Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Kim's Review: Adrift - A Junket Junkie in Europe

Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu is a former food and travel columnist with HT and other National dailies, travel and airline magazines. Adrift: A Junket Junkie in Europe is her first book and what a book! Adrift combines her passions of food and travel with her love for history, art and architecture and makes for an extremely interesting read.

Her writing style draws the reader in almost immediately, as Sidhu chats with you the way a friend would. The book encompasses a 3 month Indian Summer holiday in Europe that is : unplanned, uncharted and unaccompanied.

Sidhu uses her insomnia on the Delhi-London flight to formulate a 9 point Personal Travel Manifesto. Just reading her Manifesto, has already inspired Brajesh to formalise our own travel manifesto.

A solo female traveller on a budget, she makes full use of her Punjabi family and friends network across Europe to keep travel costs low.

Sidhu enters Europe via London courtesy a complimentary unused ticket from a sibling, but flies off to Germany at the first possible opportunity to stay with her Aunt Anne who agrees to host her as long as she wants, provided she keeps dishing out Indian food for her friends and family at regular intervals.

In Germany, the reader is introduced to hauptmarkt, lebkuchen, bratwurst, Goa (a local Indian themed open air/camp fire party location) and mitfahrzentrale (German car pool innovation for cross country travel). The mitfahrzentrale then becomes Sidhu's primary mode for traversing Europe on a budget. This enables her to travel with handsome Swedish students, a Dutch businesswoman, and Hungarian girls amongst others.

Sojourns in Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, Hungary, Austria and France follow, before she returns to London prior to her return to India.

Puneet gives the reader a bit of a historical background to each location, before describing her own adventures, which provide a brief glimpse into the life of the locals (or Punjabis/Delhites turned locals).

Her descriptions of most of the local specialties - moose/elk/reindeer meat, frikadelle and Kottbullar in Sweden, croissants and waffles in Denmark, pannenkoeken in Netherlands, weisswurst & obatzda in Munich, palinka, ghoulash, porkolts, fisherman's soup & makos toltelek in Hungary, krapfen, weiner schnitzel, apfelstrudel, sachertorte & liptaur in Austria, would entice any foodie to jump on the next flight, to savour the dishes for himself/herself.

Adrift includes little nuggets of information that would be beneficial to any traveler to Europe, but there is enough detail to excite even an armchair traveler (like the railway train traversing the Fehrman Belt Strait from Denmark to Germany, by loading itself onto a ferry and facts like Tulips are originally native to Turkey rather than Holland) and its all written in a light, easy to read, make you smile style, like when Puneet describes how "the art enthusiast in me, gradually melted away a la Dali's pocket watches".

There are a few times when the reader may wish that a laptop was nearby, to access or wikipedia. But you can still enjoy this book without rushing for clarifications.

The book incorporates a few personal photographs too, but for some reason, they gave me a very 70's/80's feel. I'm not sure if it was the slight sepia tint to the pictures and whether it is intentional. However its a handy reference to glimpse a visual representation of the authors descriptions.

In Chapter 5, Puneet describes the contributing factors of her early life which urge her to travel relentlessly and why travel is the one and only escape route when she wants to get away from it all. I can identify with quite a few of those factors, but travel for me is not an escape, its a well earned reward.

As a sometimes solo female traveler (much more frequently, before I was married) on leisure and business, I can appreciate the challenges and risks that Puneet takes, but its also true that its easier to be a single female traveling  in Europe and North America than it is in India. Staying with family and friends when traveling has its pros and also its cons. Its a great way to save on costs if you have time on your side, but for short trips, its easier to stay at a reasonably priced hotel and have flexibility in your time and schedule.

Adrift is a lovely light read for anyone who would like to spend time exploring Europe, but its especially inspiring to solo female travelers to just go ahead and book that ticket.

Rating: 3.5/5

Adrift - A Junket Junkie in Europe is available at flipkart and amazon

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

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