Delhi again

A small office trip arrives and I’ll be visiting Delhi, Coimbatore and Chennai. It’s my first trip to deep southern India. It’s quite short and I am already packed with the tasks which I need to do, still I’d spend some time meeting family and friends.

Schengen Agreement – Where the hell is free movement?

UPDATE: This post may contain some information which is no longer valid. According to latest updates, Schengen states are no longer issue D+C Visas and D Visa is now treated as D+C Visa. In short person entitled with D Visa can now visit schenegen states for first 3 months from date of issue.

Recently, I stuck with my renewal of residence permit in Poland and all I got was “D” Polish national visa. Which allows me to stay only on territory of Poland, but wait I have a trip to India, I bought ticket and everything has already planned. Immigration officer told me that Its multiple entry visa which allows to leave Poland and re-enter without any problem, in case of argument just show old residence card.

So far so good, my Lufthansa flight from Gdansk-Munich-Delhi-Munich-Gdansk has connection in Munich. Many European countries uses bad practice while issuing visa. In case of national legislation they issue “D” national visa which is limited to schengen state which issued that visa, and if it has picture and visa code then it also allows you one visa free 5 day transit to reach schengen state who issued that visa from other schengen state.

So, I was worried because it only allows “ONE” visa free transit when contacted German consulate in Delhi, they mentioned “Indian passport holding any visa issued by EU/EEA doesnt require Airport transit visa” so i was very happy that everything is in motion.

A week before departure, I just voluntarily contacted German embassy in Warsaw and their answer was like this “Sir, You need Schengen Short stay visa, if you are on national visa and you have connection from Munich”. I said what? I’ll be transiting via air just 1 hr layover in Munich and Officer nicely explained me why I need short stay visa instead of VTA/ATV or transit visa. Flights from one schengen state to another schengen state is considered as local flights, they dont have any immigration check points and more funny thing is “Schengen airports / gates are considered as schengen territory not transit territory”, well that’s ridiculous. In short it stay if you have got “D” visa then you are stuck in that schengen state which issued that visa.

In real schengen agreement is not complete it lacks completeness. They cannot issue me transit visa because i’ll be entering again in Poland after one month via Munich and transit visa doesn’t have number of days. So, they said only solution is to give you Short stay tourist visa, well that’s even more ridiculous but it’d work in my case.

In 2002 EU Parliament approved a proposal to provide some solution to this kind of problem by issuing “D+C” visa. D+C visa provides all features of national visa plus it include 90 days stay in other schengen state from the date of first entry in schengen zone. Practically it doesn’t work, because national legislation takes lot of time in some countries it even exceeds 6 month and in other cases embassies even dont issue D+C visa either they dont know what the hell it is or they just dont want to issue them or they are lazy to follow schengen visa procedure and add information to SIS.

Recently, A new proposal has been made to EU Parliament regarding providing completence to free movement regarding non-EU citizens. Proposal says “Long term D visa would have same effect as residence permits, so a non-EU citizen would be entitled 90 days visa free entry in schengen states in half year without visa, just like residence permit” and “Consulates should propagate D visa information in SIS(schengen informaion system”. It makes sense, both proposal aims to provide free movement without compromising on security issues and incase if any state need to issue visa to someone on personal interest then they can use “VTL” limited territory schengen visa.

Around 3 years ago, a delegation of junior high school students from India got invitation from France to visit and learn french in France. This delegation booked flight via Delhi-Munich-Frankfurt-Paris instead of staright Delhi-France. They went to french embassy and they got “D” visa for35 days with a stamp that they cannot apply for residence permit on this visa. And like other people they have that misconception that they can travel to whole europe on that visa which said “France” instead “Schengen States”. They reached Munich and immigration officer  enquired that where you are heading they said france. But its from Frankfurt and how you gonna take Munich-Frankfurt flight he replied. School teacher was completely blank, German Immigration officer asked them to return back from next earliest flight to Delhi. But its completely unfair, we dont know whats going on behind curtains, we are just going for an educational trip, yellow-pale school teacher replied. German immigration officer couldn’t understand why french embassy issued a D visa for short stay and agreed to talk to higher officer. After a long talk they have been issued a transit visa so that they can take this flight from Frankfurt, its really rare if doesnt happens oftenly, but thanks to Germany authorities who understand that Indian doesn’t have pocket full of euros they earns hardly 200 euro a month in home country. After arrival in France, instead correcting visa french authorities acted like a stubborn child and said “Indian embassy in France is doing similar things, they are not issuing work permits and visa as fast as they should” huh! its really childish. French doen’t understand that India has huge population and selling county again is not in our agenda. We don’t want hypermarkets like Carrfour in India taking all money to France, its  like socialism in past when English people dominated India for around 250 years. So, India is very careful regarding foreign investments etc.

