Monday, April 22, 2013

Kolkata By Foot

Whilst there is so very much to see in Kolkata, I managed to cover most of the central sights on foot on my very first full day in India. My favourite way to explore a city is to wander, semi-lost but with a guidebook or map to get me out of trouble if needed.

This walk also let me get a feel for the city and this new country, hear the traffic, breath in the dust and grit, and the smells - good and bad. The street food, and the public urination. It was all there!

I started at the majestic Victoria Memorial.  A monument to Queen Victoria during British India times, although it took 20 years to complete the vision. The inside was actually a bit blah, with walls and walls of photos with little timeline explanation. But the building itself is stunning, the inside chamber, and the gardens were impressive.

From the gardens I followed the sight of the steeple of St Paul's Cathedral, which could have been found in any countryside of the UK. I followed the main road here, along The Maiden. I walked some kids playing cricket in the park under the towering Sahid Minar, before walking past Eden Gardens, where International cricket is played in this city.

From here I spotted, and was drawn to, the gorgeous Metropolitan Building, with it's gold domes and white pillars, windows and arches. A building that used to be Asia's biggest department store.

Losing my way a little trying to find the location of the BBD Bagh, I took in the streets around central Kolkata as workers were out on the street getting something to eat at the end of their work day, or rushing from one place to another. I actually wasn't sure what I was looking for, even though I was consulting the map, until someone assured me it was just up on the next block.

Finding the Lal Dighi, or the Red Pool, I realised that what I was looking for was the collection of grand buildings lining this water.

The Post Office, to the left, reflected into the pool in such a magical way. The water is not red, and there are a few theories about why it has that name, one of them supposing that the old fort on one side of the pool reflected it's red colour into the water.

To each side of this building was another equally impressive one, the central businesses and the seat of power for the Indian state of Bengal.

The Writer's Building spans the North of the pool, and is now the secretariat of the state government of West Bengal - but it used to be for the writers of the British East India Company.

Statues along this great building celebrate areas of Justice, Science, Commerce and Agriculture, with the Greek god or goddess of these studies flanked with the statues of an Indian and a European notable person in each field.

A walking tour of the central grand buildings of the city that used to be referred to Calcutta. It's almost hard to imagine the living experience of the poverty, population mass, and intensity of India looking back at this collection of photos!

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