July 31, 2010

The free night

Who doesn’t like getting free stuff? No one I know of. Back in UC, the pizza parties were most notorious for the number of irrelevant people who turned up.. simply because of free food. Likewise, people turned up in un-shy numbers to any “free event”. Be it movie night, sandwich giveaways, some boring drone of a lecture (as long as there was free after-food) and what not. Other than that, attending some “fairs” or showcases where they gave free pens, notepads and the likes were also immensely popular. Coming from that well-advertised practice to this part of the world in Europe, where nothing is free, your head kinds of forgets how it feels to get free stuff. Until Germany gave us a taste of it. All thanks to France though.                          

So as everyone knows by now, I was at a conference in Berlin 2 weeks ago (though it felt more like a holiday). We’d booked a lovely hotel with a super-convenient location, awesome rate, great views and what not. And at the end of our 6 day stay we were happy to check out and try and get back home to Paris. And so there we were at the airport, unable to understand why our flight was never called and why they kept pushing back the boarding time while the flight was sitting at the tarmac just beyond the boarding gate right in front of our eyes. And we were offered no explanations either. A lot of tongue-clucking, under-the-breath cursing and one loudspeaker announcement, we were finally boarded onto the flight a whole 90 minutes late. But home’s home right? And in an hour-long journey who cared how late you got back? K and I eagerly clicked pictures of ourselves with the other Air Berlin flights in the backdrop to keep as one of the last souvenirs from the pretty awesome trip. However the flight didn’t leave. Not for an entire hour as we sat inside getting spitefully impatient. Finally there was an announcement… annoyingly in German first. And though we didn’t understand it, the audible groans around us told us it wasn’t good news. Next the announcement came in French. And to my great surprise, I understood every word that was announced and while that was wonderful news, what was announced, wasn’t. The France air traffic controllers were on strike (surprise surprise!) And they hadn’t given this plane a “slot to land”. And so they weren’t sure when (if ever) we would take off. Then came the further starling announcement. They were going to throw open the doors of the aircraft and those who wanted were free to “leave”. Leave where? To where? What next? No clue. The air hostesses were as clueless as we were and offered no further explanations. And mercifully, another long clueless hour later, the flight was officially declared as canceled.
And so for the first time ever, I unboarded a plane that hadn’t moved an inch from where it sat. To add to our woes, we had to await our bags at the carousel first before we went and battled with Air Berlin to see if they were giving us any accommodation, food or anything of the sort. And have you noticed? Your bags are always almost the last ones. It’s like some weird karma. Needless to say when K and I waddled out with our bags we were amongst the last in the long, snaking queue that terminated at the Air Berlin counter. And they were imploring people with friends and relatives in and around Berlin to head out there, leaving them with lesser people to accommodate.          
After what seemed like hours but was probably just one, our turn came. They were out of rooms in their 2 backup hotels. Could we wait a bit till they could see what they found for us? Did we have a choice? We briefly considered heading back to the hotel we’d stayed in and setting camp in a single room there. But we decided to wait good-humoredly with the rest of our gang. And noticing the poster tube in our hands and with a lot of time to kill, curiosity overcame their initial reluctance. And K and I ended up giving short impromptu presentations of our projects to the very interested folk who were fascinated that they’d finally encountered people who actually worked for nanotechnology. It was the most fun I had in recent times sharing my work. Far more the conference anyways. And finally they’d found us a hotel. The staff guy who told us that said it was a goood hotel. And my curiosity got the better of me. How good could it be?                                          

We got a taxi to the place. And the moment the taxi pulled up into the driveway, I knew something goood had happened. It was larger than the airport waiting lounge. It was a top-end 4-star hotel. And aptly named “Berlin Berlin”. And at that instant the really decent hotel we’d stayed at earlier seemed like a less-well-to-do cousin. And? They had only the executive suites available for us. All paid for of course. And that’s how France gave us the gift of one extra night in the lap of Berlin’s luxury. Free food? Of course. Their entire 12-course breakfast menu was ours to feast on. The experience? Priceless.                                                     

Bonne Vacances everyone! We’re headed to the Homeland. Which means… more things to blog about right? Absolutely! Happy Holidays everyone!

July 25, 2010

I <3 Panoramas

Oh the joy of stitching the panoramas! It all just feels right when they align and give you the wide-angle view of what the reality is when you don’t have the luxury of carrying your SLR, your wide-angle lens and the likes of it. And indeed, the point’n’shoot works well enough for this purpose. Here’s what I mean -

Olympia Stadion_Final_cp

The Olympia Stadion at Berlin, Germany


July 23, 2010

Tschüß Berlin!!!

Gosh I had the best time in Berlin the whole of last week and even now as I’m reflecting on it it seems surreal that I spent an entire week there, an extra day completely unintended but totally not regretted too. For anyone considering a visit to the German capital, here are a few reasons why -

1. The sights.

Bradenburger Tor1 Bradenburger Tor – Berlin’s most recognizable monument.

2. The people.

For those who feel you can’t get enough people speaking English in Europe, other than England itself, please please go to Berlin. You’ll be right at home the moment you open your mouth since almost everyone under 40 speaks the Queen’s language and are happy to help you with everything from directions to suggestions. Very friendly.

3. The food.

Hell yeah. all you non-vegetarians have treat after treat lined up in the form of the popular Würstchen or Hot Dog. Other than the other meat dishes of course. And all the vegetarians? Don’t fret. You’ll find as many veggie choices as you’ll ever find in Europe, right here in Berlin. Imagine. Mc D’s. Veggie burger. Enough said. Oh not without mentioning the comparatively rock-bottom prices!

4. The prices.

Europe’s lowest prices have got. to. be. in. Berlin. Really. Everything from the branded stuff to the unnamed unbranded things. All at a fraction of Parisian prices, surely. Plus the student discounts are spectacular… a fraction of the price. I mean, seriously.

Well that was a seriously short synopsis of what Berlin has to offer. I suggest you go to find out more. Until then, from Paris, it’s Tschüß Berlin!!!

July 11, 2010

Blog drop

I just went back to MindBlogging and was shocked that after a third of July having passed, there was just one blog post and that too a pictorial one. Well I guess that goes to show how busy the days have been. Indeed with the cleanroom closing for summer and the days melding into evenings melding into football nights, there's hardly been any time to pause and breathe, to chill or seethe on the blog. With the impending conference trip and more work deadlines, I am going to guess that July is going to be pretty sparse out here.

However I do have some unfinished drafts from before and I'll make an effort to finish and post them at the very least. Other than that, Paris has gone the far end of summer and we're all gasping for water amid the humid days and the tortorous rides in crowded trains and disturbed transport. Hail Summer!

On a different note, I am super sad that the month of football worldcup is drawing to a close and leading to an all unexpected finalé today... Go Oranje! (Oh and what's the deal with the Oracle octopus anyways and why is it almost always picking the winner from my list of losers?) More to follow soonish.. watch this space and thanks for visiting so far!

July 2, 2010

Ah Paris!

Some of the best things in life can be free. And the city of lights is an everyday example. Some of the best sights it has to offer are absolutely free. Like this one.

ET_Straight_PNG3 La Tour Eiffel: The single most-visited paid monument in the world.

Ah Paris! How I love this city and how I love showing its jewels off. With the sudden onset of intensive heat, all the monuments are shining in their well-maintained splendour in the bright sunshine. And with my new-found black and white film SLR mania, this is the best place to be to try and capture some surreally brilliant shots while I’m at it. And yes, I am yet to develop the 2 rolls of B&W film that I’ve already exhausted. Needless to say, exceptional results will wind up here. Until then, vivre la Paris!