Mumbai: Rahul Soni travelled to Europe with his wife Rajni, daughter Akshita and son Arnav.
You’ve said you love to travel. What particularly do you like to do in a new place?
My family and I have the wanderlust. I’ve travelled from Mount Abu to Shillong, and Anantnag to Kanyakumari, and I try to travel abroad as much as I can. Every time I visit a new country, there are a few things I must do: travel by train, travel by road and interact with local people. On this trip, we took a train from Vienna to Salzburg—a journey that lasted three hours and 20 minutes through the breathtaking scenery of the Alps. We could easily have flown instead, but I wouldn’t dream of it. We drove from Copenhagen, via Hamburg, to Paris, admiring the countryside the whole way. While I know that India is actually more beautiful, the way they have maintained their countryside and environment is something to learn from.
Paris must surely have kept you busy?
The city is so lovely, one needs much more time than the six days we spent. While we went all over, I loved the Louvre; it’s the perfect example of French ingenuity, integrating the old with the modern. The glass pyramid, which serves as an entry to the palace museum, is a landmark in itself. The Mona Lisa was a bit of an anticlimax though. On the other hand, some of the other artworks, the 40-by-40ft paintings, the section on Egypt, with mummies and ancient pottery, etc., were captivating. We visited Euro Disney and I must admit that I enjoyed the rollercoaster and rides as much as the kids. We met a German there who had brought his daughter just to Euro Disney for five full days. That’s how much stuff there is. One of the locals we spoke to suggested we go to the Eiffel Tower late (about 9pm) to watch the sun set (around 10pm), which we did, and it was great to see darkness fall and the lights of the city come on. While we were there, we thought we’d get a meal at the restaurant on level two, but we were quite surprised to find that the first reservation available was for 9 October —four months later!
What was it like to visit Mozart’s birthplace Salzburg?
We landed in Salzburg during Mozart’s 250th birth anniversary celebrations and there were Mozart chocolates, festoons, memorabilia everywhere; the hotels, restaurants, markets and shops were full of souvenirs commemorating the event. At an ice-cream parlour, they gave the kids free violin-shaped chocolates; at the hotel, after the bed was made, chocolates shaped like Mozart’s face were placed on the sheets. We watched plays and musicians on the streets and bridges along the serpentine Danube, with cool blue waters, in the background. You can’t be in Salzburg and not visit The Sound of Music locales, including the Mirabel Gardens, which are beautiful even if you’re not a film buff.
Any special memories about your trip to northern Europe?
Both Denmark and Sweden are pretty. From Copenhagen, we drove 20 minutes to Malmo, in southern Sweden, via the Oresund bridge, an engineering marvel. The bridge consists of a 4km underwater tunnel, a 4km artificial island and an 8km cable bridge. It has two levels—one for trains and the other for cars—that have six lanes. In both the countries, what really struck me is how low their population density is, and how striking their countryside looks, with their turning windmills and canals. God has gifted the Swedes and Danes with good bodies, and they look after them. Unlike in the US, there isn’t much obesity here, and yet, they seem to eat so much chocolate. When you travel on the 45-minute ferry from Copenhagen to the continent, you see lots of locals going across to shop because things are cheaper there, and the ferry is duty-free. Because the kids enjoyed the ferry ride so much, we did it almost every day.
Anything you missed out on?
Plenty, because a holiday is always too short. Late one night on the Paris tube, we met a Russian actor who was returning from the theatre and she told us about Paris’ vibrant theatre scene. That’s something we missed out on, but really, in six days you can barely scratch the surface of a city as wonderful as Paris. I would personally like to have 10 eight-hour days, just to see the Louvre!
As told to Niloufer Venkatraman. Share your last holiday with us at email@example.com