Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Destination Europe V: The Scholarship Meet

This is a late blog update. I may not have been busier but probably I was lazier to write what has been happening in life and around in the environment. The last travel diary that I updated was Destination Europe IV where I shard some pictures from my visit to Spain and Portugal. The account shows that I have covered 11 cities then, the last being Lisbon. In this series I will update about the journeys that I undertook during the summer of 2017. 

12. Mugdeburg 
DAAD offers scholarship to over 5000 students from worldwide annually and they have this tradition of calling the scholars for an annual meet, which is exciting. This year DAAD has divided the scholars into five different categories and as such 5 different meets were organized. I being a student of natural science, our meet was scheduled from 7-9 July 2017, which unfortunately happened to be 3 days before our exams for the summer semester. However, I took the zeal to take part in the meet actively and the best option was to contest for students seminar, which was limited to only 10 slots. When abstracts were called, I submitted my share and waited impatiently but fortunately or unfortunately my abstract was selected, so giving me an opportunity to do a presentation to the fellow scholars. 

Fortunate because it was such a wonderful privilege to share my thoughts to fellow scholars from around the world, but unfortunate because as soon as we return from the meeting, we have to write our exams so it is stressful to prepare both for exams and for the presentation. On 7th July, we were picked by the a bus arranged by DAAD and reached Magdeburg where 100s of other fellows have congregated. The moment was fun, talking with people from various part of the world but my presence was special for myself. As the Secretary General called on about the presence of scholars from various regions and continents of the world, she asked "Is there anybody from Bhutan?" It was a moment of pride for me to raise my hand being the lone DAAD scholar from Bhutan during that meet, though there are few more friends in Germany studying through DAAD funding. 

On the 8th July, we had the sessions on talks by the students and I shared the platform with other speakers to talk on landscape connectivity and conservation in Bhutan being a landscape ecology student. Through my presentation, I got to share to the fellow scholars, about the conservation success stories of Bhutan championed by the farsighted Kings and guided by the principles of Gross National Happiness. It was a moment of pride to say how Bhutan is leading the world when it comes to conservation which is evident from various international recognition that were bestowed to Bhutan. 

In 2005, His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck and the people of Bhutan were awarded the 1st Champion of Earth Award by by UNEP and the following year, he was again conferred the prestigious J. Paul Getty Award for Conservation Leadership by WWF. As a young democratic nation, our political leaders take the inspirations from our kings and pursue conservation policy further. Today Bhutan is often regarded as a only carbon negative country in the world and dedicated to remain carbon neutral for all times to come. We aim to achieve a just socio-economic development, preserving the natural environment and conserving resources so Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay, the Prime Minister of Bhutan was conferred the German Sustainability award in 2016 sustainable approach to development.

It was also an opportunity for me to share the pressing challenges like losing habitat connectivity, which are indeed an opportunity for early career conservationists like me to tackle the issues. I shared my ideas and research needs to fill the gaps, which ultimately helped me develop my master thesis proposal on "Assessing structural connectivity of biological corridors for tiger movement between national parks in Bhutan." 






Aside, the meet also gave us an opportunity to explore the city of Magdeburg, which have a deep history of falling caused by internal rifts and world wars but each time rising again. In earlier times, it was a city with her own kings and emperors. Today, Magdeburg the capital city of Saxony-Anhaltis is the site of two universities, the Otto-von-Guericke University and the Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences. The city is modestly beautiful with a blend of classic architectural remains and modern infrastructural advances. 

If not of the pressure caused by the semester exams, the trip Magdeburg was indeed a fulfilling and cherishing one. 

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Hello From Cambridge

Not the University, but within..,

Winters are bitterly cold in Northern Europe with the sun setting as early as 3:00 PM. The University of Greifswald, owing to its close proximity to the Baltic sea hardly finds sunshine but is regularly exposed to chilly breeze coming from the shore. Yet we don't find snow as we would have anticipated; simply the bitter cold chills we would feel. Taking a break from Greifswald, I had this privilege to visit United Kingdom. Partly a leisurely trip but purposefully to be at Cambridge, not the University, but within its campus. 

