Will you believe me if I tell you that that I stayed in a room by the beach with sand under my feet and sound of waves to keep me company while I was in Heidelberg (a landlocked town in Germany)? Well I kid you not, courtesy the Hip Hotel, I actually stayed in a room in Malolo with a view of the beach, sand and palms and the sounds of waves without even stepping foot in Malolo.
After completing the two selected books on Afghanistan, the next country on my reading list was Albania. Researching for books on Albania was quite interesting as I realized that I don’t know anything about this country at all. As a quick background – geographically located in Southeast Europe between Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia and Greece, Albania has an interesting political history. Albania was ruled by the Ottoman Empire till 1912 (when it declared its independence), but was conquered by Italy in 1939 and then by Germany in 1943. In 1944, it became a Socialist State and the Party of Labor and Enver Hoxha took control of the country till the early 1990s. During the communist era, Albania experienced many social and political changes, as well as isolation from the international community. In 1991, the Socialist Republic was dissolved and the democratic Republic of Albania was established. With it’s nearly five centuries of Ottoman rule and the subsequent communist regime, Albania has a unique and distinct culture from other European countries.
I started my travel reading project with the first country on the list – Afghanistan. Originally I had decided to read one travel related book on each country written by a local author. But an initial research online yielded quite a few interesting book suggestions, and I couldn’t make up my mind. Finally my sisters’ Afghan colleagues’ came to my rescue and based on her recommendation I decided to read – Earth and Ashes by Atiq Rahimi and The Places In Between by Rory Stewart.
Originally my Heidelberg trip was to start with a walking tour of the town, for which I had actually taken an earlier train from Frankfurt. I reached my hotel alright and then got badly lost and missed the walking tour. I am sure anyone who has been to Heidelberg will wonder how I managed such an impressive feat in such a small town! Well in my defense I was holding the map upside down. #Faceplam I know. So once I missed my walking tour, I decided to start my trip with a visit to the most imposing structure in Heidelberg – The Heidelberg Castle.
Growing up is a stage in life where we are all up-to one mischief or the other. While the disciplinary action can vary depending upon the gravity of the mischief committed and the damage done, have you ever heard about a prison sentence for such crimes? Well if you were a student at the Heidelberg University in the early 19th century, then going to prison for misdemeanors was a realty.
On my recent visit to Heidelberg with Germany Tourism, I asked the Heidelberg tourism office for their must see suggestion in the city, apart from the famous Heidelberg castle, and they all recommended the “Student Prison and the Great Hall”. I have seen India police stations and even stayed in a prison converted to a hostel (in Ljubljana), but a student prison was something I had never seen or heard of before. Intrigued I decided to visit.
I started my travel reading project with the first country on the list – Afghanistan. An initial research online yielded quite a few interesting book suggestions, but only two Afghan authors – Khaled Hosseini and Atiq Rahimi. I had read all of Khaled Hosseini’s books so I decided to add Atiq Rahimi to my shortlist. Additional research yielded books that I would have liked to read but they were all by foreign (i.e. non Afghan) authors and were based on their journey and impressions of this country. This kind of diluted the purpose of what I want to achieve, which is to read more local authors of every country to understand the local customs, mannerisms and lives. I didn’t want to read a foreigners’ observations of this country.
I am a budget traveler and so my choice of stays during any trip normally includes hostels, B&Bs or homestays. While I love such places to stay in, every once in a while I do like to stay in a nice luxurious property and enjoy the comforts that these properties have to offer. And on my recent stay to Frankfurt, I stayed in one such luxurious hotel – the Grandhotel Hessischer Hof Hotel.