Tuesday, August 28, 2007


So we're back in Bangalore, & we're setting ourselves up with a rental flat & the assorted arrangements you need to make to live. Now, do not get me wrong, I know that what I'm going to talk about may not be an issue that affects all of India, or at least there are other, bigger problems which other Indians live with & I don't; at the same time, we're really facing energy crisis for fueling/sustaining our economic growth.

So what really is the bandwidth that your ISP provides for your home internet connection? Can you believe that Sify actually qualifies a 128 Kbps connection as Broadband , when the Government of India, rather lamely I must admit, defines a broadband connection to be at least 256 Kbps? Lamely beacuse, 256 Kbps is NOT broadband. Broadband is enough bandwidth to make a telephone call over the internet with no lags of any kind, enough bandwidth to view media-rich web sites as if they were all text. Internationally, anything less than 2 Mbps is not broadband.

I'm really struggling with getting a ISP to provide me good service at J P Nagar. I called Sify & they never called back. BSNL, I'm told, provide relatively hassle-free connections, but they take two-months. Reliance does provide broadband with speeds "upto" 2000 Kbps, though just about everybody I talked to advised me to avoid Reliance. And Airtel does not have service in the J P Nagar area.

And all this in Bangalore.


Monday, August 27, 2007


After almost a year of living in a spacious American suburb of Washington DC, Munich, at first, looked incredibly homelike with its sheer density of population & the consequent premium you pay for space. I do not say this in a negative way; indeed, our stay in Munich was one of our most wonderful vacations ever, I say this only to draw underline the difference between what a city has come to mean to me & our rather peaceful & rustic ways of life in Ashburn.

August 6th to August 10th, 2007

Our Hotel:
Our room in Hotel Dolomite, the culmination of my search for an affordable hotel in Munich, turned out to be a cubicle with two 2x5&1/2 beds & a Television set & a rather small but modern & well-equipped bathroom. It was mighty difficult to walk in the room without tripping over something. However, it was a very short-walk from the Hauptbahnhoff, or the Central station, & this proved to be a great help to our mobility in Germany. At 55 Euros per day, this wasn't very bad at all for the number of hours we actually spent in the room, mostly asleep.
See this website for booking.

Traveling around:
Depending on your length of stay & the extent of travel, it is advisable to buy rail passes. There are plentiful kinds available depending on how many are traveling & for how long you intend to travel. The best place to book this, if you're in the US, is this. Make sure to check the normal ticket prices before you buy so you can be sure that buying a pass will save you money. The website for all your rail travel related information is this. A rail pass is valid for all transports on Deutsche Bahn, including U-Bahns (underground/metro/subway system within Munich), the S-Bahn (Train system for suburbs of Munich) the trams, the Inter city expresses & anything else that has the DB logo. The DB system is your best bet for traveling in Bavaria.

What to see:
The best thing to do is to pick up a lonely planet & read it. Munich has more stuff to be seen than we could manage in two days, but expect a lot of churches & palaces each one rendered in a particular style of Architecture. Baroque & Rococo appear many times in their classical as well as south German varieties. Munich should draw plentiful Architecture tourists. That apart, you should explore the narrow cobbled streets of the Altstadt & be sure to pay a visit to one of the many Beer gardens in Munich. We went to the Hofbrauhaus & guzzled down beer by the liter. Yes, by the liter. If you're a wimp, you can buy half-liter sizes for certain brews [radler, for example, which is lager beer & lemonade that comes in 0.51 liter size], but not all. Visit the Olympic museum & the BMW museum which are close to each other. Walk the Viktualienmarkt & ogle at the varied selection of cheese & meat. Go to Dachau & see what a concentration camp was like & marvel at the ruthlessness of supremely planned tyrannies, reflect again on what one man can do to another, & how trivial, perhaps, your own problems really are. The list of museums too is endless.

What to eat:
Pigs, simply. They come camouflaged as sausages usually served with sauerkraut [which is really pickled cabbage] & some kind of dressing - say, mustard. But you have no clue as to how many finger-licking different ways this rather simple arrangement is served in until you actually get there. Look up wikipedia for more details, I was too busy eating to notice the rather longish names of these dishes. But make sure you eat the Munich variety - the white sausage. And look like a local by drowning it all with a wheat beer. Roasted Pork knuckles is a Bavarian local pig-thing to eat. Its rather meaty & not quite as bony or cartilegy as it sounds. The restaurant we frequented did not even have chicken on its list, but if you're a Vegetarian, you should find plentiful things to eat at other places - none of which I actually went to. Turkish food is also big in Munich with Doner Kebabs available just about everywhere. We also wanted to try out the Baklava, but the turks had already eaten it all. There are plentiful Chinese places & we also spotted an Indian one which we walked past, rather rapidly. At the Hauptbahnhoff & throughout Germany there are many cafes to snack. I took a liking to the cappuccino & usually devoured a nice little croissant for breakfast. Antara chose apples, strangely.


With our hotel & rail passes already paid for, our daily expenses were not too terrible, especially with my increasing liking of something porcine on a platter. In a full-fledged sit-down restaurant, an entre will cost you at least 9 Euros - & the portions are good for one. A typical breakfast for two typically cost us about 10-12 Euros & a liter of beer about 4 to 6 Euros depending on what you're drinking. Both the Doner Kebabs & Chinese restaurants are cheaper than this & if you're fine with eating out of hot-dog stalls - thats even better. The bulk of the expenses for us, outside gluttony, were museum tickets. On the average, we spent about 70 - 90 Euros a day, not including hotel & the rail pass. We mostly transacted with cash, though we had no difficulty using the American Express.

Like I said, I have so much more unseen in Munich & yet it was one of my best vacations ever. Just about everybody speaks English & the information centers are incredibly helpful. Travel & site-seeing is so organized that it is almost impossible to get lost. The food, as you may have figured, is drool-worthy & the sights are jaw-dropping. There is plenty of history & there are the BMWs. It rained a bit during our stay, & that was probably the only dampener during our stay there. Go to Bavaria, if you get a chance, & bring back remembrances of a lifetime!