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Adrift A Junket Junkie in Europe travelogue by Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu

Europe, for the first-time traveller, can be a teaser: the distances are vast, the stops too tempting and the costs mind-blowing. So how does one save a few extra euros on a summer junket? Through a car pool, says travel writer and columnist Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu.

"Try the Mitfahzentrale in Germany and then car pool your way across Europe as an alternative option. It saves cost," suggests Sidhu, whose travelogue "Adrift: A Junket Junkie in Europe" will hit the stands in April.

"Out of concern for depleting renewable energy sources, a prudent German government has introduced the idea of car pooling. Not merely for the purpose of dropping children to school or colleagues riding together to work," Sidhu said.

"The government had in fact suggested that an attempt should be made to pool fuel resources whenever travellers were cross-country or cross-continent. An experiment of sorts, perhaps; it met with huge success and is currently the mode of choice by anyone owning a car and a valid driver's licence."

"Mitfahzentrale" - Sidhu's mode of transport during her visit to Germany - simply put are "facilitation centres offering this unique low-cost car-sharing service in an organised fashion".

"Now that most of Europe is still trying to recover from the downturn, car pools are becoming popular among the cash-strapped people, mostly youngsters. One can share a car as cheap as 25 euros with four people," she said.

"The car pools are conveniently located near the main train stations. For a nominal fee, which also served as insurance cover in case of breakdowns and the shared cost of fuel consumed, you could even hitch a ride from Munich to Moscow. The more I thought about it, the more attractive the idea of traversing the continent in this manner appeared to become," the writer said.

"Suddenly a million travel possibilities began staring at me in the face," she said. "All that was required of me was to reach out and flag a destination," she said.

Sidhu's rendezvous with the "economical wheel" still continues. She has just returned from a car trip to Bhutan.

"I was part of the Indo-Bhutan Friendship Rally. I drove through jungles in stretches that had no tracks in a Maruti Esteem. I crossed the Bengal countryside of the Dooars at the foothills of the Himalayas, the forests of Bodoland in Lower Assam's Kokrajhar district and reached Phuntsholing on the edge of Bhutan. From there, I proceeded to Thimphu, the Bhutan capital," the writer told IANS, mapping her itinerary.

Sidhu is currently documenting heritage properties in Himachal Pradesh. "I will put it together as a new genre of travel book," she said.

The author will read from her book "Adrift..." at the India International Centre March 28(IANS)

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