Shimla is nestled in the mountains at the foot of the Himalayas. During the British colonial era it was a retreat site for soldiers and officials with days off. The British families during the hot summer in Delhi went to Shimla looking for the cool breeze from the mountains. In 1864 the authorities of the Raj declared it the summer capital.

I wanted to travel during Christmas in a narrow-gauge toy train that leads to the city of Shimla. I have always liked trains and I always enjoyed traveling by train anywhere, and if it is narrow gauge, so much the better!

We are not in Delhi yet? Is the train delayed? The train stops and we hear how people knock on the door from the platform. Someone manages to open the door and I see the porters. We asked if it is Delhi. The porters have already assaulted the coach. We pick up the packages and between a tide, we left the train. They want to take our backpacks but we answer no.

What hustle and bustle in this season. The mass of people who go up and down the stairs to access the different roads do not think it ever ceases. This station does not sleep. A driver tries to hook us on one of the ramps, but, as usual, he asks for a lot of money for the journey. We keep moving forward. We take the step fast and firm.

We do not hesitate to go out into the street. We know where we are going. We get a good price and we even guide the driver to the market. We go back through the gloomy and narrow alley that leads to our hotel. Although it is early we are already given the room. We left the backpacks, cleaned a little and we get on the street again!

The chaos of Delhi no longer intimidates us. After breakfast we bought the tickets and visited the Red Fort. We come back to eat at a place in Connaught place, a large circular plaza with lots of shops and restaurants.

In the afternoon we have to prepare the backpack, take a shower and have dinner, before taking the night train to Kalka. From here we will transfer to the narrow gauge railway for Shimla. The old Delhi station is a tumult of travelers, porters, vendors, policemen, railway employees and animals who fight for a piece of their own space.

We travel in the second class sleeper and although the bunk is not especially comfortable the fatigue makes me fall asleep right away.

Shimla Christmas winter images wallpaper

Day 1 in Shimla

In the early morning we reach Kalka. The platform is almost deserted with only few men sitting. We go out and enjoy the typical breakfast of butter toast accompanied by a good milk chai. We pay with card without problems. It did not take us long to get back to the Kalka station. We unload the backpacks on the empty seats.

I see narrow gauge trains standing on the platform. One of those will be ours, I imagine. It look like we are in an amusement park. We take the narrow gauge train that will climb the slopes of the mountains. The train is a piece of well preserved history. The details in wood, the upholstery of the seats, and the curtains make me imagine that I am traveling in the middle of the colonial era.

The views are great, with endless forests cover as far as the eye can see. After the aridity, the lack of vegetation of the state of Rajasthan and the Thar desert, being surrounded by mountains full of vegetation is truly like a mirage. We cross small towns whose houses are arranged step by step taking advantage of the slope of the mountain.

The weather accompanies us because there shines a splendid sun. I was hoping that it would snow, but it seems to me that the snow will still appear. The food is included in the price of the ticket. A nice employee attends with care to all the passengers of the car under his charge. We are getting closer. Gradually we reach almost to 2500m altitude.

On the way to the hotel we passed the bus station. We arrived at the hotel that is just at the other end of the town. We get a well priced hotel with tour included, since it is not tourist season. It is the old house of a Maharaja that retain the essence and furniture of the time. As Christmas coincides the prices are a little high.

We do the check-in, and keep the things. Our room looks like a small country villa that overlooks a terrace from which we see all the mountains that surround the place. I remember the comments about the monkeys of Shimla. I have not seen any yet. It's time to eat and we go out for a walk. We have to go down a great slope!

At the moment we see a historic restaurant on the left! The place is also from the time of the English. Everything around us is vintage, and even the curtains (well, what is left of them) has that decadent charm of old things. I do not remember the name of the restaurant. I eat the biggest, cheapest and richest samosa in my life.

We left to walk to the center. They show us the way and now we have a steep climb! The walk is very nice. We are surrounded by trees. We look for monkeys but they must be hidden. It will not be long before they manifest themselves. I am surprised by the cleanliness of the place, being able to walk calmly.

This place is really another India, totally different from the one seen so far. Now we see the monkeys jumping from roof to roof, from one tree to another. As we reach the main street, the first houses begin. I am struck by several men who carry boxes behind them. At first I think they are empty but then I see one with green apples!

Then I remember that when preparing the trip I read that Shimla is pedestrian and everything has to be carried by hand or back. I remember that they warned of the existence of porters at the station to carry luggage to hotel or house. We continue walking and I distinguish a known building. The name of the hotel is also familiar to me.

We went to ask for a budget. We lower the price a little more and ask if we can see the room. It really is very good. After a while we entered another hotel that also looks very good, but is somewhat more expensive. Walking, we walk along the Shimla promenade known as the Mall. We cross the very lively commercial area, and pass under the Christ Church that crowns the summit and the Tibetan market.

Very close a Gandhi statue stands with the Himalayas in the background. We decided to walk to another hotel to see how it is. The walk is pleasant. There are people but it is not annoying. We can walk calmly, breathe fresh, uncontaminated air and even hear our steps as we walk. I no longer remembered that feeling after so long listening to beeps, engines and people.

Maybe we walked half an hour to the hotel. We asked them for room price. Of course the hall is beautiful and the place where it is located spectacular. We say that we will think about it. I almost feel ashamed to enter there with the beer pints we carry. We can see them all so elegant and neat.

Now we are the ones who seem shabby in comparison to the people who swarm through the halls and the restaurant. Back to the center, we discuss the hotel choice in a reasonable way. Finally, we opted for the first as it is the cheapest and looks good. He also told us that they have a special holiday program on Christmas day.

I am curious to see what a Christmas eve party looks like in Shimla. So we go back into the same hotel, get a bit lower and we make the reservation. We already have a place to sleep in! We returned to the earlier hotel, showered, called the restaurant to prepare dinner and we waited to be notified.

The dining room is small. The waiter brings everything we have requested over phone that they have in the menu. They take out the tray of naan and I cannot but congratulate the waiter. I tell him it's the best naan I've tasted in India and I've had a few! The food is also finger-licking!

During the dinner a bhangra group gives the musical show of the evening. It's a free buffet. A very lively punjabi family goes on to the dance floor. Unconsciously I move my head to the beat of the music. Someone sees it and when I realize it, I'm dancing with the family too. Even the cooks look out the kitchen door to watch the show. I look at the daughter and imitate her movements. I do not know how I get it but I have a great time.

Now I feel like being in a Bollywood movie. The manager of the hotel looks out a moment and I greet him from the dance floor. We chatted for a while with the punjabi family and we retired to the room. For today it is enough. We sat on the terrace next to our little room to see the stars.

The night is starry and the blue stars shiver in the distance. The night wind spins in the sky and sings. Nothing prevents us from enjoying the tireless flutter of thousands of luminous bodies. It's cool, but we take out a blanket and enjoy for a while the peace of Shimla, the tranquility and loneliness that the mountain gives us. Tomorrow, it is Christmas Eve!

Shimla Christmas winter images wallpaper

Day 2 in Shimla

We woke up early. A new relaxing day begins in Shimla, although today it is time to change hotels. The monkeys run through the roofs of the room, but that is still the only noise. They also like to sunbathe on the terrace. They are monkeys, but not stupid. There are some views of the mountains that surround Shimla and the terraced houses that deserve to stop and rest a little.

We take our phone charger and backpack, while we get ready before breakfast and half an hour later we appear smiling by the dining room. When we arrive at the reception, we see several English newspapers in a rack. Our last a la carte breakfast here is served with exquisite elegance and courtesy by our favorite waiter. After breakfast the taxi awaits us to take us for the days excursion.

We pick up the backpacks and abandon our piece of heaven. We prefer to walk. We take strength before tackling the steep slope upwards. We were about to hire a porter but finally decided that going slowly, the hotel is not far away either.

The first climb is the worst, and then the rest of the way we go quietly and in a relaxed way so that we do not go breathless. We arrived at the hotel. It is not necessary to give many explanations because the man is there and he remembers us. We check-in and settle in the room. The hotel is very good, and decent. We went out to gossip a bit about the facilities. They have gym and spa. We ask the price of the ayurvedic massages in case we decide to give us a tribute to celebrate Christmas.

We decided to do some trekking on the trails that surround the city and wandered for several hours among trees, lights and shadows. We climb to a nearby hill that houses the Jakhoo temple dedicated to the monkey god, Hanuman. The road is very steep with endless stairs, and near the end a woman sells food for the monkeys. She warns us that we would do well to take off our glasses as the monkeys snatch them as soon as they can.

The temple does not leave us open-mouthed, but the views from this point are fantastic. The dense forests cover everything we can see in the background of the Himalayas mountain range. After coming down to the center we hire a car and opted to go to Naldhera to be a little closer to the Himalayas.

The road has holes that look like bull rings, but the driver raffles them without any problem. We cross small mountain villages and finally we reach our destination. We started up the mountain. Again we appreciate the peace, and especially the pure air. We went through what is one of the oldest golf courses in the world, following the path marked by those who have walked the path before us.

There are also donkey droppings! We are on the right way! At the top there is a kind of picnic area. We reached the end of the road and sat down to observe the largest and highest mountain range on earth. For the moment it is the closest we will see it, but maybe in the future we can see it better. Hundreds of white, majestic, unreachable needles stand erect in the distance.

We return to the parking lot and walk back to Shimla. We ask the driver if he can drop us off at the center instead of taking us to the hotel. I try my luck in a traditional clothing store. I also take advantage to chat with my family. We eat at a restaurant on the main street. I enjoy a nice Indian lunch with rice, dal and butter chicken and go back to the hotel to rest a little.

After the siesta we dedicate the evening to wander around the Mall and do some shopping, postcards and cashmere shawls for the women of the family from the Tibetan flea market. The hours go by fast. In one of the stores we see the first Santa Claus of the season. We find it curious to see the red man up here. We find fruit stalls with mainly kiwis and persimmon.

When night falls the temperature drops a lot, so much so that our sweaters and jackets are not enough and we shiver with cold. When passing through a Tibetan store we see some very colorful blankets that we like. We negotiate the price and we wrap them up quickly. We return to the hotel to enjoy our exquisite and abundant dinner again.

As it is still early, we go to the disco to have some cocktails. The album seems out of the Saturday Night Fever movie. We are the only ones, apart from the bartender. After so many days surrounded by crowds, a little loneliness is appreciated. On time we arrived at the decorated room for the event. We are the first.

Several employees wait at the door. We see the manager who greets us and accompany us to our table. They serve us drinks. Slowly the rest start coming. At our table also sits a honeymoon couple on vacation. A Santa Claus goes around the tables dancing to the beat of the bhangra music that plays in the background. The waiters begin with trays of food for people to serve themselves.

A musical group starts the first notes accompanied by the singer. Of course they are not carols, but we clap and move the head and feet. Santa Claus continues dancing and throwing confetti. The manager takes the microphone and after a brief speech of gratitude, invites people to go out on the dance floor.

We do not think twice and there we go. The Bollywood night begins. The couple hold hands and go around. Someone grabs me and when I realize that, everyone on the track is rolling me. It must be funny to dance because they take turns. So I dance with everyone. I feel like in the period movies when the women took out the little dance book and wrote down the list of men with whom to dance.

I think it's the most surreal Christmas Eve I've lived so far. We enjoy the party so much that even the manager thanks us for being so participative and courageous. And one more night, we see in silence the starry sky that falls like a cloak over the cool and calm Shimla and the shadow of Jesus Christ.