I landed in London three days ago and looking to it, my timing seems perfect. Last two days, though it wasn't sunny and warm, rather it was too cold, but it was dry. I could freely roam around in the city of London, tracking GPS location of various attractions. Today however when I woke up and looked outside, I found a thin cover of snow and the flakes were still falling. "What a pleasant time to experience snow fall in London", I thought but didn't realize it would disrupt the public transport systems too bad. My coach was scheduled to depart at 12:30 but when I got to the station the silver screen shot messages saying "coaches considerably delayed or would even be cancelled at last minute". That was bad. The snow flakes kept falling without pause and waiting prolonged. 

After two hours of waiting, the speaker finally burst with the announcement saying that National Express bound for Cambridge will leave in 5 minutes. It was relieving and in the next two hour journey, all I saw was snow, the trees and grounds all covered in thick blanket of snow. Finally reaching Cambridge Centre, I saw the city covered in snow, so pure and clean as if enlightened by wisdom from Cambridge University. The city looks exquisite with traditional small buildings spreading vast.   

Basically I am at Durrell Academy to be specific. Not for a long duration, but simply for a week. Specifically, I would be attending a week long professional training on "Managing and Leading Conservation Projects" and I look forward an enriching week-long stay in Cambridge. This is a wonderful feeling even though I am not here to pursue knowledge from the renowned Cambridge University, the worlds leading university that produced many legends like Charles Darwin in natural history, and of course the living legends like Professor Stephen Hawking. 

Greetings from Cambridge. 




Sunday, 16 July 2017

Seeing wildlife through hidden eyes: A decade of wildlife camera trapping journey

"As we are nearing to the celebration of the big day, World Rangers Day 2017 on 31st July, I have the pleasure of sharing this personal narrative of my close friend, field companion, my guide to wilderness, a very sincere and dedicated Forester from JSWNP, with whom I set out to field for the first time setting up camera traps, and together we didn't look back. From the tropical plains of Manas in the south till the final ridges of Passamlum in the remote northern mountains, and of course not leaving a nook and cranny around our own Jowo Durshing, we explored the wilderness together in bliss. Mr. Dorji Duba is truely inspirational at least to me."

November in Manas is bliss. The scorching heat of the summer will subside and the mighty Manas River as it flow down swiftly, it would leave behind a chilly breeze making the environment calm and soothing. We at Manas Park Range campus would have a wonderful evening stroll through the woods and along the river banks, enjoying the beauty of nature that shroud us.  Manas despite its unbearable tropical weather in the summer, is a safe haven for all kinds of wildlife including Royal Bengal Tigers, Golden Langur, Great Hornbill, Wild Buffaloes, Guar, and several other prey and predator species. We the foresters are savior of it. One afternoon of November in 2006, we had special guests from Thimphu, a team from Nature Conservation Division (NCD) accompanying a conservation scientist Dr. Yogannan from India. I learnt that they were there to train us how to conduct camera trapping for wildlife survey, a technique I never heard before. The news was so exciting that out of curiosity, I couldn’t sleep the whole night that evening. Imaginations of how camera would automatically capture pictures in the forests and worries of how we keep the camera safe in the wild popped up in my mind. The next morning, no sooner did I finish the breakfast than I set off to excitedly wait for the camera trapping lessons, which were to be taught to us. Sighting of a small boxlike structure brought amusement in me. Then, I didn’t realize it would become my ultimate tool in wilderness.
Duba guiding one of our friends with the settings in camera
 The whole day we were taught the principles of how it work, how we should handle. For many years, I was a forester with hammer and gun as my sole weapon but I could see new tools coming. Global Positioning Systems (GPS) was not so common until I handled the camera traps, another important equipment for the foresters. During my countless journeys in the wild, I have encountered numerous animals and never saw a tiger or other cats. With the new tool, I could see myself photographing tiger and many other wild animals which I didn’t have a clue about their existence.  The next day early in the morning, we had practical session and that was the day I mount the camera trap in the forest on a suitably selected trail for the first time. It was just a beginning.
At Tsokar Tsho at 4300 masl, way to Pssamlum, Bhutan-China Border

My fate compelled me to join Bhutan Forestry Institute in Taba back in the spring of 1999, having strived hard to complete by 10th standard all on my own. It was fateful because despite having a will to study further, every single dream of mine was shattered when my parents divorced without any mercy to me and my younger brother. Then, my objective of joining BFI was to get a job as forest guard to sustain my living and help my brother because that was one gateway that required the least qualification. BFI made me a Forester but I didn’t dream I would become a camera trapper or camera trap specialists with the leading national conservationists and tiger biologists.

