Friday, 2 March 2018

Oh, Kolkata!

The Post Office, BBD Bagh, Kolkata
The Post Office, BBD Bagh, Kolkata

We've arrived in Aurangabad after a mammoth train journey from Kolkata - about 36 hours from one hotel to the other. So I thought I'd blog a little about Kolkata.

Before we left, everyone told us Kolkata was a 'pretty hardcore' place to go. However, while there was some initial culture shock we felt quite at home by the time we left. Yes, it's noisy, and it is dusty, but there are lots of trees about, everyone is welcoming, and I always felt safe. Getting used to the traffic and the street stalls crowding the pavements took us a day or two, but once we'd got used to the hooting horns and packed crowds, all was fine.
A late 18th century church with cream columns, topped with a short spire
St John's Church, Kolkata

For two days we'd booked walks with Heritage Walk Calcutta. The team are all historians and archaeologists, and do a lot of work showing the city's built heritage to schoolchildren and other local groups as well as tourists. I hope they're successful in their efforts to raise awareness of the city's beautiful old buildings. The day we left the second-oldest hotel in the city was demolished, having been allowed to decay to such a point demolition was permitted. An important folk art museum in Kolkata is also now at risk of closure (there's a petition on change.org asking the regional government to keep it open here) so clearly Tathagata and the team's work is needed and important.

Pritha, who showed us round on behalf of Heritage Walk Kolkata, took us to many fascinating places. The old Post Office at the top of this post is on the site of the original Fort William (and my great-great grandfather was a clerk there). If you read my previous post on Eliza, the next photo is of the church her husband helped raise money to build, where she was married, and also where her daughter from whom I'm descended was married.
A man with a small black dog

We visited Park Street Cemetary. No rellies there, though Pete did make friends with the resident dog. I'm glad he didn't let it lick him as the manky beast found a dead crow and tucked in with glee...
A broad river, seen through trees and a stone balustrade.

On our second day with Pritha we went to Chandernagore and Serampore. Alas! Eliza's grave was unlocatable, and her memorial was not in the church. (From the holes in the church walls it looked as though all the memorials had been removed.) But Chandernagore was lovely, with great views from the old buildings to the river. I really enjoyed that day.

We'd really warmed to Kolkata by the time we left. We loved eating hot kati rolls from Hot Kati Roll on Park Street, and while famous backpacker hotel The Fairlawn no longer serves beer (boo!) we were able to get a drink or three at The Lindsay's ninth-floor rooftop bar. We even bought some amazing handloomed silk, so I'll be firing up my sewing machine to turn that into cushion covers when we get home. 

But we couldn't stay: the sleeper train to Aurangabad beckoned...
A man in a two-bunk sleeper carriage.

15 comments :

  1. Beautiful! I can't wait to hear about the next adventures. xx

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    1. Kolkata is so much nicer than people imagine. It's very dusty, but so friendly and lively. We'd definitely go back to West Bengal.

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  2. I'm loving following you around India. As it's so close to my heart I'm always a bit worried when my friends visit for the first time and hugely relieved when they get over the initial shock and love it!
    Aren't the trains amazing? xxx

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    1. I always worry that you'll think I'm making a complete hash of things! Our first day was a bit of a shock, but once we got used to the traffic, and the stalls thronging the streets, we really got into it.

      The trains were great, though we did decide not to spend eight hours on another one and booked flights from Aurangabad to Mumbai instead...

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  3. I'm having a hard time imagining a 36 hour journey! Kolkata sounds fascinating, but what a shame there seemed to be no trace of Eliza ... xxx

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    1. I'd honestly thought we'd find her. Ah well!

      The bulk of the train journey was in a two-person private sleeper, which was fun. We didn't enjoy the several hours' wait when switching trains at Manmad Junction, though.

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  4. Can't wait to see all the photos and hear about the rest of the trip.

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    1. Oh, the photos will keep coming! Kolkata was the family history part of the trip, we're being more solidly western-touristy in Aurangabad, and I'm imagining Mumbai will have more of the trendy city break feel.

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  5. I think Kolkata is one of India's most beautiful cities. Glad your having such a great time & your photos are fab!

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    1. I do wish they'd look after their history in Kolkata, or they'll miss it sorely in a few decades. I signed a petition today as a museum dedicated to Bengali artisanship, which houses rare old examples of textiles and weaving, is now under threat.

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  6. A shame you couldn't find Eliza's grave. Love all your photos!

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    1. Eeeeh, she's a long time dead. If I keep telling her story maybe she'll become a legend - and legends don't need graves.

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  7. How lovely to see places that your relatives worked and worshipped in. I'm sorry you didn't get to see Eliza's grave but Kolkata does look wonderful. I didn't realise you were already in India....

    Hope you continue to have a fabulous time!

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    1. Only one week left now! We're enjoying it so much, I doubt this will be our last visit. Everyone is friendly (I'm glad Vix mentioned people wanting selfies with westerners, or that would have seemed very odd) and the food is ace. Can't fault it.

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  8. I'm enjoying your travels on Instagram and it is great to read more about them. Hope you continue to have a super time.

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