Dr. Ondrej Fabrici* in Bhubaneswar, March 13, 2018: Upon an invitation by our good old friends, Mr. and Mrs. Vivekanand Pattanayaks, from the times of my ICAO* appointment (*UN specialized agency based in Montreal), me, my wife and son, a party of three travelers from Central Europe, (re-)paid them a long-time discussed visit at their place of residence in Bhubaneswar over the first two weeks of February 2018.

This visit marked already our second trip to India, as a few years back me and my spouse spent some unforgettable moments traveling through the northern parts of the country, visiting, among other places, Delhi, Jaipur, Agra and Gwalior and finally ending our journey in the Southwestern sea resort haven of Goa.

In many respects, our second stay substantially differed from the initial one: in contrast to slightly impersonal atmosphere of hotels along our tourist itinerary the first time, we stayed this time, for the most part, in a friendly and warm atmosphere of the Pattanayaks’ family abode, which also provided us with a unique possibility to authentically experience India’s way of living.

The day after our arrival, we began our 2-week cultural immersion into Odisha’s life realities in Bhubaneswar at the historical quarters of the city and amidst the many exquisitely preserved Hindu temples to be found therein. In the days following, we saw the historical sites of Khandagiri and Udaigirii caves, Sun Temple of Konark, Buddhist shrines and monasteries of Ratnagiri and Dhauli, to name a few highlights along our pathway, while also paying well-worthwhile visits to the State and Tribal Museums in Bhubaneswar, Maritime Museum in Cuttack, Archeological Museums in Konark and Ratnagiri, respectively.

All along, we felt truly privileged and fortunate as two highly dedicated and professional, yet above all kind and amiable, guides in the persons of Mr. Biranchi Mishra and his daughter Sangeeta, accompanied us at most of the places of interest and got us acquainted with the riches of Odisha’s history and culture: among the most remarkable historical facts and figures of Odisha’s heritage presented to us, the glorious past of the ancient Kingdom of Kalinga during the reign of Emperor Kharavela – as also documented in the inscriptions at the caves of Khandagiri/Udayagiri complex in Bhubaneswar – holds its distinct and dignified place.

Whether soaking in the sacred atmosphere of Hindu and Buddhist temples, shrines and monasteries, listening to and observing the beauty of classical and folk music and dance performances during mesmerizing evenings of the Dhauli-Kalinga Mahotsav festival , or witnessing from near religious temple rituals and practices on major Hindu holidays as well as in the homes of our hospitable hosts and their relatives including special dietary and fasting observances and alternations thereto, we felt most definitely blessed with such a unique possibility to bond a lot closer with the spiritual “universe” of India and its people. In these authentic inter-cultural and inter-religious encounters with realities of Odisha’s life, our own humanly horizons were gradually expanded and enriched.

We were also particularly delighted, coming from a smaller land-locked Central-European country on the river Danube, when shortly passing time on the beaches of beautiful Bay of Bengal in Puri and Konark or near the fascinating lagoon of the Chilika lake, dotted with its islands, unique eco-systems and bird sanctuaries. Our accommodation in the Swasti Chilika resort and in Hans hotel in Puri, both providing very good service, quality of lodging and excellent dining experience in their respective hotel restaurants serving delicious local Orissa specialties, only contributed to the maximum positive impressions of our stay there.

Though our journey to India was a private one, thanks in part to my previous public, diplomatic and International Civil Servant’s status within the UN institutional system, our trip, nevertheless, also facilitated some semi – official purposes.

On the last day of our stay in Orissa, I was invited by the Bhubaneswar’s Asian School of Business Management to address and briefly interact with its students. Following a discussion with the Director of the School Prof. Dr. Biswajeet Pattanayak, the Dean of the Faculty Prof. Ph.D Kaylan Shankar Ray and Prof. Ph.D Phalgu Niranjana, the potential for possible co-operation and eventual exchange of students with peer educational institutions in Slovakia were briefly explored.

In late afternoon, I was also invited to attend the inaugural session of the local Association of the World Diplomacy. Slovakia, including a brief overview of its history, socio-cultural background and present state of development, along with the nature and scope of responsibilities on my previous UN positions (as currently I am retired and thus no longer serve as an “official representative” of my country) was presented by our host, Mr. Vivek Pattanayak. Lively discussion of the possibilities for developing tourism, cultural and academic relations between Odisha and Slovakia took place during the session.

In the evening, we were pleased and honored to be invited to the dinner with the Principal Secretary Tourism Department of the Government of Odisha, Dr. Mona Sharma and her husband in the presence of the President of the Association of the Hotels and Travel Agencies of Odisha Mr. Jitendra K.Mohanty and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Pattanayak and Mr. Biranchi Mishra to discuss and explore potential alleys for developing tourism ties between Slovakia and Orissa.

To summarize, I am quite positive, based on my authentic experience throughout the entirety of our 2-week stay in Odisha that its riches and unparalleled depth of:

religious life with the many ancient temples, shrines and monasteries;
– ethnic cultural heritage;
– natural beauties of the State such as beaches of the Bay of Bengal, lakes, waterfalls, animal sanctuaries and wildlife diversity;
– existing transport and tourism infrastructure;
– variety of thematic museums;
– booming educational and academic institutions;
– loyalty and dedication of the people of Odisha to its State;

are, with no doubt, all invaluable assets and provide altogether a solid foundations for further development of international tourism with all its positive economic and social effects on its society. In particular, I am quite certain that a market potential for a substantial increase in the number of tourists from Europe, Central Europe especially, exists and hence should be seized as Odisha in its own right and its own unique way represents to a European mind many of the exotic attributes of the far East and of Indian uniqueness and otherness. Taking full advantage of the potential for the development of international tourism between the two destinations of the globalized world would, however, surely require a well-targeted intensive promotion, professional coordination, and cooperation between all partners involved as well as realistic pricing and offering of services to any future customers.

*Former Director General of the Civil Aviation Section to the Ministry of Transport, Telecommunication and Public Works of The Slovak Republic

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