 Exactly a month later, Dr. Sonam Wangyal Wang from NCD visited us with a different set of cameras and taught us his way of setting up the camera traps. Besides my usual patrolling works, I embraced that new adventure of going into wilderness with camera traps. I am quite fortunate that such camera trapping exercises came one after another and always had a place for me. In 2008, I joined the camera trapping expedition of Dr. Tshering Tempa and I saw myself more advancing with the camera trapping techniques. However, camera traps have also evolved from simpler Cuddeback and higher resolution Reconyx cameras.  Days during the installation of camera traps are so challenging but when I see the results, I get more motivation to work harder.
Somewhere in the wilderness of WCNP, Duba gaze over the lowlying tiger habitats.

During my early career life, I was least bothered about the diversity of life in forests, their habitats and habits. I was only concerned with hammering and doing patrolling works, which became monotonous. It was the new camera trapping adventure that injected more curiosity in me into the secrets of nature’s beauty. I studied the animal signs and evidences, I studied the diversity of plant lives, and I photographed birds and butterflies. I saw myself growing more passionate towards nature and I realized that these little efforts of mine were having a bigger impact for conservation.

In the summer of 2009, RMNP hosted a very big crew of wildlife enthusiasts from BBC Natural History Unit. RMNP was required to deploy some foresters having wildlife and camera trapping knowledge with the visiting team. My boss have then already recognized me was asked to accompany the team. I was more than lucky because the team comprised of experts in every field and they were with many sophisticated camera equipment, as they were making a documentary of biodiversity with special focus on tigers, which later they produced the renowned documentary, the “Lost Land of the Tiger”.
Duba, in one of his many attempts to submit Black Mountain top while conducting surveys.
(A post on his journey to the Black Mountain coming soon.)

In 2011, I was transferred from RMNP to Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park (JSWNP). I once thought that my adventures would be coming to an end, as JSWNP have more human settlements and I would be busy marking the trees and patrolling the forests. However, luck has it that JSWNP was yet to implement their first ever WWF funded project, in which many wildlife surveys using camera traps were a component. I was initially placed at Khebethang Centre in Phobjikha but my then Park Manager, Mr. Kelzang Wangchuk asked me to come to the park head office in Tshangkha. While In Tsangkha, I was assigned with the lead role to conduct the entire camera trapping works of the project. In September 2012 I completed the Mammal Survey and recorded the presence of 22 mammals. In 2013, I completed the camera tapping works Biological Corridors that connect JSWNP with Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP) and Wangchuck Centennial National Park (WCNP). While I was busy with these surveys, Dr. Tshering Tempa (then Ph.D student) approached JSWNP for his Tiger-prey dynamics study. However, we also had to complete the Tiger Survey in JSWNP so together with UWICE team I along with my friends from JSWNP have set up and monitored over 60 camera traps stations from April 2013 till June 2015. By then we have recorded the presence of 12 individual tigers in JSWNP, tigers going as high as 4200 masl, gaurs approaching nearer to Black mountain at elevation of 4180 masl, 7 species of wild felids and a new record of 39 mammal species, excluding the bats and small mammals. It was also in JSWNP that I had the privilege of attending more training on camera trapping and data management. I also availed my first study tour abroad, i.e Bangkok in 2012, after serving for 13 years.

Yet before I was done with the works in JSWNP, the much awaited National Tiger Survey was planned. I along with two friends from JSWNP was nominated for the National Tiger Survey in January 2014. By then I saw myself more in forests than at home, sometimes stretching over a month. As a part of National Tiger Survey Team, I was assigned to complete the most challenging sites where there are not many friends who handled camera trapping.  The work was huge for me even then I managed to cover the areas of  Nanglam, Shingkhar, Loweri, Jomotshangkha, Martshala and Sonamthang under Samdrupjongkhar Division, Dagala under Tshirang Division, Dangdung, Chala, Simphu and Segtang under Bumthang Division where I could contribute the Tiger not less than anyone. Meanwhile UWICE has called two of us from JSWNP for setting up special camera traps in mountains of WCNP in June 2015. I spent around 26 days in the mountains installing over 40 cameras to the places which were never explored by people. We retrieved the cameras after three months in September 2015. I learnt how we should set up cameras in different ecological conditions.  At times, I was so worried about the functionality of my cameras because my camera traps were running in many different places at a same time. However, as the department published the National Tiger Survey Report 2015, I was so happy to see many tiger which my camera traps have captured.
An illusive alpine cat caught in Dubas camera trap.

