Friday, September 10, 2004

GERMANY Day01//07.May.04 - Drupa & Dallying About: Dusseldorf

After our itinerary driven tour in Spain, the freedom of not having to adhere to a schedule felt quite liberating. The only reason why we were in Germany was because Dad had to attend drupa, the mother-of-all printing fairs in Dusseldorf. Excerpt from drupa's official website:

"drupa is to the printing and paper industries what the Olympic Games are to athletes. Every four years, hundreds of thousands of experts come to Düsseldorf for drupa. It's an unmissable opportunity for seeing all the latest technologies in mediaproduction and processing live in action. No other trade fair has such a vast, fundamental economic and technological impact as drupa. drupa is a constant reflection of the printing and paper sectors."

The printing and publishing fraternity from around the world had gathered in full force and descended upon Dusseldorf. Because of that, hotels in Dusseldorf were fully booked and we had to stay in Cologne. Even Cologne was not spared from the effects of drupa. drupa related brochures could be found in our bedrooms, and on our pillows, complimentary sweets packaged to advertise drupa. In the morning, we had breakfast on drupa place-mats, coasters, and napkins. After breakfast, we took the train to Dusseldorf and left my dad at the humongous exhibition halls and headed downtown.

Unlike other historic German towns like Heidelberg, there was nothing much to be seen at Dusseldorf. The town center looked like any typical modern city. The only activity left was to shop. But alas, due to the persistent rain, mom and I were basically stuck to the few shopping complexes that were adjacent to one another. Throughout the afternoon, we wandered through shops, never to find anything worth our Euros. The only thing I found fascinating, but could not buy was a shoeshiner's console. When evening came, we took the train back to Cologne, sans shopping bags, but at least having experience what a grey, rainy Dusseldorf is like.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

SPAIN Day08//06.May.04 - Spanish Sendoff: Spain-Germany

I couldn't believe how speedily time flies. It was already our last day in Spain and we had a flight to catch in the afternoon. Given the timing of the flight, the tour company did not line up any activities for our last morning in Spain. However, I had earlier studied the location of the hotel we were staying in Barcelona, and was delighted to discover that we were staying near Parc Guell. This presented an opportunity for me to further acquaint my parents with another colourful Gaudi creation during that free time.

Map in hand, I guided my parents to the park and we finally made it after about 20 minutes of threading uphill. The ascent didn't stop upon reaching the park. We meandered up to Parc Guell's apex, which is landmarked by a cross, known as Turo de les Menes o de les Tres Creus. From that point, it was quite a sight to behold. The sun was rising and bathed the city below on this clear day. Mom and dad's laboured breathing gave way to silent observation as we surveyed the landscape from above.

The curve of the trail downhill led us to the curves of Parc Guell's infamous mosaic-ed park benches. Colourful, child-like, whimsical. To me these words best epitomise the serpertine benches, and probably the park itself. Parc Guell is unique in every sense. It does not fit the convention of parks lush with vegetation, green from irrigation and dotted with fountains. Not that Parc Guell isn't all that. It's that, and more. Mushroom inspired roofs, leaning colonnade, fairytale houses and a fanciful yet functional (collects irrigated water from the park) lizard.

After a quick photoshoot with the lizard, we bid the products of Gaudi's imagination farewell and headed back to the hotel. Our group was herded to the bus, which were to take us to the airport. On the way, we were dropped off at Barcelona's Palau Reial (Royal Palace), which besides having a garden, also houses the Museum of Ceramics & Decorative Arts. After this unplanned pit-stop, we were finally taken to the airport. At the airport, the realisation that my Spanish trip was over triggered a feeling of nostalgia. Observing how the men in the group were scrambling to take pictures with Jose and our tour bus, I was pretty sure that the rest of the group shared that same sentiment.

The rest of the day consisted of the plane ride from Barcelona to Frankfurt, and subsequently, the train ride from Frankfurt to Cologne. By the time we arrived at our final destination it was close to dinner time. The combination of travelling, Chinese comfort food, and cold rainy weather helped knocked me off my weary feet and straight into bed.