Shimla Christmas winter images wallpaper

Day 3 in Shimla

After the party the previous night, we lazed a bit more. We prepare the backpacks and leave the room. Although when I planned the trip I was hoping to find some snow for a white christmas and days before the weather forecast snowed, the sun continues to make an appearance. We have seen a panoramic restaurant in the center of the walk that looks very good. So we decided that the Christmas meal will be celebrated there. We go through the Church that is full of faithful listening to mass.

There is not a free bench to sit and sunbathe on the entire walk. I do not know where they come from but there are always people. As the restaurant also has a terrace by the back we sit down to have an aperitif. We observe a man who is hooked to the few Westerners here. Nobody is paying attention to him. We follow with our diet of chicken butter masala and naan.

We took the last look at the Himalayan range that shines brightly in the rays of the sun of the day and we returned to the hotel to take our backpacks. Right next to it is the elevator.At the bottom, taxis wait for their potential customers. As I wanted to do some trekking in the morning we take the bus to Manali.

The songs of birds wake me up more gently than with the deafening music of the temples. A biker catches me with his two young friends on the bike! The race with cyclists trains me and brings me on a hilly plateau, dotted with palm trees where alternate steppe and rice crops. I see a bamboo plantation near a house with a cross, an old chapel. Flocks of buffaloes and goats graze on hills closer and closer like waves.

I see a man in balance. He hung his sheaves at each end on a stick and carry it on his shoulder. Rocks are being transported to the new road that is being prepared. I arrive at a beautiful climb and climb to a pass. On the other side, it is a lake of dam that I discover with its small fishes. And then, it softens. We go out gradually from the hills and cross a steppe with crops, mainly rice.

We cross a palm grove and then a vast neem forest keeps me in the shade for a few kilometers. A flurry of trucks rushes on the bridge of the Tilpara Barrage. As soon as I get there, I find young students from Siuri, who stop me for a photo. They immediately surround me with their passion, their exuberance, their curiosity about my trip, their joy of living. They do not leave me, but ask me a lot of questions and accompany me.

But the friends do not let go and invite me to the restaurant, just to chat and take pictures with a tornado of questions. It was a great unforgettable moment! I cross a plateau of paddy field that is harvested with a sickle. At Purandarpur, wheat is found on the road, perhaps to extract the grain when one passes over it.

There are also chickens, ducks, cows. Paddy fields extend with sometimes sugar cane plants. It is at Ahmedpur that I find my first bananas at merchants in their little stalls, at the foot of the bridge on the railroad track. Sellers of flower necklaces rub shoulders with banana merchants and barbers.

Another invitation. They offer me chapati, sweets and tea. What a welcome in West Bengal! Rice is sown near rammed houses. I see a square of rice with beautiful greenery, still in the water where white birds take off. The road is being rebuilt and we have to cross under work areas. In Kirnahar, we see a beautiful market and we stop for a souvenir photo.

After a few straight lines shaded further, we arrive at Futisanko. Between the landscapes, we discover ponds where palm trees, neem trees and banana trees are reflected. Katwa welcomes me with bananas on plants, a tea merchant and its large tin boxes.

Banana merchants, cauliflowers are already in place. We stop in front of a railway line. Men with their mufflers wrapped around their heads are waiting for a quick start.

Fields of paddy, sugar cane, ponds extend to the exit. Others of rapeseed, banana plantations succeed them. I make a stop for a parata and dal in a dhaba. Some sawmills, a banana alley leads to Purbasthali. The Tropic of Cancer is normally crossed but I see no trace of this imaginary line. In any case, this is the first time I ride in the tropics!

Bamboo fagots are lined up along the road. We see dry linen on the meadow before Dhatrigram where a shoe merchant invites me to a motorcycle ride on the banks of the Ganges. It is here that Durga Puja, the most famous festival of West Bengal, is held. We arrive at the area, where the cremations take place. He talks to me about his troller boats for the crossing. These are fishing grounds. Fishermen extract fish in enclosures surrounded by nets.

We see a Kali temple of the black goddess before returning. After the paddy fields at the entrance of the villages, there are giant neem completely covering the road and at their feet, sometimes hide deities. I enter Kalna but it is early. I decide to continue. After a stop in front of a football game, I cross villages.

The city of Kolkata is not very far. We run along houses of odds and ends, canvases and bamboos in the dust. Bags are filled with plastic bottles. I enter Chunchura, where I have to find the bus stand. Leaving the city, I discovered chickens in a cage and a jute shop. Jute was very important before the partition with Bangladesh.

In Champdani, I walk along small shops before finding a first panel of Kolkata! In Serampore, I cross a bridge over the Ganges and arrive on its east bank. I see ritual baths and, at the exit, shanty towns line up along the road. A doubt settles when I am only a few kilometers from the goal and I have traveled hundreds!

At the end of a long shopping street and a festival of colors, here I am at the hotel where the welcome is not prestigious but the room and the hot shower is immensely appreciated.

Dussehra marks the end of one of Navaratri, which lasts nine days. The 10th day following Navaratri is called Bijoya Dashami commemorating the victory of Durga over Mahishasura. In some parts of India, Vijaya Dashami is replaced by Dussehra or Dasara and is associated with Rama and Ravana from Ramayana with the Ramlila.

The Dussehra Festival is celebrated with great fanfare in several cities of India like Mysore in Karnataka or Kota in Rajasthan.

Day 1

I get up at 5:30 and see the monkeys on the terraces, as I have a coffee and a toast. I took the local bus at 9, that leaves every 20 minutes. After a quiet trip of about 1 hour to complete the 35 kms, I land in Kota.

Upon arriving, I went walking in the search of the hotel. It is a quiet place in the middle of Station Road between the Bus and the Train Station, and it was the colonial home of an English surgeon. The story of the afternoon has been atomic that is hard to forget. For lunch I ordered a rajasthani thali with dal baati churma, ghevar, lal maans, pulao, malai kofta and chatni

After a half-hour nap, I inquire at the hotel to go to the Dussehra festival, and they advise us to go to the tourist reception center of Kota, which is called Bungalow here.

After going there, I asked a group in the street for the place, and I ended up riding in the car of a guy who offers to take me and leave in 10 minutes at the same door. They inform me that they are in charge.

After 1 hour waiting in the chalet in pleasant gardens, invitation to chai, information and attention, a bus from Bundi with some tourists and a legion of officials come. On the bus I see Japanese tourists, an Australian couple living in Bombay, English-speaking couples, a mother and her daughter and a solo traveler on tour in India.

We arrived in a quarter of an hour at the city palace, and escorted by the police of Kota, I appeared in front of a giant quadrilateral at the foot of the palace. We are surrounded by police, royal guard, choirs, various groups, boy scouts, disguised guys, and elephants, at a Rajah reception in the place. There are dozens of personalities dressed in Rajasthani dress, and a lot of photographers and TV reporters.

I look satisfied in my flip-flops, the worn jeans, the T-shirt expressly brought with fossilized striae of salty sweat and the unshaven face. I drink, get entertained, photographed and interviewed as personalities of the first world. The current Maharaja surrounded by notables and a few handpicked people gather in the courtyard of the palace for a quick buffet and offer at the same time a real show of multicolored turbans.

An hour later, elephants, floats, dance and music groups left in procession from the palace. The parade and its dancers who leave the royal palace kicks off the festival. I leave through the door of the palace wall and appear before a crowd in the street, balconies and others, located to see the parade. The parade consists of floats depicting the battle of Rama against Ravana, which roams the entire city for long hours.

I ride on the bus and they direct us to a gigantic field where after stepping on red carpets, enter through several booths. I go up to a first terrace, then second terrace, and end up on the roof of a building full of chairs where they have reserved the first 2 rows in front of the entire box crowded with people.

I have a privileged view of the stage with the colossal effigies of Ravana, Meghnath and Kumbhakarna with the impossible anthill of people surrounding it. The eyes, mouth and arms of the effigies are moved with strings to the sound of the narration of Ramlila. In the final apotheosis they are hit by fire as one dressed as Rama burst the fireworks that he carry, until the frame collapses, and is totally devoured by the flames.

After half an hour pass I undo the road with the police clearing the road with the canes. I got on the bus, and they park each of us at the hotel. It's 9 at night. I just got back from the festival or whatever that was, and I'm still shocked. Now it's 10 o'clock at night. In the room it is fine. While in the streets of Kota fun continues. I go to eat and order a salad, a pulao and Butter Chicken. After dinner I then continue to bed.

dussehra

Day 2

Things have been twisted. I am at the station waiting. It's 8:25 and I've missed the train because after asking several times they told me it was on platform 1, and at 6:15 they tell at the information desk that the train has left from the platform 1A. After crossing many windows, I ended up accompanied by a girl to the same window where I started. She comes back and says not worry and that she will get me tickets for any class on the 12 o'clock train.

There is a train just arrived, and many passengers who were crowded in the coaches have come down taking advantage of the stop to fill the water bottles in the many taps that there are throughout all the stations for this purpose or to cool off. Others stretch the legs, and a minority buy in the numerous food kiosks.

The train leaves with an estimated duration of 7 hours. The class we are in is like the previous ones we had taken, with bunk seats with a/c.

It all got off to a flying start as we were late for our Mumbai flight. We had however left 2 hours in advance for a trip of 30 km. So we arrived exactly 5 minutes before the closing of the check-in and the last call for boarding! The flight to Mumbai went very fast. At the airport we take a taxi to our huge apartment on the 29th floor of a tower in central Mumbai. In short, we have a drink on the balcony overlooking the sea! And we go to bed to be on the move for the next day.

Day 1 - Dandiya in Mumbai

We head to Colaba, a district south of Mumbai. We could admire the gateway of india and the Taj Mahal hotel. We also enjoyed the view of the sea, the very interesting architectures and varied neighborhood.

Then we went up a little further north to see the Victoria terminus, a beautiful, huge and impressive train station. After that we headed for Marine Drive, a popular walk to watch the sunset. On the way we stopped to see the end of a rugby match. Teams of several nationalities were gathered for some tournaments. It was pretty cool to see! Then we bought a mirror like a perfect tourist and walked for a while on Marine Drive to sit and watch the sunset.

We head for Haji Ali Mosque. It is at the end of a pier, and is in itself nothing extraordinary, but the place is rather pretty although littered with junk. Then we head to the Mahalaxmi temple. There was a long queue but a nice man saved us time. He took us to the beginning of the waiting line, which was actually much longer than we thought!

The temple was pretty cool, but forbidden to take pictures! There were lots of people especially that it was the time of Navratri. Later we went to dinner at Leopold, a famous and old restaurant in Mumbai. I was particularly excited to see this restaurant since it appears several times in the book Shantaram! We were not disappointed by the cosmopolitan atmosphere or the delicious food!

Returning to the apartment, we attend the Navratri festival with an evening organized in the apartment complex. Dozens of people were gathered to dance in beautiful and colorful outfits! It was a great atmosphere. Too bad that I did not have the appropriate attire, as I would have gladly joined the Garba Dandiya dance!

Day 2 - Kolkata Durga Puja

The bag is done. We leave for the airport. And there, everything seems long, very long. We fly over the cities of lights and say goodbye for an uncertain time. The ears are clogged. But the excitement keeps us alive. We pass just above the Hooghly River, which in reality is none other than the Ganga. All the streets are alike. I feel like we're going around in circles.