Over 11 years, I had explored many secret corners of the country and captured thousands of wildlife images, which is in one way a pride for me. To capture a Tiger is not as easy as we think; we are smart and cameras are smarter but Tiger are smartest. If we need good tiger picture, it is necessary to explore the area and know the subject behavior like where they prefer to walk. Each journey gives us new lesson and the more hardship we take the better the result are on our way. Yes! I did it, satisfaction is always there. We have to do the work with interest but not under compulsion; if we have interest it will not take time to learn and there will be no obstacle to block our track. 

The king of the jungle, image from one of Dubas camera trap in JSWNP

The interesting thing about camera trapping is that we capture the tiger at RMNP and then we capture the same tiger at JSWNP. We find our tiger captured in RMNP in the mountains on JDNP after 5 years, which is so amazing. From that we know where the Tiger belongs and how much area the tiger have covered. Science of conservation begins from our forests. As I reflect on this journey of camera trapping works, I still have my camera traps running in JSWNP and in the Biological corridors. A part of me is always looking after the wildlife, in the darkest of hours and extremes of weather. I express my sincere thanks to all who trusted me with the tasks and gave me the opportunity to work.

Dorji Duba
Forester,
JSWNP
dorjiduba@gmail.com

This story featured in the June 2017 edition of the RNR Newsletter
 The pictures are bloggers collection, until otherwise referenced. 

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Happy Fathers Day



I am thankful to my father for giving me this life to live in. It's through this life of mine that I could see the world, explore it and then acclimatise with each and every fleeting moments. 

I am not so lucky to experience how fatherly love is because I was told that our father left us when I was just a couple of months old. I was too young to sense his presence. Therefore I have lived this life bestowed upon me by my dad, in his physical absence with my age but never without his prayers. 

However, I should be thankful to my late father for leaving behind him a wonderful family bonded with love and unity. He left us not in a makeshift hut but in a newly built two storeyed traditional home. He left behind with us a mother who would nurture her kids with utmost love and care with faith and loyalty to her late husband. He left behind a daughter who would raise her younger siblings by giving the best she could selflessly despite her tender age. She was just 13 when the family felt the wreckage due to the greatest loss. My sister along with our aging mom nurtured her younger brothers into responsible men. Today my two brothers live a happy life shouldering the responsibility of father, the value of which were instilled by my sister. 

As we traversed the mundane journey, death deterred our happiness, ailments shook our peace, other misfortunes disturbed us deeply but our love and unity could withstand all. Through unconditional love and unity, my siblings gave me the utmost priority to make me the best, to which I didn't fail to pursue and thus acclaimed being first university graduate from the tiny hamlet of Darilo. I am happier when I could say I am a Civil Servant under His Majesty's government. Through all these journey of ups and downs, I wondered how a true fatherly love would be but I remain ever grateful to my late father for having chosen to raise a family which is an epitome of love, unity and strength. Hope you found peace long before seeing us happy. Our Prayers for your soul.

Happy Fathers Day to all the Dadys.
May I get to call somebody my father one day before myself becoming a father.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Rejuvenating June

Onset of June in Bhutan is special, looking from the natural perspective. Summer is already here and everything around is lush, green and clean. The spring blossoms further enthralls the natural beauty. Coinciding with the coronation anniversary of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, His MajestJigme Singye Wangchuck, we celebrate June second as Social Forestry Day. Every year thousands of trees are planted throughout the country by the students, public servants, foresters, monks, and general public. My experience of planting trees was since my primary school days and through the ages, I have planted many trees in the schools where I have studied. Curiosity rises in me whether the saplings I planted would be now giving shades to the younger generations. Celebrating Social Forestry Day on 2nd June is special considering His Majesty's legacy in environmental conservation, which were recognized worldwide when prestigious awards like World Wildlife Fund J. Paul Getty Award for Conservation Leadership and Kyoto Earth Hall of Fame were conferred to His Majesty.

