An Indians Guide to Scandanavia : Stockholm and Copenhagen


An Indians Guide to Scandanavia : Stockholm and Copenhagen

Guide to Scandanavia : Stockholm and Copenhagen

The first thing that hits you is the cost

The second thing that hits you is the sea

The third thing that hits you is that everybody speaks English

The fourth thing that hits you is the quality of the offering you get, whether it is a good or a service

The fifth and most enduring thing that you take back with you, is that you are probably amongst the most friendliest people in the world

In this age of the politically correct I guess you are forced to call every nation friendly. (Even the French). But before we get seriously polemical, lets step back.

We did 9 days in all. Flying through Vienna, we landed in Copenhagen before 9am, the entire day at your disposal. How cool was that! Incidentally Central Europe ( Switzerland, Austria, Germany) offers you the best connectivity to Europe.



Tivoli Gardens Copenhagen

Copenhagen is a super cute maritime city, but it sort of stops at that. The highlights are the Nyhavn harbour / canal and the Tivoli Gardens. The walk along the canal, sailboats in the foreground and baroque buildings in the background, is one most pleasant in Europe. A good mix of young buzzy locals and tourists adds to the atmosphere. Tivoli gardens are the original Disneyland. Walt Disney is said to have drawn inspiration from it when setting up the bigger and much more commercial counterpart in Florida. Tivoli Garden is an amusement park from the fairy tales one used to read as child. From the Viking themed merry go rounds to bumper cars to Michelin starred restaurants to open air concerts to really scary adult rides to candy floss and cute shooting games, you relive the story books you used to read as a kid. If you have a 7 year old, he will think that he has gone to heaven. A first rate experience, Tivoli gardens is a must do.  But as a city Copenhagen is a bit limited. A poorer cousin of Stockholm.A day is enough in Copenhagen and next morning we flew to Stockholm.




Flights in Scandanavia are convenient. They are not very expensive, Airport transfers are efficient and there are multiple flight options. Alternatives like the ferry and train don’t make it past the cost benefit analysis.
However if you want to save the cost of one night stay, you can look at the overnight Copenhagen to Stockholm ferry.

Stockholm is Bloomquist country. An intriguing place, it ticks all the boxes of a proper European city. These include Regal architecture, the obligatory old town, a buzzy nightlife and good shopping. What differentiates it from its sister cities on the European mainland are the sea and some really innovative museums.

Made up of 14 islands, Stockholm is part of 22,000 island archipelago network. To see how deeply the sea penetrates the cities consider this fact. One of every 3 people in Stockholm owns a boat. In percentage terms that is more than car ownership in New York, London, Paris, Rome or Tokyo.
A cruise that touches the canals and islands in and around Stockholm is a must.

Apart from a world class art gallery Stockholm is also home to some of the most innovative museums in the world. The highlights are the 18th century Nordic ship salvaged from deep under, the Vasa and the open-air museum, Skansen. Skansen in particular is a visual delight. Consider this. Historical buildings and settlements have been physically lifted from various parts of Sweden and rebuilt in the park. Within the park, settlements from North Sweden are situated in the northern park of the park and vise versa. Combine this with Nordic animal and real life period actors, and you have an incredible smorsgard of Scandinavia and Sweden between the 12th and the 19th century. You will see flourmills, bakeries, farms, windmills, farms, town squares, manor houses, all with real life period actors enacting village life. (all of whom speak perfect English and are very friendly). There is also a zoo which houses Nordic animals. In fact one of the highlights of Scandinavia are these museums and parks.

From the Tivoli in Copenhagen to the Vasa and Maritime museum in Stockholm to the Kon Tike and Polar ship, Fram in Oslo, the museums demonstrate Scandinavia’s obsession for quality and its surprising capacity for innovation.

After Stockholm, we abandoned the cities. Would we find the Scandinavia of our dreams?

Read about Norway and Part 2 here!

The Best Tiger Reserve in India

Tiger in Ranthambore

The Best Tiger Reserve in India

The Complete Guide to the Best Tiger Reserve in India to see a Tiger

Tiger in Ranthambore
Tiger in Ranthambore

The best tiger sighting (or for the matter any animal sighting) you can ever get, is in a Zoo.

And unsurprisingly more “zoo-like”,  a National park is, the better animal sighting you will get. The animals get used to human beings, the cars, the pollution and consequently “allow’ you to watch them.\n\n\n\nThe wilder the park , the less used to human civilization the animals are, the more difficult it is to spot wildlife. For instance the Sunderbans (Its actually dangerous spotting a tiger there).

