Treasure hunt for the most exquisite hidden havelis

Beauties and bounties in the bylanes of Bikaner…

“You won’t be able to find them on your own.” The hotel manager dismisses our valiant declaration of self-exploration with a mysterious smile. “I’ll arrange an auto rickshaw to guide you. The lanes are too narrow for a car.” Intrigue levels: brim high.

Our driver, Wali, nods knowingly, when I show him the google pictures in my phone. We climb into the well-padded back seat of our colourful three-wheel drive towards the oldest part of the city. At 11 am, its still a lazy morning in the marketplace. Steamy curls rising from chai cups, brooms swooshing across verandahs and biscuit-laden carts rumbling along to designated spots. The man stirring hot milk at Ramji Ghewar Wale sweet shop seems absent-minded…still not fully awake yet?  

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Revealing rare treasures in the house of God

Brace yourself for a spectacle at the Siena Duomo…

Digital familiarity is a far cry from the real thing. And no amount of images can prepare you enough for this fascinating walled city built on three hills in the heart of Tuscany. Siena is bound to spring like a charming surprise onto your unsuspecting traveling soul…and reserve its own tiny corner forever. This dawned upon us the moment our cab entered one of the city gates and started navigating a curvy, concentric, seemingly confusing route through a tight maze of solid stone-and-brick palazzos spread over 170 hectares.

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Do you know who was madly jealous of the Pope’s powerful palace?

A tale of rivalry and royalty at Avignon…

As you near the ramparts of the fortified old town, you will know why it’s considered the prettiest town of Provence. Entering one of the seven gates of the 4.3 km medieval ramparts punctuated by 39 towers, you are transported into a fairytale. Aptly deserving of its UNESCO world heritage site status, Avignon’s one-half mile wide and long historic centre has a unique soul…and it will connect with you…subtle, but sure.

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Do you know of the glorious Gloriette?

Pretend to be Austrian royalty…

If you’re smitten by lavish and ostentatious heritage of Vienna, you’re bound to fall in love with Schonbrunn Palace. The summer retreat of the Habsburg royals is a worthy candidate for travellers with a cultural bent of mind, as well those who lust after perfection in garden landscaping.

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A city risen from the ashes

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Resurrection and resplendence in Dresden…

Crossing the bridge across the Elbe River, you will be stunned by this Jewel of Baroque. Tall elegant spires and lavish domes dominating a gorgeous skyline of extravagant architecture all along the tranquil leafy banks of the river, and the unassuming arches of the Augustus Bridge, as if frozen in time while leapfrogging across! If the picture postcard perfection of this first view hasn’t quite moved you, try this. This ornamental town, called the Florence on the Elbe, was almost razed to the ground during WW II. But it survived. And rose to its former glory. Resurrected. Reborn. Rebuilt. And how!

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