Serenity of our Environment as Seen from Black Mountains.

And we have 4th June, which is the birthday of Her Majesty the Gyaltsuen, Jestun Pema Wangchuck. Gyaltsuen is the Royal Patron of Environment and as a gesture of our loyalty to her Majesty Bhutan celebrates the day as Environment day, where people come out to do plantations, clean the environment and raise awareness on the need for maintaining healthy environment. We have inherited a pristine environment from our forefathers and it remains our duty to pass it on to the younger generation in same state. 

June 5th is the World Environment Day which is celebrated worldwide since 1972 and this in one special day in a year where global citizens come out with the same cause and concern for the environment. A day on which every people do something positive towards environment; be it cleaning a public place or a neighborhood, planting trees, creating awareness and advocacy on environmental conservation, and combating wildlife crime. In Bhutan we are lucky to have three major events one after another and this is real good fortune for us, who live is close harmony with nature. 

However, we should be get reminded throughout the year of what we did on these special days. We need to look back to the saplings which we have planted to make sure than it turns into an elegant tree. We should be mindful of the areas we ave cleaned and try to maintain the cleanliness throughout. We should constantly remember what conservation messages we have heard on this day and should instill in us a sense of responsibility. While there is no dearth of inspiration for lucky us with farsighted leaderships, often we fail to put in little efforts from our part to make bigger difference. 

This years World Wnvrionment Theme is "Connecting people to nature" and it reminds us how we should take outdoor activities to value how nature nurtures our existence. A crisp invigorating air was what we first encountered when we came to this world. It was that gift of Mother Nature that we are now able to grow, learn, contemplate, innovate and keep moving. However often we disconnect ourselves from nature and don't realize that it's the clean Oxygen that nature have released which keeps us breathing, without which our life will have a fatal end. And of course many things follows; the clean drinking water, serene working environment, the ecological services for livelihood, and the numerous resources for our economy. Everything that we use comes from nature at the first place. But do we realize this connection so often? 

Our resource are depleting, habitats are destroyed, wildlife are poached all in pursuit of monetary greed. Are we being little ethical with nature? Our litters have become the most invasive object reaching the highest peak of mountains, in core of virgin forests, in the dept of mighty oceans. Every year we are reminded of the value of environment but each subsequent year, we straggle with lost empathy for Mother Nature. Today let's try to reconnect ourselves with nature; take a long breathe of fresh air that Mother Nature has bestowed, close the eyes and listen to the whistles of the winds, it would be calling our care for the nature, open the eyes and look into the nature, a lush green grasses and forests, with chirping birds, the snow clad mountains, the crisp flow of rivers. Let's feel the lyrical essence of nature and feel the connection today, so that nature don't betray us tomorrow.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Rhododendrons of the Botanical Garden, Greifswald University

Spring season is a season of flower and especially on the temperate hills and forests of Bhutan, variety of colours of rhododendron makes them so surreal and beautiful. In Bhutan we have a staggering record of 46 Rhododendron species and many of them are found in full bloom on the high passes like Dochula, Pelela, Phrumsengla etc. All 46 species of Rhododendrons can be found at Lampelri Botanical Park, with 18 species being native at the park.

While in JSWNP, often as I take the trails to the mountains, the beauty of the rhododendrons would welcome us and that was always mesmerizing. Of the many journeys I had undertaken, I am glad to have one of the journeys reflected in my blog, entitled “The Rhododendron Trail, an Arduous Hike worth a Hike” recording 8 species of Rhododendrons that were found blooming on that trail.
Winter Frost and the Rhododendrons
When I had my first class in one of the lecture halls in the Botanical garden, I saw a couple of rhododendron shrubs. Since it was towards winter, the plants look so dull and it really didn’t attract my attention. However towards the peak winter when there was snow fall, I really felt the sensation of being in the higher mountains where snow would cover up the floor of the rhododendrons. It was that time that I was curious to see the rhododendrons in full bloom as, the rhododendrons being native to Asian regions I was not very sure if the plants would bloom.
What was really enthralling was when I first saw the bud of one of the larger rhododendron opening, to give beautiful red petals. Since then I waited to see the rest of the rhododendrons bloom and regularly moved around to see the diversity of rhododendrons that are reared in the Botanical garden. I am amazed to see around 15 species of Rhododendron in the garden, and almost all of them have bloomed by now.


