Europe – The Journey Begins!

Europe – my first backpacking overseas trip with friends!

Even though I have travelled abroad earlier, both for work and with family for vacation, the Europe trip will always be close to my heart. Because despite not being my first overseas trip, in many ways it still was.

We were a group of four girls, travelling to Schengen Europe.  It was a month-long backpacking trip through September 2017, but the planning had begun more than 6 months ago, and that’s how we managed to keep the budget in control. We were travelling to 15 cities in 12 European countries.

europe itinerary
Europe Itinerary

The air tickets were booked in February with Aeroflot airlines and all other accommodations booked by March through www.booking.com and that’s how we managed to stay in the budget as the prices had not surged by then. We booked intra-Europe flights too. Rest of the places, we planned to travel by buses and trains as per convenience and availability. After all some adventure and excitement is always good.  

a mixed group headed to Europe
europe journy begins
Europe, here we come!

1.      Raji – planner and brain behind entire trip. She is a foodie who can eat anything under the sun and prefers to wash it down with White Wine. Red wine is her second choice and beer barely makes to the third position. She loves nature but prefers water. Oh, and she loves her selfies.

2.      Prabhjot – She was the third person to join in. A chirpy girl who can talk non-stop and keep everyone entertained. She is a teetotaller and a very selective vegetarian who is very particular about what she eats. And walking pose is her favourite pose for photos.

3.      Kalyani – she was the last one to join in. she is a foodie who recently turned vegan. She loves nature and history. She was the most excited among all four of us to see everything, trek up every hill, climb up every step, see every castle, every museum. Just the name was enough… rest assured Kalyani will find it and check it out thoroughly. And click a selfie too

4.      And myself – Nidhi. The laziest traveller who can’t take too much beauty, nature, serenity and peace. I need my regular dose of chaos, city-life, malls, people and all things contemporary. As far as my eating is concerned – I can drink anything and eat anything – eggetarian and vegetarian – under the sun, but no meat and no fish, as we had to specify in Europe.

Time to take the journey forward.

The month of August went in a lot of discussions – what to pack, how much to pack, what bags to carry, what food to carry, weather at different places, how would vegetarians survive, maximum weight allowed across various flights. We had to prepare for various situations and weather types as per different places in Europe

 Time flew… not really but before we knew it was 1st September. All excited, we all met at the airport. Apart from Raji, it was our first overseas backpacking experience. We reached the airport three hours in advance. After clicking selfies, we went straight to the check-in counter. The biggest task always is security check as you have to take out all the gadgets and put them back. This time I had to also remove my leather boots… another first for me. Next time… only slippers or canvas shoes.

Once we were done with all security checks and passport stamping, there was still lot of time for the boarding to begin as the flight was delayed by 40 minutes. After social media updates and all necessary phone calls, we thought of killing time by eating. All of us vegetarians were carrying some food or other, so we took it all out and bought coffee and soft drinks. We had a midnight meal of methi parathas, chutney and other homemade snacks.

I usually carry one meal whenever travel so that you don’t die of hunger looking for a restaurant at a new place. Also there are times, when you reach your destination at odd hours and nothing is available.

europe journey begins
Waiting for the Flight – Killing Time by Sleeping

Check-ins done, social media updates done, phone calls done, midnight party done, still no news of flight and boarding.

Time to take off… finally

By the time announcements for boarding started, we had lost track of time and were too sleepy. It was a full flight and congested being a budget airline. Thankfully our 4 seats were of the middle row which gave us flexibility of moving from either side. Some watched TV and some tried to get sleep. The flight finally took off at 2 am and piping hot dinner was served at 3.30 am, while we were half asleep. So, we ate whatever was given to us – lentil, rice, bun, dessert, coffee, ice cream.  I had got a special veg meal as I had booked in advance. Prabhjot decided to keep the Butter for later use (well… methi paranthas taste really good with butter).

STOPOVER AT MOSCOW

We had a 4-hour stopover in Moscow at Sheremetyevo Airport which was reduced to 3.5 hours as the flight reached their close to 6 instead of scheduled arrival of 5.15 am. Moscow is 2.5 hours behind India.

europe stopover Sheremetyevo Airport
The huge Sheremetyevo Airport

The airport was quite crowded and there  were long queues everywhere – starting from de-boarding the flight to passport control to WC to cafes. Even the internet connection took very long to get connected. One of the reasons for queues were the signages – in Russian at most places. Another reason was the acceptance of either Russian Rouble or credit cards at cafes and shops. Not many passengers had Rouble and swiping credit card takes time. Also, I think the boots added to the fatigue in my case – early in the morning in half sleep, they are not the best footwear for the huge Sheremetyevo Airport.

time now for the madness quotient

My first experience happened in the restroom where I couldn’t operate the soap dispenser. Soon another woman came to my rescue. I observed her and then used the dispenser. There was a huge queue for the use of WC and it was getting longer by the minute. Seems like many flights had landed together and everyone wanted to use the loo.

We bought coffee muffins and tiramisu. Tiramisu is Raji’s weakness and it’s a rarity to pass a place without eating it. By the time we finished coffee and paranthas we were full so kept the desserts for flight. That turned out to be a bad idea – as the tiramisu melted and didn’t taste as good. It was too sweet and alcohol content was missing.

europe journey begins
The all-melted and too-sweet Tiramisu
Moscow to Tallinn

Our flight from Moscow took off on time at 9.05 am and landed in Tallinn at 10.45am without any time lag. It was a spacious and a neat and clean flight. Interestingly, there were no other Indians on the flight apart from the four of us. The breakfast was served in the flight with the assumption that everyone eats non-veg as we were served Ham sandwiches and yogurt. We kept the yogurt for lunch and ham sandwich for the only non-vegetarian travelling with us – Raji. Eating coffee and paranthas was a good decision.

europe journey begins
Spacious and cleaner Flight from Sheremetyevo Airport to Tallinn

It was a short flight and by the time we finished with eating and some chitchat, we had already reached Tallinn, our first stopover. Even though we reached on time, it took us pretty long to de-board as it took forever to connect the air bridge.

And just when we thought that the wait over and the trip is about begin, we were in for bigger shock… more in the next blog describing Tallinn.

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