We have always heard that planning for a trip is usually more exciting that the trip itself. But what happens when two of the most impulsive people on the face of the earth need to ‘plan’ a trip to Europe. Thrown with so many options for locations, and so little time, planning on the destinations for the 2 week long trip became a living nightmare for yours truly – more importantly because I was caught between my own weekly work travels leaving little mindspace to research and think through our vacation options. Anyhow, since in our case, the ‘planning’ isn’t really the part we are especially proud of in the context of this trip, let me not even write about it and embarrass myself anymore. Let’s just say we just about ‘managed’.
Our first stop was Germany. We wanted to catch up with family and begin the trip on a warm note. And a warm note it was, both figuratively and literally. We had packed for a supposed severe German winter, which incidentally it was, the week before we landed there. We flew via Turkey and had a 5-hour halt at Istanbul airport which was sufficiently warm. As we walked around the airport shops – sometimes in circles because we have the talent to get lost even in a small airport – we felt even warmer and therefore continued to stroll around in summer wear.
To kill time which we had in abundance at that point, we shopped around in the souvenir shops – the Old Bazar is exceptionally well-stocked with a wide variety of collectibles including artefacts, Turkish coffee, spices, etc. True to our gut, we thought of sampling some Turkish food from one of the food court shops that seemed to be serving very popular local cuisine. We ordered in sign language to get ‘one’ of a number of items displayed –to our dismay they brought us ‘one plate’ of everything that was ordered – which included dolmades (meat and rice stuffed in vine leaf rolls), crumb-fried cheese sticks, a sub-sandwich with loads of meat and cheese, a salad (very similar to Greek salad with olives, feta, peppers etc) and Turkish coffee. They use this fresh mildly flavored cheese almost similar to our paneer/cottage cheese, in majority of their dishes, giving everything a lift. It felt a little similar to the Jewish cheese we get inside the Cheese Samosas of Nahoum’s back home in Kolkata – but then why not, we were not far from where it must have all started. The dolmades however may just be the last I will have in some time – they were extremely sour as the vine leaves are pickled; am pretty sure they have it in small bites between meals, but to finish off an entire plate of palate cleanser is something else.
I do love the fact that their sandwiches are so meaty and there is no skimping on cheese. They like to keep everything wholesome, something our mothers and grannies would do. While there was only so much we could humanly stuff in our faces, my eyes were feasting with delight at the wide variety of bagels and challahs and other local delicacies we crossed across delis.
There was a solitary shop selling Turkish ice-cream, and since I had seen so much on TV about how painstakingly they pound it to ensure no ice-crystals etc, I simply had to try it, despite the 8 euro price tag for a dollop, because sometimes you cannot put a price on experience and this was one I really savored. The pistachio ice-cream was dense, flavourful, and almost chewy, and full of nuts, worth every cent spent on it.
The food on our flight wasn’t bad either – there was a puff pastry stuffed with the fresh soft cheese I was mentioning earlier, some spinach and other items, with more cheese and fruits on the side. On the second leg of the journey, they served minced beef in eggplant with rice, unapologetically, to ‘everyone on the flight’. I was pleasantly amused at the fact that there were no vegan voices on the flight. Also, the dish tasted real good, and I plan to try making it at home as well.
Soon the pilot announced our descent into Dusseldorf, and I remembered uncle’s warning about Germany being ‘very cold’ so I rushed to the in-plane washroom struggling to balance against the door while I squeeze into my fleece lined stockings under my jeans, preparing to outsmart the weather. Little did I know who would have the last laugh. We landed in 27 degree Celsius, looking like foolish overdressed turtles, elated to see family finally, and huffing and puffing out of our jackets as we reached the sunny parking lot.
to be continued..