The air conditioning at the airport masked the hot and humid climate. It is 17:00 local time and the sun is already setting. We take a pre-paid taxi in the airport to Dum Dum Station. We tried to find the subway entrance. We arrived on a platform. There is hardly time to look for a ticket office as a train enters the station.

Kolkata is one of the most coveted cities to celebrate Dussehra. Half of India is here, and the festivities are coming to an end. The trains are full and it is impossible to buy a ticket at the station. Let's be crazy! We ride in it. We'll see.

The current of hot air whips our face full of sweat. It sticks. We arrive at a station that bears a name similar to the one we have on our metro map quickly printed the day before. The train sounds the departure, and we throw ourselves on the platform. We are not in the right direction.

After a few minutes of walking, we cross a rickshaw. We ask him if he can take us to New Alipore. It is too far. He brings us back to the station from which we had just left. We take the train back to Dum Dum. There seemed to be more taxis there. The train is puking with people. We have to push to get back. We laughed. We push. We come back. We arrive at Dum Dum's wharf.

There we see an arch in blue and white mosaic where there is written "Metro station - Entry". In fact, we did not take the metro as planned. It's been two hours since we left the airport. Let's find a taxi. New Alipore? Just "nod" of the head or some incomprehensible words and gestures that tell us to walk there to find. We find a taxi. New Alipore? Ok. It is around 10 pm. There are people everywhere.

It's a party time in Calcutta as it is the Ashtami night of Durga Puja. The streets are full of people. There are lights everywhere, like during carnivals! We discover another world. We have eyes everywhere right on the left in front of behind, on our bags. We take the camera out. My eyes are full. I really wanted to take a picture of this effervescence of colors, lights especially.

It was the Saptami, the seventh day of the festivities. The population of Calcutta doubles at this time. People come from all over India to celebrate here. This is one of the most important holidays. The streets are almost all blocked. Vehicles does not move. The transports are full. Traffic jams are cumulative.

The streets are filled with people. There is music everywhere, gigantic installations, huge ephemeral statues. The smells follow one another of incense, spices, flowers, essence, food, and so on. Sometimes it mixes. Sometimes it's different.

With a big backpack (though not so big), we look tired and lost. We arouse curiosity, but by far. We are looked at, but from a distance, and not too long. Finally, we try not to fix ourselves too much. The eyes of the children are full of surprise. Those of adults too, with curiosity and only sometimes a little mistrust.

All that was very trying. Fortunately, I was not alone. We help each other despite everything, even without saying anything. The first impression is both positive and negative, but it's so complex that putting words on that feeling would be a bad thing.

We are hungry. So we try Street Food. What a delight! In the street, several stands are aligned. One offers egg roll, another one of the mutton biryani with the potato. In a folded newspaper sheet, we eat a roll with chicken in it. In plates cut out of boxes, we savor these chickpeas. In a little clay mug, we drink a very sweet lassi, to soothe the fire that persists in our mouth. For dessert, we taste the rasgulla. It is very sweet and very honeyed.

After this escapade, we go to our hotel. We go out. We have a beer and have a good time in a small bar in Calcutta. We discuss everything and nothing. We learn a little more about certain rituals, and about certain customs. Today, we discovered a little more Calcutta.

Day 3 - Navratri in Gaya

It's time to take the train. We cross the whole city by car. From one bank to another, the landscape changes. At the corner of a street, a huge red building stands in front of us. It is the train station of Calcutta, Howrah. It is probably the largest railway station in the country.

We enter the station. It's swarming with people. People are sitting on the floor, in a group, waiting for their train in the lobby. It's impressive. Here we are again alone in the jungle. When the train arrives, we get on the train. We settle down. The train starts. We finally see the countryside. We do not do a single kilometer without seeing a cow, children, peasants, people who sleep outside, who smoke a cigarette on the tracks.

In this train, a snack, a meal, and breakfast are included in the ticket price. Here, we are always offered vegetarian dishes. The food of the train is not famous, but it is always better than that of the plane. There is rice, daal, some vegetables, and of course, tea. Vendors scream at each stop. Pani bottle! Samosa! Chai!

For the moment, no one asked why I was sitting there in someone else's place, except that after an hour, a gentleman arrives and explains that it's his place. No worries, we share! We tie our bags under the bed, and we fall asleep. At each stop, we look out the window to see if we have finally arrived. After long moments of impatience, we are at Gaya.

We arrive at the Gaya Railway Station, in the state of Bihar. Only half an hour late. After pounding the corridors of the station, we see some queues. It must be there to buy tickets. It coincided with the Dussehra, one of the most celebrated festivals in India. Dussehra ends with Diwali at the end of the month. Almost all hostels and hotels were full. In the end, I found a rather gloomy guesthouse, but enough to rest.

We have lunch with pakoras, onion and cheese mashed potatoes, biryani, and a plain naan. I was finally able to reach Bodhgaya, about 12 kilometers away, a small village considered one of the main places of pilgrimage for Buddhists. It was here that, back in the 6th century BC, Prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment under a fig tree, and would henceforth be known as Buddha.

Bodhgaya is a fairly quiet and cozy place, where most of the activity takes place around the Mahabodhi temple, a World Heritage Site. It is one of the most revered and sacred places in Buddhism. In the center of the enclosure is the main stupa (a type of Buddhist funerary monument), about 52 meters high. Inside it is a statue of Buddha made entirely of gold.

But without a doubt, the main point, around which most of the pilgrims who go to the temple are concentrated, is the sacred tree. Under it, Buddha reached the enlightenment after several weeks of meditation. Apart from the main stupa and the sacred tree, the Mahabodhi complex has a garden dedicated to meditation. There are a pond and a well-kept area covered with grass, on which people lie down and enjoy a quiet atmosphere, disconnecting from the noise outside.

We reach a series of monasteries, where several countries are represented where Buddhism is practiced. Each one of them has its particularity. Inside, various relics are kept and different episodes of the Buddha's life are narrated through magnificent frescoes, such as Bhutan or Tibet. Finally, almost leaving the village, is a giant Buddha statue, about 19 meters high, built by the Japanese.

Like the arrival to Gaya, with the problems of lodging, the Dussehra festival bothered me again on the way back. With the din of people, there was no way to find an auto rickshaw and those that ply demand astronomical quantities. To make matters worse there was a storm and rain was pouring. Fortunately, in the end, I found a very nice family with whom I joined, in order to share expenses.

In the evening of Ashtami hundreds of people throng the streets filled with food stalls and pandals.

We dined at the hotel with a soup, pakoras, fried rice, and curry. Already in the station, I would still have 5 hours of waiting until my train left, at about 2 in the morning. I did not get bored anyway. Here every once in a while someone arrives and talks to me suddenly, and I already have a conversation for at least an hour.

As a conclusion of my passage through Bodhgaya, the site is nothing out of the other world, unless you are passionate about Buddhism. It is worth noting that the Mahabodhi temple has its point and that there is a good feeling inside. But I do not think it is worth the visit if we consider how badly connected it is with other places of interest.

Besides, accommodation options at a good price are very scarce, and for those who are interested in shopping, here you will not see anything that you cannot find in any other Indian city and for a better price. Even so, I cannot say it was a disappointment either. I ended up taking good moments and details, and a small leaf of the sacred tree that is already part of my collection of fetishes, next to my water jug of the Ganges or the stamp of Guru Nanak.

Dussehra wallpaper images

Day 4 - Navratri in Varanasi

At midnight we continued our journey by train. We had chosen 2A class with bed, air conditioning, and curtains to hide from people passing in the hallway. For once the classes with bed and air conditioning are really good and rather clean.

After arrival in Varanasi the taxi driver parked near a market accompanied us through a labyrinth of narrow streets to our hotel in Varanasi. It is in front of the Ganges and right next to the Manikarnika Ghat, the most active crematorium in the city. And there I was, dodging the suitcase through the cows, the irregular pavements and the hundreds of steps that give access to the ghats until finally, we entered the hotel.

In the room, it was cooler than on the street, impossible as it may seem. Perhaps the huge window without glass in the bathroom was to blame. The room had a shared balcony overlooking the Ganga and the first thing we did was go out there to finally start the trip.

Before us, the Ganges stretched, with a horse much bigger than I expected and dirty, very dirty. By its waters navigated boats full of pilgrims or tourists. On the banks there were the ones purifying their soul bathing in its waters and on the right is the smoky transit of those who were being incinerated. Walking in small streets with very different smells with this heat was not very pleasant but good.

We went to the street and went down the stairs of the Scindia Ghat. It was all very dirty. There were cows and dogs and puppies feeding on the garbage that was everywhere and raining mortar ashes on us. Surprisingly, it smelled nothing, neither good nor bad. My sense of smell, which is already atrophied, did not detect any nauseating odor even though my brain was warning otherwise.

We decided not to eat anything because, seeing the rush of the waiters, we knew that it would end at night and we would not have time to take a boat ride on the Ganges. While we walk along the riverbank, we are constantly being approached by boatmen offering their services for Rs 100 per person.

Our boatman was a young boy and not very tall. He kept chewing pan that left his teeth red and that produced spits of the same color and at the same time evasive hallucinogenic effects.

Slowly, we progressed until we reached the Assi ghat, where we turned around to return to the starting point. At that point, we were more relaxed. The music emanated at full volume from the boatman's mobile. Slowly, it was dusk and the flames of the pyres began to stand out in the darkness.

We set off in a southerly direction, crossing the west bank of the Ganga. As soon as we took a few steps, we passed five bodies moved on bamboo stretchers and wrapped in colorful shrouds that went straight to the Manikarnika Ghat. We were surrounded by people and piles of logs that were sold directly behind the ghat crematorium. We approached the Manikarnika Ghat and saw the pyres that had been lit from afar.

A man warned us very seriously that we cannot take photos since we could take away the karma of the deceased. We continue walking through the Lalita Ghat, the Meer Ghat, the Man Mandir Ghat until we reach the Dasaswamedh Ghat. On the way, people stopped us and asked us where we were from, our names, profession, marital status and then they said goodbye.

This same questionnaire was a constant throughout the trip, but it was nice to interact a bit with the people. I liked that they were so open. We are now in search of the famous lassi as the walk has awakened our hunger. So we look for a place. We took two lassis, one orange, and one papaya, both very good.

Arriving at the Dasaswamedh Ghat we went up the stairs to walk the Dasaswamedh Road. It is a commercial street where we were looking for an ATM to withdraw money. Something that seemed so simple a priori, ended up turning into a chimera. We barely saw banks throughout the trip, at most ATMs and that's it. We almost did not have money, because the ATM in Delhi airport was bad enough, so we just withdraw a bit.

After taking money, we went back the same way we had come back. Another of the things that surprised me the most was that people kept asking me to take pictures of them. It had never happened to me before. Normally, when I travel I like to take photos of people, but I have to do it clandestinely like a paparazzi or approach to ask for permission and end up doing a posed shot.

Here in every two minutes, the people asked me to take pictures. Maybe when they saw the SLR, they thought that I was a media professional and that they would end up in some TV or magazine.

It was six in the afternoon and it was completely dark. We pay our boatman and went up to the guest house. That afternoon we had to finish deciding if we would go by train to Bodh Gaya without fear of delays, or look for an alternative way. The price was too high and the option to go by car made us very lazy.

So we decided to take a chance. We want to see the Ganga Aarti in a smaller ghat with fewer people, so we visit the Kedar Ghat. And as it is the Navratri, there are many lights and idols of Durga and lots of people on the streets.

