After few minutes of walk among the streets of Fort Kochi, I ended up in the Burgher Street where one of the most famous cafes of Kochi is located. Yup, the Kashi Art Galley! Located in an old house built in the traditional Kerala style, it welcomes the tourists with it’s collection of paintings and arts created by local artists. As I passed the front hall which is full of wall-posters and paintings, the house transformed into a beautiful cafe filled with rich aroma of coffee and what impressed me were the huge art pieces fixed in middle of the pathways and the walls.
Kashi is best known for its Continental and British menu, and also for its coffee. But, it’s too hot out and I don’t want to add a hot cup of coffee to it. So, I opted for an orange juice as it was the exact way how I like to drink, no sugar and no water 🙂 . I clicked some pictures of the cafe and left for the Indo-Portuguese museum. This museum is situated in the garden of the Bishop’s House and is a confluence of Indian and Portuguese art and architecture. And sunday, it’s closed :(. Though the watchman allowed me to go around the Bishop’s House, I couldn’t see what’s there in the museum 😦
I took an auto from here and reached the Dutch Palace in Mattancherry, another must-visit place in Kochi. The palace doesn’t resemble any royal palaces like the Mysore Palace or the Palaces of Rajasthan, but is unique in it’s own aspect. The Palace is a two storied building and is currently under the Archaeological Survey of India and the entry ticket is just Rupees Five.
This palace was actually built by the Portuguese colonizers of Kochi in 1555 and gifted to the local ruler Veera Kerala Varma. This was later renovated by the Dutch in 1663 and hence the name Dutch Palace. This is now a museum which houses the royal memorabilia, weapons, the family tree, furniture and many more. The walls are adored with striking murals depicting the scenes from the epics Mahabharata and the Ramayana and represent the finest of traditional Hindu temple art. The palace also has a temple of the Goddess Bhagawati.
As I walked away from the Dutch Palace on to the roads, I entered into another different world, the world of Jews right in the heart of Forth Kochi. Kochi’s connection with the Jews dates back to a thousand years ago. I walked towards the famous Synagogue, one of the few remaining relics of the city’s Jewish past, and this Synagogue is known as the Paradesi Synagogue to the locals. The first thing that attracted me is a 18th century working clock tower just infront of the Synagogue. It is said that this is one of the oldest Synagogues among the commonwealth of Nations and the chintz, chandeliers and the Chinese hand-painted tiles are well-preserved.
The area is full of art galleries, museums and heritage restaurants and one of the famous being the Jew Town restaurant. This is not only a restaurant, but an antique shop which also sells books and some jewelry. One can pick up jewelry, wooden pillars, wooden and metal figurines, carved wooden furniture, antiquities and clothes, but we just need to bargain hard. Have a sip of coffee or a bite of Italian Pizza or taste some other cuisines in any one of those cafes and restaurants.
It was at this time, I remembered that there is a market dedicated to spices. How can one forget these exotic spices which were the most sought-after commodities once upon a time and made Cochin an important hub of trade and commerce in the earlier days. The Jew Town has a lot of spice shops and warehouses. There is also a market called the ‘Old Spice Market’ from where one can get good quality spices like Cinnamom, Cardamom, cloves, cumin, coriander and many more. But again, the market will be closed on Sundays.
I had my lunch at a vegetarian restaurant called the Krishna Cafe and took an auto to Veli ground, from where the Kochi carnival’s procession starts. On the way, I came across another land mark the ‘Santa Cruz Basilica’. This church was also constructed by the Portuguese and in the 19th century, the British demolished the old structure and commissioned a new building. Subsequently in 1984, it was proclaimed a Basilica by Pope John Paul II. The architecture of the Basilica is an impressive blend of the Indo-European and Gothic styles.
14.30 hrs – The people at Fort Kochi told me that the procession would start at 14.00 hrs. But now they told me that it would start only at 16.00 hrs and I got no other choice rather than skipping it as I have to leave to Trivandrum (can’t skip the office 😦 ) . Took a bus to South Railway Junction and around 19.00 hrs, I was back in Trivandrum to enjoy my favorite Mushroom Biryani with fresh Pineapple juice at the Hyderabadi restaurant ‘Haveli’ 🙂 🙂
And that’s how my New Year Started 🙂 🙂