Monday, 5 August 2019


Dear Friends,
    Here's an update on the European Tour by Veterans of NFMC, compiled by Cdr Manjul Mayank, received on Email from Italy .... Regards Raj


1.       If day one was hectic and members thought day two will be more relaxed, they were in for a big surprise. Day two turned out to be more hectic. Bravo Zulu from team leader to all members for enduring it with a smile. Well Rome is lime that only.

2.       Today the hands' call was at 0630 H. all members duly come down for breakfast at 0800 h as briefed previous night by the team leader. We had a hearty breakfast from 0800 h to 0900n H, and after some photography session in the hotel premises, we all boarded the bus and after the customary headcount and morning chanting on Karaoke speaker, we departed for Colosseum, one of the seven wonders of the world. It was built about 2800 years ago and is the largest amphi-theatre in the world. It has a seating capacity of 30 K and presently only 1/3 is left and that too in the ruins form. The Pope visits the place every 16 Aug and sprays holy water to get rid of the spirits. We were here from 0945 H to 1045 H.

3.       After Colosseum, we headed on foot to the magnificent Piazza Venezia, which is the central hub in which several thoroughfares intersect. Enroute we saw various architectural marvels including old Rome, or whatever is left of it. On one side of the Piazza Venezia is the site of Italy’s Tomb of the unknown soldier and on the other side is the Monument of Vittorio Emanuele, the first king of Italy. The tomb has a flame permanently burning and posted there are smartly dressed soldiers. It is supposed to be a very holy place and no smoking or noise is allowed to respect the departed soldiers. Its located high up and visitors have to climb many steps to reach the top but every step was worth it.

4. There was a slight delay in the reassembly of members as those who went up got exhausted and needed some rest before climbing down. Whilst they came down the other members visited Spanish Steps closeby which houses St Peter’s Church. The name Spanish Steps got its name because the steps leading to the church are made of Spanish marble. We did not have the time nor the strength to climb over 125 Steps to visit the church. Right adjacent to it is the St Paolo Church also located at a climb. This too we gave a miss and duty fully returned to the entry point of Piazza Venezia where all other members have gathered and together we all started the long walk back to the bus. After embarking the bus and just as members were starting to relax a bit it emerged the hotel we were supposed to have lunch was not reachable by bus. Thus, very reluctantly the member started the walk again to the restaurant. However, the walk was not more than 600 M and members very happily settled in for lunch of local cosine at Restoranto Isidoro. The batteries were charged after two-course meals and very tasty dessert. Mrs Patra, who was not feeling very well, had stayed back in the bus and enjoyed a short nap with air conditioning of the bus running.  Brought packed lunch for her. After some well-deserved rest and lunch, she started feeling much better and joined the activities thereafter.

5.       After lunch we walked back to the bus and headed straight to the Vatican, a country of 4.4 sq km within a city, to visit the very holy and majestic St Peter’s Basilica. This church was built in the memory of St Peters. After the passing the due process of security we were cleared to visit the Church and what we saw was a marvel of architecture, scriptures, art and above all faith. The Basilica was simply too majestic. Total peace ad tranquillity prevails in the Church as no loud talking is permitted. There is also a dress code, in that ladies in sleeveless dresses and men in shorts are not allowed. Most of us attended some mass or the other and took a wish. Later we did some site seeing of Vatican and took pictures and thereafter got back to the bus at 1745 h.

6.       After leaving the Vatican we headed straight to Trevi Fountain as we were running a bit behind schedule. Enroute we also saw River Tibris and Italian Supreme Court. After disembarking the bus we started on foot a kilometer walk through the narrow lanes for Trevi Fountain. Short of Trevi Fountain we also saw Pantheon, the second largest church after St Peters Basilica. The Trevi Fountain is a fountain in the Trevi district of Rome. In olden time the water for the entire district of Rome was supplied from Trevi Fountain. Located in a city square it was buzzing with activity. Most members threw a coin and took a wish as is the general belief and custom of the place.

7.       Tired to the bone, we finally started our walk to the restaurant for Indian dinner and celebrate the birthday of Cmde Randhawa. Enroute the narrow lanes buzzing with activity and local art we passed many musicians displaying their talent to earn their livelihood. The performance of these individuals whether playing the piano, guitar or vocal was simply amazing and mesmerizing.

8.       We reached the hotel at 1915 H and settled for much-deserved battery charging. The dinner was sumptuous and the restaurant was very nice and cordial. After dinner, we celebrated the Birthday of Cmde Randhawa by cake cutting ceremony and singing happy birthday song. Much behind schedule, we hurried up now to walk back 900 M to the bus as the driver’s duty hours were coming to an end. After embarking bus, we headed back to the hotel. Enroute Vikram, our tour operator and Sunny, the local guide briefed the members on the schedule for tomorrow. Thus came the end of a very hectic but very enjoyable local tour of Rome.

9.       The star of the day was Mrs Patra who despite being not well continued with the schedule, of course, the birthday boy Cmde Randhawa who was one year younger today and all members for happily enduring approximately fifteen kilometres walk during the day.


1.       Today was the most eventful day of the tour and how we wish that such events do not repeat for the rest of the tour. Maybe everything got resolved due to the combined effect of the visit to Gurudwara by few officers and the morning prayers we do prior starting, the dedicated efforts of our go-to man Mr Vikram and Sunny. But that will have to wait and let’s first start with the narrative of the day.