We went down to the hotel restaurant, which opened at 7 o'clock in the evening and an elderly man gave us a notebook to write down the order. We decided to start with soups, pakoras, rice with mushrooms, vegetarian masala curry and cheese naan. After placing the order, we prepared to wait patiently while we talked with other travelers in the hotel. The order took 45 minutes to arrive, but the wait was worth it because it was all great.

I was lucky enough to see the Durga pooja in the courtyard of the guest house. It's pretty amazing when I think about it. There are an orchestra and some ice cream vendors. We take out the chairs to sit and everyone dances around the goddess in a circle.

I admit that I remained hypnotized by this dhunuchi naach dance, on a very peculiar rhythm. In fact, women start the circle, then enter the girls and babies for a few laps. Then, the young boys (who are waiting with impatience on the edges) join the dance, followed by the men. All the while, the little ones sneak between women turning to go chipping ladoos and sweets on the altar.

Nobody says anything. The first circle is always very small and concentrated. Then when there are too many people, it splits into two or even three circles that rotate around each other. All this for hours and hours without stopping. Personally, I find it quite impressive. I made a video but do not know if I can put it on the blog. With a full satisfaction, we went up to the room to try to sleep a little.

Day 5 - Dussehra in Delhi

The alarm sounds at 04:30 in the morning. I woke up knowing that it had already dawned, but not wanting to get out of bed. After setting myself up, I got dressed in record time. And we see a different, magical sunrise. The bustle begins to seize the ghats. We are spectators of life, of those scenes I've seen before on the Discovery Channel.

At 7 o'clock in the morning or so, we finish the walk by the sacred river. The jetty is two-three minutes from the hotel, so we go to the room, and clean up a bit.

And we went up to the terrace for our breakfast, with the intention of eating something fast. The word fast is one of those that we have to leave out of the suitcase. To bring us tea, pancakes, an omelet and some sandwiches took more than 40 minutes. After breakfast, we went to the reception, where our car driver had been waiting almost half an hour to take us to Delhi.

We reach at 2 o'clock in the afternoon in Delhi and with the streets completely filled. That was exactly the typical image I had of what would be one of the most populated cities in the country. A former colleague telephoned me to see the celebration of Dusshera in Old Delhi near Chandni Chowk. Of course, I accepted immediately. So we went to Old Delhi after passing the Ramlila Maidan and we parked far enough and took a rickshaw because the cars are not allowed in this area.

We arrive in a kind of field delimited by many garlands of lights. Of course, it's flashing everywhere, and I can see, above the VIP stand, a demon's face sticking out its tongue and whose red eyes are flashing! I just love it! The crowd was huge. In short, I squeeze my bag because we are on top of each other.

Apparently, one of the scenes of Ramayana and Indian mythology was played in the center. But even being tall, it was impossible to see because everyone was standing on the chairs. Or rather, 5-6 people were standing on small outdoor chairs.

This is the story of Rama who wants to recover his wife Sita kidnapped by King Ravana of Lanka. Today the scene shows the battle and the death of the king of Lanka with his brother and his son. Then, Rama recovers his wife and brings her back to India. But before flying over India, Rama walks on a bridge connecting Sri Lanka to India built by Hanuman.

In short, the scene is played in the center and to my left are the three large statues of Ravana, Meghnath, and Kumbhakarn. Everyone is burned in turn. I was very surprised and impressed as a disc of fire swirls in the belly of the statue made of bamboo and paper. The fire comes out of the mouth and eyes and the whole ends up exploding and to form a huge column of fire! As much to say that I was happy to be so far for once! The debris came down pretty well at the level of the crowd.

Once finished, the crowd rushed to the exit. I was a little carried away in the current. As it was the last day of Navratri, I was able to meet in the streets, families walking with their idol of Durga to go immerse them in the river. People play drums and dance wildly. Once again, I was able to participate in this, invited with a lot of generosity. And we find ourselves covered with pink powder, stuffed with offerings and get solicited for dances, photos, and handshakes. It's party time!

As I sit down to eat the vegetable-filled khichdi (a well-digestible rice and lentil porridge), I sigh happily watching the steam rising from my plate. It's a cold November day. I'm sitting in front of my porridge-filled bowl, feeling the warmth of food as it spreads throughout my body. Normally, when I am as hungry as I am today, I really get down to eating in the religious places sharing community meals. But this time it is different. A sense of fullness captures me at the mere sight of the colors and the seductive fragrance. The water runs in my mouth as I watch the ghee (clarified butter) slowly moving on the hot food. At that moment, I wish everyone loved Khichdi as much as I did and did not associate it with anything.

Khichdi is my favorite for hearty food. I firmly believe that it is the ingredient of love that makes it so tasty. The art of loving food and preparing food with love is for me the essence of healthy nutrition. For me, the conscious application of the universal guidelines of humanity is very important when it comes to cooking and healthy eating.

At the dazzling pace of the 21st century, the essence of healthy eating seems to be falling behind, considering how much we have gulping snacks on the road, the microwave ready meals and the food while sitting on the iPhone, we have gotten used to. So, the days we sat with the family at the table, reciting a prayer and taking time to chew, are a thing of the past. However, when we think outside the box into other cultures, we find that sitting together and eating together is like a common thread through all cultures, a thread that holds together the social fabric of a society.

Khichdi is an ancient delicious traditional dish used for thousands of years. Khichdi is also known as khichdee, khichadi, khichuri, khichari and many other variants is a dish of Indian cuisine containing a combination of rice and lentils. It is generally considered an informal dish. Khichdi is the first solid food people give their babies in India. The rice and lentils are soaked until they lose their consistency and is seasoned with turmeric and salt. The khichdee is also the first food that is served to the sick and patients.

The Khichdi is usually served with another Indian dish called Kadhi. Other accompaniments are papads, Beguni or fried eggplants, ghee or clarified butter, achar and yogurt. Khichri is a comfort food for the people of India and those following a Saatvik diet of Ayurveda. It is considered as a nutrient rich, light and simple food and is prepared without any spices. It is widely recommended by doctors to patients, children and the elderly who are recovering from diseases.

During the Mughal Empire, classical khichdi went through several modifications. They were supplemented with nuts, spices, and dry fruits. During Akbar's rule, the royal kitchen prepared and distributed Khichri every day. Jahangir admired Khichri prepared with a large amount of ghee, fresh dry fruits, and nuts. There is a Khichdi recipe recorded in Ain-I-Akbari. Alamgiri Khichri was developed for Aurangzeb. The Khichdi recipe has been customized to conform to the Anglo-Indian delight, by adding fish and eggs to the ingredients during British colonial rule.

It was called Kedgeree and became famous during British times as a predominant breakfast. Soon it was proliferated outside India to the United Kingdom during the rule of Queen Victoria. In ashrams, churches, temples, mosques and synagogues, this concept of eating together is lived. So the question is, how do we manage to integrate that value back into our busy everyday lives? It is phenomena like the Internet, Facebook and Twitter that are isolating us more and more. In addition, everyone seems to be busy only with his iPhone.

The coexistence disappears, you lose the relationship to each other. Thus, the culture is also impoverished. We need to reunite more with family and friends and also organize gatherings that cover topics such as diet and food culture in other countries. In this way we get to know different cultures through eating and thus connect with each other.

By means of the community eating, we can learn what it means to get in touch with oneself, to listen to the needs of the body and thus to practice more fellowship again. Healthy diet as love for yourself.

You can make your own Khichri with rice, and a combination of legumes like Moong and chana. You might even add vegetables and split wheat or Dalia. Ghee is an important ingredient according to the traditional recipe.

You can also add nuts like almonds, pistachios, cashew nuts, chironji, chilgoza, and dry fruits like raisins and chopped apricots to improve their nutritional value, as well as to garnish. The consistency of the finished recipe varies from being dry like a Biryani to wet depending on tastes and preferences. Khichri is served with yogurt, kadhi, and pickles. Traditional Khichri is not spicy.


Khichdi image

Preparation Time: 30 mins
Cooking time: 30 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Calories per serving: 105 calories per 100 gms


Ingredients:

4 cups basmati rice
1 cup red lentil
1 cup green lentil
2 tbsp ghee
1 tomato
1 capsicum
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 cardamom
1 black cardamom
2 sticks cinnamon stick
1 green chili
2 cloves
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
A pinch asafoetida, cayenne pepper
1 tsp whole mustard
1 carrot
1 french bean
1 cup peas
1 tsp turmeric powder
10 cauliflower florets
1 potato
1 onion
1 sprig spinach
1 cup soy granules
2 bay leaves
Salt
Oil
Cilantro and lemon
Water

Recipe Method:

Wash rice and lentils together and drain the water out.

Heat some ghee clarified butter in a vessel and fry the bay leaves, ginger, garlic, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves for two minutes.

Mix all the vegetables, potatoes, soy granules, lentils, mustard, jalapeno, turmeric powder and the rice except for the sweet peas, with a dash of salt and lightly fry for 5 minutes in 2 tablespoons of oil.

Mix in 6 cups of boiling water and salt. Cover and stir fry on low heat up till done. Stir a few times. Once the water dries up after another 5 minutes, keep aside over very low heat to keep it warm.

Heat oil in a separate pan and add the cumin seeds and asafoetida and let it splutter. When the seeds crackle, add the onions, tomatoes, sweet peas and green chili and saute for another minute to let it turn golden brown. Once fried, add them to the rice and mix thoroughly but gently. Cover and cook for 15 minutes

Check frequently to make sure you have enough water and things are not really stuck to the bottom or is getting burnt up. When rice is done, season with salt and pepper. Garnish with cilantro.

Add lemon and serve with some fried fish, or eggs or even grilled veggies or pure ghee.

Switzerland is a wonderful country. There is everything to do everywhere for couples, families with children, and groups of friends. They have everything very well mounted especially in the central area of the Alps. Switzerland is a wonderful country and we could be here for a month without stopping to see and do things.


Switzerland images wallpaper

DAY 1: Bern

Our flight left in the morning and before boarding, we changed to Swiss francs. The change was not bad, and with that, we had for the entire trip (not counting the hotels that we paid with a card). In the flight, they give us coffee and a chocolate bar. We arrived very early in Geneva, around 11:30 in the morning and at the airport we took a train that took us to the central station. The airport is very close to the city and it took us about 5 minutes.

In the station called Geneva Cornavin, we left the luggage in a consignment that I think cost us 6 francs and we went to visit the city. We left the station and I do not know very well but we lost the way a bit. My map was a bit bad and asking two or three people did not bring much luck because they did not speak English. We got a little pissed because none was able to tell us where the downtown was and that was not far either. Maybe because of this and because it was very cold, this is the city that we least liked.

Geneva is perhaps also the most modern of all we visited. From the station, we went down the Rue de Mont Blanc to Lake Leman and when I reached the lake it was my first disappointment. I could not see anywhere the geyser and that is 145 meters.

On the lake, we crossed the Bridge des Bergues and went towards the old town. Once in the Bel-Air square, we went through the Confederation Marche street where there were a lot of shops and a market for vegetables and food. We went to the center by the Grand Rue, which is an uphill street from the that you reach the town hall and the old part. Around here there are a lot of galleries and very cute decoration shops that look very good.

At the end of the street there is the little square Bourg de Four and on our left is the St. Pierre Cathedral. One can climb the tower and from which they say that there is a very good panoramic view of the city but we did not go up due to the cold and the wind.

