Friday, May 26, 2006

Europe's largest train station opens in Berlin

Germany boasts today the opening of Europe's largest and probably most expensive train station. It is built right in the centre of the city, thanks to the undeveloped area along the former Berlin-Wall. Costing 700 million euros, the station took 10 years to built, the only major station in a century to be built from scratch. Aiming to serve 1,100 trains and 30,000 passengers daily, it is a big multi-storey structure with a lot of glass to allow sunlight to penetrate down to its lower storeys. They even had to change the path of a river (Spree) away from the station.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Trip to Spain (not really)

This Saturday we went on a university trip for ship-riding in the biggest river of Germany: Rhine. We travelled by train to a city near the river and from there we boarded a small ship that took us on a one and a half hour journey through the most beautiful route in the area. Travelling through the twists and turns of the river, watching big cargo trailers and admiring the greeny hills and small villages in them, we reached our detination town. On the way i made friends with a couple of Spanish guys. Later they talked with an Italian guy and it seemed they could understand each other. Another guy from Columbia joined them and also started speaking Spanish. The group leader was from Peru but had no trouble speaking Spanish. I found a guy from Argentina with whom i spoke English. He also started speaking Spanish with them. It was like i took a ship to Spain. They told me that Spanish is the major language in most of the countries of South America except Brazil (where Portuguese is spoken). And Spanish and Italian are much alike so they understand each other. So Spanish was the language of our trip.

The town we reached with our boat had a big castle, most of which was still standing. We read a sign on the door of the castles that flashlights or candles must be taken to visit the caves. This sign was ignored by us and we went inside - thanks to the rain that came along. We were handed maps of the castles to find our way. After strolling through the castle, we had seen all the visible area in it and were wondering why they gave us maps for such a small region. Instead of waiting for our departure, i took my Argentinian friend (Santiago) to explore some more. We finally reached a cave-opening and two more friends joined us. The more we went into the cave, the darker it got; until it was pitch-dark. I had a mobile with flash-light, so they put me in front and we walked for some time until i announced "i see light". My trailing friends got new energy and we got out. Now they insisted that we go back the same way. So again i was the path-finder. We had seen some smaller caves openings but we couldn't go in them standing. I decided to explore them this time. We sat on our feet and inched into the smaller tunnel. We kept going until the cave sunk with a greater angle and water started seeping in from the walls. It was too dangerous to go further, so we returned. Turning in this small cave was another problem. We turned suffering some bruses. When we came out, we were lost. We couldn't figure out the map and ended up on the other side of the castle. We troted the road to reunite with our friends.

See the trip photos here: Rhine-trip Photos

Friday, May 12, 2006

Flying back to Germany and Nepal tales

On Monday i started my journey back to Germany. I was supposed to come back with Gulf Air. There were a lot of passengers at Lahore airport, most of them going for "Umrah" (religious trip to Makkah). They were getting their luggage checked just after they enter. I was also directed to get in line, but later an officer called me aside and asked me to go to the next stage without checking. The remaining process also got through easily, except for some waiting. The plane flew a little late (as usual) but got to Muscat (Oman) in time. Muscat airport was terrible. They directed us to a queue with non-transit passengers. These queues were huge in heat and humidity. We had to go through all checks that we had already gone through at our last airport. They should have maintained a separate route for transit passengers without repeat checking. From there, we changed the plane and flew to Bahrain to exchange passengers.

I sat with a Nepali boy who could speak English and Hindi. He was fun to talk with and know about Nepal and Nepalis. He told me that many people in Nepal can speak Hindi because of Indian people and movies in their country. I was surprised to know that he was married and had two daughters, one of them eight years old. He was definitely younger than me. He married a classmate in 10th class. He proudly told that it was a love marriage and his parents accepted it. He was a jewelery-maker back home and was going to Qatar to his relative to find work. He said Nepali language is similar to Hindi but i couldn't understand a word when he spoke to a passing-by Nepali. I asked him about Mao rebels. He said they were against the king and wanted democracy. He added that most Nepalis want democracy and now the king has lost most of his powers to the prime minister. There is a peace agreement for three months with the rebels.

The plane again flew late about half an hour from Bahrain but the pilot announced that we'll reach Frankfurt five minutes before scheduled. This scared me a little. The delay was caused by them counting and recounting passengers many times. One of the passengers who was supposed to get off at Bahrain didn't. They were searching for him. This had happened on my earlier flight as well. At Frankfurt, the procedure was not too complex. There weren't many passengers and the airport was almost empty. I met a Pakistani who had come to Germany for a trip, so i guided him to the train leading him to his destination.