Category Archives: Travel

Rural Museum, PAU, Ludhiana

During my recent visit to Ludhiana, I had a chance to visit the Rural Museum in PAU. Like any other city with millions of people, Ludhiana needs great arts. Here are some pictures.

Frankfurt Airport

Frankfurt is an amazing airport. It lies in the heart of the developed world, serves millions of passengers every year, and to say that it is bit disorganized at the moment might be a bit of an understatement.

Get me some coffee, even if it takes all day!I am not known to be a picky guy. I set a low bar on facilities, food, and the fact that Frankfurt has those amazing one person restrooms (an innovative concept for busy airports!) and atrociously long lines to get a cup of coffee are just not things that can bother me. In my humble origins and coming from a developing nation, I am used to such deficiencies in the infrastructure. (My hometown doesn’t even have an airport, and I haven’t lost sight of that.)

Coffee kind of makes you go. As I arrived from my Lufthansa flight from Amman, there was no gate available, so we were calmly dropped off in the middle of the taxiing area and required to walk down two flights of steps from the flight and a few hundred feet to a people mover. Good exercise for me, but a young woman with a roll on suitcase, and a toddler in hand, was a bit lost and couldn’t see where the people mover was (nor did I at first), and started walking towards the food truck. Dozens of other equipment trucks that are common at the airport are driving around, creating a potentially dangerous situation. Then the German police came and wanted to see their passports. Of course, nothing wrong in that, especially considering that the area was teeming with non-travelers, such as construction workers, etc, but also, I think, the passport police was oblivious to the fact that the woman never intended to be in the tarmac of a terminal with trucks speeding around when making her travel plans in the first place. Her 2 year old is running around obviously fascinated by those big trucks. Finally, we get on to the people mover. Perhaps it was that flight, or perhaps that is the norm, the people mover did not have enough seats for all the elderly and the people with little kids. So as it makes it journey around the terminal to the gate, going around taxis and gourmet food trucks and yield signs and police cars, people are falling over, kids are crying, and that sir, I must admit, has gone too far, even for me.

The Flights That Have No Gates!Once at the terminal, standing outside a long line at the restroom, travelers are commiserating about the unbelievable condition that the airport is in, and a calm level-headed traveler points out that the airport is doing a bit of renovation, and as he explained, he had just come from Addis Ababa, and there really are places that are comparable (or even worse!) in the confusion department. A bit of perspective always helps, and it did in this case too, but I am unsure about how the Frankfurt airport authorities feel about the comparison. In the restroom, I did come across an airport official looking for feedback, and perhaps that is the least I can do, to point it out to him.

Complaints and ComplementsA few years ago, I had written about the smoking problem in Frankfurt Airport, and the airport authorities have fixed it quite nicely. The rest rooms may be a one man show, but there are plenty of smoking areas, that can host at least 50 people each, and those smoking areas are closed facilities now.

There is always a root cause, and in this case, it may be that the root cause is that Frankfurt airport is too successful in selling its services to the airlines. Just as people (travelers) buy tickets from airlines, airlines buy their “tickets” (or gate slots) from airports. Just as sometimes airlines can “overbook” people, airports can “overbook” airlines. (In case of passenger overbookings, the airlines often try to buy out their voluntary participation in dropping off by offering a future travel voucher etc.) The “non-availability of gates”, while obviously a hassle to the travelers, can be done almost with impunity, because the airports don’t sell to travelers – they sell to airlines. Then again, I know little about how airlines and airports work, so I know I fool no one with this flimsy analysis.

Travelers, Airlines and Airports - A magic triangle

Just in case, I thought it was just the flight from Amman that didn’t have a gate at the terminal, my next flight to Washington Dulles didn’t have one either, so you just go down four flights of metal stairs on to the tarmac, and then get on the people mover, and then board the airplane. Again, good exercise for me, but a lot of people had difficulty on the stairs, and for the first time perhaps, I felt a dose of jet bridge envy.

Towards a visa free world

I continue to dream about a visa free world, where people will be able to travel from any country to any country without having a “visa”. (Or perhaps such a concept might continue to exist, but become entirely invisible from the traveler’s perspective).  The interesting issue that I have observed with visa regulations is not so much the requirement of getting one – the main problem usually is the lack of clarity around such things.  Consider the case of an Indian national (such as myself), traveling to Quito, Ecuador.   Airline says that no visa is required.  Ecuador’s website says that a visa is required.  So, I called the Ecuador consulate to confirm (on September 28, 2011), and they did confirm that indeed the airline is correct, and no visa is required.

This is not interesting stuff, but neither are most of the practical “points of dissatisfaction” that we come across. All right then, here is to John Lennon:

Tiger on Prague Metro

I am somehow reminded of beautiful Prague, even though it has been almost a couple of years since I was last there.  But today, I am thinking not of the city beautiful, but of a tiger on its metro (or more appropriately, a tyger).

A Tyger on the Prague Metro

Prague metro was built in late 70s (1st line) and early 80s (2nd and 3rd lines).  During that time, it was still a different world even if we limit ourselves to the economic structure.  Today it is operated by Dopravní podnik hlavního města Prahy, which is a public company, and one can wonder how that affects its decision making.

The decision we are talking about is this: when you are running a metro, do you put a lucrative commercial on the most visible spot, or do you put William Blake, who refuses to pay you a single Czech Koruna (Kč) for highlighting his poem, but might give a moment of peace to the travelers?

I don’t know the answer, I can only comment upon what a beautiful moment I felt in Prague that blissful day.

Here is the poem again, since the picture did not capture it as well as it should have.

Tiger Tiger. burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye.
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat.
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp.
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears
And watered heaven with their tears:
Did he smile His work to see?
Did he who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger Tiger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

The Tiger
William Blake

Les Invalides

Even though the picture Les Invalidesdoesn’t convey (my photography ;-)), Les Invalides was a great building!  Apparently, it is a prime example of French Baroque Architecture, although what I enjoyed the most was the wide open spaces around it and the walk along the Seine.  (The picture is taken from the other side of Seine, from just across the bridge).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Baroque_architecture

Louvre!

Did not have enough time in one day to go to the Louvre and look at the best small painting in the world, but I did have an excellent time looking around the area.  To put things in perspective for myself, Louvre is the most visited museum in the world, and receives almost twice as many visitors as my hometown museum – the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.

The weather was excellent (20 degrees, no sun, 0% rain, 100% gorgeous). Parisians must thank me for that 😉