2.       As usual, the wakeup call was at 0630 h. Members had instructions to pack up and bring their suitcases down when coming for breakfast for efficient check out by Sunny, our local guide. After hearty breakfast members gathered in the hotel lobby and the luggage was loaded on the bus and we were ready and raring to go to the Vatican again, albeit to Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel this time to keep our 1030h appointment where our Italian museum guide Laila was waiting for us. The place was overflowing with tourists being the largest and the most beautiful museum in the world. After mustering us Laila gave us a detailed briefing of what was expected of us. We thereafter entered through a special entrance for group tourists with advance booking. Once inside we were given the RFID tickets and after swiping we entered the main area of the museum. There all of us were issued with a local transmitter and earphone for us hear the briefing of the guide within an area of 500 metres.

3.       After brief information on the history of the museum, she lead us to the various galleries of the museum. Covering the entire museum will require walking 23 Km and hence only selected galleries were visited considering the paucity of time at hand. The entire experience was beyond imagination and the art, sculpture, Michelangelo paintings, the artefacts, the holy Sistine Chapel were unbelievably beautiful and had a history behind them. The whole experience was beyond imagination and out of the world. It was only due to the paucity of time that we reluctantly wound up the tour.

4.       The crowd in the museum could be compared to Kumbh Mela or Lalbagh Cha Raja Darshan. But the crowd management was very meticulous. But in spite of all the briefing of the guide three of our members managed to lose themselves in the crowd. When we took the headcount prior coming out of the museum we realized that Cdr Bajwa, Mrs Saloni Rattan and Mrs Nandita Banerjee were missing. Immediately Cdr Vadhera launched the search party namely Mr Veer Vikram Singh to locate and get them. He contacted the Police and with the help of CCTV, we managed to locate then three of them but only after the loss of one precious hour. 

5.       Thereafter we got out of the museum after re-muster and just as we were about to walk back to the bus, the museum staff informed that three of us again had not returned the transmitter. Once again investigation started and it later emerged that Cdr and Mrs Gupta and CdrBajwa had dropped the transmitter in the dust bins. Why please do not ask. Two transmitters of Cdr and Mrs Gupta were recovered after efforts and coordination by Vikram but that of Cdr Bajwa could not be traced and recovered. We finally managed to resolve the crisis by paying 50 Euros as fine. But in all this, we had already lost two precious hours and our lunch slot was also missed.

6.       Anyway, we finally settled in the bus when CdrDasonda Singh informed that MrsDasonda Singh is missing. Vikram and CdrDasonda again ran back to the museum to locate her but she could not be located. It was then someone informed that a lady resembling her appearance had walked past us at the waiting point. So now Vikram and Dasonda ran in the other direction and after considerable distance near the market, they located her standing scared in the market and crying. She had probably walked past us lost in her thoughts and did not notice any of us standing.

7.       Finally, they all came back and we proceeded for local cuisine lunch at Ristorante Guibileo. The restaurant was kind enough to accommodate all of us despite being well beyond our booking time. After a sumptuous lunch of Pasta Salad, Spaghetti and Cake we again boarded our bus to head for Florence at 1545h. Then time lost resulted in us missing our Florence city tour. Most of the members especially ladies were really put off because of the delays caused by individuals which were avoidable.

8.       Just when we had reconciled ourselves with whatever happened during the day, Cdr Reddy, sitting in the rear of the bus, came and informed very worried that they had left large cash in the safe in their room at Hotel Pisana which is open. This got us all worried and full recovery action plan was put in place by the team leader. Mr Sunny, our tour guide immediately contacted the hotel reception and from there the hotel security who confirmed that a pouch containing cash in Indian currency has been recovered from a room where we were staying. This put to rest some anxious moments as it was confirmed that money has not gone missing. Then followed the standard security procedure over emails to identify the cash, the pouch and other procedures by the security. All these events occurring whilst we were on our way to Florence. Finally, on reaching the hotel security was convinced of the owner of the cash and they advised the owner to personally come and collect the cash. This brought smiles on the faces of Cdr Reddy and family as also all the members. Tomorrow morning Cdr Reddy and Mr Vikram are scheduled to go to Rome by bullet train to collect the cash and meet us at Pisa.

9.       Enroute we took a 15 min break at highway supermarket Chef Express as it is mandatory for the drivers to take minimum 15 min break every two hours of the drive as per local rules. The place is a supermarket the break extended to 35 Min and we again started for Florence. Enroute the drive was very pleasant and most of the members took a much-deserved nap whilst others were engrossed in the music. We reached Florence at 1935 H.

10.     Having missed the time for local city tour we straightway headed for dinner at Gandhi Ristorante Indiano as our time slot was from 1930 h. The restaurant was owned by a Sardarji and he was very pleased to meet us all and all Punjabi Ladies and Officers refreshed their Gurmukhi and so did the owner and his staff. The Indian food here was delicious and served with much love.

11.     After dinner, we headed to the beautiful and luxurious hotel Hilton Garden Inn and after unloading the luggage and collecting our room keys we finally settled in our rooms for well-deserved good night sleep.

12.     Amongst all the disturbing events that occurred with us during the day and which we were able to resolve in a reasonable period of time came the news from India which brought cheers and smiles on all our faces. The members celebrated the tough decision taken by our Government of the day of scrapping article 370 and declaring J & K and Ladakh as Union Territories and putting all Muftis, the Abdallahs and the Hurriyat's under arrest or house arrest. It is really a historic day for India. Jai Hind.



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