On the right we go down to the Bastions Park to see the Wall of the Reformers which is a 100 m long wall. It is 5 m high that is one of the symbols of the city. And well there we went for a walk, strolled around restaurants and shops and went down again to the lake to see the English garden and the floral clock.

They say that the orthodox church that has golden domes in the shape of a bulb s also worth a visit but is a little further away from the center. So we did not see it.

The day was still horrible. In the area of the lake, the wind almost threw us and we did not want to stay longer in the city. So we decided to leave and when climbing again on the Rue du Mont-Blanc we went to a cafe to eat something. Here we already had contact with the Swiss standard of living.

We went to the station, took the bags and on the first train leave for Bern. The trip lasted almost two hours but it did not take long. The views were beautiful, first by Lake Leman until Lausanne and Montreaux and then by beautiful landscapes until Bern. Arriving in the city it was raining a bit and the hotel was in the center very close to the Nydegg bridge and the Bear Pit. We had to go up there walking.

We walked along the main street that is all covered by arcades so although it rained we did not get wet. These arcades are declared as Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. Here the shops were beautiful although they looked expensive.

This street of arcades begins by calling itself Spitalgasse. Then there is another section called Marktgasse, another that is Kramgasse. The last one is Gerechtigkeitsgasse, which was where our hotel was. The hotel was a bed and breakfast and it was a normal house where the owners lived upstairs and rented two rooms downstairs.

Majestically, there was a kitchen where we could have a coffee when we wanted. The bathroom was on the ground floor (being one night we did not mind sharing it at all). Our room was huge and the bed very comfortable and it cost us 150 francs a night.

At 5:00 pm we left our bags and go for a ride. We took a map of the city and as we had seen the area of the arcades coming from the train station we went to the river. We pass the Nydeggbrucke. The place is beautiful with its cute little houses overlooking the river. We take many pictures from above.

And then we went down to the riverbank to take more pictures up close. We spent a lot of time on the river and then we go up Gerechtigkeitsgasse by the little fountains to the Clock Tower. The clock is very nice and a few minutes before completion of the hours a lot of people crowd in front to see some dolls that come out of the clock to move and announce the hours. It is a style similar to Brussels but is smaller. This area is beautiful and we take enough photos.

When going down we went through the Postgasse to see the Town Hall (Rathaus) and a beautiful church that was next to it. Near the hotel, there was also Einstein's house. As it was already after 6pm it was impossible for us because in Switzerland, from 5:00 pm, everything closes.

There is almost no life in the street even though the sun did not go away until 9:30 pm. At 6:30 p.m. we stayed with the owner to pay him and he recommended us to have dinner at a restaurant that was on top in the Rose Garden. This garden is not very popular and on top of the rain, there was almost no one.

We had a great dinner in the restaurant and watched from there the dusk and the little lights of the city were lit one by one. The truth is that Bern was charming. At about 9:30 pm, we went down the hill and went back to the hotel to go to bed so we could get up early the next day.

DAY 2: Interlaken

We got up about 8:00 in the morning. Yesterday the owner of the house told us that today was a holiday in Bern. So we go out and see what we have left of the city although it is tiny and yesterday we saw almost everything.

I eat some bread that I had taken the night before at the restaurant with jam and butter and a not very good coffee in the kitchen below. We went out to the street with an umbrella in hand because the drizzle continues just like yesterday.

There was no one on the street, but only the odd tourist lost like us. We walked to the clock tower. We take another thousand photos and arrive at the Theaterplatz and then further on to Bundesplatz where the parliament is. It was closed, of course. We were in the back that overlooks the river enjoying the views and taking pictures. The truth is that Bern has a special charm even with the rain.

We arrived at the Kirchenfeldbrucke and passed the other side to Helvetiaplatz which is where the most important museums of the city are. Museums can be entered for free with the swiss pass but we did not have time to see any. We crossed the bridge again. Here is also the casino of the city and we took the Munstergasse to get to the cathedral.

At this hour it was drizzling and everything was closed. We did not find any place to have breakfast and we were a bit hungry so we went back to the hotel. We took the bags we had left in the room and went to the station that would be the only place where we would find something open. At about 11.00 we take a train to Interlaken with coffee and croissants in hand.

The journey lasts about 50 minutes. We start to see lakes and mountains. On the way, my head kept spinning. We had so many things to do in the area that I did not know where to start. Although I had prepared the different plans and routes we could do we had arrived very soon and did not want to waste a minute.

We arrived much earlier than expected to Interlaken. It was around 11:45 when we arrived at Interlaken West. We got off and started to see the wonder that we had before us. Interlaken is located in the valley of a set of great mountains and between the lakes of Thun and Brienz. There were only mountains and it was beautiful.

Very close to the station, about 10 minutes past the train tracks and we reach what was called the Unterseen. It is a kind of neighborhood or small town within Interlaken. There was our typical Swiss hotel that was a beautiful wooden house those in the area. We were immediately given the room which was tiny but sufficient and had a bathroom with a shower. It cost us 120 francs a night with breakfast included.

We went to a supermarket to buy some sandwiches to eat later. We decided to take a cruise by the Thun lake that left immediately at 12:45. The cruise stops at the Beatusholen Sundlauenen village where the Saint Beatus Caves was. We decided it was a good idea to be there for a while and come back to the ship again later.

The visit is a little boring but good as we do not normally see many caves with their stalactites and stalagmites. The visit lasted an hour and a half. It takes 25-30 minutes to climb all uphill through some roads surrounded by woods that are beautiful but it is a bit hard. We see moms with baby carts up these slopes.

What is really worthwhile is the path through the woods and the views of the lake as we go up. On the outside, the caves are also very beautiful and there are some beautiful waterfalls. The visit was longer than expected and we had to take the boat at 3:40 that we had to take or return to Interlaken by bus or walk or wait 2 hours to catch the next boat. So we had to run a little downhill to get it.

And there we were again on the boat. We just wanted to be on the deck watching the water and the mountains around us that were beautiful. We had about 10 more stops including the one in Spiez that a very nice town but we could not see and finally we arrived in Thun at 5.30 pm.

In the tourist office of the train station, where we got off the boat we were given a map with a small route. After a little stroll, the truth is that we were quite tired because we had sunbathed on the boat. So we went back to Interlaken by train that did not take long.

We thought about stopping at Interlaken Ost and walking back along the Hoheweg to West. In the end, we almost arrived at Ost and then we came back. On the Hoheweg promenade, we see the Japanese garden, a church next door, the casino and its flower clock, more beautiful than the one in Geneva.

Interlaken, as I said, is super nice but I found it too touristy. The main street has very expensive souvenir shops and restaurants of not very good quality and very expensive. There is even a typical bar where the girls go with very provocative little clothes. We know it from San Francisco and there is also a magazine and a hotel in Las Vegas that are called like that.

It took us a while to find a restaurant to sit down for dinner. In the end, we dined on a terrace on the Marktplatz, which was not very expensive, but it was not that the dishes were too much. After dinner, on the way to the hotel, we took a walk around the Unterseen area, seeing the typical Swiss chalets. We went to the little bed fast as we were tired after the long day we had had.

DAY 3: Jungfrau

Today had to be our big day. Already during the night I was nervous. I woke up several times thinking about whether the day would be clear because we were going to climb the Jungfrau.

We got up at 6.30, had breakfast immediately, bought food in a supermarket because we imagined that eating up would be very expensive. We went to Interlaken West station to catch the train to Interlaken Ost from where we had to take the first train.

There is a morning ticket which is cheaper but leaves Interlaken Ost at 6:30 am. We thought that as we had breakfast included it was a shame to get that ticket and have to spend more money on breakfast as in Switzerland there is nothing cheap. I thought that what we would save taking that first train we would spend it on food. So we decided to go later.

The train left at 8.35 am. I was going to Lauterbrunnen. When we reach Zweilutschinen there was no train and no one. So we decided we were not getting off. In Lauterbrunnen we also wait a while. We already left towards Kleine Scheidegg. The incredible views of the mountains that are coming closer and closer and more beautiful. We go up very slowly so it does not affect the height and it's great! Everyone went near the windows taking a lot of photos.

The villages I stopped for looked like ski resorts in winter. They were beautiful and we could see a lot of life with a lot of hotels and people moving around with suitcases. Arriving at Kleine Scheidegg where the famous wall is so hard to climb we saw how the train at 10:00 that we were supposed to take was leaving and there we waited a little bit for the next one. I know all this because I had a brochure with train schedules and I knew which one to take.

The last train from Kleine Scheidegg is a zipper and goes inside a tunnel made in the mountain. This train makes only two stops of 5 minutes each. Well, we went down in these two stops. We take photos. We saw the beautiful mountains, and then we finally arrived at Jungfraujoch station.

We went through the tunnels like crazy to climb to the highest terrace. We took the elevator and when we went out into the street, with a horrible cold, even a little snow fell from time to time. We could see nothing! Everything was white! Where are the mountains?

I really do not exaggerate. It was like a kind of fog, a white cloud that covered everything and we could not see anything. I stay there in the cold and am angry because I could not believe that I did not see anything after what it had cost to go up there. But soon the sun came out and let us see the wonder of landscape that we expected so much. We were all there like crazy to get a photo of the valley with the JunGfrau, the Monch and the Eiger. Slowly it was getting better.

Well I saw it was there but it did not seem real. They were so nice that I still see the photos now and they seem unreal, as if it were not real that existed. It was totally worth everything we had paid to go up, although it was a pity that we did not have the views all the time but at times when the sun came out.

After taking millions of photos (some better than others) and going very cold, we wanted to go out and touch the snow. The snow came to us from the hip. We were prepared with a good pair of gloves and waterproof pants.

Here we were for quite some time until 1:30. We ate the sandwiches we had and we kept pulling until it started to snow quite hard. It was like a storm. The people who were in a zipline saw absolutely nothing of the snow that was there and I wanted to walk to the shelter. I think I had not seen so much snow in my life.

We managed to enter again covered, because the snow did not let us walk and was difficult to climb. We visit the ice palace and look at the little souvenir shops where there is a post office if you want to send a postcard from 3,400 m high. We did it and we were very happy to receive it.

About 3:30 it was very cold and since we were not going to do more than we had done we decided to take the train to go down. Here it was a bit chaotic because we waited for a long queue. When the train came we ran like crazy, although in the end the train turned out to be quite big and we even sat down.

We were tired and through the tunnel, the trip became a little heavy. When we got to Kleine Scheidegg we took the train in the other direction from which we had come to see the other side of the valley as recommended by everyone.

On the Lauterbrunnen side we can see the snowy peaks and as we go up the train we can see them closer. On the side of Grindelwald we see the valley that is very deep and we can see the little houses and people. It is all so green and so beautiful that I almost liked this side a little more.

In all the stations where we stopped we wanted to get off. When we got to Grindelwald it was beautiful, also surrounded by towering mountains. I also saw people moving to hotels and restaurants. I do not know how the price will be.

Not too late we took the train to Interlaken and as this time we had to stop at Interlaken Ost we walked to Interlaken West. We passed through the English garden. We realized that behind it there was a kind of rack train that went up the mountain that we had not seen until now because it was like hiding among the trees. The views from above were beautiful.

We were really hungry and finally we wanted to try a cheese fondue. We saw a restaurant that had it but for me it looked to be very touristy. When we found a table on the terrace comes a super rude waitress who tells us that the price is per person. We cannot ask for tap water when all over Switzerland they put tap water in jars even in good restaurants. I got so upset that after asking, I got up.