The first rhododendron that bloomed this season. It is one of the tallest rhododendron shrubs found here and it is native to China found between elevation of 1600-2300 masl. Initially it was reddish but as the petals ages, it turns whitish. Its leaves are oblong and slightly curved.


This is also a larger shrub and the flower resembles to Rhododendron sutchuenense with narrow leaves.  It is also native to China, found in same habitat as above species.


This species which is native to Korea and Japan and as of now, it has not flowered. It have larger oblong leaves and it is a medium height shrub species.  


This species is also found in Bhutan and it have shiny, small and oblong/rounded green leaves but with fuzzy underneath. It bears pinkish white flowers.


This species is native to the United States and is now found widespread as ornamental plant. In the botanical garden, it has not yet bloomed. Its leaves are quite long and broad and it would bear pink-purple flowers.


This rhododendron is an evergreen shrub that grows just above the tree line in the Alps so its height is small. The plant has not yet bloomed but the leaves are narrow and shiny. It is described as moderately toxic.

This rhododendron species is native to China, where it grows at altitudes of 600–2,000 masl. It is a medium to large sized shrub and bears pinkish white flowers. Leaves are quite large and oblong.


This species is native to northeastern Inida and Southern Tibet growing at altitudes of 2400–3600 meters. Looking into its range it should be found in Bhutan but it is not recorded. It has pink flowers and leaves are medium sized and oblong.


It is a small shrub, up to 4 feet tall at maturity, native China, and grows between altitudes of 2400–4800 masl. It resembles Rhododendron setosum found in Bhutan with purple flower, and leaves small and long.


This is also a low altitude Rhododendron growing between 700-2000 masl native to China. It is a medoum sized shrub species. Here the plant has not yet flowered but it would have pink flowers. Leaves are medium sized with oblong or ovulate shapes.


This is a small shrub species bearing reddish purple flowers and leaves quite similar to Rhododendron hippophaeoides. It is also native to China. 


This plant has very bright red, pink flowers and leaves are smaller and glossy. This plant is mentioned as a poisonous plant.


This is a medium sized shrub native to Myanmar and China. It is with lanceolate or oblong-ovate leaves. It has pinkish white flowers.


This species is native to central and northwestern Yunnan in China, where it grows at altitudes of 3000–4300 masl. It is small sized shrub with elliptic or oblong leaves. Flowers are purple-blue.


15.   Unknown species
This medium sized species is not tagged and it is in full blossom with white flowers.

It is amazing to see quite a diversity of Rhododendron species, introduced and blooming in this Botanical Garden. It would definitely a wonderful treat to native people here to see the Rhododendrons blooming.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Destination Europe IV: Solo Holiday Travel

The formal classes for our winter semester finished towards the end of January and for those who do not have elective modules in block or the practical modules, they finished their exams by the first week of February and commenced their much needed holiday. Winter is extremely cold in Greifswald and I was amazed to see the Baltic Sea completely frozen. What appears to be large stretch of water body and pond in the summer becomes skiing ground. While my classes were finished, I had two block modules and a practical module to complete during the much awaited winter holidays and as such I remained cold and frozen in Greifswald. Just before our Summer Semester began on 1st April, I was glad that I could manage a weeklong holiday to travel some places and look around.

It was the Bhutan Day organized by Deutsche Bhutan Himalaya Gesellschaft at Frankfurt, which instilled excitement for me to travel far to the south of Germany and in continuum I planned to travel towards the far western Europe, Spain and Poland. The charm of the travel however was taking a solo trip. The blog post is much due, as I was busy the commencement of summer semester, and this time, I am heavily loaded with modules.

Romer
8. Frankfurt main Am: 
The financial hub of Germany is one of largest towns in Germany, a city greatly devastated during the World War II and rebuilt later. My purpose of being in Frankfurt as mentioned earlier was to attend the Bhutan Day and during the course of interaction with the German Friends of Bhutan, learnt that Frankfurt is culturally and ethnically diverse, with around half of the population, and a majority of young people, having a migration background. Frankfurt is beautifully meandered by a large river, Main, and here I share some of the picture snapped out there.

