Why did you settle in Ranchi

Curry sausage in India

Time goes by very quickly and so I am now facing my last big trip of my volunteer year. I will write this again in two blog articles because there were too many wonderful experiences.

Since it is still very hot in large parts and the monsoon, which is getting closer over time, does not make traveling any easier, we decided to escape from it all and spend our last vacation in the mountains. More precisely in the northernmost state of Jammu and Kashmir which is located in the largest mountain range in the world, the Himalayas. Worlds collide in this state. The three regions are so different. It is not just the three religions of Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism that make the difference. Even with their completely different nature, one could found three independent states. I will now explain the differences a little. I start from the beginning of my last adventure trip.

The trip started with a very relaxed train journey to Delhi. The Rajdhani train (= capital train) is a deluxe train that runs from every federal capital to Delhi. The special thing about this train is that the food is included in the price and you hardly find a free minute to get bored, as snacks and meals are always served. When we arrived in Delhi, we were struck by the heat. The most unbearable thing was the high humidity and the stinging smog in the lungs. So our short stay in Delhi became a race from air-conditioned room to the next. Luckily we got on the train again that same evening and sweated through the night to Amritsar.

Amritsar

This city is located in the northern state of Punjab and is the spiritual center of Sikhism. This religion will certainly not mean anything to many. If I explained them in detail, this entry would never end. So take a look yourself. I think it's a very interesting religion. Here the temperature was even higher and we had to fight with 45 degrees. Fortunately it wasn't as smoggy as Delhi. Here we will stay for 2 days to discover the beauty and magic of this city. On the first day, we didn't set out until the afternoon so we wouldn't get the full heat. We drove to the old town, which is characterized by a huge bazaar. After strolling around for a while through the small streets, we came to the heart of Amritsar and Sikhism. The Golden Temple. This is located in a water basin and can only be reached via a bridge. To get to the site, we had to surrender our shoes and wear a headscarf, because in Sikhism men have to hide their hair with a turban. The sight of 750 kg of pure gold processed in a temple was incredible. We spent a long time there and watched the exciting spectacle. Especially after sunset, the place filled up and an indescribable atmosphere was created. I've never seen so many turbans in one place. Before that, we looked at a very significant historical site from the independence movement. In 1919, 1500 Indians were brutally shot or wounded by English soldiers during a peaceful demonstration in this park. There were even bullet holes in the walls. The next day we made our way to another highlight of the trip. Muscle play on the Pakistani border. Every afternoon thousands of people flock to the military show spectacle, which was very strange for someone like me, as a German, where you can only feel something like national pride at major sports events. This is different in India. The country is bursting with national pride that is clearly visible against the archenemy Pakistan. In fact, this is about hoisting the flags of both countries on a daily basis. But this is followed and loudly supported by thousands of people in stands, who are otherwise known from football stadiums. An unforgettable experience. This city should not be missing on any trip to India. The next morning we make our way to the train station again and our journey continued.

Jammu

Now we are already in the right state and whoosh our mobile network is gone, because for terrorist reasons the network is only free for SIM cards from Jammu and Kashmir. You quickly notice that it is much more difficult to be in a strange city than expected. What can get confusing is the name of the state "Jammu and Kashmir". Jammu is a city in it and Kashmir is a specific region in the state. Since Jammu has nothing interesting to offer, we didn't want to gild any more time and booked a night bus to the largest city in the Kashmir region that same evening. However, it was difficult for us to decide whether to book an air-conditioned or a normal bus, as it was still very hot. According to an employee in a travel agency, a normal bus is the right decision, as the natural air conditioning comes on after a 20 km journey. We naively believed the nice man and he was really right. After a certain time, it got suddenly cold and instead of a sweat cloth you needed a blanket to warm it. The reason was that we drove up into the mountains and made up the first 1100 meters in altitude.

Srinagar

When Alex and I, with a slight backache, turned our heads towards the window for the first time in the morning, we were simply speechless. Welcome to Indian Switzerland. Thick forests covered the ever-increasing mountains, which we circumnavigated in the slalom. After some time we arrived in the Kashmir Valley, which was a huge lake in earlier times, but the climate warming has receded as far as the city of Srinagar. One thing we noticed very quickly was the immense military presence that made one feel rather insecure. Every 50 meters you saw a heavily armed soldier and every 100 meters a small military station, which often had a police tank. Nevertheless, we got out of the bus in good spirits and enjoyed the pleasant temperatures. The next task was to find the guest house that we booked in advance. After looking for a while we found out that it was right on the famous Dal Lake and can only be reached with a paddle boat. Since we accidentally only booked one night, we had a long discussion with the hotel manager. After all, we got the best room in the hotel's own houseboat with a view of the lake and this for little rupees. This is how the day starts nicely. Since it was nice and sunny, the lake appealed to us and we persuaded a hotel employee to paddle us into the middle of the lake so we could swim. A wonderful feeling in this panorama. But as happens very often in India, the weather changes suddenly. In the afternoon the beautiful summer weather changes into an apocalyptic thunderstorm. During the Armageddon we visited a beautiful mosque, which got a very special charm during the thunderstorm. Fortunately, the next day we had picture perfect weather again, which of course we took advantage of. First we drove to a botanical garden that could be in Europe without any changes. After a funny photo shoot, we made our way to the so-called floating villages. Large parts of the Dal Lake are covered with dense vegetation, lotus flowers and some vegetable gardens, so that they can only be reached through narrow wooden walkways. During the great flooding in 2014, a large part of the villages was unfortunately damaged, some of which can still be seen. When we were on our way to the villages we had a very nice experience with the locals. A Muslim girl approached us on the street and quickly invited us to her apartment to drink some juice with her sisters. At first we were a little skeptical, but once again it turned out what a great hospitality there is in the Indians. After a delicious mango juice we said goodbye to the 3 girls and went to the floating villages. This is a country untouched by tourists, which was clearly the highlight of our Srinagar stay. During the time we were there, the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan started and because Srinagar is dominated by this religion, we noticed it well. During the day it was sometimes difficult to find restaurants and after sunset one could hear prayer speeches from many mosques that echoed through the whole city. Very exciting to watch. So we enjoyed the last evening with delicious cherries on the balcony and enjoyed the beautiful panorama in Srinagar one last time. Because the next day we started very early with the jeep to the Ladakh region to Leh. But I will explain the rest of this unforgettable journey in the next blog entry. See you soon