Technical stuff like tiger density don’t really matter as much. The area accessible to tourists are very limited, (7-10% of total park) and you ultimately end up watching the same animals ( in most parks, it’s between 5 to 15 animals).

If you have seen a tiger in Bandhavgarh and your cousin saw one 3 months back and your ex-wife saw one 6 months back, decent probability that all of you saw the same ‘wild’ animal. (Tigers here actually have names and people go back saying i say Sita, i saw Mohini. Sita btw is supposed to be the most photographed tiger in the world. )

The technical point which does matter is vegetation. The lusher the forests, the worse the sightings will be. (Parks in the South of India, Kaziranga). The sparser the vegetation, the better. ( the.. umm lions of Gir).
The final factor is whether the parks use elephants to track tigers down and present them to tourists (This is not the same as seeing wildlife from a elephant’s back). This is a controversial practice and has been stopped in many parks. But probability of sighting go up dramatically in parks where such “tiger shows “ are used. They of course take away from the wild experience.

Tiger Safari Ranthambore
Tiger Safari Ranthambore

But I want it wild and I want to spot a tiger!!!
Its tough but doable.
As a guide I present a very opinionated tiger poll to choose the “best tiger park”. From a base shortlist you will do best to choose parks where mass tourism is 7-10 years old, where vegetation is not super dense. Do give yourself at least 3 days. Also you should avoid the most popular sections of the known parks and not experiment with the areas which have been recently opened up.

Tiger poll
1st Column ( 0 to 15) – Likelihood of seeing a tiger ( 15 is certain you will see, 1 is almost certainly you will not see, 0 of course there being NO tigers)
2nd Column ( 0 to 10)– Likelihood of the experience being a ‘wild’ experience
3rd Column (0 to 10) – The Forest Experience. Or how pretty is my forest

As you ca see we place 50% more weight to us seeing a tiger vs the two other factors

Out of 10 Seeing a tiger ‘Wild’ experience The Forest Experience Total
Kanha (1) 12 6 8 26
Bandhavagarh (2) 15 3 7 25
Ranthambore (3) 10.5 6 7 23.5
Pench (4) 10.5 6 6 22.5
Corbett (5) 6 7 9 22
Tadoba (5) 9 7 6 22
Nagerohole (7) 4.5 8 7 19.5
Periyar (8) 1.5 8 8 17.5
Kaziranga (9) 1.5 8 7 16.5
Sunderbans (10) 1.5 9 5 15.5

How safe is Russia – 6 Myths about travelling to Russia

Moscow Russia

How safe is Russia – 6 myths about Traveling to Russia

I hate it when people bad-mouth a place. So i decided to check it out myself!


Moscow Russia

It’s Unsafe:

I found Moscow and St Petersburg to be safer than many European cities,( Think Barcelona / Milan).  Russian cities close very late and its safe to walk on the streets, even late in the night.I walked at 2 am from the Red Square, along Tverovsky Street to my hotel.  Lots of single women and couples on the street and you feel perfectly comfortable.
Russian Mafia is a bit like the Mumbai mafia. Unless you have pots of money, you really don’t need to worry.

St Petersburg
St Petersburg

Nobody understand English:

Since the fall of communism, English is taught as a second language in Russian schools. Thus most young Russians know English. The Quality of interaction might vary, but in the big cities you can make do without Russian.

People are unfriendly:

Surprisingly I have heard versions of this sentiment from even the locals.  ( “We take time to open up”). In my experience I have found Russians to be as warm as most foreigners I have interacted with.  Incidents like people stopping on the street to help you were the norm rather than the exception.

Its Expensive:

Yes. Hotels are super expensive in Moscow. But apart from Moscow accommodation, prices are on par with a cheap European city like Berlin. Accommodation in St Petersburg is reasonable.

Nothing much to see:

Lots to see. If you rank the tourist stuff, Russian cities get a 7 out of 10. (Paris being a 10, Mumbai being a 3). Similar marks to what a Munich or a Stockholm would get. The cultural experiences are of course priceless. Our overnight Train compartment from St Petersburg to Moscow, had 2 officers from the Red Army, One of our guide was a physicist who was arrested by Putin for advocating democracy. Another guide had been a school teacher under communism. Post perestroika he lost his job, and now sings paeans of the communist leaders.

Russian Fisherman
Russian Fisherman

Food is boring:

The biggest surprise for us was the how tasty and varied Russian food was. We had gone dreading that we would experience food which was very bland and totally meat based. A worse cousin of Central European cuisine. We were however pleasantly surprised. Russian food has lots of regional influences and apart from the core Russian food, food from the provinces (Georgian, Azerbaijan and Uzbek ) are very interesting. They have a lot of Middle Eastern influences and are very easy on the Indian palate