Eiserner Steg over river Main

Main Tower

View of River Main

Old Opera
A beautiful memory from Frankfurt trip was the evening stroll through the streets and chatting over a chilled beer with Aue Dorji Wangchuck, a fellow countryman I met there during the meeting.

9: Barcelona: Having spent one and half days in Frankfurt (25th – 26th March), I took the flight from Frankfurt-Hahn Airport to Barcelona, the most sought travel destinations in Europe. I reached the enchanting city of Barcelona in the evening but unlike Greifswald which is extremely cold, the city was milder. I checked in the Mediterranean Youth Hostel and wasted no time to explore the city. Barcelona is known for art and architecture, mostly designed by famous architect Antoni Gaudí. Most of the points of interests will take us to wonderfully designed architectural master pieces. 
La Sagrada Familia

Park Guell

Add caption

Casa Batllo

The Venetian tower

Port

Parc de Montjuic

The first point I visited was La Sagrada Familia, the Church of the Holy Family.  A day is definitely not enough to explore the limitless options in Barcelona so I kept my visits to see the exterior beauties. I then took a stroll on the famous cobblestone lanes of the Gothic quarter and La Rambla Street to have a glimpse of street shows, and to have a chill beer and good dinner. The cost of food and drinks are more expensive on this street than other restaurants but being alone, it was a wonderful feel to immerse myself in the crowd.  Taking a ten journey ticket, the travel was very convenient provided we decide which point to visit. From the recreational parks to beaches, churches and streets, souvenir shops filed with shirts and badges of Messi, and numerous dots of Gaudis master pieces, my one day (26th – 27th March) trip was quite a hectic one.

Plaza de Orienta
10. Madrid: I took the night bus from Barcelona to Madrid, the capital city of Spain on 27th March. The point of taking night bus is that we need not have to waste a day travelling and also we save cash on booking hostels. Madrid being capital city, and also being inland city is not the top rated travel destination. There are many beautiful port cities along the Mediterranean coast but I planned via Madrid as I was determined to visit Portugal. The journey started at 10:00 PM and I reached early in the morning at 5:00 AM in Madrid. I took a metro from the Bus station to the central train station and there I waited for the day to break. The good thing is that we can lock our heavy baggage in the lockers in the station and we can roam the cities comfortably. Madrid has intricate boulevards, many spectacular palaces and of course parks. Like in Barcelona, I took a 10 journey ticket to explore the city. Having already spent two days with extensive walking, I was quite tired by noon and had to enjoy the sun in one of the square in Madrid centre.

Palace of Madrid


Plaza de Cibeles


Retiro Park

Gate to the City of Lisbon
11. Lisbon: For my journey from Madrid to Lisbon, I booked a train ticket to experience a different mode of travel.  That was also a night journey so being too tired of the day trip, I had a good sleep in the train. Unlike the trains in India where there are berths to sleep, I didn’t see trains with beds to sleep in Europe. We have to sleep on our partially leaned seat. The journey was little over 10 hours and I reached Lisbon at 7:00 in the morning. The exciting point was that I have an acquaintance in Lisbon, a Bhutanese friends studying there. So, from the train station I took the metro to reach my baggage at his place and from where I had a breakfast. However they were busy with some important classes so I had to explore the city of Lisbon on my own. Lisbon is a coastal city but there are beautiful hills that rise high enough to give beautiful view of the city. I took a day ticket and moved from one point of interest to another, sometimes catching free walking tours and other times, wondering lonely as clouds amid the crowd. By 4:00 PM the two friends have finished their classes and I had a much needed companionship to walk the streets with diverse conversation topics. Lisbon is comparatively cheaper than Barcelona or Madrid.


City View from one of the Hills

Praca do Imperio

Lisbon on hill

The advantage of taking solo trip is that I have the freedom of choice for myself. For many months, I have been surrounded by same group of people and socialized with them so travelling alone definitely gives a different taste. This compels us to talk to strangers asking them the routes, requesting them to take pictures and in times just picking normal conversations, which is nice. Indeed the camera, the power bank, and the internet package serve the best companion and there is no way that we get lost. Being alone also helps discover yourself better because I have to do everything by myself, thus we overcome fear and insecurities. And of course we find peace without having to check patience and worry. Of course there are a set of disadvantages as well.