A Tour of Europe
A Train Trip to
Europe
November 2009

Shahrzad and I did an extended trip to some European countries, to catch-up with long due visits to some relatives and friends. In this trip I visited Italy and Czech Republic for the first time. Train was our main means of travel, and we insisted on local traditional food, whenever possible. In all we visited many cities, including Paris, Luxembourg, Brussels (in passing), Amsterdam, The Hague, Leiden, Copenhagen, Malmo, Stockholm, Berlin, Prague, Dresden, Leipzig, Munich, Salzburg, Boltzano, Florence, Rome, Genoa, Nice and Biarritz. These cities are in ten countries, namely France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria and Italy. The trip took about a month, so given the number of cities visited it can be considered a quick tour of Europe.

Paris

Shahrzad the back-packer on a bridge over the Seine near the Eifel Tower.

Shahrzad with the Eifle Tower

With Kaveh Moghaddari in Paris

Kaveh is an old friend found anew after some 26 years. He lives in Paris.

Luxembourg

Our friends in Luxembourg are Guity and Mohit Amirnia. Mohit is a good skier and we first met in AMUT during a ski trip in 1970s. Ever since he emigrated to Europe and is now well settled in Luxembourg, doing construction projects through his own company.

Mohit house in Luxembourg

Mohit, Shahrzad andGuity Gathering walnuts under a tree

Mohit took us to see the vineyards and the countryside of Luxembourg. We picked up some walnuts from under trees.

Small town of Lenningen (no relations to Vladimir Lenin) near the city of Luxembourg.

longshot of Lenningen

Vineyards of Luxembourg

Vineyards and rolling hills are common around the Luxembourg city.

The Neatherlands

In Leiden with Saeed Jalazadeh, our longtime friend from the AMUT and US days.

Ali Parsa and Saeed Jalalzadeh in Leiden

Dinner table with Amsterdam Friends

We celebrated Shahrzad's birthday with Farhad Arbab, his wife Sorayya, Saeed, Shohreh and Hasti. They sang the Dutch birthday song for her, which goes:

Lang zal ze leven, (Let her live long,)
Lang zal ze leven, (Let her live long,)
Lang zal ze leven in de gloria (Let her live long, in glory,)
In de glo-ri-a, in de glo-ri-a (in glory, in glory)
Hiep-hiep-hiep hoera! (hip-hip hurrah!)
Hiep-hiep-hiep hoera! (hip-hip hurrah!)

I prepared a dish of Naz Khatoon stew for the occasion.

Swans in a canal in Amsterdam's Walletjes district, better known as the Red-light district. In parlors at both sides of this canal human beings display their bodies in shop windows and offer sexual services for cash. Some say better do it openly and in a regulated way, than force it underground with many more unpleasant consequences.Swans in a canal
Shahrzad with Saeed in front of the International Court of Justice in The Hague. This building has some historical significance for Iranians as in 1952 Dr. Mossadegh defended Iran's nationalization of its oil industry in the face of Britain's appeal to the court. My father, together with Mr. Sadr and Dr. Shayegan took Iran's reply to the British apeal to this building at that year. So the building has some significance for me too.
A surprise find in Leiden: We saw this model boum, a kind of Persian Gulf dhow, behind a window of a house in Leiden. I have been working about boums and their history for the past year and seeing this model in an unlikely place was a pleasant surprize.
Shahrzad looking at the world famous tulip bulbs in the Amsterdam tulip market.

Copenhagen

On our way to Sweden we stopped in Copenhagen for few hours. We walked the waterfront, saw the new opera house, and had lunch near some traditional sail ships in the harbor. Here Shahrzad is fulfilling her duty as a tourist of the city with the Little Mermaid.

Shahrzad with the Little Mermais statue

Ali trying to figure out his way at Copenhagen's waterfront. The modern and expensive Opera House is seen in the background.

Stockholm

Stochholm skyline as seen from the Katarinahissen or Katarina elevator. We intended to go to Stockholm for many years as my friend Shiva Farahmand Rad had invited us on so many occasions. Finally we made it. We traveled from Amsterdam to Malmo, and then we took a night train to Stockholm. The city has its peculiar architecture. One aspect of Stockholm is that it is built on a very rocky terrain. No wonder Alfred Nobel invented dynamite. They need it, instead of picks and showels to level the ground and build houses.

