[This is a Six part series of my travelogue to Europe]

EPISODE : 1/6

It was a holiday that a family which traveled rarely took. I scantly remember going to a family trip far away to ‘Badri Kedara’ when I was three years old. Other trips were to Tumkuru, Mysuru and Mangaluru.  Traveling was never a part of our culture mostly due to financial constraints,different priorities and unavailability of South Indian vegetarian food everywhere! We a family of four decided to travel to Europe, hard core South Indian Asian vegetarian people traveling to Rome, Venice, Vienna, Barcelona and Paris for 12 days. It was a budget and not a tour package travel. The biggest problem would be food  Half of our luggage was Ready to eat (instant food)Instant Rasam and Basmati rice.

After the necessary preparations for food, bookings of apartments(mainly due to non availability of vegetarian food), we booked an AIR INDIA flight to Rome (Transit in New Delhi ) from Bengaluru. The flight duration was about 12 hours including the transit time at Delhi. A childlike excitement to see all the luxuries in the flight made me feel like ‘Maharaaja’, the mascot of the Airline I traveled in.

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Our in-flight entertainment had lots of kannada movies and songs as well. I was very thrilled that AIR INDIA did recognize other official languages in India, because few years back when I traveled they audaciously had declared Hindi is our national language. But flight announcements in the domestic flight from Bengaluru to Delhi only had Hindi and English. An elderly couple who only knew native language were totally clueless about the safety announcements. I had the best time watching those kannada movies back to back, great Indian food and chatting with the fellow passengers.

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We reached Rome (ROMA) 7pm local time,my close friend Monika who studied with me in school is doing her MBA  became our guide there. We had deliberately booked our apartment/hotels very near to the city center so that accessing public transport is easier. Do not travel in Taxis until you  know the local language and also the public transport is cheap  – safe. The whole of Europe had woken up from the terrorist attack in Brussels and Paris,hence every tourist spot had a tanker,hulk men (very good looking though) guarding the places. Indians do not have a problem anywhere because of our good foreign policies and not poking our nose in other’s business. There was warmth by the people welcoming us saying India a beautiful place to naming few of the important cities.

If you are a non smoker and a teetotaler,its difficult to survive. Wine is a staple just the way we drink coffee. The cigarette butts covered the footpath, metro stations because dustbins were overflowing. My friend who is in Rome,did not know the local language until she went there and has learnt it extremely well. She came down all the way from the university to visit us to the hotel. My mother had told her strictly that she should not be visiting us if it’s dark (typical Indian mother you see), but the sun doesn’t set until its 11pm. My friend very happily said “Aunty ilella esht ghantege bekadru odadbodhu, thumba safe”, the biggest lesson we learn there is being independent and not time bound.

We started our journey with world famous Colosseum, the massive stone amphitheater which has stood the test of times since  AD 80. This was the largest amphitheater ever built with the capacity to hold 80,000 spectators. This was used for gladiatorial contests, mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles and dramas based on Classical Mythology. In medieval times it was used for housing, workshops, quarters for a religious order, a fortress, a quarry and a Christian shrine. This monument has stood the earthquakes,world wars(the bullet marks, shells, grenade damages are seen) and stone thieves. The difference between the Indian monuments which are older than this is, the compounds don’t read ‘Roopa loves Arjun, heart shape symbols and  idiotic caricatures’. The local authorities and the people are extremely careful on ‘others’ spoiling their precious monument. Yes, sometimes the guides to trouble us to tell us the actual story of the Great Roman Empire holding different color umbrellas and receivers with headphones.