So back to the story, I need schegen visa for just 1 hour layover in Munich. I went to Germany consulate in Warsaw, a nice lady gave me all requirement list, I needed a schengen health insurance, bank balance, 60 euro fee etc all requirements which are necessary for schengen visa. Next day I went with all those papers and met with two Chinese workers in Poland who had similar situation but the only difference was my flight is after one week and their was scheduled at 10:35 same morning. Good news they got visa on 9:10 but I am still skeptic about if they could catch that flight since airport is very far. At 9:40 I got my transit so called “tourist visum”. It was really quick. I must say German are really processing visa application faster and better. I called that visa “A visa to your own home”.

Beautiful Triangle – Budapest – Kosice – Smizany – Poprad

In summer, We were planning to go home, but due to some hitches I scrapped it. We had to travel somewhere so I decided to visit Hungary and Slovakia. We made a quick plan and left Berlin with my fiance. As expected it was comfortable air route to Budapest from Berlin.

We landed in Budapest; It was too hot to tolerate in September you wouldn’t expect hot summer pondering into your body. Another thing was language difference, though I found people in Budapest have decent knowledge of English. So, we left airport on Bus to nearest metro station and  single journey ticket cost 270 Forint. After that we decided to buy all day ticket(its quite hard to buy it on airport itself, we tried but couldn’t). It cost us 1500 Forint. We already had reservation in an apartment house, “Astoria Apartment home” and we were on a way to find it. We arrived at Astoria Metro Station and start searching “Building 8”; It was quite hard to find, because they have a bit odd old fashion numbering, which means all even buildings are on right and odd are on left. After some calls we finally reached there.

Marton, the owner/manager of “Astoria Home” Young 24 year old chap, gave a brief into of the city and what we could see in one day. We left home to some food; unfortunately we ended up with a restaurant in “Vaci Ut” which is one of the most expensive street in Hungary. We had royal 6000 Forint Dinner which doesn’t worth that money and even included 600 forint as tip and snobby staff. After an expensive dinner we go budget for next few hours, we went to Keleti and bought our tickets to Kosice(SK) which cost us around 5000 Forint with reservation for 3.5 Hrs train journey. We came back home, bought some cheese, bread and Goose spread for rest of the night and visited Elizabeth Bridge and near by. It was quite tiring day and tomorrow we were planning to go to Smizany in between Kosice and Poprad. We slept early for journey ahead.

It was beautiful hot morning, we left early to Keleti. Train was on time and waiting on platform. We get into it and next 3 hrs I was looking outside train, muzzling why they have steel like water storage tank and looking beautiful chuch and terrain. We arrived Koscie on time and next train to Spisska Nova Ves was in another 5 mins, we rushed to ticket counter and bought ticket very quickly and then sit in some train which we weren’t sure that going to Spisska Nova Ves. My Fiance speaks Polish so she was familer with Slovkian, its quite similar. In train, there was one man and one young couple, while they were looking at us, we’re wondering weather we were in night train or not. We’re sitting in A/C box, which I thought that’s a mistake in 270 SKK. We reached Spisska Nova Ves, it looks like a calm city nothing much on roads a bit like country side, old railway station, nice bus stand, very helpful people. Next bus was in another 1 hour so we decided to take taxi in 100 SKK. It was “Maria Pension House” where we were supposed to stay. Owner of that Pension house is a lady “Maria” with his husband “Peter” and their daughter “Julie”, nice family. We had long talk regarding Trip which also include “what the hell i am doing in slovakia” and “why i am studying in Poland” and some personal questions that “where we gonna live after wedding etc”. I was the first Indian which probably stayed there, closest was one from Sri Lanka stayed there in 1995. Our room was prepared and I just couldn’t wait for a quick nap on fluffy bed, though I was quite hungry. Ania suggested me to go and eat something, in hunt on some Slovakia food, we ended up with a nice Slovakia Restaurant, where either boys or old men where digging beer and vodka. Lately some ladies and families joined it. We ordered “Pierogi” which is also an Polish traditional dish, as we couldn’t figure out what to eat and we were too hungry to think. It was end of day two, we walked around, looked at some apple tree in sun and then returned to base.