Stochholm skyline at night

A runestone used as a cornerstone of an old building in Sockholm's old town district. Vikings used these strange patterns to comemorate their dead heros and prominent warriors. They used a script known as runic and usually they contained the image of a serpent.
Ali with Shiva and Khazar, our hosts in Sweden. Khazar prepared a fine Iranian dinner and we enjoyed her taseful hospitality, along with her many talents and intelligence. She even arranged for a surprise call from Tehran by our mutual friend Ramin Dehdashtian.

Berlin

A quick passage to Berlin. We rushed to the Brandenburg gate, a symbol of the once divided Berlin. They were preparing the place for the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. So we couldn't walk through the gate. Weather was very cold and I used a ski hat Shahrzad gave me which made me look like a member of the Soviet Army.

Ali at the Brandenburg Gate

We went to see the historic Reichstag building. Here Shahrzad walks on the roof with the fancy dome designed by Sir Norman Foster in the background.

Prague

Beautiful and historic city of Prague was the highlight of our trip. The city stretches beautifully along the Vltava river and with many medieval buildings, cobbled streets, parks and arts all over the city, has a unique charm of its own.

Vltava river in Prague

First thing we saw after leaving our hostel was this shop window. Art Nouveau pieces radiate a warmth and tastefulness which set the tone for our short visit to Prague.

Dresden

Small city of Dresden. We decided to visit this city partly to pay respect to those who lost their lives in one of the dark moments of World War II.

Dresden

A wonder of restoration work. The Frauenkirche in Dresden which was 95% destroyed in the infamous bombing of the Allies, is now rebuilt.

Leipzig

I wanted to visit Leipzig only because in this city J.S. Bach lived and worked for so many years.

Leipzig

Thomaskirche where Bach worked for 27 years, and is now buried there. As soon a we got off the train I looked for Thomaskirche. We found it and were happy to hear that there will be a 'Mottet' performance that evening. Motette usually involves pieces of choral religious music, in between of which there are recitations of the Bible.
Listening to Bach and others in Thomaskirche. This is not a majestic church at all, but thinking that Bach himself used to play and conduct music here goes beyond the humble appearance.

The organist that evening was Ulrich Böhme, who in a sense is Bach's successor. He played pieces by Messian, Dupre and Mendelssohn, but the height of the evening for me was when he started Bach's 'Dorian' Toccata (BWV 538). Watch and listen this work as performed by Aarnoud de Groen on Youtube.

Munich

We boarded a nice Inter City Express train to Munich. I am no stranger in Munich. I used to go to this beautiful and lively Bavarian, and International, city when I was working with a partner company of Siemens in Tehran in 1990s. This time we were on an invitation by two young student friends of ours.

I.C.E train in Munich's Hauptbahnhof

Firouzeh and Ali Azizi, our hosts in Munich were kind enough to come to the Hauptbahnhof and pick us up. She is a doctrate candidate in Chemical Engineering and he is a master's EE student. We had a good time together in Munich. We also took a train for a day trip to Salzburg.

Salzburg

A day's trip to Salzburg. We had a good time on train to Salzburg and dined in this restaurant in a back alley of the city.

Restaurant in Salzburg

Herbert von Karajan is the other great music genious from Salzburg, after Mozart. This stature is erected in the town in his honor.

Bolzano

We crossed the scenic Alps into Italy. This was my first time in this country.

Looking out at the Alps from the train

Small town of Bolzano is more Austrian in character, than Italian. The great mountaineer Messner is from this town and have established a mountaineering museum here.

Florence

Florence is the city of Machiavelli and Michaelangello. And Dante. And Leonardo da Vinci. And Galileo. And...you get the idea: it is a very important historic and cultural city. Like other 1.6 million tourists who come to this city every year, we came here to...well, to have food from Tuscany.

Shahrzad in front od the Duomo

Hilly terrain helps us to have a panorama of the city.

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