Well in the end in Interlaken West we had dinner in a very Swiss restaurant where the waitresses were very nice and where we tried our fondue. I looked a bit strong because I had enough alcohol but well, we were there and had to try it. Back to the hotel we went to the right to see the houses next to the river and the town hall of Unterseen.

We were tired and surely that night we were going to sleep like babies. The truth is that the day had been just great.

DAY 4: Lucerne

We got up early to catch the train in Interlaken West for Interlaken Ost and there in the train at 6am to Lauterbrunnen.

We had thought to leave the suitcases at the hotel but it seems a waste of time to return to the hotel to look for them when today we are going to move all the time from Interlaken Ost. So we take the suitcases and leave them in the ticket offices.

In 20 min we are in Lauterbrunnen. Just after leaving the station we take a bus that take us to the Trummelbach Falls. We were in the best time that is when all the snow melts and the falls were incredible. We go up in an elevator and go down some ramps and stairs watching these waterfalls. The views of the valley and the town of Lauterbrunnen is incredible!

When we got on the bus we asked a lady to ask for the cable car as it was very early when we left to see the waterfalls. The last stop was Stechelberg (922 m) and there we took a cable car that took us up to Gimmelwald (1400 m) and then to Murren (1684 m). Murren was beautiful, another typical alpine village.

We went down to Gimmelwald and there we took the cable car again to go down to the bottom. Everything is so well marked that it is very easy. The route we took was downhill and it took us about 40 minutes to stop taking pictures every 2 minutes. It was easy and the views were great.

Already down before returning to Interlaken by bus we eat sandwiches that we had bought in a supermarket in Murren. We take pictures of the big waterfalls that are seen all over the town. The area was amazing and I did not want to leave. I could not stop walking and see things. I was very sad to leave.

To go to Zermatt we take the train. The trip lasted 3 hours. Especially the last section was the most beautiful or even the only one in which I have been awake. The line of the horizon with the snowy mountains was already visible in the distance.

When I arrived in Zermatt I could not believe it with the clear sky and a pleasant temperature of 9 degrees. The town is very touristy, but I still have to admit that it is beautiful. There are no motor vehicles. At the time I arrived there were already people queuing to take the zipper train to Gornergrat. Especially people who go for skiing.

As I was still not sure if I was going to climb up Mount Gornergrat, I decided to look for the hiking route recommended by the LP. I found it quickly, but with the snow I decided to return to the village. The descent was much more dangerous than the climb. Luckily I found on the way a cane that someone has left and with that I go down.

So I take a walk around the town and decide to go to the matterhorn museum, recommended by the guide. It's the rare glass building next to the church. We take advantage of the good weather to get on the rack train. So I made the full trip, to the Gornergrat. I have a drink in the hotel restaurant and see the landscape in a viewpoint with 360 degree visibility accompanied by the clear day.

I go down to the town on the rack railway and with time to catch the train back I took advantage of it to eat the sandwich of the day.

We arrived at Interlaken at 2:00 pm and our panoramic train departed at 3:15. When arriving I realized that there was one for Lucerne at 2 pm that I do not know where it had come from because I had not seen it on the internet.

Well at first we had a coffee in the station quietly until 1:45 pm. At 2 pm we were already on the train road to Lucerne. The road by train was wonderful. We passed by Lake Brienz, mountains and other lakes and beautiful villages where people were swimming because it was very hot.

We arrived in Lucerne at 4 pm, an hour earlier than expected. The station is next to the lake and we can see the famous bridge of the chapel that we have seen so many times. So it is impossible to get lost. Here it was quite hot and it did not take long to reach the hotel by Bahnhofstrasse street following the river bank.

We had to check in at the hotel and when we arrived they told us that they had given us an upgrade and that we were staying at the hotel instead of at the pension. Although it was a bit old it was fine and for one night more than enough.

After a shower because we were dying of heat we went down to see the city. Lucerne is tiny and the main thing is seen immediately. We toured the river on the side where the hotel was until the Chapel Bridge that is beautiful with its Water Tower.

We went to the other shore that was full of bars and restaurants. We saw the town hall, and some beautiful houses that are next door that have some frescoes painted on their facades. Behind the town hall there is a set of streets and squares such as the Weinplatz and Muhlenplatz that are very beautiful. This is a shopping area but they were already closed.

We sit in a bar at the Muhlenplatz having a drink. Afterwards we went for a walk back to the hotel's edge by the Spreuer Bridge which is less known than the Chapel Bridge. The center was already more than seen and we crossed the Seebruecke to see the area of the lake.

Next to the station was the exhibition center that stands out by the lake and that is made of steel and glass. It is too modern for a city as beautiful as Lucerne, in my opinion.

As soon as we reached the lake, it was unbelievable because we passed by the first pier and saw that in 20 minutes a 2-hour cruise was scheduled. We thought about it at a time and there we went. The cruise on Lake Thun was nice but on this lake the views are different.

Yes, we can also see the little houses and mounts of fonde but here we can see the luxury of each corner. We see houses on the shore of the lake with its small steps to enter the water and its docks to moor yachts. In addition there were enough people sailing.

When we left Lucerne it was not so hot because it was 7:15 pm and we saw the sunset and we enjoy the views a lot. As we had not eaten anything since the meal, I forgot to say that we had some salads on the boat that had a restaurant and everything. It was not too expensive either. We arrived at 9:45 pm and walked slowly to the hotel along the lake. Today had also been a very good day.

DAY 5: Zurich

Today we woke up a little later for our custom at 9:00! Today we only had to see some things in Lucerne before leaving for Zurich. The first thing we did was have breakfast in a cafeteria on the other side of the Mills Bridge and then we went up a few streets to see the Musegg mural.

Above all we liked the tower of time where they say is the oldest clock in the city. From here the views of the city and the lake are very beautiful. We went back down to the old part. We wandered around the squares behind the town hall, although it was Sunday and there was nothing open as usual.

We reached the lake and went a little down Lowenstrasse. We stopped to see collegiate church before the mass began. Then we continued to the end of the street to see the lion of Lucerne which is the monument of a dying lion sculpted in the rock. I have to say that before coming I had never heard of that lion. While traveling I learn so many things.

Also here is a huge picture of the war called Bourbaki Panorama which is considered a denunciation of the war and a monument to the first humanitarian actions that were carried out by the Red Cross. At this time we had seen it all.

As it was Sunday there were many people walking by the lake and we decided to do the same for the shore. We went through the different docks, through the casino and finally we arrived at a garden area that was beautiful. We could see people sailing or on terraces that looked quite expensive with people who were very well dressed.

Other people were cycling or rollerblading and we even saw people swimming in the lake as well as in a very cool pool on the edge of the lake. We decided to go back to the hotel to look for the suitcases. We have a final look at the Chapel Bridge with its Water Tower and the lake. We take a turn on the outside by the Jesuit Church, the Ritter Palace and the Franciscan Church from outside.

We collected our bags at the hotel. We bought food in a supermarket at the train station and we rode at 1:00 on the way to Zurich. It took about 50 minutes, and in the Zurich central station that was huge there was a Thai festival with music and stalls that sold typical things.

We went out and looked for the hotel that was just across the river by the Bahnhofbrucke on the Zahringerstrasse which is parallel to the river. The room was not ready until 3pm and we decided to leave our bags and take a little spin.

I do not know why but I could not imagine Zurich like that. I thought it was more industrial and uglier and it turned out to be pretty cute. The center as always was seen right away. We toured the river along the Limmatquai promenade sheltered from the heat by arcades that had bars, restaurants and trendy outlets, some very modern.

We walked to the Rathaus Brucke which is where is the cathedral, the Town Hall and the Fraumunster Church with the beautiful clock. We returned to the hotel because we were a little tired and it was quite hot at 3:00 pm.

The room had little furniture but everything was very new and clean and the bathroom was huge. The price with breakfast included was quite good too. We take a shower and rest a bit but I felt like I always feel when I'm on vacation. Although I'm tired I can do much more, see more things and take more time and decided to go out for a while.

I did not go far. I went to the station to confirm what time the trains left for the next day to go to see the Rhine falls. On leaving, I went to the Bahnhofplatz square and see where the famous Bahnhofstrasse started. I had a coffee in the cafe while reading things about the city in the Switzerland travel guide.

I returned at 5:15 pm and walked from the station across the Bahnhofstrasse to see the expensive shops and the big boutiques although there were few people because it was closed.

A little before half of Bahnhofstrasse we go up Lindenhofstrasse to first a park and then a viewpoint on a small hill from where there is a wonderful view of the river and the city of Lindenhof. We got off and went back to Bahnhofstrasse. Over here there are some precious views of the clock in the Fraumunster church.

On this street along with shops, there are many banks. Locals say that below the street there are innumerable passages and tunnels that would be used in case of nuclear war to maintain the clients banking secrecy. This street finishes in the Zurich lake. From the dock there were some cruises on the river and on the lake that we could have done but we thought we had done enough cruises.

It was Sunday and the lake was full of people. We passed by the Opera whose plaza was under construction. We walked a lot of time along the shore watching people sunbathe on the rocks, bathe, play football. In one area there were even enough stones and they had made different figures that were very funny.

We came to a park where there was a Chinese garden but it was closed and we could not see it. We could not do any more and it was quite hot. So we decided to go through Alderstrasse and take the Seefeldstrasse street that is parallel to the lake tram that took us back to the river. We stopped at the town hall.

We wanted to dine in the hotel area and we did it in a restaurant in Niederdorfstrasse, one of the streets where there are more hotels and restaurants. It was a Swiss and we tried the reglette cheese, which is a sheet cheese that is melted on an iron and that is poured over potatoes and vegetables. It was not bad but it was a bit of a pain to eat just cheese like that.

After dinner we sat in an ice cream parlor next to the river to eat a little ice cream. It was airy and it was great.

DAY 6: Rhine Falls

Today was going to be one of the best days of the trip. After breakfast (very good indeed in the hotel) we stopped first to buy food and fruit in the supermarket next to the station that is huge. We take the train at 8 am. There was a train to Schaffhausen every hour.

We arrived at 9 and at the station we took the bus that takes us to the town of the falls called Stein am Rhein. We stopped at the Zentrum stop and there are signs that tell us in which direction the falls are. On arrival we see them from behind and they do not seem so big.

There are two options to go to the right that is the restaurant area and where is the boats that go to the falls or go to the left that is like a mountain with the castle. We went to the right and started to see the falls! I have seen the gigantic Niagara falls and the Iguazu falls, but the Rhine Falls seemed gigantic! We loved, one of the most beautiful things of the trip.

We walked to the area where the boats depart. There are many types with one that go closer to the falls and one can go up to the little mountain in the middle from where one can see them under. Another goes to the edge of the castle and others that has a little longer duration of about 45 minutes. The prices are not very expensive.

The truth is that we get a little wet. We could climb the mountain that is in the middle of the falls and see them up close. Then we get to the other side and as we have to turn around it took us about 20 or 25 minutes but we enjoyed the views at every moment. The waterfalls are very close and the views are incredible!

Down here were so good and the views were so beautiful that we ate here and spent a lot of time sitting down watching the force with which the water fell. We went up to take the bus again and when we stopped at the Schaffhausen station we took a walk around the town that I had read was very beautiful. We had a drink in a cafeteria and in about an hour we took the train back to Zurich.