(To be continued …)

Land Transportation in Germany

Land transportation in Germany is well organized and extremely disciplined. Speaking in terms of facilities, I don’t really see anything else which needs to be added into then system. Trains are on time, trams and

S-bahn in Berlin

S-bahn and U-bahn serves mass of people in cities. Intercity and Regional trains are well organized. That’s how capitalism was imagined to benefit and “consumer king”. True fully I didn’t travel much on trains in Germany but I travelled enough to comment on how it looks from outside.

Last year when I first visited Berlin, I was shocked a bit when I first bought VBB normal ticket which cost me 2.10 EUR and surprises even getting bigger day by day. Berlin transportation system is sophisticated and it’s good to see common fare for all transportation services in Berlin. Later I accepted if you wants good service then you have to pay more.

I met with many locals there including some of my quite old friends and they always curse how capitalism is being used by Deutsche Bahn. But I always ignored those comments. Being from India, transportation in Berlin is allmost a dream world for me and after few days I left Berlin and moved to India.

While I was in India, I noticed how difficult is to provide transportation in India. Massive number of people and less number of road and rail-lines, further exploration into railways website in India reviels how they are making money with subsidised system. In fact I was all most shocked when i saw a 300 km 2-nd class rail ticket in India cost same as normal fare VBB in Berlin.

Recently, I just returned from Berlin and this time I had to travel by train. The story continued, I paid 25 EUR for 120 Km DB Regional train travel. With no discount for student and senior citizen, high fare, posing an evil image of capitalism DB seems to have some seasonal discount, happy weekend ticket and some promotional fares on some short distant routes, which led a normal middle class family in Germany to travel by train. People have their own ways to express anger, they usually are on cycle. Buys used ticket instead of machine-o-mart and so on …

In my opinion instead of directly linking “high profits” to “fare hike”. Transportation system have to learn how to get “high profits” without being evil. If Indian Rail minister “Lalu Prasad Yadav” who just studied few years in high school without any college degree can turn Indian railways into profit, then why can’t well educated Germans do the same in Germany.

Satya Sai Baba and Germany

During my first visit to Germany, I went to explore Southern Berlin (Grünewald). As I left S-bahn I saw an old railstation, which was quite indifferent with Berlin Hbf. or any other railstation in Mitte. I just follow the way and reached to bus stop, actually first I was suppose to go to Polish embassy, because in this time Poland wasnt in Schengen so I need some enquiry for visa. On this bus stand I saw a mid 60s old man sitting, strugling with his health probably

Satya Sai Baba

saying “Are you from India?”. I replied confidently “Yes! I’m sir”. Then he added “You doesn’t look like Indian but red string in your arm said so”. After short conversation I asked about Buses and they were in every 15 mins. Next 15 mins revieled some strange information about India and religions in India.

“I was in India at Satya Sai Baba and he gave me this ring” he said. By the way ring had orignal ruby gem and he confirmed that he didn’t buy it, Swami gave him. He expressed his willness in visiting India agian to meet Swami but also said he is out of money and his health is degrading everyday to travel. But, I could see he is going to make to India at least once in next few years of his life.

I was quite surprised because I saw BBC documentary Secret Swami and one on from Vir Sanghvi and its counter part can be found here by Satya sai org and had no faith in any religious ecstasy by Satya Sai Org.

There is a nice famous interview Ullrich Zimmermann’s series about his sexual encounters (blip:video) It seems he is in lots of controversies and World is subdivded into devotees and antagonist. From Vir Sanghvi to Ullrich Ziemmemann, for me its just superstition.

