- Getting ready for the train
- Jodhpur – the blue city
- Havali music in the desert of Rajastan
- Change of plans – our long journey to Punjab
- The Golden Temple and the Sikh religion
- From the desert to the Himalayas
I am so overwhelmed by the last 3 days; it has been so amazing.
Getting ready for the train
Well let´s catch up where I stopped. We were in Jaipur, the “red” city, where those two bastards tried to mug us. In the evening we went to the train station to look for food. This is always the best spot as many people have to stop there and have a bite. So we went into this “restaurant” with a lot of Indian people and no English menu (our criteria to select a place to eat). They served one dish only, Thali, the standard dish consisting of chapatti (bread), dhal (kind of a soup) and two kinds of veg curries. Moreover, we asked for spicy and they brought us this chili sauce, which was absolutely amazing. It was all you can eat and without even being able to say no they just continued to put stuff on our plates. we ate sooo much and paid 80p each. I always watch how other people eat to understand the customs and I found out that one is to take a handful of anise seeds and a handful of sugar after eating, and put it in your mouth and chew it. It´s very peculiar and sometimes you can even add a handful of liquorish seeds.
Jodhpur – the blue city
We took a train very early to get to Jodhpur. The train was boiling hot as always but I just love the experience, chai chai chai and this time we even had out own bed! Jodhpur was the capital of the Maharaja kingdom and it is an incredible city. It is called the “blue” city because all houses are painted with indigo – blue against mosquitoes and if you see the whole city from the top it just looks amazing. We were still traveling with the Argentinian guy, Alex, who decided to come with us instead of staying alone in Jaipur. Jodhpur is probably the hottest city of India, it had 48 degrees when we were there but we drank the speciality, saffron lassie against the heat.
In the centre of the city on top of a mountain the fortress of the maharajan kingdom reins the over city. It is absolutely huge and we took an audio tour there, which was very funny, as the speaker was Austrian. We met a guy from Munich in the hostel and went eating with him and drinking, which is quite an experience, as alcohol is not well regarded here. Inside the liquor store they had a hole in the wall where you had to duck to climb into a dark room where those Indians drink their beer, hidden from the outside world. Well we joined them of course.
The city was amazing as it is built in the desert, and it looks exactly like that, with crazy houses, rooftop terraces and camels everywhere. We wanted to go to Jaisalmer, even further into the desert. But the next available train was in 2 months, as it is holiday season in India. So we decided to take a 19 hour train to Chandigarh, a city north of Delhi. We didn’t know what that would mean…
Havali music in the desert of Jaipur
After our first night in a hostel since Delhi (always trains, which I find even more comfortable then hostels) we said goodbye to our amazing Argentinian friend Alex, who has been traveling for 2 years now and just had soo much to tell and headed off to the station. We thought that 8 litres of water would be enough; well it was gone after 5 hours with 14 more hours to go through the desert. No towns in between, few stops, desert desert desert. It had 52 degrees at 2pm (true story) and Yassin nearly fainted at the beginning, but then these Indian dudes came in! 7 Indians, who compose a Havali band, which is the desert music of India. They came in, didn’t speak English but a bit of Spanish, Italian, German, French, because they are hired in Europe to play there from time to time. They started playing cards and told us to join them, as we couldn’t speak with them we just watched and after a while joined them. We were sitting on a towel with them playing cards for hours and hours. The game is very similar to Bavarian Schafkopf, hence I was quite good at it. You have to pick a colour and we taught them the German words, so they were saying “Herz, Pik, Caro” and “Kreuz”, so funny, moreover when we won or lost really clearly they would shout the only word they knew in English “toilet, toilet”, meaning it was so bad that the other team has to go puke in the toilet, and then we would just laugh aloud together!
They also had so much food and stuff with them and were sharing everything. Then this other guy came on and he spoke English really well and was working for the railway. After we got to know each other we got off with him at every desert station and he went to the employee’s tent with us and gave us chai, snacks, food for free. When he got off 4 hours later, he had called his mother before, she made us chapatti and curry at home and brought it to the station and gave it to us, for free of course. So we had this amazing homemade Rajasthan food in the train. And what followed will just be the picture I have of that day. Playing cards with these guys, outside the sun setting in the desert, camels walking by, and the band playing Havali, this extremely nice energetic music and everybody clapping their hands. Best train ride ever, just an experience like no other. I mean it still had 52 degrees, and the desert storms blew tons of wind into the carriage (no windows in the trains). We got headaches and felt quite sick, which didn’t get better during the night. When we went to sleep we had our own, reserved, bed. When we woke up 3 hours later 2 guys were sleeping next to me (and I explained to you how small the beds are) and Yassin had an entire 5 person family on his bed, true story!!!