In Zurich we went to the hotel to change and we went out to the Bahnhofstrasse street. The most expensive stores were open and there were enough people buying. We went back up to Lindenhof and we saw people play chess.

At the end of Bahnhofstrasse we see a lot of businessman and women coming out of big banks and offices, with their expensive strollers. We went back up and wandered a little through the shops on the other side of the river and crossed the river and went to the lake by Schifflande. We were wrong because I wanted to go through Oberdorfstrasse that came in my switzerland city guide as an interesting little street.

And finally we get to the lake again where we bought something to drink and we sat for a while to see the boats and ducks. Later we dined in a place that was in a little square behind the cathedral that we chose by chance and that turned out to be great.

We returned taking a walk by the river and we said goodbye to the city we were leaving the next day. The trip was coming to an end slowly.

DAY 7: Basel

After breakfast, we went directly to the train station at about 9 in the morning. We had already seen everything we wanted to see in Zurich and we wanted to see Basel before catching the flight back.

The first train that went to Basel was a super modern silver train that went up to Frankfurt. It was very modern and very comfortable with pillows and a table to support things. The pity is that the landscape we saw was of factories, towns and houses that had nothing to do with what we had seen in the previous days.
Behind were the lakes, mountains and idyllic landscapes of Central Switzerland.

As soon as we arrived we asked for a Switzerland map at the tourist office and we started walking towards the center. This time the station was not as close as in other cities. We went down Elisabethenstrasse to the Elisabethkirche church. It was very beautiful with beautiful glass windows and we climbed some stairs and there we saw another staircase that went up to the tower. And as we go everywhere we went.

In the end we reached the bell tower and the views of the city and the Rhine were totally worthwhile. Around this church, there is a small square with animated figures. It reminded me of those in the Centre Pompidou in Paris, although these are black and white and in Paris are colored.

In this area there are a lot of museums and the main theater of Basel. Around here we went down to the Marktplatz or Market Square where the town hall was. It is beautiful, with dark and bright colors and we go inside to the patio that is also beautiful.

There was a fruit and vegetable market and a lot of small shops but we did not see the luxury of other Swiss cities like Lucerne or Zurich. It looked normal with shops and people shopping or going to work.

Further on is the Fischmarkt next to the Middle Bridge. It is a very old Roman bridge that has a chapel in the middle. We went to the other side of the bridge and it was almost noon. People were sitting on the shore eating their salads and their sandwiches in the sun before going back to work.

We were not hungry yet but we sat for a while to enjoy the views. Before crossing the bridge we saw a cafe and came back to see if we can find something there to eat but it was too expensive. It was not worth spending so much on a simple salad. So we prefer to buy it in a normal supermarket.

We ate at the river's edge. This time we did not cross it. We stayed on the nearest shore eating our salad and enjoying the views. When we got tired, the only thing we had to see was the cathedral. So we went to see it.

We went up a few streets that overlooked the Cathedral Square. There was the cathedral of a dark red color although it was under construction and had enough tarps to cover it. We entered through a patio which is a kind of terrace from which there were incredible views of the river and we stayed there for a while.

We now have to get to the airport as soon as we could to catch the plane. We took the bus and in a very short time we were in the airport. We did not want to leave Switzerland for anything in the world.



I arrived after an hour ride. It is a little less warm thanks to the rain. Once settled in the hotel, I aimed at the College Street area, a little over a kilometer away. After the sunset, I settled at a table in the mythical Indian Coffee House nearby, a landmark of intellectual and Bengali scholars, who spend their evening philosophizing.

It is called the anarchist cafe and is the only public place where it is still possible to smoke a cigarette. The waiters wear white uniforms and a fan-shaped turban for the best effect. Right next to me, a local settled, who quickly introduced himself. We started talking and he offered me coffee.

He says he is a journalist from a local newspaper in Calcutta. I see he knows more than me about the new wave of professionals and what is more normal about Bengali cuisine. And with my little experience, I can now also engage in comparisons. Founded in 1876 the establishment could reflect the history of the city or India. The atmosphere and furniture seem to date from the middle of the last century. Formerly, in British Raj day, the gallery was reserved for whites.

But first, what is an Indian Coffee House? What I understood from his explanations is that these were operated by workers dismissed from coffee plantations. And the status of these cafes would always be cooperative. It is a local outlet and a fallback activity for former planters. I do not know when it dates, or why these plantations stopped.

There is cheap tea or coffee, pakoda, and simple snacks. The Indian Coffee House is near the Calcutta University and served as meeting places (and political discussions) for students. I took pakoda, while my neighbor took nothing but his tea and that's how the discussion started. It's all books here, he told me. Yes, that's what I see first. And it's true that it gives the impression that everything is similar sometimes.

For him too, Bengalis cook too much fish here. Not wrong perhaps when I think about the cooking time of the fish fried that I saw prepared and eaten the day before yesterday. It destroys the nutritional properties in all these cooking, he said.

One thing led me to say that I was impressed that all I speak with are very familiar with the nutritional or therapeutic properties of the ingredients used. According to the Ayurvedic philosophy, the food here is not there for the pleasure of the palate but that one eats for the benefits that these ingredients will have on the health.

And, it brings me to the reflection that if you eat for your health first and not for the pleasure of taste, it is normal that the shared meal is not an indispensable thing! He tells me that in Calcutta, we will almost always mix rice with a little ghee, because it will facilitate digestion. Mustard oil is good for digestion, and for the brain.

Even if the Bangali are very chauvinistic, I agree on his reflections. I had the impression of greater diversity and more attention in the kitchen at Puri than here, where it seemed to me that some preparations were more approximate. We talked about the classic meal in Calcutta.

Bengalis cook mostly masoor dal that people pour on rice, and moong dal on the days that are a little more sacred. Then they will have at least one sauteed vegetable and a vegetable curry. And to show respect to host, people often prepare a dish of biri dal, shrimps and coriander leaves. I would really like to stay with a local in a house in Calcutta!

And coming out of there, I had already eaten a little, but I was hungry again, and so I go to a local snack vendor. I buy aloo chop with cauliflower florets coated with chili and fried. I continue my tour of Bengali gastronomy with Kati Roll. It's ready to eat on the street. After a small beer, I return amidst a downpour! Soaked to the bones, my body remembers the sensation of the cold, to my greatest pleasure.

Impressions and Flavors of Coffee House in Calcutta

Goa is one of those states that I think has fascinated me, although it is undeniable that it has spas that meet expectations. There is fine sand, crystal clear sea, vegetation, exoticism and sunsets that do not need Instagram filters. I had to face the chaos of cities like New Delhi or Calcutta or Varanasi and had been overwhelmed by vendors especially in cities like Agra and Jaipur.

Now I look back and wonder if I really liked Goa for its warmth or if it was simply that in contrast to the rest of the country I found a delicious breath of fresh air amid the chaos, pollution, crowded streets and the millions and millions of people.

Goa, a Portuguese colony for more than 400 years captivated me by its silence, by the slow pace of its people and by the conversations less focused on the commercial and more on the cultural exchange and the curiosity of the locals. Goa still attracts thousands of partiers who seek to gather on the beaches and enjoy the raves of techno music, the Goa trance style of the place.

Especially when Christmas and New Year approaches, young boys and girls mainly from Europe and Israel flock to Goa. The Sunburn Festival, Asia's biggest music festival takes place in Vagator in North Goa, every year between Christmas and New Year's Day.

This pilgrimage goes back to the 60s when the hippies ended up in this part of India, for its climate, landscapes and perhaps a tolerance towards drugs that were not available elsewhere. The Magic Bus left Amsterdam, sometimes daily to Goa via Kabul.

Over the years it became the ideal place for tourists who want to enjoy the sun and the beach in the best western style in a bikini and drinking beer in beach bars, along with yoga classes, brushstrokes of spirituality and nocturnal firestones with soft drugs especially the feni and happy lassi.

The old hippie landmark of the 1960s is now welcoming new alternative backpackers who travel to eat vegan and do yoga, but also many affluent tourists who stay in luxury resorts. It is especially a holiday spot popular with Indians who come to see the beach and party in this state, where the legislation is much more flexible than in the rest of the country, including alcohol.

12 Hours in Goa

After much weighing on the way to get to Goa, we decided that it was best to take an Air India flight from Jaipur. That meant a 4-hour stopover in New Delhi and a stop without getting off the plane in Bombay. A lot of people told us not to move out of the airport. There is not much to do. We listened and did not leave the airport.

New Delhi airport has everything spotlessly clean and there are lounge chairs to sleep on if you have many hours ahead. We ate a Mcdonald's Chicken Maharaja Mac and we took two hours of nap.

We arrived in Panjim at night with many expectations and eager to finally see the beach. We chose to go to the beaches of South Goa, which they say are very calm and beautiful. I remember the exact moment when I left the international airport in Goa. At the door, dozens of taxi drivers crowded around offering their services to any point in the smallest state of India.

The air felt clean and something made me think and feel that this was not India. The first thing we did after getting out off the airport was to find someone to share a taxi like good backpackers we are already and we found a couple of Israelis. They were super talkative. They told us how much they like India, that they have come four times, that we cannot leave without seeing Hampi and that because they are from Israel, everything is cheaper.

They also told us about the situation in their country. We hallucinated when they told us about their experience in the army (both men and women have to spend a few years mandatorily in it). During the taxi ride, we crossed several towns, including Margao. The postcards through the taxi window followed one another with palm trees, paved roads in very good condition, colorful houses in the small clean towns that ran along the road, smiles in passing, salty air and tranquility.

I had to rub my eyes a couple of times and incredulously verified my location on my mobile. Am I in India? The app confirmed the location. But all these qualities that I could easily use to describe what I was seeing, clearly contrasted with those that draw in the minds of readers.

Half an hour later the taxi driver left me in front of the guest house at Agonda beach. It was right in front of the town church. I had booked a very basic but super cozy resort, with cabins on the seafront and bungalows with bathroom in the garden.

I sat on the balcony in front of what would be my room. I was gazing around listening to the sound of silence in a country where the norm is strident noise. I was fascinated. Suddenly a strong breeze warned me of the approaching tropical storm. We went to dinner at a nearby bar. We ordered burgers and a beer.

1 Day in Goa

We woke up with some great views. After a good night's sleep, I have breakfast with milk coffee and bread toast. We go to a beautiful beach called Cola Beach, which is about 15 minutes by scooter. The beach of 2km of white sand is located in a large cove. It is semi-virgin and is surrounded by lush tropical vegetation and palm trees. This beach combines a freshwater lake with the Arabian Sea.

There is a small freshwater lake for swimming or kayaking and some beach huts too. The adjoining beaches are even quieter. The water is very hot, as in Thailand, although yes, the sea is not as transparent as in the Andaman Sea. It is an idyllic and quiet place, where there are no harassing sellers. Early in the morning, around 7:30 am, we can see dolphins from the shore of the beach that come in search of small fishes.

We arrived just at the end of the monsoon and the tourist season had not yet begun. There were hardly any accommodation and food options. So we took a tuk-tuk and went to the next beach. We visited Cabo de Rama, an old Portuguese fortress of which only a few ruined walls remain, but with beautiful views.

We cross the mangroves of the Sal River in Betul, a fishing village, and we reach the beach of Varca. Finally, we were in Benaulim, a quiet beach with some bamboo huts and few people.

