of the Flamenco show.
                                                                                                                                                  Its peak Golden years were in the 1920's and has closed several times during its history  and has finally been operating as a Tablao  Flamenco and restaurant since 1996. American Writer Ernest .Hemingway,actress Ava Gardner and the bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguin were some of the celebrities who frequented this Tablao during its golden years. The Hotel ME(Madrid Reina Victoria) is just a stone's throw away from Tablao Villa Rosa and my research indicates that the bullfighter Manolette also frequented this Tablao unless he was superstitious about visiting Tablaos akin to his hotel room number..At the Flamenco show a free drink is provided with the entrance ticket.Video recording and Flash photography is strictly prohibited during the Flamenco shows.
Performance stage of "Tablao Villa Rosa".
The Stage just before the start of the Flamenco Show.The " Who's who" of the Flamenco World have performed in the "Tablao Villa Rosa" over its long history in existence as one of Madrid's top Tablao's.
Introduction of the "Flamenco Show".
The Flamenco show started punctually at 2300 hrs.There are a total of 5 artists who take their seats on the stage. Two women and one man are the Flamenco dancer's.A guitarist strum's the guitar sitting on the chair while a male singer sings songs.The introduction was through light guitar strumming by the guitarist.
Female Flamenco artist on the stage.
I Have seen Flamenco dancing in film's. hotel and recently in Lisbon.

                                               Flamenco dancing is based on the folk music traditions of Southern Spain.The oldest record of Flamenco dates to 1774.In recent years Flamenco dancing has become popular in non-Hispanic country's like the United States and Japan.The Flamenco dancing i saw today at the "Tablao Villa Rosa" was something i saw for the first time in my life and absolutely different from the normal Hollywood style Flamenco. Notice the high heel shoes worn by the lady dancer as also the entire group on the stage. The Lady dancer was thumping her heels on the wooden floor to the sound of the music and singing beside's taking acrobatic swift turn's akin to a ballet artist.Two Female dancer's performed the Flamenco in turn's.Once one dancer did her role of dancing she went and sat on the chair and the next dancer continued with the flamenco dancing. Very seducing to describe the dance in simple word's. No doubt the opera "CARMEN" is synonymous with Flamenco .
                                                                                           
Grand Finale of the Flamenco show by the male dancer .
     The traditional Spanish  Flamenco show consists of  cante(Singing),toque(guitar Playing),baile(Dance),jaleo(vocalizations),palmas(handclapping) and pios(finger snapping).
Bar of "Tablao Villa Rosa"

            We had seen all these sequences being performed by the 5 member Flamenco troupe.The Grand Finale of the night was the performance by the lone male Flamenco dancer who resembled a actor in looks and physique.Akin to the women his foot movements were swift as also his foot stomping.Flamenco has both influenced and been influenced by ballet and this male dancer 's movement was akin to a ballet dancer. His last performance was with a scarf akin to a Torrero(Matador)  playing with a fighting bull.I have read female  reviews of male flamenco dancer's and majority of the women were swooned by the sexual body movements of these dancers.Some of their descriptions is unprintable!In traditional Flamenco youth is not considered a prime advantage unlike most other dance forms as a young man or woman cannot express the duende(soul) of the genre of dance music.Most Flamenco dancer's peak in their thirties and continue to perform even in their fifties or beyond which speak's volumes of this dance form.
End of a memorable performance of "FLAMENCO" at "TABLAO VILLA ROSA"

 At midnight the Flamenco show finally came to a end with the 5 member dance troupe making a grand exit from the stage.As for me  the last night of my grand European tour was a night to remember. Walked the short distance to "Cat's Hostel" with the street still filled with night revelers in the open air street cafe's.

On the way to the last Metro train ride  at "Anton Martin" station en-route to Madrid Barajas International airport.
Sunday(9-7-2017) Departure Madrid :-  As usual woke up much before the other hostelites of my dormitory and after quick toilet routines relaxed on my double bunk bed engrossed on the WiFi.
The last train ride to Atocha Renfe station

    Finally at the normal break of dawn got dressed and went to the hostel breakfast hall for the last 2 Euro breakfast of the tour.After breakfast relaxed for a while in the palatial Moroccan ground floor lounge and at 0900 hrs checked out of "Cat's Hostel". I can't recollect all the names of the  numerous hostel's,resorts and hotel's that  i have lived in during my regular tours in India and around  the World but "Cat's Hostel" is a name i would take with me to the grave. For various reason's.Walked the short distance from "Cat's Hostel" to Anton Martin Station with almost all the shop's closed as it was a Sunday and also too early in the morning for normal business.Boarded the blue line train that was almost empty and thanks to guidance from a local commuter  alighted at "Atocha Renfe" station instead of "Atocha station"."Atocha Renfe" station is  for passengers wanting to board  the International buses and trains and is just two stations away from Anton Martin station.
Ministry of Agriculture building( 1897) near Atocha.