And we learned some Hindu in the train which we use all of the time now, “no” “fuck off” (very useful in the other cities, usually they do not leave you alone, however, with these words they go away instantly) “nice to meet you” “you are nice” “this tastes nice” “my name is blabala” and so on. And when you use these words the people just smile and are sooo nice. They are amazed because apparently tourists don’t do this usually.
Change of plans – our long journey to Punjab
After 19 hours we arrived in Chandigarh. This city was built by the French architect le Corbusier and planned in a western way, therefore we thought that would be interesting but it wasn´t. Just trying to build a western rectangular city in India is like trying to build an Indian city in Bavaria, not compatible. It looked so pale and sterile when we arrived at 6am, full of sand, tired, destroyed we decided to head on to Amritsar, another half day ride away.
But we didn’t know how to get there. So some dudes told us, take that bus, we took it, it dropped us off in the middle of nowhere, alone, and at one point, like a miracle, a bus with the name Amritsar appears. Took it, another 7 hours, and after 27 hours of traveling we finally arrived here. We decided to get here this morning, didn’t know what it was, and it happened to be one of the most amazing and inspiring places I have ever been to.
The golden temple is in the centre. This is the holiest site of the Sikh religion, which has 20m followers and is especially present in the Indian region of Punjab, where we are right now. We went to the Golden Temple and were simply struck by the spirituality. As we are the only two foreigners in this entire town, everybody, and I mean everyone, looks at us and wants to take pictures. Either they just laugh in a shy way, or they have the balls and come up to us to take a picture. It was sooo funny, every single one took pictures with us and was so happy afterwards. I don’t know why nobody comes here but being so tall and with our red FC Bayern Munich shirts you can spot us from 1km.
The Golden Temple and the Sikh religion
The Sikh religion was founded 500 years ago based on equal rights for everyone, integrating people from all religions, all genders, all racial backgrounds, simply everyone. What unites all people is the pursuit of inner happiness. This is the first city where no one is annoying, tries to take advantage. And this, as anyone who has been to India knows, is a miracle. They don’t haggle, as they give you the real price immediately, they are nice, help you, are sincere, amazing.
We went to the temple several times, as it’s just a magical place, the second time we went there these Sikhs start talking to us, and we ended up spending the entire day until now with them. They told us everything about their religion, their traditions (for instance they are not allowed to ever cut their hair, any hair. Or they wear a knife, even when sleeping, and are even allowed to take it on domestic flights) and how they have been fighting for 400 years to attain an own state. The Indian government doesn’t tolerate these separatist movements and destroyed their holiest temple in 1948, which in turn led to the Sikhs killing Indira Ghandi in retaliation. Also, the Sikhs have always been the warrior caste. They are taller than most Indians and still today are often used as securities or authorities.
But they are just so nice. In this temple everyone, no matter where from or which religion he belongs to, can sleep for free, eat for free (60000 people a day). We had dinner with those guys in the main hall, sitting on the floor with thousands of other Sikhs, eating their traditional food (they don’t smoke, don’t drink alcohol, are vegetarian and don’t eat eggs). I respect them so much because they are very religious, but open minded, trying to be in harmony with all the people around them, inviting everybody to be with them and sharing everything. This is by far the nicest city so far, still boiling hot, 43 degrees, but the people are just amazing, the city full of alleyways and little stores, and the temple a place I didn’t know existed like this. We are going back there later, as it´s opened 24 hours, and in the morning before leaving, to watch the sunrise there.
The Sikhs do a pilgrimage to this site and walk around the square compound several times praying, before they head to the Golden Temple itself, which is at the centre of the artificial lake inside the compound. Moreover, they bath in the water. You are not allowed to wear shoes and have to cover your head, hence the funny orange turbans. The spirituality inside the temple lacks words to describe it and just walking around on the marble pavement with all those Sikhs was an experience I will never forget.
From the desert to the Himalayas
So tomorrow we are heading off from one spiritual capital to the next, Dharamsala, 8 hours with the bus and the centre of the exile Tibetan government, the residence of the Dalai Lama. Moreover I got my results, really good, and now I can chill even more. We got used to waking up at 5 am, using the entire day, and go to bed (mostly in trains) around 11pm. This way we managed to see soo much stuff, and by being able to speak a little bit of Hindi (taught by 10 crazy Indians in the train) we can integrate ourselves better with the locals and avoid annoying people, as they respect it a lot if you speak their language.
So far it has been absolutely amazing and I can´t believe how much we have already experienced. Eating wise we eat on the streets or in Indian places, the cheapest and most spicy possible, drink chai chai chai and try to fight the heat! Yesterday in the biggest and hottest desert I have ever seen, tomorrow in a hill station of the Himalayas!
Well I hope you are all well guys