Visiting God’s own country, as they rightly call Kerala was something that has always been in my never ending Travel Bucket List. Somehow this year, it finally happened. They say that sometimes vacations or a ‘heartfelt trip’ can change the way you see your life. I can’t talk about them per se, but, I am definitely a better person now. Today we are starting the series 7 Photo Journeys from Kerala and this one is first part.
My trip began on the 31st of May from the cosmopolitan cultural hub of Kerala, Cochin or now Kochi. The city is highly influenced by the culture of the Portuguese, Dutch, Arab, Chinese and Japanese. It basically comprises of Old Kochi that is divided into Fort Kochi with Anglo-Indian influenced structures & antique shops and Mattancherry area which is famous of its Dutch Palace. New Kochi comprises of the Ernakulam city. While I was staying in New Kochi, I started off my journey from the old city. The first place I visited was the unique Mattancherry Kottaram. This large palace was a gift to the Maharaja of Kochi, Veera Varma, from the Portuguese which was destroyed after the Dutch siege of Kochi. The Dutch Governor repaired the palace naming it as the Dutch Palace henceforth. It has a large collection of the Maharaja’s paintings, ammunitions & royal artifacts. The most interesting part of the palace is the mural room with the entire Ramayana & Mahabharata depicted in a single mural. (This place is a strictly no photography zone).
You come out of the palace and walk a few steps and you reach the Jew Street, famous for its synagogue. It was constructed in 15th century and is one of the very few functional synagogues in India. It is beautiful and unique to look at as it is greatly influenced by Hindu and Christian architecture. The place has many heritage antique & artifacts shops owned by the handful of Jews residing here. I got a chance to eat at one such café owned by a lovely Jewish
couple and my interaction with them introduced me to the exciting Jewish culture and traditions. They told me to visit the International Pepper Exchange Market, which is like Kochi’s answer to New York’s Wall Street just that instead of money, you trade pepper! I bid them bye and the desert was on the house (so yay!). Intriguing enough, the pepper market didn’t disappoint me with the wide variety of peppers available for trading.
Kochi was hot and humid and I really could do with a beach. I headed next to the famous Fort Kochi beach. I dropped off a little far from the beach and strolled down the Princess Street. The street has a dominating European Colonial architecture and a bevy of western styled cafes, art galleries and complexes. A little walk further, I crossed the St. Francis Church. An ASI monument now, it has a history of war and has a memorial in its backyard of soldiers lost in the WWI. The burial of Vasco Da Gama is also in this church and the area is clearly marked out. I sat in the church for a while waiting for the sun to cool down. Vasco Da Gama’s house is also nearby.
As I approached the beach, I saw large Chinese fishing nets, which is like the thumbnail of Kochi, if I think of it. I saw one being used to catch fishes. The magnanimity of these nets and how they function is very interesting. For many in Fort Kochi, these nets are their daily source of livelihood.
Finally, I reached the beach with small stalls selling the coastal stretch selling on-demand mouth watering traditional cuisines using freshly caught fish. I enjoyed the beach and the sunset with ships sailing in the background for a while and then savored on some delicacies from a nearby ‘thattukada’ (street side food hawker).
Next destination is munnar, so keep a watch about some exciting experiences from Munnar, Kerala in our next Travelogue from this series.