            From the station it was easy finding the Airport Shuttle bus stop although confusing as i was the only passenger awaiting the bus.At 1000 hrs boarded the yellow coloured "Madrid Airport Express shuttle" bus with the ticket costing 5 Euro for the 16 Km distance to the airport.At 1020 hrs alighted the bus at "Terminal 1" and made my way into the departure lounge. The "Pegasus Airline  Flight No PC1100 " was scheduled for departure to Istanbul  at 1415 hrs .Today and tomorrow would be a journey in the sky with  transit stop's  at Istanbul and Dubai airport before finally landing in Mumbai on Monday  at 1645 hrs in the evening. .A total continuous  flying time of 12 hrs and 25 minutes from Madrid to reach destination Mumbai .After the normal airport formalities  made my way to the duty free lounge and shopped for some chocolates.
View of Atocha Station from  "Atocha Renfe" bus Stop.

                     Took a photograph with a cardboard bull  acting as a Torrero(Matador).Finally at boarding time i was shocked when the lady employee boarding pass airline  inspector told me to stand aside while allowing the other passenger's to board the flight.I felt like a museum exhibit while the passengers in the queue passed alongside entering the plane.She told me that i didn't have a "VISA" to Dubai and hence couldn't board the flight.I told her that since i was a transit passenger with a stay of less than 24 hrs in Dubai airport a Visa was not necessary and asked her to cross-check the same with the concerned authorities. After a couple of phone calls and tense filmy style suspense she allowed me to enter the plane and must have been embarrassed of her gaffe. She should be knowing "International Airport Transit regulations " as her job demands it and  Dubai is no small airport on the World airport map
Leaving Spain with memories of Motorcycles and Cycles.

                                           The Flight to Istanbul was pleasant but without any food or drinks although the same can be purchased  as "Pegasus Airline" is a budget  airline company.Purchased a in-flight lunch of  Igare Kafte(Grilled Meatballs) costing 11 Euro's that satisfied my huge appetite.On arriving at Istanbul airport after the normal tedious formalities made myself comfortable in the boarding lounge. A Airline inspector was checking every passenger's boarding pass and when it was my turn he did a repeat act  of the Lady Inspector in Madrid.He cross-checked on the phone and told me everything was normal also requesting to see the 'Expiry Date" of my passport.Never in my life was i questioned in such a manner as i was in Istanbul.Did i resemble a wanted criminal ?  Akin to the Hindi film "Don" was someone impersonating me for the simple fact that i had suddenly become a International airlines prime imposter suspect ?
Impersonating a Torrero  in Madrid Airport   lounge.

                     Truth can be stranger than fiction.Boarded  " Pegasus Flight No Pc 740" in Istanbul and on Friday at 0330 hrs was in Dubai airport.At Dubai Airport reported at the transit desk and was told to board the shuttle mini van to "Terminal 1".Surprisingly i was the lone transit passenger and akin to a "V.I.P " passenger was driven the long distance to Terminal 1. The Pakistani driver from Baluchistan asked me if i was a Indian as it seems i resemble the stereotype Indian passenger .In Portugal they think i am Portuguese while in Spain they think i am Spanish and  in the airport they think i am a Imposter ! Finally a Pakistani diver in Dubai is convinced  that i am a normal Indian passenger ."Daddy Cool" was really travelling places and confusing people in the process.
"KFC" dinner  at  Dubai airport.
                                                                                                        In Dubai i had a transit time of over eight hours and the first thing i did   early in the morning was to have a lavish "Chicken Lunch" costing 33dhms at the "KFC Restaurant.Next went to the Duty free shopping lounge and purchased a pair of Adidas Track shoes and later some chocolates.Spent the rest of the hours relaxing in the palatial airport lounge busy  on the WiFi network.At 1200 hrs noon boarded " Jet Airways Flight N0 9W541" to Mumbai absolutely relieved that i was finally on the plane taking me back home to Mumbai. Wonder if they had caught my imposter ? Hope  Gangster Abu.Salem had not escaped jail in India ? Had the airlines crew mistaken me for Dawood.Ibrahim who is more elusive than late Osama Bin Laden ? Hilarious and true !  The Jet Airways flight was akin to a 5 star air ride in comparison to the Pegasus budget airlines flight. Excellent lunch was served along with drinks.Some player's of the Indian Squash team were also on the flight and we finally touched down in Mumbai at 1700 hrs.Quickly made my way through the immigration formalities and after purchasing a Vodka bottle took the exit route out of the airport. My wallet was empty off Indian currency as the same was pick pocketed at "Cat's Hostel" in Madrid.Used my debit card to withdraw some cash at the airport ATM and hired a pre-paid cab that safely drove  me back home to Old Prabhadevi road in Mumbai. My mission of retracing Vasco Da Gama reverse Europe discovery tour  was finally accomplished with minimum financial or physical damages..                                                                            
                                                                                     
 NOTE :- After extensive "Internet Research" akin to a "DJ " i  have finally written a descriptive historic essay on my 28 day's Solo tour of Europe. All opinions of locales and City's visited are my own personal views.This blog will be my memory bank as age catches up with me  as well as a benchmark for future travellers and adventurer's. "You only live once and not twice in a lifetime so make the most use of your limited time on Planet Earth".