From Mobor to Colva, there is a virgin beach more than 10 km long, with a fine white sand. On this extensive beach, in the areas of Mobor, Cavelossim, Carmona, Fatrade, and Varca there are some scattered luxury resorts filled with mainly Russian and Eastern European tourists.

Colva is a place that at first sight is not very appetizing. It was crowded with people. There are motor boats for excursions and vendors offering all kinds of water activities. It is very focused on local tourism that arrives here from the city of Margao, which is only 6 km away. From time to time we see a bar or restaurant that offers its hammocks and umbrellas to those who buy a drink and also grilled fish freshly caught from the Indian Ocean.

The Agonda church is beautiful and the beach is very good. The problem was that it was all closed, covered with blue tarps and under maintenance. At night we see a parade through the streets to celebrate Holi. For dinner, we order rice, fish, dal and palak paneer. In the appetizers, we find the warm goat salad. The half-cooked tuna is absolutely divine. We also try the rhubarb crumble.

2 Days in Goa

We left for Palolem, which is the most developed beach in the area with colorful cabanas. Palolem beach is reputed to be the best in Goa. As it receives more visitors, it has a greater offer of hotels and restaurants although we are not in high season. We went walking along the beach looking for accommodation and try to get rid of a lot of commission agents.

In the Goa travel guide, it is defined as the perfect beach, a wide semicircle of white sand surrounded by a lush palm grove and all the necessary services for all budgets. I find a crowded place, with hundreds of more or less stable buildings covered by blue plastic, shops, bars and cabins raised on bamboo for rent. These can be attractive in isolation, but in such a large amount they give that a grotesque appearance.

When they saw us with backpacks, they approached us offering everything (hotel, taxi, boat). They are a real pain! I get out of there as fast as my legs allow. I walk across a sadhu, an ascetic who renounces everything material to seek union with the divine through meditation, living on alms. His hair and beard are very long.

He wears a simple loincloth and his body is covered with ashes, which gives him the appearance of a living statue. I give him some coins and he greets me by joining his hands.

Prices are expensive compared to other places in India, but being in paradise comes at a price. The chosen one was an inn, with a good room and what we liked the most was the swimming pool. After settling in, I went for a walk and eat breakfast of bread toast and fruit juice.

The next thing we did was take a bath in the sea, which we were looking forward to. The water of Goa is not crystal clear and it is not a place to snorkel or dive, but the beaches are very long and full of palm trees. Of course, the water is like a broth. The good thing is that there is nobody and we are practically alone with the cows and crabs.

Here we spent the day resting and eating good fish. We eat tiger prawns in garlic butter at one of the many restaurants on the beach and then lie down to take a nap and enjoy the sun. Palolem is a great idyllic cove with white sand flanked by palm trees. I enjoyed a beautiful sunset and then a beautiful full moon.

The town is a street parallel to the beach with low houses, a large Catholic church, and a few shops. We find a very commercial street, with all kinds of products for tourists like clothes, accessories, spices, travel agency, pharmacy, and internet cafe. The main street is lively with restaurants and clothing and jewelry stores.

There are many tourists (backpackers), but it is not cramped. In Chaudi in Canacona, near Palolem, there are several tailors where they make custom-made clothes.

In the evening we had dinner in the guest house. It was the best thali that we have eaten so far. The menu was a good choice for a rich and cheap dinner. It has the vegetable and chicken curry, chapati, rice, vegetable salad, dal, raita and a dessert.

As it seems, the Full Moon Party was invented in Goa! We enjoy one here in the middle of nature. It was nice with good music and fire shows. It reminded me of the Koh Phangan full moon party in Thailand!

Goa wallpaper images beach

3 Days in Goa

We woke up and we changed accommodation to a much cheaper one. It was all very new and clean with a huge room and terrace. It is located on the main street of Palolem where there is a little more activity, with many shops and restaurants. After breakfast of croissants and coffee at the guesthouse restaurant, we rented bikes and we went south to see Patnem beach.

This beach is really deserted. It is not as pretty as Palolem but the water is cooler and there are more waves. We were enjoying the feeling of having a beach for ourselves. In addition, the road there was very pleasant among palm trees, cows, and local businesses.

We head to the small but very beautiful Honeymoon beach by boat. We see the dolphins and the beautiful beaches around Palolem. In the afternoon we returned to Palolem to eat something on a terrace on the beach and watch the sunset. We have a great chicken korma and naan.

In a day, many more tourists had suddenly appeared and there was more activity. We move across the Palolem beach as much as possible. The more time we spend in it, the more we like it. We stayed all the time in the water catching waves, but without a board. We did not see any place to rent.

At night in Palolem people gather on the beach to have a few beers in the sand. The firecrackers are here too. We have a beer under the light of the moon. The truth is that it was luxurious because the temperature was perfect and there were no mosquitoes.

And 100 meters from the beach, two trucks arrived one with a giant figure of Ganesha and another with speakers from which Bollywood music was played loudly. Locals and gurus gave everything dancing in honor of the elephant god. On the way back, in the hotel restaurant, I had a good fruit salad with a banana lassi.

We head to the silent disco party at Neptune Point. It is a silent rave, that is to say, we celebrate with a headphone. There are multiple DJs mixing at the same time so we can choose between different musical moods depending on our taste. Depending on the music chosen, we have a small blue, red or green light on our headphones so we can see who listens to the same music and dance together.

I really loved this concept! Already we can adjust the volume in the headphones, which avoids damage to the eardrums with too loud music as is often the case in nightclubs. And what's more, when we want to talk to people, we just take off the headphones and talk normally without having to scream to hear the noise.

After a dinner with the Goan thali with prawns peri peri and the chicken cafreal, we head back to our resort.

4 Days in Goa

After having breakfast at the guesthouse of bread toast with jam and milk coffee, we left for Calangute. When we arrived in Calangute I almost went crazy again with all the traffic jam, after days of silence and an unusual calm in this country.

So we continued on to Anjuna. At 9 we went to Vagator to see its beautiful beaches. Vagator has two beaches separated by a rocky promontory. To the south is the quietest with a cove surrounded by palm trees. In the southern part of the small cove, I see every day a group of Westerners, all young, and some couples. They have mounted a kind of makeshift camp among the palm trees.

There are hammocks hanging and some carpets on the floor. They seem to spend the days in that place. It gives the impression that they live nearby, if not permanently, but for a long time. I guess they are something like new hippies and they look very happy.

To the north of the rocky ledge is Big Vagator, an extension of fine white sand ideal for walking. At the end of the beach, a short climb to the nearby hill leads us to a 17th-century Portuguese fort. From here we can see the endless beaches to the south and the almost virgin territory to the north, beyond the Chapora River, whose entrance from the sea is controlled by the Chapora fort.

We take the opportunity to go to the famous flea market in Goa. The corner is quite touristy. Beach vendors are more or less insistent.

We then head to Old Goa. Old Goa is an enigmatic and exciting place. It is a city of cathedrals, basilicas and convents half eaten by the surrounding jungle. Some of them are only ruins. We walk through the silence of the huge buildings haunted by vegetation and try to imagine what life was like here when in the city Europe and India were united.

We see the Basilica of Bom Jesus, the Mecca of the Catholic world that houses the remains of St. Francis Xavier, the patron saint of Goa. I decide to cruise on the Mandovi river. The boat is filled with tourists. In the middle of the main deck begins a karaoke show entertained by the travelers of the cruise. They alternate to sing on the stage.

We go further south, to Quepem, where is one of the most beautiful houses in Goa. It is the former home of the Portuguese founder of the city of Quepem. The setting is beautiful and the garden too! Not far from Quepem, we also visit two other houses in Chandor. We are greeted by the owner of the place who tells the story of the house. There are beautiful furniture and valuables. It is a real trip back in time.

Then we returned to Panaji where I have already said goodbye to the driver. It's a very quiet little town, with an air of old colony stopped in time. I stay at a resort. It is not the eighth wonder but it is not bad.

I do not know yet how the price of the hotels works because the Palolem room was like that of a 4-star hotel. I went to eat at a great place with sea views and free wifi. I have shahi chicken korma, dal, and rice. In the afternoon I went around Panaji, visiting points of interest as in the Lonely Planet travel guide. I see the library, the Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church, and St Sebastian Chapel.

We went for a walk through Fontainhas, an old Latin Quarter. It is a very nice walk between what were the old Portuguese style colonial houses. I have an orange juice in a good place to rest for a while. Then I take some walks on the beach and the cloth, and handicrafts stalls until the time of sunset.

The sun is descending like a huge disc and fills the river with orange reflections on the shores of the palm trees that jut out over the rest of the vegetation. Then I went to the Santa Monica jetty to catch a cruise on the river at 6 in the afternoon. I liked this beach but I liked Palolem more.

We settled in Candolim for the night. The rooms are spacious and well decorated. The real plus of the hotel is its superb swimming pool and there is a bar to sip a cocktail while staying cool in the water. There is also a spa for a massage and a gym.

We head to Arpora to see the night market between Baga and Anjuna that has been one of my favorites in Goa! Between Baga and Anjuna, is one of the largest clubs in Goa, at the top of a hill. We have a drink and party on the dance floor with a DJ that plays till late at night.

On the way back I dine near the guesthouse with batata vada, an exquisite fruit salad, and a papaya lassi. We also taste the local drink called the Feni. It is like a mojito, but with cashew nut instead of rum.

Goa wallpaper images beach

5 Days in Goa

The buffet breakfast is royal, with both western pastries and Indian delicacies. The breakfast set includes a tea or coffee of our choice, a fresh fruit juice, two cooked eggs of our choice and a large bowl of muesli with fresh fruit and yogurt that we can drizzle with honey!

We head to Arambol, one of my favorite places in Goa. It has become a rallying point for all new vegan or vegetarian hippies. There are yoga practitioners, meditators and all kinds of Oriental philosophies and therapies such as tai chi, reiki, qi-gong and Bollywood dance.

I discovered tantric meditation, which is a form of meditation applied to love. With exercises, practiced alone or in pairs, we learn to feel more sensations. Even if we are not really part of this movement, which is my case, we appreciate the joyous harmony and brotherly love that emerges from it. In addition, it is also a good place to enjoy the beach.

The beach of Arambol is also very nice. We see the sunset on the beach. At sunset, there is a drum circle in Arambol. The jugglers come to practice with the last light of day and sellers of trinkets display their goods on colorful fabrics. Tam-tam players gather in a big circle to play music and make the audience dance.

We go down a little further south. Walking along the beach we arrive quickly enough to Mandrem. In this atmosphere of peace and love in the evening, we go to a bar in the forest with alternative music concerts, famous for its nightlife.

The Greek salad with chicken and moussaka are exquisite. I had a prawn sizzler, a meal served on a hot plate with fries, rice, noodles, and vegetables with a huge shrimp. In addition, there are performances of Greek dancers. There is a beautiful atmosphere with painted alley like the soil of the Cyclades.

Next morning we took a bus to throw ourselves back on the road to Gokarna. We still had to visit one of the places we most wanted to see in India.

I can tell you that Goa is the ideal place to stop along the way and regain strength. It is quiet, relaxing, a small return to a western world of burgers and pasta, shorts and tank tops, characters from all over the world and night parties with trendy music as in any city. In short it is the Ibiza in India!

Goa has seemed like a good destination to rest a little after making the route to the north, which is crazy. But it does not have much more than beaches, palm trees, and cheap beer. I loved Arambol in the north Goa, but my favorite was Palolem.