Potsdam passionately romantic

Potsdam is located in the south-west of Berlin, Germany. There is a 5 min connection from S-Bahn line to Potsdam. S-7 is most frequent on this Route and all you need is a A+B+C ticket which cost 2.90 Euro one side or better buy all day A+B+C ticket which cost around 6.0 Euro and you can travel anywhere in ABC zones all day. Even you can ride on buses in Potsdam with all day ticket.

I heard alot about Postdam from Simon and Evi, and one day James added more about Potsdam. However they also mentioned in winter its not as beautiful as summer, but ISanssouci Park was there for winters and couldnt miss this opportunity. I bought all day VBB ABC zone ticket which cost me 6 Euros and headed to Alexendraplatz and from there I took S-7 to Potsdam Hbf. which took around 25 mins to reach Potsdam Hbf. I was searching for Bus to Sanssouci park and after wasting lot of time on bus station I found mostly every bus goes near Sanssouci Park. It was a cloudy day and I wasnt expecting much but as i stepped there comely greenery took my breath away. But it didnt hold for long as there was some G-8 thing and helicopter noise ruined the peace over there. Secondly, all artwork was covered as they were protecting them from German winters. Lastly maintance work was a lot at that time. probably I made there in wrong time. But nevetheless I enjoyed and found it passionately romantic place. Visiting a castle is not quite easy, you need an advance reservation for visiting castle, thats why I missed castle.

Potsdam city itself a well oriented and a bit expensive than Berlin, but here you feel quite different, life has slow pace and lots of place to shop on streets which gives it a romantic feel. There is nothing much you can do if you are alone here, but a family, girlfriend and friends could really make it more fun. Potsdam also have lots of places to see like Einstein Tower, Bradenburg gate, University complex. Some people thinks they need 3 hrs for potsdam but according to me you need at least 2 days to have a deep look at Potsdam. In the end I had a coffee at authentic cafe and I moved back to Berlin. While I was in Berlin I made 3 trips to Potsdam and hopefully I’ll make more visit there.

Kustrin Kietz – German countryside

German countryside has always astonished me. The beautiful grassland, wavy highway and comfortable train ride already impressed me a lot. But I was searching for more real lifestyle and I headed to Eastern border with Poland to complete my picture of Eastern Europe. I got a cheap all day ticket and Licthenburg was my station for NEB Kostryn-Berlin Train. Unlike Berlin Hptb. Licthenburg is still quite old but trains are always one time. Train passed lots of beautiful villages but eventually I had to get off at Kustrin Kietz.

It was Easter morning and I could hardly see anyone on roads, but some families were traveling to meet there families. I saw lots of people staring at me, probably amazed to see a tourist in their town. My German is almost nowhere near to my English, but still one old man was quite interesting in talking with me. He came closer and said something in German, which I interpreted at “If you are going to main city, i can drop you there” but he said “I am going to cut some trees, would you like to join us.” When he gave me an axe then I realized he asked me to help him. It was fun, I cut some wooden blocks and loaded in his car. We drove back pretty fast and then I left him to explore the town, I walked around 4 Kms to see the town. I could hardly see any shop or people on road but in the end it turned out to be a one of the memorable trip. When i reached to Polish Border then I realized its time to go home now.

I am home!

I am again back to home, this time I traveled EU for an internship .. I spent my most of the time in Berlin and east Germany and now a bit nostalgic about my trip, nevertheless feeling good to be home after a long phase. I guess now i am off a bit from traveling for 1 month due to university examination, but I promise to keep posting short stories from my last trip.

Indian Kitchen is smelling!

Last week, I was travelling along Berlin Tiergarten, which consists of Germany’s largestZoological garten zoo in zooloigcal garten and Aquarium. Tiergarten looks similar to Connaught place in New Delhi. I was there to extend my air tickets to my airlines office.

This week wIndian Kitchenas pretty stressful at work but beside that, I ate Indian food allmost everyday in this week. Andy my neighbour have been to India couple of times and he is very keen to cook Indian spicey food. I oftenly enjoyed Dal and Rice at his home, but today i was my turn to cook something and I made Rajma (Kidney Beans) and Rice. [Photo Album]